She wants to lead the glamorous life!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Task Complete: How I Pushed Through When All I Wanted to Do Was Walk Away and Crawl Under the Covers

I did it! Yep, I’m done. You know how you sign up for something and quickly realize it is a bad idea? Well this is what happened to me. I was in a women’s service organization for about 4.5 or 5.5 years (I lost count after about month 8th). I decided to take a leadership position, because I thought that would make my experience better than it had been. I was wrong. It made it worse! I was annoyed, frustrated and angry from the onset. But that part of the story isn’t as important as this one- I finished! As of this past Wednesday, June 1st, I finished my task and honored my commitment. The organization’s schedule runs from June to May essentially and so last week marked the end. I had resigned my membership in February. I had a few loose ends to tie up before being completely done. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, I took time out to e-mail the participants of the committee I oversaw and thanked them, collected my year-end survey results, reached out to the head of my council and scheduled a transition meeting with the two women who will be taking over after me. (Yes, it was realized that this should not be a one person job.) When I tell you I felt accomplished, honey, listen!

It was during my very own transition meeting conference call last year, that I knew this was going to be a long assignment. With me working by myself, I only had my friends, both in and outside of the organization to vent to. I spent a lot of time trying to figure things out on my own or to good friends who would instruct me to “not send that letter”. I have had e-mails proofed and heavily edited by friends at work to keep from unleashing my condescending tone to someone I thought deserved it. But I made it. Through all of the many micro-aggressions, the rude comments and the long-ass meetings, I made it. The back and forth e-mails to answer questions I deemed obvious, I made it. I am proud of myself for holding my tongue, when my mind wanted to let loose. I pat myself on the back for staying gracious in the face of constant second-guessing. 

I learned a lot about leadership in this particular role. The title does not make people instantly respect you, it’s your actions and how you handle yourself. Then there are some people who still won’t. But I marched on. When I had low attendance to the events I hosted, I did not take it personally, I just thanked those who showed. I started choosing dates and times that worked best for me, instead of trying to please the entire group at large. I started supporting my own decisions. Even if it meant not showing up to every single meeting I was invited to, in order to show favoritism to my priorities and things I actually enjoyed. I sent out holiday cards instead of pouting. I ended every e-mail with an “Enjoy your day!” or “I hope everyone has a great holiday!”, instead of rolling my eyes. I kept things positive. I responded to requests on time. I apologized for oversights or mistakes, taking full responsibility for things that were by no means a big deal. I helped out when I could. And I made it. I did well. I spent so much time thinking I was in over my head, but the truth is, sometimes that’s what leadership feels like. It is not always easy. It just simply is. I am glad I pushed myself. And most importantly, I finished. I completed the task!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Translation Please: My Love Language

This morning I was talking to one of my girlfriends about an incident that took place yesterday evening that had me upset and annoyed. It involved a man, mixed signals and Shake Shack. Don’t worry, the Shake Shack part was all good; I split some cheese fries and had a Chicken Shack with cheese if you’re curious. The food was better than fine. It was the company I kept that had me calling my girl to recap all the foolishness. In between my cursing and her completely agreeing with me, she asked:  “what’s your ‘love language’? Is it receiving gifts or words of affirmation?” I had taken Gary Chapman’s ‘The 5 Love Languages’ test years ago, but could not remember how I tested. I thought those two sounded good, but honestly did not know. It occurred to me that taking the test again, now that some years have past, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Then I thought back to the conversation I had with my dad even earlier this morning, before the call with my girl. As my phone buzzed in my hand with John Coltrane’s Impressions (his unique ringtone) coming through the speaker, I already knew it was him before seeing Daddy on the screen. “MJ, you sad about Prince hunh?”, to which I sadly replied, “yeah”. “I’m gonna try to find that Chipotle coupon for a free burrito bowl. You want a bowl?” he asked. “Yes.” He said he would call me when he was on his way downtown and that I could “do the order” for him. It occurred to me, that is my love language. My dad speaks my love language. He acknowledged and predicted I would be shook up about Prince and gave me my due respect for crafting a mean burrito bowl. No translation needed.

After posting this I will take the test and see what my “language” is. If you want to test yourself, click here and share your results.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Can You See Me?

Hello, I'm MJ.  I am a Black woman with naturally kinky-curly hair.  What that means for me is, I can do all kinds of badass things with my hair:  braid it (with or without extensions), straighten it (with or without chemicals), wear a weave (long or short), lock it, fro, twist or coil it out amongst other things.  What that means for you, and when I say 'you' I mean White people, is you get to not say a gotdamn thing about it.  The problem is, a great deal of you have somehow missed this memo and feel you must comment on EVERY fucking thing I do with MY hair.  If it was coming from a place of genuine respect and admiration, fine.  But if you're asking or commenting based on your own personal feelings or (lacking) knowledge of the curious nature of Black folk, I'm not with it.  Confused?  Let me help you out.

Example 1
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  OH MY GOD!  Look at your hair!!  You changed it.  Every day you change your hair.  I can't keep up.  Now what's this?  (coming close to inspect my hair) I like this.  The other way you wear it, is okay, but this, I like this.  You should keep it like this.  THIS is cute.
My mental commentary:  bitch I didn't ask you!

Example 2
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  You really wear that well.  See I can't do that with my hair.  You're lucky.  You have cool hair.  I just have this hair.
My mental commentary:  you're being patronizing.  Get out my face.

Example 3
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Now, how did you do that?  Did you do it yourself, or did someone else do that for you? That's interesting.
My mental commentary:  No my hair is not "interesting", my hair is wonderful.

Example 4
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Oh, you changed your hair.  Do you like it?
Instead of:  Now which hairstyle do you like the best?
My mental commentary:  bitch, yes I like my hair, that's why I'm wearing it this way!  I like ALL of my hairstyles, that's why I wear them!

Example 5
Try saying:  Hey MJ, your hair looks nice.
Instead of:  Is that all your hair?
My mental commentary:  that's rude as hell, and it's none of your damn business, you uncouth son of a bitch.  Furthermore, yes it is!  

These are real conversations, that tend to happen to me at work (a lot).  There are people who I can pass on the street or smile and wave to at the nearest Starbucks, who will look at me strange, divert their eyes without speaking and then ask me to do something in the office 15 minutes later.  I have worked with people who will pass my desk several times in a week, but see them outside the office and they look surprised when I tell them where I work.  "Oh, you're the one with the hair."  Yeah bitch, that's me.  Last night I went to a party and a girl who I was on a committee with for an entire year, re-introduced herself (as always) like she had never seen me before.  I chuckled and told her, "yes, I know, you have introduced yourself to me a THOUSAND times.  Every time I see you, you introduce yourself."  She awkwardly laughed it off and was like, "well I only came to like, four meetings."  I'm thinking, and I came to all but one, so again, we've met.  I sometimes get the, "I didn't recognize you, you changed your hair."  Yes, the hair may be different, but the face is still the same.  Are you just looking at me, instead of SEEING me?  Seeing the person I am.  As opposed to the caricature you have in your head.

It may sound like I'm overreaching, but the truth is, this is how racism and stereotypes are perpetuated.  The reason some cops are regularly harassing and KILLING young black men, is because they don't SEE these men.  They can't imagine they have mothers, or wives, family or friends.  They can't fathom they could be upstanding citizens or that someone would care about whether they live or died.  It's the reason people get upset to see brothas burn down a local drugstore, but don't understand that the anger resulted from the fact that a young man's spine was damn-near detached.  As a culture, you don't know anything about us.  Why are you so curious with Black hair?  You don't have any Black friends?  You have never been close enough to a Black woman to ask curious, yet thoughtful questions about the history of our styling and hair regimens?  If that's the case, it's fine, but don't embarrass me by shouting over the filing cabinet, a stupid question or comment.  Don't bring your friends over to comment on my hair, like I'm not standing/sitting right here.  I'm not a museum exhibit or a zoo animal.  Utilize Big Sister Google and investigate on your on time.

Scientists have traced the entire human race back to one Black woman in Africa.  We, Black people - Black women, have shared this planet with you all since the beginning of time.  Why are you still so intrigued by us?  My advice is to get off your high horse and stop looking and start seeing.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm Late to the Party: Why I'm Just Now Seeing 'Empire'

Ya'll know I like to be fashionably late to most, if not all, episodic TV parties.  So, with that said, I finally watched Fox's Empire - the entire first season and I love it!  Here's the thing, I binge watch TV, even the best shows because I'm...basically greedy.  And impatient.  I hate to wait to see what happens next.  I want to know now.  The problem is, my ass tends to be late to the pop culture conversation.  By the time I've watched whatever show that everybody was talking about, no one is as interested or cares as much.  So I usually pull my bestie into some conversation where he essentially has to keep saying "umhm, keep watching" and "yeah, girl".  Because he can't tell me too much and I hate spoilers.  The problem is that I miss out on the show's buzz.  It's bad because I could at least add my two cents about the episode at the same time as everyone else.  Plus, most of the noise on Facebook is either foolish, doesn't make much sense (in an effort to not spoil the episode) or, I find if a show is good, you can spoil it and I will still appreciate and enjoy watching what happens.

There is the thought that if I'm not watching a show, I have something against it.  On the contrary, I don't, but I also don't need to run to the well of TV water, because everyone is drinking from it.  I was at a birthday dinner once and the look on the women's faces when I said I had never watched Scandal was priceless.  I mean there was actual shock and awe.  I had to explain that me not watching, doesn't mean that I am not a "believer".  It just means I haven't gotten to it yet.  It was on my "to watch" list that I like to stockpile for lonely nights, evenings after a hard day at work and frigid, grey winter weekends.  (Rest easy.  I have since caught up to the present season of Scandal.)  I like to make the calculated leap into a new show, carefully choosing what I'm in the mood for.  It's how I watched Breaking Bad,  True Detectives, DexterMad Men, Downton Abbey just to name a few.  Recently while sitting and getting my hair braided for hours, with long extensions, my girl and I tackled the first season of Game of Thrones (so good!)The Shield, The Wire or Deadwood until years after they were off the air.
.  I didn't watch

So yes, I'm behind as hell, but you know what?  I'm okay with that.  I love good TV, but I don't want to schedule my life around a primetime TV schedule.  That's what my DVR, Netflix subscription and On Demand are for.  The good thing about good TV, is it really stands the test of time.  The Wire was just as impactful when I watched it several years after it originally aired.  It didn't lose its luster.  It's a damn good show!  Just like Empire is no less entertaining having watched it a couple of weeks after its freshman season finale.  That's why I'm loving TV now!  There are so many great scripted television shows.  The average, busy city girl such as myself, doesn't have time to watch all of them at once.  So you all keep clattering about what's a must watch program and I'll be sure to add it to my list.

What are you watching now?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Art of Being Alone

It's a fine line between being alone and feeling lonely.  I have found that there is an art to being alone.  Sometimes aloneness can feel perfectly natural and good, and at other times, absolutely depressing. What I used to define as a lack of activities and energy, I now see as more of a lack of esteem and confidence.  I have found that the more I become unconditionally comfortable with myself, the more I enjoy being by myself.  And I don't mean that as a "I can do bad by my damn self" type of sentiment, but rather, I really enjoy my own company and spending time alone.  In years past, I could do this from time to time, but it either took a lot of effort, or the feeling would be fleeting.  I would try to schedule all kinds of activities and appointments with friends and family.  I wanted someone by my side a lot of the time.  I felt like I needed it.  Truthfully, I didn't then and I don't now.

Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and family and I love spending time with them.  It's just that now, I look forward to being at home.  In her book Why You're Not Married...Yet, author Tracy McMillan writes about "coming home to [insert your name here]".  That's what I have been doing, coming home to myself.  I view my home and time alone as a respite.  It rejuvenates me.  And when I have had enough of the outside world, I know I have a place to come home to.  But catch this:  home is not the building, home is ME.  Just like "home" is YOU.  I feel like the more I look to myself as a place of shelter, the less I seek out others to fill the "voids" I may see myself as having.  Whether binge-watching my favorite shows, having a cocktail to cap off my day, journaling, meditating, trying out a new recipe or a long soak in the tub with a book, I treat myself well by allowing myself to just be.

What are some of the things you like to do alone?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

All Up in My Feelings

I am a feeler.  I feel strongly.  No matter if it's sadness, joy, anger- it comes strong, frequent and pure. What I used to be annoyed and embarrassed by when it came to my sad feelings, I now embrace.  Because in my wisdom, I now know that what my uncontrollable tears mean, or my anger suggests is that I am not good.  My discomfort signals that it is time to slow down and evaluate where I am and where I want to be. Lately, I've noticed in an effort to be "mature" (I guess), and in control of my feelings, I have been suppressing me and messages God is trying to convey to me.  My body doesn't like it.  Twice in eight months a small patch of hair has fallen out.  My cravings for chocolate go beyond good chocolate, but move to drugstore finds.  My dreams are more aggressive and I am angry or moody.  But when I talk, I cry and when I cry there is release.  So I have been talking lately.  A lot.  My friends have provided advice.  An attentive ear.  And suggestions.  I have greedily taken each.  It's not the best feeling when your eyes start to leak at inopportune moments, but it lets me know there is something deeper to observe.  And that is the time to listen...and learn.

How do you release tension when you're feeling stressed, sad, emotional?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

It is the last day of the year and I'm reflecting on my 2014 journey.  When I woke up to a cold, single digit temperature Chicago morning, the sun was shining bright.  Through my windows, a warm golden glow spread throughout my apartment.  The kind of glow that makes it seem like the day is personally welcoming me to it.  As if the sun was shining just for me.  After thanking God for bringing me to the last morning and work day of the year, I mentally reviewed the past year.

When I think back over 2014, I realize how much got accomplished and all of what happened throughout those fast-paced 12 months.  The year flew by, but so much took place.  It's weird because there are things that seem so far removed from now and where I am today.  I had a surgery to remove a suspicious lump in my breast (all is well).  I traveled to Paris, Amsterdam and Las Vegas.  I got a new job.  I dated a creepy man from St. Charles, IL who taught me how to make a traditional lamb cake for Easter.  A Ukranian man who took me to my first Puerto Rican Festival.  And a Nigerian critical care nurse who gave me my first boyfriend administered flu shot.  There was the death of my mother's eldest brother, which I thought I was handling well until I stopped to realize I spent a month eating my feelings, crying in the midnight hour, angry at everyone and everything and finally a dermatologist explained that my grief over my uncle's passing, was the obvious cause of the clump of hair that fell out- leaving me with a clean circular-shaped bald spot at the top of my head.  (Thank goodness, my hair is finally growing back.)

I meditated and prayed more.  I read books that elevated my understanding of myself, my spirit and soul, like:  Why You're Not Married...Yet: The Straight Talk You Need to Get the Relationship You Deserve, Calling in "The One": 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life and When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.  Two of those books I got from watching Oprah's Super Soul Sunday on OWN, a show, I discovered, feeds my soul when I don't make it to church.  Another shocking thing that happened this year, was that I lost an old friend who succumbed to complications of HIV and cancer.  He and I had not been 'friends' for years after a major blow-up, but we still had a couple of mutual friends and acquaintances.  From time to time when we might run into to each, it was always cordial and nice.  We would even muster up a joke or two.  He was younger than me and his death reminded me of my own mortality.  On top of all these events, I joined my gym's bikini challenge and managed to lose the weight (23lbs) I vowed to get rid of by June, with dieting and exercising.

Whether it was seeing Beyonce and Jay Z, Usher or Ledisi in concert, witnessing my best friend get married or reuniting with old friends, it has been quite the year.  I cannot believe it is almost over!  Tomorrow I plan on spending the day cooking my collard greens and black-eyed peas for good luck and good measure while creating my 2015 vision board and making plans for next year.

How did 2014 treat you?  Any plans for 2015?