Monday, April 25, 2016

Cancer is a coward

Yesterday, I reached 9 years as a breast cancer survivor. I count my diagnosis date as my annual milestone as a survivor. On what should have been a joyous day, a cowardly act only reminded me that life is full of unaccepted acts that will only set you back momentarily.

My daughter's car was hit and damaged by a hit and run driver yesterday. Despite the obvious anger and disappointment, we were thankful that she wasn't injured. The whole incident was a reminder that you can be going through life when an unexpected and undeserving event can rock your world.

It is how you handle those obstacles that will define your character and measure your strength. You never know how strong you are until you have to be strong.

When I was diagnosed, initially I was terrified. I actually put off chemo therapy for 9 weeks simply out of fear. This was not a wise move nor was it a move driven by knowledge. I was simply afraid of the unknown and ready to accept what could have been fatal consequences.

It was through outreach with other survivors, self reflection and my daughter's encouragement that I found the courage to undergo chemotherapy and exhaust all medical intervention to give myself the best odds of beating breast cancer. Soon I realized that I wasn't a coward; cancer is a coward.

Just like that driver who hit my daughter, cancer causes harm with no reason or recourse. It seeks to break spirits, separate families, test faith and strip people of all they hold dear. It awakens the fear and uncertainty within us. It is ruthless in its pursuit of death.

I am beyond grateful that I have seen 9 years since that dreadful date of April 24th, 2007. I've had 9 years to spend with my family and hopefully impact lives in a positive way. I have laughed more and enjoyed special memories with special people more than I ever did before battling cancer.

Cancer enabled me to focus on myself more and live fearlessly. I'm not afraid to speak up, be heard, walk away, facilitate action and live a life that I've crafted that defines my purpose but also cater's to my heart's desires. I focus on people in my life who share my synergy.

People used to say "you can't have your cake and eat it too." Yes you can. You choose the life you live. When you are faced with your own mortality, it is in that moment that the rest of your days will be defined. What will people say about you when your time here is up? What will you be remembered for?

A cancer diagnosis feels like someone hit you and then ran off. You are left breathless and asking why this happened to you. Don't let the coward win. Stand up, fight back and embrace every moment of the rest of your life with confidence and certainty. I may have had cancer but I promise you....cancer NEVER had me.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

In a good place

When you're in a good place,  you don't want to leave.

I'm grateful for being in a good place in my life right now; mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Things seem to be aligned and I'm happy with the choices I've made and how I have chosen to deal with adversity and setbacks.

I used to think that life should be easy. That was when I was young and naïve.

Life will ALWAYS have challenges and setbacks but the key is going through it and overcoming those hurdles. Remember setbacks pave the way for amazing comebacks!

So embrace the feel good days and the good times. Celebrate the small successes. Unfortunately, there may be tears and challenges around the corner so why not enjoy the ride until you hit the speed bump.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Peering at brown people through rose colored glasses

I'm seeing a very disturbing trend. It's a trend where Black athletes, politicians, celebrities and performers are being held to a different standard than their peers. A very judgmental public is trying to create a dynamic to constantly attack and demean the most successful among us.

It started last week with the negative posts about Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance announcement. I'm like "Y'all did sit through that Katy Perry fiasco last year, right?" Other than not liking her music or style, I really can't think of any activity or behavior that she has demonstrated that would merit the negative social media comments before she's even performed. Do these same people post about EVERY musician that they don't care for? Why is it so easy and comfortable for some to attack a Black woman?

Throughout the NFL season, we see the media turn the spotlight on the on and off the field behavior of Black athletes yet when White athletes engage in the same antics, we barely hear a peep or see a headline about it. Michael Phelps appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing white on a white background with a redeeming headline about his drug recovery. Do Black athletes receive the same saving grace and magazine covers for overcoming addiction?

Most recently, I watched how easily it was for people to openly vocalize that Tariji P. Henson was "under the influence" accepting her Golden Globe award last night. Really? Were you pouring the drinks? Have you never seen an off the cuff acceptance speech before? Do you not watch "Empire" and see how much Tariji puts in the Cookie's character that perhaps a part of her IS Cookie?

See, here's the thing. I've silently sat back over the years and watched the first Black President face EXTREME scrutiny. His wife and daughters and every decision that he's made has been met with fierce social media scrutiny despite those actions behind demonstrated by every other U.S. President that has held this office.

If we continue to sit back and silently allow our community to be publicly criticized constantly, we are setting a precedence that we are still "less than." We must speak up and let people know that they are being offensive and illogical in their perceptions and criticisms of Blacks.

It's perfectly okay to set your own standards. Just be sure you take off your rose colored glasses before you present your point of view.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015-Did it pass you by?

2015. You've dealt me my share of ups and downs with a mix of celebrations and disappointments. But most importantly, I've been able to be in every moment that came my way and that in itself is a gift.

I used to let life pass me by. Anger, regret and attitude would prevent me from enjoying life or spending quality time with people I care about. I'd be at the moment but not really be in the moment; already thinking about the next appointment or engagement or obligation instead of enjoying the current one.

2015 was labeled my "fearless" year. I started the year by mountain climbing Camelback in Arizona; not an easy feat. With each step that took me higher, my fears were minimized and new confidence gained. When I stood at that mountaintop and looked down, I accepted that getting to the top is never easy and it requires faith in each step.

I went out on a jet ski for the first time and released a fear of being on the open water. I have sailed on cruises before or enjoyed dinner cruises but I never felt comfortable and relaxed on water. Although I'm an excellent swimmer, I just never released that fear until this summer.

On the career front, I took some great leap of faiths that have worked out in my favor. Going back into the corporate workforce after sitting out a decade presented its own set of unique challenges but you have to know what you will and won't stand for in regards to employment. Don't sacrifice your morals or self esteem for a paycheck when there are other options. Don't be too proud to get a foot in the door of a company you really want to work for.

I've learned that sometimes the people you love will disappoint you. When you've done all you can, you have to accept it for what it is, hope for the best for them and move on with your life. It's that simple.

As always, with each passing year, you always learn who you can count on when things are down and you might be surprised that those same people aren't there when the tide turns. Some people would rather be your friend as long as you aren't doing as well or better than them. Learn to decipher an acquaintance from a friend. Spend your time and energy on your friends.

2016 won't pass me by. I don't have to set grand goals or use extravagant adjectives to describe my predictions for the next 12 months. I am just thankful that I have had another year to conquer fears, reach new goals, make new friends and most importantly, create a life that I don't have to escape from to find happiness.

Happy New Year to you!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Another Year-A little wiser

My friend Barbara, a fellow breast cancer survivor, and I at my birthday party. She's been one of the strongest women I've known this year.
Every year around my birthday, I sit down to blog about the past year. 43 to 44 was ROUGH! There were more highs than lows but the disappointments came from putting my trust, time and energy into the wrong relationships.

I failed at my first attempt of re-entering the workforce after 10 years as an entrepreneur. And that's okay. To admit failure is to admit you tried. If you fail and take the experience as a learning opportunity, you walk away a winner. If you walk away angry or resentful, then they win.

I made the mistake of assuming that coworkers are your friends. Granted, I met my very best friend at work but she is a rare jewel. Lesson learned: Be professional. Be polite. You can even be friendly but leave those colleagues out of your personal life and set your expectations low that they truly care about your well being. Better to be surprised than let down.

I've also learned that no matter how bad things may seem, if you stay focused and positive, eventually they will turn around and you will embrace the endless possibilities of a fresh start. Going several months between jobs was challenging but I never gave up. Just told myself that the right opportunity would come along. In the meantime, I did things that would help me get to the end goal rather than things that were counterproductive.

I developed a zero tolerance policy for toxic people and got the courage to cut them out of my life. Toxic people prohibit your growth and development. Nothing good will come from association with those who thrive in seeing you struggle or who hold you back from being your best. They condone your bad behavior rather than telling you when you are wrong or making a fool of yourself. You will be at your worst and they applaud. Learn to change your audience!

I learned not to apologize for being myself and for taking time off to be good to me. One shouldn't feel guilty for putting their own needs and wants first every now and then. You can't be good for anyone else if you aren't good to yourself.

This past year has kept me in good health and I've maintained my health and fitness goals by being more aware of the impact that diet and exercise has on my well being. I set goals that are best for me and my physical challenges and don't minimize my progress based on what others are accomplishing. I am fully confident that I can complete my first 5k run within the next few months.

Social media. Argh. It's been a thorn in my side. People put too much energy being passive aggressive on social media and I'm committing to ignoring the people who use it to thinly hide their anger or envy at others. There is something to be said when you consciously type a post aimed at being hateful or hurtful at others. Why even exude energy like that when you can take the higher road or turn the other cheek? Why are you letting people know they have power over your thoughts?

Most importantly, I have experienced first hand how the love, support and encouragement from the right people in your life can elevate you to new heights. Sometimes you simply outgrow people and you must part ways. I've never been one to be superficial so trying to revive a dead relationship isn't my strong suit.

I'm looking forward to reaching 45! I hope to continue to grow stronger and wiser and always have gratitude for the people who are a positive and unconditional source of love and support in my life.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

WWA-Writer With Attitude

I remember the first time I put on the Boyz in the Hood album on my record player. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this new sound! It played so loudly from my room that my dad walked down the hallway to turn me to "turn that mess down or off!" Since my parents didn't like it, I think I played it more. Hey, I was a rebellious teen who thought she was a bad ass.

Rap music has always resonated with me. From my wayward teens through my turbulent twenties and now in my fabulous forties, the lyrics were and still are a reflection of what I see and what those around me may be going through. I loved the genre so much that I completed a senior honors thesis at The University of Houston on gangsta rap and the feminist movement. The Dean of the program tried to talk me out of researching this topic citing it "lacked academic merit" but I "stood my ground" and got it approved.

My husband and I were so excited to finally see the biopic "Straight Outta Compton over the weekend and it didn't disappoint. Each police brutality scene resonated with me based on current events and it reminded me that there are still those who want to silence our voice, minimize our pain and make light of the systematic ills that plague our segmented communities.

I don't think any rational person would disagree that Rodney King took an unjust beating. I recall being shocked and outraged at the beating video. When the verdict came out, I was angry and appalled but it didn't have an emotional impact on my life like recent jury verdicts. Perhaps it is because I am a parent now or because I am older and wiser and can truly identify injustice and oppression patterns.

What concerns me most is the insensitivity displayed by people I thought held compassion and good moral standards close at hand and their social media backlash at recent similar events. When Blacks decide to stand up and raise awareness, they are countered with inclusiveness rhetoric like "all lives matter". Victims have been mocked in memes and comments have followed posts basically stating that these people lives didn't matter because they were criminals. Why do we even have a judicial system in place if the approach is shoot to kill? Why are there law schools and jails?

What makes a criminal? Is it one bad decision, an act of desperation, a response to an emotional trigger, mental illness or are these people just evil? No one takes the time to examine the person behind the criminal act anymore. They are just walking targets for police brutality. They don't matter. They should have "shut up." They should have "not run away." They "shouldn't have been there in the first place." "They had a smart mouth."

Choosing to remain silent about racism, injustice, discrimination and other unlawful behaviors puts you in bed with the aggressor. Silencing your own voice is a huge disservice to yourself. Those who can respect your plight, your life journey and your advocacy for change are the people you need to have in your circle. Everyone else needs to be pushed into the corner. Seems to be the best place for a spectator anyway.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Are you angry?

Anybody can become angry-that is easy but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not within everybody's power and is not easy. {Aristotle}

There seems to be so much anger in the world right now. Driving to work and people are angry. Take too long to order your coffee and the person behind you is angry. New laws go into effect and people are angry. Dangle a flag and people are angry. Anger, anger, anger......

We all get angry. No one is above that. But why are we so angry these days and why are we taking to the computer to vent our frustrations? Do we realize that we can actually insult or turn people away with a current state of emotion which may not even reflect who we fundamentally are?

There are few wastes of time greater than arguing on social media with a complete stranger. You aren't going to type anything that immediately changes their views and why are you investing time and energy into it? I've seen people going back and forth for DAYS on social media arguing over a topic which at the end of the day will NOT directly impact their livelihood, personal agendas or anything that they hold dear to their heart.

The last time I was truly angry was when I was at the receiving end of mistreatment in the workplace. I feel I had the right to be angry. I had to be consciously aware not to take that anger out on my family, my friends and those who were not experiencing the same setbacks that I was facing.

I had to constructively channel that energy into something that was productive and would not cause further harm to my cherished relationships. I had to make sure my anger didn't cloud my objectivity.

If you're angry, I would suggest staying off of social media especially during hot topic days (verdicts, election results, etc.), writing down your emotions, talking to a professional counselor, prayer or mediation, exercise or a simple get away where you can think and have some personal time.

I spent my entire childhood acting out and being angry. Angry at what was done to me and creating anger that never resolved any of my problems; just made them worse and turned people away. Don't regret being angry. Regret setting off a wave of anger that rolls over anyone in your path.

"For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind." {Ralph Waldo Emerson}