What I Think I Can Do vs What I Can Actually Do

(Day 7 – Writing 101 – Blogging Univ.)
The mind is a powerful thing. It has the ability to remember everything or absolutely nothing. For some reason my mind takes great pleasure in convincing me that I’m able to imitate Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez’s dance moves to a T. Er umm ahhh (clears throat) only as a form of exercise (of course) and at the disapproval of the floor beneath my wings.

Proverbial wings that is. As in my floor wishing I was as light as a feather! There’s a song Beyoncé sings called Get Me Bodied. The beat is so catchy, the song was selected to be rewritten as a kids version for 1st Lady Michelle Obama’s Move Your Body healthy school initiative. I LOVED the video! I hope you enjoy my work as Beyoncé’s body double!

 

Huh? Why is you laughin’ so hard tho?!

Humph! ANYwaaaay….

I overheard a conversation between What I Think I Can Do(THINK) and What I Can Actually Do (ACTUALLY). THINK had her eyes wide shut so she didn’t notice ACTUALLY masquerading as her mirror.

Smug, obnoxious snickering unravels from ACTUALLY’s mouth as quickly as the top of THINK’s pants unravel, landing below tier two of her tummy.

ACTUALLY: LOL!! At it again are we?!

THINK: (panting & slightly dizzy) I know not of what you speak!

ACTUALLY: Give it up already! We go through this every time you watch an episode of So You Think You Can Dance!

THINK: (wheezing, backin’ that thang up while looking for her inhaler) Excuse me?! (Rolls eyes) I have rhythm and tons of it Sweetie!

ACTUALLY: Okay I’ll give you that. You definitely have rhythm but you’re a little… um how do you say…a wee bit out of shape! You don’t quite look like who you’re imitating.

THINK: Did you just call me FAT?! (as the sudden sharp pain in her left ankle causes her right eye to twitch) I’ll have you know I am fluffy… And the clinical term is ‘Calorically Challenged‘, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

Sigh…

Back and forth…every day. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol! I excuse myself from their presence…and make my way to the ah…umm…how do you say…

Nearest Urgent Care Center!

© Ericka Arthur and authenticitee2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ericka Arthur and authenticitee with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

*Photo Credit Unknown. No copyright infringement intended.

I’m Glad You Like My Perfume (But I Wore It For Him)

In my semi autobiographical post Barbra, Bob and Black Gospel I referenced my immense love for the Yentl soundtrack. As a singer songwriter, I’m a musical lexophile by nature with an insatiable appetite for creative genius, witticism and well written lyrics! Though I adore all the songs on the soundtrack, Will Someone Ever Look At Me That Way” has been on my mind here of late.

“Look at how he looks at her
Will someone ever look at me that way…”

The opening line. Simple but profound. Here’s a woman loving a man who loves another woman. She’s smitten by him and fascinated as she eyes his eyes, admiring who he admires. He desires to make a great impression on the one he loves by selecting his words and  fashioning himself with great care. He wants to be attractive, to who he’s attracted to and yet he attracts another.

Have you ever been there? The place where your perfume or cologne was applied with one in mind. That fresh shave, power tie or shade of lipstick and new heels a mile high are worn for them. You position yourself to run into them (by happenstance of course) only for them to look at you…but not see you. They hear your well rehearsed special greeting tailor made just for them but don’t adhere. Disappointed that they’re oblivious to your hint, incapable of detecting your scent, your countenance begins to cower; not realizing you’ve attracted another

So it is with the enlarging of your territory and the broadening of your horizons. As your perception sharpens, you climb higher, and your light shines brighter, you notice the presence of those you never extended an invitation to.

We must be alert to what we attract and be ready to discern who’s really for us. Our inability to do so can lead to sabotage from within the walls of our well crafted fort. Discerning the difference between a heartfelt supporter and obsessive fan.   Sorting through the junk mail and spam of life making room for the valid offers that deserve your consideration. You held up the light and attracted flies. You didn’t mean to but you did.

They’re here

Now what?

You tell me

Peel back the layers

What do you see?

© Ericka Arthur and authenticitee2015
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ericka Arthur and authenticitee with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So you want to help eh? Save the world? Rescue cats out of trees? Help the elderly cross the street? Change a stranger’s flat tire? Break up fights in bars? You just love helping people huh? Never ignoring a need, just jumping right on in there? From offering to clean the home of a neighbor who just had back surgery to offering to babysit for the single mom in your support group who works three jobs. 

And what about you? 

Are you taking care of you?

When an old friend found out a couple of months ago that I was wrapping up training to become a volunteer Suicide Crisis Counselor in addition to other recent changes in my already hectic schedule, he expressed great concern.

“Are you putting your mask on first?!”

He travels extensively so I shouldn’t have been taken aback by his aviation analogy. “That’s the first thing the flight attendant instructs you to do before helping others. Put your oxygen mask on first!”. 

Before I could respond he continued, “I know you want to help people and all, but are you taking care of you? You work full time, you’re a wife and a mother…” I hadn’t quite tuned him out as he ran down the list fussing at me in love, but only because I knew he was right. He wasn’t the first person to give me this speech but one of many over the span of several years. Even my husband had noticed I’d grown accustomed to putting others first at the expense of my self care diminishing. 

I recently came across the following quote and fell in love with it. It was as if Audre was chiming in with those who cared about me, while giving me permission to learn how to put my mask on first…


We must remember that Compassion Fatigue and Caregiver Burnout is real. When you care for others. It’s important to send the very best you by taking care of you first. 

As a person who knows what it’s like to care deeply for others, I thought it’d be helpful to share a God breathed revelation I got during prayer one day: 

“Ericka, everyone Is not assigned to your caseload.”

Whoa! I thank God for theology but a little “kneeology” in prayer never hurt nobody! Talk about an awakening?! I didn’t have to do it all, for everyone, at all times with my omninothing self!

Sheer genius. 

Life has a way of interrupting us all. Not everyone is looking for damsels in distress to help. What do you do when life is thrust upon you? When you find yourself dealing with a terminally ill parent that now needs round the clock care or told you have 24 hours to decide if you’re gonna take a relative’s child in to avoid them going into court ordered foster care. 

What do you do?

Sure it’s easy for the onlooker to encourage or even assist for a time but it’s you that’s now stuck with paperwork, financial decisions, power of attorney responsibilities and overnight HIPAA consent choices. 

Maybe you’re a fellow empath. The heart mender. Peacemaker. Advice giver. Fire put-er-outer. Unofficial counselor and go to person for both friends and family alike…all the time. You can’t help but care and you’re always there for everyone

Everyone but yourself. 

You find it very difficult to not take the poor decisions made by those you’ve tried to help…personally. I mean you paid for tutoring twice a week but they still dropped out of school. You covered their rent for a few months but they ignored the chance to save money and were still evicted. You worked two jobs to send him to the best schools and he was still drawn to that drug infested crowd. You recall countless conversations with her about the dangers of unprotected sex as you rock your grandchild to sleep on Prom night.

Unlike others, you noticed the changes in his pattern of sleep and loss of appetite. You reached out, made yourself available to talk and then there’s an upswing. He begins to posts pictures online of how great things are now! You’re ecstatic. Not quite patting yourself on the back but thrilled that you were able to make a difference in someone’s life. Then you get the call. His body and the note he left were found.

 Your first thought is “What could I have done differently?” 

Beloved. As a few of my closest friends admonish me…be gentle with yourself. Everyone Is not assigned to your caseload and you have to give yourself permission to be ok with that. 
“Some plant, some water but it’s God who gives the increase” is a quote loosely based on a Bible verse found in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. In context it’s referring to one not esteeming the role they played as ministers or in witnessing or in what they do individually to bring God glory. Their one effort is not any better (or less) than the next person’s. Each role is equally important but without God none of it is possible. 

Everyone Is not assigned to your caseload and you have to give yourself permission to be ok with that. 
Help and healing comes in many forms. Yes it can be devastating when in spite of our best efforts, the choices of others result in them hurting themselves or others…and it happens on your watch. Life is a series of baton passes and musical chairs. There are times when you did everything you could and still life happened. 

You did everything you could think of to make your spouse stay but they still left. You won an award for your work with troubled teens but your child continues to run away. Yes it’s difficult when in helping the 99 you lose the one but everyone Is not assigned to your caseload and you have to give yourself permission to be ok with that. 

Be encouraged. 

Today is a great day to release the self imposed guilt of all that’s gone awry on your watch. Free yourself of the resentment you hold against the spry employee at the rec center who was able to reach your unreachable kid. Release the bitterness, anger and frustration. Reserve all that energy for putting your mask on first, celebrating what did go right and become healthy enough to serve those who are assigned to you! Take care of yourself so you can be effective without being infected and affected. 

Oh in case it’s been some time since you’ve heard it…You. Matter. Too. 

Much love,

e

P.S. Be sure to share with the walking wounded among you today. Smiles are hiding a lot these days. 




© Ericka Arthur and authenticitee2015
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ericka Arthur and authenticitee with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

hershey2

I used to look forward to Valentine’s Day. That all changed the day I found out I wasn’t my Valentine’s only Valentine. Sure, if we were in grade school and it was brought to my attention that my crush had given every girl in our class a Ziploc bag full of Hershey Kisses, it would’ve broken my heart! However we weren’t kids, we were adults in an exclusive relationship…or so I thought, and his betrayal did more than hurt my feelings…it shattered my heart.

heart

I wonder when he decided I wasn’t enough. When holding me left his arms empty and looking at me made his eyes wander. I wonder when my kisses began to make him want to kiss another. What had I done to make my only Valentine no longer want to be only mine? I was deeply in love, fully committed and fiercely loyal. I was his loudest cheerleader. He said he loved me and I believed him and why wouldn’t I? We were an item that had been together for some time. Maybe he meant he used to love only me but things had changed. Maybe he had said it and given me warning on the days he would pick fights or grudgingly allowed me to lean on his shoulder that had grown uncharacteristically cold. When did he stop loving me and why?

I remember the day I found out that I wasn’t his only Valentine and he vehemently denied it. I remember being livid and losing it. When I had calmed down some days later and we talked, I asked every question I could think of. He answered every question and begged me to stay but it wasn’t until much later that I discovered that he had lied during the interrogation and I had taken him back under false pretenses. So the cycle began to repeat itself…

I remember the day I found out that he had lied and he vehemently denied it. I remember being livid and losing it. Except this time I never calmed down and I never stopped losing it and worst of all…something broke in me. I never knew what broke or recognized the sound that it made.

You ever notice a bruise on your body and ask yourself, “When did that happen? How did that get there?”.  What about the times when others see bruises on you that you didn’t realize you had? What about bruises you think your smile hides as though they were H.S. hickeys under a turtleneck? Obvious to onlookers but withholding details that cannot be shared. So it is with the bruising of the heart.

person heartEnduring lie after lie coupled with constant rejection feeds insecurity while causing deep bruising that breaks the pericardium, making it susceptible to infection. I didn’t know I was infected until another man noticed my bruises and indirectly offered to gently nurse me back to health…and I let him.

I remember the day I reached out to him. We had know each other casually but he had come through for me in an unrelated pinch. He had ran across my mind and I had the purest of motives in thanking him for being an unexpected source of strength. Somewhere in between my saying “Good” and my saying “Morning” he detected a void that he was willing to fill…and I let him.

Later that night he began to prep me for “heart surgery” by responding to my statement of purpose with welcoming words of affirmation.  I had no idea I was so badly damaged until he began to dress my wounds by undressing me without our ever being face to face…and I let him.

I don’t remember when I began wanting him. Seeing his face in dreams and visions with my atmosphere responding to just the thought of his voice. Though he claimed I was also his only extra-curricular activity, his swag was next level. As a novice who didn’t know how to swim, I found myself drowning in the unchartered waters of his charm. I even accused him of being an expert in these matters to which he responded, “I’m not a pro, I’m just not scared”. That made me want him even more…and he let me.

It didn’t take long however, to notice that he responded way more than he initiated. He being the gentleman that he was, even apologized and assured me the feelings were mutual (which was music to my ears) but that he was just really busy. I then realized that I’d gone from guarding my heart to letting my guard down as my attraction to him intensified. I began to feel silly, embarrassed and exposed. It was though the scales had fallen from my eyes and I had awoken from an intoxicating stupor. I realized I had it real bad but could no longer deny that he made me feel so good. He had pinned me to the mat and although I confessed that I was too weak to tap out, his effortless appeal inadvertently muffled my faint half hearted whimper to get up. I had started a cycle of my own…and I let me.

When conviction began to rear its inevitable head, I remember trying to negotiate with God as to why I should be allowed to keep this new “heart doctor”.  I mean the man was working wonders without even trying. We hadn’t even seen each other in person in months, so there was no physical interaction at all. I mean could we at least have an exit interview and a goodbye kiss?! My Valentine had gotten away with that and so much more Lord…and You let him.

I eventually reluctantly came out of that short-lived fantasy but not without making it clear when he asked, “So you’re leaving me?”,  that it was because I had to, NOT because I wanted to. I then scheduled a long overdue appointment with the Great Physician. I had ignored Him, His invitations and warnings for so long. Although I kept most of our appointments, I showed up mad, hurt, crying, kicking, screaming and cursing quite a bitand He let me.

As a result of my baring it all and undergoing intense stress testing, my heart has since regained new strength at its core. I learned that the “something that broke inside of me” was the foreign sound of my heart shattering and unbeknownst to me, it also marked the day I checked out of the relationship. Repeated injuries had weakened my immune system. I had no clue that I was only going through the motions by meeting the minimum requirements to make it work.

Fast forward to this impending Valentine’s Day, I admit its unwelcome arrival is easier to bear these days! Though now married, I still choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I don’t cringe nearly as much when I can’t help but see reminders everywhere! From the most irritating decorations at work which consist of (no lie) at least 100 red heart shaped balloons floating in midair; to our children coming home from school excited to share their stories and Ziploc bags filled with Hershey Kisses. I’ve accepted the fact that Valentine’s Day and the people who celebrate it (no matter their motive) are going nowhere! LOL!

Maybe you dread Valentine’s Day for other reasons. I know of someone who as a newlywed lost their Dad, only to hear their spouse callously blurt out, “Great! Now our Valentine Days will be ruined forever!” Perhaps you have a love/hate relationship because you were born on Valentines Day or another holiday. You hate it but love that people never forget your birthday!

IMG_1709  Maybe you don’t have a Valentine and really want one. Maybe instead of being with the one you love, you’re loving the one you’re with. Maybe you’re staying with someone out of obligation or convenience. Maybe you’re the other woman or the other man in a relationship and though you hate being the side piece, it works for you. Maybe your status is “Its Complicated” because though you want out, in an attempt to honor your vows or commitment, you’ve opted not to step out. Maybe you’re hanging on by a thread for the sake of the children or because you’re partners in a thriving business or ministry. Maybe you can’t afford to leave because living together has cut your living expenses in half. Maybe the thought of being alone frightens the hell out of you, so you settle…again and again.

Hey…to each his own, but I found keeping my appointments with the Great Physician worked for me. He has a proven track record and offers custom remedies based on each unique case. He reminded me that no matter what day it was on the calendar, it was a brand new day! A new day to forgive myself and even extend that forgiveness to others along the way. Rediscovering brand new days gifted within the dawning of each new day still helps me. Though still fragile on some days more than others, I’m able to love again. I love unashamedly, lavishly and deeply, without restraint, regret or apology.

Afterall, I’m not a pro…I’m just not scared.

© Ericka Arthur and authenticitee2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ericka Arthur and authenticitee with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

**Photo Credits: No Copyright Infringement Intended

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Barbra, Bob and Black Gospel

BROOKLYN BABY! Cheaaa Son! All day long! Being born and reared in Brooklyn, New York shaped how I see the world. From the streets of Flatbush, Crown Heights, Bed Stuy, Brownsville and East NY, I was fully immersed in diversity and culture like NO other. Surrounded by bodegas, boom boxes, Bouyon, bullets and Bekishes, I grew up living, breathing, absorbing it ALL. Diversity was simply a way of life.

My first year of college (which my mother still refers to as the most expensive vacation on record) was spent at an amazing HBCU in Virginia. Having got skipped from 7th to 9th grade, it was my introduction as a 17 yr old from the concrete jungle, to the darkest country skies I’d ever seen. “What’s a matter Brooklyn? ‘Fraid of the dark?”, the Bartle & Jaymes in him teased as we stood on campus; him leaning in for the goodnight suga he never got. “Nah, this ain’t dark baby…”, I quipped as I leaned back a bit. “This is country dark and y’all can HAVE it!”

I joined the award winning Gospel Choir at my school that had at least 100 members and a full band. I then auditioned for and got into the condensed version of the group of 30 singers called the Travel Choir. Such an incredible, life changing experience. However, to see me on stage, in uniform, displaying classic, jaw dropping Black Gospel choir vibrato and choreographed steps, you would never peg me for the girl who blasted Barbra Streisand in her dorm room…incessantly.

A fellow native Brooklynite, Barbra’s Yentl soundtrack sang me through the toughest of times. As Bob Marley rang in my soul from childhood days gone by and Black Gospel imploded in my spirit, I was a walking billboard for all things B-52’s meets The Human Beatbox. A mosaic of music, nationalities, aromas and street survival shaped my gait and mystique. Dopeness.

So the next time you extend a firm handshake, direct eye contact and hopefully a smile when meeting another, don’t cripple a potentially divine experience by deciding who they are by what you see. You could be in the presence of the Barbra, Bob and Black Gospels of the spirit realm and forfeit a reservoir of refreshing renaissance tailor made…just for you.

As you pause to reflect on and perhaps now embrace the rich, rare blend of who you are at this very moment, know that there is a God loving you for who you are,  JUST AS YOU ARE, right now.

Be blessed beyond measure and strengthened for the rest of the journey….

e

© Ericka Arthur and authenticitee2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ericka Arthur and authenticitee with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

**Photo Credits: MTV, TheWowStyle, BlackArtBlog. No Copyright Infringement Intended