Wednesday, February 25, 2009

wise words

"Don't let people, problems, and the pain of your past: pause your present, punish your person, prison your potential, and paralyze your progress. I will begin by walking boldly into my future and will not allow others to hold me back." -Angela Davis

Saturday, February 21, 2009

finding my paper clip

Are you willing to remain on the lookout for ANYTHING, no matter how small, that might help you escape, survive, and thrive?

Are you willing to take some steps, even small ones, to escape unsatisfactory circumstances?

Are you willing to immediately reach for ANY opportunities that might come across your path?
My immediate response: Dayum, I think I may love this woman. Tell the truth and shame the devil. *waves around church fan* It actually hurts my heart that the Black community has devolved into this mess. And she is absolutely right.... a lot of these communities have turned into sun-down towns. There are certain sections of town that you would not catch me dead after 6 pm - and I know it's the same way all across America.

My parents live in a predominately Black middle-class community. I feel absolutely safe out there, but to admit this in public, or to admit that you feel safer in all-white middle class communities is interpreted as race-traitor-ism. Well, you know what? I'll be that. Some of my parents' friends made snide comments about me moving in an apartment on the "White" side of town and "why the hell did I move out there." I really wanted to ask them when is that last time that folks were shooting right outside her door? I just REFUSE to do it.

So to the question at hand - are we ready and willing? I am. I had to get broke down to realize that things had to be done differently. And right now I'm talking about my physical and mental health. It took me being unable to drag myself out of bed and wanting to hide from my family/friends to finally seek the help I needed to manage my depression. Therapy + medication saved my life. I'm not even exaggerating here.

I've only recently began to take to heart how my physical health has been suffering. I'm an emotional eater, my work is extremely stressful, as well as culturally-alienating being in white environments most of the time. While earning a Ph.D., I gained 50+ pounds that I couldn't stand to gain in the first place. I very well understand the "I cannot do all of that" because I was there for YEARS. But guess what? I'm getting up earlier in the morning and taking myself straight to the gym for a workout.

It took me realizing that work (and hell, sometimes family and "friends") will completely drive you into the ground if you let them. I will be the one having a heart attack at 40. Not them. And I decided that I couldn't, WOULDN'T do it.

AND MY GOODNESS, this excerpt spoke VOLUMES TO ME:

In terms of working AA women, I challenge anyone to tell me exactly how our collective quality of life is substantially different from that of our enslaved foremothers.

For most of us, there is never enough of what we need, let alone any abundance in our lives.

For most of us, there are no men protecting or providing for us and our children.

For most of us, there is no true fellowship. Instead there is plenty of misery that loves company.
I have felt this way more times than I can even begin to count. I'm constantly searching for paper clips. I gotta take care of me, first and foremost. Even if it's baby steps aka dragging my tired, broke down self to the gym and to the therapist when I don't feel like I have the energy.

this was really profound to me

I've only been lightweight reading and doing the exercises in a book I picked up several months ago. It's a book about dating, self-improvement, and finding the "one," but part of the work along the way is to DIG DEEP and face those parts of ourselves we rarely let see the light of day.

I thought this excerpt was so cold that I had to save and quote:

"Our woundedness is actually an opportunity for enlightenment - for truthfully, apart from a lifetime of victimization, there is really no other option. I always think of those of us who've been born into a deeply troubled situation to be like samarai warriors - the ones who are profoundly committed and dedicatde to evolving spiritually - because you almost can't not do that, with woundings as severe as the one you've just described. These difficult wounds call us to be the best that we can be, and often will serve as a catalyst for us to discover what it is that we have to offer others. In this way our wounding actually transforms into what we call our 'Sacred Wound' - because wherever you've suffered most is where you have the opportunity to contribute the greatest amount." - Katherine Woodward Thomas, "Calling in the One"

What is your Sacred Wound? I have a strong idea of what mine might be. It has everything to do with the psychology of emotional eating, weight, and body image that resonates within the Black female experience. Or at least this is what I figured as I dragged myself to the gym this morning.

wow - it's been over 1 year (part two)

After months and months of going back and forth, I finally kicked my male attachment to the curb. Yes, the dude I've been dealing with for the past 5 years. Our relationship has totally changed from where it started. I started feeling weighed down, leaned on for support when I needed support my-damn-self, and then once he started picking fights with me, I was done. I have no regrets about ending this either, even though he acts like he won't take no for an answer, and I'm halfway expecting him to just pop up at my door one day.

I "discovered" a new dude. Well, he's not really new. We've been in contact for almost 10 years now. I knew he liked me, but I never really gave him a chance. I was stuck on "he's not my type." Well, my mind was changed after a rather nice evening with him on a weekend trip out of town (I'll also talk more about this later). The timing is awful though... He's in an accelerated training program that condenses 2 years of education into 6 months for a promotion he received from his job. His days are spent working and studying. I'm busy (when I'm not stressed or overwhelmed) with this dissertation and applying for jobs in the current state of the economy. So right now we're in a holding pattern...

And I'm being really pragmatic about this. One of my major goals this year is to obtain the lifestyle that I want - outside of any professional pursuits. I'm invested in my career, but I can't have a life with a degree/job. I want to marry. I want a family. As far as I'm concerned, I'm "in training" for the life that I really want. What happens between us remains to be seen - whether he's really serious about dating or even sees marriage as a possibility - so I'm still keeping my eyes and options open.

Lastly, my depression is completely under control. Therapy + meds + change of location/situation does a lot toward furthering mental health, I've found. It was a major milestone that I didn't need to go to therapy every week, but rather every two weeks - and didn't cry through each and every last session.

I've gotten really serious about taking more control over my health. Professionally, I'm doing well, but it took me getting broken down to realize what's the use if I didn't have physical and emotional health. If you let it happen, you will be driven into an early grave by what other people want or expect out of you - be it work, family, or friends. Naw, I'm looking out for me. Making myself a priority, maybe for the first time in my life.

This includes keeping my depression in check. And eating healthfully/working out on a regular basis. I'm still on Week One of this campaign, but I'm gonna stick to it. "Making it" and "surviving" grad school entailed emotional/stress eating which afforded a 50+ pound weight gain that I couldn't afford in the first place. For a long time, I was stuck on the "life isn't fair" and beating myself up about it, but at this point, it's about me. Sure, someone else may have an easier go at managing their weight, but that's really beside the point. I can either do the work to make it better for me - or I can sit and pout about what someone else is/isn't doing. The latter is no longer an option for me.

wow - it's been over 1 year

I can hardly believe that it has been over a year since I updated this blog. My goodness how things may change in 365 days.

I no longer reside in Michigan. July 2008 I decided that I had had enough... Being so far away from my family, my support system, heck, even constant sunlight was wearing me thin (not physically, but we'll get to that point). It was like a spur of the moment decision, but I went into my advisor's office and point-blank announced, "I need to leave Michigan." She was like, "Now." And I said yes. I had decided that I was tired of waiting around for "someday in the future" for things to magically get better or to be content with my life - and I was living in quite a state of discontent the entire time I lived there. It was a good decision. And one I had to make alone. I don't know anyone else in my department who left the area for the same reasons as I did. And that, I decided, is perfectly fine. This is my life, after all. I can't live it for other people - or what they might think.

I'm still working towards my Ph.D. I don't think I had even started my dissertation when I was actively posting, but I'm due to stand before my committee and defend my proposal in less than 2 weeks. Notice I said defend my proposal; this does not mean I've completed the dissertation in any stretch of the imagination. I'm very pleased with my progress thus far. I had to do 10 revisions of a 6o+ page document to get thus far - and I'm still pressing forward. That's cause for celebration, in my opinion.

I have my own apartment and a dog. I don't remember how many times I've said to myself that the ONLY thing I wanted (in the very immediate future) was my own home and a pet. Well, against my parents' wishes, I now have both. I am also very happy with this decision.

I'm kinda in limbo right now. I have 4 more months of guaranteed funding. I applied for dissertation fellowships to give me an extra year of funding. No report back on whether I've gotten them or not (Well, not true - I did get a notice that I hadn't been chosen for one, even though my department nominated me for the award). I'm also applying for postdoctoral jobs - in the event that I get no additional funding and it is most prudent for me to go ahead and graduate. Again, no word on those either.

I'm working on remaining hopeful that things will work out in the best way possible.