Just Jokes

Something specific did happen to me that inspired this post, but I don't want to detail it because I don't want to get lost (again) in the details of how it made me feel (which was really pretty shitty). I want to focus on the larger thing at play.

I've had two consistent feelings about the way we joke with each other and the way we communicate how we feel.

1) People don't say things they don't mean; people do sometimes say things they didn't mean for you to know they felt. In other words, you believe that really terrible thing you said is true, you just maybe didn't intend for me to hear it, or you loss control of your tact and it came tumbling out, but it was something you've always thought.

2) A lot of truth is said in jest. Think about your favorite comedian. They find humor in every day life. They don't go make up things that don't have a basis in truth somewhere -- that's part of what makes it funny -- it's a thing that happens to everybody.

I've definitely been guilty of saying something hurtful to someone and trying to fix it by saying I was just joking. Sometimes I really did mean it to be funny, but that doesn't -- despite what I might've wanted to imply -- mean I didn't feel that the statement was true.

And so when people say really sucky things to me, about me, whether they say it with a light tone, qualify it as a joke or suddenly tell me they "didn't mean it..." I may laugh and nod along as if I've erased it from my mind, but I haven't. I remember it. I watch for the actions that further confirm that you meant it and more often than not, I have found my belief to be true.

This isn't to suggest we should all just go hard with how we feel or what we think. I believe there's a time and place for everything and sometimes your raw feelings don't have a place outside of your head. But I do believe in owning what you say and dealing with the consequences of that.

Moving to a primarily text-based communication style has also impacted this. There is no tone in an email. We talk about tone - "I didn't like the tone of his email," is a frequent phrase I hear. The truth is the only tone in an email is the tone we assign it when we read it. We draw on assumptions about the person, perhaps based in personal knowledge of them, their emotions at the time of writing it, the purpose of their words and there's also a little bit of how "we would sound" if we had written a similar email.

For me, I also add on the fact that unlike words you say and can't take back, you have the time to write an email or a text message, read it and then send it. In my mind an email (somewhat moreso than a text) oughta be exactly what you wanted me to read -- you had the opportunity to edit it, and this was ultimately what you wanted me to see. That only adds to the weight of the words for me. You really can't take those back, imo.

We have to be more careful with our words. We have to think more highly of our own power via words and start to use them more wisely. Everything we say (or write) won't always be nice or friendly and that isn't the goal. Our words should always have purpose -- even if it's just to make someone laugh. Even in that case, though, it shouldn't be reckless. We should think not only of what we mean but what we expect the other person to think when they read our words. We should strive to be clear (something I fail at consistently -- a lot of times on purpose) and honest when we talk to people, especially those closest to us. We should respect ourselves and the recipients of our thoughts enough to think about it first.

That's all I'm saying.


The Trouble With Emotion

About a week and a half ago I saw a tweet from a pseudo-celebrity I follow on Twitter that said something to the effect of her success being directly attributed to not showing emotion. I took immediate issue with the general sentiment of the tweet and went into my own mini-sermon about how dangerous it can be to think not showing emotion is a successful feat.

Our society trains our men to not show emotion; we define a person's level of masculinity, in part, along the lines of how much emotion they show. Cry too much? Not a man. Get giddy too often? Not a man. And you know what, that is not working out so well for the men in our society. They gravitate to aggression and anger as the only acceptable forms of emotional outlet. While acceptable emotions in and of themselves, you can't always be aggressive or angry and not expect to have some long term fails in your life, be it in your relationships or within yourself. So it's beyond me why we think that in order to be successful, truly successful, we have to not show emotion.

Before I really go into this, I do want to be clear that not showing emotion and controlling emotion are not the same. One can quickly lead to the other, but just because you are generally in control of your emotions doesn't mean you're not showing emotion; it means you know that it's appropriate to feel a range of emotions and you also know how and when to appropriately express them. For example, you know that when your boss adds one more thing to your overflowing plate it's acceptable to be angry or irritated, but it is not ok to show those emotions by flipping your desk or kicking people.

I really think that I would be in an entirely different life space if I knew how to show emotion; I think that in order to be successful (which for me extends beyond any wealth level into my personal life) I'm going to have to get a hold of it and learn how to do it.

When I look back on relationships that didn't work out like I had hoped, whether I was the straw that broke it or not, I can usually pinpoint my not showing emotion as a key to the undoing. It is really hard to be with someone when you don't feel sure of how they feel about you. I usually try to redirect my inability to show my emotion into actions; doing things to say "I love you" or "I care about you" but sometimes people want and need more than that.

I used to be of the mindset that a person would just have to learn to deal with it, but I've sincerely come to realize that this is a me-thing; this isn't a character flaw that we just have to adjust to, this is a thing that I have to handle if I want to have meaningful relationships (and if you read this blog, you know that's important to me).

Sometimes people just want you to be happy for them and show it. I may genuinely be excited for a person but struggle to show them that. Jumping up and down, changing the inflection in my voice, raising my eyebrows and smiling: all things that might show excitement but that I fail at doing. I can think of many reasons to explain how I've evolved into this, but in my opinion they don't matter. What matters is me making efforts to be better than I have been.

I know other people like me and I hear what people say about them. How people feel shunned because the person won't ever express how they feel, how folks think the person hates them when the person actually cares deeply for them, all because they've never heard them say it or seen anything to suggest it. I don't doubt it's been said about me. In fact, I remember a dear friend sharing good news with me and me responding and her saying, "why can't you just be happy for me?!" I thought what I said conveyed how happy I was for her, but I realized my flat affect definitely made what I said sound sarcastic.

And don't get me wrong, it's a struggle to be different than you have been, both within yourself and for others. When I try harder to inject emotion in my voice, folks think I'm trying to be funny and that can be discouraging to me since I already feel like I sound insincere (though I'm really not). It's easier to just do what I've always done, but I have good feelings about 2012 and I shall do my part to make sure it's the best it can be.

Starting with these emotions...


Dating How You Shop

During a break in one of the sessions of a weekend-class I have, several of my classmates and I stood around joking about a list of qualities one of them made. Another classmate told her that if she made a list of qualities she wanted in a mate and posted it on her fridge, she'd have a long-term relationship in 6 months. I can speak to neither the legitimacy of this claim nor the seriousness of the suggester (though if anyone does it and has some luck, let me know); however my classmate's list definitely sparked conversation.

At the top of her list was "breathing" and it went on to include "able to walk or run for 30 minutes," "brain," "between the ages of 25 and 70," "doesn't hate women," and "5'3 - 6'7." We all laughed a little because we know her dating history and know that she's tired of looking and ready to get serious.

As our conversation progressed, I mentioned that I'd heard about a book that suggested people who were looking for long-term mates do some work on themselves like living as if they already had a mate (e.g. making time in their schedule, making room in their residence) or writing themselves a love letter as if their ideal mate wrote it. Another classmate discussed a book she'd heard about that said most daters fell into two types: maximizers and satisfiers.

Maximizers are the ones who always think they can do better; they want to maximize their decision. Even when they're in a happy relationship with a person who has most of the qualities they want, they wonder whether or not they could do better. They're like the person who goes on the hunt for a black dress and puts a dress on hold at every store they can find just to be sure they don't miss out on the perfect dress at the perfect price.

Satisfiers, on the other hand, find what they're looking for and are satisfied. It never occurs to them that there might be someone out there with more of the qualities they're looking for than the person they've found. Or if it does occur to them, it doesn't matter because they found something that works. When they go shopping for that black dress, they may go to more than one store, but when they find one that meets all the requirements, they buy it and go home.

As we all discussed the pros and cons to both ways of dating (or shopping) somebody who self-described as a satisfier, added that she was satisfied until she had a reason not to be. When she met someone new who met her required qualifications she would date them right up until it didn't work. Like when shopping for a black dress, she'd purchase the first one that worked, but if she got it home and it didn't fit right or had holes in it, she'd take it back.

The classmate who'd written the list had an a-ha moment. She shared that when she bought a new black dress that she thought would work, even if she found out she it didn't, she still hung it up in her closet. Similar to her significant others, she often held on to relationships far past the moment she knew it wasn't what she wanted or wasn't working out.

"Maybe you need to change how you shop so you can change how you date." I remarked. Maybe we all should.


Who Has the Power?

I do a lot of ranting on my twitter timeline about how we're failing our kids and how they act up and out and work my nerves.

Just to catch everyone up, I'm in school to earn a degree that will allow me to help kids succeed in school; that is if I'm in a school that believes a strong counseling program in conjunction with a generally supportive school environment, great teachers and support for parents, yields excellent results.

This semester we're at a middle school; I've been excited about this internship. I've had a lot of experience over the years working with teens so my internship last semester was just more experience on top of what I had but this time I'm doing something familiar but still a little different. In my middle school I work primarily with 6th and 8th graders and every day is a new lesson for them and me.

I also really want to add that I find myself telling them stuff that I turn around and tell my undergrads, which is a whole other issue -- why 18+ yr olds need to hear the same thing 12 yr olds need.

So Thursday one of my 6th graders barged in and complained that she told a new friend (the student is, herself, new) a secret about herself. The secret was pretty juicy and the new friend had no qualms about telling her friends the secret and of course those friends came in the next day and told their friends -- the secret was all over the 6th grade by lunch and they had a ball walking up to this student and calling her vulgar names. She was understandably very upset and wanted some answers.

I switched into Counselor Ranger and got everything between the girls squared away and assured the student that while the kids would probably continue to be mean for the rest of the week, by Monday everyone would have forgotten all about her secret and moved on to the next person.

As right as I was, I know that the truth here is less that these people were calling her names and more that she entrusted a piece of herself to someone who misused it. To that point, I harped heavily on the importance of being careful who you share your secrets with. When initially confronted, the friend claimed that she had never been told not to tell, so I asked her to consider when she tells her friends something personal whether or not she assumes they know that it's not to be repeated, she did. So I cautioned them both to be a lot more careful about who they tell stuff to.

As I've thought more about the situation, I've felt like this was absolutely a situation that a lot of adults could learn from. How often are we too free with things that are personal and private, only to be so shocked when we find out someone we trusted told it to others?

In high school I told a guy that I liked him. It wasn't a secret, like "no one can ever know...really, but I thought the conversation was just between us. I found out two years later that almost all of our friends (and some folks I didn't know) knew and had been talking about the incident when I wasn't around. My mind raced as to all the things they might've said about me, maybe laughing at me for thinking I could date this guy or for being so forward; I could only imagine the things said that I would never know about. So what if that had been a much more personal item? My 14 yr old self might've been devastated.

Everyone isn't equipped to hold your stuff. Meaning, everyone doesn't have the skill it takes to become aware of a sensitive piece of you and then keep it to themselves. Some people have to pass off the weight of a heavy secret as quickly as possible and as another counselor said today "knowledge is power, especially in middle school" -- he wasn't referring to academics. When you know something about someone else that no one or not a lot of people know, you have power. So it follows that if you tell someone something about you that not a lot of people know, you give them power. Be careful who your power goes to.

And let me be clear that I'm not saying don't share yourself with people. I'm saying, as I said to my 6th graders, be CAREFUL who you share yourself with. Every piece of you is one more piece of power and not everyone can handle power; it's intoxicating.


Unnecessary Mediating

I wasn't going to admit the following, but you all love me, right? This post was inspired by my watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta. This isn't the first otime, but you know... sometimes you have to ask yourself why what inspires you, inspires you... that's another post.

Nene and Sheree and Nene and Kim aren't friends anymore. They used to be, but after a fight between them (one with Nene and Kim, the other with Nene and Sheree), they no longer see the point in direct association (hard to do when you're on the same tv show, but not my problem). If you don't watch the show, that's ok, this is all you need to know to understand where I'm going.

At dinner a well-intentioned, but nevertheless annoying, Mama Joyce (a pseudo-cast mate, mother to a real cast mate) first lectured the ladies about their continuing to not speak, and then insisted that they each speak to each other. I assume Mama Joyce has to at least know what I know about why these women are no longer friends, but I'm willing to bet she knows even more information than I, the casual viewer, does. So it begs the question: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU WOMAN?

I have so been here before. Both places, actually. The well-intended mediator and one of the parties needing mediation. I can say, with relative ease, that a good general rule of thumb is to just mind your own business. I'm reading a book right now called Odd Girl Out which examines the ways girls bully each other and the role popularity can play into it. According to this book (and as I know from my own life and observations) being the middle girl can actually be a pretty powerful spot and I think sometimes when we aim to be in the middle it's partly a power play. We want to be able to say we fixed this hole; but what if the hole is actually a crater?

In high school I had 2 good friends. Sometime early in our senior year, one friend decided she no longer had use for the other friend. It was actually relatively bloodless. There was no fight, no rumor-mill, no drama. Friend 1 just decided, on her own, that she no longer would speak to Friend 2.

This was fine, except the three of us, nicknamed the Three Musketeers by our friends and teachers, almost literally spent every free moment together, especially at school and we even had a class together. The tension of them not speaking, mixed with the pressure of Friend 2 wanting me to get intel on what was going on caused me to first withdraw from them. In the class we shared, while normally I would cycle between them at the adjacent tables they'd chosen as "theirs" early in the year, after this impromptu dismissal, I took to sitting in the back of the room by myself or up at the teacher's desk (I'm a liberty taker...)

That worked fine for about a week, but after a week, I'd had enough and I wanted some answers, too. I kept telling Friend 2 that we would get it figured out -- I had hoped time would shake loose the issue but when it became apparent that wouldn't work, I got active. First I asked Friend 1 to stick around after school one day and showed up with Friend 2 hoping I could leave them alone and let them talk. When I returned 20 minutes later, I found Friend 2 alone. She said Friend 1 had been fairly short with her saying she had nothing to say and then left.

About a week after that, I tried again, having Friend 2 call me while I was at Friend 1's house and then handing Friend 1 the phone. Friend 1 stepped into another room, took the call and less than 5 minutes later returned. When I spoke to Friend 2 she said that again Friend 1 said she didn't have anything to say, there was no beef and hung up.

I had some business in this relationship, as it effected my own with each of them, but I really shouldn't have stuck my nose so far into it. Friend 1 was a major asshat for how she went about the whole thing, but I put Friend 2 in several really awkward situations without a real plan. Much like Mama Joyce, I unintentionally made things worse when no one really asked me for my help. I guess I was too afraid to confront Friend 1 about the issue, but either way I needed a stadium of seats. Who was I to dictate who needed to be friends and how a friendship could end? The largest of missteps I made was making it about me. I was uncomfortable, I wanted things like they were, I wanted everyone to get along and not one time did I actually ask either girl what she wanted. In the end, Friend 2 didn't really want to be friends again as much as she just wanted to know what happened. All of my efforts were truly in futility.

During her nose-shoving, Mama Joyce told the women several times that she wished they'd just go back to how they used to be. Oh how that grinds my gears.

I immediately went back to the summer after I graduated from high school. Much like she summarily dismissed Friend 2 the previous year, Friend 1 summarily dismissed my ass after we graduated. I would tell many people, that summer and into the first year of college, that I don't know why I watched her do this to Friend 2 and never considered she'd do it to me, but I did. Call it being young and stupid, or maybe being overconfident, I don't know, but there I was, the summer after high school when I thought I'd be living up the last few months of not-adulthood with my closest friends from high school, only to actually spend a lot of time alone. Sure, I had other friends and I definitely saw them, but many of my close friends, the ones with whom I wanted to reminisce on high school with, the ones I'd spent so much time with the previous 9 months, if not 5 years, felt sides had to be chosen and they chose her side. Even the friends I brought to our friendship. It hurt.

And on top of all that, dealing with what it means to lose a friend so suddenly and without warning, and worrying about how I would adjust to college, the ones who WOULD talk to me only wanted to talk to me about what I needed to do to make it right. "Why can't you guys just go back to the way things were?" I never asked anyone what it was she was saying about me -- part of me didn't want to know, and part of me knew it didn't matter. But whatever they were being told made them believe that I had the power to fix it. I had no power. She had determined when our friendship began and then she decided when it ended. I wanted us to go back to how we were, but why was it my responsibility to get that ball rolling?

What probably aggravated me most was that whether these individuals had been told what happened, or not, they didn't think enough of the situation to ask me what my side of it was. No one asked me "what happened" everyone just said some version of "fix it" or "go back to the way things were..." as if our beef -- if you can call it that -- had some long term effect on their lives. I was dealing with the loss of what I thought had been a pretty good friendship, only to find out that it had never been a real two-way friendship to begin with.

All this ranting begs the question though: if you've got two friends fighting, don't you owe it to them to try to mend broken relationships? Yes. Yes you do. If you think it's reparable and you think you're the one to get that done, get in there. But I caution you to be sure that you're not wanting them to mend the relationship for you -- it sure is a lot nicer for you when your two friends aren't beefing, or are still friends, but if that's not what's best for them, you can be sure it won't be what's best for you in the long run.

Plus, people change. They really do. And sometimes the changing leaves one or both parties confused about how to move forward and the lack of social skill or knowledge causes one to just drop it. If you're not really talking to them about what's going on in their head, there's no way you can know how reparable a situation is. If they've both become people the other doesn't want to be around, then you can't force that. It's tantamount to trying to force two magnets of the same charge to be anywhere near each other: a true effort in futility.

And as for situations you're not even in? Honey, leave that be. Especially if you're talking about grown folks. For two people to repair their relationship, there has to be two willing parties and if you don't even have any skin in that game, you will most likely NOT be the impetus for that willingness.

I have, since high school, had a couple of other friendships between two people I was close to end (that is, they weren't friends, but I continued to be friends with both). Continues to be an awkward situation, especially if one of them pretends like nothing has changed. The one thing I've stopped doing is even wishing in my own head that things would go back to they way they were. Everything isn't meant to be stagnant and that's ok.


Top 10 of 2011


Why did this take me so long to do? I almost just didn't do it, but you know, I had started compiling the list and I had to finish.

They're listed in order they were posted, earlier to most recent.

Top 10 posts on Diamond Dust from 2011

On Marriage
Conflicts of Interest
Dream Slayers
Life Lessons and So Forth
The Sex Post
Everything I Know About Cheating I Learned from 90s Girl Groups
Making Time
Parenting and Why BSS Isn’t The Answer



I've never really been big into resolutions. I'm just as apt to make a change in my life in January as I am in October. That sort of thing has way more to do with where I am in my head than where we are on a calendar.

Because of my profession and who I am at my core, and because everyone has wanted recaps of my trip, I've been processing different events/situations that occurred over my birthday weekend. I can't be clear enough that I had the time of my life with some really amazing people. I can honestly only think of maybe one or two individuals who weren't there who would've made it more complete, but everyone who WAS there was an integral part. That being said, there were seemingly innocuous situations that now that I've had time to reflect on, weren't all that innocuous.

One unintended birthday present I got was coming to a better understanding of what it is I don't understand about a couple of relationships that matter a shit ton to me. And in processing all that, I came to realize this role I play in a lot of my friendships that end with me holding the short end of the stick.

Just a day or so ago I was putting a bag together with items I would need at my internship. One of those items is a small spiral notebook that I use to keep up with what I'm doing during the day so that I can fill out a monthly report showing that I am obtaining the hours necessary to be licensed at the end of this graduate school journey. As I flipped through the notebook I found a little place where out of boredom or perhaps anxiousness I wrote a few lines about not feeling close to anyone except maybe my BFF. I go on to say that I'm surrounded by a bunch of emotional sucks (double entendre here) and how much I miss (get ready for this) J, my ex, because of how plain I was able to be with him.

I didn't write that all that long ago but as I re-read it all that played in my mind was an encounter with a friend NYE night after we'd all made it home. She kept asking me what I was thinking. Repeatedly she asked and I mostly remained quiet. When I did speak it was to say that I wasn't thinking about anything or that I didn't know what I was thinking. Truth was I didn't think she and I should have the conversation about what it was that I was thinking, but why didn't I just say that? Maybe it's because I was inebriated, or maybe it was because I couldn't get a firm grip around my thoughts, but there I was, someone genuinely interested in what was going on with me and I shut down.

Tell me that ain't sabotaging a good thing because you have too many damn issues to let the good thing happen to you...

I can really come up with some good explanations about why I did that, that doesn't involve me accepting that maybe I just don't have the good sense to let people not be emotional sucks, but I won't. Truth is, I just didn't know how to let the good thing happen and just open up...

In 2012, one of my plans is to wake up and recognize when someone's trying to be the individual I keep saying I don't have in my life and then chill out and let them do it.

Of course this has me now wondering what other areas of my life space are there opportunities for me to chill out and let someone be something important for me...


My Birthday

I celebrated 25 years of life this past Friday and had a blast extending that celebration through the entire NYE weekend with some of my most favorite people, including my BFF.

Y'all need to know that my BFF went above and beyond and above and beyond to ensure that I had a great time. ::sigh:: it was just awesome. That's why there's no wrap up post, no "Top 10 of 2011" post (but one will be on the way). I was having way too much fun with people I love the mess out of (and who apparently love me too!)

I have to say, I was worried right up until the week of about this. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to make this an amazing birthday and also had decided that if it was a bust that was an indicator of... well, I hadn't thought that far out but it felt wrong.

Anyway, whatever fears I had, I had to let go the week of because that was getting stressful and really, what could I do? Relax, that's what I could do and when I did... I swear to high heaven it opened it up for me to have a blast.

It was a "no evidence" weekend so whatever facebook album gets piece-mealed together won't tell the story but aren't those the best weekends? I don't think I can thank these people enough and I know they have no idea what a big deal this was for me and how I'll cherish this for a really long time.

The thing about my birthday is that it comes at the very end of the year and so I get to take a day of being a "new" age and reflect over my last year and think about the next year and a quarter of a century is ripe for consideration of what has happened and what will happen. I didn't get a lot of time to reflect, being either drunk or otherwise un-sober through the majority of this trip but I have a feeling that I'm in for an amazing 2012 if how my 25th year got started is any indication.