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What Makes You Who You Are

In my last post I talked about teaching people how to treat you. I shared that post among a group of peers which triggered a conversation about my lack of relationship with Buddha.

It’s impossible to love yourself if you hate the things that make you who you are.

One person asked me if I had any animosity towards him. Another implored that family is too important to not speak to. A comment that stood out to me however, was, “It’s impossible to love yourself if you hate the things to make you who you are.” It made me think of M. Chuck on Survivor’s Remorse and her desire to find her father because she doesn’t know half of who she is. But this was different. This girl’s statement wasn’t about KNOWING who my father was. It was about HATING him. And how that could prevent me from loving myself.

But, I don’t hate him.

Shortly after that conversation I scrolled past a post on the DAAAMNDADDY Facebook page about a young girl raised by her great-grandfather, who wanted to meet her father because she felt like until she met him, she wouldn’t know half of herself. Seeing that reminded me of how I felt when I heard her say those words. Sad for her, but I couldn’t relate.

The same girl who made the comment about being unable to love myself if I hate Buddha followed that statement up with “Being at Peace is so much more fun.”

That’s the thing though, my decision to disconnect from Buddha was one I made to protect my peace.

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I spent half of my quarter century of life waiting for him to show up. Occasionally visiting him during his periods of incarceration, and having pleasant times with him I can remember overshadowed by his random moments of rage and negligence.

When I decided I was going to write this post I got news that my great-grandmother, Buddha’s grandmother, had died.

It made me want to examine “What makes you who you are” more closely. (So there will probably be another post on this.)

I remember being nine or ten years old when I watched Buddha throw a knife at his Fiancé for encouraging him to let me go home for school instead of keeping me when I no longer wanted to stay. She told him I’d be more likely to come visit again if he returned me home at the agreed upon time. I later learned that he witnessed his father be physically aggressive toward his mother growing up. Statistics show that “Boys Who witness domestic violence are two times as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.” Unfortunately, that became part of who he is.

But how does that affect me?

Knowing that about him makes me sad he had to experience that. Learning as an adult, that he even abused my own mother was confusing. She had tended to focus on his positives when I asked about him.

Almost anyone I’ve ever met told me Buddha was intelligent. So am I. The hand-crafted birthday cards he used to send me showed me that he’s a wordsmith and also artistically gifted. So am I. His siblings love him no matter what he’s done to them. So do mine.

Not only are some of these some of my greatest qualities, they are some of the things I love most about myself.

I’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with Buddha’s siblings, despite my estranged relationship with him I’m fortunate enough to know who my father is, even if I don’t like him. And I will never be able to understand what it’s like to not know a contributor to your existence. But I don’t think that not knowing a parent or separating yourself from a parent prevents you from knowing who you are.

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I’m an intolerant person, I know that about myself because I was willing to cease communication with Buddha once I realized continuing to communicate with him meant tolerating mistreatment. I even stopped communicating with my mom for a few months when I felt she disrespected me.

I don’t have all the answers on “What Makes You Who You Are” and you don’t have to agree with me that your parents aren’t always the sole contributors.

I think What made me who I am is my ability to learn from my experiences and the people I choose to surround myself with.

Teach You How To Treat ME

Last week the Daddy I had been dating told me he had been thinking about working things out with the mother of his child.

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Oddly enough I was happy to hear it. I could sense something between us had been off for some time. The over-thinker in me was glad my uneasiness wasn’t for naught.

He asked if we could still be friends

In the few months we’ve been seeing each other, I had never heard him speak ill of the mother of his child. So as shocking as it was to hear, I didn’t feel any tension. He never indicated that this was a hostile relationship for him to return to. He asked if we could still be friends. Initially I agreed. He gave me the heaviest hugs I had ever had & with tear-glossed eyes he asked if I were going to cry. I didn’t. I got in my car; drove home & watched Queen Sugar. Then I got a text message.

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I responded. Assuming this was just a sincere moment of checking in after a n intense conversation.

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To my surprise he called the next morning. And text “Goodnight” again that evening. Same thing the day after that. I was confused. The attention I had been receiving in the days following our “friendship” was everything that had been inconsistent about our relationship just days before.

On the third morning of “Phone Calls from Friends” I angrily answered “I’M SLEEP” then hung up. Perturbed at being disturbed after a night of crying. Yup, that’s right. I cried. Two days after the fact, but still it happened.

That Friday after work I drove home and a series of songs came on the radio that reminded me of our times together and I cried. Came home, wrote about it and cried a little bit more. So for him to call me early on a Saturday morning as if everything was fine was hurtful.

He texted me later that day and called again after my lack of response. He accused me of sending mixed messages, by answering graciously one day and snapping the next. I was offended. How dare he accuse ME of doing exactly what HE was doing? So I called him out on it.

How can you say you just want to be friends then resume relationship behavior right away?

It was a looong intense conversation, still trying to salvage some sense of friendship. I told him he wouldn’t be giving himself a fair chance to work things out with his child’s mother if he intended to continue talking to me several times a day. He didn’t seem to see a problem with it, but I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable with it if things were the other way around.

That night I found myself watching Iyanla Fix My Life; the episodes on dismantling the myth of The Angry Black Woman. One of the residents of her “House of Healing” talked about being a Yes Woman and how putting people’s needs before her own made her unhappy.

It was then I remembered a lesson I learned my whole life. “You teach people how to treat you.”

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I’m 25 years old and I spent a Friday night crying into my notebook wanting so desperately to be consoled by a Daddy. NEEDING my grandfather or my uncle to reaffirm how beautiful & special I am. Being angry I couldn’t go to my own father, or step-father or even my sister’s father with those feelings in that moment. Then it hit me. I had never tried to establish that kind of relationship with any of them. I had NEVER consulted Step Dad #1 with my relationship problems. I don’t think I ever even thanked my sister’s father for his very presence when my high school boyfriend couldn’t take a hint and leave.

I’ve spent my life living pretty independently. I never taught my Daddies how to treat me in my times of need. So how could I be so hurt that they weren’t there for me?

On Sunday, I was supposed to have lunch with the Daddy I had been dating. We never made it. He texted me five hours after we agreed to meet and I was livid.

This man thought he could TEXT ME after standing me up & everything would be ok?

I didn’t respond.

He called.

I sent it to voicemail.

Something about me had taught him that it was ok to disrespect my time. His text message didn’t even include an apology. Just a one word greeting I didn’t find worthy of a response.

Two days later the same greeting. I just wanted to be left alone. But part of me so badly wanted to school him on how to treat people. So when he reached out to me requesting to sit down and talk, I obliged. And I was sure to take it as an opportunity to not only teach him how to treat me, but people you piss off in general. Don’t start with a text as if everything is fine. Acknowledge you fucked up and don’t take it for granted that you’ll get a response, or the opportunity to apologize AFTER a person responds to your basic ass text.

[ctt template=”8″ link=”fAf6f” via=”yes” ]”I may not have done a great job of teaching you how to treat me, but you gone learn today.” @MissReid1216[/ctt]

It was an emotionally taxing week full of experience but I’m glad I had it. It made me re-evaluate my role in my relationship with my Daddies & it reminded me to be more intentional in how I teach people how to treat me.

Telling the Truth in Television: How Survivor’s Remorse is Getting it Right

Season Three of Survivor’s Remorse touched on so many pertinent issues. Colorism. Abortion. Rape. Not having a living Will. A carry over issue had been something near and dear to this blog. DADDY ISSUES.

This season M.Chuck is in court mandated therapy to deal with her anger. In therapy she came to realize many of her issues lead back to her relationship with her mother. And that relationship is strained, because her mother has denied her the identity of her father. M.Chuck, like so many people I know in real life feel that not knowing their father means a piece of them is missing. The writers didn’t just tap dance around the issue. They let her slowly uncover this root throughout the season; be it by therapy, or hard learned lessons following a night of partying. Real people don’t just wake up with Daddy Issues. Real people don’t automatically relate their emotionless sex lives with Daddy Issues. Real people have o look inward and self-reflect. To me, M.Chuck felt like a REAL PERSON coming to terms with her REAL ISSUES.

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And as much as I look forward to continuing M.Chuck’s journey with her, she isn’t the only character with Daddy Issues. Another way the writers room got it right is that they haven’t been one dimensional. No two Daddy Issues are identical. That was evident in witnessing Reggie’s story unfold.

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Reggie is a relatively young, married, black man with a career in Sports Management. He’s from a rough New England neighborhood in Boston and has no interest in looking back. He doesn’t want his uncle buried in Boston. He doesn’t want old Boston friends at the Funeral. He Doesn’t want his cousin/client visiting Boston, even for a wedding. For Reggie, his past is that for a reason and all that matters is moving on up. It’s almost as if he fears returning to Boston will turn him to a pillar of salt, and one we learn his Daddy Issues, it begins to make sense. Reggie knows his father; grew up in the house with him and his mother’ yet he still has Daddy Issues. He tells his wife that his father is the embodiment of the word “CUNT”. Unlike M.Chuck, Reggie has no desire to face his Dad or resolve anything. He’s even discarded any photos of the two together. Reggie’s Daddy was abusive, and although he is a young, married, successful black man; nothing seems to be able to undo that hurt. Not even leaving Boston behind.

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Reggie was able to leave Boston, because he manages his cousin Star athlete Cam, who is the center of the show. Cam is a well-loved family man, a little bit of a momma’s boy, and being a pro-athlete still doesn’t make him exempt from Daddy Issues. In the beginning of the Season he eulogizes his uncle detailing all that he had done for him, saying “He was everything a father should be” That line resonated with me because that’s how I feel about my own uncle. Cam, similar to myself knows who his father is and describes him as a deadbeat. Not too many examples are given as to what qualifies him as such, but the closing scene of the finale helps it all make sense. (Don’t worry I’m not going to spoil it) In addition to having Deadbeat Daddy Issues, Cam seems to experience some regret around a decision, or lack thereof he made surrounding his own parenting choices. Children aren’t the only ones with Daddy Issues. Sometimes being faced with becoming a Daddy has it’s own set of Issues.

Intertwined with all the comedy, Survivor’s Remorse is unburrying some deep seeded Daddy Issues for its characters & making these characters into Real People.

If you resonate with any of their stories of have your own to tell, feel free to email them to DaaamnDaddy@gmail.com

I look forward to Reading your “Dear Deadbeat, …Love, Star-Athlete” letters.

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Managing the Pain of Living

September is Pain Awareness Month. I discovered this when researching what resources could be the focus of the bulletin board at the Mental Health Clinic I work at.

 

*Pain is a warning sign that indicates a problem that needs attention*

This week I experienced a different kind of pain. After finding myself TWICE engaged in draining discussions with “patriots” “protesting” Colin Kaepernick’s Protest, I along with the rest of the world was reminded why he’s been protesting to begin with. This pain let me know there’s a deeper problem than his right to protest, that needs attention.

 

My body can no longer stand to watch live executions courtesy of Dashcams & Facebook Live. The Audio triggers migraines so I read the subtitles as the images proceed in silence.

“Somebody lost their Daddy today”

My head aches. I drove straight to work from three states away and worked an 11-hour shift so no doubt I’m fatigued. But my sleepiness did not cause today’s head pains. Nor did my dollar menu diet. This, this was STRESS.

“Somebody lost their Daddy today”

Continue reading “Managing the Pain of Living”

This morning was the first time in a long time I thought about Buddha as a real person with real feelings.

Buddha is my biological father. Last week his sister, my aunt, text me to let me know that their grandmother, my great grandmother, Nanna was in the hospital. She had a heart attack & pneumonia in her left lung.

This morning she text me to tell me that the doctor’s said there’s nothing the do. Her body is shutting down.

That’s when I thought of Buddha. My whole life I had heard that he was her favorite. No matter how much he’d done; he could do no wrong in her eyes.

In 2014 I visited her and she asked about him. I responded “I don’t know.” When she pressed further I added “Because I don’t want to know.” At the time I was upset at the thought of having to lie to her on his behalf. I hadn’t realized how upsetting the news could be to her.

Today I wondered how it may have made him feel. Being away from her all the time. Was the idea of hurting her more heavy for him than not witnessing his kids grow up?

This May was the first time in as long as I could remember, seeing the two of them in the same room. I expected more. I don’t even recall anyone announcing his presence. She asked who all was there. Her sight had gone and her hearing was following. She couldn’t see us for herself and she could barely recognize our voices. But I remember even then wondering why he was so quiet. Especially since the last I saw her, he was all she asked about. Now that he was here in the same room with her, why wasn’t she asking?

Anyway, this morning I wondered how he took the news. I wondered if he cried. I wondered if he felt helpless. Or scared. Or angry with himself for disappointing her. I felt him as human. I empathized with him, because I couldn’t imagine losing my grandmother. And as sad as I’ll be to lose Nanna, I know his grief will be ten times worse.

Or at least, I expect it to be.

-Sunday, September 11, 2016

3 lessons I learned from Queen Sugar

If you’re anything like me, you spent at least two days of this past week watching the two-night premier or OWN’s newest series Queen Sugar. Three things stood out to me that I look forward to better understanding throughout the series.

  1. Blue & Ralph-Angel Bordelon. Ralph-Angel is literally down to STEAL to provide for his son. He’s clearly unable to provide for himself & there are some hints at a criminal past. No matter his past, he’s trying to a present and nurturing Daddy as best he can and protect Blue from the stresses of adulthood before his time. He butts heads with his aunt Violet on the thin line between preserving childhood and coddling a child to ruin. Because apparently, Ralph-Angel himself was placed on a pedestal as a child and now he’s “Wrestling with a world that ain’t got no pedestals for him.”blue-ra-kenya
  2. Micah & Davis West: We don’t see much of these two in the opening episode. However; what we do see is interesting enough. Davis appears to be the type of father content with showering his son with money because “This our real life. Ain’t it good?” Micah however seems to be grounded enough to see past the money and face his father’s flaws. He courageously expresses his disappointment when he tells his Dad directly that he doesn’t need him. He seems to have enough of a moral compass to know when another man is no longer worthy of leading him. I’m interested to see if Davis can regain Micah’s trust.i-dont-need-you
  3. Earnest Bordelon & Charley Bordelon-West: In the season opener we learn that Charley has an MBA and although he doesn’t directly ask for it, her father need her help. He reminds me of my own grandfather when he hits her with the “Hey Baby” style “Just Checking on You” call. She seems like a family oriented woman, but knowing her Daddy needed her help, she put her position as her husband’s manager first. She arrived in town too late to make good on her promise to give her Daddy all her time. And is casually referred to as his “California Girl”. It’s unclear if it’s due to her college & marriage life or if she grew up there separately with her mother. Her emotional reaction upon arrival & her apology at the end of the episode brought some to tears. She appears to have a special relationship with her Daddy opposed to her siblings and I’ll be looking to learn how that came to be.

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BONUS THOUGHT: Every Aunt VI needs a Hollywood in her life.

Ghost the Ghost Dad

Last night, I came late to a discussion among young college educated professionals about the show POWER.

The conversation started as a debate of Tasha’s loyalty and Ghost’s lust. The women felt Tasha went above and beyond to be loyal to Ghost, while he took a hiatus from his real life to live a fantasy with his high school sweetheart.ghost-angela-fantasy

While the women in the discussion found it admirable that Tasha chose to protect her kids by refusing to cosign & hive Ghost access to funds they set aside for the children; the men were appalled that she had the audacity to deny him access to funds HE worked for.

Power Season 3 2016

The conversation got heated.

What interest me most about reading through these opinionated exchanges were their thoughts on Ghost as a Dad.

The argument was made that Ghost is an absentee Daddy.

Rebuttal; he’s separated from his wife so distance is to be expected.

Counterargument; Ghost can’t use the separation as an excuse, because Tasha encourages him to spend time with the kids without her.

Rebuttal: Ghost works two jobs to provide for his kids therefore he CAN’T be absent.

That’s where I chimed in. It appeared to me that most of the men felt like providing was adequate parenting and the women in the group quickly pointed out the many specific scenarios in which Tasha had to say “Yo Ghost, Lil’ Man wildin’ come get him.” Because clearly Ghost is too busy to see the signs of an outburst himself.

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One of the women in the discussion, took specific issue with Ghost’s methods of discipline. She was disappointed that their son raising his hand at his mother only warranted a talking to, but calling his father’s mistress out of name called for Ghost putting his paws on him.

 

The men felt that their son was out of line and in “grown folk’s business” and this woman felt passionate that any teenage boy would be upset with their Dad for mistreating their Mother.

One of the guys responded “Bad husband doesn’t automatically mean bad father.”

That wasn’t the first time I heard that statement, and under some circumstances, it’s true. Some men don’t allow their shortcomings as a husband/significant other to affect their relationship with their children. However, Ghost doesn’t qualify as one of these men to me.

Reasons why are as follows:

  1. He’s only physically present by their mother’s request
  2. He was uncomfortable when his son prolonged their embrace.
  3. He’s willing to jeopardize funds set aside for the children’s future to fix his past.
  4. He brought his son to learn his business, but pawned him off on someone else.
  5. He thinks providing financially can replace a loving interactive relationship

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At the end of the day James “Ghost” St. Patrick is human, and just like real dads, this Fictional Father is Flawed.

Myth of an Independent Woman

*Disclaimer: I’m not saying independent woman don’t exist. I’m just admitting that I’m NOT one of them*

Yesterday I text me best friend “I NEED to move” When he asked why I simply replied “I don’t feel safe anymore.” Some Shenanigans went down at my complex in the morning that will probably leave an emotional scar for some time, the thought if it had me nervous to return home, but that’s a different story for a different day. What I wasn’t expecting was to come home last night to NO lights. YUP! The power company was tired of my lapse in memory over the past few months. Paying what I can when I can.

So this morning I made one of the hardest phone calls of my life. I called my grandparents. Fortunately for me my Grandpa answered the phone. He asked “How much?” then “How did you get so far behind?” He cheerfully said “This too shall pass. Let me let you speak to the person in charge of the finances.” I heard him tell my Grandma “Bump’s in trouble.”

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The Disdain and disappointment in her voice was SOUL crushing. She said “Next time ask for help sooner. I’ll put the money in your account because I love you. Bye.”

She hung up on me She didn’t even give me a chance to tell her I can pay her back tomorrow because tomorrow is pay day; just *CLICK* I cried. So angry at myself for needing their help again. For disappointing her. For not having my own parents to turn to in hard times like this. My grandma is probably about as sick of my shit as the power company. And I understand.

A few nights ago I was telling my mom how strange it was for me to hear my aunt say “I’m not obligated to do nothing for my grandkids. I do cause I choose to do.” She sounded so angry, I guess her kids had begun to take her for granted & her grandkids feel entitled to her time and money. Until today I never imagined my Grandma feeling that way about me. As if I was a burden and not her responsibility.

Cookie Tired

25 years 8 months 2 weeks and 3 days ago when I was born; Buddha was incarcerated. I don’t know when he went in or when he came out, but I do know 3 weeks later he was at my baby shower (only because there’s video evidence) and from then on almost everything he ever gave me was stolen. My mother was 16 and unemployed still living with my grandparents. SO thanks to ill-equipped unemployed teen parents, for 25 years 8 months 2 weeks and 3 days I HAVE been their responsibility.

Which brings me back to today. I live alone. I’m responsible for insuring & maintaining a vehicle that is currently co-titled to my bank. I try to feed myself regularly so I don’t die, but I’m not Independent.

Friends and relatives at home see the freedom of being able to move out of my mother’s home. What they don’t see is the student loan debt I incurred to avoid going back. They see the privacy of not having to live with family or roommates. What they don’t see is the eviction letters that came after 9 months of unemployment, depleting my savings AND tapping into my pension. They don’t see me sitting in the dark on a Wednesday night when all I wanted was to come home and watch Greenleaf. They see me celebrating a new Pinterest recipe win. What they don’t see is me starving and afraid to open my fridgerator to find that all the stuff I cooked in an attempt to save money has gone bad because I overlooked one bill for a little too long. They don’t see how embarrassed I was to need my grandparents’ assistance A-GAIN!

Kandi Koated Tears

The daddy I’m dating offered to help and I declined. I immediately wondered *What if I need help in the future and he doesn’t offer because I’m pretending everything is well right now? Am I being prideful?* I just don’t want to get in the habit of relying on men to save me. Then I realized, He’s just behaving how one should in a partnership. No one who lays beside you should be comfortable with letting you lie alone in the dark when they CAN help you.

I hadn’t seen that much growing up; partnership. I can still FEEL the resentment my mom has for my sister’s father for not helping her maintain her home financially. I can hear echoes  of her sharing with me that my Granpa told her it was because she didn’t require him to. Like me, she pretended everything was fine for too long and held it against him that he reaped the benefits of: coming to her home where the power was never turned off; watching football on cable she desperately wanted to disconnect; finding shelter in a home with a mortgage he wasn’t responsible for. And people saw this like they see me and they wanted it, not knowing the struggle it comes with. The embarrassment of needing to call for help when people think you’re fine and they’re expecting you to do better.

Rooting For You

I’m not an Independent Woman, I’ve had to ask people for help several times. Today I learned that embarrassment doesn’t last long and pride will kill you if you let it. I asked my neighbor for a flashlight and he gave me a generator. I was able to watch my show, write by lamp; not by flashlight and even charge my phone. I chose a moment of embarrassment because pride would have had me in here in the dark and disconnected from the world.

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It Takes a Village to Raise A Child and sometimes It takes A Village to Keep an Adult Afloat. Don’t be afraid to NEED the Village and ALWAYS BE the Village.

Debt…It’s personal for me!

In my household, college was always promoted to me as something that was an absolute given. My grandmother was the first to graduate college from our family in the 50s. She set the bar very high! She believed for everyone in her family to attend either college or the military. College for me was the only option that was discussed; but we never talked much about how we would finance it.

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I will share that my mother did a great job at preparing me academically by sending me to the best public schools in the City of Philadelphia. However, my father didn’t appear to be as deeply invested as my mother. My father re-emerged back into my life at the age of 13 years old from being absent since I was 5 years old. Even though him and I lived in the same city, I had not seen or talked to him during the 8-year hiatus. This hiatus was believed to be sparked by the judgement for him to pay child support. His absence was something I became accustomed to and him re-emerging among my high school years initially had me to feel resentful of his return.

Upon entering college, I was awarded $8,000 in scholarships from my high school. My freshman year was covered! However, sophomore, junior and senior year were left for question. Junior year my mother became very ill and was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis. As a result, she lost her hearing, income and position as a teacher. With my mother’s income down to zero and having to rely on the support of my grandmother who earned around $40,000 in her retirement pension, things became very tight very quick!  Because my financial aid reported my mother’s income from the year prior, it appeared as if I was financially OK, meaning not eligible for grants. I refer to this financial state as being in the “sticky middle”, too poor to pay for college and too rich to receive a grant.

 

The introduction of student loans came into my life during my sophomore year of college. My scholarship funding received from high school was exhausted after my freshman year of college. In my family there was not a discussion about student loans or any education around how to repay them. It is my opinion that one possible reason that student loan debt is so high in our country, is due to lack of preparation.

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My advice to anyone reading this who wants to help their child or family member prepare for college, is to start saving now. A great but underutilized resource is the 529 plan. Each state has a 529 plan that assist with saving for college through the use of conservative saving rates or aggressive investing.  Sharing information such as the 529 plan has empowered me with the ability to empower others. This led me to become an advocate and teacher for others about student loan debt and methods of prevention.

 

You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “Where was her father during this time”? Great question, he was around in terms of time but not financially. I remember him saying, “I’ll send you something every month to help you out, but it won’t be the amount that your mom was getting for child support”. Child support had been suspended once I turned 18. I remember thinking to myself, if ever I had needed financial support, it was in that first year of college especially. I realized how much financial support I would need and how much I didn’t have.

The financial lack I experienced my first year of college, put me into “grind mode”! All through college I held 3 jobs. One on the weekends, and two during the week. I had to learn to financially count on me. Even to this day, the grind does not stop. One stream of income is not enough to create financial security. The reality is, parental support creates a safety blanket, one that is appreciated and wanted. However, if you ask the question, did the lack thereof create this ambitious, goal driven woman who has created a brand for herself now known as The Student Loan Doctor? I’ll respond by saying, ABSOLUTELY!

 -The Student Loan Doctor

Dr. Sonia Lewis

You may connect with The Student Loan Doctor by visiting her website www.thestudentloandoctorllc.com

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