Just A Few Days Ago

January 5, 2011

Just a few days ago (Dec. 31, 2010 to be exact) I turned 50.

While some shy away from this half century marker or run quickly to find the latest “stay young forever” gimmick, I looked forward to this new phase of life and anticipated it with great joy.

I expected to be more of myself.  And I am.  I anticipated a profound sense of gratitude for life itself and just enough “sense of urgency” to move me forward with grace and purpose.  And it happened.

I welcomed the kind of acceptance that stops you from sucking in your gut or bemoaning a changing shape that has partnered with gravity – LOL.  That happened, too.

I awaited the feeling of God’s presence in every breath.  And I did.

The sky seemed bluer.  The air seemed fresher.  A “newness” I can’t ever remember feeling made it’s home in my heart. 

Oprah Winfrey ends each issue of her  O Magazine with an article titled, “What I Know For Sure.” Well, after 50 years there are some things I KNOW FOR SURE, here are a few:

I KNOW love is all.  Not the kind of love that will have people buying heart shaped boxes of candy and in a few months, but the kind of love you see reflected in the clear, bright eyes of a child.  The kind of love God used to create the world.  Love is all we need to overcome any obstacle, to face all fears.  Love joins.  Love heals.  Love brings brilliant clarity.  Love never changes even when circumstances and relationships shift like leaves in the wind.

I KNOW you cannot make it fit.  Just like you cannot make a size 12 foot fit into a size 7 shoe, you cannot make something that was not meant to be happen no matter how much you want it.  Think of that wonderful, beautifully big, size 12 foot being forced in that too cute size 7 shoe…..OUCH!!  So when you find yourself hobbling along into mental, emotional and spiritual territory that causes you to say “OUCH” find out what’s not fitting AND put yourself in the right size life!

I KNOW there are joy and peace in focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have.  Doing just that is my #1 intention for 2011.  Despite the last several years of watching CNN report on our lack of almost everything, I’ve decided to re-direct my energy into what I can influence/impact.  Recession, depression, unemployment, foreclosure, crime, poverty, etc. are real.  However, they don’t get to take my joy and peace.  After all my joy and peace have absolutely nothing to do with the Dow Jones, gas prices, or credit scores.  Think of that old time church favorite “This joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away” the next time you’re faced with “reality.”

I KNOW that anything you think you want you have to put your best foot forward to get it.  It won’t just happen.  If you’re my age or older, you probably grew up with a heavy dose of Disney.  We were invited (or indoctrinated, but that’s for another entry) to believe in a world of magic; fairy godmothers who waved magic wands and turned pumpkins into coaches, frogs into princes, and raggedy, hardworking girls, into princesses.  BREAKING NEWS!!!! It was just a movie, y’all.  The wonder of our real world requires our total and persistent effort and participation, mixed with just the right amount of faith.  That’s the formula for miracles; let Disney keep its magic wands.

Wishing you a Happy and Brilliant New Year~a year filled with peace even in the midst of storms; joy even when sorrow shows up; love when hate would make you feel better; courage when you are scarred out of your mind; and faith when all seems hopeless.  Be Well~

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What are you looking for?

June 16, 2010

The kazillionth draft of the novel is in the hands of my beloved editor and so I have minute this morning.  I’ve missed this writing time.  Taking some time over the next couple of weeks to replenish after the exercise of writing for weeks and weeks and weeks, but had something On My Heart this morning…

We seem to always be in search of something:  more money, what to do with the money we have; a smaller waist, a mate, the latest gadget. 

Over the last few days,  I’ve been doing some inventory.  I’ve been making a list of what’s “on hand” and what I’m in need of.  Please note the word “need.”  This is so very different from the list of “wants” we sometimes spend our time obsessing over.

I realized that I have far more than I really need.  I have people that love me and people that I love.  I have a God who always remembers me and has my wellbeing at the top of His list.  I have the opportunity to choose.  I have peace, even in the midst of life’s storms.

I’ve known and sometimes remember in time to stop myself from complaining, that ALL we need, we already have.  Accessing it is the key.  Here are a few things that help me remember that what I need cannot be purchased online and no one else can bring it to me:

1-  I am not competing against anyone.  I don’t have to try to prove myself to anyone.  I don’t have to try to have more than anyone else.  Just this morning, I read Micah 6:6-8 “What shall I bring to the LORD the God of heaven, when I come worship him?  Shall I bring the best calves to burn as offereings to him?  Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil?  Shall I offer him my first-born child to pay for my sins?  No, the LORD has told us what is good.  What he requires of us is this:  to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.”  That ought to be enough to keep us all busy for a lifetime.

2 – Choose.  Stop waiting on “until”…until he/she comes along, until I can fit into those jeans, until I have more money, until the kids grow up, until so-and-so apologizes, etc.  Make up your mind about the kind of life you want.  This has nothing to do with the kind of job you’ll get or the house you’ll live in.  This is all about, how you want the gifts God has given you to manifest in your life and the world.  What kind of person do you want to become?  What do you want people to think of when they hear your name?  Make your time here about something bigger than the car you drive or the purse you carry.

3-  Take inventory.  Focus ALL your energy on acknowledging what you do have and not on what you don’t have.  I promise, and I don’t make many promises, that if you take 5 minutes each day to do this, you’ll feel better.  People that feel better do better.

That’s it.  When you find yourself spinning out of control, or tripping about things that won’t matter in 100 years, just stop and ask yourself, “What are you looking for?”

You Can’t Lose

April 27, 2010

Have you ever lost and later realized it was actually a victory for you?  This happened to me recently.  Even the folks who declared me the “loser” couldn’t even figure out why.  WHAT?!

As a human being, and one by the way who likes to win, this loss messed with me for several hours.  I couldn’t think of anything else.  My body wanted to lay down and curl up (which I allowed myself to do while finishing a novel who’s characters had lost far more than me.)  I played music that makes me  HAPPY on the CD player’s highest volume.  This must be what is considered “licking your wounds.”  Losing, or what looked like losing hurt.

The next morning I arose to a new day.  The angst of the defeat somehow no longer present in my mind or body.  I was a little surprise to realize that my mind wasn’t still playing the losing battle over and over like a needle stuck on an LP (for my younger readers, that’s what we listened to music on before the CD, MP3 and iPod.)  Then it hit me:  I HADN’T LOST.  What presented itself as a loss in every physical sense,  had somehow turned into a spiritual victory! 

There was no room for shame, or regret, anger or remorse.  I’d fought the good fight.   I’d maintained my integrity (when it would have been easier to meet my opponent in the muck and mire.)  I’d released the episode, acknowledging that sometimes my good comes packaged in something that at first appears to be not so good.  I’d allowed myself to grieve and then closed a chapter in my life.  Was this freedom I could feel from the top of my head to the tips of my toes?

So, the next time you look at ‘the score’ and see your name in the column marked “Loser”, look up.  Refuse to be reduced by what looks and feels like a loss.  Move toward the ultimate victory – peace – the kind that passes all understanding

Do They Know How Much We Need Them?

April 10, 2010

Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you’ve seen at least one headline or heard one conversation about Tiger Woods’ off the green activities.  If you’re like me you probably wondered why this was news.  It wasn’t any of my business.  Tiger wasn’t my husband, so why did someone at ABC, NBC,CNN, ESPN think I’d be interested in how many women other than his wife he chose to have sex with?  When the media grabs hold to stuff like this and takes up news coverage with it, I always wonder what else is going on in the world that I missed that might really impact my life?  Good…now you’re wondering, too.

I said all this to say that what was on my heart about all this the most was the importance we place – and allow our children to place – on men; usually athletes and entertainers.   They are paid to hit or bounce balls, play characters or sing songs.  Yes, it would be nice if they’d do something that could inspire (and many of them do) us to be and do better, but that is not always the case.  As a parent, I was always attempting to live my life so that I would be the role model; that when my son had to name the people who had inspired him, I’d be on the list, if not at the top. 

Then today (or yesterday, since I’m posting the day after I wrote this) Jim Brown summed it up during an interview he was holding while being honored in Oakland for work he’s doing with incarcerated brothers.  Now, before some of you start sucking your teeth at the mention of Jim’s name (given his past history of domestic violence), hear what he had to say about people’s reactions to Tiger’s infidelity….and I’m paraphrasing and summarizing :

“…we can’t look at one man and have corporate America make a billion dollars off that man and tell us that’s a great man.  That’s not a man.  That’s an image.”

This comment made me jump up and wave my hands like I was in church on Sunday morning.  This resonated so strongly because in the last several months, I’ve been in conversations with several women about “missing men.” No there’s no reward for their return.  Actually, you may have one in your view right now.  When I say missing, I mean men (and in this sentence the word men is used with great generosity) who have failed for one reason or the other to step up to the plate – they have children who they don’t care for financially or emotionally, wives or women who are left unprotected and  carrying the weight of the family on their shoulders, etc., etc.

Mr. Brown went on to say, “that a man goes into the bowels of the beast and makes changes that give children male strength to hold on to; changes that rebuild communities.”

Considering the number of children that go without the male strength in our communities it is no wonder that children are looking to/have looked to Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and O. J. (Mr. Brown’s examples, not mine) – images created to sell cars, tennis shoes and sports drinks, but men that our children should hope to emulate?  I think NOT!

I wonder if the men know how much we need them.  Can’t they see it in the scowl on the young brother’s face as he holds up his sagging pants to walk across the street?  Don’t they recognize the loss of their strength in the young sister’s pregnant belly as she boasts about not needing a man?  It’s all over the brother who refuses to grow up even though his own sons and daughters are nearly grown.  Can’t they hear it in the voice of the mother who yells loudest at the children who look like the man who made them and left doesn’t even remember how much she needs him?

Mothers it is time for us to think of the man our sons will become, as we hold them in our arms for the first time.  It is time to teach responsibility and accountability to our sons as they begin to stand on their own, knowing that one day they may have to lead a family, maybe even a nation.  It is time to set aside the bitterness that makes us teach our daughters that they  need not expect to count on  a man.   Dads it is time to stay.  It is time to do whatever it takes to keep your families together.  It’s time to get that extra job when the bills aren’t being paid on time.  It’s time to help with homework or pay for little league sign ups with the money you were saving for that flat screen TV.  It is time to move beyond the mistakes made with the mothers of your children, and honor God’s gift to you by remaining a force in your child’s life.  It’s time to teach respect and honesty to your sons and tell your daughters they’re beautiful.

The solution is in our hands.  My prayer is that men will come back.  That our children will no longer have to look to men on TV screens who don’t have their best interst at heart.  That we’ll commit to raising sons that will grow up and be their children’s hero so that they won’t ever be disappointed by corporate made images.  My prayer is that our daughters will expect their choice in mates to treat them with respect and stand with them to raise their babies.  My prayer is that one day real soon, our families will be stronger than they are today.

Get Somewhere And Be Still!

March 18, 2010

March 14, 2010

If you are African American (and maybe if your roots lead to anywhere else on the globe; I just wasn’t at your house to hear it) you are familiar with this phrase.  It was usually uttered when you were “underfoot.”  That means you, as a child, were somewhere an adult didn’t want you to be; usually somewhere moving around them.  To break it down even further; you were in the way.

I’ve missed 2 Fridays (my self-imposed deadline) of sharing with you via “On My Heart.”  Yes, I know I mentioned I’m working on my novel and might be a little late from time to time…and that’s still true, but the reason I’ve missed 2 Fridays is because I’ve been MOVING.  For the last couple of weeks, as soon as my eyes open, I’m on the move.  I’ve been skipping (an action word in which you move quickly from one place to another) my morning quiet/prayer/meditation time.  I’ve allowed my To Do list to run into my 20 minutes of daily sitting meditation (where I sit in a quiet space, completely still focusing only on my breath.)  My schedule has been relentless and usually my first moment of stillness has come when I fall into the bed at night; sleep before my eyes even close.

Yeah, there’s been a good reason (NO EXCUSE FOR NOT TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF) for all this activity:  my husband had shoulder surgery a couple of weeks ago and has his arm in a sling, which means I’m doing things he usually does while supporting his recovery.  I’ve been conducting workshops in cities that require me to travel by plane (THANK YOU, LORD!) while sticking to a daily writing schedule, doing some editing for a couple of friends, reading and preparing for several upcoming workshops (AGAIN, THANK YOU, LORD.) 

Yesterday I decided that today I would “get somewhere and be still.”  I hadn’t planned to make an offering to “On My Heart” but it came flowing out as I woke up.  Just the intention of being still made room for this entry to come forth.

This made me wonder, what else has been blocked the last couple of weeks, while I’ve been “underfoot?”  What was in the stillness waiting for me while I was in my own way?

If you’ve found your “To Do” list increasing while your quiet time and  moments of stillness are decreasing – by the way, this is always the formula.  You cannot “do” and “be” at the same time – then do what I’m doing today:  GET SOMEWHERE AND BE STILL.

“There’s No Me Without You”

February 28, 2010

It’s Saturday evening.  I’ve been working all day, but didn’t want to go to bed tonight without sharing this with you.  This was written this morning  at 5:02am; clearly it was on my heart~

My mama taught me not to talk behind a person’s back; that if you had something to say to someone, you said it to his/her face.

Well, this week “in the village” talking behind a person’s back turned into taking jabs at each other via the airwaves, both radio and television.   This week, I was exposed to two of  Black America’s considers Special Sons – Tavis Smiley and Tyler Perry take jabs at two of Black America’s other Special Sons – Rev. Al Sharpton and Spike Lee.

It seems like the 2 Ts either missed the lesson my mama gave, ignored it or simply forgot  the lack of integrity exhibited in talking behind someone’s back. You can google Sharpton and Smiley to hear what went on.  I warn you it leaves you feeling the need to bathe.  Although I am totallly sided (see what happens when somebody in the village acts out, by nature, the rest of the village takes sides) with the “jabbed at brothers”, I am getting an exercise in forgiveness for the “brothers jabbing”.

We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.  We can’t afford to forget that many of the success and comforts we enjoy came at the pain, suffering, sacrifice and even death of someone else. I wonder if Tavis stopped to think that if there was no Rev. Al, what he has been able to accomplish would have been even more difficult.   And where was Tyler when Spike was financing “She’s Gotta Have It” with his credit card?

There’s room in the village for ALL of our talents, ideas and opinions.  There’s room for us to disagree but it is unacceptable for us to be disagreeable ESPECIALLY at a time like this.  On the one hand we have too much for which to be thankful:  The 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue address of The Obamas, and too much work to be done:  The rebuilding of New Orleans’ 9th Ward and Haiti; finding solutions to the devastating violence in our communities, the correcting of a public school system that has failed too many of our children, etc., etc.

As I watched and listened to Tyler Perry accept the NAACP Image Award, The Chairman’s Award no less, telling us about the impact of the recent loss of his mother AND taking a low blow (I know why they call it this because I felt like somebody had sucker-punched me below the belt when I heard his ’40 Acre and A Mule’ comment) at his brother, Spike, it was difficult to believe he even understood the honor he said he felt at receiving the award!

For someone who keeps telling us that his body of work is about healing hurts, forgiveness and redemption, I wouldn’t have known it by his actions/words last night.  Maybe he ought to go see a Tyler Perry Movie.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my heart, here’s what I took away from being exposed to all this in-fighting between my brothers this week:

1-  We are not all the same nor should we be.  What makes us so great is our diversity.

2-  We need to work harder at celebrating our similarities and stop looking to attack each other over our differences.  Your story does not negate the story of another.

3-  The brilliance of the good we do is dimmed when we throw mud at each other.

No matter how different you think you are from that other brother or sister, take a moment to acknowledge our commonality as Blackfolks in America.  Much of what you see in our attitude and behavior is our way of surviving and thriving in hostile territory.  Our genius was born in response to getting somebody’s foot off our necks.  Our creativity built pyramids and has the answer to our ecological ills (SHOUT OUT TO BROTHER VAN JOHNSON; OUR “GREEN” BROTHER.) 

With all that we are, we have to find a way to do better than we did this week.  In the words of Brother King (Rodney not Martin) “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

Lead The Way

February 19, 2010

The last few weeks the theme of leadership has shown up in my conversations with folks from various walks of life.  I had a conversation with a young college student who wanted to interview me on the role of culture in the helping professions; my beloved Marcus Book Club had a lively and thought-provoking conversation on the impact of Dr. MLK, Jr.’s death on America and what leadership has or has not been since April 4, 1968; yesterday a colleague and I talked about the role of parents’ leadership efforts to effect change in the educational lives of their children.

All of this leadership talk got me to thinking….What is leadership?  How are leaders made?  Where are we all going?

I said I was thinking; not that I have any answers and certainly if I did, they would be answers from my perspective.  So here are a few things that have been rolling around in my head the last several days:

1.  Being your own leader (with God’s guidance) has to be first.  Finding a path for yourself prevents you from getting lost and/or following other lost folks.

2.  Know where your leader is going.  Vision is a wonderful thing and necessary for achievement and success; however, leaders ought to have a plan to go along with that vision.  A leader without a plan is just somebody walking around.

3.  Consider how the leader became a leader.  Was someone outside of the  group assigned by someone else outside the impacted group?  Did the leader spring up from the ranks of the people or bring gifts, skills, talent and a heart for the people he/she will be leading from some other station in life.

4.  Leaders who don’t understand that to lead is to serve are dangerous.  If the people being led aren’t better off, to some degree, than they were before the leader came, was he/she really a leader or just somebody who wanted to be in front.

5.  Is the leader creating an environment that develops and nurtures new leaders?  One of the issues I have with “leaders” is that they act as if they will lead forever.

6.  STOP insisting that leaders be “perfect.”  Time and time again this has proven detrimental for a cause or movement.  No man or woman is perfect.  They were created the same way the folks being led were created and often have the same fears, limitations and challenges. 

7.  Don’t worship leaders; support their efforts and work toward the good of the whole and not individual comforts and rewards.  True leaders know that leading is not about being popular (even with the people you are leading.)  Leaders are often alone and have feelings of isolation.  Leaders have to make difficult decisions and that usually makes someone angry.  When your identify a true leader, whether you agree with where they are leading or choose to follow, have some compassion.

8.  Leadership is often thrust upon the leader.  If you think for a moment about any task that has been given to you, remember that there is sometimes resent, uncertainty around the task and the folks that expect so much of you.

9.  Are leaders born or are they created?  I think somewhere in the middle lies the answer.  Are there “born” leaders who never led?  Absolutely.  Leaders get the choice to step into their leadership or not.  Situations and circumstances often create leaders….did Rosa Parks want to spur a movement or just sit down on a bus?

10.  Lead closest to home.  I am often very skeptical of taking leadership from someone who’s “house is not in order.”  I don’t mean, the standard of unrealistic expectation that is often placed on leaders, I’m talking about someone so far away from doing what they are asking me to do that it becomes laughable.  If you are a parent; allow your children to see you as a leader in your own home.  If you are an educator, your students ought to be inspired to lead by being in your presence daily.

Leaders shine light in dark places and help us to find the courage to go into scary places.  So, LEAD THE WAY!

Love Without Heart-shaped Boxes of Chocolate

February 13, 2010

Dear Hearts,

If this weekend finds you home wondering why you are alone or has you wondering what made you love the person sleeping next to you in the first place, give yourself a break. This  holiday, even if you can call Valentine’s Day a holiday, has a way of making us feel like we’re missing out on something if overpriced flowers don’t start arriving. 

How you choose to spend this weekend is all up to YOU!  Even if you’re in a relationship that makes you smile, YOU get to decide your mood this Valentine’s Day.  I say, choose to show yourself some love!

To do that you first have to find out what makes you feel loved.  If you have no idea, not having a date for Valentine’s Day is hardly the issue. 

I don’t know about you, but surrounding myself with love always helps me.  Before I remarried sixteen years ago, a group of girlfriends and myself sent each other Valentine’s cards that talked about friendship and  our loving hearts.  Sometimes we took ourselves to a movie or ordered Chinese and spent the evening listening to Motown tunes and watching our favorite movies.  Far from the sad picture of women sorry that they didn’t have a man that this scene may conjure in the minds of many, it was a night of celebration and sisterhood.  We CHOSE to have a good time on Valentine’s Day date-less or not. 

Love comes in many forms.  None of them are in the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate that many of us just feel guilty for eating anyway (smile.)  Love is being able to laugh with someone or at yourself.  Love is knowing when to allow the tears of a lonely sistah to fall in silence and knowing when to hand her a Kleenex and tell her to blow her nose.  Love is helping someone see the best in themselves for who they are and not who does or does not ask them to dinner on Feb. 14th.

This year, like during my un-married years, I mailed Valentine’s Day cards to my sistahs!  Because that’s love.

So this weekend MAKE love….not the physical kind, but the kind that warms hearts and brings a smile to the face of someone who thinks that the world has forgotten about them.   You’ll be pleased to discover that what you receive is better than any flower that will die in the next 7 – 10 days or chocolate that comes in heart-shaped boxes.

Making Dreams Come True

February 8, 2010

Greetings,

When I started “On My Heart” I committed to posting a new entry each Friday.  This was to re-focus my writing efforts and to be consistent in my conversations with each of you.  Well, I’m late this week, because I am making my dream of finishing revisions on my first novel come true!  So, if I miss a Friday or two over the next several months or so, just know that I’m up to something even greater that I hope to share with you all as soon as possible!

Dreaming is wonderful.  I feel it is necessary to a worthwhile and productive life.  Dreaming allows us the chance to move outside of our current circumstances and into a place where we can feel freedom often denied in our day to day lives.  Dreaming without discipline is self-indulgent and wasteful.  Making dreams come true takes sacrifice and discipline.  Making dreams come true can be inconvenient and sometimes physically uncomfortable.  You may miss out on some things in the short term, as making dreams come true is all about the longterm.

So, what do you dream for yourself?  If you can’t answer this, it is time to press the  STOP button on your life and spend some time allowing yourself the luxury.  I’ve found that just having a dream can help you get through those rough times that are known to come to human beings.  Just knowing that you were created for something larger than the job you go to daily, or the trivial chaos we happen upon from time to time is enough to move us to our dreams.

Several years ago, I worked as an independent consultant for a health and wellness company, Warm Spirit, Inc.  One of my tag lines in sharing the way I worked my business had to do with moving folks toward their “dreamed about” life.  It is time.  Dust off those long forgotten dreams you had before the children, career and mortgage or dream some new dreams.  Take the time to listen to the dream of someone else, encourage the dreams of your children. 

Make room in your life for your dreams.  I am now budgeting my time to include 2 hours of writing daily.  Yes, there are still only 24 hours in a day.  I just looked at what I was doing with my waking hours and discarded a few things (like watching back-to-back episodes of Criminal Minds or NCIS on the USA Channel) that weren’t helping to make my dreams come true.

What are you dreaming?

More Than Just A Month

January 30, 2010

Black History Month, started in February of 1926, by Carter G. Woodson is so much more than a month.  Yes, it is nice to take a moment (or in this year’s case 28 days) to recognize  the contributions of Black people the world over, but Black History is so much more than a month.

It is more than watching a few PBS specials, or listening to a recording of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.  Black History, for Black people, is about making that history every day.  It is about showing up, 100% of the time, in everything you do.  It is about loving your Black self (without hating anybody else) and others that look like you. It’s about looking for the best in Black people and not being so quick to judge our mistakes and shortcomings.  Black History is about taking the time to make a difference in the lives of Black people. 

So this Black History Month, make it more than a 28 day celebration.  Make it a way of life.  Take the time to smile and greet a Black person on the street.  Stop talking about Black people, those you know and those you don’t, behind their backs.  Say something encouraging to a Black child (yes, that includes teenagers.) Live in such a way that inspires the VERY BEST in Black people.  Make it a point to support Black businesses and entrepreneurs!   Take some time to think about the legacy YOU will leave behind.

You don’t have to sing like Aretha or hold down the court like LeBron to make a difference.  Just do what you do, in only the way you can….and before you know it, YOU’LL BE MAKING BLACK HISTORY!