I have become that person…but how?

I spent a lot of time with friends yesterday. A group of friends for brunch and then another friend stopped by to chat for a bit. That’s what adults do right? Eat brunch and chat? How did I get here?

Those two conversations were filled with lots of catching up and discussion of future plans as most conversations are. I’ve had similar conversations with all of these people multiple times because while I love them all dearly and am super close to them all I don’t see them frequently because of life and adulting. And that’s fine. We all are doing it and no one gets mad about it. I appreciate that about my friends.

At some point during both conversations though I realized, I have become that person. What person you ask? Well if your just a little patient I’ll tell!

In discussing some of my personal goals, the usual, weight loss, saving money, moving out (yep…I’m 30 years old and still live with my parents. That’s a blog for another day) came up. I’ve recently started to pick up on peoples responses to my saying I’m going to do these things. Let’s just say they aren’t good. Sometimes it’s met with laughter (thanks Dad), sometimes it’s met with harsh reminders (I thought you were on a diet) that only really serve to annoy me and trigger my stubbornness (thanks Mom), most times it’s met with slight side eye, sighs of “that’s great” with the undertone of “we’ve had this conversation plenty of times but yet here you still are” and encouragement with a hint of “there’s really no reason why you haven’t already done this you’re just lazy/content and used to this lifestyle” (thanks friends, family, coworkers, strangers). And I admit, since these are areas I am not happy with in my life, I probably read more into people’s slight shifts in tone, side eyes, eye rolls, and comments than they actually mean. And I put some of the stuff I’ve been already thinking into their comments too.

But, the realization that I have become that person, officially hit me after brunch, when my friend Michael stopped by and I told him my plan to move out and then my thoughts about potential life style changes for health purposes and both comments got a sarcastic slow clap with a “we’ll see.” A lot of people would be pissed at Michael for this response. I, however, have known Michael for going on 20 years (how did we get so old) and while he may be a self proclaimed ass hole, his intentions (towards me at least) are never to hurt or harm. We could all use a level headed, blunt, call it what it is friend…even if it bruises our ego a bit because on the flip side, Michael has always celebrated any of my successes with the fierceness of a loving brother.

So, what have my friends responses for several weeks/months/years and at brunch and Michael’s slow clap helped me to realize…I have become that person. Dear God lady what person?!?! I’ve become the person that no one actually takes serious when they set goals. The person that sets these goals and is super excited about them but somewhere down the line, and usually very quickly, falls off. It would not surprise me if my family secretly takes bets on how long I will keep up any dieting or healthy living practices. And I know for certain they do not believe me or even entertain my talks about moving out anymore. It’s as if everyone is just waiting to see if it happens but no one is holding their breath because they know the possibility of them dying in the process is high.

But how did I get here?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been a highly goal oriented person. I’ve always felt like most people have known since they were 6 what they wanted to do with their life. I literally decided I wanted to be a counselor one day while on campus my senior year of undergrad talking to a friend. I had about 3 months to get my application turned in take the necessary tests to apply. Then in grad school I felt everyone knew what population they wanted to work with. I have stumbled through the last five years finally finding a population that I absolutely love but even then had to step away from in order to be effective and not lose my own mind. Once a month, usually right before I start my period when I feel bloated and disgusting I go to bed and say “ok this is it. I’m going to get my life together.” Then I start my period, refuse to do anything that week because life is hard enough when your vagina is dying so I have all intentions of doing something when it’s over. My period ends, the bloating goes away, and while my body is far from perfect I usually catch a glimpse in the mirror before I shower one day and say “you know what, you good Ashley! If someone can’t love all of this then they don’t deserve you” and the cycle begins again. I can justify a lot of things and I ultimately refuse to shame myself for being human and doing things that humans need to do like eat, and rest, and enjoy life so as not to go crazy…but then I can justify doing these to excess which is where the problem begins.

It’s almost as if that slow clap Michael did made me connect all the dots and realize that while he’s the only person who did it outright, everyone else is probably doing it in their mind. My response to him was something along the lines of “don’t doubt me” to which he responded with something far less enlightening but similar too “I don’t doubt you can do it. I’m just waiting for it to happen.”

I know a few things about myself. One of which is that I can be really stubborn and strong willed and there is a certain level and type of negativity that I use as a driving force. It’s what caused me to give birth without an epidural, because everyone said I wouldn’t. It’s what caused me to go to college and grad school and find a career that I love, because I was afraid of becoming a teen mom statistic or being what I knew people were betting I would be…a failure.

But sometimes that backfires. And there is a moment where those negative comments become my way of fighting the system and my stubbornness becomes “oh I’ll show you that I absolutely do not have to do these things.” That’s usually surrounds any negative responses to my weight gain/loss or my still living at home.

So yes, I have become that person. I’m aware. I apologize to the people who are sick of hearing me talk about these things without seeing any action. I thank you for loving me all the same and not giving up. I’ve decided to make no promises and to also stop talking about it. Thank you Michael for that slow clap and gentle chuckle of supportive pessimism.

We shall see what happens!!

I Want to be With you Shooting in the Gym

Let’s get one thing out of the way, I can’t play basketball. So if you take that title seriously, you will be really disappointed when we actually go to the gym or basketball court and I suck. But I’ll go. We just won’t actually be playing. Anywho!

Let’s start here though. If someone, anyone, a fairy godmother or Jesus himself, had told me at any point in my life that I would one day be 30, single, and living with my parents I would have laughed hysterically in their face!! I don’t know anyone who grows up thinking yes, that’s the life I want. One of perpetual singleness and no one to share life’s highs and lows with. I feel like we are fed, from a very young age, wether it’s by Disney movies, our parents, friends, family, television, music, I don’t know, but the plan that is always handed out is, grow up, find a job, get a partner, get married, live happily ever after. Heck, even the old board game “Life” had a check point where you got married. You had to. There was no option to say “nah. I’ll pass. I’ll do this thing alone.” So clearly this was how things were supposed to go. At some point in time, somehow, somewhere, I was just supposed to be handed a husband and we would do this thing together.

Not.

And clearly I have done some things a little non traditional. I have a daughter. She’s amazing. I would not change the time that I had her for anything in the world. Even a husband. We are a package deal if anyone ever does show up. I may have made myself undateable by some men’s standards due to my education, my career, or my salary. Those men are clearly not for me. I don’t know. Whatever I’ve done to contribute to my perpetual singledom, I’ve done a tremendous job.

But still. I don’t think it’s just me. In my adventures into the land of dating I have come across this phenomenon at an alarming consistency. There are a group of people out there (my experience has only been with men but I imagine women are saying the same thing) that want to be 100% put together before they get into a serious committed relationship. They want to be settled in their career, financially stable, own a home and three cars, their own business and this whole list of other things, before they can consider adding a partner to that mix.

And here’s the thing. It makes sense, on paper. It looks good, in theory. But in reality not so much. It makes sense that you would need to be completely consumed by your work and career to get to that place and that a relationship may distract you. But the thing is. These people are still out there dating and running into unsuspecting women like me who want to do both. Who want to build this life but do it with someone. Not alone.

I am blessed in that my parents are still together. And today, they are pretty well off. Not wealthy by any means but the struggle is definitely over. My dad likes to leave his pay stubs laying around so that I “accidentally” see what he brings home every two weeks. Clearly I have chosen the wrong path in life! And my mom can channel her inner Ebenezer Scrooge and save some money pennies like a pro.

But it has not always been that way. They often tell me stories of supporting a family of 4 off of an $800 a month military salary. Buying a large pack of chicken and making it last a week. Eating out three times a year and one time going out with friends and ordering the cheapest thing they could find because they didn’t know how they were going to pay for it. My sister used to go with my dad to the car wash and go around picking up change off the ground so that she could get a piece of candy and he could get a drink at the gas station when they were done. The struggle was real people!!! But here’s the thing, as a young child during those days…you couldn’t tell me we weren’t living the good life! I was very much aware that the bouncy horse in my room came from the dumpster (which is part of the reason why I don’t understand all this hype about people being sad Toy-R-Us is closing. What is that place? It’s actually real?!?) I thought this was amazing. My toy box was a large moving box. But it was awesome because me and my sister could fit in it and have enough room to play with the toys. The struggle was real but life was good because we had each other. Now I know that’s a very glossed over version of the actual story but you get the point.

My parents relationship is by no means perfect. I have witnessed them fuss and fight and struggle first hand. But I’m truly convinced that it is in the struggle and the fight and working TOGETHER that builds the strength for a marriage, a relationship, a family to last.

So I fully get when drake said “You wasn’t with me shooting in the gym,” and when people reference this as a way to say don’t expect to live off my success if you weren’t there to help me build it. My question is, why are so many people afraid to even allow someone in the gym with them to shoot in the first place?

I think we create a very weird and fragile situation when we wait to be “perfect” or “good” before looking for a partner, because then at the slightest sign of trouble we are ready to let it all go because we don’t want them to mess up everything we’ve built. Because it’s all mine. Not there’s. Not ours. They didn’t help. They weren’t here in the beginning so I’m not going to allow them to benefit from or destroy the ending. And to me it just sounds lonely.

So again, here I sit, several months into the dreaded 30. It’s not been so bad. I got a new job. A pay raise. But I’m just seriously confused and frustrated by the fact that I am actually contemplating stepping out on my own, saving to a buy a home, having a solid career, being a decent woman with some pretty useful skills, and having all this love and support to give but no one wants it. I would not have believed anyone if they told me this 10 years, 5 years, even a year ago but alas here I am.

To all the men I’ve come across with this mentality, I hope it works out and I wish you the best. To the few people out there who may not have this mentality, if we cross paths, and it goes well and maybe it works out… let me in coach! I’m ready to play…but again… I suck at actual basketball so please be sure you fully understand this entire metaphor!

Just “Regular” Black

Often, the first things people notice about me are my  face full of freckles (that seem to take over my body the older I get) and my greenish eyes. It’s particularly jarring an noticeable to people because I’m just “regular” Black. 100% Black, nothing else and 100% proud.

Growing up, people constantly asked me “what was I?” Or complimented me on how I looked like a “white woman” or at the very least mixed. As I got older, redbone was the compliment of choice by men, who were always fascinated by my “exoticism” and wanted to know if my mother or father was white. Family members also often told me that I looked mixed, if only my hair was a silkier (My hair is the give away. In its natural state, it is a beautiful kinky, jet black, ball of wool – nothing European about it.). And as I got into weaves and wigs, this was even further solidified. I grew up thinking being Black wasn’t good enough, that it was a good thing to be lighter skinned, asked “what are you?” and to be mistaken as only half negro. Although I didn’t necessarily see it as better to me, I realized that it was compliment in the world I grew up in. And so I allowed it to happen, smiling sheepishly as I responded (gross).

After constantly being asked this question though, I began to get annoyed, quickly. I became confused every time someone’s face fell when they learned I was just “regular” Black. As I learned more about paper bag tests, and doll experiments, and well, colorism in general, I grew angry. When I realized my fellow sister friends with beautiful skin were often disregarded, felt inferior, and men trashed them, I was disgusted. And when my own siblings told me about hatred for their  darker skin and wishing they had mine, I felt incredibly sad and heartbroken. And then I realized that in a very complicated world of color and race, in some ways, I have privilege. And in other ways, I’m very much the victim of racism. And that either way, I had to shift my thinking and what I allowed others to say or do around me.

And so began my bitchy remarks to those who questioned my ethnicity. “I’m Black mixed with Black,” I replied before it was a popular t-shirt. “Redbone isn’t a compliment to me, and I’m actually offended that you would insult my fellow sisters like that,”  I replied every single time a man would send me a message complimenting me on my light skin and how he prefers that.  I try my best to affirm others about their beauty and advocating when I can for others when I can. I intentionally use a rainbow of shades in my presentations. I remind people that being multiracial is wonderful, but simply being Black is wonderful too.  Most importantly for my own self, I will not accept any compliment that is about how exotic or “other” someone finds me.

I’ve also learned that my skin color comes with down sides too. Many people think I’m a “safer” type of Black, and are surprised and annoyed that I’m afrocentric and speak about racism often. Men expect me to be a little less opinionated. I’m “pretty for a Black girl” in some white spaces. I’m sometimes stereotyped as stuck up, not down, or self-centered. I work hard to disprove these things, but I try to not get caught up in that, because I know for every time those annoyances happen, a darker skinned woman is denied a job, a relationship (you don’t need him or her though honey, you too good for that), stereotyped,  “pretty for a dark skinned woman” or humiliated. I’m so sorry you go through that. I’m so sorry if I have ever been part of that problem. Please know that I stand by your side and am an ally today.

I cannot change the color of my skin or eyes. I love my freckles.  However, what I can do is claim my Blackness, never back down or allow slick shit  people say to slide, and be an active participant in dismantling colorism in our community.

So to answer your question,  I’m 100% Black queen goddess mixed with Black strength. That’s it. Just you know, “regular” Black.

It’s a Date!

Warning: I have never once claimed that my personal brand of crazy is rational.

Today I did something I have been avoiding for my entire adult life. I took myself to eat, alone, at Olive Garden. Now, I know that sounds silly and it’s just Olive Garden, but for some reason the idea of doing this very thing has been scary and caused my tons of anxiety just thinking about it. I’ve tried to figure out why. And the most logical thing that I can come up with is that for some reason, the idea of taking myself out to eat at a sit down restaurant, pretty much solidified my perpetual singlehood. Again. Not logical. I don’t think this for other people when I see them out to eat alone or my friends when they do it. I actually envy them. But for me, somehow, taking myself out to eat at a fancy restaurant (lol yes Olive Garden is still fancy to me) just somehow meant I had officially accepted my singleness and was the first step to many a single restaurant date. If you are judging me right now please go read the warning again.

So, I went to Olive Garden…and I didn’t die. I don’t know yet if I really enjoyed it but I’m sure I’ll do it again. As I sat there, I thought that the couple on the other side of the room would be what made me most sad but I didn’t really pay them much mind. What did make me a little nostalgic was the table full of old ladies next to me gushing over their one friend’s new hair cut. It reminded me of my friends. It reminded me of Leanna and I’s many cathartic lunch dates at Olive Garden. It made me miss my friends more than it made me yearn for a partner to go to eat with. Though that would still be great.

Prior to all of this I started thinking up a list of potential date ideas. As a single 30 year old woman, I can count of both hands and maybe require the assistance of one set of toes, the number of dates I’ve been on. If I don’t count random meetings at Walmart or parking lots, then I don’t need the toes. So needless to say I’ve had quite some time to think up some really awesome date ideas. Or at least I think they’re awesome.

So here goes:

Dinner and a movie! Duh. The classics are a must. I’m not picky at all. Feed me and take me to a movie and I’m a happy lady. A few variations… movie and then dinner!! Lol just kidding. But there are those fancy theaters uptown where you can eat real food at the movies. Or a double feature where each person picks a movie. Or show up at the movies at a random time and watch the next thing showing.

Book store date. I love reading. If you can suggest a good book you’ll have a piece of my heart. So we go to the bookstore. You pick out a book for me. I pick out one for you. Then we find a nice cozy spot somewhere around town to read. Or we get the same book and read and discuss. This I semi did once but the guy was cheap and ordered his book online and before it arrived we had stopped talking. I still read the book. It was great.

Netflix binge. This is maybe after we’ve been dating for a while. But a good Netflix binge is always nice on a rainy day. And depending on how long we’ve been dating and how serious it is it can totally be an official Netflix and Chill.

A museum. I hear Charlotte has tons of museums. I’ve only ever been to the Museum of the New South. That was once in middle school and twice in high school for prom. So those two don’t count. So let’s go see some cool museum stuff!

Trampoline park. Disclaimer. I like these places but am super out of shape so I can only bounce for like 5 minutes at a time.

Charlotte is always having some sort of festival. Let’s go! Bonus points if it’s a festival about something neither of us knows anything about (or the renaissance festival).

Anywhere but Charlotte! Again, maybe for later on after I’m certain you aren’t a serial killer. But road trips are cool. And it can totally be a random day trip just to try some fancy ice cream in a random town. Let’s just go!

One of those paint classes. Or that pottery painting place. Arts and crafts are fun even if you suck at them. The paint class doesn’t even have to be a couples one because what are we each going to do with half a painting. And if we go at night we can bring wine! Same for this pottery painting place I know of.

Clearly this is not an exhaustive list. There are a million other things that could be done. The most important part is who you’re with and the time spent together. Which has me thinking? Why am I waiting around for someone else to take me on a date and to do these things. Like I said. The most important part is who you’re with, that can be a partner, friends, family or yourself and the time spent together. As long as your having fun and getting to know whoever you are with…IT’S A DATE!!!

So, what are your favorite date ideas?!?!

Update:

I forgot

A comedy show. Doesn’t have to be Katt Williams (but if it was that would be awesome) even a local amateur night could be fun.

A concert. Someone huge or someone just up and coming. There’s always a concert going on. Fun story. A guy once stopped talking to me because I told him that if we went to the Drake concert I would be excited but wouldn’t be like screaming with my hands in the air the whole time. He said that if I wasn’t going to have fun then he wasn’t taking me. He struggled to understand everyone doesn’t show they are having fun the same way. I’ve dated some gems really.

I’m Tired of Myself Not Showing Up and Out for Myself

A few days ago I posted a pic of me in a pink jumpsuit and everyone was kind enough to give me compliments about it out the wazoo. I almost didn’t post it, because I thought I looked ugly and fat. Last week, I posted a post about how my spiritual journey is not what most people expect and my beliefs don’t align with majority of the people I know. I almost didn’t post it because I was fearful of rejection. I am making some major life changes and am doubtful at every turn and tell little people about it because I’m afraid I look stupid or flakey. I set boundaries that are healthy for me and then feel immensely guilty because people don’t agree. I don’t want children because it isn’t for me, but feel constant pressure to explain why, and so I never talk about it, missing out on opportunities to inspire others because I’m worried about others opinions or being seen as less desirable as a romantic partner.

I could go on and on with examples like these. But what I really want, is to never have another example like this in my life. I am beyond done with not showing up and showing out for my own damn life and living it on my terms. My whole job as a therapist is centered around telling others to show up for themselves, why the hell do I not do this for me? I am tired of being bound by shit that has no positive or fulfilling purpose in my life.

My body image has held me back for years. I don’t pursue the men I want, I sometimes don’t wear the clothes I want, I avoid pictures, and I have spent too many days crying over fat rolls, doing only certain exercises to decrease fat, apologizing when I eat a donut, ans comparing myself to beautiful women. Today, I declare myself beautiful, with fat rolls, and worthy. Fuck your beauty standards I’ve internalized. I can be active and overweight and healthy and eat donuts.

I’m tired of playing small in every aspect. I will assert my truth, I will not stop talking about Black things, I will not stop talking about equity, I will not stop when you are uncomfortable, call me an angry Black woman, tell me to be sweeter. I will not stop sharing my ideas. It’s not me to be quiet or small. It’s not my soul. It kills me when I do it. I will not commit soul genocide anymore.

I’m tired of settling. I will go for jobs in my career that invigorate me, challenge me, and call me to step into the leadership position that I am called to be. I won’t be anyone’s entry level anything anymore. I will walk in my strengths humbly, but not self deprecatingly.

I will not settle with men. I deserve what I want. My body will not be used for pleasure unless I say so, and I will not settle for a man that does nothing less than challenges me to be better, loves and cares for me, can hold his own, and also is what I want. No more nice guys with potential, and certainly no more fuck boys here to waste my time. No more half committed, empty words, me chasing you, you being too cool. Stand beside me, be ready to commit, or get to walking. Also, this isn’t only your descision; I actively get to choose. I’d certainly rather be alone than to deal with any BS.

Listen. I’m ready to show up and show out for myself. I am tired of playing it safely and diminishing my light. I am soft and fierce and courageous and change maker and I no longer have a choice but to live up to this. And I’m excited AF.

So please know, I am showing up for myself in a big way and I hope you join me. But if it makes you uncomfortable, IDGAF.

Black, Southern, and Increasingly More Agnostic

Much of my self has been transforming and growing, and let me tell you, this shit has not been easy or lovely. It’s been downright hard. In this journey, lately, I’m finding myself in a very strange predicament – a Black, southern woman, who has become increasingly agnostic at exponential rates.

In other words, most people I grew up with, associate with, or are family probably thinks I’m going to burn in eternal flames.

hell

Being Black and Southern is to Christianity, as peanut butter and jelly is to sandwich, it seemed to me growing up. It just is and there was no other way to be. You went to church each Sunday, sometimes Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. You didn’t deny it, you didn’t question it, you didn’t do ANYTHING, really, it just happened to you. And poof, this is who you are.

tada

Religion serves as a grounding place for humans. It is a key component of a civilized society. We need it. It brings meaning, faith, and understanding to many of us. It helps us explain things that have no explanation and keeps us morally accountable. It is deeply spiritual for many of us and we are moved by it in ways that are not easy or meant to comprehend. I don’t look down on those who are deeply religious; I think each person’s faith contributes heavily to the person’s identity, and at its best, religion, is a source of love and connectedness.

buddha1

But it isn’t something I resonate much with anymore. I am not sure when I first decided that Christianity was not for me, and when that developed into most religions not being for me, but I do remember when I was first exposed to the idea that perhaps my God, wasn’t the only God. I was in 7th grade and we will call him Mr. M, a red headed, tall, man, charged with teaching a bunch of unruly middle schoolers about history. He chose to teach us the history of religions and my world was rocked. I could not understand how millions, billions of people were going to hell because they did not have faith the same way I did, and how a loving God could allow that. Of course my church hushed me, my community reinforcing that these were not the ways of God, and my developing mind did not know what to do with that.

I was again exposed to different religions in my junior year of high school. I was selected to attend a selective summer leadership camp. I still remember one of my favorite activities was called Vespers, and during Vespers, different people from different faiths came to speak to us. This was the first time Muslims, Jewish people, atheists, Quakers, Hindus, etc. were actually humanized for me. I saw people, good people that I liked and admired and thought were smart and most of all, not hell worthy, in front of me. I was again confused that these people could go to hell. I was exposed to people who did not believe people went to hell or in redemption through a savior. I was also first exposed to antisemitism and Islamophobia, by teens, who yelled at the people, asked very insulting questions like “but aren’t you going to hell?” and I was astonished. My mind couldn’t totally wrap its head around what was going on, but I knew it was wrong, very wrong.

In college, I started my journey at a small liberal arts college, Queens University of Charlotte. I loved this university primarily because of the authenticity of my professors. Looking back now, this was very rare, the way they challenged us to think more deeply about social justice issues, build empathy, expose us to life different than ours, and push us to really take charge of our own growth in these areas. Everyone may not have been convinced or reached, but I was primed and ready to receive it, and that education opened my mind even more broadly. I learned about the origins of Christianity and other religions, I went to services from other backgrounds, I learned that gay people, were in fact, not dirty or shameful, and that neither was my black skin, or “ghetto” high school. I also learned that there were plenty of people who did not believe any of that was true, and it was an important to be an advocate for the voiceless. I was growing and at the same time outgrowing many things. And Christianity, particularly the judgmental, often hypocritical, and overly damning, version I’d be exposed to, was not fitting me well at all.

These are my earliest pivotal memories that began to sway my mind, but there were many other small memories. I have always been curious, quirky, and questioning. I would follow my mother around for hours and say “why” and I think that this is one of my gifts. I also don’t think a god I serve would make a mistake and so this must be who I am meant to be.

I also have a penchant for shame. I am easily shamed and my early exposures to religion as a girl were filled with shameful moments. From watching a young woman walk down the aisle while a preacher showed that see, women, can detour men from their purpose with their simple walk, from shaming for not complete forgiveness and embracing of a perpetrator, from hearing the shame from a man who declared he still had feelings for men, but is just doesn’t date at all because he will burn in hell, from shaming about not enough money for the collection plate, from shaming that as a woman, in some way, I was the origin of damnation, from my curious mind being seen as a curse, one that goes against god, Christianity for me was a very shaming world. The promise being that if could figure out how to be “good” I could have eternal life. This never made much sense to me, but I was afraid of god’s wrath and so I never questioned it, until much later, and even now, it is scary to do.

I recently read “On Healing Black Girl Pain,” a story about a woman’s career, family, love, and spiritual journey. She talks a lot about Christianity in the Black church and she hit every one of my thoughts. Our stories were actually very similar in MANY ways, but i’m focusing on the religion part here. She talked about the role of Christianity in the US with slavery, the way it has been both damning and redeeming for us as Black people, the hatred espoused by some in name of Christianity (which I don’t think necessarily is what Christianity is) and her complicated appreciation of it – from afar. I agreed on just about every point she made. She helped me find the voice to write this initial post. She gave me permission to explore spirituality in other ways.

Lately, I’ve been looking at Buddhism, Unitarian practices (which feel really good to me), humanistic approaches to spirituality, and other religions in order to understand and inform who I am. It feels good, overdue, and is an important of my journey. But it is scary and something that I have never known and have no road map to follow. And of course there is always the voice that what if you’re all wrong and are going to burn in flames? And I don’t have an answer for that at all.

One of the scariest parts of exploring agnosticism and broadening my spiritual understanding of myself is other Black people and southern people, and especially the combination. The Black community is deeply rooted in traditions of faith and for good reasons. I am deeply rooted in the Black community, and so this piece of difference makes me feel very afraid of being ostracized, talked about, looked down upon and misunderstood, while you all pray for my damned soul, with mutterings of “Bless her heart.”

bless

But this is my truth.

I’m not really sure how to relate to people in this area. I grew up in the church just as much as any of my Black friends, and I love the community and understanding of this very complex system of the Black church. It feels like going home, but home after you’ve been away for a very long time and you’ve changed a lot, and no one else quite understands the new you. So familiar, but isolating at the same time. And there are not many Black agnostic people I know, none that are very open anyway or that aren’t hardcore anti organized religion, which isn’t quite where I am either. I have a deep respect for all religions and people who practice them, I’m just not sure what or if any of them are for me. If you’re reading this, I ask for patience and empathy, or at least understanding, that this isn’t an easy post to write or divulge about myself. And I haven’t arrived here lightly or without much thought. I’d love to share my spiritual journey with you all ongoing, but am also very afraid of being judged because it will likely not end in a traditional or familiar view of Christianity.

I don’t know where I will land. I just know I believe in a god, the connectedness of the universe, and faith, love, and courage. I believe kindness and empathy reign supreme, and what is encouraging to me, is that when we peel back the layers of any religion or spiritual practice without dogma and egos, that seems to be a common thread. And so, I feel these values puts on the right path. Except in instances of when religion is used to perpetuate hate, discrimination, and oppression

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You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

So at first glance that statement is often confusing to me. Why not? It’s my cake! I should be able to eat it! A quick Wikipedia search though clarified it more for me and it makes sense. In essence you can’t have/retain/keep your cake but at the same time eat it because then it will be gone. You can’t do both. Either you want to look at the cake, have it in a dish for all to admire but never actually experience it. Or you want to devour it, consume it and have it be a part of you forever. An extra inch on your waist or dimple in your thigh. However, you just can’t do both.

Anyone else want cake now?

So, prior to my search for clarification, I came up with a better metaphor that fits what I want to say. And yes, this post is about relationships (or lack there of) because what else do I have to write about.

So, I fancy myself a semi-decent amateur baker. I always say whenever I get fully burnt out from counseling and quit a job in a fit of rage and decide to do something different with my life, I’ll open up a quaint little bakery called “Anything but Coffee” where I’ll just wake up every day, bake whatever I feel like it, so you could essentially get anything…but coffee because coffee is gross.

(One time I made peanut butter chocolate spread for a co-worker and the dream started)

So, while you definitely can’t have your cake and eat it too you know what else you can’t do? Expect to constantly get cake without contributing to the process! Baking is expensive! Eggs, flour, milk, good vanilla, spices, pans, electricity. That shits not cheap! And it takes time. I spent three evenings this week baking until 11 or 12 at night as a way to say thank you to my co-workers as I was leaving the job. I did it because I wanted to. And my payment back was the many thank you’s, some jokes of it not tasting good, the euphoric faces as people tasted it and apparently almost sending someone to the hospital over some double chocolate brownies. When I bake out of love there’s not enough money in the world someone can pay me to do it.

But we aren’t talking about actually baking! We’re talking about relationships.

I’ve learned a few things about myself over the last year.

1. Had I learned these things a long time ago life may have been easier in the relationship or lack there of department

2. I can’t beat myself for not learning it sooner

3. Change is hard

4. When I love, I love hard. Whole heartedly, unashamed, no questions. I’m just like a fountain over flowing with love for this other person.

Things I’ve learned about other people

1. Most people find that very overwhelming and if it’s not what they are looking for they will run for the hills every time.

Back to me:

5. I do this when I just like someone too.

I have sat around thinking for countless hours, why it is that I can go from not knowing someone to head over heels crushing on them with little to no information about them. “Oh you’re paying me some attention…awesome” and my brain automatically starts planning out insane details about the time we will spend together.

I wish I knew who or what to blame. My dads always been there for me so I can’t blame not having a male role model in my life. Sometimes I want to blame Disney movies but even those stupid princesses put up a fight. But here I am, not so patiently waiting for someone to show up and want to receive all this love I’m about to spontaneously combust from holding in.

And I don’t think it’s inherently a bad thing. Wanting to love someone unconditionally and completely is not a flaw (though people will make you feel that way and then you will make yourself feel that way). I have realized my trouble comes in that I’m just ready to give it to anyone who shows up. And without fail, they don’t want it an I end up hurt.

But more specific to that here’s what usually happens.

They show up. I get excited. I’m ready to be all in. They can sense this and back out…BUT…they don’t actually back out. They want the option. They somewhere deep down know “one day, this is what I’ll want. Not today. But one day I should and therefore let me see what I can do to keep her around until that day.”

Here is a short incomplete list of ways this typically happens:

Hey stranger text

Just checking in text

Can we still be friends

The Fuckboy Backout (see my fellow bloggers post for reference if you are unaware of what this is)

Let’s just take it day by day

And my personal favorite (insert sarcasm there): begging for a chance to make things right once I finally walk away and they realize what they’ve lost but still having no intention of doing anything different.

So basically, they want the cake, but they have absolutely zero intention of contributing to the cake making process. They appreciate that I show up with a whole damn cake ready for them to devour but have no intention of helping me make another one. Then their like “wait…that was the best cake I’ve ever had. Why isn’t there anymore… you just gonna leave and not give me anymore cake.” Yes. Yes I am because you took what I had and forgot to bring me more groceries to make another!

I can be a limitless supply of cake. And a lot of the ingredients just come naturally. But some have to be contributed. Or maybe I just need an oven to bake it in. Idk. I may need to think the metaphor through some more. But you get the point. And before you even start. Yes. I can be both the baker, the ingredients, the supplies and the oven. How do you think the new cake that the new man gets is made. Self-esteem, self-love and putting the pieces back together after the last idiot ate the cake and ran without paying the bill!

So moving forward, my goal is to not so easily offer up the cake. Pay attention to whose just eating the cake and running away and who is actually trying to invest in the cake making process. Everyone does not deserve my cake.

And if you don’t know already…ask about me…I bake a mean cake (and cookies, and cheesecake).