Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Rode to Happiness

In talking with one of my friends last night, she mentioned my focus on my happiness and self-care. All I know, I will not repeat the past and I have to have the courage to deal with and heal from my own darkness. Nothing or no one will stop this process. I deserve the beauty of my Spirit to shine and for life to embrace me like a mother's hug.
I sincerely move in a philosophy that freedom is mine and that I must be fearless.  I will never overcome my past in I'm living currently with fear and bitterness.  I must apply my beliefs, my speak, my talk to my own life. Truth to power, truth to movement, and truth to happiness is the way. Its never about perfection but a love of self that is unmoved even when challenged. I give myself permission to be happy.

When I decided that my life will be different and I will be happy, I developed what I call my "freedom plan".  I had to have action steps to regain my happiness. 

  • I'm honest. I was/am honest with myself even if its not in a positive light.  We cannot ignore our internal anger, bitterness, strife, etc. which holds us back.  We have to be honest about who we are and were we are in our lives at any given time. Don't fear whatever monster you see. You have to know the problem to fix the problem. 
  • Ego has no place and self-focus is necessary.  In sharing our testimonies or our stories of triumph we need to stay humbled.  The work isn't over. The Universe celebrates with you and hopes you're in a better position to address other external and internal barriers to happiness.  Its about growth. Be humbled. Stay focused.
  • I returned to therapy.  After a series of emotional and stressful moments came about, I noticed that I could not get a handle on them. Stress began to effect my body.  I was sick. I was gaining weight.  I've commented myself to therapy for as long as it takes with no shame or secrecy. 
  • I'm accepting of love.  I found myself rejecting love from friends and family.  I was doing negative coping.  If I rejected the love, I didn't have to worry about anyone disappointing me or leaving me. I rejected any potential romantic relationships. The thought of rejection was unbearable. Now, I've opened myself up to all love, in all forms.  I deserve it. 
  •  I pray. I meditate.  I believe in something greater than myself. My spiritual health has to be healed and nurtured.
Happiness is an internal journey. Self-care is a vehicle to that happiness.  Be willing to take the ride.

HOPE

I remember when I was unemployed, my mom just passed, & a 7yr relationship ended, I lost HOPE. I looked up the definition & meditated on it.

I posted the definition on a board and anytime I was sadden, I looked at the definition - HOPE.
We have to take control even in darkness.

Doing that was the way to cope with my circumstances in the best possible way. Doesn't mean I was healed but I wasn't destructive.

At some point in my life, I learned that I'm responsible for my emotions and my responses to life's ups and downs. What we see is that this isn't the norm. We are reactionary and believe others hold the key to our happiness and peace.  Our culture preaches that peace, success, and happiness come from external things and from people. Be reprogrammed and believe you have Hope.


Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
 Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Objectify Women: New Way to Engage Pastors to fight HIV/AIDS - I think?

Let me begin by saying that I wasn't raised in the Black Church. Its something that continues to keep me in a weird space of my own black identity. I understand the historical context of the Black Church and its importance to social justice issues of the past and some believe, the present.  Anytime I attend any workshop, seminar, or panel discussion about the role of the Black Church in improving any aspect of the black experience, my participation comes with both a level of respect and skepticism.

Coming from the Catholic world of sexism, I have sharpened my eye to the role of women in religious settings.  As a teen, I was told that I could not participate in the role of the "alter boy" because, well, I'm not a boy.  My eyes were opened to how my vagina has its place and needs to stay there because God said so. Luckily, I never connected the treatment of women by religious institutions to my own beliefs. God isn't human and I can easily separate the two. I needed to move away from the rules of Catholicism.  As an adult I decided to change my faiths. I joined a Black Baptist Church.

Out of the frying pan into the fire.

My skepticism remained intact. I've watched similar situations within the black church that I've witness in my catholic experience.  The roles of women regulated, not by individual purpose or passion, but by dogma and doctrine. In both cases, women have partnered in their own oppression. This isn't to say I haven't experienced and befriended female pastors who lead their congregations with authority but I also know they have struggles with acceptance from some in their faith communities.  When I see panels talking about church leadership, community engagement, etc., male pastors sit in authority. We maybe thrown a bone of having one female pastor allowed to engage. Its always clear its a male dominated sport.  This isn't to say that I don't feel men aren't important in these roles but I believe in inclusion. Include us.

Bring a skirt to talk with pants.

So, I will again admit to not being fully cultured in the ways of the black church and its protocols. I believe in approaching a pastor as I would any person and I've had to be "schooled" and that's fine. I had not clue to armor bearers and deacons. I'm still learning.  This is why I attend workshops on working with the Black Church.  I respect its legacy. I respect that some believe its still very important to engage the church if you want change in the black community.  While attending the U.S. Conference on AIDS, I attended a workshop on how to work with the Church in HIV/AIDS outreach.  This was presented by The Balm in Gilead, a well respected nonprofit organization who works with the Black Church to address this epidemic.  The nonprofit allowed pastors and healthcare providers working in Louisiana to speak about how they approach this topic.

In this workshop, there was about 65 attendees with 75% being black women.  The first speaker was a pastor from Louisiana who has been successful in implementing an HIV/AIDS ministry.  He wanted to provide some "best practices" in engaging pastors. I listened.  I was open and ready to receive his message mostly because of the nonprofit who thought this was the best person who could talk on this topic.  I listened.  One of his first suggestions when talking with a pastor who I guess we are to assume would be male, is to "bring a skirt to talk with pants."   My brained said, "wha?" and I looked at my colleage and asked him if I heard right.  He said, unforunately, yes.  The speaker continued.  He said that men need to feel like they are helping a "woman in need" so playing the damsel in distress may work. He also reminded us not to send a  fat "wobbling" woman (hand gestures allowed us to know what size a fat wobbling woman would look like) and to make sure she looks good.

Woooosaaaaaaa!

Now, understand, I was messed up by this but I was floored that at no point did any female stop him but a few "amen" and "that's right" were yelled.  I will admit to sitting there. [Silence=acceptance]  I'm full of shame that I didn't take that time to stop him. I didn't.

Again, I continue to see myself as an outsider looking in and the view is terrifying. The objectification of women should never be accepted. He pushed the view of the Pastor Pimp to another level and all of us accepted this. Religion, objectification, and social justice thrown together as a strategic plan has dangerous implications but was rolled out smoothly, backed up with the agreement of silence, and documented as a practice.  In talking about black male privilege, the Black Church is where this happens most of all it seems. It is supported by those at the receiving end of its oppression and pushed by doctrine, tradition, and dogma.

What actions can I take? First, I'll never be silence again. Its generally unlike me to hold my tongue but this time I did. I know that I'm tired of trying to find a safe space for myself and other women and girls to be celebrated and respected. Black women and men have to believe first that sexism and misogyny are even issues to be addressed.  We have to acknowledge it, call it out whenever we see it or experience it just as we do with racism.

As a cisgender African American heterosexual female, its my responsibility to address my oppression and understand my privilege.  We all must do the same.


r.