Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…

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It’s All in the Mind

Like most of us, my cell phone is usually near me. When I have down moments, I play games on it. One of my favorites happens to be Solitaire where you are able to compete against other players. I enjoy the competition, as I am competitive by nature, but I don’t really like to lose. Go figure. 🤗 However, sometimes the games result in a tie and we have to play a tiebreaker. For some reason, I haven’t had the best track record with tiebreakers. It seemed, at least for a while, that I was destined to lose EVERY time I had to play a tiebreaker game. It got to the point where I had already counted myself out and planned to lose.

After some time of this, I got indignant with myself. How dare I think so lowly of myself? How could I believe I would only lose? Why wouldn’t it be ok for me to win? Then, I realized that it wasn’t just about the games. In life, I have often set myself up for failure. I have expected the worst time and again, believing that to expect is a set up for disappointment. I have had moments of self-doubt and lack of trust in my efforts and my abilities. I have not always believed in me or that good things should happen to/for me. It’s all in the Mind. It has always been in my mind.

As Spring approached, I got excited about the possibilities of new…new growth, new possibilities, freshness, more sun…but then I began to consider myself. So what if the season and my surroundings are new, but I am not any different. Everything else would be meaningless. Thus began an introspective analysis regarding what I needed to shift so that I could completely embrace the new all around me and not keep myself back. That included a shifting in my mind. Something so little as saying to myself, “I can win this tiebreaker game…” or allowing myself to accept something good that comes my way, those “little” things become big.

Maybe you have found yourself in a cage in your mind, relegated to old thinking and beliefs that threaten to steal your future. Now is as great a time as any to change your mindset and break free. It’s up to you…

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When Dreaming is Reality

I was telling my husband recently about how vivid my dreams have been during this pregnancy. So vivid, in fact, that I remember them clearly upon waking, and I have to intentionally shake off the feelings evoked while asleep. I know dream experts could tell me many things about those dreams, but even knowing there may be some explanation, the feelings in the moment have been very real…and disturbing.

My most recent dream started out with me riding joyfully down the road with my windows open, singing along to music on the radio. I parked my car briefly and walked a few steps away to record a video in an opportune spot. It was a public place, and I interacted with no one. As I finished the recording, I grabbed my tripod and phone, having left my purse in the car since I was just a few feet away. As I began to walk away, I saw police lights and heard a police intercom telling cars to move out of the way. Since I was near a freeway, I figured the officer was telling them to move so they could get to an emergency. So, I continued walking, only to hear someone running behind me.

I turned around to see the officer approaching me with his hand on his gun holster. He immediately told me to stop where I was. In shock, I did, dropping my tripod and phone on the ground, inwardly praying that I was somehow recording. The officer instructed me to place my hands in a certain position in front of me, which placed my hands directly in front of my very pregnant belly. He then began to ask me what I was doing in the area.

In shock, I began by making sure he knew I was a 6-Month pregnant female who had a car parked nearby and had briefly gotten out to record a video in a public place. With my head, I gestured to the tripod and my phone on the ground, and told the officer my purse was in my car parked only a few feet away. I remember speaking slowly and calmly, so as to not seemingly provoke the officer. I also remember praying that the officer didn’t have a reason to react and possibly tazer me, a noticeably pregnant African-American female, with nothing but a tripod and a phone, and a car parked steps away. I hoped in my head that others were watching.

The officer told me that they received reports of a suspicious person in that area of town panhandling, and I fit the description. Incredulous, I saw the worst things flash before my eyes and began praying that things didn’t turn out as bad as I imagined. Here I was, black, female, pregnant, suspicious because I was in the wrong place according to someone else.

I awoke from this dream, turned nightmare, traumatized. Scared. Dry throat. Looking around to make sure it was just a dream. Heart thumping. It took a while for me to gather myself enough to roll out of bed and get to the bathroom, where it took everything in me to not crawl into a corner and bawl my eyes out. Then it came to me: This is my reality in America. To many, with my small build and clearly pregnant self, I would not be viewed as a threat, but to others, the mere fact of my existence somewhere they did not believe I should be warranted an interaction with an officer…and in America, those interactions don’t always end well.

I have always held officers in high esteem, knowing the job they do and the dangers they face; but, I have never been able to turn a blind eye to the seemingly intentional practices that target certain races and genders in our society, leading to high arrests and most disturbingly death. I am not naive enough to believe that some actions aren’t warranted, but I also know the inequities. So, as I experienced my own “situation” in my dream, it was very real. It made me hurt for those who look like me. We’re in the month of February, Black History Month. So, we’re celebrating the MANY achievements of those who came before me; however, in the midst of, I have to acknowledge the recent history that has often ended in violence and bloodshed.

I am always one for us healing in love and accepting one another. I “preach” unity, and oneness, and advocate for us seeing beyond our skin color to the heart beneath it all. I strive to present a view in which we give one another a chance to prove that we are not the stereotypes displayed for all to see. But, when will there be a change?

I’m praying for all of us to acknowledge the need for something different, so that NO ONE: man, woman, child, Black, White, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Native American, etc, will be nervous about walking around just because of the color of their skin…and I believe it can happen. It has to happen. We are better than the negativity of our history, which unfortunately stems from many years ago. There is more.

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Work It

This first month of 2021 has indeed been something for the history books. Things have happened that we never could have imagined. Now, we stand in the “after” planning our next steps. Many of us may still carry the vestiges of left over disappointment from 2020, not expecting better, but hoping for no worse. We still rehearse what we did not accomplish, and we wonder if things will ever change. We’re in danger of repeating cycles…but we just can’t break loose. At least that is what our mind believes.

But, what if I were to tell you that it’s not too late? What if I could convince you that the power to change what has been is all in your hands? Would you listen? Maybe. Maybe not. But, walk with me a bit.

So, what you have been doing has not been working. Maybe you have tried and tried again, but the support is lacking…it seems no one understands your press…you’re at the give up point, but you just can’t make yourself throw in the towel…I get it. Been there. Picked up a souvenir, then found my way back to where I should be. But, it’s not always easy to push yourself to keep being, doing, functioning when the “fruit” on your proverbial tree is lacking. Even so, humor me will you…

…as I watched the events that have taken place this month…the tragedies, the uprisings, the bitterness, the strife, I had to intentionally refocus my attention to more productive thoughts. Then, on the inauguration day of our 46th President, while the ceremony was august and meaningful, I was enamored with the thoughts that arose from seeing two people on the world stage: Amanda Gorman and Eugene Goodman.

Prior to this month, many may have never known their names. Yet, these are two people who have been consistently doing what they are passionate about. Not always with recognition, but touching lives all the same. Then, this month, something shifted. They were each doing what they knew to do, and suddenly the world knew their names. I don’t know what doubts and fears they have fought, the times they wanted to quit, the self-doubt, or the hurt from feeling unnecessary or overlooked. I don’t know their private, tell no one, heartbreaking moments, but I do know that they showed up. Then, they were found being in the right place at the right time. Life for them has irrevocably shifted. It’s now their time.

This is what enamored me as I contemplated this month’s events. There is a time for me, for you, for all of us to “shine” in our own way. Life may not have been kind. We may be tired. We may not see the value in ourselves, but it only takes one moment to shift the very foundation of our existence. I don’t know about you, but when that “moment” comes, I don’t want to have regrets. I want to be able to know that I put in the work, I sacrificed, I gave, I pressed, so I can enjoy the moment. Whatever your “it” is, work it. Instead of having to get ready, be ready.

Today is just the beginning…

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Full Speed Ahead

I spoke with someone earlier, and we talked about how we were not planning to write down goals or desires for the new year, especially after looking at the entirety of 2020 and the unspeakable twists and turns that greeted us daily. As we spoke, I began to think more about that. Historically, as a new year approaches, many of us talk about our resolutions and our hopes. We get excited about what is to come. But this year, that excitement is lacking for many of us. Why?

Well, 2020 has been “something.” We set out with high expectations, only to see thing after thing happen and throw everything off track. So, we hesitantly hoped again, then something else occurred. For some, it got to the point where we decided not to hope anymore to prevent being disappointed or thrown off track. So, as 2020 has come to an end, I sense despair and the lack of excitement hurts my heart.

Now, I have had my share of things this year…deaths, a miscarriage, family with COVID-19, depression, and the list goes on…BUT, even in that, I cannot help but hope for better. Maybe that would be considered naive by some, or not realistic to others. I call it choosing life. Yes, this past year has been rough, but one thing that makes life worth living is that eternal hope of dreams coming true and being able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So, as I approach this new year, I do so of course with a small bit of trepidation, but there is still an expectation for great things to come. Somehow, I still believe in the rainbow after the storm, and though this past year has not given much indication of great things ahead, I still believe.

Maybe you are struggling with looking forward to a new year, unsure of what it will bring. That is everyone right now, but I challenge you to go beyond your fears and doubt. Go beyond the memories and everything telling you not to hope as the next year would become just like the last. Go against your own beliefs about how bad things will be, and believe that there will be, can be, better.

2021 may not be all peaches and rainbows, but there is something in the next year worth believing in for you. So, full speed ahead…

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Fear Freedom

Fear has this way of incapacitating you, encapsulating your mind in an endless stream of doubt and uncertainty, making you feel that nothing will ever be any more than the moment when fear took over. Fear is debilitating, insidious, and often creeps in such a way that you don’t realize you’re a prisoner to fear until you try to believe, but fear tells you things will turn out exactly the same way. Fear is a cunning mistress, and makes it difficult to ever let go, but…

…it’s NOT impossible. In just the past few months, I have had things happen that I never thought I would face. These things caused me to doubt myself, question God, and wonder if life would ever be “normal” again. I battled depression, hurt, shame, and an overwhelming cloud of feeling meaningless and unnecessary. I doubted my influence and relegated myself to being unimportant. Then, as it had silently crept in, I realized that I was seeing my future through the eyes of fear…afraid to hope or expect, not daring to believe that I would smile or laugh again, certain that my heart was broken beyond repair. Me and fear had a good thing going on.

But, as situations have come up that look similar to what was, I have had to stand at a crossroads between this overpowering fear and my used-to-be unshakeable faith, and decide which direction I wanted to take. It would be easy to go the way of fear, protecting my heart, not expecting, never hoping. Existing, not living. But, what about the inevitable joy in hoping and having your hopes realized? What about the moments that make the hard times hurt just a little less? What about living? So, as I stood at that crossroads, I chose faith, knowing that everything may not work how I want it to, but knowing that ultimately it will work in my favor.

Fear is not a great companion. It climbs on you, then makes its way to your heart, sucking the life out of every part of you that would to believe in better. Fear is powerful, but you are much more than that. You are unbreakable. So, whatever you are facing that fear wants to tell you it will turn out the same way as before, I dare you to believe differently. I challenge you to pull on every bit of strength and faith you have, and know that you can handle whatever comes next. Discard the fear. Put on your strength. Today.

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After the Storm

“The sun’ll come out…Tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar, That tomorrow, There’ll be sun! Just thinkin’ about, Tomorrow, Clears away the cobwebs, And the sorrow, ‘Til there’s none! When I’m stuck with a day, That’s grey, And lonely, I just stick out my chin, And grin, And say
Oh!The sun’ll come out, Tomorrow, So ya gotta hang on, ‘Til tomorrow, Come what may, Tomorrow, tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow! You’re always, A day, Away!”

This song by Alicia Morton epitomizes life, especially when it storms. Last night, our area experienced some of the effects of Hurricane Zeta. We lost power. Some had property damage. Noises and heavy rain throughout the night made it hard to sleep for some. There is no way it seemed that the next day would be normal. As I got up this morning, outside it appeared gloomy. I could see debris strewn about. In my mind, it just made sense to be “this kind of day” after the storm; but then, it’s as if the sun read my mind. Out of nowhere, the sun peeked out of the clouds, and what was once a gloomy and disheartening sight gave way to a brightness and unexpected cheeriness.

The earth deals with storms and chaos, but without fail, the sun still rises. Even if it’s not the next day, it does rise again. Such is life. We may deal with some crazy situations, and it may not appear that the sun will ever shine again, but one day, things just get easier. One day you find yourself smiling again, hoping again, trusting again, loving again. One day, the hurt isn’t as deep. You stop expecting the worse. You embrace what’s next. One day…

I just went through, and still have moments of a tough time, but recently I realized a hope buried deep within me that makes me keep looking for the sun to shine. Find that hope within yourself, and know that whatever you’re facing, and no matter how dark things seem, the sun will shine again.

“The sun’ll come out…Tomorrow,
Bet your bottom dollar, That tomorrow, There’ll be sun!”

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After This.

I did a thing today…something a week ago I would never imagine I would want to do anytime soon. I created a maternity wishlist “just in case.” Not with any plans to be pregnant any time soon, or even knowing there would be another time, but I did it without bursting out in tears. Now, last week my husband and I lost our unborn child. The week before that, the doctor told me “there’s no heartbeat.” How quickly life shifts. Prior to that we were looking forward to our new baby, and although unexpected, we were excited to celebrate this new life. Yet, with just a few words everything shifted, and we had to accept that tragedy had interrupted our narrative.

I was originally in shock. Then that shifted to anger. From there was guilt and fear that I was the cause…then, there was an immense sadness that permeated the very essence of my being…but the cycle is not linear as emotions shift from day-to-day; however, in the midst of my own pain, I have found myself encouraging others.

Sometimes we do not understand the “why” of what we are experiencing. We may have questions. I did and still do. I joked that when I get to heaven I need to have a long conversation with God about this period of my life. But, while I am still on earth, I must continue to live acknowledging that pain has a purpose…and while I am sure the memory of this time will remain, the sharpness of the feelings won’t threaten to paralyze me…in time…

So, maybe you are dealing with a situation you never imagined, and you’re not sure how you will navigate this new territory. Well-meaning friends and family may offer you advice and words of comfort, and while you hear it all, you will still have to identify your best steps forward. While you move forward, know that you are strong enough to handle even this seemingly impossible place. On the other side of this heartache, pain, sadness, anger, fear…is more life.

One day, you/we will smile at the fact that you/we did indeed get through today. But, be kind to yourself. Love, allow yourself to be sad, but then to laugh again. Most importantly, embrace every moment. As I have said before you/I win.

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We Win

To all of you who are lonely, feeling overlooked, thinking you’re unnecessary, believing that you’re not relevant or heard…those who are givers, lovers, hype men and women, encouragers…to those feeling empty, unlovable, misunderstood, sad without a way to pinpoint your reason, unsettled, unsure, boxed in…you who would never tell anyone how you’re feeling because you don’t ever want to be a burden, or you just think no one would care or want to hear about it anyways…to you, I understand.

Life is difficult at times. Sometimes the depths of the feelings in your heart renders you speechless. Then, all of those emotions began to crawl over themselves until silently you are screaming, but outwardly, you appear calm and in control. But, I come for you today. Not as someone who just wants to encourage you, but as someone who has, even recently, walked in your foorsteps.

It is hard to feel so much, but be expected to function. Wanting to escape from it all becomes your daily thought. When you do peek out of your shell and try to express your hurt, hopes, heart, it’s not always received…so you find yourself crawling back into your corner. Looking out. Alone.

BUT, I am coming to pull you out. No, everyone will not understand you. Nope, people won’t always be there for you like you want them to be. No ma’am, no sir, sometimes people will not care about what you do or how you contribute to this world, BUT you are NOT insignificant. Every fiber of your being matters. Every intricacy, quirk, eccentricity, nuance, and “uniquely you” tendency matters. I KNOW it hurts to feel the way you feel and keep functioning, BUT I also know that those of us who feel the most are often meant to heal the most.

You were not created to burrow in your feelings contemplating how you can disappear. The answer is not to run away. Suicide WILL NOT be your escape. WE CAN DO THIS.

So, as you sit looking at impossible situations, feeling that your life has no value, and no one values what’s in you, I challenge you.

I challenge you to LIVE. Fight. Believe again. Go after THAT again. Trust again. Cry it out, but get up and feel what it is to WIN again. I can’t promise it will be easy. I won’t say you will never feel this way again, but I can say that each time you get up, you prove that you are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

I fight with you. I believe with you. We heal and we win TOGETHER. Now, get up.

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Can You See It?

Maybe if I just close my eyes, I won’t see it. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t affect me, right? It’s kind of like the Birdbox movie (spoiler alerts)…when they couldn’t see, they were seemingly safe; however, what about the sounds of what was happening around them? The feel of the winds blowing on their skin? The feeling that something just wasn’t right? In the movie, the others trying to force them to “see” were the enlightened ones. They knew of something “greater;” however, this greater in the movie was detrimental to those who gave in and took a peek.

Our world, like the movie, is going through an unveiling. People are beginning to acknowledge the underlying racial and cultural tensions that have fueled our society for years. Some would like to put everything back under the blinders and pretend that not seeing is the safest course. “Let things be as they have been,” they may say. But, keeping things under a pressurized lid, believing “it’s just the way things are” has created an untenable situation. The term “tired” has become synonymous with the daily lives of the unheard, the unseen, and the misunderstood. Things are changing.

Except in this scenario, unlike the movie, unmasking the years of misaligned and biased thinking is causing a shift that leads to the good of all and not the destruction of a few. Pulling off these masks of feined civility, softly veiled threats, unconscious bias, and outright hatred is causing a conversation long overdue. Finally, some are beginning to inhale and exhale as they breathe in the idea that new is on the horizon. Eyes that have been, for so long, hidden, are blinking in the sunlight of a new day which offers fresh opportunities.

The possibilities are endless, yet, the threats still remain. As we drink in the possibilities, some are still nervous that the current changes are a temporary band-aid to stop the hemorrhaging of emotions; but, there is a world that can be different for us and for our children…a world that welcomes and affirms, embraces and encourages, celebrates and defends, loves and respects, sees even the most seemingly unworthy person as valuable and necessary. It IS possible, but are we willing to see things through and challenge a deep-rooted system which worked for some, but was not good for all? Only time will tell.

The birds are chirping. They sense a change in the environment. Will there also be a change in you?

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A Better Way

Reason in the midst of chaos is almost an impossible request. Emotions are high. People are tired, angry, frustrated, hurting, in shock, scared…a system which should have protected all allowed for the destruction of a select group of people by a chosen few. The system is broken. Now, turmoil runs rampant in our streets, riots, protests, anger, oh the magnitude of anger. Through social media, many tell their tales of being fearful for their brother, uncle, husband, friend leaving the home, afraid that a seemingly innocent stop by the police could end in tragedy. A video, which I still can’t bring myself to watch because there are unfortunately entirely too many videos like it circulating around, shows a cop kneeling on a man’s neck for an extremely long time, even after that man no longer appeared to have life in his body. Oh, the anger.

But, why is there so much anger? Because “this” has happened too often, and “they” have gotten away with it. Yes, it’s the age-old racial tension that has been glossed over. Some would like to say it no longer exists and those who say it does are living in history. Others of us live the reality of being on the “less than” side of history. Our daily lives tell the tale of a history that society would like to gloss over and pretend it no longer matters. Then George Floyd again, like Eric Garner, said “I can’t breathe,” and the anger reached its peak.

Thus, protests began, peacefully at first, but then the emotions turned into full-fledged rebellion. From peaceful protests to riots, stoked even by those who had no real reason to protest, but by the time anyone realized what was happening, emotions had taken over reason. Now we have reports of cities being overtaken and burned, but in the midst of these stories, the underlying heartbeat central to the cacophony is being forgotten: some of us are just tired of being tired. After a while, it makes more sense to try something different than what has not been working, even if that something different does not appear to bring about immediate change. At least it’s something, right?

I get it. I understand the anger and wanting to lash out. I live in the reality of being “suspect” because of my skin color and worrying about my family and friends on a regular basis. Stories about the various atrocities strike me to my core so much so that I fight daily against the suffocating possibility of PTSD simply by proxy. I want to strike out against a system that has failed so many of us time and again, but I want what I do to have a lasting positive impact for the generations to come. Oh, how I understand the anger, but destroying the society in which we want to claim our place does not leave us a place to claim. There is a better way…

So, as society is now coming to understand the anger of its minority citizens, this is a prime opportunity to seize our moment and show the strength, dignity, pride, resiliency, and potency of our minority collective power. Now is the time for us to accept genuine offers of partnership and draw on the communal breath of those tired of a society in which a select group lives a restricted lifestyle. Now is an opportunity for us to be proactive, clear in our expectations, and bold in our speech. Our words have power. Our history has led us to this place. It’s up to us to decide the next pages of this story. Will it be productive? Will it make sense? Will it leave us better? We decide.