Reflections of Another Year

November 21, 2011

10:15 pm

As I sit here, the last hours of my 33rd year on this Earth are winding down.  2 hours from now will mark the moment that my mother began going into labor with me, and 5 hours and 35 minutes from now will mark the exact time that I was born.  Yes, I know the time, and it will be the exact day, too, Tuesday, November 22, 1977 at 3:50 am, a star was born.  That’s what my birth announcement says, I didn’t make that up!  Alas, I digress.

When I turned 33, I had a moment; an epiphany, if you would.  I thought to myself, “When Jesus was 33, He had fulfilled His purpose on this Earth and was crucified on the cross for our sins.  What in the world am I doing with my life?”  It’s not that I felt I’d wasted 32 years of my life.  In fact, I feel like I am on a continual path to fully understand and discover my purpose.  As part of that journey, I’ve had some hiccups and some moments where I wavered, but I was never too far from the path that God ordained from before I was ever even born.  The thought, though, was more about pushing myself to the next level.  So, I embarked on that journey this year.

Welcome to my world of reflection.  Here’s what I am proud of from this past year:

  • Do What You Say You Will Do.  I started my husband’s annual 120 Day Challenge, and am well on my way to completing it; on time.  The 120 Day Challenge is reading the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in 120 days.  I got behind several times, and am currently behind, but I have a plan to finish on time, and am actually ahead of that plan.  So on November 30th, I’ll be done.  At the beginning of the challenge, I purposed that I would finish on time, and I am doing just that.
  • Be Disciplined.  Okay, this hasn’t been my best year for discipline, but I’ve made my way down a path to doing so.  As you’ll recall from some previous posts, I had to let go of some activities in my life so I could take care of basics.  I had to shift my schedule around so I could work some things out.  And I’ve done that.  I have a regular workout routine (with makeup sessions when I need them), I have a schedule for cleaning the house that I generally stick to.  I feel like I’m finally getting into a groove, even if it did take most of the year to get there.
  • Give of Yourself.  I’m hard.  I’m hard on me, I’m hard on others.  I’m even hard on my kids.  But I am aware of it, so I work on it.  This year, I especially gave more to my youngest daughter, who I am the hardest on.  That has played out in our relationship.  Over the year, I’ve gone from being “Rasheeda” (the step-mommy) to “Momma” (because she’s determined she has two mommies, her mom whom she sees most days and who  loves her dearly, and her “other” mom who loves her dearly as well).  You have to understand that, as a step-parent, having one of your inherited children choose, on their own, to call you Mom or Momma is one of the most precious, giving and rewarding feelings you can ever have.  So, as I’ve given her more of me, just hanging out, having fun, learning about each other, I’ve gotten so much more, though I expected nothing.  And that has been worth it’s weight in gold.
  • Discover Yourself.  I’m always on a journey of self discovery.  This year has been no different.  I’ve had the privilege of participating in a coaching program that has allowed me to learn more about my work self and my personal self.  Through what I’ve learned in that program, I’ve defined more what my goals, plans, and steps to get there are.  It has made me more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and I believe I am truly on the path God has set out for me.  I am walking this life out.
  • Enjoy the Moments.  I’m a planner by nature.  I plan the route I’m going to take when I take errands, working to maximize the number of right turns I make (YES, I do that).  My husband, by contrast, is a “go with the flow” type of guy.  He likes to take things as they happen, which often makes me batty.  But I’ve been learning to go with the flow.  Okay, let’s just chill.  Yes, it’s okay that we don’t have plans.  Let’s just enjoy the company of who’s around us or enjoy the peaceful solitude.  You don’t always have to be going somewhere or doing something.

Thirty-three has been good to me. I am excited about 34, and know it will be even better.  I’m not intimidated that I’m entering the mid-thirties.  After all, you’re only as old as you act and, well, in that case, I’m really 14.  So I thank God for this year, and I thank Him for every moment that I will get to live out my purpose on this earth.  I pray that I used every moment well and, where I missed it, let me not repeat the mistake twice.

Happy Birthday, Rasheeda Niambi!

Smile

As you can tell from last week’s post, I’ve got a few things going on right now.  Work is busy, life is busy, and it is a little overwhelming. Tuesday night was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually rested, meaning, I wasn’t just sleep.  I got to close my eyes and rest, without random thoughts and dreams popping into my head.  I’ve taken a few days off from work this week, and was excited that my night of rest was a sign of better things to come.  I got up Wednesday morning, got in a great workout at the park, and thought, “Oh, yes, I’ve got endorphins, life is good.”  I even began to invoke my inner Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde”) and found myself saying, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make people happy.  Happy people [aren’t mean, they just aren’t].”  Sidenote:  the quote actually ends, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I always change it to suit my situation.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s restful sleep was not night a sign of more restful nights to follow.  Correction:  it wasn’t followed by a restful sleep on Wednesday night.  Admittedly, this is my own fault.  While I am off work for a few days, there are a number of things going on, and I can’t let the ball drop on them.  Yes, this is where my workaholic tendency comes in.  I’ve been . . . monitoring . . . my BlackBerry.  Responding to the items I deem as urgent that no one else is in a position to answer, and skipping the rest.  I really should be putting the Blackberry away completely; I’m working on it.  It’s quite draining to plan a memorial service, and, frankly, my few days off are more about needing to focus on that than they are about needing time off from work (but I am in need of a vacation, honestly).

Now, I’m not here to whine or complain.  In the midst of my not so restful sleep Wednesday night, I had an interesting revelation.  Sometimes, in the midst of everything going on, you just have to smile.  You know, like the Kirk Franklin song says, “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”    So I’m smiling. And one of my favorite things that makes me smile popped into my dreams Wednesday night:

Yes, sometimes I dream in YouTube.  Don’t judge me.  But my YouTube dreaming made me smile last night.  Not just in my dream, but I woke up with a smile on my face (before I fell back asleep).  The video is cute, you know you laughed and probably watched it more than once, but it isn’t just about being cute.  It is a reminder that you have to take time out and just enjoy the special moments in life, the ones that make you smile.

My week isn’t all about sadness and stress.  Yes, it’s hard to know that my grandmother is gone, and even harder for me, who has spent my 33 years of life blessed with 4 living grandparents yet, in just 9 short months, I’ve lost 2 of them.  Work can be stressful, but I do enjoy what I do (most days, we all have “those days.”).  But I’ve laughed a lot the past couple weeks, I had a BLAST hanging out with my mom yesterday while we ran errands in preparation for the memorial service.  In other words, I’ve found the moments to make me smile in the midst of what can be a trying time.

What are you going through today that makes you feel down?  Don’t let it get you down.  Find your favorite thing, and make sure you Smile.  “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”

Clean Your Closet

This past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  Now, I know, that sounds like something uneventful.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  It took me a total of 8 hours to clean the closet.  I went through every article of clothing, every purse, every item hiding in the closet until I had purged it fully.  I left no stone (or item) unturned in that closet.  And, in the midst of my 8 hour cleaning spree, I had a revelation.

I realized that I had been allowing others to define things for me, without defining them for myself.  Take my closet, for example.  It was full of clothes that were given to me by other people, or things others thought looked cute on me but I had never really been quite sure.  In my closet were items I was holding onto for nostalgia sake, and waaaay too many t-shirts.  I had several “I’m going to fit into these again one day” dresses, suits, etc.  And as I kept working, I wondered where the clothes were that expressed who Rasheeda really is.

Well, 8 hours later, the results were in.  Here were the clothes that represented me

And this is all that I purged, or rather, donated to Goodwill:

Now, this may all seem silly to you, but it was a pretty significant moment for me. I’ve been going through a lot of growth and changes this year, and particularly in the recent months.  I took everything over to Goodwill immediately (well, the next day), because I didn’t want to change my mind on anything.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take some time to figure out what I like, what I really like, and rebuild my closet with those things.

For me, it really was my closet that needed the purging.  But for someone else, it could be anything:  your career, your spiritual life, your love life.  Take some time, hours, days, whatever it takes, to do a very thorough inventory, clean out the things that you need to, and purge them for your life.  The “closet” may seem empty, but that emptiness can be the most fulfilling emotion you’ll ever experience.

In the Midst of Solitude

Yesterday, when I arrived home, I just sort of shut down.  I found myself at first annoyed by something, and then ultimately angry.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to be significantly more self-aware.  As part of that, I know that, when I’m that angry, I should just be quiet, so that’s what I did.  I put myself in time out, or in the “corner.”  The corner is the place I go to just be quiet.  It’s where I have to sit myself until I am in a much better mental state.  And I don’t think of the corner as a bad place.  In my mind, the corner has great snacks, a Tempurpedic mattress and all the comforts I could ever want.  It also doesn’t have other people.

As I rose this morning to start my day, I still felt a little bit of that quiet mode.  The difference is that now, it isn’t about frustration or anger.  It’s just about being still.  Sometimes we go so much, move so fast, have so many things going on that we don’t take time to just sit still.  And I don’t mean sit still and watch tv or veg out.  I mean just flat-out be still.  We have iPods and phones and televisions and video games (and the list goes on), and there is always movement.  But what happens when you just shut it all off and sit still?  All of those things are distractions.  Let’s be real, there really isn’t anything on tv right now.  Most of the shows won’t have new episodes until the fall, and the shows that do are, for the most part, “reality tv” where I can feel my brain cells leaving (yes, I do watch some of it, but it doesn’t make it right).  So what’s the point?

Last night, I shut it all off.  I plugged up my phone, grabbed a book and had a nice relaxing bath.  I kept reading my book until I convinced myself that going to bed really is the best thing.  And you know what? It was a very peaceful and quiet night.  I read, but I also listened to the thoughts (not the voices, the thoughts) in my head, filtering through the randomness that plays through my mind to get to the things that really matter.  I found myself with a renewed sense of energy and determination, and, when I woke this morning, looked forward to the solitude that this morning brings me.

Take some time to enjoy the solitude.  A lot of times we fear it, when, in reality, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  Perhaps a trip to the corner isn’t so bad after all.

How Do You See It?

Whenever something happens that bothers me, my husband always reminds me that it is all about perspective.  Now, admittedly, this usually just irritates me, but not because I think there’s wisdom in what he says.  In fact, I do.  But usually, at that moment, I want to wallow in whatever is bothering me.  It just so happens that my wise husband doesn’t really allow me to do that.  Go figure :-).

He does make a good point, though. When things don’t go your way, how do you look at it?  Is it a learning opportunity, or just something else to upset you?  And if it’s the latter, are you missing the lesson?  We had a situation occur over the weekend that really upset me.  I had an unintentional emotional reaction, in spite of my best efforts to hold it in.  But once I got that out of my system, I took a moment to step back and look.  The situation, frustrating though it may be, was simply a challenge.  From my perspective, it was the physical manifestation of a spiritual attack.  So, taking that into account, I did the one thing I know to do in spiritual matters:  I prayed.  I prayed for the situation, I prayed for those involved and I prayed for myself.

There was a time where a situation like that would have shook me for days.  It would have left me in a funk.  But, as I’ve learned, it is all about perspective.  I can’t change what happened, but I can change (and control) my reaction to it.  There are things that take place every day that frustrate you.  You can wallow in it, holding on to the past, or you can change your perspective.  Identify what lesson or opportunity you may take from the situation.  Alter your perspective, I guarantee it will alter more than just your thoughts, but also your attitude, your behavior, and possibly even the outcome of the situation.

Feel Like a New Woman

A few weeks ago, I talked about being in a space where I had to make some tough decisions (Spring Cleaning).  Well, over the past couple weeks, I executed on those things that I needed to do.  I think the anticipation of walking away was more daunting than the actual exercise of doing so.  I was nervous, my stomach was doing turns, but once the necessary conversations took place, I felt silly for being so nervous.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed it would be.  But, then again, when you are doing what you know you need to do, isn’t that usually the outcome?  You’re nervous but God has already ordered your steps, so the end result is much better than what you tried to anticipate in your mind?

Here I am, 2 weeks after that, and I feel like a new woman.  The decisions I made, albeit tough, were for the purpose of spending more time with my family, taking care of them and our home, and also working on some projects that I’ve had in my heart to do for quite some time (they’re still secret for now, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you about it later).  The past few days, I cleaned my house, did ALL of the laundry, and even did a little advance cooking and preparation for the week.  I got disciplined about the things I know I have needed to do for a while, for my personal, physical and spiritual health, and I’m excited about what is in store.  My mind is feeling clear, and I know that, soon and very soon, some more things will fall into place.

I believe I’m in a new season in my life.  I know about some of the things that are in store, because God has been laying them on my heart for a while now.  But I don’t know all that is in store, and I’m simply excited about it.  I continue to search for the better part of me, and today, I feel like a new woman who is continuing down that path.

To borrow from my brother, Be Real, Be You and Be Easy.  Have a great week!

Pride

Yesterday my brother wrote in his blog about my decision to attend Spelman College.  Now, his blog wasn’t all about me.  He was using it as an example.  But as my day went on, and I prepared to write today’s blog, it brought back a lot of memories.

Anyone who knows me knows I love my alma mater.  Spelman College was a place that I dreamed of attending from the time I was 12 years old, and that dream came true when I graduated cum laude with a BA in English in May 1999.  Many people ask me why I love Spelman so much.  Spelman is the place where I learned to be me.  It was a safe place where others looked liked me, but didn’t necessarily think like me.  That challenged me to dig deeper and discover my own truths, as Judy Gebre-Hiwet taught me.  It was a place where I didn’t have to be reminded of my race or gender.  Instead, I could focus on my values, my thoughts, my beliefs and my character.  I went to Spelman a girl, and emerged a woman, empowered, and ready to take on the world and all it had in store for me.

Spelman also gave me a true sense of sisterhood, and ultimately family.  You may have heard the term, “SpelHouse.”  It’s a reference to the very close bond between the women of Spelman College and those wonderful brothers across the street on that red clay hill; the brothers of Morehouse College.  SpelHouse love is something else.  It is a deep bond that, when embraced, can hardly be broken.  Simple use of the term SpelHouse encompasses friendship, family, support, encouragement, and all things in between.  It is that space between the friends that become family, those that you “ride or die” for.  To outsiders, it sounds like an exclusive organization. But, at its core, SpelHouse is a family.

I am grateful that God placed in me, at a young age, the desire to attend Spelman College.  I am even more grateful for the manifestation of that desire, and for the friends, excuse me, family, that I’ve made as a result of that journey.  You can’t take these experiences for granted, because they only last for a season, but their impacts last a lifetime.  So to my SpelHouse family, I say thank you.  Thank you for pushing me, challenging me, supporting me and helping me to be the woman I am today.  I am so proud to be a part of you, and I pray that these words continue to reign true:  “To my beloved Spelman, may her reach exceed her grasp.”*

*Plaque outside of Sister’s Chapel at Spelman College, presented to Spelman College from the Class of 1986.