Dream Chasin’: Lessons From the Dream Giver

Phew! It’s been a busy start to 2013! I have so many things on my plate: pending transition, completing my certificate in event management, job searching, making time for friends etc. In addition to those things, I always make time to do something daily toward my dream of being a writer. I’ve written articles, entered two poetry contests, and pitched various publications. I encourage you to do the same and work toward your dream. Take little steps each day that will lead you closer to your BIG DREAM.

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My church small group just finished reading The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson (author of the Prayer of Jabez).  The first part uses an allegorical account of a Nobody named Ordinary from the land of Familiar. He breaks through his Comfort Zone in search of his Big Dream in the Promise Land. In the second half of the book, Wilkinson serves as the reader’s dream coach where he answers individual’s questions relating to their struggles as they pursue their dreams. Wow.

This book is amazing. On a general level, it really brings to light the struggle that we as humans face as we pursue our God-given dreams.   These dreams are all relative – some desire to be an activist traveling the world on behalf of a particular cause. Others desire to raise a family (both are certainly valuable and have their place in society).

Whether or not the person decides to pursue these desires or dreams is an individual choice. Many people feel trapped by their current circumstances or have families so they do what’s necessary to make ends meet. The book addresses the fear and anxiety of stepping out on faith and chasing your dream.

This book was life-changing because it allowed me to re-think how I perceive and pursue my dreams. Here are a few things that I gained from the book:

1.    The Dream Giver (God) asks for Ordinary to give his dream back to Him. I know you’re wondering why God would want us to submit our dream when He is the one who gives us the dream in the first place. It’s definitely a choice – God doesn’t pressure us. God wants us to submit our dreams to Him so He knows where we stand. Will we worship our dream or Him? I think sometimes we unintentionally make our dream an idol. It’s okay to really want to do something but ultimately God cares more about our relationship than even our dream.  Secondly, I think God wants us to submit our dream because we might think we have a dream but He surpasses the limited view of our dream. He often changes our desires along the journey and gives us back our dream and it’s better than we could ever imagine.

2.    Dreams are mostly about others rather than yourself. We all might have self-serving dreams – that’s okay. In the larger scheme of things, we are meant to have a greater purpose. Our dreams should reflect how we use our God-given talent and gifts to benefit others. We’re contributing to the lives of others and blessing others. In turn, we’re being blessed because we’re able to reach beyond our lives and circumstances. We’re meant to have “outward focusing” ministry and Jesus is the best example of that. How can your talents and gift impact the world or the world around you?

3.    Just because you know your dream doesn’t mean the road to completing it will be easy. In the book, Ordinary journeyed through many places before reaching the Promise Land. First, he broke out of his Comfort Zone. This is often time difficult to do because – well it’s comfortable! We know what to expect and that can cause us to get stuck in life. Ordinary was in search of a better life and he knew he had to start looking beyond his Comfort Zone. Then he went through the Wasteland, which is characterized by doubt and delay. This just emphasized to me that sometimes our dreams won’t instantly appear and we go through a period where we might not see it manifest. During this time, it’s crucial that you keep the faith and push through it. Nothing is a waste in our lives. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good for those who are called according to his glory. Then Ordinary ventured into the Sanctuary. This was truly a time of communion between him and the Dream Giver. He washed away all the remnants of the Wasteland and Ordinary set out in search of his Big Dream once again. Finally, Ordinary made it to the Promise Land where his dream manifested. It was better than he could ever imagine. In practical terms, once you set out to pursue your dream, don’t expect to fall into place at one time. It is a process. There will be times when you doubt but forge ahead in pursuit of your dream anyway.

4.    People play important roles in your dreams. On his journey, Ordinary faced different types of people including Border Bullies, which are people who challenged his dream. These Bullies were his family and best friend. They had the best intentions but they still intended to discourage Ordinary from pursuing his dream based on their fears. Ordinary encountered four types of Bullies: The Alarmist “It’s not safe!”), The Traditionalist (“It’s not the way we do it!”), The Defeatist (“It’s not possible”), and the The Antagonist (“I won’t let you”) As you pursue your dream, it’s normal to encounter people who don’t understand or even express negative thoughts about your dream. It’s especially hurtful when these sentiments come from family members. It’s important to keep your dream in mind and how much you want to pursue it in mind during these difficult times when you experience opposition from others. Keep pushing – it’s also necessary to protect your dream by sharing with people who are supportive, but who will also provide constructive criticism.

Ultimately, Ordinary makes it to the Promise Land – it truly surpassed his expectations! It was so much that occurred throughout his journey that it’s impossible to cover in just one article. The lessons learned in this book are essential as you purse your God-given dream. Happy dream chasing!

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Disney Lied to Me: Why Love Isn’t Enough…

This entry was difficult to write but very cathartic at the same time. I hope you appreciate my transparency.

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‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

~Alfred Lord Tennyson

I wish that I could believe that love is enough. If so, I’d be married by now. Unfortunately, that’s not how things unfolded for us but I will always love him.

 We have a lot of history. I met him when I was 24 and he was 32. He is different – a little quirky. I like that. He is brilliant. I can be 100% myself with him – I don’t let my guard down for many people, but I know that I can say anything to him and feel comfortable.  I’m just amazed that we know each other so well. He recently told me that he needs to guard his heart with me because I change my mind sometimes. He knows I’m fickle and very indecisive. I know how he will respond in certain situations. It’s like we were made for each other.

 Things were going well for a while, but then I realized that the relationship was draining me because of circumstances that are out of his control (people who are close to me know what I’m talking about. I don’t feel the need to put his business out there like that). I stayed because I wanted to make it work. Then one day I woke up and realized that I couldn’t do it anymore – not because I didn’t love him, but because I saw a glimpse of my future with him and it was not what I envisioned for my life.

That didn’t stop me from going back to him a few times even though I always ended up with the same outcome. It’s not in the cards for us. It’s not fair, but it’s life. I still communicate with him. I try to be a friend to him because he doesn’t have many people in his life, but it’s complicated because we’re friends who love each other. I admit that our communication sometimes opens the door for my feelings to resurface.

I know I can’t go back. I know that is not those close to me would want for me. More importantly, I don’t think that is what I want for me. The important lesson that I gained from our doomed relationship is that love is simply not enough. Yes, I want love. I also want stability, a partnership, and security just to name a few things. I want to say I will never get back together with him but I don’t know what the future holds. I do know that a relationship is a not an option right now and I’m not waiting for that time to come. I’m fine with that. I have not idea what is going to happen but I definitely want God’s best for me.

 

Love Series: It’s Impossible to Love You

 A friend requested that I do a post on dating unavailable men. That led me do a series of posts on love. I’m no relationship expert nor do I have tons of dating experience, but I picked up a few lessons along the way. 😉 This is the first post in the “Love Series.” Enjoy!

 It’s impossible /It’s impossible to love you / Impossible to make it easy /If you always tryin’ to make it so damn hard/ How can I, how can I give you all my love, baby / If you’re always, always puttin’ up your guard

~ taken from Christina Aguilera’s “Impossible”

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I’ve encountered a few unavailable men on my love journey. Sometimes they were unavailable because of internal issues and other times it was caused by issues that were out of their control. Whatever the cause, I’ve learned a few things through my experiences:

You can’t change people. You can only change yourself and personally I think you can’t even do that without God’s help!  I’ve learned that you can’t change people – it’s a choice they need to make. In that same vein, you can’t make somebody be with you — either they’re going to do the work or they’re not (no excuses!). There are some key ingredients to making a relationship work (e.g. trust, communication, respect, effort, etc.). If they’re not willing to push beyond what is holding them back and do the work then it’s time to let it go. You can’t be in a relationship by yourself – that’s just called being alone (whether you’re technically in a relationship or not). I’ve learned that the hard way.

Don’t let your loyalty keep you in a relationship. I’m definitely a ride or die chick *cue the song*. I’m extremely loyal. I think it’s cultural to an extent, but it’s also just who I am. Sometimes I think that is to my own detriment. I overstayed my welcome in previous relationships even though it wasn’t working because I wanted to try to work things out. I reiterate what I’ve said before: you can’t be in a relationship alone. If he is not unavailable then don’t feel as though you have to stay in a relationship to make it work. It’s not worth it. Save yourself the time and the tears. Go be a ride or die chick for someone that wants to be with you and do the work. You can’t expect something from somebody that they aren’t capable of giving you.

You can’t take on his baggage. Where in the world do I begin with this? I’ve done this so much! I’ve dealt with things that perhaps I shouldn’t have. For example, I have albinism, which is a genetic condition. I dated someone with another type of “condition” because we both have very misunderstood conditions (even though they are very different). I was really naïve. I don’t regret that relationship because it taught me a lot, but I was definitely in a relationship with him and his issues. It was very stressful. I was going through my own growing pains AND helping him deal with his issues. It was so exhausting! I couldn’t be a martyr. I couldn’t be his savior. I had to let it go. His issues began to impact me and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Don’t become jaded about love.  Appreciate all the lessons that you learned in previous relationships: good or bad. They inform you of what you want and don’t want to deal with or what you can or can’t handle. I realize there are some VERY real deal breakers to be mindful of as I consider entering into a relationship. I used to be very hard on myself because of the choices I’ve made, but I know that is was all lessons learned and I’m grateful for that.

My final piece of advice is to be open because if you’re not then you’re continuing the cycle of being “unavailable” for the next person that walks into your life.

 

Check out my other posts on love/dating/relationships until the next installment of the Love Series:

Sitting on the Sidelines: I’m Taking a Hiatus from Dating

Black Women and Dating: Is Not Smiling Costing Us Dates?

A Naturalista’s Guide to Surviving in the Workplace

Please forgive me — I know it’s been a minute since I’ve posted. I’m trying to launch my freelance career and that has been keeping me busy over the past month. However, I’m still going to update my blog I know it’s long overdue. I hope you enjoy!

I transitioned from relaxed hair to natural hair five years ago. I never thought it was an option until I moved to Washington, D.C., where natural hair is not only common, but it is celebrated.

As I transitioned, I noticed there was a fascination with my hair from my white co-workers that wasn’t present when I was relaxing my hair. Hearing comments about my hair is not new to me. Growing up, I went to the salon on a regular basis and whenever I stepped into the salon people immediately swooned over my golden locks. People still ask me if this is my natural color.

But this “fascination” felt different. My co-workers’ comments left me feeling frustrated and uncomfortable.

Since making the transition, I’ve straightened my hair about three times.  One day, I walked in with my hair cascading down to the middle of my back and I was met with some interesting comments. My hair is usually curly so most people don’t actually know how long it is so people naturally were surprised at the length. That didn’t bother me. It’s the remarks about how “elegant” my hair was that bothered me. I’m sure that was meant to be a compliment. However, I took that as a backhanded compliment or a “complisult” which is something that was intended to be a compliment, but can be taken as an insult.

I put “elegant” up there with the other words that make me cringe such as “proper” or “articulate.” They’re words that are not inherently problematic but become a problem in the context in which they are said, particularly when they’re directed toward Black people. These words have a subtle undertone of racism. It’s more about what’s not said it the problem. In this case, can my hair not be elegant and natural?

I don’t think people who say these things are necessarily racist but it is a good ideal to be aware of the connotation and baggage that these words carry.

Of course, my hair is seen as “elegant” when it is straight but not when I wear it in its natural state. I know it has to do with European standards of beauty – I get it. I’d just rather they not say anything at all.  Or if they like it, then just say that. Don’t ask to touch it (especially during a meeting). Don’t tell me you prefer it straight. Don’t comment about how often I change it.

I’ve included some tips and advice that I learned from my experiences in the workplace. I think it’s helpful for those who are transitioning or already natural. These are based on my experiences and are certainly not a one-size-fit-all list.

Be Patient

It’s simple: they  just don’t get it. Not only is this a transition for your hair, it is also a transition for them too in understanding your hair. They’re along for the hair journey with you. Learn to be patient because they really don’t have a clue most times about Black hair. It might be annoying, but just think about one more person that will be more informed about our hair woes. I mean, as a black person, you should already be comfortable explaining yourself to some extent. It just goes with the territory of being a minority.

Be Prepared 

Know that the questions are coming. Be prepared for the constant fascination with your hair. Also have your response ready for when they ask to touch it, how often you wash it, or why it magically “grew” overnight. Think about how you would respond to these and other common questions and be ready to say them with confidence.

Know Your Workplace

I work in an association so my workplace environment is more conducive to creative flair when it comes to my hair. I can get a way with wearing a lot of different styles from afros to faux hawks. I suggest you know your workplace. Is it conservative? Can you get away with wearing less traditional styles?  I personally enjoy pushing the envelope with my hair but I know I can do that. There are certain times when I know an important meeting is coming up and I’ll be more conservative in my styling, but for the most part I enjoy switching it up.

Accessorize Your Hair

I’ve learned is to have fun accessorizing my hair. I enjoy bows, clips, headbands, flowers, etc. I think accessorizing is also important because it takes away the edge of black hair because let’s face it – black hair is political. Throwing a headband or a bow on your afro makes you a lot more “approachable” in white people’s eyes. I guess they don’t think you’ll go all angry black woman on them if you’re afro looks more dainty and less revolutionary. You’re expressing your personal style and others are put at ease in your presence –both parties are WINNING.

Curls over Kinks

I have a very tight kinky-curly curl pattern. I’ve noticed in my time of being natural that people seem to “prefer” when I stretch out my hair and wear a looser curl pattern. Twist out seems to go over very well. People are always fascinated about how much length I actually have. I also prefer to wear a more curly/wavy look for job interviews.  In my experience, curls are always seen more favorable in the workplace.

Water is Your Friend

Whenever you’re having a bad hair day (and they do happen) remember that water is the game changer. You might walk out of your place thinking your hair is cute and then realize when you get to work that you’re hair is a hot mess. That’s okay…water to the rescue! This happened to me recently. I walked to CVS and bought some bobby pins. I wet my hair and used the booby pins to save my hairstyle.

My fellow naturalistas (or naturalistas in transition) what are you workplace survival tips?

The Joys of Therapy

Mental health was a not a topic that I grew up discussing in my home and other spheres of my young life (i.e. school, church etc.) but I’ve really come to feel strongly about it in my adult life. It’s considered taboo in the black community because of our often very strong religious beliefs or the overall denial and/or dismissal of mental health issues. I’ve always maintained (and continue to maintain for that matter) that you can go to therapy and you’re religious beliefs can remain in tact. Trust me, I love Jesus, but I also believe in the process of therapy. I think God gives us tools and uses people to help us get through the painful moments of our lives.

I began therapy in my early 20s after I returned home to live with my mother after graduating from Grinnell College. I dealt with depression/anxiety issues because of the stuff that was going on with her. The university I attended for my master’s offered discounted therapy sessions so I decided to take advantage of them. Initially, I was skeptical because I previously tried therapy at Grinnell and was not impressed. However, I needed help so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad that I did because it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

I’ve continued to go to therapy intermittently throughout my 20s and will probably continue going when necessary in my life. I think it’s a part of living a healthy existence as going to get a physical. I think everyone should try it at least once. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned about therapy along the way:

Finding a therapist is like dating. Finding a therapist is about finding the right fit Do you have chemistry with your therapist? Do you feel comfortable with your therapist? I’ve seen about five therapists in my lifetime and I had a connection with each of them them. I felt like they understood me and could really help me. Sometimes you know if the connection is there right away and other times if might take a few sessions to really figure it out. If you’re reluctant because you’re a Christian, they do have Christian therapists/counselors   😉

Therapists don’t fix you. They simply give you the tools to help you realize how to think about and handle things differently. Sometimes it’s just a matter of talking to an outsider (with a license and clinical understanding) who can offer different ways about approaching your situation(s). Maybe this is very narcissistic of me, but I really enjoy going in my therapy session and talking about me for an hour. It’s fabulous! Sometimes I don’t have a goal in mind or something I’m trying to work through at the moment but I simply want to vent.

Go for a therapist of the same gender.  This might be controversialand slightly hypocritical because I am seeing a male therapist now. I say this because this is the first time that I’m seeing a man and it is very different than seeing a woman. I think I can be a lot more open with women about certain things. I also think it’s a way of guarding your heart because you’re opening up yourself and being vulnerable – I think for me it’s just best I have a female therapist in the future.

Be open to the process. Revisiting traumatic experiences and digging through issues can be exhausting! Be open to the process – help your therapist help you! Change doesn’t happen overnight so be patient with yourself and available to receive healing during this process.

Just Say No…I Dare You!

Cause I am a Superwoman / Yes I am, yes she is / Still when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest / With an S on my chest / Oh yes, I’m a Superwoman ~ Alicia Keys

I think women are naturally wired to be people pleasers. Forgive me for generalizing, but I think it’s our nurturing nature and desire for peace that makes it hard for us to simply say “no” even when we want to. It doesn’t help that society is putting pressure on us to be a “superwoman.” I reject this thinking and the pressure that ensues as a result of this mentality.

I really struggled with saying “no” to people’s many demands. There were many times when I had so much on my plate and couldn’t take on another thing, but I took it on anyway because the feeling of letting others down weighed heavily on me. Everybody wants to feel needed, right? If by some miracle, I did say “no” then I felt the need to offer a lengthy explanation of why I couldn’t do something.

Thankfully, I’ve been healed of the “people pleasing syndrome” and can say “no” with a clear conscience. If I don’t feel like going to an event or somebody asks me to do something for them and I don’t have time – I simply say “no.” I let go of the guilt. I let go of the explanations. In this case, less is more. A simple “no” is sufficient. Are people going to be around when I drive myself crazy meeting their every need? No. I made a decision to say “yes” only when I genuinely want to do something and say “no” if I don’t. It’s a simple concept, but it set me free from sacrificing my comfort and happiness for the sake of pleasing others.

Life is about balance. It’s about finding that helpful medium between helping others and not running yourself into the ground because at the end of the day nobody can take care of yourself like YOU! Besides, how helpful can you be if you’re exhausted and not operating at your full potential?

Be good to yourself and know when saying “yes” is appropriate and know when saying “no” is appropriate and feeling guilt free about it.

A Mother’s Practical Love

Mothers love their sons and raise their daughters.”

I ’m not sure where this adage came from, but I certainly feel like there is some truth to it. I remember discussing this with my therapist as we explored the implications for the Black community. It seems that Black mothers tend to “baby” their sons and stress the importance of independence to their daughters. We discussed our various theories on why this is the case. We didn’t come to one root cause of this phenomenon, but we both agreed that males and females are socialized very differently in the Black community. 

In taking a step back from the land of generalization, I think about my upbringing. I can’t speak to the relationship my mother had with my half-brother, but we never had a loving relationship. We had good times but, in my opinion, there was no depth or unconditional love present in our mother/daughter relationship.

As I think back on my youth, I’m beginning to recognize that she showed her love differently than the traditional expressions of love that one expects (physical affection, listening, investing emotionally, etc.). My mother showed a more “practical love” that was defined by offering advice and showing me how to be an independent Black woman. I can’t be upset or expect something she wasn’t able to give me. I think realizing that she was unavailable to giving/receiving emotional love allowed me to let go of a lot of painful feelings.

SIDE NOTE:  I’m really grateful that my father was in the household because I’d seriously be an emotionally bankrupt person if he wasn’t there. 

Needless to say, I’m still working through my “mommy issues” and this continues to be a long healing process. However, I want to take a moment to celebrate the things she did right because I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for her.

Here are some of the most valuable lessons I learned from her: 

Have your own bank account. My mother was all about her separate money. Of course, she paid bills with my father, but she did not believe in the co-mingling of money. Personally, I don’t mind having a joint account with my future husband, but I do plan on having another account for my personal use.

Appearance matters. My mother was a CLASS ACT. She dressed to impress all the time. I think that is why I enjoy dressing up so much. I just remember how much she stressed the importance of appearance.

Always clean up after yourself. “It’s nothing worse than a nasty woman” LOL. I remember my mother saying that to me all the time when I was younger as she “encouraged” me to clean up. Being clean was very important to her. To this day, I still very conscientious about cleaning up, especially when I’m a guest at somebody’s house.

Be mindful of how you engage with other women’s husbands/partners.. Sometimes women are quick to give you the side eye when relating to their significant others. I don’t give anybody a reason to think otherwise of my actions. I’ve learned a few things from her when interacting with married/taken men to ensure that it doesn’t even LOOK inappropriate.

Pay your bills and be responsible.  My mother was a stickler about paying bills and handling her business. Her credit score was always good and she kept extensive records/documentation about important matters. I am definitely the same way and I attribute it to her business-savvy nature.

Those are only a few of the MANY life lessons that I’ve learned from my mother. I’m thankful for her practical love and I definitely see the value in it. However, sometimes I just simply wanted a hug or an “I love you” – not a lesson. I hope (and pray) that when I’m a mother that I can provide both practical love and emotional love to my children, especially my daughter.