Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking Care of #1

So this post was inspired by Smokie’s post on facing your denial and going for what you want. This came on the heels of reading Lisa’s post over at Black Women Blow the Trumpet about how we as women need to learn that we should be the first on our list of priorities. Sorry Lisa I haven't had time to weigh in but I will.

Smokie talked about her personal journey through denial. Realizing that she really did want the things she had convinced herself she didn’t want or need. The post made me think of he OG before she was married, divorced and 35. That OG never really had a problem identifying how she wanted to live or what she wanted. Or so I thought. What I found out with age that many of the things I thought I wanted were programmed in me.

Programmed, many of the things I wanted I wanted because I had been raised to believe that was what I was supposed to want. Many of things I did because I was expected to do them as a productive member of society. I went to school, attended church, got a job, and married, because that is what we did in my family.

The reality of the matter was at 26 I had no clue what I was doing because I wanted to do it and what I was doing because that is what I was supposed to do. Because that is what my family expected, because that is what society said would make me happy. What I found out, at the expense of my ex husband was that I am not a traditional kinda girl. That I did not want the traditional life, that I wanted big city bright lights city girl living, that I wanted a real relationship with God not one that just happened on Sundays and Wednesdays, that I only wanted to play with other people’s children and not be anything more than the fun aunt, that I liked to smoke, drink and party past the age it seemed appropriate to smoke, drink, and party.

For me the issue was coming to terms that what I wanted was a break from what black women wanted traditionally. You see my denial was denying myself me, because I was afraid that I would disappoint those who had put so much stock in who I was to become. I guess I would liken it to being Prince William or Harry. Certain things are expected from them because their birth right and the promise they have shown as young men. Same for me. You see I was the first. The first born of the first born and well I was born with the need to meet what was expected of me. My dad use to tell me that if you treat people as you expect them to behave they will rise to the occasion. In my case, I’d have to say it was true. As a precocious child my GG began to expect greatness out of me. It was evident that I was a smart kid so there was never an option, in my mind, to get anything less than a B. It was never an option to do things that those fast girls did.

I was a little different/I didn't do what the fast girls do.

You know I come from a family where irresponsibility was not an option, and unfortunately I didn’t even take my youth to be and do those irresponsible things that most did. As a matter of fact I will never forget a conversation I had with Bus Chick. I had, like every other college student, discovered credit. I was sitting in her apartment and telling her I would have a grand total of $10 left for the next two weeks after I paid my half of the rent and all my credit cards. She looked at me and said, well why don’t you just not pay your CC’s? I had NEVER thought of just not paying my bills or just not being responsible.


When I think of my godparents, who are also my aunt and uncle, they raised my cousin who had Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism. At his funeral people talked about how they had been so dedicated to raising and loving him all 33 years of his life. How they had seen parents of children with far less wrong just drop their kids off at the state hospital and never look back. My aunt responded and said really we aren’t that great, I mean I did what I was supposed to. I never really thought there was another option.

Even now I struggle with what people expect from a 35 year old professional who has what I have to offer. They don’t get my vices or my nontraditional choices in life and love. They think if I was her I would do this. Or think I am crazy for spending that amount of money on hair, make-up, shoes, and clothes. Or that I was crazy to move 2K miles from a home that was barely 6 months old.

You see what I learned from my life before now is that my happiness is important, that my happiness is the most important thing in this world. That if I am not happy, does anything else even matter. I came to realize that my happiness is the key to my progress.

Lisa is so right when she talks about how we as black women have been programmed to put our happiness on the back burner. That somehow there is some kind reward for letting others be happy at our expense. I mean I was a young woman and if I hadn’t had my epiphany I honestly believe that I would have continued through life living a little pink house existent, being a Stepford wife devoid of joy. I mean I would have had happy moments, but I wouldn’t have been full of joy. You know the kind that no one can take away.

Before I made my own decisions, but they really weren’t MY DECIISONS because they were always made with how it would affect other people. These days my focus is making decisions that contribute to MY HAPPINESS. I think if more women really made the decision to put their happiness before that of the other people in their lives this world would be a better place. Lisa mentions in her post that Will Smith said that if he wasn’t happy and fulfilled he couldn’t put that into anyone else and that is why his happiness was always his first priority. THAT’S REAL TALK!

Now, I admit I find myself still struggling with being selfish. That sometimes it feels wrong or awkward to say no, just because I don’t want to. But like all things in life it gets easier the more I do it, and I have put down the nightmare that I would somehow become some vapid, selfish, uncaring monster. I know my DNA will not allow me to just not take people’s feelings into account, but it will allow me to have the balance that I think is necessary to live MY best life possible. The key is not the best but to be the BEST me.

I heard Oprah this weekend speak on her weight gain. And she said something that summed it up. She sad that she had a problem with self-care. I think that is something many women suffer from, especially black women. We need to learn to prioritize taking care of us, it should never come last on our list. I'm working to make my self-care a priority in my life. Its not as easy as one would think, but I'm dedicated to it no matter how much my nature says the contrary.

Well I’m out. Hopefully this will hold you guys for a minute. I even already know what my next blog is. UH OH….I’m almost back in the swing of things.

Be EZ,



CurvyGurl said...

Welcome back, girlie! These very issues have been on my mind lately. Especially after the rough tail summer I had.

Somewhere along the way most of us have learned to equate self-care with selfishness, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I've learned the hard way that when you're out of sorts as a result of ignoring your needs, you can't be much help to anyone else.

Your points have me thinking about the other aspects also. Great post!

(vixenchick) said...

yay! you're back! missed you!

i agree with curvygirl (hey boo!)
you can't try to take care of other people until you learn to take care of yourself.

love you!


Chi-Chi said...


I watch my mother who hasn't taken care of herself all these years. Won't eat well. Won't exercise. Won't rest. Won't follow her dreams. She, along with some other older women I know, are examples of what I don't want to be.

If you give so much to others and nothing to yourself, when others have gone, what do you have left?

I can't tell you how many folks are not pleased with the decisions I've made in my life. I got married young, had kids, not working in the field I got my degree in, being a stay-at-home mom. That was not what they wanted or expected. By now, I was supposed to have the title MD, maybe married to someone totally different. I'm the first daughter born to my parents who are immigrants to this country--so like you, the expectations were high from them and from the family back home. My parents don't often try to hide their disappointment. But the fact is that I'm happy. I have lots of other fabulous things I want to accomplish in my life and the youth to do it but my experience has shown that the only way to be is true to you. No matter who takes offense.

blackgirlinmaine said...

Between you and Lisa (BWWBT) ya'll are giving me a lot to ponder as I grapple with almost mid-life issues. Self-care is definitely something I am focusing on more but old habits die hard.

Keith said...

Your life and my life seem to mirror one another..I too am the first born..but the first born of my grandmother's youngest daughter...and the first boy born into the family after a slew of females. "Greatness" was expected of me also and I did what was expected of me too. I think we all struggle with the lives our Parents and family want for us and what we really and truly desire to do in our hearts.I lived two seperate lives..One at home and in school and a whole nother seperate life out in the streets with my friends. We all do.Great post.

Smokie said...

That was a good post!

I've always been perplexed that so many women live their lives doing "the right thing" because that's expected of them, whether spoken or unspoken. Being an only child, I could never understand how pleasing others FIRST could even be an option. I had the exact opposite mindset -- which can be just as bad.

Everything was always my way or the highway. I COULDN'T do what was expected because, well, I didn't want to. And sometimes I resisted because I was already so naturally "different" and I wanted to be even more unique and different from other women. In my quest to be as different as possible, I resisted many things that society AND nature progam into women.

I think I still do that to a great extent, but a while back I had to say "wait a minute... I AM still a woman and there's nothing wrong with feeling some traditional woman feelings. It doesn't make me LESS of the unique and complex woman that I am."

In fact, embracing all the natural tendencies that I'd been in denial about freed me to REALLY be find that mixture that really defined who I was, not just who I wanted to appear to everyone else (and even to myself).

So, I said all of that to say: different starting point, same destination. :-)

StandTall-The Activist said...

I was really inspired by Lisa's post as well

If we dont care for ourselves as women, I do we get fulfilled and happy?

NoRegrets said...

I've come here many times and just not been able to read through the whole thing. Finally I have. Nice.

quarter-life-crisis said...

I think that you wrote that for me!!! It spoke volumes and I really relate to living someone else expectations! I am finally coming to terms with listening to their OPINIONS, but in the end doing what I want to do.

This is one of my favorite posts!!!

Glad you are back! said...

Hey there O.G.!

Thanks for the shout-out and for continuing the online dialogue about this crucial issue.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

sdg1844 said...

Amen and hallelujah. I was the First of the First as well and a bit "unusual" as well, shall we say?

I do it and did it my way and you know? I'm loving it. I'm black in the blog world again after some much needed time off.

I'll be catching up w/the site.


Kofi Bofah said...

Talent = Gift + Curse

Men have been down this road, also.