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
Often met with getting older is experiencing death. It is not uncommon for friends of old to tell me that a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or parent has made their transition. I experienced this phenomenon quite often and wrote about losing my own Father. Although death has become a more frequent tale, it always takes me a back especially when it is a friend. This post is to honor my friend the way that I remember him.
My friend, Peter Grant, was a friend I met while attending Eastern Illinois University. He was born and raised in Central Illinois and was a son of a farmer. He was raised around corn and soy beans, big farm machines, and was really good with cars. I was only raised around corn I found at the grocery store, I knew the very basics about cars, and big combines scare the daylights out of me (that’s another story)! When we met, I wasn’t sure the farm boy and the city kid would be friends, but we were.
Pete and I pal’d around quite a bit. We were all part of a group of kids that gave their hearts to God and leaned on each other a lot to find answers. We often trudged around central Illinois to different services, revivals, and bible studies held by a family we all adopted namely because they would tell us truth and fed us since we were all poor, college students with a lack of nutritional sense! We laughed, cried, prayed, and would cling on to one another to draw strength to make it through another day, another exam, or another research paper!
I could always call on Pete as a friend or as a confidant. We would talk to each other sometimes for hours. I remember going to his family home once for Easter dinner. When we sat down at the table to eat, his Father told everyone at the table, “When Cynthia calls, Pete turns into a wet puppy!” Pete replied,”It’s true dad I do!” Although this is a little difficult to do as a black woman, but I turned beet red! All of us kids sat at the table first in awe that his dad actually said that and then burs-ted into laughter because his dad actually said that! Pete was just a sweet guy and he genuinely cared for me. When we would come back late from different events, I would make him drive my very temperamental car I owned at the time. It was a 1988 forest green gas guzzler that was always breaking down that I fittingly named “Diva”. Pete was on the only one that could get that New Yorker bucket of bolts to sometimes act right! When she died, transmission went boom and she was no more, I called him. He told me, “Diva fought a good fight and ran a good race.” No truer words were spoken.
Peter later on married his sweet heart Nina and they went on to have four children. He and I lost touch over the years but we later reconnected thanks to the wonderful world of social media. When we did, we just pick up where we left off! We talked about school, family, what we were into now, etc. He even “liked” a video of me singing at a service I posted on Facebook singing, “My Living Shall Not be in Vain”. His comment to follow was, “I ain’t heard me some good Cynthia singing in over 10 years!” Oh Pete! So sweet, yet sooooooo country! He loved to sing too. I remember him singing at the top of his lungs during worship services we attended together. The song I remember him singing with the most emphatic voice was “Shout to the Lord”.
Pete fought a good fight with cancer but his soul transitioned this past Thanksgiving. I am very sad my friend is gone but I am glad that we reconnected before he left this earth. He was a kind, gentle, loving soul. He was a lover of God, of his family, and friends. I wish that we had more time and I wished I had the chance to express to him in person how much he meant to me. I wish I could give you your flowers Pete. Even if I can’t give them to you personally, I will give them to your wife and children who love you very much. There is a new angel and his name is Peter Grant. He will still be around watching over all who he loved. He will missed but never forgotten.
One of my favorite hobbies is to travel. For the past two years, I found myself on a plane at least eight to 10 times a year and not for work. Most of the time, one of my good friends may say, hey Cindy let’s go here or there! Since I have no problem leaving the city of Chicago (especially when it gets cold), I often reply “Lets!” After that affirmation (and a check to my bank account), I am on a travel site, looking for a discount, booking my passage to wherever! She is BOOKED!!!!
When I am at the airport, I will often smile to the gatekeeper; ask politely for a window seat, and majority of the time it’s given to me. If I am really nice, they will assign me to the emergency aisle or upgrade me so I can get more leg room! That is when I really get super GEEKED!
As I take my seat, buckle my safety belt, and get settled in, I start to look out the window. There is that whole safety demonstration speech but I been on a plane enough times to observe the seat belt lights, mark the emergency exits, and figure out how to pull up my seat and use it as a flotation device. After all that is out the way, we are off! Watching the plane tilt farther up and then the runway fades away until you are up in the clouds!
I look out the window and look down on the world below me. Everything looks so small. Children look out of plane windows and often tell the parents people look like ants scurrying about and the cars look like hot wheel toys. Trees look like little shrubs that have been placed by hand and houses look like architect models from a mock city. After the people disappear, the cars vanish, and buildings are no longer in sight, you only see clouds. Then once you see the clouds, you find yourself in them.
For however long those hours are you are in the air, nothing else below is in your view. The life that exists below is no longer seen and for a while, it does not exist. It is no longer where you dwell.
Often as humans, we are subjected to all types of triggers that affect the way we see, think, and are. We are bombarded with life’s stuff. Bills need to be paid; children need to be tended to, responsibilities and obligations need to be taken care of, etc. etc. etc. All this stuff we encounter day by day by day. When do we ever get a break?
Recently, a big part of my life was taken away from me. That part of my life so big to me because it was part of my identity and what I believed. When that was gone, I felt lost. I even found myself in my work stairwell crying because this part of me is now gone and I knew it was not coming back. Later that week, I went to my friend’s yoga class that ended up being just her and I. We talked, went through a spectacular flow and meditated. While I was in meditation I heard the Universe speak to me and say, “Change your perspective”.
Being back in a plane, you are above all the world. Nothing on the earth affects you. When you are traveling higher and higher in the atmosphere, you do not see what is on the ground. You only see the clouds in the sky all around you.
The Universe telling me to change my perspective meant I needed to change what I saw. When that thing that I held so dear was taking away from me, all I could see is its absence . Since I saw this precious thing as gone, I then felt the hurt of it being gone and it made me cry, a lot! After changing my perspective, I now see it was not a loss. It is an opportunity. This opportunity freed up my time to pursue other things I am passionate about and even gave me an opportunity to do something else for others. I changed my perspective. I changed how I look at this thing. Now instead feeling the hurt of it being taken away, I now feel joy and happiness because I get now do something I want to do.
Being above it all gives you an opportunity to change your location from being tied to all the earthly things that affect you in a negative way. When you change your location to live in a higher state, what people say to you, what responsibilities you have, or even what is done to you negatively won’t even bother you because you choose to look at things differently.
I recently finished reading a wonderful book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. He says in the second agreement Don’t Take Anything Personally, “You create an entire picture or movie in your mind, and in that picture you are the director, you are the producer, you are the main actor or actress. Everyone else is a secondary actor or actress. It is your movie. The way you see that movie is according to the agreements you have made with life. Your point of view is something personal to you. It is no one’s truth but yours.”
Your point is of view is so important. If you find yourself constantly stressing, fearful, and down trodden, change your location. Change how you look at things, change your perspective. Live above it all. Live in the upper atmosphere. If you don’t take things in this life personally, nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) will hurt you.
I know this is easier said than done. It is like moving. You get excited about living is another place especially if it is an upgrade like a bigger house or great neighborhood, but no one likes to “actually” move. The mere thought of the logistics of moving is so OVERWHELMING! Packing and unpacking, getting movers and hoping they don’t break your things, etc. The moving process in short, sucks. But once you get to the new home and get it set up the way you want it to look, it is a great sense of satisfaction.
No one likes change but it is inevitable. Change is the only thing that is constant in life. I rather make the change instead of change being for me. I also, decide for myself how I will interpret issues and obstacles that happen in my life. I choose to use my faith to overcome and to get through them. When I do that, I live above it all. The most wonderful thing is this concept is not just for me. It is for anyone who decides to adopt this concept as a lifestyle. Be the head and not the tail; be above and not beneath. Pay attention to this and observe this daily. Watch your life change for the better.
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.