Monday, May 24, 2010

What's In Your Backpack?

People often say that when something bad happens, or when you go through something that you're supposed to put the past behind you and move on.  This advice has always seemed to make a lot of sense but now that I think about it, where does all of that past that you're chucking over your shoulder go?  

For years, every time I experienced a setback, a failure, a disappointment or the like, I simply tossed it behind me and kept things moving along at a rather brisk pace.  Then one day I realized that I just felt heavy.  I got to a place where I just could not move forward anymore. 

In church on Sunday the Pastor touched on this subject, and he said that back in old days the punishment for killing a man was that his dead body would be tied to your back.  Imagine having to go through life with a heavy, smelly rotting dead person on your back.

That dead person represents the old you.  I know that image is rather grotesque so let's liken the dead person or the old you to an over sized and over stuffed backpack.

When you put your failures behind you, you are placing them in an overweight back pack that represents your emotional and psychological baggage.  In order to move forward it is necessary to acknowledge or address those things or people that have hurt or harmed you.  I've found peace and healing in using those negative situations in my writing, thus helping others while simultaneously freeing myself of the extra baggage.
So today I encourage you to remove that back pack, empty it out. Lay the things that were in it out before you. Deal with them, learn from them, and use them as stepping stones so that you may reach further and higher without the heavy burden.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vision: It's Time For a New Prescription

This weekend I spent some time designing my new loft to make it more conducive to the creative space that I need to be in to write. I believe that our physical environment has a direct effect not only on our creativity but also on our mood and productivity. Many people agree with this belief but everyone has a very different perception of what this looks like.

As a part of my design process, I treated myself to my first, very own, top of the line bed complete with 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. This may seem like no big deal, but for me it was a major milestone. This was my first time purchasing my very own bed that was not a hand me down or some other complicated situation. What does that say about me? For years, I put many of my basic needs on the back burner while trying to cater to the needs of others and ultimately save the world. Well, even super heroes need somewhere comfortable to lay their head at night. The mini moral here is that we won’t be of much good to anyone else, if we are not first good to ourselves.

The movers came and one of them felt compelled to tell me, before he even saw my loft, that he doesn’t think this is a good place to live. He based it upon several reasons, one being that I live across from a Salvation Army residential facility. He went on to support his point by saying that when he walks out of his door, he wants to see something beautiful. He said that when I walk out my door I see killers and criminals.

I defended my space by saying, well what about the view of the river? He said, “Oh, that’s not a real view, that building is in the way, and there’s an abandoned lot…”

The funny thing is, no matter how much supporting evidence he provided to support his claim, never once did he change my lens or my frame.

If things aren't looking so good in your life, perhaps it's time to change the lens through which you view them. If that doesn't work, then change the frame. The lens is your vision or perception. The frame is your mindset. Your situation can improve as quickly as you can change your mind and your outlook.

Here is how I view my situation. First of all I live in Detroit. A city that I admire for its resilience. A city that I love. A city that I won’t give up on just for the simple fact that so many others already have or want to. Second of all, my vision reaches so high and so far that I see beyond the busy street, beyond the vacant lots, straight to the river that is framed by the sky. I look at it as a beautiful glimpse of God’s great creation. Only one piece in His vast collection of living art work. And finally, I don’t look at the men that reside at the Salvation Army as criminals or killers. I look at them as men with enough courage to take the first step to seek help. Men who are starting the beginning of the rest of their lives. Men who are on the cusp of a breakthrough who will go on to share their testimony to touch the lives of others in need.

Perhaps I view the world through rose colored glasses, but my outlook is what motivates me to inspire and encourage others. My positive mindset is what has freed me from the trappings of mental health issues that plague our community, especially in economic times such as this.

So my friends, perhaps it’s time for a new prescription. New lenses, new frames and thus a beautiful start to a new life free from so much heartache and pain.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Step Back to Move Forward

Sometimes we can't see a situation for what it is while we are in it.  It is not until we take a step back that we are able to truly see the big picture. 
Imagine standing with your nose touching the side of a house.  All that you might see is a small space of white aluminum siding.   Take a step back and a window may come into view.  Take another step back and you may see a door.  Take more steps back and the garden, grass and entire house may come into view.  The space that you were initially zoomed in on may have been really clean, or really dirty, but once you stepped back and took in the full picture the true case may have been just the opposite.
The same is the case with our relationships and environments. When we are in it, or right up on it, we may not be able to clearly see it for what it truly is. There are two sides to this.  We may have the false perception that our situation is better than it truly is, or we may be so focused on where we are that we do not see all of the open doors and windows, greener grass or in essence, the possibilities all around us.
So today look at your jobs, your relationship and your environment from a different angle.  For some of you the steps may be literal, but they also symbolize taking some space, time for self, or maybe a vacation.  Perhaps the very reason that the situation is so strained is because you are smothering it by not giving it the room, the space or the light that it needs to grow and flourish.   
Imagine standing over a plant trying to will it to grow.  You'd be blocking the sunlight and neglecting to give it the water that it needs because you are too busy being all up on it.  While you are in the midst of your mess, or your make-believe happiness, you have a skewed view.  If you're feeling stagnant, stifled, or order to move forward...take a step back.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Mirror

Ever since I stepped out on faith to pursue writing full time, I have been making a point to attend events and engage in activities that add to my life in a positive way...personal development if you will. Attending workshops, seminars and expos, reading motivational books, and even meeting with people that I consider to be mentor material, has become a regular part of my schedule for the purpose of keeping myself positive, productive, and constantly immersed in the process of growth.

One night, I attended an event called "Ladies Can We Talk." The event was hosted by motivational speaker and author Lisa Nichols as a part of her promotional tour for the Chicken Soup for the African American Woman's Soul anthology. I invited my spiritual mentor and went in totally expecting that we would be fed a lecture style motivational speech. To my surprise it was very interactive and all of the participants added value to the experience. There was standing room only because while the organizers had anticipated 200, there were 326 in attendance including a few men.

Throughout the evening we had to do several activities with a partner. I felt like I'd been strategically placed with the exact person that I needed to connect with. Before I even knew that this woman was going to be my partner I'd noticed her. I noticed that she was very pretty and well dressed. "Now there is a woman that's got herself together," I thought to myself. During the activities we were told to sit face to face and knee to knee. It was slightly uncomfortable at first because we were strangers to one another, but the facilitators had warned us in advance that our comfort level would be significantly challenged.

Once we began to share deep truths about ourselves with one another I realized that my reflection had been placed before me. I was looking at my reflection literally and figuratively. This woman's features were very similar to my own, so much so, that if we told people that we were biologically related, no one would protest or give it a second thought. It was like looking in a mirror that reflected me ten years into the future. This woman was ten years my senior, but was experiencing many of the issues that I was dealing with during that time. This outwardly beautiful and polished woman suffered from the exact same insecurities that I had. Like me, she had gotten into relationships at a very young age and somehow missed the very important developmental stages of autonomy and self efficacy. That is, knowing and loving one's self.

I feel like I was shown what my life would be like in the future if I continued to neglect to know and love myself. I was shown how my life would be if I rushed into marriage without first engaging in a committed relationship with myself. While I don't think that this woman or her life is bad, I know that it is not where I want to be. This was confirmed for me when she communicated to me that she didn't want to be there either, and it was her life.

We may not always literally hear or see what we need to learn about life and ourselves, but that still small voice speaks to us through people and circumstances. I felt so connected to this woman that I had never met in my life before that day. I believe it's safe to say that she experienced the same feeling of connection to me. I also believe that she would give anything to be in the position that I am in, where I still have the chance and the choice to change the course of my life and my thinking while I am still young. I will use the wisdom that she imparted upon me to inform my decisions and behaviors because I owe it to her, and to myself.

So pay attention to those that cross your path because they are placed there for a reason. Perhaps your mirror messenger will answer that burning question that you've always wanted answered. So be still and patient and surround yourself with positive energy in the meantime.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fat Girl (Poem)

A fat girl lives on the inside of me

Although I’ve shed the pounds I’m still weighed down

By insecurity

Mannerisms are meek and mild

Characteristics of my inner fat child

The scale and the mirror are my two biggest enemies

The scale measures failure and the mirror deceives

I don’t see what others see ‘cause

99% of losing weight is psychology

It has been a challenge physically

But is has been more taxing emotionally

Confusion, stress and strain afflict my psyche constantly

Put the pounds on

Now the weights gone

My life has become an oxymoron

When I was large I was invisible

Now that I’m small I cannot hide

At size 16 when it came to men, I was virtually unknown

At size 6 when it comes to men, then won’t leave me alone

I can’t help but wonder, would they acknowledge me the way I used to be?

For the majority, attraction is based solely on what they see

Fat jokes told in my presence offend me and confuse me even more

Then I realize, they’re not meant for me, but for those who look how I looked before

Why is it then that they cut deep and still affect me so?

Because the fat child housed within refuses to let go

When I shop through the aisles and look at small clothes

My inner fat child screams, “Leave those alone!”

When I try on those clothes

I cannot believe

How the all fit me with elegance and ease

When I meet a new man that I catch feelings for

My inner fat child says,

“When he finds out that you were fat he’ll head straight for the door.”

With reluctance I reveal my past to that man

Using pictures as evidence of my wide waist and hip span

I prepare for him to leave as she said that he would

When he surprises me by saying, “Girl, you still used to look good!”

“Don’t believe him. He’s just saying that now. If he saw you back then he would call you a cow!” My inner fat child says with fury and spite putting an immediate damper on my feelings that night.

My past and my present are in a constant tug-of-war

Making it hard to appreciate all that I’ve worked so hard for

My will was strong but I could never win

Unless I confronted my demon within

I said “Fat girl, would you please just let me be? Just let me enjoy my new healthy body.”

She said “Girl don’t forget that you used to be fat. You drop a few pounds now you think you’re all that? Just as you lost it you can gain it all back!”

I said “I’ll never forget what I used to be. I’ve only changed externally. Who I am inside is the same and will always be. Now one thing is a fact, I won’t gain it all back. I’m committed to keeping my lifestyle on track.”

She said, “You say that now, you gluttonous sow, but I’ll be here laughing when you finally back down.”

I said, “I know that you thrive on my fear and self doubt, I’ve conquered those things so now you can get out. Your nourishment comes from my insecurity, now I am secure, so you can just leave. You used to control everything that I’d do; now I’m in control so I rebuke you!”

I was prepared for her response filled with vengeance and rage

After listening closely…

Silence was all that I could gauge

Then suddenly I heard a surrendering sigh

That escalated into a defeated child’s cry

Those cries and small footsteps began to slowly fade away

I never heard from my inner fat child again after that day

Marketing and Motivation Mondays with Monica Marie Jones

Marketing and Motivation Mondays with Monica Marie Jones