I am different

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Today, I am sharing a new poem. Poetry is a beautiful outlet to be honest and vulnerable without writing down your every thought. Thank you for reading.

As a child, I looked like everyone around me;
I was what many longed to be: fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes.
In this sea of sameness, how could I know difference?
And even though the world has always been a collage of differences,
it has rarely felt that way.
Difference has never been as celebrated as sameness; isn’t sameness
some pathway to utopia?
If I am different than you because of exterior pieces, parts, bits, slices
I have no concern
Our blood is all red, our bones all white.
My concern is
the differences beneath
that make us see
the world so distinctly.

History has already been written and repeated, are we not any wiser?
But history or wisdom don’t fuel us now; it’s fear
But it’s always been fear – fight or flight –
The villain just keeps changing.
Maybe we’re the villain;
maybe we’ve never been united.
Maybe we were never great, at least not great for all of us,
Because you cannot give me a time of equal, of sameness bending into difference
A time when we were not sinners or evil or murderers or lesser than.

Standing on the shores of this land, what can we see? What’s in the clouds that make us chosen? And what do those on the other side see?
I am under no delusion that our ideals match our actions. And it did not start today, this has been burning for hundreds of years.
And why wouldn’t we want to lock our door? Not to keep out but to keep safe within.
Then the question comes, or surely will come one day – is it keeping out or keeping in?

As a child, my world was small.
I knew only what I was taught. I saw only what was like me. But I knew differences,
I knew fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes were not everyone’s image.
And I grew and I traveled and I read and I learned.
And I experienced the worst of it all because differences don’t save you from pain.
I still have that fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes. I’m still the image of sameness.
But I am roaring and pleading, I am different.

 

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What would you change?

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Unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of foresight, and life doesn’t really allow for do-overs. But what if we had that opportunity? What if we could go back to those pivotal choices in our life and change it?

If you’ve seen the movie Arrival, which is amazing, then you know that the main character does hold the power to foresee, yet she makes the same choice, knowing that this choice will bring her both happiness and despair.

If we could go back and make a different decision, would we? Because each decision in our life, specifically the ones that we control, has moved us in one direction, leaving all others closed. We are a collection of our choices, whether good or bad, and they inform our character, our relationships and our next choices. I am a strong believer in embracing all the choices I’ve made, even the wrong ones because they’ve made me who I am. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t change some of them if given the chance. Moments mark us with experience, sometimes they leave a scar. So if given the chance to change a moment, there are some I certainly would.

What I would change

I’d go back to what I believe was a critical misstep in my youth. I was pretty obsessed with being liked or loved or wanted by boys. This desperation for acceptance and attention destroyed my self- worth. This hunger to be attractive and desired gave me no real compass to figure out who I was. It led me to so many mistakes. I chose every time to dismiss myself in favor of some boy. It also made me insecure and kept me on a roller coaster of self hate. And this insecurity and disconnection made me unfaithful, which was a pattern that started at 15. My message to my young self would be, “Focus on you. None of these boys will be a source of happiness. And if you respect yourself, the next 20 years will be better.”

I went to the college my mom chose for me. It wasn’t what I wanted. And I left after two years to be in a place more diverse and affordable. I don’t completely regret my first two years, as I met one of my true life-long friends. But if given the chance, I would have gone to the college I wanted to go to on full scholarship. And I wouldn’t still be paying back school loans! When I transferred, I also made another mistake. I joined my best friend’s sorority because I loved her and knew many of the people already. I needed to feel like I belonged to something, anything. I do appreciate that many of those girls were kind to me and supportive. But it wasn’t where I belonged. I never felt like I was part of it. I always felt like an outsider. So I should have found my people, the outsiders. I just wasn’t confident and felt so invisible.

The choices I’d most want to change are the times when I put myself in harm’s way. I just didn’t have a fear of going off with people I didn’t know. What I know now is that I got lucky. The only reason I can give is that I didn’t care what happened. I let myself be in the moment and unafraid of consequences. I could have easily never been seen again. Women often put themselves in danger simply because we do not recognize our worth. Bad things did happen to me, but I was all too quick to blame myself. I made the choice, I deserved what happened. Until I found myself in the worst possible situation. I’m not ready to share the details, but for a few moments, I was sure it was going to be the end of me.  It was the last time I ever made that kind of choice.

Nothing I do can change my choices. But when reflecting on them now, I can reach a new perspective, a perspective without judgment or blame. And I can release it, not hold on to it and let it drag me down. I’ve hurt myself almost as much as anyone else by making bad choices. I’ll never be able to go back to that moment in time and change my answer. I’ve got one life to live as me, and even though these choices have shattered me in many ways, I say: I am not broken. I am a million pieces of wonderful and sorrow and joy and courage.

The Disappointments

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Disappointment is a part of life. Maybe I’ve had more than my share. Who’s to say. There’s no disappointment meter over my head so I’m not sure if I’m winning. And this isn’t something you want to win. Most of our disappointments may seem embarrassing or a pang to our pride, like when I failed the driving test the first time.  So we don’t talk about them. We tuck them away, hoping they will stay in the dark crevices of our mind (They don’t. Disappointment isn’t some shy feeling. It’s loud and destructive.).

The feeling of disappointment is a lonely one. I can recall that my mom saying she was disappointed in me was worse than anything she could ever say. I did things all the time as an adolescent that would be considered disappointing, I was just good at hiding them from her view. I probably hid less from her than I think. My mom certainly wasn’t naive. But she believed in me and believed that I’d make good choices even if she didn’t know about them. I can only say that sometimes I did, and sometimes I did not. I was reckless with my worth for so long. Not understanding that so many forces, both inside and outside of me, would just have to run their course, do their damage and leave a trail of disappointment.

I don’t recall my first disappointment. I’m going to guess it was food related, as I am and always have been picky. My memory isn’t great so memories are often cloudy or distant. But I do remember one of the biggest disappointments of my young life. When I was four years old on a Sunday morning, my mom told me my dad was gone. I didn’t think dead, but I knew by the way she said it that he didn’t live in our house anymore. I think her disappointment was more in the way he left, which I believe was via a note, not in losing him. I have no real memories of my parents together. But I remember that day, sitting on that grass green carpet in a church dress. And so began a lifelong series of disappointments in reference to my father. But the disappointment doesn’t persist. Because how can you be disappointed by a stranger? And that’s what he is now.

The disappointments kept coming, whether it was wishing to be thin or for some ridiculous boy’s attention. It’s good to be disappointed though, if for no other reason than it reminds you that you will rarely get what you want or deserve. There will always be obstacles and limits. And most of the time, you’ll have no control over disappointments.

I can still imagine my mom’s face on the rare occasions that she thought it necessary to pronounce her disappointment. Her eyes would have a hint of gray. Her face with no smile or frown, something in between. But I also remember in some of her last months how she would hold my hand and look me in the eye and tell me that I was the best thing she had ever done, how being my mom was her greatest pleasure. Those are words and moments I have tucked away whenever a new disappointment arises. Which happened just hours ago. It doesn’t matter what it was. It was something I wanted and worked hard for but instead just received disappointment.

But we do not have to be bound by disappointment. We don’t have to let it chip away at our worth. Even though it does. And it’s basically impossible to not take it personally. So I’m disappointed fairly regularly in life – disappointed in people, in myself, situations. And yes I still wonder if my mom is disappointed in me for the path my life has taken. That eats at me a lot. I can take comfort in knowing I was rarely a disappointment to her in our time together. And that may be all the approval I need in this life.

Twitter Experiment: How will brands respond?

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In the past week, I ran a little experiment. I didn’t necessarily intend to, but it seemed like a good opportunity. I tried to engage three brands on Twitter. Only one responded, although late. So what does this say about all the consensus out there in social media marketing that Twitter is a great place to serve customers? Well, first, I think there are many brands out there that do a great job of engaging followers on Twitter. Hubspot wrote a great blog with some examples. The examples were wide ranging from consumer goods to a university to a research company.

My tweets to these brands were not negative or combative. I was trying to start a conversation. Maybe these brands don’t have a plan to respond or are too afraid. Here’s a look at my experiment.

Southwest Airlines

I wrote a blog recently about a trip on Southwest that turned into a nightmare. I wanted them to read it. I posted it with a call out of their handle on January 9.

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No response so I retweeted on January 12, calling them out for not using Twitter as a customer service channel. They replied, and we had a conversation via DM. I can report that I did receive a refund for the canceled flight, which was approximately what the rental car cost. But they did not make any attempt to further compensate me. They did apologize. I still am not overly impressed with their Twitter responsiveness, but it was better than the other two!

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L’Oreal

I don’t follow L’Oreal on Twitter, but I do use their products. Not really makeup, but shampoo, conditioner and hair styling products. A promoted tweet came up on my feed. Promoted means well they paid for it, and they must have the goal to increase followers. I didn’t think the tweet really answered what the value is for me to follow them, so I let them know this.

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Again, not I’m not trying to drag them in any way. Just trying to start a conversation. Tell me why I should follow you, and be more specific than news and updates. They could have responded and shown how powerful social media can be but instead just crickets.

Luzianne

I love iced tea. It’s the most southern thing about me. I don’t have a brand preference for tea bags, buying typically what is on sale or what I have a coupon for, so I go back and forth between Lipton and Luzianne.

So I came to the end of a 24 count box of Luzianne, only to be left with only three tea bags instead of four. It takes four tea bags to make a gallon, thus I should be able to make six gallons. Yet, for the third time, I seem to have been missing a tea bag. So I though Luzianne should know.

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Luzianne did not respond at all. I am thinking maybe this is something they should look into – I could’ve provided where I purchased the boxes because obviously, they are only putting 23 in there! No response to me means they either don’t care, aren’t aware or don’t know how to respond – which are all extremely concerning. So Luzianne, I can’t buy your teabags anymore.

I’d love to hear what you think about these Twitter fails. Tweet me, and let’s have a conversation!

 

I refuse to have a conventional marriage

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Marriage has been a part of society for thousands of years. Of course it has dramatically evolved. In the beginning, it wasn’t about love but rather the need to strengthen alliances and bare legitimate offspring. Polygamy was actually the norm up until around the sixth century when the Catholic Church interceded. But men still had much opportunity to be promiscuous. Marriage has since become more of a contract with a license being needed and the state’s involvement. Yet women did not have equality in marriage with marital rape still being legal in most states until the 1970s. Some would argue that women still aren’t equal in marriage or in society in general. And of course now, the laws of this country have finally turned to allow same-sex couples to marry.

So that was a short history lesson on marriage. The majority of marriages that have occurred during humanity’s reign on this planet have had nothing to do with love. It was business or a religious necessity. Arranged marriages still happen throughout the world.

I provide this history only because the idea of marriage isn’t some romantic, beautiful experience as we are told to believe by the bridal industry (which is a billion dollar industry). As you can tell by my tone, I don’t buy into any of the conventional nonsense about the sanctity of marriage. So why did I get married? Well for me, and for him, it wasn’t about a contract or the need to produce children. Our ideas and feelings toward marriage are completely unconventional. We cared little about the actual wedding and more about what it meant to us to be joined together, not in a religious manner or a civil manner, but really what it means to be husband and wife.

But I refuse to have a conventional marriage. Justin and I don’t ascribe to traditional roles in the marriage. He’s the cook; I manage the finances and “operational” parts of our life. We play to our strengths, and we make decisions together. However, we don’t have to ask “permission” to spend money or make plans.

I think I’m a good wife thus far. But you won’t catch me waiting on him. I’ve certainly made him coffee before, but he’s an independent man who can take care of himself. He doesn’t need me to do it. Nor do I need him to take care of me. We don’t “need” that from each other so it actually happens very organically.

And I’m not taking his last name, which has always been the custom and another way in which men are provided the lead. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that at this point, I’ve had this last name for 12 years. It’s a part of my brand. You may think it’s odd that I’m still going by my ex-husband’s last name. Maybe it is. Let me explain. I was glad to shed my maiden name. It was liberating because I didn’t want to be that person anymore. That person was gone to me in a lot of ways, and I certainly had no desire to continue with a last name that was relating to my father. So I didn’t change it back after my divorce. It’s a lot of work to change your name. In the end, it’s just a last name. It is completely inconsequential.

So the biggest question is: does it feel any different now than before we were married? We already lived together and had been building a life together. But I would say yes it has changed slightly in a really positive way. I like calling him husband. The permanence of it doesn’t make me freak out. I feel secure and safe in a way that I haven’t much of my life.

I never thought I’d try married life again. But then this amazing man showed up in my life. Any doubts or concerns I had about what marriage is and what it can be disappeared. I don’t really believe in happily ever after. I believe in happy right now at this moment, and I sure am.

At least we have a story (Thanks Southwest)

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From the So This Happened Files

Of course we have lots of stories. And our honeymoon was full of wonderful moments until the end. Everyone has survived some sort of travel nightmare. This is ours; it’s based on a true story. And maybe in a few years we can look back and laugh. Who knew it would take over 24 hours to get home from Jamaica. And no boats were involved.

We chose to fly Southwest. I’ve been a raving fan of theirs for many years. I studied them in business school as a company built on values and taking care of employees and customers. I really thought they were different. I didn’t really start flying Southwest until a few years ago when they finally arrived at the Charlotte airport after their acquisition of AirTran. I liked what I believed them to be as a company. And their flight attendants always seemed to be genuine and happy, unlike other airlines, where I thought the people might jump off the plane at any moment.

I understand that flights get canceled. I was a constant traveler for five and a half years. I get it. I know weather can’t be controlled. But this experience was the absolute worst I’ve ever been involved regarding a canceled flight. We arrived from Jamaica to Baltimore. Our flight to Charlotte was scheduled for 8:40 p.m. We get through customs, and the flight is on time. Then it was delayed two hours. Okay, we can deal with that. Lots of delays and canceled flights light up the screen. Then we are delayed another hour – waiting for the aircraft. Our plan arrives, and we are advised that after the passengers deplane, we will be on our way.

But we aren’t. The new message is that we need a first officer. Again, I understand that pilots can only fly a certain number of hours and that all commercial flights require two pilots. But they board us anyway. We’re on the plane. It’s now midnight. The first officer has landed in the B gates, and he’s on his way to our gate in A. Passengers are getting restless and start saying that we’re not going anywhere; that this is all a lie. And they are right. The next announcement is that there is no first officer; the flight has been canceled. I can only assume that the first officer fell into a black hole on his way to the gate. Someone should really report him missing.

After the cancellation, we are given no further instruction on how to get our bags or what to do. There’s one service desk and 100 plus angry and tired people. All the flights for Sunday are booked. Justin suggests we can just live in the airport like Tom Hanks did (and I’m not laughing). But we’ve got to get home. The dogs need to be picked up in the morning. We are six and a half hours from home. We can drive. The car rental is 24 hours at BWI. But we need our luggage. We ask how to find our checked baggage. “Just go to baggage claim,” we are instructed. Baggage claim is a nightmare. Our bags are nowhere to be found. Then we are advised that our baggage is in a “secure area.” We have to get in another line. While in said line, Justin keeps looking around. The luggage is found. It’s about 1:30 a.m. at this point.

We go to pick up the rental car, but I don’t have my driver’s license. I only have my Passport. I try to keep what I have to take with me minimal when traveling, but note to self – take your damn license! Justin has his license but no credit card. I have credit cards. Hertz says no – driver and credit card have to be the same. Not sure why – and we are married. Avis accepts his license and my credit card. We get on the road. It’s 2:30 a.m.

We make our way through D.C. in the middle of the night. There’s still a surprising amount of traffic. However, I’ve come to believe that D.C. has traffic no matter what time of day. We’ve now been up for 20 plus hours.

So we stop at rest stops all down 95, and run around the car to stay awake. He gets coffee; I have soda. He won’t let me drive because he’s a good husband (and is also aware that I’m not the best driver under ideal circumstances). But I have to stay up. So I plug in my iPod and start singing loud. We stay awake. I may have been holding my eyelids open. I think I was a bit delirious at this point as well. It’s kind of a blur.

Around 10:00 a.m., we roll into Charlotte. We’ve been up for close to 30 hours. It has taken us 24 hours to get from the resort to home (and again, we didn’t take a raft from Jamaica). We pick up the pups, who are very glad to see us and smell so nice from their go-home baths. Finally, at around noon, we collapse into bed.

But we survived; our first test of the marriage. And as for Southwest, I feel very different about them now than I did before. They are going to issue us a partial refund for the canceled flight. But now I just think they are like all the rest. There is no differentiation between them and the others. I’m not sure when I’ll fly them again. Our trips for 2017 will be mostly through American, as they own about 90% of our airport and I’m a card member. Listen, I have no love for American. But now I think Southwest is on the same level. They’ve lost my trust. I’m no longer a raving fan. It wasn’t the cancelation; it was the lying. I’ve never been able to take lying. Passengers don’t want smoke blown up our asses; we want the truth so we can make more informed decisions.

But as Justin said, we have a story. Yes, we do. Thanks, Southwest, I needed more material.

Forget Resolutions, Just Be Better

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Ever wonder how New Year’s resolutions originated? I did, too. So I did some research. New Year’s resolutions originated thousands of years ago, tracing back to the ancient Babylonians and Romans. Back then, these people used resolutions as a way to appease the gods. As Christianity emerged, Christians also began to make promises to be more devout and cleanse the sins from the former year.

New Year’s resolutions, which are mainly secular these days, have now turned into a joke with the likelihood to keep them very slim. I’m sure they still have meaning to some; if for nothing else than to contemplate the year that has passed.

I don’t make resolutions. I do set goals. But these goals don’t hinge on a new year. I don’t need any additional pressure to “change” my life come January 1st. I want to always be willing and open to change and growth. So why not start every day with the hope to be a better person? I’m not a self help expert or a motivational guru. I’m just a real person with real challenges that loves to write. I don’t have it all together by any means. I just try hard every day to be better. Here are some thoughts on “better.”

Be accountable. This is your life. You made the choices, for better or worse, that led you to this moment. Stop blaming everything and everyone for your situation. Yes, we’ve all had things happen to us outside of our control. Right now at this moment you’ve got to stop thinking that someone or something else is the reason for your current condition. Own your own life! We’ve run out of time to change the past. Stop being stuck in it. Being stuck in the past is like quicksand. If you don’t clear your way out, you’ll sink into it and disappear.

If you are depressed, anxious or both, get help! There’s no reason to suffer. And your spouse, partner or best friend isn’t the help I mean. Yes, having a support system is important, but I mean professional help. There’s no shame in this. Take meds if you need them. It’s okay to ask for help. Because guess what, your life’s not perfect. And it doesn’t have to be.

Stop being so self-absorbed. Try being present with those in front of you. Put your phone away. Look people in the eye. Have a real conversation. Self absorption isn’t just about the self, it’s often disguised by whatever you’re focused on like your children or job. Look, I’m no expert on kids. I’m not a parent. But I have been obsessed with my career. That was my priority. I was always working. And my relationships suffered. So whether it’s kids or career or something else, just remember that if someone is taking the time to be present with you then reciprocate.

Stop waiting for that magical thing to happen that will make you feel happy or successful or some other emotion you crave. It’s not going to happen. Maybe it will, but don’t count on waking up the next day with all your worries gone and a cloak of happiness. I fell in that trap, thinking when I accomplish this professional goal then I’ll finally feel like a success. It never happened. While I still struggle with what “success” means, I’m no longer waiting for that unicorn to ride in with a “You’re a Success” banner. The same thing with relationships. Thinking that if you’ll find the “one” you’ll live happily ever after is utter bullshit. There is no “one”; there are people out there you’ll be more compatible with than others. Ultimately though you’ve got to be right with yourself to have a real, lasting relationship that is healthy. Stop waiting on that happiness train; it’s never on time and will pass you by.

So that’s my non-advice. I call it this because I don’t really think I’m in a position to provide advice. What I can do is tell good stories based on what I’ve learned. Writing this is as much for me as for anyone who reads it. Just remember, you’re still here. You’ve successfully made it through a lot of spectacular and horrible things. The only thing you need to do is just be better.