Brenda's Child

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018-- Challenge and Change

 People probably think that completing my Ph.D. was my greatest accomplishment in 2018- but it was not. When I started my Ph.D. journey in October of 2012, I had a one-year-old, a teenager, and I was engaged to be married. I had authored four books (my memoir, a novella, and two poetry collections). I was in amazing shape and after 7 years of working in one building, teaching 5 subjects, I was one year into a new position as an English Teacher in another building. I just knew I would be done in 4 to 5 years because I did everything quickly. I had finished my master’s degree in a little over a year.  I would work on my Ph.D. and plan a wedding at the same time. Besides, I had already chosen my bridesmaids and maids of honor. My dress was picked out, and by the time I got my degree, I would have a different last name.
 I survived my dissertation and almost six years in a full-time Ph.D. program, but so many other things in my life did not.
Less than a year into my program, I dismissed three members of my huge wedding party, including one maid of honor.  Some childhood friends were no longer a part of my life just like that.  A misunderstanding turned out to be the universe's way of eliminating people who were not meant to accompany me on the journey to the next level. Turns out, neither was my fiancée, because the wedding would never happen...my relationship did not survive my Ph.D. either.
Know what else did not survive my Ph.D.? My ovaries and my breasts. But because I got rid of them, I will!  Consequently, my fit figure did not survive. Between four surgeries and menopause, my body has been through it, and I have had to learn to love it all over again.
My love of performing poetry also did not survive. Although I have published two more poetry collections, another novella, two journals, and a children's book. I birthed a new dream-----motivational speaking. I will always be a poet, it was my first love, but two years into my journey, I realized that not only did I need to share my story in writing, but also through speaking. I am meant to share my healing so that others may heal.
Homeownership also did not survive my Ph.D. During all the changes that were taking place in my life, I realized that much of what I had done for the last 20 years had been because I was trying to prove others wrong. I was fighting stereotypes. That was my motivation when I went to college, the first and second time. It was the reason I prolonged both of my engagements when I knew it would not work. It was the major reason I bought a house before I was 30 years old. I did not want to be another poor black single mother living in low-income housing. I would show them (whoever they were). Everything I said I would do, I did, and I had become known for that.
The reality was, I hated home ownership. I hated the responsibility of lawn care, snow removal in New England, buying a hot water heater, paying $275-$300 every two weeks to heat an old home. But that was the American way, and homeownership is applauded and viewed as a sign of higher status. 
Well, in a month before I defended my dissertation, I made the decision to put my house on the market and start fresh by renting and not worrying about a damn thing.  My oldest son was an adult, things were not working with my tenant, and it was just me and my 7-year-old in a big spacy house. I was ready for a change, for freedom from something I never really wanted. Some people supported this, others thought I was making a huge mistake. The more I heard people’s opinions, the more I realized that it was time for me to unlearn the ideologies that had been forced upon me by society. 
Marriage would not make me happy if he was not meant for me. And not being married didn't make me any less of a woman. What was the point in owning a home if I felt I had no real peace when I got home?  I even started questioning why I even wanted my degree anymore (although I was in too deep to quit at that point).

So, what am I am most proud of at the end of 2018? Defining success and joy on my own terms and setting clear boundaries with people who try to force me to think or do otherwise. It is not easy, because people will guilt you, manipulate you, or try to make you feel less than for doing what is best for you. But in the end, if you cannot ignore the outside noise from others, you will never hear your inner voice, which is ultimately a higher power guiding you exactly where you need to be.  Although it had many challenges, I end 2018 full of gratitude, joy, and serenity. I wish you a Joyous New Year! Do you boo!


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Criticism...Take it or leave it?



Part of personal growth is reflecting on your patterns of behaviors, seeing things from the perspectives of others and accepting criticism. But how can you tell when you should take criticism to heart or tell the person to take their criticism and shove it? 
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when faced with the challenge 

1.   Who said it? 
Is it someone who you respect? Who respects you? If you can’t answer “yes” to both, then it really doesn’t matter because it may not be constructive. If you don’t have a relationship (personal or professional) with that person where you feel valued, then their opinions shouldn’t be valued.

2.  What is their motivation?

Is it to help you grow in some capacity? Is it because you may be negatively impacting others and they want you to see it?   OR   Is it to diminish you?  To insult or embarrass you? To make you pause on your path to greatness because they are envious? Receiving criticism isn’t easy, and it can hurt the ego. However, ask yourself, does it hurt because it’s true, or because the person is a HATER? (NOT EVERYONE IS A HATER.)



3.  What is the frequency?

If you hear the same criticisms from different people, in different areas of your life,  repeatedly over a course of time, there may be some truth in the criticism and it may be time for you to pause and reflect. As you reflect, refer to your responses to questions 1-5. If 5 different people say it every day, and they don’t respect you or their motivation is SHADY, they can shove it. On the other hand, if it comes from a few who value you and want the best for you, it may be time to grow.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Phenomenally 40

In 2017 I challenged myself to write 52 posts in 52 weeks and I failed. Not miserably, but still, I failed. I'm okay with that failure. While I did write way more posts than I had in previous years, I realized that the challenge was just another thing I wanted to cross off my list. It wasn't about personal growth or anything, just me and my addiction to crossing things off a list to say it was done. Failing worked out great for me because it forced me to reflect on my desire to stay busy. This year, I'm over it. Which explains why this is only my 3rd post of 2018. Black history month and Women's history month kept me busy with workshops and performances. When it was all done, I was left a horrible head cold, because I was doing too much. So I stopped. Sure I had to get knocked on my ass in order to do so, but once I stopped, I decided to commit to working smarter not harder.
I began this blog as a sort of online journal (without the juicy stuff)  and if it inspired someone else, cool. But then my objective changed and I wanted to increase my readers, so I decided to write more often, which meant that writing posts became a job ( a job I don't get paid for as of yet). And for what? Not as an outlet for myself or to help others, but just to write 52 posts. Don't get me wrong, each post was authentic and from the heart, but when I posted, instead of feeling relieved to have purged my thoughts, or possibly help others, I felt guilty most times because I didn't make the imaginary deadline. 
This year, I'm writing when I feel like it. It may be 3 months, or 3 days before my next post because I am intentional about reducing self-induced stress. Everything doesn't have to have a deadline (My new morning affirmation). It's not just the blog either, it's bigger than that. I just turned 40 and I've decided that unlike my 30's where I was in grind mode all of the time, my 40's will be about life first, work second. Life being... self-care, family time, new experiences,  travel, and dare I say...romantic love! Related image

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

I Didn't know I was Lost




This magazine cover changed my life. Ok, it didn’t change my life, but it definitely inspired me to make some changes. I was 21 years old and had recently broken off an engagement with my then fiancé and son’s father. Although I knew it was the best decision for me, there was some grieving that had to take place, as with all losses. I had my whole life planned out and it all revolved around my man. I left him, but in my mind he would get himself together and one day we would reconcile. The universe had another plan.

  I remember being home alone, in my bed, bored because my son was at his grandmother’s house. As I flipped through the pages of that magazine and beautiful brown faces looked back at me, my inner voice (which I didn’t even know I had) began to speak to me. She didn’t scold me, but she told me I had lost myself in my relationship, distanced myself from friends and family, and most importantly, forgotten I was once a girl with dreams. I had stopped pursuing them. I was almost done with my bachelor’s degree, but at I was just finishing it to prove those wrong who said I wouldn’t.  I was in robot mode. I hadn’t written poetry in more than 4 years, something I had done regularly since I was 14. My high school friends were living their best lives at HBCUs and I was playing “wifey”, working full time, and caring for my three-year-old. I was existing, but not living. Those beautiful faces showed me this.

 I began to cut out their pictures and quotes and taping them to my bedroom wall.  When I was done, I went through my other magazines and hung up more. When I ran out of space, I started taping to my ceiling…Queen Latifah, Toni  Morrison, Oprah, and on and on. Then powerful phrases came to me organically from words like Beautiful, Strong, Dreams, Joy, Author, Boss etc.  When I was done, I realized I had been at it for more than two hours. I felt like I been born again. With tears of relief in my eyes, I breathed like I had breathed for the first time in forever.

From that day on I slowly began to re-invest in myself, to decide I was going to dream again. I was going to be an author and someone who inspired other people. I didn’t know how I just knew WHAT.  See, what I didn’t know then is that I had actually created my first vision board. Sure it had 4 walls and a ceiling, but it was indeed a vision board. I didn’t even know what it was but just like with any vision board, seeing it every day and every night put me on the path to manifestation. Without even realizing it, I was creating the life I posted on my vision walls. The how didn’t matter, I just swung into action, took the first steps. In return, the universe exposed me to the people and places that instrumental in helping me find the how.

I could go on and on about the lessons one can take from this, but I’d like to hear from you, reader. What are the lessons?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Let it Flow




For months I’ve been using Liquid Plumber and Draino in my shower because once  a week it would become slow to drain. Today, I decided to unscrew the drain and use one of those  long plastic drain cleaners ( I have no idea what they're called). First of all, as soon as I opened it I saw why nothing was going down. The clog was right under the surface, it wasn't even deep.  It was so disgusting, the amount of shampoo gunk, and build up that was underneath the service. As I put on a pair of plastic gloves to get down and dirty, I was apprehensive because I was afraid of what I might find, and God forbid have to touch. But  as I began pulling out more gunk  and goo(there wasn't really hair), I worked even more feverously. I was finally clearing this drain myself. Fast forward about 15 minutes, my shower drain was clean and completely clear. It was a beautiful sight, and I felt accomplished.
The clogged drain is a metaphor for life. We continuously go through it trying to find simple, temporary solutions to “fix” things when what we really need to is open up the drain and get to bottom of the mess. Dig deep, bit by bit pull of the gook that is blocking our hearts, minds, or spirits. Whether it’s relationships, finances, goals, trauma, or breaking bad habits, we have to attack the problem head on, do the work. Otherwise it will continue to resurface and you will find yourself standing in the murky waters of your own bullshit.
See the source image

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good bye 2017


I have dreaded writing my final post this year, something I have never done before. Usually, I am excited to review all the wonderful things I have experienced and accomplished in 12 months, but 2017 was the most overwhelming year I have had in a long time. I mean it was so challenging, I allowed those difficulties to overshadow the good, take me out of my gratitude mindset. One was my hernia surgery, which I thought would happen in late winter or early spring, but instead, it was postponed, as was my recovery. In my mind I was going to have the surgery, heal up quickly, and be snatched, quite frankly. Instead, I am still slightly swollen in my abdomen and I have no ab muscles. Most of my summer was on bed rest.  Much like after previous surgeries, I know that in due time I will get my strength back, but still, it frustrating as hell.

Secondly, my number one goal of 2017 was complete my dissertation and finally become Dr. Boz.  Well, technically I did finish my dissertation. However, due to some changes within the school, approval on so many levels has been postponed, and there is nothing I can do except file a grievance and pay my costly tuition.  This has been devastating. They were things that happened within the immediate family that rattled me. Not to go into so many details, but there was another breast cancer diagnosis, my adult son moved back home, and my grandson’s mother did not care about him having a relationship with anyone on my side of the family. It breaks my heart into little pieces everyday that he lives so close by and I can count on my hands the number of times I have seen him. How do shape all of this nonsense into a lesson and shape it positively?



Here it goes:

 First, upon heavy meditation, I’ve been rushing all my life. Subconsciously, and somewhat consciously, I have always tried to beat the clock because my experience with the death of so many women in my family created fear about the brevity of life. I thought I had dealt with this, and come to terms with the fact that I have taken steps to extend my life and I will die an old lady. But this year I have realized I have not. I let the idea that I must rush and get things done, accomplish goals before it is too late. The crazy thing is, I only rush to cross items off a list. I don’t bask in my accomplishments, or focus on experiences instead of just accomplishments. Because of this, two of my major changes for 2018 will be:

A.      To have more fun! To live honey! More experiences and traveling

This year I



B.      Celebrate Every F**king Thing. Because I honestly do not celebrate myself enough. The Queen of Self-esteem doesn’t celebrate all she’s overcome!  I have been going and going so long that I am no longer mindful of just how amazing it is.

C.        

1.       I finished my dissertation. I did. I finished 5 long ass Chapters. A year of literal sweat and tears (no blood.)

2.       I created  #SistasAre Dope journal and T-shirt

3.       Published my first Children’ s book

4.       Gave a kickass commencement speech

5.       Graduated from a leadership program

6.       Inspired crowds with spoken word  and got paid for it

Not bad. Not bad at all. And the crazy thing is, I really didn’t take the time to pat myself on the back.

 And you know what else was awesome about this year?

1.       The breast cancer diagnosis meant involved no chemo and was a stage 0. She is cancer free

2.       I was there when my grandson was born and watch him for his first few minutes of life. I got to see my son, become a father.

3.       I was there to see people I love in awards, like my father and my sista friend

4.       I attended the New York red carpet movie premiere of my sista friend

5.       I switched to a position at work that is way less stressful, and I have a better leader

6.       I had the support of family and friends through the dissertation writing, the recovery from surgery and at my book release

7.       I did an amazing professional photo shoot

8.       Welcomed a baby girl in the family whose life I will be a part of

9.       Tried 3 new activities
10. I have discovered estrogen in hormone replacement therapy



2017 wasn't so horrible in hindsight. It just forced me to face some things I had pushed deep down, and it is preparing me to reap (and enjoy) the rewards of my hard work. 2018, I will work smarter not harder because there is some fun not be had!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Woman Circle




If you know me, then you know I suffered loss at an early age. In the past I felt deprived times two for losing my mother at 4 and my grandmother at 13. But the older I get, and the more self-reflective I become, I realize that through some sort of divine design, I had the opportunity to be molded by numerous beautiful, powerful, loving Black women, a few who have been completely pivotal.




My Ga-Ga
Who I write about extensively in my memoir, planted the seed of self-esteem in me by making me feel everything I did was wonderful. Her love and nurturing built the foundation for the Queen of Self-esteem.



 My paternal grandmother
When I used to spend the night at her house she was hardly there at night. She was hanging with her friends. She was out doing her thing. You know why, because she had raised her 8 kids. In my grandmother I learned that there is no honor in self-sacrificing and that as a mother who took care of everyone else, there was nothing wrong in taking me time. Yasssss!  



My maternal aunts


My aunt Gloria
  The image that will never leave my head is of playing outside and seeing her come walking down the street in a business suit and sneakers with her shoes in a bag. I thought it was fabulous, she was career woman, a mom and a wife.  That image of her found its way in my subconscious. I could do it all if I wanted.


My aunt Saundra
 She was the original Carrie from Sex in the City. Always dressed up and going out. But she also had a career. What I remember most about my childhood was that she would have relationship, but when she was no longer feeling it, she would bounce, leave, come back home if she needed to. Through her I learned that you don’t have to settle. She never settled, she got just what she wanted in a man, and he supports her career.



My aunt Sharon
 As the youngest, she was the one who had the birds and bees talk with me and my friends. She was young, cool, and smart. Her man was fine, so what she said had to be true. Even more importantly, when I was 12, she took and in my room and taught me about breast self-exams. It was the beginning about me being hyper vigilant about my health.





My aunt Gwen a.k.a Two Cent
 She passed away suddenly at age 36. She taught me about the brevity of life cherishing each moment. As a fellow poet we shared a love of arts and music. To this day when I hear the reggae tune, "Baby Can I hold you” I think of her. She was not afraid of being different. Neither am I.



 Carol (Hoffman) Sullivan
I truly don’t think I would have made it out of high school or adolescence without her.  I was in such a dark, secret place but she brought me out of it with her wit, her intelligence, beauty and empathy. And she looked me. ME who looked like no one with light eyes and light hair. Such an important thing for growing girls to see. ( If you have a picture of her, I'll take it).


Natalie Dorm
As my tutor, she was not for me playing small. I was intelligent, and I needed to embrace it. As an adult and colleague, she taught me that being an educator means speaking up about what matters, how to make English class something students would grow to love if you aren’t afraid to step outside the box. After watching her, I never stayed in the box.



 Dora Robinson 
She  taught me the importance of leadership and empowering other women. She did it by leading by example. She is the one who put me on my path of working with young people, simply because she wanted to help a single mom and college student who worked late nights at a gas station. She showed me how to play the game and  win!



 Marjorie Hurst
She is the one who, after a year of writing for her newspaper asked, “when are you going to make a book?” She planted a seed that sprouted into 11 publications to date. She also taught me the importance of networking. Had her son and I not been close friends, she wouldn’t have gotten my resume put to the top of a pile for what has been my career for 14 years.


Essie Lee
My eldest son’s grandmother taught me about resilience. We both lost our mothers at a young age and were raised by family. She was tough but loving, like me. When her son and I broke up, she gave me the best advice. She told me that even and especially when I’m feeling my worst, dress up. Never let them see you down. Today I still do it. When I’m sad,  or sick, lipstick and heels make it better, if only a little.



 Tammy Marie
My eldest son’s aunt helped me balance the tomboy in me as a young woman. As a woman 7 years older than me,  she taught me that even being a tomboy, I could still smell delectable, and turn on the sexy when needed. To this day, I sleep in nothing, but sexy clothes and I always smell amazing if I don’t say so myself.


 


 Of course, I continue to be shaped by women my age and elders from the present and past (perhaps I’ll share in another post). However, where I am right now, today, is because of the women who led by example. So how can I not? Cheers to #blackgirlmagic.