The Decency of Common Words

The old lady downstairs has cancer
steeping in her bones.
Her daughter walks her dog now.
She greets me with pleasantries and
a brave smile.
I offer moments of wordy goodness
as we cross paths.

Her heart is breaking.
I can hear it.
What it must feel like to watch
your giver of life deteriorate at the
hands of a silent criminal that has killed
millions must be indescribable.
I think she wants to tell me
something, but the words are stuck
behind her tongue.
I never pry.

My next-door neighbor’s fianceé is
cheating on her.
She works 60-hour weeks
and comes home exhausted from
the verbal lashings she combats daily
while dealing with the public.
She tells me that my dog “is
the cutest thing ever” and I compliment
her on her uniform.
She wears it well.

I do not tell her about the dark-haired
woman who holds the hand of
her lover while she’s away.
There’ll be time for that.
And I will not be a part of
that conversation.

The thin walls of our building
will be the teller of all things
and her heart will break too.
My favorite neighbor moved out
of our building about a month ago:
leaky ceiling.
Our neighbor above him had a faulty
toilet.

I miss his freckled face and wispy
red hair that smiled at me
before he did.
I still see him from time to time.
He moved into the building
across the street, but it’s not the same.

He always had a bounty of words
that pressed into my spirit and made
me look forward to his voice.
He was the sun of our sky
and now another set of people
are blessed to feel his light.
I hope they appreciate his
heart as much as we do.


This is a recently rejected poem from a prominent literary magazine. I figured I’d share it here. Thank you in advance for reading. Peace. 

Non-fiction Saturdays

In Focus: Photo by Tremaine L. Loadholt

You Are The Creator of Your Boundaries

Know What You Will and Won’t Accept From Others

If you want to know just how resilient you are, try living through hurt, harm, danger, or wrong-doing from a loved one. They can press buttons no one else can. What is even scarier is they can lord things over you many would not even attempt at doing. I would like to say that I am someone who would offer the benefit of the doubt — that I am more forgiving than I am not, but there is a breaking point and everyone has it. The older I get, the more I am being introduced to my limitations.

This is to say, I am more in tune with what I tolerate and to what extent. I am creating longer paths on my journey, therefore, I have to implement and reconstruct boundaries.

boundary

Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent — Merriam-Webster dictionary.

If someone hurts me or disrespects me in a manner I can clearly spot, I make that known. I call them on it. I then create a space for me to be able to express why I am hurt and what led to that. No one knows if they have hurt you or not based on their words or actions. Sure, most of us can recognize pain when it occurs in someone else, but are we so quick to jump to the conclusion that we may have caused it? I highly doubt it. I say this because I am not always open to claiming the pain I have caused. I know I am not the only one.

Often people don’t intentionally cross our boundaries. As per Liz Morrison, “Since no one has the ability to read someone else’s mind, it cannot always be assumed that a person will know if they are triggering something in them . . .” But whether someone means to break a boundary or not, the result is the same. — Liz Morrison, LCSW & Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S

I believe the words boundary and respect go hand-in-hand. One is what we create to suggest a limit, the other is being mindful of that limitation or extension — or lack thereof. One definition of the word respect, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an act of giving particular attention,” in other words — consideration. If someone will not consider your feelings in a situation, knowing that tension has been created or some sense of pain, then it is most likely, this person does not respect you and will more than likely not respect any boundaries implemented either.

You and only you know when a line you have drawn has been crossed. You know what boundaries to establish and why. If you have ever come into contact with someone who can be selfish, rude, racist, or asinine, chances are, you already have boundaries in place. The question I would ask you is: “How often do those boundaries get tested?” To take it further, I will be nosy and query, “What do you do when they are tested?”


Photo by Mantas Hesthaven via Unsplash

If someone does cross that line and an actual break of the boundary has occurred, you must be aware. There are things you will need to do that may either pull you out of your comfort zone or cause you to evoke feelings of discontent in the person who crossed the line. How you prepare yourself in handling this is key to if your vocalizing the displeasure in their actions will be worth it in the end. From my experience, if approached effectively and the person has a modicum of common sense and compassion, you will survive addressing what needs to be addressed.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. along with information taken from her colleagues in her article When People Cross Your Boundaries, suggests five ways on what to do when someone crosses your boundaries:

Handle it internally. When someone crosses your boundary, one option is to handle it internally, said Morrison, who specializes in children and families in New York City. First, you might find the positive in the situation. Secondly, question the situation.

Restate your boundary. Another option is to confront the person. Maybe they misunderstood you initially. Maybe your boundary was vague or indirect.

State your boundary in a positive way. That is, state what you want, instead of what you don’t want.

Offer a way to move forward. Assert yourself, explain your feelings and offer a way to move forward.

Reconsider the relationship. If you’ve been clear about your boundaries, and the person still keeps crossing them, consider if you want to remain in a relationship with someone who disrespects your limits.

This task, approaching someone who has crossed a boundary, is not easy. I do not think it is meant to be. When feelings and emotions are involved, it is hardly ever easy, but expressing yourself when you know you have limitations or intolerance for certain things and they are not being respected is important.

If you are anything like me, the potential of losing a loved one or becoming distant with a family member based on the fact that they just will not and cannot respect your boundaries is heartbreaking. But, there will come a time you will ask yourself, “Do I always want to mend my heart back together or do I simply want to live without constantly picking up its pieces?”

You have to know what is best for you. We are human. There will be mistakes made. However, if established boundaries are in place and those with whom you come into contact are aware, I find it best to voice any discontent and displeasure regarding the crossed boundary and this should not go overlooked.

You are the creator of your boundaries. You will also need to be the upholder of them as well. Stand your ground. Know when your guard needs to be up and move forward wisely to address situations that require attention. I have found that doing this creates less friction in my life and offers me the opportunity to weed out those who truly do not respect me or my boundaries.

Keep your heart healthy — your mind and spirit too. Know what you will and won’t accept from others.


Originally published on Medium. The link shared is a friend link that allows anyone who clicks on it to read it for free as it is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

Non-fiction Saturdays

Photo by Eye for Ebony via Unsplash

Motivation
Getting Uncomfortable with Complacency

This year, I have taken a step outside myself, so to speak, to further look deeply within myself. The purpose has been to connect with and somehow tweak what I have or could be missing regarding my life. During many of my sessions with my therapist, we focus on how I can move from one way of doing things (the way I have always done things) to trying new ways, even if these ways frighten me. The one thing I have found to be at the center of holding me back is fear. I touch briefly on this in The Building Blocks of Me and Hello, Rejection.

When I comb through many of my missed opportunities, I allowed myself to dismiss them solely based on not knowing what the outcome was going to be. This is to say that I feared an unfavorable outcome. I counted many things in my memory bank and shook my head at just how easy it was for me to not see something through based on how I felt. In some instances, I felt a strong sense of not being able to move— my mind would not let me. Physically, I was planted in place on many occasions — unable to get myself going because I was afraid of not succeeding. I was incredibly afraid of failing.

Recent experience has taught me that in order to accomplish my goals, I must first take the necessary steps toward reaching them. If I am unable to take those steps, my goals will not be met. This brings me to motivation . . .

Motivation is 1a: the act or process of motivating. b: the condition of being motivated. 2: a motivating force, stimulus, or influence: INCENTIVE, DRIVE. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Essentially, I would categorize myself as a decently motivated individual, however, this is so because I am disciplined. I find it easy to rise in the morning, do my daily work, come home and walk my dog, feed her, prepare myself for the next day’s tasks, and edit & write with any time I may have remaining before winding down to read shortly before going to bed. All of these things are embedded within the characteristics of me and have become ritualistic over time. These are not things in which I need the motivation to complete.

What I am finding hard to begin doing are the different things that shift me away from my comfort zone. I operate on a schedule that has been the same for at least fifteen years and veering off course makes my heart race. It causes me to tear up sometimes and refuse to take a chance because again, I do not know what the outcome will be. To pull a paraphrased remark from my therapist, You are prone to your most anxious moments when it challenges you to change. You have become complacent.


Photo by Kat Yukawa via Unsplash

So how does one move from being complacent to being open to making the changes necessary to get him or her wherever they wish to be? How does one know when those changes need to cease? This is not something that will happen overnight. Most of the things I have given myself free rein to tackle will take a few years or a decade, at best. But I am moving forward and in the right direction in order to see these things take place.

What is scary is the fact that I had blinders on, unaware that my complacency was and can continue to be dangerous with regards to my growth. Which brings me to list two definitions of the word complacent:

Complacent is 1: marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies: marked by complacency: SELF-SATISFIED. 3: UNCONCERNED. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

As you can see above, the first definition is what I have endured — what I am enduring. The third actually prompted me to apply more thought to my ways and question myself: “Am I really not concerned with how I operate and how comfortable I have become with not changing to better suit me? Is my comfort zone so important that any shift from it, breaks me down?” I am saddened to say that yes, I have become complacent. However, I am not the only one.

Americans are becoming more complacent. People socialize with similar folks on Facebook and get food delivered through Uber while sitting at home streaming Netflix. Folks medicate themselves more, keep to themselves and move less often. This isn’t the same restless America whose grit helped transform a British colony into a major superpower. — Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class, 2017.

I would say that I am among good company, but I am not. The focal point for me is to shift from my comfort zone to a more formidable one, allowing me the freedom to further pursue my goals. I know that this form of change starts with me. I have to be the one willing to lift my feet up and trek forward. There is no one else on which to depend for this to take place.

Every single day, I say something encouraging to myself — something that will alert me of my strengths and help me leap over a few weaknesses that have held me back. What do I look forward to in my immediate future?

  1. A shorter workweek — preferably from 40 hours to 36 hours per week. This will allow me more time for editing, writing, and submitting to literary magazines and journals both online and in print.

2. Pursuing a career that will not only provide an environment for my skill-set, but allow me room to advance and grow with the company without being made to feel like an underpaid, underappreciated, and unseen workhorse.

3. Create, enhance, and build a brand linked to writing, editing, and creative literary works. (A Cornered Gurl is the start.)

4. Move and settle in another part of North Carolina, preferably, Western, North Carolina. (Particularly, Arden, NC.)

When I step back and examine these four goals — visualizing them, I know I can do this. I have it within me to accomplish each one, however, I dread the potential death of each without even given them a chance to live. I am at an age now that is a constant reminder for me to “get it in gear” and do the work required to attain the aforementioned.

I am tired of the same old thing — the revolving door stops now. I am taking a stand against myself. This is my personal pact and it will be until I have accomplished what I intend to.

My motivation? Complacency will not be the death of me.


Originally published in The Startup via Medium. The link shared is a friend link which will allow anyone who clicks on it to read it for free via Medium as it is behind the paywall.

shift

I sat with my feelings for a week
and took a chance on shifting from
5-8s to 3-12s, rotating weekends.
Everything in my body says,
“Pray for this job, two days off
during the week one week, then
four days off during the week the next
is what you need.”

A smooth transition. Perhaps?
An easy transfer. Who knows?

But, I didn’t want to
fight myself later
for not taking a chance
just in case I actually get it.

I’ll never know unless 
I try.

Right?

Non-fiction Saturdays

Sébastien Conejo via Mixkit.co

There Is No Power In My Hair

They Must Have Thought So


M
any of you know that I cut my hair about eleven years ago — 7 inches and 1/2, to be exact. I love it short. I love being able to brush and go if I choose. If I want to curl it and give it a little flair, I do. I don’t spend hours under the dryer at the salon and maintenance and upkeep are minimal for me. I was reflecting on a time when I caught up with an ex-boyfriend who hadn’t seen me in a few years and as soon as I saw the look on his face, I knew he was going to say something about my hair. He did.

I could have sworn there was a light gasp in his words. What he said, I’ll never forget: “I liked your hair longer. What brought this about — this change?”

The same goes for an ex-lover of mine who peeked in on me during my Facebook days and saw a few pictures of me flaunting the cut. She sent word through a mutual friend of ours that she did not like it.

I Don’t Speak To Either Of Them.

There is no need. Not only did their reactions confirm who they thought I was yet who I am not, their actions told me that my hair is what made me, me. It didn’t. It doesn’t. I did something I had been wanting to do for years and never did it and one day, I did.

Some people seem to hold these insane beliefs about long hair. Some think it makes a woman more attractive — sexier. I beg to differ. Sensuality and sexiness are not linked to the amount of hair on a woman’s head, not to me.

Research from the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology indicates that a woman’s hair length doesn’t really affect her attractiveness that much. Study participants even judged short-haired figures as being more fertile, which contradicts the evolutionary-psych notion about long hair being an advertisement for reproductive suitability. — Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Attractiveness to a woman is based on several factors for me: Can she read? Does she excel at what she does? When nude, does my mouth water? Does she strut in high-heeled shoes like a model, collecting the catwalk as her very own? Does she pay her bills on time and treat others like she’d want to be treated? There’s a whole lot of sexiness in those descriptions of a woman. Notice . . . her hair is not mentioned.

A woman who very much feels like a woman on the inside, 24 hours a day, can have short hair. I know—it’s hard for some men to wrap their minds around that. — Julia Austin

I drew the conclusion that both the ex-boyfriend and ex-lover had their personal preferences, just as we all do. One of the things that made me attractive to them was my long hair. Hindsight is truly 20/20. Did I want to be with anyone who clung to me based on the amount of hair on my head? Suppose I did stick it out with both of them and during our relationships, made the change? Would either of them have walked away because of it? Thankfully, I did not have to live out that scenario.


I had many trials during the years that led to me cutting my hair, relocating, finding a better job, and getting a dog were all major changes I assured myself I could do. I did them. Moving through the tumultuous time before my relocation from Georgia to North Carolina took patience, prayer, and perseverance. I told myself a bigger change would come my way.

Changing your hairstyle is not brave, and saying that it is is not a compliment. In my opinion, we all need to stop telling people that making conscious decisions about their appearance is “brave.” — Amanda Montell

There Is No Power In My Hair.

There never was. There never will be. I do believe that we can hold past pain, hurt, etc. in our hair — as we age, we need to shed a few things. To me, the weight of our hair is one of them. As you grow up, everything on your person, grows with you, including your hair. When I think back to the heaviness, thickness, and long “crown of glory” I had, I do not miss it. This is not to say that as I continue to age, I won’t gravitate toward letting it grow out once more. This is to simply say, I am comfortable with it short for now.

Having short hair has not changed the core of me. I still have the same eyes, lips, heart, and mind. I still want to be held when I am afraid. I yearn to be loved and understood in my deepest, darkest moments. I get emotional during sad movies. I am a badass cook. None of these things have changed.

If you are debating on cutting your hair, but you are pumping the brakes on that change in your life, think about why you’re debating. If another person’s view of you could change or you could offend your elders with your drastic leap away from long hair, how important is their satisfaction with you over your own?

If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that you won’t turn into a superhuman nor will any of what makes you who you are diminish. Nothing will be drained from your body and carried off to a shaman thousands of miles away to be concocted into a sacred serum for Hollywood stars to use to ward off aging.

You are not a fountain of youth. Take the leap if you want to. Forget what everyone else thinks. You have to live with the decisions you do not act upon just as you have to live with those you choose to make and see manifest into fruition.

A change could suit you.


Originally published via Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this piece is behind Medium’s paywall. Thank you for reading.