Advice for When You Feel You Have Nothing to Offer the World

Lately, I’ve felt that I have little to nothing to offer the world. That there is nothing of substantive value that I can give and that I’m more of a burden to the world, friends, and family than anything else.

It is not a fun place to be in. I’m also a ruminator, which means once I get that in my head, I spend hours and sleepless nights coming up with thoughts to support that notion.

Have you ever been there?

I spent last night and the night before engulfed in nightmare after nightmare (some real horror shit too) in which I just failed person after person. I saved no one and in many cases caused their pain or demise. In one, I even ended up becoming one of the monsters after being unable to save them from an inevitable death, because I realized (the monsters reminded me), “you’re just one of us anyway” as they casually played video games.

I was definitely in a bad headspace. I went into work today, to meet 8 college students that will work in the department I direct, thinking I ultimately fail everyone, how can I ever provide them anything? I felt hopeless and empty.

I walked in ready to fake it, and my office manager tells me how much her teen daughter loved meeting me for a brief 15 min this weekend. She told me that she thought I was funny and beautiful and really cool.

And then the 8 pairs of eyes and my two professional staff eagerly awaited my opening remarks this morning. I made them laugh. The staff enjoyed the breakfast I brought in. The students warmed up to me. Slowly, the day became a little brighter and little more hopeful. I laughed. I didn’t fake a single thing. I was in my element even for a few hours today and it felt good.

I am not sure if this is the last time I will like I have no value, but even the thought that I could impact a young woman with a simple interaction or serve as a good leader to my staff helped me to find a little ray of sunshine today. The universe knew I knew I needed to feel valued and loved. The universe delivered. She hadn’t forgotten me. I rejoiced at knowing that.

If you feel sometimes that you have nothing to offer, I challenge you to look for small incidents that can affirm that you absolutely are where you should be. Don’t be afraid to relish in those moments a little longer on days you need it most. Forget what people say about pride or boastful ways – sometimes it is an act of absolute survival to really enjoy every single affirmation of circumstance and belonging, no matter how seemingly small they are. None of this is a coincidence; you are here for a reason, exactly where you are, as you are, as imperfect as you stand.

And maybe that reason is for a 14 year old girl to look up to you and think you’re cool. And as seemingly small as that is, it could be inspiring the next generation after all. You are part of something bigger than yourself and you were no accident. You’re not a burden. You have so much to offer and you offer it all the time. You are time and place imagined today, at this moment. Do not give up.

With love always.

Joy

She is a tower of strength

Her beauty coveted and unparalleled

Clothed in robes of gold,

and warming and welcoming in ways

we wish wearily for.

They call her Joy.

We spend our lives searching for her

in empty homes

Seeking to fill heartless holes

we call it happiness

But Joy evades us

Joy is a Black woman

(all things full of creation are)

basking in the beauty of beautiful rainshowers

smiling and singing

about the sun that succumbs to the necessary downpour

Daring to wet her coiled, kinky, cocky locks

by the tsunami of cleansing

that begets around her.

Joy is pancakes after sleepless nights –

The knowing that sustenance from the sweet syrup

sticks to your soul

and invites sleep on slow Sunday mornings

As rest is refreshing whenever it agrees with us.

Joy is running

Running forever

Barefooted

Broken

Beautiful

Backed with the strength of our ancestors

who softly whisper “freedom”

as you run zig zag through fields of familiar and forgotten wildflowers.

Joy is

Hard

Hell overcome

Hope mainfested

But mostly,

Joy is

the crossroad of acceptance and liberation.

 

I Love Myself…Now What?

“You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.”

First of all…this is absolute bullshit. Let’s just put that out there.

Oh yea, I’m in that kind of mood. You might as well strap yourself in and enjoy the ride because I honestly have no idea where this is headed.

Anywho, as I scrolled through Pinterest looking for quotes to summarize how I feel right now, I repeatedly came across some variation of the bullshit mentioned above. As someone who has spent a lot of time repairing herself after others have come in like a bull in a china shop, as someone who has tried every time to put those pieces back together into something soft, and beautiful and not jaded by the selfishness of this world, as someone who does in fact love them-self including their flaws and quirks and oddities and imperfections, as someone who knows the world is out to make her hard when she is meant to remain soft…as that person I CALL BULLSHIT ON YOUR LOVE YOURSELF QUOTE!!

Why? Because it’s simply not true. Every day people choose to love others who are broken and do not love themselves. Every day people choose to be in relationships with people who do not have it all together and do not love themselves. Every day babies are born, and have no idea what it means to exist let alone love yourself, yet anyone within an earshot or their cries has the natural inclination to love and protect and nurture that tiny human…who does not love them self. Ok. I know that’s extreme but hopefully you get my point. People who do not love them self receive love, in all forms, all the time.

I have decided that this is another one of those things that people say to single people when that person is being extra vulnerable and the other person doesn’t know what to say. They mean well, but it’s actually quite harmful. What you are saying is…you aren’t there yet, you aren’t ready, you don’t deserve it yet, you aren’t perfect. As someone who has been told they are perfect and amazing, yet still no one wants to actually be with them…it’s infuriating. So for the record, don’t call me perfect. I’m not. It will only make me want to throat punch you three times in a row.

So here’s the thing. I’ve done the work. I love me some me. Yea some days I annoy myself, I get on my nerves, I question myself and my worth, I feel broken, I feel stupid, I feel unworthy, some days I look in the mirror and see a goddess, some days I see a monster, but at the end of it all I love who I am, who I was, who I will be, where I am going, what I am doing, and the way I choose to be in this crazy world. I’ve got that part down. I love me despite it all…

So if I go off this crazy logic, it should be raining men right now!!! NOT! Alas, here I am, with no one to love. AND BEFORE YOU GO THERE yes, I have my daughter, I have my family, I have friends , I am beyond blessed…BUT WHY DOES THAT MEAN I CAN’T BE GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF THAT AND HAVE A MAN!

I seriously wish someone would cut the bullshit and just be honest and not try to spare my feelings. I wish someone would just be like look Ashley, here’s the issue, your awesome but your breath stinks, or sometimes you have psychotic breaks and turn into the devil and no one is actually telling you, or that super hard blink thing that you do it’s just to much. No one wants to deal with that. Whatever it is just let me know. But this “it’s not you it’s me”, “Jesus hasn’t sent the one yet,” “your just so amazing and it scares people”…all that that shit is for the birds.

I know this. I have an intense, burning desire to love and be loved. Some days it’s a little less intense because life chooses to dangle hope in my face like a carrot and I get tired of trying to reach it. I don’t know how many more times I have in me to try to bite that damn carrot. I’m sure I’ll keep trying though.

Choosing me is hard, every time, but I do it. I just hope one day someone else won’t find it so difficult. Hope, however, is a terribly painful thing to have.

Behavioral Patterns of a Cow

Disclaimer: I am writing this after getting a solid 15 minutes of sleep. I may feel differently when not sleep deprived, but since these thoughts are what kept me up, I’m not sure.

“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.”- Anonymous

Last night I laid awake, not in my own bed, tossing and turning while contemplating this saying. After what has become a pretty routine night of tv, cards, recapping the day, and genuinely great company, I could not fall asleep due to the realization that…I am a cow.

No, I am not beating myself up for my weight struggles. Yes, I have done that this weekend as I failed at what was supposed to be the easiest way to lose weight ever. This is not that post.

This post is a realization that it’s me, I am the problem. I have always been the problem.

Let’s be clear, I’m not out here acting crazy, keying dudes cars, calling girls phones, throwing fits and generally being a terrible person. Most men that I’ve dated have noted that I’m wonderful, amazing, and exactly what they should be looking for. Should being the key word. They aren’t, but they should be, and if they were, I would definitely be on the top of the list. Often times when they think they are looking for it, they pop back up. I’ve come to realize that even then they typically still aren’t. No matter how many chances you give them.

I can’t fault them for it. Everyone is entitled to their own level of readiness. Everyone is entitled to their own version of commitment. I’ve decided that the trick is finding someone who wants a version as similar as possible to the version you want. Until now, I didn’t realize how it important it was that they want that now and not later.

I am well aware of my dating history. I was there for all of it. I made all the decisions with a clear mind. I was not under the influence of any sort of drugs or alcohol. The only thing that clouded my judgment was the hope of love. For me, this is quite possibly more powerful than any drug.

And that’s the key to this whole thing. I have the tendency to dive head first into things, all for the chance of love. My entire life I was lead to believe that that was the way things go. You grow up. Along the way you meet someone. You vow to spend your life together. You have babies and you live happily ever after. Granted, I have done things out of order, but that doesn’t seem to stop other single moms from finding love. So I hold onto hope. And at a potential sign of possibility, I’m all in. It’s not healthy but it’s the way I am. The reality is, however, I’m 30, single and in yet another situationship.

Situationship: a situation that looks like a relationship but for one reason or another is not actually a relationship no matter how much you want it to be. Usually results in one person getting everything they want without much commitment and the other constantly questioning their self-worth.

I am always the other, and lately I’ve been struggling with the thought that it’s probably because I am the cow. I am giving away the milk for free. There is no need to buy.

What is the milk:

Someone who listens and genuinely cares, someone pretty to look at, laughter, entertainment, easy going, little to no drama, home cooked meals,tasty desserts, stability, maturity, consistency, friendship, acceptance, support, and sometimes, what people think of first when they hear that saying, sex.

To me, I am not giving these things away without thought. If someone is getting them it is because I can see it leading somewhere and I am choosing to share these things with them. As mature and consenting adults I figure that things can grow into something more. I have hope.

I am a hopeful cow.

What I’m coming to terms with today is that while all of that may be true, it still doesn’t mean that the other consenting adult has to have hope as well. At least not for this situationship. They are completely allowed to accept the milk with zero intention of buying the cow. It is my job as the cow to determine their intentions, listen when they tell me their intentions and decide if this is a situation I want to be in. I may be a cow but I am a free cow. I am not required to remain in any one pasture giving away milk if I don’t want to. I’m also not required to avoid a pasture just because it doesn’t look like the pasture that people in my life think it should be. I’m also allowed to change my mind about what pasture I am in or what type of pasture I want to be in, at any time.

Lately I have been a happy cow. I’ve gone on dates, I’ve had fun nights in, I’ve felt comfortable being myself, I’ve learned that it is possible to be broken by a narcissist and recover and not have all future relationships tainted as a result, I’ve felt safe, and stable, and secure. I’ve laughed and joked. I’ve had good sex. I’ve practiced listening to myself above all the noise of everyone else’s opinions.

I’ve also given away probably some of the greatest milk I’ve ever produced…for free. A conscious choice on my part. One that I have checked in with myself about regularly since making it. One that kept me up all last night.

I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what I’m expecting from writing this other than getting it out of my head. I don’t know if anything will change.

I know that there are things that I want in life. Being a lonely hopeful cow is not one of them. I want to be loved. I want to be in a committed relationship. I want someone to be proud and excited that they get to have all the milk, and the cow. I don’t want to forever give myself away for free. I want to be shown off. I want to be enough. I want to know what kind of hitler-esque asshole I was in a past life that seems to make these thing impossible. But most of all, right now, I want a nap.

100 First Dates Only to Realize You’re the Problem

I have admitted to being a first date queen, followed by a good second dater, but not really more. I have always thought I wanted a marriage and a good man. But after 100 first dates in my life (exaggeration, I surely have not had 100 first dates), I am not sure that I want nor necessarily deserve that.

I have met a guy a little over a week ago and on paper he seems to be what I want. I’ve been down this rabbit hole before, thinking it should be what I want, but then I’m not sure. And the few times this has happened, they have seemed very sure. And for me, surety after a week is a bit much for me. I know I run.

I easily feel suffocated. I’m learning I can be a selfish person, but recently a friend told me maybe it is ok, maybe I’m just human, and maybe sometimes you have to be. I think she’s right, but I also wonder if that makes me a good person for a relationship. Remember when I wrote that poem about the garden? A substantial piece of that was my need to be free and uncontained. I dont know if that is fair for another human, who has especially been socialized in the context of our society to have deal with. I also come with a lot of baggage too. While the thought of someone helping me to unpack it all is lovely, I have found many men to unknowingly, unintentionally, but still confidently judge the things in my bag. Or try to fix it all. I understand why. I think it is sweet. I do not like it. Yet it’s unfair to come to a place with this and not expect them to have opinions.

Giving up weekends and all my nights has never been appealing to me. I like to choose carefully with whom I spend my time and how. I need days to myself. I need freedom to pick up and go. Men have lots of expectations of children (I get it, babies are prized in our society), women’s place in their lives and behavior… and while I fit bits and pieces, I rarely fit that picture enough for me to feel comfortable in that either they’re settling and will eventually become unhappy as I open up more or that I am minimizing parts of myself to be more appealing. I understand compromise. But I will always be a f bomb dropping, not really wanting children, womanist, with a free spirit. I can improve my character, but these are part of who I am.

Another friend told me that this is just the product of being single too long. You have to learn to share your space and life again. Maybe. Yet I watch others able to navigate this. I fear that the real issue is that deep down I dont really want this or worse, I am not cut out for relationships. I know less than two weeks is too soon to be jumping to conclusions, but if someone else knows, shouldn’t you? I didn’t used to be this person. I used to fall fast and hard. And occasionally, when the chemistry is so strong I do (this has happened once in the past couple years, but I fear he was ambivalent as I am in this post).

So some may say – maybe this guy just isn’t the right match for you. But there is this gnawing fear that if I hang this up, I say no, I step away, that I will be saying to the universe, “please don’t send me anyone else.” That it isn’t that he isn’t right, but it’s me. And that I will be deciding then, I’m not cut out for this. Which may be the answer. But maybe I’m not ready to admit it.

I also think online dating adds this additional pressure. You meet someone and the objective is do we want to date or nah. I miss meeting people in real life and then building a connection and feeling that chemistry just serendipitously.

Lastly, I wonder if my heart has not been fully healed from love past. I wonder if someone is still holding onto my heart and my heart to theirs. I wonder if that is at play. Could be romantic, could be a familial or platonic wound. Trauma period is probably playing a role.

Until I figure it out, maybe just one more date.

The Cost of Moving So Much

Friendship is like a delicate, but favorite recipe. It requires time and effort, loving care, and to be present to make it turn out right. But it’s worth every effort, because it’s the sweetest, tastiest cake you’ve ever made (all my favorite recipes are cake). But without those things, it is difficult to make it come out right. And sacrificing that favorite recipe is one of the biggest costs to moving and following your heart and dreams.

I make no qualms that I am career and ambition driven. I have moved *gulp* 4 times in the past 6 years, all for career, none for heart. Each time it gets increasingly harder to make friends and maintain friendships. Things get lost on translation, I am confronted with more demons, other people in the past tribes get closer, you become a pleasant visitor to the party, but not a regular. You have a lot of friends, but no bridesmaids invitations nor a secret holder, because no matter how hard you try, moving and shaking has a cost each time. And each time the cost deepens.

You try really hard to hold on. You love them and they love you, but never knowing when you’ll return, and in some places, never returning, it changes. And what’s hard is that no one can quite grasp what that means unless they have been there too. So it may even seem to them, nothing has changed, but you feel it.

Today, I scurried quickly out of a banquet dinner for a bunch of first year students in a summer program, practically in tears. Because in five short weeks, you could feel the community they had built, and I felt like an intruder with no home. I haven’t had a full blown tribe or community in years – like I belonged. I am craving that. And that craving is oddly burdening existing friendships because I simply feel tolerated at times, but not included. And it’s rightfully so! Some of it is because of my own tendency to withdraw and become quite cold when I’m feeling misunderstood or outcasted. This is probably from being unmercifully bullied as a child and so spending a while searching for belonging as a young adult. I learned to shut off and shut down. Never let them see the real you (I totally identify with the queen in Frozen). Other parts of not being included is that you simply cannot be included. You dont exist in that time and space.

Many women can live without that tribe. I am not one of those women. I have learned this painfully the past year. While I struggle sometimes to understand why someone may want to spend a ton of time with me, I’m grateful for having women and men who have cherished me as part of their group. Who have welcomed me. I don’t need a large group (actually prefer it to be smaller), but I need it. And I need it close to me. I need to feel included.

Lately, I feel more of a burden than anything to my friends. I also think having a group allows for shared connection among one another where you don’t feel you need to hide or go silent. It also gives you multiple reality checks that I think is helpful. I am optimistic that it can be developed again. I’ve developed it a couple times in my life, and hopefully, in my older age now, I haven’t become so far gone as to not be able to create it again. I’m rusty, sure. But I hope I can find that community, rather than feeling like a stranger in my life.

Moving and change is wonderful. But everything comes at a cost. I’m hoping to buy back some of this one.