Friendship

I just got done catching up with an old friend on the phone, which is fueling my inspiration to write this blog post tonight. A few updates: my Facebookless life is going well so far – I am accomplishing more at home and at work (which are the same place HA!) I am happier in my marriage and other relationships, and my ability to focus has improved. I still have anxiety, but I had that well before Facebook so we won’t blame that social media monster for it. I’ve also got a better handle on how I want to run my coaching business moving forward.

friendship meme

Truth be told, you could put these two on ANY meme, and I would laugh. #StepBrothers

On to the topic at hand: Friendship, and all the business surrounding it. I appropriately named this blog after the period of time I am progressing through on my personal timeline, and I’m really glad I had the foresight to do so. My thirties have been a contrast to my twenties; I’m sure most adults in their thirties and beyond would say the same. When you’re just starting out, you make mistakes because you don’t know any better. After you’re experienced, you have a better idea on how to side-step a lot. One area among many that I’ve seen a metamorphosis in is my concept of friendship.

I think that my current idea of friendship has been heavily influenced by two things: the fact that I am a female in western society, and the fact that I am a black, not-hood-whatsoever female in Western society. Whether I wanted to or not, I fell into a certain place socially because of these traits. Men may look women up and down, but ultimately, women go hard on judgment of other women. It’s just a fact. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is just oblivious. Though men can have social pressures and expectations placed on them, the more rigid sex is definitely female when it comes to appearance, attitude, endorsement, and affiliation. Women are socialized, bred, and trained to have expectations of each other, which are most often ridiculous:

*If you are my friend, then you cannot be friends with people who I view as “enemies” (usually established by catty circumstances such as a slam book or someone starting a rumor or someone dating someone else’s boyfriend freshman year of high school).

*If you don’t act the way society says you should, you cannot be my friend.

*If you refuse to devote time to me when I ask for it, i.e. phone conversations, attendance at a birthday party, staying in with me because I have nowhere to go even though you might, then you are a bad friend.

*If your life doesn’t accommodate mine across circumstantial lines, then you’re an unsupportive friend. For example: Why can’t you come on this booze cruise even though you’re married??? Or, not understanding why you’d feel awkward at my baby shower as the only single girl among married ones.

Because most girls grow up wanting to be desirable, lovable, and admired, we do things that we think will earn us these traits by trying hard to fit in, sticking with cliques, adopting certain fashions or trends just because they’re fashions or trends, and, at times, even being something we really are not because we think it will boost us somehow. My experiences in dance as a child, in high school as a teen, in a sorority in college, and as a young adult in my early twenties all brought me to this conclusion. Some women will step completely outside themselves socially for the sake of trying to appease a crowd. There were many “kickbacks” and other social events I went to throughout high school and college that I felt I needed to in order to remain “cool” with everyone else. A portion of this can probably be attributed to my belief in people-pleasing that I had as I matured from a teen to young adult to now thirtysomething, but the social pressure was there, and I believe that being a female was a large culprit. Boys don’t have as much to think about in that regard. Their social game has fewer rules.

When it comes to my own way of thinking in the present, at just over 32 years of age, I see my favorite and most cherished friendships as the ones that ask absolutely nothing of me. They’re the ones where the other person gives me permission to be exactly who I am without judgment or need of explanation. I am not lazy in friendship, so when I mention that I appreciate relationships that ask nothing of me, that isn’t so that I can sit back and reap special benefits from anything. The friendships I’ve had, I have given a deep part of myself to. I think that’s why it hurts so much to reflect on the ones that have crashed and burned – I’ve had to come to a place of acceptance sans harsh criticism and guilt over what was, and learned to be grateful for what they’ve taught me. But as I move forward through my life, and develop new friendships with the people I bump into during each experience I have, I’ve learned to side-step the arrangements where expectations that I’m not comfortable with are placed on me. This is tough in some situations; people I used to bend over backwards to try to impress or stay in contact with might be wondering if I’m even alive anymore now. In every circumstance where there is a gain on one side, you can always count on there being a deficit on some opposite end. In my case, I’m gaining better control on my emotional, time, and personal investments, and those are more valuable to me than making everybody happy…which is an impossible feat anyway. My favorite friendships were and still are the ones where I can just be accepted for who I am –  a woman with flaws who is still trying to figure herself out while also balancing her changing roles as a woman. Sometimes, I might forget to call. I may not always want to talk about what’s bothering me. My “next move” may not make sense in your eyes, but it’s what I’ve decided on and so I’m going for it.

I should point out that my shift in how I regard friendship has definitely also exposed to me the relationships where I made unfair expectations of other people which consequently didn’t serve me or the other person involved in any way. I think that our world could benefit from more people loving each other as they are rather than drawing up lines and opposition over everything we aren’t to one another. My place in anyone’s life isn’t to criticize or give endorsement where it’s not needed. My place is to accept the people who are in my life for all their imperfections as well as strengths and be here to listen silently when they need me. That hasn’t been an easy lesson to grasp, but one that I am surely thankful for.

One mantra that I’ve come to adapt through this life reset journey I’m on is that if something no longer serves me, I have to let it go. People-pleasing (though I haven’t been a chronic people-pleaser in about five years now) definitely wasn’t serving me, and it’s one thing I’ve been able to shake off since stepping into 2016. But when it comes to friendship and any relationship really, if you feel like you’re asked to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, to endorse things you don’t believe in, or to participate in something you don’t really want any part of, I challenge you to speak the word, “No,” in defense of who you are. I believe all of our future selves will thank us for it. Also, if something isn’t serving you but still occupying space in your life, find a way to let it go. Our time here is limited and therefore precious and shouldn’t be wasted.

Mind Your Own Business

Often when we hear or use the term, “Mind your own business,” we orient it to a scenario where a person is snooping around in territory where they do not belong. That’s not what I’m choosing to focus on with this entry. Instead, I want to look at the very literal breakdown of the phrase, as this gives it a whole new meaning that I feel is too often overlooked.

With “mind” being a noun referring to the brain and its processes, doubling as a verb meaning to keep watch over; “your own” being possessive and personal; and “business” referring to affairs, daily dealings, happenings, and in simple terms, “life,” I translate this common phrase to mean that one should keep their focus on the happenings of their own life. Keeping careful watch over one’s own dealings all the time is hard to do – our minds and eyes like to wander. We see what others are doing, what they have, how they approach certain situations, and we allow it to spill over to us. Sometimes this is a good thing. In the classroom and on video I work to motivate people to believe in themselves, to try harder, and to keep going even when they’re on the cusp of giving up. Some people have told me before that this motivates them, and I’m happy that I can inspire someone else to do something just by doing what I do. But not always does watching others work out. Often we can see what others have, what they do, how they approach things, and feel jealousy, sadness, or anger. Far too often, people allow someone else’s actions affect their own when in truth the two events are isolated and independent of each other.

Here’s where the whole “mind your business” mentality is most valuable. I can only speak for my own life, but I can say with 100% certainty that at no given moment is everything in my life completely and utterly harmonious. If it’s not a school crisis, it’s a work crisis. If it’s not a work crisis, it’s a marriage spat. If not my marriage, it’s usually my child’s toddler antics complicating things. If not my child, it’s finances. If not finances, it’s car trouble. If not car trouble, it’s a lack of spirituality, and so on and on and on. My point: there is ALWAYS something for me to focus on in my tiny bubble of existence, and lately, that’s all I’m consumed with. The result? I’m a lot more content.

How can THAT be?

Well, for one, it allows me to stop focusing on other people’s actions and instead keep my focus on my own. Many of the people around me are progressing and receiving blessings and if I gazed upon these events with tunnel vision, I might feel pity for myself. Instead, I’m happy for people being blessed with what they want; I know my own blessings will unfold when they’re due. Some of the people I know are in constant opposition with others and happy to fight about it. The world is one big giant fight over money, oil, power, religion, who’s right, etc. Some of it is meaningful, but most of it is futile. I’d rather just stay in my corner with my beliefs. All in all, shouting from the rooftops about which candidate I’m planning to vote for, my views on Iran and Syria, using social media to purposely offend people, and wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt (when indeed I am not “anti” abortion…) doesn’t really push me closer to the goals I have for myself and my family. My time can be better used.

So you may be wondering why I’m dragging you through some long ass blog post to tell you all about how I basically don’t give a care about the actions of others. Here’s the reason:

Because lately a few other people have shown and told me that my life and actions adversely affect them in some way…and I think that if those folks knew how to mind their own business, they wouldn’t feel this way. My ability to work out has no bearing on anyone else’s ability (or choice?) to do the same. The way my family operates has nothing to do with anybody else’s family. Me being in school has nothing to do with anybody else but me (well, it affects Fabian and Kennedy too, but they aren’t complaining). I’ve chosen lately to talk to God over talking to other people about my troubles, and that, yet again, has nothing to do with anybody but me.

For all the folks out there who have taken it upon themselves to make me their emotional scapegoat in the past year: Mind your own business. And no, I don’t mean quit snooping around in my life, but instead, this is my emphatic plea that you just try concentrating on your own affairs. I’m certain there’s a lot happening in your world that you aren’t paying attention to and you should. Do you…

“You make this look so easy…”

I don’t like to talk on the phone, but today I got to connect on the phone with a really close friend of mine who is a lot like my little sister. She updated me on how life’s been since we last spoke, and when I explained to her how things were on my end she asked, “How do you do all of this? I have a hard time handling my own responsibilities, but you do so much more.”

It’s the echo of what many people have asked and said to me in the past seven months, and as I near the anniversary of my departure from California, I see clear evidence now of just how much my life has changed since I left there. I will always have a California soul right down to my core, but I’ve grown a lot since August 25, 2014.

I do manage a lot. As a wife, it’s my job to stay on board with my husband with regard to finances, parenting, caring for our pets, caring for our home, etc. As a mom who works from home, I juggle my responsibilities to work with the joyful obligations I have to my daughter and her well-being. I’m also a coach and fitness motivator through Beachbody as well as a full time MBA student, so I study, I connect with people, I work with my growing team of coaches, I hold myself accountable, and I work hard every day to boost my business. I also try to make time to do the things that really keep me going such as keeping God first, exercising, dancing, making music, and even being all around lazy on the couch or in bed with Netflix. I maintain this lifestyle and I love the life that I have, but it’s not easy…

difficulteasy

When you’re a new business owner, everything falls on you. Vacation time? Sure! You can take as much time off as you want, but don’t get mad when your profits reflect the lack of effort you’ve put into your work.

Sleeping in? Pretty much a luxury at this point as your child will likely be up around 7:30 or 8am, and I’ve learned as a parent that it’s just easier to wake up before your kids do.

I work a lot. From the time that I wake, until I fall into bed to zone out to The Boondocks or American Dad at night, I work. It’s often a 10-12 hour day, despite my attempts to keep office hours, because even when I’m not “open for business,” I’m still doing business stuff like posting grades or setting up challenge groups. I’ve forced myself to embrace being a morning person so that I can get more done. I don’t leave the house, but I put in hours just like any commuting, office chair occupying, conventional employee at a typical firm.

My jobs pay me back in much more than just paychecks or benefits. It’s a balance, but I like that I can rock a sleeping toddler in my arms and also read over student work. I like that I can set up shop in the living room as Kennedy plays with blocks not even a foot away from me. It makes me happy that I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family on days Fabian has off. My very full life also has very positive perks, and for that I am so grateful.

I get to make some more room on my plate come February, as school will be over for me then. Until that date, I’m just going to keep going. It may look like it’s a breeze, but I promise it’s not. What it is, though, is a very full, very fulfilling and blessed life.

On Women and Friendship: The Girls’ Locker Room Mentality Never Really Falls Away

I can remember being 12 years old and full of fear on my first day of middle school. It was a whole new environment for me with new classes and new teachers and new experiences. However, the most daunting and intimidating aspect of the leap from 5th grade to 6th grade, for me, was having to change clothes in the girls’ locker room for physical education class.

The girls’ locker room was one of those unofficial battle grounds similar to the lunch room – people self-segregated based on social groups, meaning if you were alone it somehow signified that you didn’t belong anywhere, and social groups were somehow expected to be at odds with each other for one reason or another. Never were they allies. Only, in the locker room, new elements were added to make things even more awkward – changing clothes and letting other people catch glimpses of what your body looked like when you weren’t wearing your favorite dress, or your overalls, or your smiley face t-shirt, or your flare jeans. Some girls wore bras and filled them out. Some of us just wore bras. If you forgot to shave your legs that day, and your gym outfit included shorts as the bottoms, be prepared for some comments. Ever present were the locker room comments, and laughter, and gossip, and ridicule. Overall, the experience was nerve-wracking for me as an adolescent.

Even as I progressed from 6th grade to 11th grade, though I became slightly more comfortable with the process, I still kept my time in the locker room short and to the point. I would talk to my friends, but I didn’t like the idea of sharing conversations with people in an area where the amount of ears per square foot were quadruple the number that’d be listening when we were walking home or through the halls. And one detail still remained in high school: the social lines of who was friends with who were clearly drawn, and rarely crossed. Out on the blacktop it’s a different story. You may get some high fives from girls outside your circle for your killer rebound during the basketball game, or for having great form while serving a volleyball, but in the locker room, those blurry lines become clear. The pretty girls were in the mirror refreshing their makeup, while the so-called sluts (who barely broke a sweat) were rushing off to meet the boys as they left their locker room. The athletic girls all changed and affixed knee or wrist braces and grabbed large duffle bags full of equipment, and the overweight girls usually changed in a bathroom stall to avoid embarrassment. Everybody stays in their place.

But it’s our “place” and staying in it that’s killing us.

Much of my fear of the locker room was that I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to be looked down upon because my body looked different, and I didn’t want to be cast aside for being different. Friendship is born out of putting yourself out there, but most people don’t like to put themselves out there for reasons similar to why I loathed the locker room. But somehow, friendships are formed every day and we don’t live in a world full of loners. The fear of judgment doesn’t stop, though, even after you take off your high school cap and gown.

Women judge other women for forging friendships outside of their designated social circles, and they use a mob mentality for controlling the actions of their friends. It’s just like the locker room cliques.

Even in established friendships, women in particular withhold being honest with each other because of fear of repercussion or fallout. I believe this is what leads to much of the passive-aggressive behaviors that have taken place in past friendships of mine, which are direct opposites of assertive and honest communication. It takes courage to be honest with people, and to stand up for oneself. I’ve seen that many people don’t have the level of courage that I’m seeking in my friendships – at least not with me. If you can’t be yourself with a person you’re supposed to be friends with, then why are you friends with them? Conversely, if you aren’t willing to invest the same amount of time and consideration you see someone else doing in your relationship, why stay in the relationship?

I’ve said it so many times before, and I truly mean it now more than ever: if you have someone in your life who you claim to be friends with, but you avoid spending time with or communicating with, you’re doing that person a favor by simply telling them full out that you don’t want to have them in your life. You don’t have to give them an explanation (though it’d be nice), but saying that is enough. Does it sound hurtful? It is! But trust me, that’s going to hurt so much less than if you continue to lead them on and give them false promises of support, companionship, and integrity. When you reach the point of doing that, you’re nothing more to them than a liar – useless and faulty.

It’s taken me a long time to find my way to a place where I can stand firmly and comfortably in the truth that not all friendship is for me. That I am not a woman of multiple close friendships that date back decades, that can be relied upon to fill a banquet hall at my surprise birthday party or homecoming. I only have a handful of people in my life who are capable of friendship as I understand it, and the rest are acquaintances to me. Ultimately, it wasn’t me who chose, but rather it was them, and I honor every person’s right to choose. I also appreciate straightforwardness, and reciprocate it as a policy. I just wish the rest of the world would do the same.

What 12 Months of Breastfeeding Has Taught Me

Breastfeeding is beautiful.

It’s beautiful to nourish your baby with nutrients that will help them grow. In addition, breastfeeding is a nice practice in that it forces us as moms to slow down and be in the moment with our babies. In order to maintain supply and comfort, it’s crucial to keep up the habit on a steady schedule, which is usually determined by baby, and it’s during these moments that I got to put my feet up and withdraw from everything hectic for a while. It was those moments of rocking my daughter in her nursery as raindrops patted against her window that were my favorites. I could stare into her eyes and hold her close in a pocket of calming silence.

Breastfeeding is challenging.

I was very blessed that Kennedy was able to pick up latching and feeding very easily. Other than the normal pains and leaking issues that happened when we first started, I experienced no problems with breastfeeding her. However, when I began working and reinstating parts of my lifestyle as they had been before she was born, scheduling time to feed or pump became difficult. As I did this, I watched other friends who had babies around the same time I did deal with their own woes as little ones broke from habit, supplies ran low, and pumping didn’t go as planned. It’s a commitment to decide to breastfeed, and even with all of the best intentions in the world, it doesn’t always work out as we want it to. Throw in all of the judgmental attitudes about breastfeeding vs. formula, and nursing “best” practices, and it’s a bit of a battlefield for moms to try to find what works without surrendering to something that alienates them.


Being a breastfeeding mom doesn’t make me any more of a mother than any other woman with a child.

I tucked this one into the middle of this blog post, mainly because I didn’t want to turn off readers with a soapbox rant in the opening lines of this. We really must change the narrative on breastfeeding and all of the snobby weight it carries for some. Science has shown us that breast milk contains the most and best nutrients for babies, and as parents, all we want to do is provide the best to our offspring. However, things get in the way of that sometimes. Not all parents can send their children to private schools and Ivy League colleges either. Why we place so much pressure on breastfeeding, and imply that you’re a sorry excuse for a mother if you don’t or can’t, I will never ever understand. What I will say is this, though: I don’t think I’m hot shit just because I breastfed for Kennedy’s first year. And the only mom who I will judge is the one who chooses not to feed her child anything. Starving your baby makes you a bad mom, not feeding your baby formula. 

 

Western culture really needs to tone down the sexualization of breasts, and beef up its embrace of one of nature’s simplest gifts.

Boobs are awesome. I don’t think women want to give them up, either. I know I sure don’t. But can we acknowledge the purpose women were given breasts? They’re tools with which to sustain a baby’s life after birth first and foremost. They’re beautiful in their ability and purpose first. Leave aesthetics off the table for a minute. And stop calling it disgusting when a woman breastfeeds in your presence, but applauding trampy celebrities for having their boobs on display just because. Any chick can flaunt her boobs for attention, but not every woman can breastfeed.

 

My body is capable of some pretty amazing things.

I love this body of mine. I really love this body of mine. I do. I wasn’t always courageous enough to love the woman I see in the mirror, but I’m more than happy to now. I may not be tone in all of the places I want to be, but I move so much faster now than I did in my early 20s. I move with purpose, because I usually move to push my daughter in a stroller, or chase after her as she runs through the grass at the park, or even to follow after her as she ventures into corners of our house that I don’t want her in. My body functions on little sleep and still gets the job done. My body is fun to dress up.

I love that my body was able to grow and nourish her over the past 19 months. I can’t wait to do it again with my next child.


I don’t want to do it anymore. (Not with Kennedy, at least)

We’ve had a good run, but the weaning process has been started. I’m glad I could do this for this long, and I will definitely do it again with my future babies, but the next chapter of feeding and nourishment is here for my firstborn, and it’s best for the both of us.