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Listening at the Speed of Life

– by C. J. Wade –

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friendship

Wednesday Wind Down: Pillars

Hi, Family!

Last week was rough.

I wanted to post, but after a couple of deaths in my circle, I just wanted to go to bed after work. Usually I can push through and even blog the next day, but I simply didn’t have it in me… so I thought.

When I’m full (sad, tired, excited, all of it), one of my coping behaviors is to free write. Whatever is on my mind ends up on the page. Sometimes it’s difficult to read later, but at least it isn’t swirling in my soul without a place to land or filling my mind with stress. In this case, I was sad and frustrated at the grieving process. In essence, I wanted the rawness of the loss to pass. The part of grief where everything is firing and numb at the same time. So, I wrote the following to keep the process moving. I hope it gives you hope if you’re experiencing the same.

When Pillars Pass

When a person that has shaped your life passes away, the Earth shifts a little. She knows she is carrying a heavyweight. She welcomes the return. She exhales in relief and says welcome home. When her role is fulfilled, the spirit of that Pillar ascends to its Originator and the sky opens up her arms and smiles. “Hello, Baby,” she says like an 85-year-old grandmother with cocoa-weathered skin and a warm smile spread across her face. Head slightly tilted to let you know it’s real. I believe that’s what happens when we die.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

But when Pillars pass… when a person who amplified divine gifts in you, there’s more. Let me explain how it feels to me.

Pillars aren’t supposed to move. They’re the support beams of your existence. All around, you can find their impact on your life. So when they die, a vacuum effect removes the land from beneath your feet. All that you know and reverenced. All that you upheld now feels like grains of sand you can’t stop from falling between your fingers. It’s an alternate reality. Your footing feels off like you’re in a wicked funhouse. You can tell your axis has changed, but before you lose all control, those grains of sand start filling the holes beneath your feet. You remember the words he said and the cakes she made. You hear his laughter as the sand migrates toward your heart. Wisdom. Jokes. Phone calls. Food runs. The memories overtake you and suddenly, you are sonically surrounded by the beauty of her voice.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Then, you smile.

The sand starts to feel more like a warm blanket of comfort. It doesn’t take away the sting of their absence, but it does create a force field of love around you. Whatever she deposited in you floats to the surface. His life-giving words are saturated enough to water your soul again.

That’s the beauty of Pillars. Although it hurts like hell to lose them, they give you everything you need to stand on your own. Everything you need to continue.

Photo by Hert Niks on Pexels.com

I wish I could press a big pause button that would prevent them from passing away, but deep down we know those people in our lives will transition at some point. So, what do you do when it happens? You remember their gifts. You recall their lessons. You remind yourself that you were a vessel they valued and that they shared priceless oil with you.

I know it’s difficult.
I know the tears are inevitable.
It doesn’t mean your grief is weak.

It means you were blessed to be born into her family. You were favored to cross paths with him. Take daily comfort in knowing that s/he knew you were good ground to sow their seeds. The same seeds of wisdom and skill they could have died with are now in you.

So use them and sow them well. Don’t let their teaching die with you. Don’t let the natural process of grief choke the new growth that is happening inside.

Grow up and be a Pillar to someone else.
The same oil is still needed.

I’m praying for all of you that are missing your loved ones. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. You are surrounded by prayers of love, peace, comfort, and warm memories that make you smile. 🙂

Peace & Thanks for listening!

#bloglikecrazy: Open Letter #6

Hey, Sweeties!

You already know that I love you to the moon and beyond. I think all of you are absolutely exceptional. Your minds work so fast because you grew up in a world where it had to. Your creativity is so diverse that I’m just grateful to have a seat in the audience.

Unbeknownst to you, I loved you before I saw you. For real. In most cases, I was with your mother and/or father up to the final hours before you graced us with your presence. It was so cool to stroll down the memory lanes of our friendship as I held you for the first time or shared our first conversation. It was official — you were an addition to my village too. It’s difficult to fathom, but your parent(s) actually had a different life before you got here and I was in it, so by default, you’re part of a tribe. A loving tribe.

Let me tell you some things that you may forget later.

First, the world owes you nothing, so do not hold back who you are. Do exactly what you were born to do — no exceptions. If that’s being a mechanic, you better shine doing it and let me book a service appointment. If that’s being a fashion designer, you better throw your whole self in it and let me buy one of your pieces. Remember that you will always have access to me. Some of you already have proof of that as we’ve laughed, learned, or navigated difficult conversations. Others have yet to redeem that perpetual offer, but you know it’s there. Either way, you have a support system, Love… a whole tribe. Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel alone.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Next, work smart and play hard. Laziness will get you nowhere and you know I will call you out on it, so don’t slip. I’m hard on you because I know what you can do. I know the stock you came from. I know how serious your parent(s) was about your health, safety, and education before you were a teenager. I know how hard they studied in school. I know how many times they picked themselves up after being knocked down, so I know what’s in you. I accept nothing less your best.

Lastly, I hope you soar beyond thunderstorms of negativity and that every word against you bounces off your Loving armor. Trust me — more clouds are coming but they don’t have to be gray. The lightning bolts of unexpected failures don’t have to take you out of the game. When you feel overwhelmed, remember that moment is just a blip on your life spectrum. It does not define you and it will pass. I promise.

I’m so proud of you already. You are exquisitely created to go beyond this generation into the deep waters of progress. Move forward and know that I will always have your back.

See you around,

CJW

Wednesday Wind Down: Learning Again

Hi, Sweethearts!

Two years ago, I wrote a short stop entitled Learning to encourage you to be comfortable with your vulnerable process. What more of a reminder do we need than right now?

I’ve been keeping a running tab on all of the things I have done and learned during the quarantine. The items range from refreshing my French via Duolingo to shredding unnecessary paperwork. The list also includes life lessons. I’m going to share two of them with you and I look forward to hearing yours.

  1. I still have enough pride not to ask for help. So, I thought I got rid of all of my pride when I was unemployed during graduate school. I truly thought I passed that course, but apparently, a smidgen of it is still left and boy, did it get dealt with.
  2. I had a necessary and challenging conversation with a friend. A conversation I avoided for months because I was overly accommodating. It took more than one phone call, but the result was a friendship on the mend instead of another carcass in the desert of emotional dishonesty.

I know everyone isn’t staying at home, but I’m sure this season is giving us all another life lesson opportunity of some kind. Are you willing to learn again? Are you teachable? When it’s all said and done, we can’t say we didn’t have the chance. So, what is something you’ve learned so far?

I’m praying for you, Sweethearts! Keep shining!

Wednesday Wind Down: Help and Hurt

Hi, Sweethearts!

Here’s a shortstop for your week. I hope it helps!

I work in two career paths that require interaction with people in vulnerable positions. As an educator, a student’s esteem can be elevated or obliterated in one assignment. During a massage therapy session, a disrobed client is trusting me to be knowledgeable, skillful, and respectful. In both seemingly non-related professions, I had to consider the same question: “How do you help them without hurting you?”

That’s the conundrum, right? In light of recent health precautions, many must consider this item for physical reasons, but I am challenging you to look at your relationships and pose the same question.

Familial: Do you have a social circle outside of your family? How do you refuel in order to pour out to them? Do you suffer from parental guilt when you’re not with your children?

Professional: Are you a workaholic? Do you need to reassess your work-life balance? Have you created an on/off switch for your work mode? (Trust me. There is one.  Celebrities and executives do it all the time.)

Personal: Do you have friends that only communicate with you when they need something? Are your bills behind because you keep loaning funds or playing taxi?

Be honest with God. Be honest with yourself. The lie is that if you don’t almost die in the process, then you didn’t give it your all. You didn’t truly sacrifice until you pass out trying. Let me help you, Sweetheart. Stop living (and almost dying) in that lie.

Every ounce of you does not need to be squeezed out before God honors your faith. There is rest. There is fun. There is help. Pour all of that into a beautiful mug of humanity and it will make the rewards of your relationships taste so much sweeter.

Here’s some Bible verses to guide you through those questions up there.

Stay balanced out there, Sweethearts. Remember… you should not be dying so others can live — Jesus already did that. I love you all!

 

Sunday Special: Just For You, Too

Happy Sunday, Sweethearts!

Today is Father’s Day in America and since I had already written an homage to my late father and to my friends who are fathers, I decided to post a special message to men everywhere.

Men: Generally speaking, you get a bad rap when it comes to the family circuit. You thrive in the business and economics (hence the glass ceilings that still exist), but when it comes to matters of the heart, you don’t receive your spotlight when you do well. If you have received shade all day, all month, all year — let me be the first to tell you, thank you.

A deeper look: You may be discouraged to extend your love for fear of being rejected or emasculated. Perhaps you were dismissed when you tried to hug your parents as a child or attempted to kiss your significant other. When affection is rejected, it can cause men to shut down and not feel emotionally safe. The result can be an adult male who does not know how to adequately express his feelings. This can manifest itself in destructive or distant behaviors and your family suffers the most from those inaudible blows. Furthermore, you may have a positive father reference to model, let alone a positive friendship with other men to keep you lifted. I encourage you to not to shrink into the shadows. No matter what you think, it won’t make things better.

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

From a daughter who experienced an estranged father and later an involved one, please consider the following for your future:

  1. Never underestimate the power of your presence. Whether your reputation is tarnished or squeaky clean, your love will shine through anything when you decide to show it. Let them say no, but don’t let them say that you didn’t try. I believe my biological father did the best he could within his capacity. The father who raised me simply had a deeper well from which to draw.

  2. You’re the blueprint. I’m a firm believer that a man’s interaction with his child(ren) can create a customized definition of provision and protection. Sons and daughters tend to use their fatherly relationships as reference points for platonic and romantic relationships. You’re more than a sperm donor. Your fingerprint is part of their growth. You’re a life-giver and women grow what you plant. We nurture what you give, so remember that as you interact with your family.

  3. You need a team. In the name of sports, be humble enough to be a team player. If you have friends who are also fathers or men that you will take you seriously when it’s time to confide, let them know what you need in order to stay on track. Whether it is an addiction, temptation, or a knot of anger you can’t comb through, talk to your tribe. Just like on the court/field, everyone plays a role to win the game. Let your friends play their roles.
photo of men having conversation
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

I encourage you to breathe through each attempt to be better and if you are already doing those items listed, offer to be a safe space for another man as he grows into a better version of himself. Mentor a neighborhood child who could use a father figure. Offer to make amends with a family member. Just don’t stop trying. Let them say no. You can live with the peace of knowing that you extended the opportunity for them to meet the new you.

I love you all. Keep standing strong. I see you.

Peace & Thanks for listening! Happy Father’s Day!

Wednesday Wind Down: ED

Hello, Sweethearts! I know it’s Thursday, but this one took some simmering… and you may be wondering where I’m going with those two letters. I’m going exactly where you think I am.

In the world of social sciences, there’s a term called emotional dishonesty. Various definitions exist for it, but in essence, it is when someone does not own up to their feelings or needs, yet s/he holds the other person accountable for the offense. This can manifest itself as passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive behavior.

When I taught adult education communication courses, we would always engage in authentic and lively dialogue about relationships (platonic, professional, romantic, familial, and social). Every quarter, someone would attribute a lack of intimacy to dysfunctional communication. Every quarter, someone would tell me how lack of trust was the undercurrent in their relationship deterioration. After my first year of teaching, I learned to carve out two days in my lesson plan to discuss the conflict chapter because it always birthed the fruition of self-discovery among my students.  The chapter also landed in the middle of the textbook, so by that point in the course, they usually displayed sharpened self-awareness and reframing skills. They were not only able to professionally assess and verbalize the conflict but also express ownership of its escalation which was often via emotional dishonesty. You can bet that made me one happy educator. 🙂

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

To listen to a man say “I see it now. I’m not helping the situation.” To hear a woman say “Yeah, I don’t really listen to my kids. I need to do that more.” That was what kept the blood flowing in my teaching career. That is what produced life within those four walls and fortified adults to engage in healthy relationships of all kinds.

Speaking of blood flow… let’s talk about that ED.

When a man experiences erectile dysfunction, it can be emotionally crippling. He may not be able to communicate how emasculated he feels and his behavior can be misunderstood and misdirected toward his partner. Multiple factors can cause ED and one of them is decreased blood flow.

How interesting it is that a lack of life in one area can be the cause of death in another? If blood is not allowed to flow and recycle through our bodies, we experience death. Then again, there are two types of death… two organs that are vital comrades in the cessation of life – the brain and the heart. I believe the effects of dysfunctional communication resemble the intimacy breakdown that can occur from ED. Emotional Dishonesty can lead to Emotional Dysfunction. One deters the physical production of life while the other deters the flow of spiritual exchange. In both instances, there’s a broken piece – trust.

person holding pen
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

And let’s be real… What good is a relationship without trust? How can a relationship survive without the trust that all valves are open… that the flow is free and clear? After all, there are 4 valves in your heart – two for incoming blood and two for outgoing blood, so obviously God knew that circulation and regeneration were vital in keeping you alive in both your head and in your heart. Why don’t we give it a try in the spiritual realm as well? Why not gift that freedom to each other and to ourselves? Be emotionally honest with yourself and with those you love. When you don’t, it hurts yourself because you’re blocking healthy intrapersonal communication, and it hurts the other person because it creates a disconnect from the intimacy you desire from her/him. As I mentioned to some friends this year – I’m in the business of having real conversations with real people that want real relationships. Sweetheart, can you say the same thing?

Disclaimer:
This doesn’t mean that you need to bleed your heart 24/7 to everyone you meet. As in physiology, that could leave you spiritually drained 
and unable to function effectively.

Ask God to balance this spiritual flow as you learn to communicate truthfully in HIs Love from one person to another. It can be done; I promise. I have witnessed and experienced it.  You may have to be gentle or set some ground rules, but allow truthful communication to flow between your lips. Cherish those in your circle who provide opportunities for that to happen. No matter how messy or how awkward it may be, it is worth the trust structure. Letting communication flow between two hearts creates freedom amidst two people… and that’s the pinnacle of God’s Love toward us and Christ’s sacrifice for us. Freedom in mind, body, and spirit. The kind that can only come from the Prince of Peace and the Author of Love.

For more information about emotional dishonesty, check out this article. It’s one of my favorite classroom references.

Peace & Thanks for listening. Have an awesome week and I love you all!

 

 

#bloglikecrazy: Day 27 – Level Up

The Good

#27 – I got to “birthday chill” with Kendra Dear!

Well, that’s not her real name, but it’s what I call her. She began to know me as her high school teacher and now she’s my performing arts troupe teammate and sister. Sounds weird? Not really once you know the backstory. I don’t make a habit of turning former students into friends, but this one? A rare occasion that was worth every step of the journey. The result was the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with food, exercise, and fun this year and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. We had excellent conversation and I was so grateful to celebrate her life.

The Lesson

Be willing to walk the journey. 

I didn’t expect to be on the same team when we met, but I truly believe that God knitted us together as family. Despite her youth, she has been as loyal and encouraging to me as one that has known me for a lifetime. What she doesn’t realize is, while I mentor her, she fortifies me every time she overcomes an obstacle… and trust me, she’s had more than her fair share. She is my mentee, but she has proven to be my friend in sensitive times. On the phone when I was studying or grading papers late at night, calling to see if I made it home from work when she knew I was sleepy, and checking to be sure I ate when she knew I didn’t want to – these are just the minor leagues in comparison to the sincerity, joy, and downright determination she gives to those around her. My life has been enriched because she’s in it and going forward, I will continue to be appreciative every step of the way.

Peace & thanks for listening, Sweethearts! “See” you tomorrow!

#bloglikecrazy: Day 19 – Friends

The Good

#19 – I had a lunch + chat with Laura!

Laura is my secret weapon. If you pass by her in a hallway, she has so much wisdom and humor in 1 minute that it will leave your head spinning. She’s witty and brilliant and has beautiful salt-n-pepper hair. We were co-workers for 5 years and that title morphed into friends over my teaching career. You know how you say “Keep in touch! Let’s have lunch!” and you truly mean it, but you never do it? Well, we grabbed intention by the ears and actually did it and I enjoyed every minute.

The Lesson

Friends can be found anywhere and age has no boundary when you have kindred spirits. Kindness can exist among generations and workplaces. Laura and I would check on each other throughout the workday and combine our educator superpowers to increase student achievement. I didn’t know I would have a friend like her in my life when I accepted the job offer, and now I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Be on the lookout for authentic people. They truly are everywhere.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

#bloglikecrazy: Day 17 -There Is Repair

The Good

#17 – I spent time with Sorors that I haven’t enjoyed in years.

Before I was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc, I joined Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority. While in undergrad, I was lied on about a sensitive issue and the hurt resulted in me deciding not to remain connected to my chapter. I was close to a few Sorors but was not interested in repairing relationships as a whole. This year, I made a point to be emotionally transparent enough to allow love to flow in that vein again. Best decision made. We laughed, ate great food, exposed our thoughts, and vowed to excavate the ugliness and start the repairing process. I have had an absolute blast with these lovely ones ever since.

The Lesson

Repair is possible if you want it to be. When teaching introduction to communication, I use the following definition found in Communicating for Success by Cheryl M. Hamilton: Communication is a transactional process by which people, interacting in a particular context, negotiate the meaning of verbal and nonverbal symbols in order to achieve shared understanding. 

There are some relationships that served their purpose and I am not interested in repairing, rebuilding, or refreshing them. Then, there are some that all it takes is the commitment to seek understanding for something beautiful to grow. Even if we don’t agree, we can agree to have a meaningful transaction full of honesty, sincerity, and just plain old love. Yes, I can love you and not become intertwined into your life again if it is not a safe place for me to breathe, but if there is life there… there is the opportunity to repair, rebuild, and refresh. If both parties desire to do so, it is possible to communicate in a healthy way to allow aeration of the soul. What happens after that? *shrugs* That’s the part you have to let go. That’s the part that isn’t wrapped up nicely in a bow. You may pour your heart out to each other and still decide that you do not want to repair, but at least you created the space for Truth to flow. And that was the Good part.

Peace & Thanks for listening!

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