Once again, I’m late to the TV party. I’m currently engaged in marathon of the now cancelled AMC show “Breaking Bad.” I’m enjoying the show, however, I don’t know how people watched it week-to-week for 5 whole seasons. Continue reading
I decided on my birthday that I was too fat and wanted to lose weight. I decided to get serious about my health and started making changes. I got serious again in April and joined and gym and got a trainer. I got even more serious in August and modified my diet drastically, but with changes I knew I could sustain long term. As a result, I’ve lost a few pounds and a few inches. (It’s actually more than a few, but that’s another blog for another day.)
As I prepare to clear my closet of clothes that no longer fit (almost 50% of all the clothes in my closet), I am realizing that more than my closet requires decluttering. I need to declutter my life. Continue reading
People love to tell you “never give up on your dream!” “Never stop believing it can happen!” What they forget to add is to “be flexible,” “know when to change gears,” and perhaps most importantly, “know when it’s time to find a new dream.” Continue reading
Your body is your temple. I don’t mean this in the Biblical sense. However, you can go with the Biblical meaning, if you’d like. Its one of the few things in the Bible that isn’t debatable. After all, you only get one. Yes, science has allowed us to order replacement parts. It has also allowed us to cure many of the things that used to kill us. But the fact remains you only get one body. It is for this reason that we must take care of the one we’ve got.
I try to exercise at least two days a week. Sometimes I exceed this, most times, I don’t. Sometimes I fail, miserably, and don’t burn a single calorie through exercise. I don’t workout because I enjoy it. In fact, I actually HATE working out. I hate it with a passion! There are a couple of reasons why I workout. One reason is that I like to eat and I want to do so without weighing 5,000 lbs. All the old Discovery Health Channel shows on obesity fascinate me. I’ve joked that those shows were my diet plan. Just watching them will make you want to NEVER be in that position. How humiliating it must be to have a wall removed from your home and have a crane or forklift come to your home to hoist you out of the hole in the house? I also workout because I know I should. Research tells us that watching what we eat and getting out to exercise, even if its just walking helps us to lead longer, healthier lives. Also, I’ve inherited the traits for some pretty ugly diseases that are linked to, or exacerbated by, obesity. Therefore, I’m trying to outrun heredity for as long as I can.
A few weeks ago, I met a woman who seemed to be young and healthy. After talking to her for a while, I discovered that she had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Her diagnosis came about as a result of trip to the emergency room when she wasn’t feeling well. A check of her blood sugar levels revealed that her diet, and perhaps lack of exercise, had resulted in an extreme spike in her blood sugar levels that left her hospitalized for days. She’s the third young person I know to have had this sort of scare.
Most times, our bodies will tell us when it’s time for us to make changes. We get headaches, joint aches, we become nauseous, we have trouble breathing or we just don’t feel well. Other times, we don’t get any warnings at all. I know plenty of people who either ignore their symptoms or excuse their poor diet and exercise habits by saying, “I don’t need to be skinny.” It’s not about being skinny. It’s about being healthy. I’ve had others say to me, “All of my vitals are good. I don’t have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. So I’m fine.” They’re right. They are fine . . . right now.
When you’re carrying excess weight, when you’re eating any and everything that crosses your path, when you’re leading a sedentary lifestyle, you’re a ticking time bomb. It might not be today, or tomorrow or even next month, but the lifestyle will eventually catch up to you. If you’re lucky, it will catch up to you in the form of symptoms rather than sudden death. It’s happened. I’ve seen it. Do me a favor and try not to be next.
I’m watching “Marrying The Game” on VH1. Judge me. A friend of the fiancé just said “You’re expecting Jayceon to love you the way you want to be loved versus accepting that he’s loving you the way he knows how.” The fiancé replied, “He thinks providing is loving.” The friend responded, “Most men do.”
The friend is absolutely right. I’ve had a similar conversation with my own girlfriends but from a slightly different perspective. I believe that all men need to be needed. The disconnect between men and women comes when women fail to realize that men don’t view needs the same way we do. Most men view being needed in financial terms. If they are providing for you financially, they believe they’re doing everything they need to do to maintain a healthy relationship. Conversely, they feel completely inadequate if they can’t provide financial support. What many men fail to realize is that a lot of us don’t need our bills paid. We need someone to slay the dragons!.
Another disconnect: men aren’t the best communicators. To compound that issue, women often talk a lot but say a bunch of nothing. Neither of these traits are conducive to effective communication or problem solving. So men never get the point that “yeah, the money is nice, but I have other needs too.” And women never clearly distinguish the real needs from the noise.
Maybe men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus.
Today I was reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine several years ago. He told me of a time when he was embarrassed about ‘needing’ to work a second job. He had a professional job, a career, but at the time he had some personal, financial goals that his professional job didn’t allow him to meet. So being the responsible adult that he was, he decided to get a second job stocking shelves at night. It wasn’t illegal or immoral, but it also wasn’t what was expected of a professional man of his caliber and career potential, so he kept it a closely guarded secret. He didn’t tell his friends or family because he didn’t want them to think less of him. He finally told a close friend after having to miss her birthday party to work. She ridiculed him for taking a job doing menial labor. After that he didn’t tell anyone else. But he continued to, quietly, work toward achieving his financial goals.
I was reminded of that conversation today while reading a story about former American Idol Justin Guarini. In one of his blogs he mentioned that he’s gone without meals to feed his children. The comment made me cringe. It’s reminiscent of the men who ‘brag’ about taking care of their kids. Um, THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO!!! If you create a child, man or woman, you’re SUPPOSED to take care of that child at all costs. If you’re raising a family and times are tough and someone has to miss a meal, it SHOULD be the dad/the head of the household. It’s not like we live in the agricultural age where the men went out and toiled away in the fields all day and needed the extra nourishment. Guarini sings for a living. He’s perfectly capable of singing on an empty stomach. I guarantee it – I’ve done a lot more with nothing in my belly.
Guarini’s story reminded me of that conversation years ago because I realized, once again, that men come in two different forms: Actual MEN and boys pretending to be men. MEN WORK. Period. A man does what he needs to do to meet his responsibilities. And they do it without seeking or needing praise. I remember telling my friend that all the men I knew had a ‘hustle.’ When I say hustle, I don’t mean anything illegal. By ‘hustle’ I mean that they used whatever skills they had to earn extra money to take care of their families. I knew men who had jobs, some white collar jobs, but could also fix cars, do carpentry work, do taxes, mow lawns, shovel snow, help people move . . . anything they could do to make sure the bills were paid and the kids had all the nice extras. It’s all I knew growing up in the working class cities of Detroit & Inkster, Michigan. I wasn’t used to a man saying he didn’t have enough money and then doing absolutely nothing about it. In fact, when I moved to Chicago in the early 2000’s I was shocked by the number of “men” I encountered who said, “I don’t make enough money on my 9 to 5.” I immediately wondered, “Well, what are you doing from 5 to 9??” It seemed to me that they had a lot of spare time that they weren’t using effectively. My motto has always been, “I don’t want to hear you complain if you’re not doing anything to fix the problem!!”
I shared my story with my friend and let him know that he hadn’t had anything to be ashamed about. Today, he’s older, more mature and is no longer ashamed of having been a responsible adult in his younger years. I told him that if more ‘men’ were like him, that our society would be in much better shape.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts today, “His & Hers” on ESPN Pod Center and the hosts were discussing how they chose their respective colleges. It got me to thinking about my journey to college. While most students had a list of schools they were interested in, I really only had had one – The University of Michigan.
I’ve been a Michigan fan ever since I can remember. Despite the fact that both my parents graduated from Eastern Michigan University, I was always a Michigan fan. I mean, let’s face it, when you grow up in the state of Michigan, you have to choose your team early on. And there are really only two teams to choose from – The University of Michigan and that school in East Lansing. I’ve always been a winner, so I went with the winning team.
During the application process, I briefly entertained the idea of attending Duke University. Their brochure quickly extinguished that idea. My parents didn’t have anywhere near $80K to send me to school. Also, I wasn’t quite as adventurous then as I am now. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be that far away from home all alone. So I saved the $45 application fee and moved right along. I applied to three schools: University of Michigan, Wayne State University (I knew my grades and test scores would guarantee me a Presidential Scholarship) and one HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). During my sophomore & junior years in high school, I attended the annual HBCU College Tour. Despite my high GPA and standardized test scores, I received extremely negative feedback from the only two HBCUs I might have considered attending. Meanwhile, I had a private school in Illinois, which I’d never heard of, recruit me because of the same. But I digress. The one HBCU I actually applied to was one I’d never considered attending. The only reason I applied was because I was attending an HBCU fair with some friends and one of my friends stopped at their booth to apply. All evening, I’d been standing idly by as my friends completed applications. I completed this application because the admissions counselor was very friendly. He also waived our application fees because we were completing the applications on-site. The school requested our transcripts from our high school, after we’d signed agreeing to the release, and the admissions process was underway. I’d actually forgotten that I applied until the day I received a letter from them in the mail. It was a rejection letter. My feelings were hurt. Here I was an almost straight A student, salutatorian of my class and college student at the University of Michigan – Dearborn (yes, I attended high school and college simultaneously) and this school had rejected me. To add insult to injury, the school had struggled with accreditation and was certainly no academic powerhouse. To make matters even worse, the friend who applied with me was accepted. This student’s GPA was almost a full 2 points lower than mine. My mother tried to console me by telling me, “They know you have other options. They can’t risk allowing you to block a space, when you’re most likely not going to attend, when there are students who can’t get in anyplace else, who need that spot.” Nice try, Mom!
Then there were two. Wayne State University accepted me pretty quickly and I received a Presidential Scholarship which provided for full tuition. Wayne State, while an excellent school, is no Michigan. But then again, no place is Michigan. I applied to Wayne State for four reasons: 1) I knew I’d get in, 2) I knew I’d get a full ride, or very close to it, 3) The University of Michigan is HIGHLY competitive and I wasn’t quite sure I’d make the cut, and 4) Michigan was #1 . . . as in at the time, they were the most expensive public school in the country. I said earlier that my parents didn’t have $80K to send me to school. Well, Michigan wasn’t much cheaper at around $60K and my parents didn’t have that either. They had, or came up with, about a third of that. Because I stayed in-state, I received a scholarship from the state, based on my standardized test scores, that earned me 10 semesters of (partial) tuition. I had several other smaller scholarships. I chipped in a third of my college costs through scholarships I’d earned. My parents had their third. And grants & loans made up the final third. I was all set. All I needed was an acceptance letter.
Although the acceptance letter came relatively quickly, it seemed like years between the time I mailed my application and the time I received the letter. As the holidays approached, I hadn’t heard back. I knew that once the holidays were in full swing, it would probably be February, or later, before I heard anything. I’ve never checked the mail so much in my life as I did during those couple of months. Finally, I received an envelope with the University of Michigan seal on it. It was a big envelope. I immediately knew what that meant.
I have absolutely no idea what I got for Christmas that year. I don’t remember who came to our annual Christmas dinner (although I can probably guess). I don’t even remember what I got for my birthday that year. All I remember is that I officially became a Wolverine on Friday, December 24, 1993.
Something I talk about fairly often is black people and their reluctance to seek professional help for their problems. There is a huge stigma in our community as respects mental illness and therapy. I have my theories on why the stigmas exist and how they’re perpetuated. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that we really need to “do better” when it comes to accepting that sometimes we all need a little help. In light of the reported suicide of actor Lee Thompson Young, I thought I’d mention it yet again.
As a people we’re doing a much better job of opening ourselves up to experiences we used to be quick to say were “for white people.” One of the last frontiers for us to conquer is being able to admit that we may not be able to work through our problems alone and taking action to get the help we need. Big Mama is an amazing woman but she doesn’t always have all the right answers. Yes, you can “take it to Jesus” but like I told someone last night “God is busy. I’m not worrying Him about that nonsense.” (It really was trivial.) Our mothers, sisters, sista-friends and good girlfriends only know so much. As well as they know us, they don’t always have best answers. Many of them don’t have the skills to properly manage their own lives yet and still they try (with all best intentions) to help us manage ours.
Sometimes after we’ve prayed about it, talked to Big Mama about it and dished about it to our girls, the issue remains unresolved. There are things that we need help exploring, and resolving, in a constructive manner in order to heal from them once and for all. Too many of us are afraid to take a cold, hard look at ourselves and admit that we face challenges bigger than ourselves. We find it difficult to admit that there are problems impacting our lives and our futures that we simply cannot handle alone.
So what do we do? We self medicate. We use food, shopping, sex, alcohol, drugs (“they’re not drugs, drugs. It’s just a little weed and a few pills every now and then.”) and countless other methods to soothe our hurts and mask our pain, fears and insecurities. Self medicating is more destructive than the thing it is we’re attempting to cover up. While self medicating grants us a temporary reprieve from our issues, it doesn’t actually solve the problems. In fact, self medicating creates more problems in our lives. The food leads to weight gain which leads to health issues. The shopping often leads to financial destruction. Sex, well, while it’s fun if we’re not careful, and sometimes even when we are, can jeopardize our health. Alcohol and drugs not only lead to health problems but they can lead to financial ruin, death and a string of bad decisions made under the influence.
So how do we get our people to understand that therapy is sometimes necessary? We take away the stigma associated with it. Some of us would rather walk around glassy-eyed and reaking of alcohol (even when we’re not drinking) instead of going to therapy and risk having someong call us “crazy.” Which is better: “crazy” and alive or “normal” but dead of of Cirrhosis the liver at age 35?
If you know someone who is “going through it,” let them know that it’s okay to seek professional help. Even if you don’t necessarily believe in therapy, don’t discourage them, or make them feel ashamed if they mention it. Support their decision. The stigma wasn’t created overnight so it won’t be eliminated overnight. But please do your part to help. You could be saving the life of someone you love.