Taking the Leap

What if we already have all that we need inside of us? Our job is to tap into it and bring it out. In the past I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer tell the story of a man who came upon a woman who was feverishly searching for something at night under a street lamp. He offered to help her and asked what she was looking for. “My keys,” she replied. “Oh, okay where did you lose them? “ the man inquired. “Well I lost them in my apartment upstairs, but it’s so dark in there that I decided to look out here because there’s lots of light.” I love this story because it serves as a metaphor for how we can go through life looking outside ourselves for the light. When really we have to turn inward. That’s where our treasure lies.

This is a concept I’ve often struggled with and could understand intellectually, but couldn’t really apply to my own life. One reason is lack of role models. I was listening to a Bob Proctor talk where he explained how environment is more important that genetics. When you raise a child in an environment where everyone has a poverty-consciousness the child will probably grapple with the same thing, too.

When growing up I can’t recall seeing those adults around me actively, looking for the light within themselves. Oftentimes, I’d watch them work hard, get paid moderate wages, but nothing that led to financial independence. I heard complaints about other people, the government and how things weren’t that great all around. That’s what I saw and ended up modeling.

Now as an adult I look at my life and see the results of this behavior and I don’t like it. I’ve developed an aversion to taking risks, wait for the “perfect time” to pursue things and just grew complacent. It’s difficult to admit, yet it’s true. As I sort through all this during my time in transition I realize if I keep doing what I’m already doing I’ll continue to get these same results. The ones I don’t like. That insanity again. That means that I need to do something different.

A few nights ago I spoke with a former mentor I had when I was in high school. It had been a number of years since we spoke and it was good to catch up. As she talked about the missteps and choices she made in the past her piece of advice for me was to, “be brave and go for it.” I hope this advice can help you, too.

De-Programming the Good Citizen

I consider myself to be a free thinker. Out the box. Play by my own rules. Not until recently did I realize how programmed I am to follow the rules without even knowing it. I have ambitions of building businesses, creating jobs and sparking social change. That’s good, right? But as I attempt to move in that direction I’m somehow sidetracked by some internal message that tries to get me to stay in line.

It can be that survival mechanism, the ego that keeps me focused on making sure that food, clothing and shelter thing is covered. But, beyond that this internal cop attempts to keep me safe and avoid most new things that won’t necessarily bring physical danger, but create fear, anxiety or uncomfortable feelings. Have you ever had that? You wanna move in a particular direction and for some reason you can’t. It could be fear, lack of faith, self-confidence or lack of belief in yourself or your abilities.

Well, like some of you I’m in the thick of that right now. I’m a creative. As long as I can remember I’ve always wrote fiction, non-fiction, danced and did so without hesitation. I didn’t have to think about it. I learned at an early age not to value the creative side of me. It’s all cool during arts and crafts time in elementary, but after that everything gets so structured. The lunch break becomes the only time you can really roam free. It was stifling, but I didn’t rebel. I fell in line and became a good student. I knew how to play that game which included give the right answers, get the high (or average) scores on tests and not rock the boat. I thought there was some master plan to all of this that I hadn’t figured out yet.

I chose not to nurture my creativity, which sprouted up like pesky weeds in other areas of my life, yet never really went away. I was suffocated by this set up of being herded like cattle to classes that I picked from a short list. Someone else defined what was acceptable for me.  I guess I could have dropped out of school and society. But without a plan that would not have ended well. So I stuck with it and thought at some point I would be rewarded.

I sought validation from teachers, then professors, then managers and the system. I tried to put my head down and play nice, but I asked too many questions. I couldn’t see the “mission” of the companies I worked for and how the day to day was taking us in that direction. I’d harbor all this resentment towards the companies that I worked for, but recently it clicked.

Last year I came across a video lecture by motivational speaker Bob Proctor. He said that making changes in behavior is useless. The first step is to make a paradigm shift. A paradigm is a set of beliefs that influence and guide our behavior. He says that I can’t attempt to behave my way into change. For instance, in my case I aspire to be an entrepreneur. To prepare I read books, take trainings and learn from those already in the field.

However, my beliefs might say that a real job is working for someone else, climbing the ladder of success takes many years and tons of money is needed to get started. My best efforts will get thwarted by my paradigm. And that’s exactly my story. I’d attempt to behave my way into change and before I know it I’m back to my old habits. That’s because I hadn’t changed my core beliefs and thinking. So here I am at the crossroads. I know this paradigm business has to change first, but this is so new for me.

I read somewhere that change comes when we do something different. For me this is really different.

Was there ever a time when you stopped yourself from doing what would be a good thing and didn’t know why? How were you able to eventually make the change? It would be great to hear that I’m not in the trenches alone. That there are others making the paradigm shift, too.

Photo credit: Jose’ Martin via Unsplash

The Insanity Among Us

Albert Einstein has been quoted with saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I believe on some level for those of us living in the Western world we all have some form of  insanity. For those living in developing countries it’s often labeled as tradition. “We’ve done this for generations and we can’t break tradition.” That’s usually said to defend barbaric acts like female genital mutilation or harboring long term cultural beefs with those just across the border.

When you step back to look at it, it is insane.

Another form of insanity can be practices that we’re born into. It’s like a fish being born into and living in water. It doesn’t question why it’s in water. All those around it stay underwater as a way to survive and so they instinctively do the same thing. How about when our instincts are a bit off or being manipulated? If you grow up in an environment where particular behaviors are considered the norm, then you may not know to question it. Like that fish in water.

For over 40 years hip hop has provided black and other marginalized communities with a platform to tell the world about their reality. It reported what was happening in our neighborhoods and families. It’s often hard to witness, yet the willingness to share has brought a spotlight to communities that have felt historically voiceless.

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), after 40 years those messages have been slow to change. In fact, it seems as if the trauma and tragedy has increased and intensified with each new generation. As a result, the messages get more raw and darker. Sometimes revealing the most disheartening thinking amongst us, which assimilates into the norm. Like a perpetual cry for help that’s not being heard.

I can recall times when I’ve moved towards destructive behavior, when it wasn’t in my best interest. At the core I often felt out of control. I was already on this roller coaster and couldn’t stop it. Based on external appearances I may have been acting insanely.  Thankfully, in the midst of crisis there are opportunities.They can come so subtly. I took a pause. We can miss them if we’re not paying attention.

I didn’t miss mine and fortunately we don’t have to miss ours.

When I look around my neighborhood, listen to the hip hop I’ve been reared on or hear the beliefs that have formed our ragtag mainstream value system it’s insane. There’s no doubt about it. It’s painful to simultaneously watch, participate in and shun. But there is hope for us. It’s like a dim, neglected light in our core that can burn more brightly in each of us with the proper care and fuel. We all have that power in us to change. No matter what we’ve been through. I know to some that’s hard to believe. It may even be seen as blaming the victim, but we are more powerful than we know.

I read a stat that said for every one positive message we hear about ourselves, we’re told a thousand negative ones. During a lifetime we can hear and see thousands of negative messages based on gender, race/ethnicity, where we live, how we look or simply because we don’t fit in. And we may start to believe them. That’s not insane. However, if our behavior in reaction to these messages are destroying us and others and we continue, that’s insane. That’s where we need to take a pause. Sometimes we can’t see it. Just take a pause.

Insane behavior is like a societal virus and we’re all infected. It manifests in different ways and sometimes it’s so a part of us that we can’t even see it. Yet, there is a way to heal. The first step is awareness. Although painful, like ripping a band-aid off a tender wound it’s also necessary. That’s what I’m here for. You may not always agree, feel uncomfortable, elation or sadness, but this needs to happen. In due time it’ll make sense. Until then, be willing to take that pause.

Photo credit: Jeremy Thomas via Unsplash

 

The Block is Hot: Stake outs, Canvassing and Creative Urges

I ended up canvassing after all. Yes, I talked crap about the first organizer. He recommended me for another campaign in a different area. I received a call from the second organizer the very next day. I was out knocking on doors two days later.

I wish I had these great stories to tell about canvassing, but I don’t. It was quite disappointing and hella boring. Unless you include using restrooms in random places, charging my cell phone at Starbucks or sitting in my car like a stake out hoping that people don’t notice that I’m posted on their block, and well in their neighborhood all day. Believe me, they noticed. With a stack of flyers and sometimes clipboard in hand folks walking their dogs avoided eye contact hoping I wouldn’t approach them about whatever the hell I was doing.

Canvassing stunk. I did get some coins out of it, so there’s definitely that upside. Also, the last few days the team swelled for the GOTV (Get Out To Vote) push and they were quite an entertaining and spirited bunch. I also met a published novelist and writing teacher who encouraged me to continue with my own craft.

As I walked the blocks all I thought about was doing creative stuff like decorating my apartment and sewing. I got a lot of ideas for things. I also realized that in my past I used to be able to do whatever came my way to make money. I don’t have that tolerance anymore. Even though canvassing was relatively easy  I didn’t enjoy it. My heart just wasn’t in it.

I heard somewhere find something you like that you would do for free and then it’ll never feel like work when you do get paid for it. Well, this wasn’t it. However, I am getting closer to what that may look like for me.

Here’s a Job, Uh Nope I’m Taking it Back: Lattes, Canvassing and Brown Planets

In an effort to improve my financial situation I have started to turn over every rock I could get my hands on. I’ve tried temping, but no dice. After sending my resume when I call they say they’ll call me. I have even applied for jobs in my previous field that I did not like, but I can’t seem to get a call back.

A few weeks ago I was perusing through Craigslist ads and saw posts looking for canvassers for the upcoming election. I sent my resume over with a quick note about my canvassing experience in the past. After I finished undergrad and returned to Cali job prospects were dismal, so I did canvassing as a fulltime job during election time. I liked exploring new neighborhoods, talking to voters and hearing how fearful people can be about race and ethnicity. For some reason when I worked the 2005 mayoral campaign in Los Angeles it came out in full force. Older Black folks throughout the city candidly shared with me the changes they had seen over the years and how it’s become more Spanish speaking and well, foreign to them. It was a quite eye opening.

They really had a fear of a Brown planet.

So, when I saw the call for canvassers I signed right up.  After a week or so someone called me. When we spoke the organizer asked if I could meet him at a café on the Westside. Before going I looked him up online to see if he was legit. When I entered the café and introduce myself he waves me away. He says to get a drink as he remained glued to his phone. I was annoyed that I had to pay for a drink when I was meeting him about a job, but I thought “okay I’ll make it back.”

During our chat I learned he needed someone who could canvass for four hours each day and on two specific days wave a sign for the candidate on a corner during rush hour traffic. The canvassing seemed straight forward to me, but the latter I thought was optional. We moved forward and I agreed to the terms of the canvassing and filled out official paperwork. Then sign waving comes up again. It happens that I already have commitments those nights, which I let him know from the start. Initially he seemed fine with that.

After an hour when we’re finished he withdraws his offer because I’m not available those two days for sign waving. I’m baffled. He says, “Ah, let me think about it. We have enough people already to do the canvassing.” WTF?!  Well, okay maybe I can ditch my commitments just this one time since the election is around the corner. His response, “Ah, let me think about it.”

Muthafucker, you owe me $4.75 for an iced chai tea latte with almond milk!!

Bitches and More Bitches: Groupies, Gold Diggers and The Rest of Us

I personally never referred to myself as a bitch. I just didn’t embrace it as a term of endearment. That includes bad bitch, rich bitch or that bitch. It just never stuck for me. Whenever it’s used it leaves quite a sting, to me.

I was reared on hip hop since elementary and didn’t realize all the glorious lessons it would teach me. I learned a fat ass does not compensate for an ugly face (Eazy-E “Boyz N the Hood”). Women who are great at oral sex are to be celebrated and lauded (AMG “Once A Dawg (Janine 2)”) and daughters who are “friendly” with the neighborhood lads should be kept under a more watchful eye (Ice Cube “Giving up the Nappy Dug out”).

Now grant it, I was raised in Los Angeles and on West Coast hip hop when it really took off in the early 1990s. I heard the word bitch fly around so much that I somehow became immune to it. It wasn’t until I was an adult with more perspective and life experience could I begin to wrap my head around this monster.

I was prompted to write this post after hearing “It Ain’t No Fun” by Snoop Dogg feat. Kurupt and Nate Dogg at a club last month. Preceding this song were groovable hip hop jams like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Get A Hold” and J. Dilla’s “F Police.” It was all good until that infectious beat and alluring singy songy hook melted out of the speakers. I stopped dancing mid-groove. This has been a conscious choice. I just can’t ignore those lyrics. Kurupt’s verse sticks out like a sour thumb as he utters, “Bitches ain’t shit to me and ya’ll know that bitches ain’t shit to me.” It always makes me internally defensive. I don’t consider myself a bitch, however for whatever reason his tone makes me feel like I’m not separated from the pack. As if no woman is safe.

The original argument was bitches were the groupies who crowded around rappers after the shows, women who dated rappers and turned out to be gold diggers and just any garden variety woman who openly enjoyed sex.

Small pool, right?

Then over the years, the term became synonymous with woman. I don’t remember when it happened, but it did. And then literally no woman was safe from the wrath of that word. She was a bitch if she refused sexual advances or just made someone mad.

That’s my beef. It’s really about what the word is intended to do. It’s about putting someone in their place, to shut them up and exercise control. I know that art imitates life, so hip hop is not to solely blame. However, it’s not off the hook either.  More to come…

A Job Helps You Pay for Stuff: Growth, Zines and Girlie Hoodies

Have you ever driven by an accident and no matter how much it slows down traffic, you still have to see what happened?

Well, my life feels like that accident.

I have been unemployed for eight months, but it feels like eighty years. Before that I worked in the fundraising department of a mid-sized nonprofit. I was laid off under questionable circumstances. In actuality I didn’t want to be there and my boss gave me what I asked for, well sort of.  She terminated me. Or laid me off, which is what it read on the official paperwork I had to sign courtesy of the gal in Human Resources. My spot was filled with a volunteer who I was instructed to train as co-workers watched in confusion as I was on my way out the door.

At first I was bitter and upset and soon that was replaced with relief and optimism. Now, I’m like in this new phase that I like to call “Hustle Girl.” To set the tone I can hear thundering hip hop beats with heavy bass in the background. I shrug my shoulders wildly, put on my hoodie (it’s really a zip up knit sweater with a hood) and get my grind on. I feel like I’m shuffling around that sketchy bathroom like B. Rabbit in 8 Mile.

I don’t even know what “Hustle Girl” really means, but I gotta find out fast. My unemployment payments ran out, I have zero dollars in the bank and I’m living off my parents’ kindness and credit cards. It’s a thin line between desperate and picky. I think what I’m getting at is I have push myself in a way I hadn’t before.

Uncomfortable is the new comfortable.

When you’re in this kind of situation a lot of emotions and feelings come up. Just call me Feely McPride. Fear, frustration, desperation and anger are a few. Yet, I also feel hopeful, optimism, inspired and encouraged. I’m breaking through the old to reveal the new. That’s a great feeling too.

Ideally, I would like to wrap this up in a nice reflective bow so here’s my stab at it. If it wasn’t for my current dire situation I wouldn’t be writing. I went to LA Zine Fest today and was filled with inspiration. I literally wrote this post in the car after leaving the Fest. I saw writers and illustrators who tell their stories and connect with audiences. If they never got off the couch, picked up the pen or marker and took time to create they may not have crossed paths with each other anywhere else. That’s special and quite incredible.

So, in the midst of DIY booklets that ranged from Celibate Slut to Mulatto Mamas, I wondered why I can’t do this, too. I have stories to tell. So, here’s my zine in blog form. Awesome bow finished.