Have A Seat. Let’s Talk. I’m Listening

Dexter walked in the hospital with no urgency. With his cane in hand, he took his time going in. He had been warned, his friend suffered a stroke and may have dementia. He adjusted the cap on his head and entered the room. He hoped his friend would remember him. He hoped his friend would be okay.

Bill looked up at the door as Dexter entered. His eyes were fixed at the top of Dexter’s head. 
That ruby red Kangol hat.

“Hey”, Bill said. “Isn’t that the hat I gave you a few years ago? Yup! Sharp as a tack! I think it was Christmas 2011?”

Dexter’s eyes lit up with surprise.

“Hot dog! Aw man you’re alright! You ain’t dying!” Dexter’s voice oozed with both humor and relief.

“Nah,  I’m hanging in there so my kids can’t spend all my hard earned money.  Greedy tricksters are probably picking out my headstone already! ” Dexter and Bill roared with laughter.  They talked about the moments when they thought time would stand still for them. Hard working hustlers. They talked about the plans they had when they were young men. Dexter did a lot of listening that day. The Master forced him to be still and be attentive and be grateful.
_______________________________________ When I started this blog in 2012 I said it would never be an advice type of forum.  I am not a life coach! Who qualifies you for that type of position?  Too much pressure! What would you do if you found out your therapist is a Looney Tune? Like a bonafied nut! Would that discredit him? To be a life coach would my life have to be perfect?
There’s a very popular woman. I will leave her nameless.  She has books about women being their best and being extraordinary.  She has a YouTube stream.  She runs bootcamps from her brownstone. She gives women advice about attracting and keeping a man too. I remember reading the online backlash from women who “discovered” she doesn’t have a man and she isn’t married. Whoa! They went nuts! The ring she wears is because she is committed to herself!  I cracked up laughing.  So what?! All of a sudden she doesn’t know what she’s talking about???! Did she help you? Who certifies good advice?

Doesn’t perseverance through imperfections and the ability to analyze such experiences give you some credibility? 

When you call a friend and tell them about your relationship or your career (or lack thereof), do you ask for their counseling license?  No. You just appreciate them listening. In most cases they are just reaffirming your views. You need someone to listen because you are tired of talking to yourself.  The act of listening is an act of love. Supporting a friend probably makes most people feel good. Do you hesitate because you are afraid of the reaction you will get? Or do you just give your time and your talents?

Sometimes it is hard to balance everything.  You are still adjusting to your new or appointed roles in life. You are trying your best to wear your many hats. Then it happens. Someone you love is hospitalized,  a baby is born,  a friend calls in crisis and you are forced to slow down. You are forced to use your emotional eye. 

Sit down and listen before life, time and God force you to. Don’t take communication for granted.  Don’t take anything for granted.  Dear Kettle,  take it from the pot, YOU CAN manage your time better.  YOU CAN show your loved ones they matter.  YOU CAN be a finisher or you can ShutYaMouthAndCallMeUgly.

By:Shaun Nickens
Featured Illustrator: Jose Rodriguez
http://josevrodriguez.squarespace.com/

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Represent! {From the Heart of a Disturbed Colored Girl}

I wasn’t going to say anything.  I wasn’t going to write one word. I have family I love and respect who are retired law enforcement.  I know good men and women who don’t abuse their badges.

This post is not about them.

This post is being written because I drove home from work in tears today.  Overwhelmed because I have colored male friends,  black god brothers, a Hispanic significant other,  An African-American step-father, an Afro-American father. I have a few Negro uncles. I don’t know when the day will come that they will be deemed Niggers and shot down in cold blood.

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I don’t know when someone will decide their lives are worthless and even when they are breathlessly saying, “I can’t breathe. ” No one will take the noose…I mean illegal choke hold off of their throats and let them go home to their six children. 

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I don’t know when we get to stop being the victims of real life screenplays.

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-RIP Mike Brown age 17-

I don’t know when the scab of fear, prejudice and hatred will finally peel off without staining our history with the crimson blood of our children.  I don’t know why they don’t have to come up with excuses or lies anymore.  No more wallets that look like guns. No more self defense pleas or over-zealous neighborhood watch.

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No more …

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…husband-less wives who are widows before they are brides.

I fear for our children who are too busy working on their twerking to focus on freedom.  Freedom from generational racism and shackles of cultural cynicism.  When I was young, my parents would say, “Represent!” They would say it when I’d leave the house for school.  They would say it before a demonstration in my karate class. They would say it before I would read scripture in church.  They would constantly remind me that I am a direct reflection of my family, my upbringing and my ancestry as a whole. I was representing my generation. I was representing women.  I was representing my culture.  None of the victims pictured above were perfect and I definitely don’t claim to be. Everyone makes mistakes.

I ask how you are representing those who are still giving their lives for you not to be considered an animal???

This has everything to do with color, ethnicity and generational prejudice. There are people who don’t see any race but the human race. There are also people who pass bigotry down the genetic chain like money in a will or a piece of old china. 

There is no decision but to represent.  Pray for those who have lost their lives and act so that they haven’t done so in vain.

-By: Shaun M. N.

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Sources:
*www.nydailynews.com
*www.planetill.com
* http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5665305
* http://www3.alibris-static.com/cover/v44147e43zu.jpg
* http://blogs.bet.com/music/soundOff/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/chaz-shepherd.jpg
* http://www.policestateusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/eric-garner-4.jpg
* http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/07/18/article-2368211-1AD7124B000005DC-905_306x423.jpg
* http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1050184!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/sean-bell-cover.jpg

Etymology of Man

When my significant other and I argue, one of the phrases we use the most is, “Respect my growth!” We say that because we want recognition for the improvements that have been made over the course of the relationship. There are things he’s done in order to be better for me and there are things I have done in order to be better for him. Growth is a funny kind of thing. The big problem with growth is it is relative to the person who is actively growing in thought or maybe just in psyche. When I am long gone and the etymology of me is studied…(my history, my origin, how I was formed, and how I changed over time)…who knows what the end synopsis will be?
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I took a technology course for Summer Session 1 at Stony Brook University and one of the things that resonated with me was: “Information is data presented in a meaningful context. Frequency and severity have a lot to do with the way information is processed. Things have to be done systematically so that everyone can benefit.” THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE SYSTEMATICALLY SO THAT EVERYONE CAN BENEFIT. The course was about technology in the workplace but the things I learned are relevant to everyday life. If I was just disciplined enough to channel skills in the right direction, then I would be more productive and more successful in terms of communication.

Arguments, fights, disagreements, absence, and challenges all contribute to growth. Though they may be painful or uncomfortable at the time, they are necessary in “forming” you and/or your relationships with others. When you’re sick, you appreciate the person who says, “When I was sick, ______ helped.” You appreciate it even more if that person hands you a bottle of what their remedy was or sends you a link to a useful web site. Sympathy and empathy build relationships and contribute to the “formation” of that mutualism. There are organisms in marine biology that survive on mutualism. They need another organisms production or even waste in order to fuel their own life source. As humans, we are cocky. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t need anyone… I am self-made” or some variation of that? Yet, if we were a fly on the wall throughout their development I’m sure we would see how untrue that is. We would see the friend or family member that passed away or deserted them and the thick wall that they put up after that occurrence. We would see the people whose efforts are the foundation of their self-proclaimed “self-made” empire.
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I started a gratitude journal today. I can see you shaking your head and rolling your eyes. I am in no way promulgating self-help techniques. For those who know me, I’m not exactly the poster child for ALWAYS being calm, relaxed or even disciplined. I had to find something that I could implement in my daily life to force me to revisit positivity. See, I begin my day with prayer and affirmations. By the time 5-6pm comes around…I’m miserable. Work, traffic, bill collectors, etc have already put a damper on my mood. It’s important to stay in the right head space. When I was young and in martial arts training, my uncle would say, “Attitude determines approach and approach determines whether you pass or fail.” Somewhere over the years, I abandoned that way of thinking and I suffered for it. Consequently, my loved ones have suffered for it too.

I invite you to comment (I approve all comments before they are posted to the site so you may not see it right away.) I invite you to take this gratitude journey with me. I will be posting the things I am grateful for every couple of days. Most importantly I invite you to critically think about things you have said that may have been hurtful. Think about things you may have done. Do not beat upon your spirit for those actions. Just remember that you still have a chance to rectify and edit who you are and your behaviors. You can’t always backspace or delete but you can modify! Send a thank you note today or just call someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Better yet, give yourself some appreciation today!! I’m looking forward to seeing how you systematically structure your emotional information system.

By:SMN

In the Palm of My Hand

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When I was young, growing up in the Catholic church,  we loved Palm Sunday.  We would sit in the church pews during the sermon and make crosses out of the palms. We would give them to older people who didn’t know how to make them. We would search the church floors for them after service.  We would sword fight with the longer ones. We would make trades with them. It was like getting a favor or a party bag at an event.

What I always personally liked was the symbolism it brought.  It was a physical reminder that Easter was coming.  Easter was always awesome for MANY reasons:
1. You get a brand new Easter dress.
2. The music in church is always good because EVERYONE comes to church on Easter, Christmas and Mother’s day.
3. There was usually an Easter Egg hunt for the church youth.
4. Theres a level of celebration that is insurmountable.  You’re happy because of new life. New beginnings. Spring.  Joy!

And of course you’re preparing yourself for the possibility of the return of the Savior. Now thats the part that kind of gets lost in all the fuss. 

Christian or not you have to admit that the story of Jesus is interesting and relevant.  Palm Sunday he had friends,  admirers, and I even dare to say he had fans. The people who lined up to watch him perform miracles were the same people lined up to see him tormented,  tortured and eventually killed. He was betrayed by the people he gave his life to protect.

Today started off rough. I woke up tired.
I had an appointment at the mechanic for 9am.  My car sounds like a spaceship right before liftoff and I need to remedy that before my annual inspection.  So being that I snoozed the alarm multiple times and defeated the purpose of setting it, I had to FLY!!!

I grabbed my kid, put her in some sweats, popped a bottle in her mouth, threw on my grey “day off sweats”, ate a granola bar and drove as fast as I could while on the mobile phone and cleaning the junk out my car as well. After I left the automobile I realized I needed a ride home. I’m usually a great planner but I wasn’t today. Im not a fan of buses and I had house slippers on and my hair was in a big poof. I looked absolutely nuts. While im walking towards the cab station,  a woman coming from a church service hands me a palm. I thanked her, handed it to my daughter and kept walking. Watching my 10 month old look at the palm and maneuver it in her small hands brought back memories and got me excited. 

We came home to clean the house, open the blinds, crack the windows, organize, read together,  eat,  sing, and just enjoy preparing for new life!

No matter what/who you believe in, hope is universal. Grab a little of it and stretch it out and add water and smear it all over your face!! Tie it around your waist and adorn yourself with it!! Throw it at people like a water balloon and watch it break through their despair and drip down their doubt!!

May you be blessed,  touched and transformed this Easter!  Orrrrrrrrr…you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly

By:Shaun Nickens

God Forbid. . .Knock on Wood

I am currently reading a business plan guide.  In one of the chapters, the author asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  I struggled with the answer.  The arrogant side of me doesn’t think I’d fail at anything I genuinely attempted.  In reality I can admit I’ve always wanted to write and FINISH a book. So why haven’t I done it? There’s so many things to consider.  There are so many doubts I have never admitted I had.  Who will read it?  What will I write about?  Depending on the subject matter, what qualifications do I need to prove that I am knowledgeable? How will I publish it? When will I have the time to write it? If I die, my readers will pick apart my words. They’ll construct invalid theories. They’ll think they have ascertained a base of who I am. They’ll be wrong.

Its hard to admit when you are afraid.

A week ago I lost a crucial segment of my circle of trust. My significant other lost his brother suddenly.  This man was kind,  friendly,  humble,  reliable,  God-fearing, well read,  and family oriented.  He was one of the warmest people I have ever met. He was also one of the most complex people I have ever known.  He would often ask me just one or two questions and then just sit back and listen to my tirade. I think that was his way of counseling.  Like a therapist he would bait you with a question and the next thing you know, you’re on the couch delivering a monologue. There you are exerting brilliance that you rarely tap into. There you are grateful for a captive audience. I feel as though we were both always so grateful to converse with someone who truly wanted to hear what we had to say. What a privilege it is to be listened to. To feel important.

Tonight I drove through a neighborhood and looked at the houses.  I looked at the white picket fences. I looked at the dog houses in the back yards. I looked at the family automobiles parked in the driveways. I looked at the lights flickering from the televisions that were probably arbitrarily entertaining a sleeping couple. I hope they fell asleep after telling one another about their day. I hope they fell asleep after making love.

People often say ” I want to spend my life with you.” Then we wait for some plan. Then we wait for a vision. I have missed out on a lot in my life because I was afraid. I didn’t commit to boxing because I was afraid of a severe injury or people saying I wasn’t good enough.  I was afraid to travel because I didn’t want to be away from my loved ones. What are you afraid of? Trusting?  Yes he could be cheating on you right now. He may also be thinking of you and conjuring up new ways to make you happy. What are you afraid of?  Quitting a job and starting over? Yes Its a recession.  Yes you may fail. You’re in good company!  There’s thousands of people exactly where you are. They’re scraping their knees and getting up again. They’re trying.  They’re fighting.  They’re doing their best because life is happening right now.

I’m in good health…*knock on wood*

God forbid … but if anything should ever happen to me know this:

I LOVE being a mother. It is the most exhausting but rewarding feeling in the entire world! I LOVE love. God put Adam on this planet and he knew he couldn’t enjoy Eden without companionship.  The man I want to spend my life with is unique and passionate. He is deeper than the core of the earth. I love writing.  It clears all the cobwebs. It pours out of me. It is my drug. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am dissatisfied with my life in its current state but I will continue clawing my way to the existence I see fit for myself.  I fear the dark.  I have very few secrets. I get anxious when I am preparing to give a gift.  I don’t want to be compared to another woman but it has probably already happened and it will happen again in the future. I want to feel indisputably beautiful…Every day.  I am proud of my sister. She is the adolescent I never had the courage to be. I knew she would be special since the day she was born. I HATE working for other people.  Yet, I have held every job imaginable (except for food services.) My father blessed me with an amazing childhood. My mother is the strongest woman I have ever met. My grandmother is the most selfless person I have ever met. I strive to be a conglomerate of the two. I cry a lot…and I don’t think its a sign of weakness.  Its emptying out the sh*t of the day. Its regulation.  That way you have room for tomorrow’s challenges. 

That’s all I’ve got for now. That’s enough.  That way…God forbid. ..you won’t have to come up with anything profound.  That’s me in a nutshell minus favorite color or song. That’s me. Typing this on my phone with my kid sleeping on my lap. Typing with my night light on. Holding on to hope. Admittedly afraid.

★Shaun Nickens

Tell Me How You Really Feel! :-o (Praying for Sagacity)

We all have moments when someone infuriates us.  These are character building moments.  There are people in this world who are optimistic and positive.  These people see the best in others.  As we all know everything in existence has an opposite or a pole.  So of course there will always be someone who thinks you are a loser, a delinquent, a rebel, or a “mess.”  Most of the time, they feel that way because they don’t understand you.  You base your actions on standards, morals or beliefs that they cannot relate to.  My response to that is very simple.  The Creator made us all different for a good reason.  We have different genres of music that we are attracted to.  Libraries and book stores have endless amounts of subject matter.  Even God doesn’t try to affect your free will.  It’s a gift.  We all have to use our discernment to be able to direct our lives in the way we want it to go.  It takes a strong personality, a twinge of patience and humility, and lastly it takes fortitude.  Some of the closest people to me have hurt me the most.  Those are the people you wish knew you the best.  Those are the people who can get under your skin because you hold them in the highest esteem.  However, those people will never be able to live your life for you.  As much as you may love them, only your actions are relevant to your destiny.  Love doesn’t reside in your mind.  Love resides in your heart.  There are practical people who can only live in terms of what they can see.  Then there are enlightened faith carrying people who believe beyond logistics.

Never compare your situation to someone elses.  Stop going through your old classmates Facebook pictures and tweets.  Social media is like reality tv.  People can edit and show you what they want to show you.  They will never share the bad times.  That couple that has been married for 20 years with the matching outfits and the Escalade has gone through some tumultuous circumstances.  It’s always in poor taste to post troubled times.  You will give yourself a personality disorder comparing yourself to others.  Its destructive.  Live your own life.  I’m pretty sure Cinderella wasn’t jealous of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.  No matter how much hair you purchase from the beauty supply store, you are not Rapunzel.  No man will ever climb up your locs and rescue you from a tower.  Whatever turmoil has you captive in your life, you have to free yourself from before you will find any of the happiness you seek.

I remember childhood sayings like “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”  and “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  Those were cute but they were crap.  They don’t transfer in your adult life.  People don’t think before they speak and you may get hurt from time to time.  Just make a pact with yourself to do your best always.  Your best is enough.  Prepare for excellence and tell the haters, “Shut ya Mouth And Call Me Ugly.”  😉

By: Shaun M Nickens