Wednesday, July 27, 2016

When an epiphany occurs....

About year and a half ago, I sat my daughters down to have a discussion. You see they’ve reached those possessed teenage years when the hormones are unstable and the attitude ranges from “I hate you and I really hate you”. Unfortunately for me the sweet days of watching one cry at the sight of the other one leaving morphed into the melodramatic “I wish you would just leave!” As a mom this was painful and exhausting to watch not to mention trying understand it often escaped or frustrated me. Our family discussions often assisted me as I practice being observant of the non-verbal displayed and actively listening to what was being said by both hostile teens. The older one of the two just wanted her space, have her own friends without being force to drag her kid sister around, well at least that’s what my assessment was. You know it’s easier to climb Mt Everest on the coldest day in swimwear than it is to get a teenager to openly discuss feelings to a parent while appearing vulnerable to siblings. I was also able to rely on my own experience as being an older sister.
During our discussion when my youngest daughter spoke about how much she missed her sister and she just wanted to be noticed in such sadness, I couldn’t help but think about my own younger sister. Then suddenly I didn’t see my youngest daughter crying with hurt feelings I saw my youngest sister crying. I didn’t just feel the pain as a mother but I felt the pain of my own mother. It was so odd but I decided to explore my thoughts and feelings later so that I could handle what was before me. I was careful to relax my speech so that I could comfort the youngest and try helping her understand what her sister was going through without making her feel disregarded. (Geesh talk about walking a tightrope)  I also had to make sure I wasn’t condemning to my oldest daughter because I did understand her desire but I also wanted her to tap into her sensitivity and compassion. It was quite the balancing act but during our resolution portion of the discussion I made sure we reviewed old pictures which triggered happier memories when they played together and it help them both to listen to each other, for understanding. The pictures helped to soothe them both and I admit me too.  
After assisting them in resolving their conflict, I decided to call my mother and my youngest sister. I felt the need to apologize for causing them both heartache. I saw for the very first time in my youngest daughter that my sister wanted to be “noticed” and shown some compassion. I identified the selfishness that I blindly cultivated at the expense of my sister's feelings much like my daughter was doing to her sister. Unfortunately for my sister and I, we didn’t have the guidance nor the knowledge on how to embrace and express our feelings. My mother comes from an upbringing where expressing how you feel wasn't really allowed, so feelings were often suppressed or masked as something other than what’s truly being felt. In its place anger was displayed instead of hurt, an attitude of disregard was being shown instead of sadness. My mother didn’t have the skill set to identify these defense mechanisms so there was no teaching or learning truly going forth to myself or my sister only a “band-aid” method. You know, where you just cover up the wounds without really treating the wound with Neosporin (knowledge) so there is no real healing until years later.(hopefully)   
The phone call with my sister lasted over 3 hours, I literally talked and listened to my baby sister for the first time in a really long time about our feelings, thoughts, ideas and past hurts. We were able to openly share how we truly felt for the first time, accepting what we did and didn’t do for each other. Being able to earnestly say “I’m Sorry” helped to truly apply the “Neosporin” to old wounds. Please understand that through the years we’ve supported each other like sisters are supposed to, we’ve gone on trips and spent holidays together; however there was always an underlying element not being addressed. In our three hour plus discussion I truly believed we were both able to release so much of it and embrace where we were in life continuously building and growing. Our strongest bond has always been our weakness for a good laugh we’ve never had problems being silly together, cracking jokes or enjoying a good laugh no matter what was going on in our lives. My sister is hilarious to me, she has the craziest laugh ever and I love how we’re able to talk about everything.
I love to witness strong genuine bonds between sisters that are based on more than blood ties. Bonds that are built in difficult times, cemented in loyalty, grow with encouragement and nurtured with respect and love. I believe that women who are not biologically related know how to cultivate a bond between each other by choice. It’s when you are related you have to learn how to like the person you are told and in some ways condition to love. This is why I appreciate my sister all the more NOW than I ever did before. We are friends and I treasure our friendship like I treasure our bond as sisters. She is on the brink of becoming a newlywed and to see her happily in love fills my heart with joy! It’s good to see people happy but it’s something about seeing someone you love and truly LIKE smile with happiness. She's her complete true self when she's with him and it's delightful to witness. I look forward to the days that my own daughters can truly appreciate each other and honestly like each other. I can see now why it meant so much to my own mother and why she usually has a ridiculous smile on her face when she watches us be silly together. I'm sure we'll have an awesome time together as we celebrate her nuptials adding to the wonderful memories and pictures we have.....this is one of my favorite pictures of us because it embodies how we are when we are together. It also depicts how I want us to be until the end of our days…..

Note: That’s our BIG sis with us, she’s a most ADORED part of our lives and is usually among our shenanigans and great time together. (HUGS to my Sister-friend Leslie for capturing one of our many great LAUGHS together)       

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

"Purple Monkey"

Purple Monkey

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” you know even as a young child I knew that this saying was full of shit. It’s truly just something parents tell children to soothe them instead of stating “there are some children in this world who are as ignorant as their parents and I’m sorry you’re hurting because of it.” I mean isn’t that just a little more comforting? Unfortunately, I was teased a lot as a kid for my lighter complexion, wearing glasses and having a bigger than average size forehead. The damage kids do to each other is pretty damn extensive and could take years to recover from but that’s another blog post so I digress. {picture below: me at about 7 years old}

One of the first life lessons I learned many years ago was that conflict resolution actually doesn’t have to involve physical contact, of course this was after I left Detroit. It wasn’t easy embracing this concept due to not learning what to do with feeling “punked” if I allowed someone to say something disrespectful to me and did nothing then I was being “punked”. If it’s one thing black people don’t like is feeling like they’ve been disrespected and looking like a “punk” but again that’s another blog so I digress. Then what is this blog about? Well I was placed in quite the quandary about two week ago and it made me think of the opening quote, hurtful name calling and feeling like a “punk”.   

The Incident - During what resembled a mindfulness exercise the group I observe a colleague conduct were in the middle of doing a mental “grounding” exercise. The colleague stated “think of your favorite color” after a short pause he stated “think of your favorite animal”. A client broke the silence barrier by stating “oh I just thought of a monkey”. I thought it was odd he felt the need to share however overlooked the statement as just an outburst. The colleague then continued by stating “now think of your favorite color and favorite animal. Are they the same color?” The colleague took a slight paused then looked over in my direction, looked back and stated “Humph….I just looked at Latrice’s dress and thought “purple monkey”.  I froze internally as I tried processing what he just said….did he really just associate me with a “purple monkey”? I’m a black woman, he’s a white man why would he even think that would be appropriate to say in reference to anyone let alone to someone of African descent.  I retained my professional composure which helped me contain my emotions. I decided it would be best to address the situation instead of leaving the building with a lot of emotions brewing. I mentally took the time to calm myself so when I spoke I remain the professional Lady that I am and not the aggressive confrontational “set his ass straight” individual my anger was calling me to be.  After addressing my colleague about the incident, there wasn’t much resolve as a couple of his statements were condescending and he offered a meager apology. Granted I didn’t want him graveling on the floor begging for my forgiveness but a show of sincere remorse would have definitely defused the beast growing within. I probably should have referred him to my last blog on “disarming anger”.

The Aftermath - I experienced a few different emotions and did my best to process them all. I know that I can’t change what has happen but that hasn’t stopped me from wishing it didn’t happen. I’ve only shared what happen to those that are essential in the grievance and professional ethics process for my profession. I asked myself “did the words hurt, why did they hurt, were they true? The words were of course completely untrue but they hurt because someone took advantage of me in a vulnerable state by singling me out, embarrassing me and attempting to degrade who I am as a woman! I often wonder why anyone feels the need to hurt others by name calling it’s difficult for me to understand though because I don’t see how that could truly satisfy the insulting individual.

My Resolve – Thanks to my “thick skin” and excellent conflict resolution skills, I was satisfied with being able to swiftly addressing the individual respectfully, vent a little to my support system (My Guy & My Boss) and filing the appropriate paperwork gave me the power back he attempt to snatch away. I’m not here for any race baiting because in the end I know we all need each other essentially to make it! And besides there AINT a monkey alive that could look this damn good in a purple dress!!