Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"They Hang People Like You High Where I Grew Up"

Is what he said, then he chuckled to himself. This was his response to me. I had asked him which city in Georgia he came from. That's when he smiled and said,"They hang people like you high where I grew up." I kid you not. I don't make this stuff up.

Of course I failed to see the humor in his remark. I looked at him sideways and gave him the evil eye, and dismissed him off as an ignorant fool. "He" was my neighbor in the downstairs apartment, in my building in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He had a wife and child that he adored.I liked his wife.

Since he didn't say much to me after that comment, and she did, I sort of lumped him together with her and thought of them as nice people. They had problems with DUIs. I know because she would stop me on my way up the stairs some days and share bits of her life.

One morning I got up and had cramping in my stomach. I took some pain medicine but it didn't seem to go away. I decided to stay home from work. It got worse. I was so incapacitated that I could barely walk. I knew I couldn't drive myself to the emergency room. I really didn't want to call an ambulance.

I called the front office. She called a taxi for me. I got dressed as best as I could and descended the stairs, one painful step at a time. I sat huddled on the last step gasping in between the shots of pain, waiting on the hard concrete steps for the taxi to arrive. I felt embarassed, afraid and alone.

Not in the least bit comforting, but who did I see walking up? My neighbor. It was him. I lowered my head and hoped he pass without a word. He did not.

"What's wrong with you?" peering down at me with a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. I may have been bent over with pain, but if just one piece of burning ash were to get on me, we would both be needing some care. By this time the lady in the front office had walked down to where I was waiting for the taxi. She was going to stay with me until the taxi came.

"I tell you what", he offered, "I'll give you a ride to the hospital".

"But we have already called the taxi," I responded with relief as I saw the taxi approach.

"Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it," he said.

I looked up at him, curiously. I nodded and let him do his thing. He opened the passenger side of the taxi and explained the situation. Then he pulled a couple of dollars out of his pocket and handed them to the taxi driver for his trouble.

There was no smell of liquor on his person, so I just acquiesced and went with him. He took me to my doctor's office. It turns out, she had two offices. So we left there and drove to the second one. I had to wait for an hour or so before she would see me. I laid on the floor, curled at his feet in a ball to try to stave off the pain. Every now and then he would peer at me, over the magazine page he was reading, from his chair and see how I was doing. He didn't say much.

When I finally got in to see the doctor, she told me to go to the emergency room. My neighbor helped me to his car and drove me to the emergency room. He made sure I got to where I needed to go for admission. He left because he needed to pick up his child from school.

In the meantime, he called my parents and gave them the name of the hospital and the directions. By this time, he had been with me for about five (5) hours. Everything turned out all right and I was discharged the next day. I never went back to that doctor again but that's another story.

I will never forget that man and what he did for me that day. He gave me comfort when I was afraid and alone. He helped me when I could not help myself. He stayed by my side until I got to where I needed to be. He made sure he found my parents and apprised them of what had happened and where to find me.

Nothing is ever black or white. People and things are not always what they seem. Never in a million years would I have suspected that this man would do what he did for me. He did, without question, without expectation of repayment.

Life is complex. People are complex. People and things are not always as they seem. I will never be able to repay him for what he did for me that day. But what I did do was further resign myself to be conscious of helping whomever I could in their time of need.

Perhaps he helped me because he had resigned to help people like me that they hung high where he grew up. After that day, he and I never had a conversation again.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to Keep Your Man, Ladies!

Ugh! I absolutely hate any discussion or topic that even infers the above erroneous assumption. Erroneous means incorrect or wrong. It is a wrong assumption because ladies, not only can you NOT keep a man who doesn't want to be with you, but this statement infers and assumes that
YOU alone are accountable and responsible for the success of the relationship.

Slim down so your man can find you sumptuous.
Learn the signs that he may not be into you.
How to cook a meal to make him fall in love with you and stay home.
Learn the tricks in bed that will keep him satisfied and out the streets.
Get the eight secrets that will keep him glued to your lips.
Discover what to say to keep him interested and committed.
Develop these communication traits to keep him faithful.

The answer to all the tricks, secrets and tips and discoveries is that there are no such answers. It is a myth.

The most nefarious or wicked thing that women have been conditioned to believe is that YOU, we women, are solely accountable and responsible for the success of the relationship with our significant other.

I'm here to tell you, it just is not true.

If you hug a hobbit daily , ride a unicorn to get from home to work or even just for leisure, and borrow a few coins everyy now and then from your neighbor the leprechaun at 2020 End of the Rainbow Way, then excuse me, 'cause I'm not talking to you.

Are you accountable and responsible for yourself in a relationship? Of course, absolutely!
So many of us take this myth, that it is our duty as women, to hold on to our man, lock stock and barrel. So when he leaves, or cheats or loses interests in you, we blame ourselves and say, "What did I do wrong? What didn't I do right?"

I'm saying, don't you believe it. People fall in and out of love all the time. When the love is gone, then it makes sense to part ways.

What I am talking about is the belief that a relationship failed because you were not enough, because it was your fault. If you have been authentically yourself, respected your partner and supported that person, been faithful and done all that you would want someone to have done and be for you, and things don't work out...Chalk it up as a part of life. It is NOT because YOU have failed. It is not because YOU are a failure.

Never forget that when two people get together, both are taking a risk. Both persons are accountable. Every body has problems, weaknesses, past hurts and unresolved issues and feelings in their lives.

If a person leaves you or disprespects you, remember, it has NOTHING to do with you. I am by no means saying that you are perfect and that you don't make mistakes. What I am saying is don't assume a relationship failed because of your lack of cooking, lovemaking, dieting or whatever skills. Never let someone tell you that either.

People come to relationships with their issues intact. Just because you say, "I do or I commit" doesn't mean those issues, and personl problems fall away magically because of love. They do not.

So, does this mean you can act a fool because whomever you are with needs to take some of your crap for a change? Absolutely not!

All I am trying to say is that in every aspect of this life you are living, you are accountable and responsible for YOURSELF - no one else. Have no expectations of your mate or any person for that matter. Choose your mate as wisely as you can, and give that person the benefit of the doubt. You can not dictate or control what someone does or what someone says. You can only control yourself.

Understand that when someone acts a fool, that it is soley their choice. It has nothing to do with you.

Improve your cooking because YOU want to learn to be a better cook. Learn to be a better listener so that YOU can be supportive, because YOU want to improve that aspect of yourself. Care for your body and your health because YOU want to look and feel good for YOU - not because you want to keep your man.

If you learn and do things only to keep your man, you are neither being real and authentic, nor are you being honest. In fact, you are operating under an ulterior motive. You are saying, "If I do this, then he SHOULD or will do this." Basically, you are doing something ONLY because you want something back. Hmm....
The word 'should' is just another word for expectation - that you have set- or have for someone else. Your expectations apply to you and you alone. That's the only person you control.

Improve yourself for you, so that you can be a better person. Become the person and the woman that you wish to be. Will you attract the mate that you dream about? I don't know and that misses the whole point entirely.

Stop worrying about how to keep your man and focus on how to keep yourself, figuratively and literally.

You are accountable and responsible for bringing a whole, healthy person to a relationship. You are accountable for being yourself and your best self. As long as you accept the mythical 'fact' that you are responsible for the success of your relationship with your significant other, you will ALWAYS be disappointed.

Life is to be enjoyed. It is not to be experienced as one disappointment after another. Exercise your control over what you can- YOURSELF! Dream of the beautiful woman you wish to become. If you stick to it, one day you are going to look up and realize that you are that woman you set out to be. So the next time you worry about how to keep your man, don't forget to throw in worrying about how to trap Big Foot and/or snap a picture of the Lochness Monster. Because worrying about any or all of it yields the same result, nothing. Focus on yourself and become all that you can: a beautiful, fabulous woman from the inside out.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Come Ya'll Still Got Jet Magazine and All Black Colleges?

This man asked me the above aforementioned question. I don't get offended by these kinds of questions because to me they are dialogues that need to happen. He continued.

"I want my child to be able to have real competition. If you are attending an all black college, isn't that limiting? And why do you have to have an all black magazine, like Jet? It should be about everybody, not just one race of people."

I thanked him for his frankness. Then I cussed him out.

Naw, ya'll...I'm just playing! I didn't cuss him out. I started with the easier of the two. I asked him,"Have you ever heard of Bono from U2?"

He replied that he had. Then I asked him, "Have you ever heard of Chris Tucker?"

A smile played across his lips and his face lit up with the memory of something pleasant. "Yes, I have. He played in those movies with Jackie Chan, Rush Hour, I think it's called, " he added.

I continued. "Did you hear about Bono being considered for a Nobel Peace prize because of his work in Africa?"

He nodded affirmatively and added,"Yes, that sounds familiar".

Then I said, "Did you know that Chris Tucker was present at the same points and places as Bono and he nary received a mention? And do you know the only place I saw that was in Jet Magazine? My point is, that the accomplishments of African-Americans are often times overlooked or ignored by the mainstream media. You didn't know about Chris Tucker, but I did. As long as there is racism in this world, there will always be a need and a place for a magazine like Jet. That's one reason we still have Jet, or at least the reason why I embrace it."

I told him, "You and I both know that racism is very prevelant in America. It is present during hiring, during dating and is pervasive in every aspect of our lives, especially for people of color. If a man wins an award at an 'exclusive' law firm, that consistently screens out and blocks people because of their color or their sex, is HIS award based upon REAL competition? I would say, 'NO!' The possible competition may have been screened out 'before the games even began.' "

I don't think he ever asked or questioned, "How come all the management of most companies is all white males?"

But you, know, I didn't get angry with this gentleman. You see, he is the one who is limited. He is caged in by the perceptions that he has, conditioned over time. When you are forced to walk on the outside, the peripheral, you develop a vision and sharpness that those who rest comfy on the inside never will.

Open up your mind, your heart, and your arms to all kinds of people and all kinds of questions. You will see that the creature that was once trapped in the gilded cage, may not be totally free, but he may find respite or rest, or obtain temporary crystal clear vision just for a moment, but long enough to flap and expand his unused wings.

And when we allow someone to soar, or even just aid them on that journey a little bit, we plant a little seed of hope and understanding. Perhaps that seed will grow into a tree that will someday eradicate the need for an all black magazine. Especially if the purpose for the creation of that magazine is to celebrate the accomplishments of a race of people because nowhere else is it being done or to present a realistic and fair depiction of them that can't be found anywhere else.

Don't let that stop you ladies! No matter what, let those love lights shine. Take the high road as often as you can. Your patience and understanding may open the door for dialogue that is healing and enlightening for someone else. Patience and understanding pay dividends. What could be more beautiful than that?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bottom Billion, Blessings and Beyonce

Do you know that there are 1 billion people in this world who occupy the lowest rung of the economic ladder? Do you know that statistically, these 1 billion people will never, ever escape this socio-economic status? They will remain in this abject poverty from their birth to their death, from cradle to grave. Do you know that these people are the bottom billion, beyond the global poverty line? That means there are billions and billions of people who exist below the poverty line, but the bottom billion of which I am referencing is the bottom of the bottom.

If you have the luxury of reading this, in English, then you are obviously not in this group. The 'random roll' of the dice has enabled you to be born in a time, place, family and country, where you are not statistically doomed to be or remain in abject poverty.

If you can read this, you are truly blessed. The next time you covet that gorgeous bag Beyonce has or her shoes or her life, remember this. The chances of you having a life like Beyonce, are less than 1 in a billion. The chance that you could have been born in the bottom billion, is a billion times more likely.

Embrace who your are, develop what talents you have and hone them to a razor sharp edge. Do this so that you can contribute your talents where they are needed. Perhaps by six degrees of separation, someone you help helps someone, who helps someone else, who helps someone else, who helps someone else, who helps someone else, you indirectly touch and lift one person out of the bottom billion pit.

So the next time you whine about or lament the fact that you don't have what someone has, like a Beyonce, know that you probably have no idea about the pressures that she has to deal with on a daily basis. Nor do you have the support that she likely has or the coping skills that she has honed over the course of her career.

Most importantly, know that it is more likely that you could have been born in the bottom billion, or below the world poverty line, than it is for you to have been born a Beyonce or someone who had her opportunities.

Relish and bask in the knowledge that you are blessed to be who you are: a beautiful creature who walks in the sun who has the opportunity every day to lift someone up. The person that you help may not be mired in the bottom billion, but you never know.

Illuminate the pathway of your steps already taken, and those you have yet to take,
with the lamplight of your Soul
always reflects your inner light and beauty.

How? By being conscious of and counting your blessings.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Never Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

In the play and movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois utters the famous line, "I always depended on the kindness of strangers," as she is ushered out the door by men dressed in white, to the 'Crazy House'.

When I lived in Japan, a fellow co-worker lost her job. She was American and in her late forties or early fifties. She had left everything behind to live and work in Japan. In her mind she believed she had nothing outside of Japan. I called her early one morning and strangely got no answer. I found out from another co-worker that when she was unable to find another job, she checked into a hotel, wrote a note and then eased her life away with a bottle of pills.

Fast forward to Mexico City. I decided to step into a pretty little street side ice cream shop. There I was seriously contemplating the flavor and the size of the ice cream scoop. The palms of my hands laid against the ice cream display glass like little suction cups. My fingers were spread and splayed out in all directions as if I were trying to grasp my scoop through the glass.

The interesting thing is I can't remember whether or not I ever bought that ice cream cone. What I remember most about that day was the woman I bumped into outside of that ice cream shop.

She was in her eighties, living in a downtown apartment near the the very heart of the center of Mexico, near the zocalo. Stores were great, but apartments tended to be seedy there. What I found most incredulous or unbelievable was that she was living alone in Mexico and spoke no Spanish. Here is her story.

She said that her husband fell ill. All of their life savings were spent during his long illness. Her son had died in his forties. She had no one else. She moved to Mexico because it was the only place she believed that she could live on the small social security check she got from the US government. I'll never forget the moment I said good bye to her. I watched her back as she mounted the steeply inclined, narrow stairway, one step at a time. Her outstretched feeble arms shakily gripped the rails on either side. I stood and watched as she finally disappeared up the stairway and was absorbed by the darkness of the dimly lit passageway.

I never saw her again.

We never know how we will end up or end our days. What is important is to not wait until tomorrow, or someday, to plan. The saying goes, "People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan."
I can't even say that either woman failed to plan.

There are no guarantees in this life, except that we will all pass from it someday. Although we do not have control over our circumstances we can become aware. Part of being aware is doing the best we can to plan for our days when there may not be a steady paycheck because of illness, lack of a job, retirement or an accident.

If you do not plan, you may find yourself having to depend upon the kindness of strangers. If you do, you may not have the options that you would desire for yourself if you had other choices.

In addition, I would implore you to be that kind stranger that someone may have to depend upon. What that means is to have no expectations of others, prepare as best as you can for that rainy day, month, year or several years. Just as importantly, always treat people in need or not with reverence and kindness.

I hope that you never have to depend upon the kindness of strangers. I do hope that strangers can always depend upon you being kind.
Taking the high road is never easy. Have no expectations of others, only of yourself. Stay on that path to being and showing how truly beautiful you are and can be. Day by day, you will beautify all that you touch, bit by bit. The world needs a stranger upon which it can depend for kindness. Somewhere, somehow, someday, you may be called to fulfill that role. I know that you will perform beautifully!