Sunday, December 14, 2014

Make Sweet Love - Sexuality

My professional life has been focused on the prevention of HIV in primarily women.  In this work, I've had the opportunity to talk about sexuality from all angles.  As we want people to be sexually responsible, we should encourage that they are sexually satisfied.  Historically, mens sexual desire has been the point of attention.  What a man wants, he gets sexually through consent, oppression, or force.   Men have been allowed to explore their sexual fulfillment in extreme ways. This, of course, is a level of oppression and its a social norm for many. 

In my talks with women about their sexual fulfillment, I've spoken with women who have never experienced "the Big O".   Their sexual experiences were driven by whatever the man desired.  You'd think that everyone is experiencing sex in the same way - like the last porn movie with moans and repeated orgasms. We don't teach our girls they are sexual beings.  We teach them to be guarded, that their sexuality is a "gift" to be only given to someone special, and that they shouldn't be too sexually expressive.  If we remove religion from this conversation, how does this benefit our society to keep women's sexuality so controlled and policed?

Teaching sexual health and responsibility doesn't mean we should suppress sexual expression.  We need to teach that we are all sexual beings.  We have deep attractions and sexual connections with others.  We teach we must decided for ourselves what best keeps us emotionally and spiritually healthy as we decide to dive into our sexual selves. We have to stop teaching that sex is bad and stop using sexually transmitted infections as a scare tactic to keep youth from being sexually active. Being sexually healthy is being informed and being able to speak about sex in a wonderfully honest way.  Fear isn't they to create a healthy mindset to sex.

In our sexual relationships, we have to be able to talk about it.  Yes we need to talk about condoms and past partners but we also need to talk about kissing and touching and loving.  We need talk about where those kisses should land.  We need to talk about positions and fetish.  Do you like porn or not?   Talk about it.  Play with each other.  Allow yourselves to grow together not only emotionally and spiritually in your relationships but bonding sexually.  Believe me when I say that just because people are having sex, doesn't mean they are having good sex. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

My love letter to Black people

I see the black community different than some.  I see a group who survives in the best way it possibly can under decades (centuries) of mental, physical, and spiritual abuse and terrorism.  I see a people who constantly figures out how  to seek out happiness and joy under scrutiny  and judgment from the majority group and from its own. I see creative and inventive people who can make something from nothing over and over and over  Some of us make it.  Some don't.  Some develop self hate.  Our children are deemed less innocent and treated as such and then we are surprised when they grow up have a lack of respect for themselves or others. We don't receive empathy in regards to how centuries of terrorism - mental, physical, and spiritual-  impacts our health and well being. We somehow are supposed to get over it while the whip is still swinging. 

 I see people overcoming.  I see people trying.  I see people succumbing to constant and persistent messaging and imagery of inferiority.  What is interesting is that as the majority group believes we are super human and some of us believe we are as well.  We have the super human ability to overcome this terrorism and "act right".   We tell ourselves to "be good, be better".  When one person does wrong, we are still tribal in our thoughts and see that one person's crime as a blemish on the group.  It is US who rob.  It is US who kill.  It is US who rape.  Our lives aren't our own.  We are responsible for each others behavior but is that fair? Maybe its ok that we understand we are an reflection of one another. That is our connectedness. 

 I love being Black.  I was raised see the beauty in us and have an understanding of how this system of oppression can and does destroy us.  We need  a better understanding of where personal responsibility meets systemic oppression.  As I make decisions about my life, they are rarely personal.  I, Rhonda, represent Blackness everywhere I go even when I don't want to do so.  I have to think in terms of how does my behavior and choices impact black people.  So, it is difficult to say that I can move through my life and it be my own. What does personal responsibility really mean when my actions are connected to my community at all times?  This is another added pressure of being not only Black in America but being a part of any oppressed group.  We have to stop the respectability politics and understand how oppression influences behavior.  What about collective trauma?  Racism is damaging to our core. A baby in utero is impacted by the racial discrimination experienced by its mother.  Constant stress impacts heart disease.  Violence impacts asthma.  Racism isn't just a social justice issue but a health issue. 

To my Black  community, I love you.   We are over-comers.  We are a beautiful people who continues to fight through the constant abuse.  I urge us to see ourselves as a powerful people with grand fortitude.  We have been and continue to be a very forgiving people.  Its very difficult to heal as you're being abused but we must to continue to strive for some healing and relief.   The Black American is a people to be admired and respected.  I'll continue to say over and over, I Love YOU. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Social Media: Keeping it Real

Social Media is an interesting creature. ONLINE: We're all so brilliant. We're all so healthy. We all are so religious. We love our mothers. We are perfect parents. Well, I'm here to tell ya, not me. I'm flawed. I'm quirky. I don't like to go to places where there's a lot of people. Quiet is cool. Me and God fight. Me and my daughter just had a horrible two years but we're back being where we should be. I've been physically unhealthy for the past two years and it was causing some depression. I couldn't figure it out. I don't like to be  deep, every damn day. I know what I know and there's a whole lotta stuff I'm clueless about. I'm a patient friend but I can shut you out without reason. I'm working on me.

 I think Social Media is missing a dose of realness and regular. I'm down for folks working to obtain their goals and doing it out loud. I get it. I know that it can help others. I'm just concerned that we so want to put on the good face of positivity and perfection that we miss out on being human and honest with ourselves. We're so zoned in on shaping our online persona that I think we forget how to be ourselves. I appreciate my journey. I accept it all wholeheartedly. I'm never afraid to share the ups and downs of my day. Its a part of my freedom.

I've witnessed some amazing displays of emotional neediness on Facebook in particular.  I watched a woman document the death of a parent from the statuses saying, "I'm heading to the hospital" to the announcement of the parent's death.  She posted pics of she and her sister receiving news about the parent's ill faded turn. She did video clips of thanking people on Facebook for their support.  What was she getting from this? Without Facebook, how would she receive support and encouragement?  What does it mean that we are seeking approval, admiration, and encouragement mostly strangers in many cases?  Let me be honest. I will post a selfie of a new doo or new color of lipstick.  So I guess, I could ask myself the question and I can't say I know the answer.  I do recall being at a park with my grandson and I took pictures.  The first thing I wanted to do is post them but then I thought why not just having them for me.  This was our moment.  The person on FB in Florida doesn't have to share this time.  It was for us. 

There are more and more articles being written about the psychological impact of social media on the self-esteem.  We're being impacted and I don't know if we care. How are we free when we worry about what filter we need to use for a picture?  How are we free if we are afraid of our failures and we sugar coat them with bullshit positivity.  Sometimes positivity is bullshit.  We have gotten caught in memes and graphics of famous quotes that tell us that life should always be rainbows.  There's less memes about the rain and the storm.  We learn in the darkness.  We should accept and appreciate those dark times and understand that we need both the sun and the rain for all growth to occur.  

I appreciate Social Media for all of the connections I've made. I've met people who have become some of my greatest friends.  Its helped me with my nonprofit to reach women globally.  It definitely has its purpose.  With all things, moderation is key.  There's no need to color your life with falsehoods to impress people.  Have a fulfilled life offline.  Connect with people in real time.  Social media is a tool so use it carefully.   Accept and love who you are because only then will you be free. 

How Facebook Can Amplify Low Self-Esteem/Narcissism/Anxiety

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I deserve

We many times have to give ourselves permission to live life on our own terms .  Its a difficult transition to move from living for the world and then remembering that you're a part of that world and deserve care, love, fairness, and honesty just as everyone else.

In August 2014, I became ill. I had pains in my legs that were hard to articulate mixed with the flu and a shot of lupron to reduce my hormones.  I was miserable.  It was very unexpected.  August was the month to prep for a scheduled surgery in September.  I had to make sure that my home was ready, that my daughter was ready, and my organization was ready.  Nothing was ready.  I found myself struggling to enjoy my trip to New York.  I recall walking from Afropunk to the subway and wondering if I would make it.  My legs were filled with pain.  Hot flashes came and went with no summer breeze to help remedy my own private summer.  Miserable.  Something was happening.  This something had been happening for a couple of years with odd illnesses and pain here and there.  August was hell.  I was frustrated.  My plans were crushed to hell.

As I moved into having surgery, a total hysterectomy (removal of my cervix and uterus;still have my ovaries), I once again thought about how would I continue to maintain my life while on my back.   Was my org going to be ok?  Was my daughter going to be fine?  I didn't ask if I would be fine or ok.   God has a way of making you listen to her/him fully and completely with no distractions.  In my recovery time, I remembered me.  I decided that my healing mattered not because I had things to do but because I mattered and that was enough.  CWUW will also be fine and its not fine, that's ok.  People will also be disappointed and that's ok too.  Those who love and support you, will do so.  They will be there.  And still, I deserve to have moments of doing nothing.   I deserve to watch mindless tv.  I deserve to long for dark chocolate.  I deserve to experience life as I choose. 

The removal of my uterus has been liberating.  I have no pain in my legs.  I have no pain in my hips.  No more excessive bleeding.  There's been a weigh lifted in my spirit and I didn't know it needed to be lifted.  When God says to sit, just sit.  Just do it.  Be enlightened by the quiet time. Being busy is overrated.  I want to experience the beauty of this earth as I still fight against the evil and I deserve to live that life on my terms and in full appreciation to all things God manifests.  My mistake are my own and I will manage them as you should manage yours.  I deserve good things.  I deserve a good life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My love is better than your love.



The interesting thing about being a heterosexual cisgender Christian female who supports Gay Marriage is that I understand the Constitution and how it SUPPOSE to work in this country.  As a Christian, it actually benefits me when religion isn't mixed with law.  I'm allowed to believe what I want and how I want. The moment we ask the gov't to intervene in religious matters, there is a can of worms that's hard to contain.  I understand the intention of the Constitution to allow the individual to pursue (or not) their own religious beliefs. Gay marriage does nothing to heterosexual marriage. NOTHING. You can still get married and divorce at the same rates you have been. 

  As Christians, you can still believe whatever you believe and follow whatever tenants you want.  That's the beauty of the Constitution.  Religious freedom means all have the right to believe in whatever manner you want, and worship whatever deity you'd like. Also, you don't have to believe in anything.  Christian heterosexuals- nothing changed for you on this day in Indiana.  You can move through your life with ease but we don’t get to tell anyone who to love.  That was not the charge of your leader, the Christ.  It’s purposed that we love our neighbors as ourselves.  If you believe that biblically that gay marriage is wrong, it’s ok.  You can continue to believe it but you don’t have the right to impose your religious beliefs on anyone.   

Today, I’m very surprised that the ban on gay marriage has been lifted in Indiana.  As a Christian, I’m very happy for those who get to gain governmental covering allowed for marriages.  I’m grateful for my friends who wanted a public display of their internal feelings.  As a Christian, I know that all I need to do is love.  That’s it.  This is a human rights issue and I’m sure Jesus would be for that.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I woke this morning in good spirits and I remain there.

There's always a continuous fight for peace. People will try to rattle your spirit.

Fight. So no.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

What is a Community?

com·mu·ni·ty
kəˈmyo͞onitē/
noun
noun: community; plural noun: communities
  1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
    "Rhode Island's Japanese community"

  2.     a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
    "the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
     
     
     
    As a community worker, activist, or whatever label there is to describe the work being done, I wrestle with what is "community".  We are all a part of various types of communities: religious, neighborhood, racial, sexual orientation, frat/sororities etc.   I will admit to being the most critical of my community labeled as African American.  Because I'm solution based in my thinking and life, this is my expectation for this community I'm a part of because of my genetic make up, social experiences, and shared history.  The expectation is no different than from other community I'm involved with in my life.  I want to move and live in the Solution. 

    One of the most important actions one can take to bring about change and/or being solution driven is getting involved.  What are you doing to address the issue?  Something I learned in being a part of the HIV/AIDS community  now and particularly in the 90's is that every person counts in the cause.  I recall senior women baking cakes and cookies and bringing them to the center for the clients.  One volunteer knitted beautiful blankets for the clients and she gave me one that I still have with me.  Some can write checks.  Others cared for our dying clients.  It was the community that help to save lives for some and helped others die with dignity.  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.    We know that as a community of African American men, women, and youth there is a long history of standing together and fighting together.  There was a community.  I'm not going to say that there aren't those who still stand together and try to look at the current needs of this community and bring about a solution based response to a number of issues and disparities.  We are here. We are trying.  We are really trying. 

     What are some of the issues and solutions?
    The amazing and yet sad thing about community work is there are just as many who are in this work for ego and praise.  This prevents successful partnership and collaboration if you're more worried about the placement of your logo on the flyer than the work to be done.  Getting "credit" and getting the shine for doing good comes organically. It comes.  At the end of the day, its about outcomes. What needs to be addressed? How will we address it? Who will help us address it? What is the time frame?  What resources do we have?  Ego has no place.  We all need to learn when to step up and just as importantly, to step back.  

    Another issue is that we only want to work with people who are our friends or family regardless of their work ethic.  This is frustrating.  Of course we should support our friends and family who have businesses who can do great work.  We harm ourselves when we don't hold each other accountable for our outputs and deliverables.   We also do each other a disservice when we don't pay each other for our worth and work.  Nothing wrong with a "hook up" here and there but shouldn't be an expectation.  For anyone to be successful at any task, accountability is necessary.  It should be given in a spirit of love and received the same way. We need to reach outside our circles of comfort and partner with those who are hard working.  Every one doesn't have to be your friend to be your partner in a cause. 

    Lastly,  those involved get to complain.  Too many complaining voices but so few who are involved. Its annoying.  Its troublesome.  I hear African Americans talk about how we collectively have a "crab in a barrel" mentality.  Ok, let's change it.   Let's move in a direction so this isn't just our way or reputation. We all have a place.  Sometimes is just making sure there are baked goods at the agency down the street or writing a check because you can.   Be a doer.  Change only comes with intentional action and movement.  I believe that we have ancestral memory.  History tells us we have always been together and we can't afford to break apart now not now, not ever.  
     
     
     



Sunday, April 27, 2014

window

To think that you couldn't say what you wanted to say at the moment you wanted to say it
That time when you thought I should just reach out and say and feel and explore


this.  whatever this is.  this.

To think you looked in my eyes and I stared back and we knew

something.  We knew that we knew

something.

But you couldn't say want you wanted to say at the moment you wanted to say it.
I never reached out. I didn't say a word. I didn't explore

you.

Maybe that time will  come back around, over lap in space  and we will have the right words, the right touches, the right something.

something.

If I.



What if I wasn't alive?


What if I never as a twinkling of anyone's eye?


What if I never got to smile, cry, laugh, love?


What if I never got to see my daughter's face or see my grandson being born?


What if no one loved me?

What if I couldn't take another breath?

The What ifs....I'm glad they never existed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

And I cry....

I've never been much of a crier.  My sad moments have been normally just me locked away with music, a note book, and my thoughts.  I'm a quiet person. I'm introspective. I feel deeply but to cry, no.  At some point in my life, I decided that it wasn't for me. I don't know when.  I don't know where but I decided to suck it up and deal.

My mother and my daughter are people of emotion.  They value their emotions. They demand the right to express their feelings at any given moment.  They feel it and you know it. To be a person like me around all of that energy all the time is draining.  I felt I had to manage the results of the whirlwind of emotions that just swept through.  I was the clean up lady. What was damaged by my mom's anger?  How could I help my daughter through this new episode of an anxiety outbreak gone bad.  How did I come to feel I had to manage other people's emotions?  When did I become responsible? I don't know.

I have learned that I'm the queen of detachment. Maybe sexual abuse taught me that skill but I've learned to use it here and there.  Even in being the clean up woman, I learned not to take in what was happening. At least, I thought that's what I was doing.  Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we got this situation under control. With more recent events, I've learned, I never truly had anything under control and even more importantly, I've cried.  I've cried a lot.  My tears have been hidden from others for the most part until I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago.  As we talked about how I'm handling some of the issues in my life, the tears fell.  I didn't want them too. I heard myself whimper.  The tears kept falling as my feelings finally met the depths of my soul and the pain that has been there for years. I cried hard.

Throughout my life, I survive. I look for solutions to move on and move through and ignoring any attachment to a feeling or emotion.  Who has time for that? Let's get over this situation or moment.  We're not made that way.  Those feelings have to go somewhere and for me, they were being stored.  As I've gone through much stress related to my daughter's healing, its only compounded what was already there.  This isn't all about my daughter.  Its the lack of self care over the years.  Its ignoring the pain of lost loves, deaths, and disappoints and always feeling that I shouldn't and can't cry.  I remember going to a therapist about five years after my mom's death and him telling me that I haven't started grieving her death.  I disagreed with him. I felt I did all that I was supposed to do.  I did cry after her death but I also took care of everything.  I made sure everyone was ok. I took care of the estate. I was also unemployed and I had just ended a 7 year relationship.  There was so much loss but I kept on moving forward because life didn't give me a break and I didn't take one. You have to keeping on keeping on, right?  As my friend told me, "Rhonda, you survive but you never recover". 

Through my tears I've begun a journey of healing past wounds I thought had healed and assuring new wounds get their proper care.  There are benefits to crying and I finally see why my mother and daughter fought for their moments to feel whatever they were feeling.  To release all of that emotion into the Universe is rewarding.  Going forward, in my walk through mental wellness, I will celebrate my tears and my deep cries and know that this is just a stepping stone to a healed soul.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Journal Entry: A Mother's Love

I haven't felt much like writing lately.  2014 has ushered in so much change and so many challenges and I know its all for my good and well being.  I've struggled with what to say at this moment in my life when I'm taking on so much. Its as if all the things I've talked to women about for their lives is being tested in mine. I've always been very transparent about the battles I've had with bulimia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I don't mind sharing my story because I felt it will help someone else but what if its your child.  Its somehow different.  Its rips my heart out. It forces me to rethink my parenting. I hurts my soul.

My daughter suffered from severe postpartum depression after having my grandson. It triggered her anxiety which also became severe.  She didn't realize anything was wrong with her.  She never had an issue bonding with her son but her anger was deep, her lows were very low, and our household was volatile. My home was no longer my sanctuary. It was hell. I didn't know what was happening to my daughter and our relationship.  I would watch her cry at nothing, cussing me out about everything, and bawl from confusion.  She had no idea either.  The challenge for me was with her being an adult, she refused to see a doctor.  We make assumptions about how we would handle these types of situations but you never know. 

I tried to focus on my own peace. I continued my own therapy. I traveled to visit friends but my daughter was sick and I was confused to how to help her.  Twice she attempted to harm herself in front of me and six weeks ago she did.  In the middle of an anxiety attack, as I tried to help her calm down, she look a large cutting knife and cut her wrists very deep, multiple times in front of me.  She felt nothing.  I watched the blood stain her blouse as she continued to scream about her loneliness and fears. I rushed to her aid and as the attack subsided, she realized what she had done.  Her heart was broken.  She was scared and so was I.

I'm witnessing my daughter's fight for her mental health.  Everyday we are working towards healing and its not easy.  We are battling stigma, lack of services, and  lack of compassion.  In my professional life, I tell women that their mental health is just as important as their physical health.  There is a deep rooted connection to both.  I've told my daughter the same. I'm not trying to be her counselor or social worker but her mother. My daughter is healing.  She is in treatment.  I had to also check my own state of being after witnessing her detachment in harming herself.  I believe that God allows these road blocks to build us up.  Restoration is ours. Healing is ours.  Love is ours.  

Mental health services are lacking in so many of our communities.  The stigma is so great that way too many want to ignore their own hurts and pains. We must encourage all people to seek out healing when there's hurt and be a support.  My daughter has just begun her journey to healing and she has a team of aunties and friends to get her to where God will have her to be. I can't dwell on the fact that I witnessed my daughter's attempted suicide. I have to celebrate that she is still here.  Let's work on our healing. 

At this time, I have to give attention to myself and my family.  The community work can wait. Its all for the love of my daughter.