Category Archives: Communication

Word Up

words1

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yes indeed, that is often one of the first little mantras one learns in life and generally chants on a playground in response to other children being mean. From the time we are small, our parents tell us what other folks say about and to us really doesn’t matter and it is really all about who we believe we are. As we grow older and get into the dating and professional games, elders and friends tell us not to listen to what folks say, but to instead focus on what they do. “Talk is cheap.” So, we go out into the world with this very definite idea about words being irrelevant, but is talk really as low budget as we like to imply it is? Are we really the “rubber” we learn about as children that makes us impervious to cruel words or are we at times forever affected by the glue of what we hear?

words3I’ve always been a thinker. I am constantly mulling over what happened during the course of my day and sometimes, the course of my life. I often think about who I spoke to, what we discussed, what I read, what I would have said to the person who got on my nerves during the course of the day had I been given the opportunity, what I should write on this blog, etc… I still remember words people said to me in childhood, good and bad. Both play in my head and can alter my mood in that moment and every now and then, the way I feel about who I am. Because of this, I have a really hard time imagining myself as that rubber repelling the glue of other folks’ ugly words. I’m just not buying into it.

I think at one point or another, everyone has been injured by words. Unlike a bruise or Words5blackened eye that will heal and disappear over time, words stick. I hear them in the moment they are said and hear them resound loudly over time. I have been called stupid, ugly, fat, stuck up, and a know-it-all, among other things. Despite knowing those adjectives don’t truly define me, how realistic is it for folks to think I can forget those words and pretend they are meaningless?

Granted, I do not condone wallowing in words and allowing them to cripple me. However, to accomplish that, I have to make a conscious effort to see past insults and look inward for the ways in which I believe myself to be awesome. That isn’t always easy when outside forces are focused on the negative, but it is imperative for my self-preservation. Once a hurtful person utters cruel words, it takes a while for me to process it, refuse to lend any validity to it, and move on from it. Regardless of the length of time, I have to take every step to assure I end up in a good place unaffected, or at least minimally affected, by other folks’ foolery.

The main way to remedy the long term hurts words can cause is to be mindful of what one says. I make it a point to think about what I say before I say it. I don’t want to be one of the voices someone carries around in his/her head becuse I said something mean I can’t take back and the other person can’t forget. I don’t want to cause the kind of pain that resonates for years. Words4

So, yeah, sticks and stones break bones, but doctors re-break and set them. Words are something else entirely. They echo and they stay. A cast, sling, or a few band aids won’t fix what words can do so building an emotional armour that reinforces everything good about oneself is paramount in this life fight. In the meantime, I continue to make sure I don’t spew glue all over anyone else’s self-image.  Words can hurt worse than any stick or stone.

 

If you would like to learn more about the weight of words, like the Words Hurt Campaign page on Facebook.

What I Know, 2013

So, it is a new year and it’s fair to say my life learning is not limited to a 12 month span of time, but is instead perpetual. However, at the beginning of a new year, I like to reflect on the previous one to think about what I learned, and in some cases, relearned. Here is what I know from 2013:

  • Logic is worth using even if no one else around seems to be applying it. In my 2014ongoing quest to keep my life as simple as possible, in light of the outside complications I cannot control, I have found my relationship with logic to be paramount. Though life and those who live it are generally multifaceted and somewhat complicated, I find when logic is lacking, there is probably an untruth or some kind of deception in the mix. Statements that make me squint and cock my head to the side are generally calculated as grade A horse manure in my mind.
  • Respecting differences is not an implication of a lack of moral fiber. These days, folks seem to consistently confuse the ability to respect varying ideas and opinions with a lack of one’s own moral code or some mission to be as politically correct as possible. For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I disagree with lots of schools of thought but can still manage to respect the perspective. How can I ever expect others to be receptive to my views if I can’t provide the same open mind? To listen with respect is about being a decent person and an excellent communicator, not about compromising one’s own views to appear understanding.
  • One doesn’t have to show folks who already know him/her how smart he/she is. Sometimes people can’t help but try to impart every little piece of wisdom and insight they have accumulated over the years in one conversation. Look, if you’re smart and knowledgeable about certain subjects, chances are, those who know you best are already aware of your intellectual prowess and probably partly like you because of it.  Instead of always trying to share, consider listening more often. Undoubtedly, there will come a time when your input is requested.
  • Life is fleeting. Though I have been hip to the shortness of life for a very long time, whether one lives to be 90, or succumbs as an infant, I am constantly reminded how true it is and how important it is to build and maintain healthy relationships with those who matter most. Minor disagreements and arguments about anything nonessential are far from worth ending a relationship. One of the best parts of relationships is the opportunity to create and build on something unique with a friend or family member. Ruining that opportunity of pettiness is destructive in the long run. It’s far better to cherish time with loved ones by enjoying the moments than it is to bicker and gripe about matters that won’t even matter past the end of the conversation.
  • You don’t have to eat everything on your plate. – I suppose this can be figurative and literal. In my ongoing battle against my disobedient midsection, I have learned I am never required to eat it all. Sure, as children, we were told we couldn’t have dessert if we didn’t eat ALL our dinner.  Also, not scraping a plate clean and eating every single morsel was always considered “wasting” in my childhood home. These things considered, adulthood has told me it is perfectly alright to leave some food behind, particularly if I am full. This not only helps one’s attitude about food, but it spreads into other areas of life.
    One simply cannot do EVERYTHING. There will be some parties, trips, dinners, career options, potential romantic relationships, etc…that may present themselves as opportunities.
    Sometimes, regardless of how amazing it sounds, how awesome the opporunity may seem, or how little whatever the item or activity is may be discounted to fit into your budget, it’s time to push away from the table and possibly save that chance for later. Sometimes, it is time to reflect and connect to what matters and pushing away from the table provides the clarity to do so.Undoubtedly, I will learn all sorts of new perspectives and ideas over the next 12 months. I just hope I have the wherewithal to apply what I need to live my best possible life. Raising my glass to 2014.

 

Splitting Hairs

Natural3As a little girl, getting my hair washed, conditioned, blow dried, and styled was like living a mini nightmare. A tender scalp full of thick hair, a trip to the kitchen counter top, and a bunch of warm water mixed with shampoo still finding a way to seep into my tightly shut eyes was never my idea of a good afternoon. I would cry, my mother would fuss, and in the end, I would look what I considered to be pretty then easily fall into a coma-like sleep exhausted from all my tantrum antics. It sounds awful, but it was part of my childhood  and still a  part of my adult reality. During those hours between the kitchen and the living room floor between my mother’s knees waiting for her to carefully part, braid, and barrette each section of hair, I got my first experiences with beautification. My mother wasn’t just providing basic baby maintenance, she was showing me how to care for my hair, how to take pride in my appearance, and how to find my beauty. Sure, I cried myself sleepy, but when it was over, I felt pretty.  Now, it seems like there is some sort of ongoing effort to take away that experience little girls and women who look like me end up feeling as if there is something wrong with their pretty and that is something I just cannot accept.

Over the past year or so, I have read several articles, seen a few television news stories, and heard first hand accounts from black women who are suddenly being made to feel as if their hair in its natural state isn’t acceptable in the workplace or school. Too kinky, too colorful, too ethnic, too….black? I mean, blackness does seem to be the real problem at the base of everything. It is as if we cannot win unless we are weaved out , permed up, or wiggin’. To the masses who disparage us for our hair, we should strive to look more mainstream, which really just means less black and way more white. Recently, I have seenNatural1 stories about a little black girl who was expelled because she had locs (http://www.fox23.com/news/local/story/Tulsa-school-sends-girl-home-over-hair/sGcEwBSrm02W8ZSBNnGoXQ.cspx), a hairstyle against school policy, a young black woman who was terminated from Hooters, a place riddled with fake body parts, double stick tape, pushup bras, and body padding, for having blonde highlights her superiors deemed “unnatural” for a black woman (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-african-american-hooters-blond-hair-20131024,0,7218061.story?page=1#axzz2jDjCWRJq),  a woman who was told she should cut her locs or find somewhere else to work (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/new-company-policy-forces-woman-to-cut-dreadlocks_n_4159369.html), and heard a story from my loctician who sent her little girl to daycare with a perfectly lovely afro only to be admonished by the daycare provider to “comb her daughter’s hair.”

Natural2To me, this isn’t just a variety of unconnected stories, but an implication of a school of thought that continues to question beauty as it applies to black women and girls. Despite the various fabricated stigmas attached to locs and other natural hairstyles, people have to be able to see past it at some point and give reality a good look instead. An applicant or employee who has the professional experience, educational background, proper workplace decorum, and references to support being hired for a position or to warrant her educational pursuits in a school should be a shew in for employment, not a target for discriminatory practices.

And just what did natural hair ever do to anyone? Is its beauty too intimidating? Is the strength that accompanies a head of unapologetically kinky hair just too much for the office and the schoolhouse? Are folks afraid all the natural hair folks will form one big army and go around picking, twisting, and braiding everyone against his or her will? Why must we always be made to feel inadequate about the amazing way we were born?

I suppose there really is no way around this clear racial discrimination outside straightening our hair and avoiding any sort of hair color white folks deem unnatural for us, but where is the honor in that? We could provide ongoing education about our hair and how we care for it, but really, why must we explain ourselves, particularly to those who probably do not care anyway? Sometimes, this whole being black thing is some really hard work.

I realize I do not live in the kind of decent world that sees every woman’s beauty instead of creating one standard of it to which all women are to adhere, but that does not mean I will stop trying to create one. I will continue to share images and ideas about black women and our beauty that knock the traditional views of what pretty is and I will get up every day, look in the mirror at my full lips, round nose, brown skin, and five year old locs, and remind myself of a truth I already know; I am just as good for the workplace and the schoolhouse as any woman has ever been. I will never apologize for being natural me. No woman or girl should.