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.