Happy Monday everyone! Can you think back to “teaching moments” that have shaped you as an individual? Read my thoughts on this week’s post Fitting Forty: Lessons. #NewBlogPost #Lessons #TeachingMoments
A couple of mornings ago, I was up early getting ready for work. I was combing my hair trying to get my fro all the way together and I was having difficulty. I went into my mother’s bedroom to give myself a once over in her full length mirror. I was still trying to pat my fro left and pick it on the right and I was not getting my desired results. She saw my frustration, took the comb from me, and proceeded to do what I apparently could not. She then began telling me, “You have comb the hair down and fluff up. You cannot go against what your hair wants to do.” At first I wanted to protest but she did get my hair together for me just like she use to when I was a kid. She then said, “When will I stop teaching you girls?”
I did not answer my mom at the time. I was concentrating more on getting out door however I did find myself pondering her question. When will I stop teaching you? The answer is never. You never will stop teaching me.
The first teachers any child receives in life are their parents or guardian. They teach you have to walk, to speak your native language, how to use the bathroom, and they shape the very foundations of you as an individual.
I think of all the lessons that I have gleaned from my parents over the years. Their opinions were very important to me. I still run key life decisions past my mom because I want to listen to her guidance. I hear her experiences that may be similar to what I may be experiencing. I also know the reason that I like to write is because of her. I would read her old stories and found them witty and insightful. I would wish that I could be just as gifted to tell stories in pen form like her. I listened to my dad in a similar way. I think about one lesson in particular. There was a time when I was not doing well in college. I had to stop for a time because my grades were low and I did not have any direction. One day, my father said to me, “You keep hitting your head against a brick wall and the wall is quite bloody. One day, you are going to get tired of hitting your head against that wall.”
He was not lying. I got tired. I got back into school and I graduated. I personally know that if he never taught me that lesson, I would have never seen a cap and gown.
Although my mom is with me and my dad has transitioned, both of their lessons still resonate. My mind would wander back to conversations with my dad about situations I face today and I would learn another lesson that I can apply to my life. The same thing would happen with my mom as well. All of my ancestors I have interacted within this life would bring to light teaching moments that shape my decisions and ultimately I gained wisdom from them.
I am not going to stop learning lessons until I leave this Earth. I find lessons all the time. I may even have told myself, “I wish I never did this.” or I may say, “I wish I never met this person.” But if I never experienced certain locales, I wouldn’t gained wisdom. I would not have gained direction. Also, sometimes the lessons that I learned were not always for me. Since I know that life is about relationships, I may have gone through something that someone else could learn from. My lesson could be someone’s direction.
Making it to this age, I can honestly say that I do not know a damn thing. There was a time in my life I thought I had things figured out and life were about absolutes. That was foolish thinking. Life has many shades of gray, and there are more than 50 (spoilers). I am still learning, still processing, and STILL putting pieces together. I think back to certain things that were told to me or done to me and say, “Oh, that is what that meant!” Sometimes that clarity came years later but that’s okay. Some things are not always meant to be revealed to you right then and there. Sometimes the lesson comes right when you need to learn from it or when it is the right time to share it.
Never be afraid of the lessons of life. They come to make you better. They come to make you stronger. They come to make you more courageous and compassionate. Ultimately, these lessons come to make you a more enlightened individual if you let them. As long as breath still fills your lungs, school is in session. Do you have your pen and pencil? Do you have your notebooks? Time to learn.
Monday morning came and I found myself at Starbucks across the street from my job (how convenient) getting some get ‘er done juice (my term for coffee since is this how I function properly) for the day. Like some of my fellow bean fiend’s, I am a zombie without my first cup. I am the very person that would really prefer for you not to speak to me until caffeine has fully permeated through my veins. Hey, everyone is entitled to their vices. Coffee is mine along with gummy worms (don’t ask)! Now that I had a shot of my opiate of choice, I am now awake and able to get through the day! Yay me!
Being “awake” has been a very popular theme I would assess for the past couple of years. Everyone is all of a sudden “woke”. Then this “woke” theme reached a higher height when Childish Gambino premiered the song “Red Bone” along with the movie “Get Out”. Now it is popular to tell others to avoid the “Sunken Place” and wearing dashikis and necklaces that have ankhs and black fists. Now I am not knocking any of those things because I have a few dashiki pieces in my closet right now and spend a few of my coins on natural hair products. That stuff AIN’T CHEAP! Yes, all those things are well and good, but do you really know what it is to be awake?
Being awake is not all about modern day slang. I dare even say it is not about being fully into one’s “Blackness” or “Whiteness” or anything else of that nature. I do not have a problem with loving your race/culture because there nothing wrong being proud of where you came from. Being awake is much deeper. To be awake is to come into a state where you realize your greatest potential and contribute to the place where you are right now by bringing forth your unique capabilities – Living Buddhism August 2017 pg 6.
Now that sentence said a whole lot but what does it actually mean?
To truly know what means to come into a state where you realize your greatest potential and contribute to the place where you are right now by bringing forth your unique capabilities, you first have to know what “potential” means. So what is potential? Well, the dictionary defines potential as having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future. Simply put, potential is untapped ability. It is the energy/gifts that are already in you that have not come to light. As humans, we have a habit of keeping our potential hidden because we are afraid of it. We fear what we are capable of. We fear being great because we get comfortable being mediocre. We fear being powerful because we are used to acting like sheep instead of being lions. We fear because we do not know and chose to live in darkness because ignorance is bliss. To live in fear is to remain in a place of slumber.
When you realize your potential you come into know who you really are. When you come into knowing who you really are you awaken from slumber. You become more aware. You are aware of yourself. You are aware of what you like and dislike. You are aware of others and make decisions accordingly on how to deal with them. You are aware of your environment and learn how to interact with it. You realize your place in the universe and begin to walk in your purpose. When you walk in your purpose, not only do you change your life for the better, you affect other lives around you for the better.
Living in an awaken state involves our capabilities shining the brightest when we take action for the happiness not only for ourselves but of others. We awaken people to their unlimited potential and empower them to become happy. Awakening means coming face to face with the innermost essence of your own life. It is knowing the ultimate meaning of why you were born and why you are alive. There is no greater joy, fulfillment or pride than that which comes from awakening to your eternal mission (Youth and the Writings of Nichiren Dishonin pg. 12)
Being awake means to live with purpose. The purpose would be tapping into potential and using the gifts that are inside. Finding what your gifts are (I say gifts because there is always more than one) will tell you what your purpose is. When your purpose is revealed, you will then affect the life of yourself and others around you for the better. That is what will bring true happiness, fulfillment, and life lived more in abundance.
Why stay in slumber? Why walk in fear? Why cut yourself off from your own potential? What are you afraid of? Do you want to live life as a sheep or as a lion? In The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Ikeda writes this:
“Let us always press forward steadily, come what may, choosing cheerfulness over gloom, encouragement over envy, enthusiasm over anger. Let us live our lives with unwavering confidence, demonstrating a spirit of tolerance, not authoritarianism, filled with hope instead of despair, taking action instead of complaining, and engaging in dialogue, not violence. Those who fight against their own weaknesses and keep pressing forward resolutely – challenging themselves instead of giving up, and taking personal responsibility for victory instead of criticizing others – triumph in the end and attain happiness. Moreover the efforts we make now determine not just this existence but our past, present, and future.”
These are the principles of being awake. To live intentionally in purpose. To affect your life positively and those around you. Choosing to act with compassion instead of arrogance and with courage instead of fear. As stated before, the efforts we make NOW determine not just this existence but our past, present, and future. Isaiah 60:1a says, Arise, shine; for your light has come. The alarm is ringing Beloved. Time to wake up.
Here is a funny story. I remember when I was 25 years old and I was visiting my Grandmother in her apartment. I was living outside of Chicago and I recently went back to school to finish my degree while working a full time job. Not easy by the way but I digress. I was sitting with her and just chatting. During our talk, my Grandmother paused and looked at me silently. I looked back at her pensively and asked her what’s wrong? She then said to me, and please imagine a very thick Jamaican accent, “Cindy, you’re not married, you don’t have children, you don’t have a boyfriend! G’yal, what wrong wit ya’? Ya’ G’YAY????” If you have not guessed, the last word was an attempt to spell in patois phonetically the word gay. I kind of looked at her and then began to laugh. My Grandmother was a very matter of fact woman and never took time to hold her tongue about anything. Pretty much, NO FILTER! As much as I wanted to give her an answer, I really couldn’t because I was too busy laughing at what she said to me. Really Grandma??? That’s how you feel??? You had to have been there!
At the time, I did not date. On the surface, I was focused more on finishing school since I messed up the first go round. I wanted to get it right and make an attempt to educated myself and become a self sufficient adult. The underlining reason I did not date was because I was obese and I did not think myself attractive and I did not think anyone would think I was attractive either.
Fifteen years later, I am much like my former self in my relationship status. I am still unmarried, I still have no children, but no I am not gay. I have dated since that conversation (or should I say accusation) I had with my Grandmother but nothing really panned out in my favor.
Now please do not get my wrong. This post is not an all men suck rant because that is simply not true. Recently, I felt myself very low and I did not know what to do. I sought some spiritual advise and the main thing that was told to me was, “Here is a mirror, you need to look at yourself”.
I really had to ponder. What does that mean? Before I get into explanations, let me ask some questions. Have you ever been in situations that just did not work out? What were the situations? Did you try to start a business, date, or lose weight and it did not work in your favor? Why didn’t it work?
If you really look at each situation you find yourself and it did not work out, you have to look at the common denominator. That common denominator is and will always be you.
Often times, stuff doesn’t work out for a lot of reasons. In order to truly analyze and find solutions to problems is always best practice to look at yourself and see the part you play in it. This is what it really means to look at yourself. Look into yourself. Reveal all parts of yourself. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Recently, circumstances forced me really to do some serious soul searching. In a way, I had to break out my spiritual mirror and start looking at myself. I came across a quote during my introspection that I like to share.
- A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. (The Winning Life – The World Tribune Press)
In life, we are often bombarded by different situations that can cloud our minds and cause us to be blind essentially walking in darkness. If we continue in that state, we never realize our true potential. We often find ourselves reacting and never truly get down the road of our lives.
I personally decided I need to polish my mirror everyday. I have to look at myself, everyday. I say have to instead of had to because this work never stops. It is essential if I personally want to realize my goals and endeavor to becoming a better human being.
Is there something in your life that is keeping you from moving forward? We all have something. No one is immune. Problems, situations, and circumstances are all part of living. I encourage you to break out your mirror. Really start to look at yourself. Polish your mirror everyday. You’d be surprised on what it will reveal. Take heed to what you find. You will be better when you commit to doing the work.
I remember well the night my Father died. It was a Sunday and first day of the new year in 2012. He was very quiet that day, as he had been since his illness progressed. I would look in on him from time to time. My mom went in a few times as well to make sure he was doing okay. Later that night, I was getting ready for bed. My mom came downstairs where I was and looked very strange. I returned her gaze with fear for the worst and asked what’s wrong. She replied, “Cindy, I think your Father past away”.
I remember leaping out of bed which was an amazing feet for me since I was over 460 pounds at the time. I ran upstairs into my Dad’s room and yelled at him. “Wake up!” I screamed, but I did not get a response. I started to shake him violently screaming at him to wake up, but I again no response. I then realized that the day I was preparing for, but not really prepared for finally came. My Father died.
I immediately fell to the ground. Screaming, wailing, and beating the floor were my actions. Inconsolable was my place I resided and for a moment it seemed I was not coming back. I then remembered I had work to do. I had to get up and start contacting the different parties on my “In case Dad dies” list. I had to call the hospice nurse to confirm he was dead. Once she came over and confirmed his death, I had to call the cremation society to have his body removed. In tandem, my mom and I started to call family members to also tell them the news and to let them know what the future arrangements were.
The night my Father died, I died too. It was some years later that I realized that I did in fact die. The reason why is because the person I was then versus now is very different. I was a person that was very reliant on my parents. I second guessed everything I did. I was also constantly seeking the approval of others. When my Dad got sick, I had to grow up fast. I became everything to him. I was the caregiver, the chauffeur, the cook, the accountant, the decision maker, everything. In a way, we switched roles and I was the parent whether I wanted to be or not. When he died, and ever since, I could not stay in a sadden state no matter what. I had and continue to take action.
I noticed now that I am a person that is constantly doing. Even after I get news that does not sit well with me, I make myself keep going and I make my circle hold me accountable to keep going. I tell you no lies, it is hard to do. I am human. I feel, I hurt, I get sad, I get low, and I sometimes want to quit, but I can’t and I won’t. I have to, I must, go on.
When the services and the burial of my Father was finally over. I realized that I was still grieving. I decided to get therapy. In those sessions, the therapist allowed me to get my feelings out whether I had to cry or cuss. She also taught me that in the mean time, my Father would had wanted me to go on and live my life. From that point, I started learning ways to give myself care. I had to re-learn prayer, to meditate, to journal and other vehicles to take myself to a place of wholeness.
In the process of becoming a whole person (which I still am learning to do), I learned my worth. I tell myself you are good, you are wonderful, you are amazing, and you are loved. You are passionate and you can do anything you set your mind to do. This is not being haughty. This is staying in the practice of loving myself. These are tools I use to continue.
Life is difficult at times. It can be stressful and overwhelmingly cruel but it is worth living. In the most difficult times, its important to care for yourself, affirm yourself and love yourself. I heard someone say that no one has to care. They don’t have to care about your accomplishments, your well-being, nothing. But here is the thing, even if no one has to care, YOU should! You should care enough for the entire world because when you do, others cannot help but to see the light in you. Keep going. Don’t stop. Practice the principle of specificity (Specific adaptations to impose demands). You will make it to your destiny.
June 18, 2017, was Father’s Day. I decided that I should spend the day with my Dad. Most people will take their Father’s to a restaurant, maybe go to a ball game, or even make a grand dinner. I however spent time with my Father at his grave.
My Dad had a battle with prostate cancer that he lost on January 2, 2012 . He ashes are interned in a Veteran’s cemetery outside of my hometown of Chicago. He was a Korean War Veteran that served in the Navy as a Seaman. He ended up doing 2 tours staying in the Navy for 8 years in total. Although he served his country and held several titles in his life, the one he held for me is my first Love.
My Father and I did everything together. When I was a kid, I would spend my weekends with him. He had a 1977 charcoal convertible Volkswagen Beetle. The car had no heat so you could only drive in the spring/summer. It had a pull out radio just like the movie McGruber. He and his friend Rip rebuilt the car from the ground up and he would go to an auto parts store called Wachowski’s in the South Loop constantly buying car parts because the thing was super uber sensitive!
I loved that car. I supposed I loved it so much because I knew that every time I got into it, it would be an adventure that only he and I would share together. The adventure could be as mundane as going to dentist or the grocery store or as fascinating as a Chinese dinner in Dalton or China town. My Dad and I shared a deep love for stir fry.
I often reflect back on the times we had together, like watching Miami Vice on Friday Nights (it was cheesy but we cared not!), practicing the piano in his living room (He loved Beethoven), or watching him build a doll house for me that we go to the north suburbs for parts (drove my sisters crazy he built it for me! ha ha!). No matter what we did, it was always special to me because I was his running buddy and his reflection in female form. I looked just like him from the speckles in this hands and feet to the wide smile that paints our faces when we find something funny. He loved to laugh.
When I visited his grave, I put my hands on his name stone. I often look at my hands and if I stare at them long enough, they look just like his. The more they look like his hands, I start to hear his voice. I hear him talking to me about when he was growing up, him giving me a chore to do (he really liked doing that) or hearing him sing a jazz song like “Angel Eyes” or an opera aria sung by Franco Corelli. The main reason why I have such a deep love for music (especially classical music) was all because of him.
My mind often wanders back to him and without trying. I would hear a phrase, a song, or see something as I walk by that would remind me of him. Even when I have life decisions to make, I think to myself “What Would Daddy Do?”
Making it to this age, I hope within my being that he’d be proud of me. If anyone wanted me to get my health together, it was him. I know I say I made the decision to get my health together to save my life, but I also say to him, “Dad, I did it. I finally did it.”
He was and still is my motivation to press forward in life. Although he isn’t present physically, I still feel him with me because I refuse to forget him. But why would I? He is a part of me and forgetting him would be forgetting myself. I miss him dearly but as time goes on, it does not hurt so much that he is not on Earth. Rest in Heaven Daddy. Please know, I love you.
An integral part about getting older is really being conscious about your health and well being. Let’s face it, you are no spring chicken and your body sends subtle (and no so subtle) hints this is the case. I know for me my hints come in the morning. Picture the sun starting to send it’s rays through your bedroom window. Your eyes start to flicker as you hear a faint tune of Morning Song by Grieg playing in your head (at least you wish because what you actually hear it that stupid alarm on your phone going off at 6:00 am in the morning!) I am sorry, let’s go back to the ethereal scene. You then smile thinking of how great it is to be alive, how you are going to just Carpe Diem the hell out of the day, and then you decide to sit up and hear CRUNCH! That will be the sound a few joints you have to rub while you desperately try to gather yourself out of bed! Yeah, that did not happen when you were in your twenties! That was a case of cold reality hitting you in the face like a bucket of ice water!
This comes with the territory. Joints not always responding like how you want, your body not really doing what you want it to do, and you wanting to find some relief in it all. You think, should I exercise? Should I eat better? Should I go to the doctor? Should I drink this entire bottle of wine I picked up from the grocery store on my way home from work (Riesling being the favorite.)? I am going with wine!
Although wine is good choice for any occasion, getting older means being more serious about how your body is functioning. Since this is all about being 40 (read the title), I personally met another health milestone I had to take care of. The dreaded mammogram! Now, the only reason why I call it dreaded was because I would listen to my mom describe to me in mitigated detail her experience with mammograms. She described the cold plates. The two plates coming together like a car compactor smashing your breasts together and squeezing your very existence making you regret being a woman! Also, the walk of shame leaving the room because you subjected yourself to this torture!
I had all of these thoughts in my head when it was time to get my mammogram. I first had to get over the whole I am actually old enough to be considered to get this done part. When I got through that, I had to get past all the stories and the building fear coming to roost in my throat! “Okay Cynthia”, I said to myself, “Put on your big girl panties and take this like a soldier!” I step in the lab where the machine is, follow the instructions of the lab tech, and went through all the different positions and squeezing. My conclusion was that the mammogram was not that bad. The lab tech was also very nice and walked me through everything because she knew it was my first time and I was a bit nervous. But can you blame me???
Accepting this whole mammogram business is all a part of being very aware of your age and health, at least it was for me. Leading up to the mammogram, my doctor and I had a chat about what women of my age should be doing in order to maintain their health and well being. Here are a few things women in their forties should be doing:
- Do regular check ups with your primary care physician to make sure they have a base line for your overall well being and can monitor any changes. This should be done at least once a year.
- When reaching your Forties, get a mammogram to make sure your breast health is in order. If the breast have no abnormalities, this does not have to be done for another 10 years.
- Do self checks breast exams. Feel for any lumps or bumps. If you feel one, see your doctor to check them to make sure they are not cancerous. Often time lumps and bumps can be a result of acne or just cyst that are harmless, but it is good to stay on the side of caution.
- Stay on top of your pap smears. My doctor said you should getting one every 1 to 3 years. Also if you are sexually active, make sure to get tested for any sexually transmitted diseases. Getting tested should happen every six months to be on the cautious side.
- Adopt a healthier way of eating and exercise. The older you get, the more you are subject to heart disease which is the number one killer of women but often times can be prevented by making changes in this area to keep your heart healthy and happy!
- Find a way to live a more stress free life. Pick up a hobby or do something for yourself to make you feel good! No one can be better to yourself than you!
Getting older is inevitable but it does not have to be a strain or something to loathe. The best way to embrace your age is to make sure your health is in order. I said it before, I am in better shape and my health is better now at 40 than at 30. That is only because I decided to take the necessary steps to get that way. It was not rocket science, it was just taking one step at a time. Remember, only you can make this life the best for you. No one else can do it for you. You only have one life to live. Make the best of it!