Is Life Passing You By?

Nothing shakes you more and reminds you of the brevity of life when you visit the hospital. A month ago I sat in my friend’s hospital room while she recovered from a complicated surgery. It started out as a simple female procedure but somehow turned into a week-long stay from unexpected complications. I took turns with friends visiting  her to make sure she wasn’t feeling too down or frustrated about losing the freedom to move around too much. She rarely is sad and it shocked me to see her struggling to keep up her joy. It was at this moment I realized we learn our greatest lessons when we realize what we’ve taken for granted.

It got me to thinking about if I was really living the life I say I am when I ended up chatting with a mutual friend at the hospital.  It was a Saturday but she was diligently typing away on her laptop when I walked in my friend’s room.  I brought my Kindle Fire along but only had it for fun and not work. So, I asked her how she’d been and said, “Are you working on a project?” She quickly responded “Oh no, I’m just completing work. That’s all I do.” I said “Really?” Her head was buried in the laptop when she said….”Yea.”  I remembered she was in a sorority and mentioned seeing some of her soror sisters involved in a community service project over the weekend. I asked if she was active or ever worked with any of them. Again, she said, “I don’t even know when they meet. I should get more involved.”

I’m stunned because this woman was beautiful, smart, successful, but largely isolated from anything but her job. Here I was telling her more about organizations she’s affiliated with  just because I was paying more attention. She admitted she didn’t get out much unless it was related to work. We talked a bit more and she shared that even though she had her own moment with a life changing and personal illness, she hadn’t taken hold of truly living instead of focusing her energy on work.   Somehow, she’s  still clinging to work as her life’s purpose.  Here’s the deal. We all have the tendency to cling to what we know and what’s comfortable  out of fear. More than likely, we don’t   realize that we shortchange ourselves by doing so. Unfortunately, I saw alot of myself in her. Of course I can cushion the blow by saying I’m not that bad, but alot of my life is patterned around work and finding more opportunities to work. That’s where alot of my value comes from (which I constantly battle). I volunteer here and there, but I’ve gotten comfortable being by myself and fail at going out alone or if I’m not with a friend.  While I love what I do both as a counselor and as a singer, it won’t always be there.  And since it won’t, it’s time to start focusing more on creating relationships that last and not based simply on what I do for a living. I certainly don’t want to wake up one day and realize I’m all I got.

It was ironic that as I listened to this woman maybe five years older than me, I learned that while I am chasing my career goals, other more personal ones are getting slighted.  It reminded me that if I’m not careful, I’ll end up the same way dragging my laptop around as my friend. I’m so careful with my life choices sometimes to the point that I’m almost afraid to make a move, but my conversation with the laptop lady  reminded me that it’s important to create a sense of  balance. I’ve made more of an effort to spend time with family and friends and even seek them out to nurture our relationships. In the next months, I’ll be sharing my experiences and difficulties of  trying to even out the time I spend in my personal life and my career. I don’t want to look back and see missed opportunities because I was afraid of failure or too focused on moving up in the world. My friend is out of the hospital now and recovering like a champ. So, I’m challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone even more so that I don’t only have certificates of attendance and job promotions as my only proof I was here.


Exercising is for the Birds & Other Excuses That Leave Us Fat

Every day after work, I climb on the treadmill. For the past two weeks, I go at least two miles a night, sweating my hair out while my achy knees screech back and forth.  With the exception of tonight, it’s now a part of my daily regimen. See, what had happened was, I couldn’t fit my pants anymore. Well I could but what I mean is I couldn’t fit them without it looking like they were stretch skinny jeans. HORRI-FUL.  And, oh yea.  When I went to the mall and tried on my favorite brand pants, those jokers were squeezing my belly to the point my side was hurting. And that was one size up from what I normally wear. So…….

I had a come to Jesus meeting. You know the one where he tells you he won’t put more on you than you can bear? So I said, well Lord,  I get home so late and once I eat I have to wait 30 minutes and then walk Paisley and go through the bills and at least watch something on tv, right? Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

My weight is something I can control but only when I do something about it. I’m not overweight by any means, but I’m uncomfortable with my size. And plus, I need a way to relieve stress  after having meetings at work about having meetings and not settling anything  and having to schedule another meeting.  So I got up. And walked to the gym. And it was hard. But I did it. I started with one mile, then said let’s try for a mile and 1/2 the next time. I turned up my ears with  Tyga, Diddy, Katy Perry, Beyonce’, and kept pushing. My  goal was to get up, and then start to think about doing more.

And for the women that sweat in their hair, it’s okay. I struggled with it too until I realized, I have to take care of myself. My hair done is just one way for me to feel good about me.  And if I’m walking around with a cute do’, but unintentionally giving the impression I intended to wear  stretch pants to work, we got a problem. And we all know women who look fabulously made up then start taking a box of pills because they  “all of a sudden” have high blood pressure. They are too cute and the hair is always laid, but no one cares about your hair  if you can’t breathe and then have to take “walk breaks” cuz you losin’ your breath when you go to the outlet mall with your girls.

All I’m saying is do something. Walk. Zumba. Run a block and take your time walking back even if you are wheezing. But start somewhere. We only have one life so why not live it like we care about it?  Put down that pork chop. Or save it for afterwards if you have to.  But get up. And do something. You really are worth it. :)

And oh yea, I’m proud to announce I’m now down two sizes in my favorite pants. Hollaaaaaaaaaaa!

HIV and the Dilemma of the Black Church

Black Women. Unprotected Sex. Faithful in church. Christlike. Love the Lord.  Pure in heart. Still having Sex.

HIV is killing  the Black  community one by one as the CDC reports the highest HIV + rates exist in the Black community. Black Americans account for only 14 percent of the U.S. population, yet they account for 52 percent of all new HIV infections each year. We are at risk more than any other group.   Obviously, this is  a social issue that could easily be addressed by the cornerstone of our community, the Black Church.  Why? Because black women make up the largest populations in the predominantly black church settings. An article written by Theola Labbe’-Debose indicates that ‘black women are the most religious people in the nation.’  But with that comes the quandary of faith and sexuality.  The elephant in the room. That thing. That  belief. That church folk don’t have sex. Right?  But admitting that church going members are sexually active  is almost acknowledging that what’s taught scripturally  is not being received.  HIV is a touchy subject because initially, the assumption was it’s a gay man’s disease. With 52 percent of heterosexual women testing positive, nothing could be further from the truth.   One in five people (adolescents and adults)  in the United States are unaware that they are infected with the virus.   So, the blind folded dance continues. Many churches (in general)  are aware that many of their  members are not abstinent,  but find themselves in the precarious position of addressing safe sex or ignoring the reality of risky behaviors and praying one day their choices will change.

I’d like to challenge the notion that HIV is  a social issue worth addressing and propose that the church is the perfect place to do so. It’s clear that the majority of  Black women use  their  faith as a strength regardless of  denomination.  So, it stands that women who are carrying the HIV virus may be in your pew on Sunday morning. While we don’t expect teachings about sexuality to change, we also must acknowledge the risk  Black women  place themselves in when sleeping with men without protection, without regard for their self-esteem or physical health.

Questions to think about:

  • Would you willingly get tested in a church setting for  HIV instead of going to a clinic?
  • Would you support your church creating a ministry devoted to those who suffer with HIV but are thriving in spite of the disease?
  • Would you have compassion for someone with HIV just the same as a member with cancer?
  • While your pastor, spiritual leader  may not agree with risky sexual behaviors (as he shouldn’t),  would he consider tailoring sermons to teach the need for “knowing your status?” as a part of honoring the body God gave you?

Bravo to the  churches who are getting involved and tackling the heavy topic of HIV and not shrinking from the stigma that sex shouldn’t be discussed in church. If you’re a woman of faith, you may sit next to a  member who is HIV positive. They may have even contracted it from another member sitting in another pew. Married couples are at risk if there is an issue of  monogamy. It’s risky to connect the two topics of sexuality with spirituality but I’d rather have folk uncomfortable for an hour or so than living with a disease that will change the course of their lives. And if risky sexual behaviors is a constant for Black women, perhaps there needs to be more  talk why the  faith we cling so heavily too for our hopes and dreams, fades away when sex comes into the picture.  

Your thoughts?

Another Reason to Know Your Status #30in30

Whew, the first time I got tested for STDs. Almost 20 yrs ago and I was crazy  embarrassed as I  parked my car at the clinic.  I took a deep breath, shut the door, and walked in. I didn’t think I was at risk for anything, but I’d never been tested before so didn’t know what to expect.  I  made my appointment 45 minutes away from home so I could avoid running  into someone I knew.  The nurse walked in the room wearing a pale, yellow jacket, and her attitude was  straight nasty. Great. Safe to say Nurse Ratchet missed class when they taught good bedside manner. Once I got past her foolishness, I reminded myself  I was in a monogamous relationship (or so I thought), and that we always used protection-MY doing not his.  Still, I needed that proof I was clean. Nurse Ratchet looked over my chart and  glared at me like I was a heathen. I dropped my eyes away from her, embarrassed and wondering what she was thinking. I expected questions about my sex life but she jumped straight to the point. “Are you using protection?” Smiling, I said “yes”, proud that I was being responsible and making sure I avoided having babies without a man to take care of them. I wasn’t on birth control because my boyfriend thought it would be “bad for my body.” Anyway, Nurse  R. saw my response, rolled her buck eyes and frowned her nasty face up. Next thing I know, she spats,  “Well, make sure he’s not poking a hole in the bottom of the condom because these fools out here are trying to get girls pregnant. I’ve already had two women in here find out they’re pregnant who swear by using condoms!!!” I was horrified and held my fear until I got in the car.  On the way home, I  reminded myself I had a good man.  I also secretly wondered had he too been to this place for his test?What if he’s one of the fools she’s talking about? I got the results a week later, and was negative for everything. What a relief, right? My boyfriend and I were faithful and responsible.  Fast forward to us  falling out, taking a “break”, and getting back together months later to get a phone call from his “girlfriend”.  Wait, what?  I was his girlfriend, so what was this chick talking about? I was dizzy and  pissed because this was not to be my life. Okay? This was my introduction to the real reason people need to get tested for STD’s.  I had to wait six months before another set of tests (this was the 90’s) so imagine my anxiety this time. Turns out it was negative and how glad was I that I didn’t give into his BS about no condoms.

It’s nerve-wracking enough to get tested for STDs when it’s you and one man involved. But can we talk about the hook ups where protection isn’t even mentioned? I’ve watched Love and Hip Hop Atlanta this season (I admit it) and imagined enough swapping of body fluids to make my make my private parts itch. Joseline is bisexual, sleeping with Stevie J- a married man, who also sleeps with other women in addition to Joseline his jump-off and his wife. Did you get all that?  How many people have been exposed  in this situation? And while the distinguished psychologist  graced us with his presence to counsel  the three-way train wreck, I wonder why he never brought up that they are nasty (my words) for sharing a man who seems like he doesn’t care who he’s sexin’ as long as it’s some BODY?

The African-American community has the highest rates of HIV in the United States. Men and Women. For women it’s even worse. And if LAHHA is any indicator, clearly we know why. Nobody on the show talks about safe sex. Only that I’m getting cheated on.  In fact, I believe Josephine had a “slip up” thinking she was pregnant. I mean, even on ABC’s Afterschool Specials they talked about protection.  I don’t agree with sleeping with someone’s man. So I figure if you get down like that, your sexual health  probably isn’t the first priority on your list.

Unfortunately,  people still believe HIV is a “down-low disease”, but it’s really  “I don’t care about condoms and birth control right now because I like the feeling without it.” Wait until you can’t pee without screaming (said in my Nurse Ratchet voice).   The absence of addressing safe sex on reality shows is probably a case of art imitating life. We usually don’t take threats seriously until  we ar forced to. But why? Do we as women not value ourselves enough to demand that the men we sleep with protect our bodies? Or are we so desperate for the feeling of love that we don’t realize it’s only a temporary fix? Look at me, I mean, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t in a faithful relationship. That’s what I believed right up until the extra woman burst my bubble. By the way, he said it all happened while we were on a break. Yea, mmm “girlfriends” don’t happen on a break. Hook-ups? yes, but official titles and  rankings too? Chile Bye.

We have to do better. I don’t care if it’s the current preference or the thought we gotta take what we can get.   We line up for Jordan shoes like Jesus is giving discounts to Heaven and load up on Popeye’s on Tuesdays for the weekly specials.  So, please don’t tell me we don’t show up when things are  important to us. Part of it is, we don’t like to be told what to do. But I guess I’d deal with Nurse Ratchet’s face than have to look at my doctor while he tells me I’m going to have to take 9 pills a day for the rest of my life. Yes, medicine can cure some things, but if we set a new standard to stop the cycle of unnecessary high rates of STDs in our community, we won’t have to worry about that aspect of sex.  Consider this my PSA for safer sex and making sure you are his ONLY gal around town.