Letters to Coretta Vol. 5

Guess I have a lot on my mind as of late Auntie Coretta!

I was getting ready to call it a night as far as writing is concerned. However, something just struck me. Mental health and arming ourselves with resources. How many of us come from families that hide mental health clues, stories, or incidents like they are gainfully employed by the CIA?

Let’s take it a step further. It’s 2014. We can watch movies or shows that use or center plot lines around counseling or psychiatry, yet if someone mentions for a parent to get a second opinion by a professional a relationship could end. It’s called stigma, shame, and vulnerability. It’s not easy to let others into our worlds however we spend oodles of dough fixing our cell phones, laptops, cars, and other gadgets but neglect the well-being of our families, relationships, or even ourselves in the name of “cool” or “it’ll be alright.”

When there are signs that a car is need of help, no one hollers it will be alright. No, we sometimes go to great lengths and even debt to keep that baby running smoothly. Yet, if there is mention of distress and going somewhere safe to talk it over silence shuts down the conversation.

My challenge going into 2015 is “taking care of business.” Whatever business you need to take care of-handle it. But that same zeal we as humans put into things, we must begin to put that into ourselves.

  • Some of us will never meet our new years goal of weight loss until we sit down with someone and talk about that thing that happened and we can’t let go of
  • Some of us will never see the fruit of a loving relationship until we make peace and walk through the healing process of forgiving those who have wronged us
  • Some of us will never get out of our own way until we sit down with a professional who will not say what we want to hear but will challenge and support us in developing skills and building our own tool kit to make better life decisions

No matter who you are and what you have going on-we all hit bumps in the road. Some of us are behind in the race because of poor choices of those who came before us. Yet, we can get back in the race or run it a little better if we get what we need from where we need it. So, do it. Everyone doesn’t need counseling. Some need to use the pastoral services from their local clergy. Some need to use their Employee Assistance Program benefit through the job HR office for short-term strategy, coping skills, career counseling, or whatever the need be. But by golly address it with the same zeal of your inanimate object or possessions that we sell and trade but drop everything to maintenance.

Letters to Coretta Vol. 4

Auntie Coretta…

I am back with my pen and my sword. I struggled to really revel in where to take this one. I wanted 2 months ago to really pen something on parenting, children, and the travail of the village. That’s right-the village that it takes to help see our children through their adult years and even more. The more that I think about it…i’ll probably fare well if I keep this one short but sweeter than any Georgia peach that has ever been plucked!

Being a parent or being apart of someone’s life long support village is tough and complicated. Both are great responsibilities. I am single but I had a great hand in helping my sisters during my latchkey years as well as being a fabulous biological and non biological Auntie. But that does not make me an expert on child rearing or support.

However, I do have experience with life development and coaching others. There are some things I have begun to notice and it reminds me of the advice and wisdom that I gained from my elders coming up as a youngster.

1) You don’t have to be perfect to parent. You have to be available.

A child really needs all the support, wisdom, guidance, and love they can absorb as they grow through the years. This requires patience, tears, and a willingness to continually learn. I have watched my sister, close friends, and many more wage the battle of learning curve. Just when you think you got some things down pat-behavior or patterns change. This requires being present and willing to engage with your child or other resources to improve the quality of development.

2) Know thy information.

Information is fleeting and changes minute by minute. Tangible examples of information-heredity. What are the known greats and not so greats that are flowing through the dna strands? Truth is both adults and youngsters have a bad habit of having sex but not being mature enough to talk about it. Please note I am not condoning any person’s life choices or sexual decisions. What I do harp on is sexual relations and no thought or concern about what your mix + someone else’s mix equates to. Unfortunately, some relationships or lack there of are built on fantasy and you may be mating or have mated with no clue as to what health or mental health factors your child may be predisposed to. This is not judgement…this is reality. I think we (I do this) sometimes assume what we have is exactly how our children will be. Not so much. Just like features pull through the generations…learning, mental, physical, emotional, and other capacities do as well.

3) Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking-enroll now

Habits, responses, and situations that are suitable for the single life or married with no children life-does not work as smoothly with a child. If you are in a co-dependent relationship, your child will be  impacted by the choices you make. If you implode or explode when life does not go your way, do not be surprised if some of those tendencies are parrotted by your offspring. Your life is no longer your own when you bring a child into this world. And of course, life is always going to happen. It’s not okay to rely on your old stand by behavior or mindset. If you want your child to be better than you or enjoy a high quality life, then we as a community and parents have to enhance our own lives. We can only give what we have. If we lack emotional intelligence then we cannot give it to our children. If we lack committment or the ability to think pas emotions or barriers-that gets passed on to the youth in our lives.

I’m not sure if this is what I had in mind as a my note to you Auntie.

But I do know that witnessing partner violence emotionally cripples the development of young people from having fruitful relationships. I do know that not receiving the love of a parent, guardian, or community can lead a child to find it in the ‘streets’ or in the arms of others (validation/esteem).

So, my apologies for the length but I realize in writing this there is a wealth of time, energy, resources, and connections that go into shaping the lives of our youth. But the first stop is us-the parents and community circles who socially impact what our children believe is true in the world.

It’s Free to Listen

It’s free to listen, yet somehow we struggle and find ourselves on the costly end of communication. About two weeks ago, I was surfing online and a great dialogue between an African-American and a Caucasian contributor was recorded. I enjoyed the viral video because it illustrated why the country finds itself divided on every topic imaginable. Simply put, listening is free but we don’t do it. See in this video the African-American male was very aware of his own biases and the biases that others bring to discussions. What grabbed my attention was the Caucasian male stating what he interpreted which reflected the art of not listening. It wasn’t about understanding someone’s else perspective. It was about hearing what was said at that moment.

This post isn’t about that discourse or race. It’s about those missed opportunities to listen that leave us embarrassed or disconnected from potential opportunities or even worse-the ones we love. 

Recently, I have been paying close attention to moments of when I listen to hear, listen to take over, and barely listen at all.

Listening to hear is like combing or detangling your hair (shout out to all my naturals) with nothing (no debris or product) pre-existing in the comb. It’s a blank canvas moment where something great can happen (I happen to think detangling is a great moment if I do say so). It means the party listening isn’t blocking or filtering communication with their past experiences, victim cards, vendetta, future goals, or just the clutter of their own perspective. It’s what we all long for when we want to share experiences, dreams, or even fears.

Listening to take over is simple debate and even sometimes part-time conversation. This is when someone shares with us current events of the day, day-to-day nuances, or anything to catch us up and we tune in long enough to pull the topic away. We never mean to run down monologue lane but it’s so fun. Before you know it, we hi-jack a well-meaning shareable moment or exchange and soap box the conversation down as if we are running for election (I’ve done this a time or two-my apologies). Thus, leaving the person who began the conversation bewildered for even trying yet again to talk to us.

Yes, I see that your hand is raised. You want to know whether or not you have done this to someone. Oh, my friend. I’m quite sure. See this listening to take over isn’t limited to just snatch and grab conversation. It also occurs when every other line of the conversation is interrupted with questions (my deepest sin) instead of listening/following along. Sometimes this occurrence sounds like a bad soap opera as someone who is stuck in their issues finds every possible analogy or similarity between your reveal and their unfinished business. Please don’t have me illustrate with an example. That would probably hurt us all-honestly!

Now, we have my all-time favorite conversation price buster…*great time for some storm trooper theme music from star wars* Clears throat.  Barely listening at all is the name of this game. We are all guilty. This is when we begin to listen and then just slip on to the following:

  • the night
  • a land far away
  • some place we would love to travel
  • the television show we are watching
  • prayer
  • honey do list
  • grocery shopping
  • the next day at work
  • plug-in your favorite escape

Yes, these are some of the great places we escape to when we are not committed to giving someone our presence and attention. This is an excellent way to encourage the ones you love or work with to slink back to whatever they were doing before talking to you. For those yearning for more explanation…this is what we do when our gadgets, entertainment, or solitude is more inviting than those vying for our attention. It happens when people begin to talk and we look up with no clue of the last 5 minutes of conversation. It occurs when we are asked a question or solicited for feedback that we cannot give because we went rogue after the fifth vowel of the first sentence. We never mean any harm but we are usually the most offended when the tide turns and we are ignored in this same manner.

Now that we covered that ground, let’s address the point of this blog. We cannot truly understand each other until we are willing to show up and listen with our hands down. That’s right, put down our perspective, campaigns, and gadgets. That is the only way to really show up in conversation. We are too plugged and overly opinionated. There are so many opportunities that lie wait-but our attention is the key to seizing those moments. Let’s take the make it to 2015 challenge beginning now.

When we are busy-let’s just ask that people come back to us when we can willingly listen.

If being a busybody is your excuse-then now you will be alone in more ways than one when you least need it.

Give similar and dissenting views a chance. Just because you relate-doesn’t mean that you really have to. There is a thing called over relating (not a word). Sometimes people just need to be heard.

Lastly, commit to being present. People can kick it with themselves. Instead we all try to share our time with people. Don’t make others regret sharing their time with you. Pull back, disarm, release, perk up your ears, clear out/declutter your mind, and listen.

Held UP in Fear

Lately, I have been researching and combing through anecdotes regarding the truth on fear and anger. I found some remarkable truths both experiential and clinically about fear.

Fear is a false substitute and mask that steps in front of the following thoughts & emotions to protect a person (ego):

  • Shame
  • Vulnerability
  • Inadequacy
  • Dismissal
  • embarrassment
  • Invisibility
  • *you fill in the blank*

I was utterly shocked by this revelation. I have wrestled with anger my entire adulthood and not being able to swiftly process my feelings as fast as I can create my own narrative to soothe the ego. This stopped me dead in my tracks. I literally allowed my mind to journey back to offense after offense that severed or almost severed relationships with friends, colleagues, and family members. In each one of those instances, I was able to identify some version of fear as the culprit. See when I can replace the word anger or sadness with fear, then i can arrive at one of the words above in the bulleted list.

I wonder how many every day run ins or arguments could be turned into something productive if we were better in tuned with our emotions, especially fear. For example, this morning I wanted to grab some breakfast and hurried over to a place (they are doing the monopoly promotion too lol) and found two individuals blocking the entire parking lot in a dispute. The man and woman were raging at each other because a vehicle accident had occurred. Two individuals who if time permitted were locked into fear of consequences but chose to blame one another for being human. He was on the phone and blocking parked cars. She was in a hurry and probably financially cannot afford to be at fault. Both have something to lose and fear took over with the screams and shouts. He didn’t want to be in violation of driving and being on the cell (poor courtesy with blocking cars too) and she doesn’t want to be liable for repairs or citation. Both individuals are afraid but what’s the likelihood that they will ever pinpoint fear. That would require vulnerability.

Perhaps we all need to slow our pace and hear our spirits the next time we find ourselves bent out of shape. That would be the perfect time to do an emotional inventory for fear before allowing ourselves to become offended.

It’s All in the Delivery!

My journey back to Georgia has provided me with a wealth of behavioral reflection to behold. I have watched over the years different friends and family transition and transform as butterflies emerging from the cocoon of change. In short, my time away from mainstream hustle and bustle affords me time to see myself and others in rhythm. One of the funniest things that I have observed time over is our delivery of messages to one another.

Managerial communication was my favorite course in undergraduate studies. The class helped me see the barriers with sending and receiving communication. I think a lot of times we use these wonderful tools at work but abandon them once we enter the thresholds of our homes. Before leaving my previous employment late Summer I was privy to facilitating an ice breaker called ‘airplane.’ Communication was the objective and everyone had a specific role to play.

The game stands out in my mind because each participant had a letter, role, and a set pattern of who and how to send messages. Before the game began, we as facilitators, helped everyone in our groups understand their role and how to communicate messages. Once the game began the hysterics came out of the closet. Mid way through the game, my most patient and fun-loving friends were ready to snatch me dry because I stopped delivering their messages to one another. See if the messages were not addressed with the specific heading or subject line, the mail (me) did not run. I would tuck the message aside and only deliver messages that were properly addressed within the parameters provided before the start of the game.

I chuckled a couple of weeks back when this game back to remembrance. I also think of this ‘delivery’ of message or mail from the game in relation to the way we as human communicate especially when there is confusion or discord. Perhaps if we consider the following barriers to communication alternate means could be employed to ensure the message or delivery makes its final destination.

  • Personal intent this is where we size up what is achievable or desired in our message.
    • What do i hope to gain from my message (debate, suggestion, relatable story, or rebuke)?
    • The previous bullet asks for us to be honest with our intentions because that will affect the choice of words, illustrations, and non-verbal cues we employ to send our messages.
  • Missing information
    • When messages are not properly transmitted or received-slow down and acknowledge what is missing.
      • Ask open-ended questions to ensure what you are interpreting is what the sender intended. So many times we are on two different planes smiling and waving.
      • Parrot back messages so the sender has an understanding of what you are hearing. Our personal experiences filter what we hear.
      • If something does not make sense think about where you found yourself lost and speak from that place with the same tone you prefer others to use with you.
  • Ownership
    • We are responsible for meeting each other part way. There cannot be an argument if two people are committed to respect.
    • If hurt feelings surface, ask for what you need. Do you need a time out? Maybe you need the person to repeat words to verify statement. Are you and the speaker operating with different communication styles? Use old conversations to help yourself identify triggers and poor communication habits.
    • Name calling, low blows, physical attacks, and silent treatment are masks for hurt feelings. Don’t resort to these. Drill down to your roots by admitting you have been triggered and remove self from conversation until you can be present without bitterness or resentment.

I want us as we wrap up the Fall and Winter of 2014 to enter 2015 with stronger communication in our lives. That happens we begin to assess our pitfalls and desire to understand how to find healthy ways of approaching difference in opinion, objective, or view-point. Ultimately, our messages like the mail remain undelivered when we do not check the barriers that stand in our way.

Living life out loud on purpose

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