Emotions Don't Die

Anytime I hear about someone losing someone else close to them I always take pause. Lately I've come to recognize how much loss I've experienced over the years. More than most folks my age. I think often of what it means to grieve and to experience and feel and understand loss.

I'm watching a documentary called The Interrupters. It's about a group of people in Chicago who literally interrupt gang violence. I recommend checking it out if you can. There's a crucial scene of a teen's funeral where the camera focuses on the mother and you see the extreme sadness she's feeling as tears roll down her face, but she's not crying. I don't think I ever really experienced grief or loss or sadness the way I did when my uncle died. Watching the scene of this mother -- she looked tired just as she looked sad -- made me think of sitting on that church pew and feeling the warm tears roll down my face. I was so tired of crying and being sad, but I couldn't stop the tears.

Makes me think that emotions are almost entities in and of themselves; separate from us but still very much apart. If you've ever been so sad for so long, I think you know what I mean. The way you can think there are no more tears left to cry and yet here they come, completely unaided by anything you're doing. You feel whether you acknowledge those feelings or not. You may ignore the sadness (or the anger, or even the happiness or surprise) but that does not mean you're not feeling those feelings. You can ignore the emotions until they don't show and even until you don't know, but they're still there.

Holding feelings in don't stop them from happening. Stops you from dealing with it. Stops others from seeing it, but if it's happening anyway why not let them happen and get them out?

I know. Easier said than done. I have no idea how to do it myself.


The Irony in the Judgement of Lying

I found out a friend lied to me. We're not BFFs or anything, but I know a lot about her and I do consider her a friend. She previously told me several things that today turned out to be untrue and I get the feeling she didn't realize that she'd outed herself on the lie. In a previous conversation, she told me she'd had a miscarriage only to tell me today it was actually an abortion and that when she told me she miscarried she was actually still pregnant.

There's a lot of stigma around abortions so on the one hand I have a really hard time being upset about her lie but at the same time, why did she think she needed to lie to me? Especially since when she told me about the miscarriage, it was information she'd volunteered to tell me. She had a lot of stuff weighing on her and she needed to get it out, but it seems getting the truth out wasn't what we were going for.

I really don't like being lied to. I don't like a lot of things, but being lied to is up there on the list. There are a lot of reasons this rubs me the wrong way, many of which I'm sure you can relate to, but I think my list of reasons gets different when we start talking about what your lying says about me.

Some people are just liars. I'm not talking about those people and when I assess that an individual I'm associated with is one of those people, I do my best to disassociate and quickly because -- say it with me now -- I don't like being lied to.

The rest of us, though, tend to lie when we feel like we've got no other choice. When we think the truth will rain down a larger consequence than a lie. Sometimes our assessment of the consequences is skewed by momentary or fleeting wishes (like lying to get something). But a lot of the time when we lie, especially about something major, it's to avoid dealing with something else.

In my best estimation, most people lie to their friends to avoid judgement. Whether it's lying to your significant other about whether or not you smoked a cigarette today or lying to your best friend about where you met your new boo, typically we lie to avoid being or feeling judged. Since I believe this, I go out of my way to make people around me feel not judged. Those efforts have had some interesting consequences, like the fact that some my close friends feel a little too comfortable dropping almost anything in my lap and not expecting me to be shocked, but I deal with that if it means that people will be honest with me.

In this same vein, I don't ask a whole lot of questions. I've found that a lot of times folks lie because you just kept asking questions and didn't get the hint that they didn't want to talk about it. I never want to put someone in a position to lie and asking questions a person doesn't want to answer is a great way to fail at that. I let folks tell me what it is they want me to know and I trust that in time they'll open up to me and let me in on what makes them tick. I'm ironically patient in this way.

I'm setting all this up for you to emphasize how easy it is to be yourself around me. You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to and you don't have to pretend to be something you're not (unless what you are is in someway harmful to children because that pisses me off) and you don't have to waste breath telling me what you think I want to hear because whatever you want me to hear is fine with me.

So when my friend told me she experienced one really horrible thing (miscarriage) because she was afraid of what I would say to finding out she actually experienced a different horrible thing (I've never personally had an abortion, but knowing people who have, that's not some walk in the park afterwards) I was confused and a little bit hurt. She had been hinting for months that there was a larger story to some of the of the things I was seeing in her behavior and today she finally let it go.

Afterwards she kept remarking at how shocked she was that I didn't think she was a disgusting person and how I seemed to be ok with it; she also kept talking about how good it felt to get everything off her chest. I wanted to mention that had she been honest with me months ago she could've felt some relief a long time ago, but I knew this wasn't the place. It is a truly complicated situation that is actually much larger than the abortion issue. Honestly she's made some decisions that I don't think I would if in that position and that I'm not sure I understand why she made them but none of that is for me to judge because she seems to be in a lot of pain with everything.

What's so terrible about honesty? Especially when you're talking to someone that has demonstrated that she isn't going to make you tell her more than you want to? I think it speaks to how large the fear of judgement is. How we all want desperately to be believed in and to have support. To the importance of connectedness, even -- because when you get right down to it, so what if I judge you? If I disapprove of you -- and disagreeing with things you have done, for the record, is not disapproval of you as a person -- then we lose our connection and human connectedness is so very important, even when we don't recognize it, even when we don't think it is, even when we don't think we need it.

To me, if we're friends and you lie to me it's because you didn't trust me to handle the truth. You thought that instead of being a listening ear, I would immediately judge you and that somehow you would lose the connection we have. You judged me before I had a chance to do anything; ironic, I think, since the lying was in an attempt to avoid allowing me to do what you've already done to me.

And yeah this is deep, maybe deeper than some folks wanna go but sometimes you gotta get to the bottom of something to figure out how to fix it.



In the last few years, I had taken to frequently referring to Whitney Houston as Nippy. For one, her attitude in recent years -- which we know was in direct correlation to her substance abuse -- seemed to beget the name "Nippy" and for two, isn't that a cool nickname? In any case, I like to use nicknames for artists that I feel especially affiliated with, for whatever reason. Tasia Mae, B-Rocka... and Nippy, to name a few. So when Nippy started doing drugs and asking us for receipts (which is truly an epic statement. Truly.) it followed that I would give a side-eye and shake my head and wonder "why Nippy? Why?" She didn't know me, but my soul knew her music and that's deep.

My earliest memories of music in my life include Michael Jackson, Helen Baylor, Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. By the age of 6, I knew the entire Whitney album front to back and back again. Even now as I, like so many others, listen to every Whitney song we can find, I'm amazed that I still know the lyrics to song I haven't heard in over a decade. As I watched VH1Soul play every Whitney music video ever I couldn't help but get chills and really be cognizant of how amazing she was vocally. Whitney hit her notes every time. She didn't slide into the note, she didn't look for the note, she didn't change the note, homegirl HIT THE NOTE. She was a pioneer for so many little black girls who wanted to see themselves on magazine covers. She successfully made the transition from R&B/Pop starlet to movie star. She showed us what it was to re-make a song -- re-do it so good that people forget there was someone who did it first. Whitney was the consummate entertainer, really. Thorough, amazing, Whitney.

Because she was so great at what she did, it was really easy for us to forget it sometimes. But I think there was a collective breaking of hearts when we heard about her failed attempt at a tour. Concert-goer after concert-goer complained that her voice wasn't right, that she wasn't ready to perform. And when I finally did hear her, I cringed. Her voice of gold seemed like it was gone forever. But we have auto tune and vocal coaches and studios. That wasn't the end of the world, and surely Whitney would be around long enough to really return to greatness so that one day we could be like our parents when they talk about Patti Labelle and Gladys Knight and Diana Ross in their heydey.

I was shocked when Michael died, but only a little. I mean we all knew something wasn't right with MJ, whether we thought it was drugs, or mental illness, or whatever we thought. We were sad to lose such a pioneer, such a musical genius, but could we say we were completely caught off-guard? Whitney, though? Damn. Whitney Houston is dead.

I feel for her daughter. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my mom even today, but let alone at 18. If you look at pictures of Bobbi Kristina and her mother in recent years you can see the adoration and admiration and love in her eyes. It's precious, but makes Whitney's death just that much more sad.

I hope that we all really reckon with the great loss R&B and Pop just got kicked in the face with. No Whitney Houston? I mean honestly, can you even fathom what the next decade of music will sound like with no Whitney Houston? Just last Thursday she was coaching Brandy and Monica -- two vocal powerhouses in their own right -- no more Whitney Houston coaching the next generation of music legends. No more Whitney Houston making movies with the next generation of big screen stars. No more epic Whitney Houston interviews. Damn.

So like so many other people who are saddened, shocked and grieving, I'm playing all my Whitney Houston music until I can really come to terms with the loss of greatness. I think that can be my contribution towards making sure that we don't forget that Whitney Houston was here, and she did great things for so many people's lives, even if it was just to show us that sometimes talent is all you need, is to keep playing her music.

One of my favs...


Misery Loves Company

It's not that I didn't think the old adage was true as much as I don't think I understood how true it was until the summer of 2008. My first job after college was in Washington D.C. My mom had a friend who had a sister who was willing to let me stay at her house for a little while so that I would have a chance to get my life together in a brand new city.

I won't bore you with the details of every crazy thing that happened to me, beginning the very first day I arrived at her house, but suffice it to say she never should have agreed to let me live with her.

I moved in in June and by July knew that I had to leave and I had to leave soon. About that time, my office approached me about moving back to my home state for 2 months to do some work there. I jumped at the chance to go back to something familiar for awhile because the crazy lady (my landlady) had really just been chipping away at my mental stability. She constantly threatened to put me out, she belittled the way I was raised (asserting that because I was an only child, I had had everything handed to me) and she did other maniacal things like locking me out of the house and not allowing me to have a key to the deadbolt lock so she always had control over when I could get in and out of the house. I found myself finding any reason, including accompanying a friend to watch her do laundry, to not go back to the house or get back at a time I knew she'd be headed to bed.

I couldn't wait to tell her that I would be moving out at the end of August. She and I discussed whether or not she would allow me to leave my belongings at her house (why I thought that would be a good idea, I don't know) and my life got just a bit more brighter.

Plans changed and my office wanted me to wait until the end of September to leave. I was unhappy but it was good to have more time to search for a place to live. The search for another place to live was an ENTIRELY different story, but I was finding the hunt to be a bit demoralizing. Eventually I decided to take a co-worker up on her offer to sublet her apartment for a month. The same night I made that decision, I informed my landlady that I would be out at the end of the month since I had already paid her August's rent. This was on a Wednesday.

At this point, it's worthwhile to say that the entire week she had been acting weird, even for her. When I would get home, the deadbolt on the door would always be locked which she never did if she was there and, oddly too, she was always there when I got home. One day when I came in the house I asked if she wanted me to set the alarm and, oddly, she said no. She was a very paranoid individual and so I was surprised that she was ok with me not setting the alarm.

Anyway, on that same Wednesday night I also told her that I would be leaving the following weekend for a much-needed trip to the beach. Thursday went by and Friday morning as I descended the stairs with my bag for the weekend in my hand, she stopped me and told me that she wanted me and my things out of the house by 8pm because at that point she would have the locks changed and the change the code to the garage door (which was the way I accessed the house).

I was shocked, of course, but it was just so amazingly crazy that she would do that, that I said "ok" and handed her my key to the house as she asked. I remember calling my mother and laughing to keep from crying as I told her the story. She was the only one who knew all the details of what had happened to me. I kept it all from most of my friends, not wanting them to worry and not really wanting to talk about (thereby face) what was happening. I think she, like me, was a little relieved that it was all over. No matter what happened after, nothing could have - at that time - top what I had just gone through. Or so I thought...

About 2 hrs after I arrived at work my landlady sent me an email saying she had packed up all of my things and they were sitting in the garage. The bottom fell out for me when I read that email. I had held it together pretty well considering she attempted to essentially ruin my mini-vacay weekend, but the thought of her touching my things and throwing them (I was sure she threw - she was crazy) into God knows what and then putting them in the garage. What else could she possibly have done to let me know what she thought about me?

I had great people in the city that summer and so I was ok in terms of somewhere to live and ironically as almost a direct result of her actions, I landed into a wonderful living situation. However I continued to process my experience with her even months after I had moved out of that home and that whole week's craziness continued to play out for me. She had it planned out the entire week to screw me in the end. The reason she kept locking me out and didn't want me to set the alarm was because she had changed the alarm code. When I told her on Wednesday that I was moving out she knew even then that on Friday she planned to tell me to get out. Why did she wait? And why did she tell me I had until 8 only to immediately go pack up my stuff right after I left? She was truly a miserable person and she took each and every bit of her misery out on me for almost 3 months

I've thought about this story a lot since it happened and I know that it's not that big of a deal to most people. Not this little piece. I mean, yeah, it's kinda unfortunate but in the end I was ok, no one died and all was generally well. But honestly, there was so much more in play when this happened to me. I really think back on this time of my life -- the first 3 months of being a fresh-faced college graduate ready to tackle the world and really grow up -- and I seriously wonder how I managed to make it through.

Resiliency is such a key to surviving this world. I have to remind myself that I have it.