Thursday, July 30, 2009

Family, Friends and the Future

The unwritten rule is that we go above and beyond for our family members, cherish our friends and think about the future when handling situations today. That said, I walk a fine line between giving the shirt off my back and wanting to haul-back and slap someone to the ground for the overt lack of regard for said shirt.

I think back to a time when I lived in Washington, DC for ten years. There were moments when I felt very alone – downright disconnected really – but was consistently comforted by knowing that no matter how good or bad things were with family and friends, I wasn’t geographically close enough to be relevant. I was frequently omitted from drama and issues simply because I wasn’t in the line of fire.

Every couple of years my close friends would visit and we’d have a blast. They always seemed more respectful then, since we didn’t have the daily contact that breeds familiarity. By virtue of having such a limited time to spend together, we made the best of all situations.

You’ll notice that if you live long enough time heals all things. Instances that appeared to take your breath away, all seem almost silly today. Personally, it’s now a math problem of sorts. When someone appears to be subtracting your positive energy and do nothing to add to your life, it is time to simply drop them. Too simplistic? Apply these rules to your social interactions for one month and see how it works out:

** You can discuss matters with friends and family, but constant arguing is not healthy or productive. Yelling back-and-forth assures no one is really listening. Attempt to stay calm; state your case; hear their side without interruption; agree to talk about it once you’ve thought about it calmly; set a date/time. If you’re still finding reasons to argue, drop it. This relationship needs to die in silence or be reborn once a sense of respect and mutual understanding can be achieved between the parties.

** Give, give, give, but never receive…. Here’s the reality of things. You should NEVER give with the objective that you’ll be compensated or that folks will eventually reciprocate. Give from the heart expecting nothing in return, but don’t be a fool. If you are constantly putting out cash, your assistance, your ear, etc. and the receiver never volunteers the same, the chances are you are being taken advantage of. Drop this relationship and move on. Even public assistance has figured out that able-bodied people should work for the benefits they receive.

** You suggest mutually beneficial scenarios for your friends and family members – babysitting arrangements, housing, employment, etc. – and they decline your offer as lacking benefit to them, but once they analyze further and figure out they stand to gain most from your suggestion, they back-pedal and attempt to have you rekindle your offer. Once, maybe…twice, rarely… three times – never…take a walk. If your friends and family only want to support ideas that benefit them and do not consider you in their decisions, drop them. You can do badly by yourself – and you can do GREAT by yourself as well. Stop roping losers into your blessing – they didn’t earn it.

In all instances you should let your friends and family know how you feel and why you’ve taken the decision to step back. Be clear – not accusatory – and firm in your stance to separate from the one-sided relationships. Clear your head. You’ve done nothing wrong when you consider your own interests first. Misery loves company and if you don’t believe me, look at a fly strip; you never see a fly stuck on a strip yelling to other flies, “Go around!”

On Blast
Do you think yourself selfish when you demand to be treated with respect?

Keep passin’ the open windows…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cocoa Cure; July 21, 2009

Early Birthday Gift Pulls Heartstrings

Clent, previously J’Moo on the Not Shady Just Fierce blog comments, has been one of my closest friends for over 25 years. He formed a third of the holy trinity that was Bobby, he and I. Both Clent and I will be away for my August 5th birthday and so I asked him to join me for dinner last Thursday. He attended and brought along a wonderful gift – a framed picture of Bobby and I taken some years back. When I stared at the picture in the cherry wood frame I felt my eyes water and looked up from it to see Clent’s eyes were glassy too. As UN-mushy as I am, I really was pleasantly surprised and touched by such a well-thought out gift. Following this, Clent called me at the office Friday and offered to treat me to see the Clark Sisters at Riverside Church in Harlem last night. The VIP seats – shoulder-to-shoulder with Phylicia Rashad no less – were GREAT and the Clark Sisters (a longtime favorite gospel group of mine) did not disappoint. As we laughed and chatted throughout the concert (yeah, we’re rude like that sometimes) we both thought about how much Bobby would have loved the Clark Sisters last night. Turns out he did because our chatting about him made it feel like the three of us were there. Thank you for a great birthday gift.

On Blast
It’s like he was there…we joked about Bobby – even used lines he would have used at certain times during the concert last night. I think our ability to make light and make Bobby present keeps him alive for us…
Do you find yourself speaking of a dearly departed soul in the present?

Keep passin’ the open windows…

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Price Of Bravery; Counting Back From 40

I’ve never boasted about being brave and in light of some of the stories I’ve heard from folks who came to the U.S. from other countries, I know that there are varying degrees of what bravery really is.

I remember being 15-years old and being asked by my parents – in a good cop-bad cop way – if I was gay. The two people I feared most in life discovered evidence that pointed to my being gay and confronted me in an inquisition that ended with an ultimatum. My father insisted I give it up – being gay – or leave his home.

Even then, leaving the only home I’d ever known to live on the streets of NYC seemed like an easier prospect than denying who I was. It just seemed that I had finally taken a deep breath after having hands around my throat and allowing those hands to take hold again was unthinkable.

The next three-to-four years of my life were difficult at best. I bounced from friend’s homes, to well-wishers to folks who will prey on children in the name of charity. I suffered indignities that I succeeded in repressing so far in my unconscious, that today, the very thought of speaking them out loud hurts my chest.

When I finally met my first partner, I endured a physically abusive relationship in the name of having a stable home. Dangled outside a 4-story window, precariously held by a belt loop from a car moving at 70 miles per hour and having my face slapped so hard I wished I’d passed out so that my nose didn’t hurt so bad – all in the name of normalcy.

Living my life as an out and proud gay man was a choice that came at a very high price. While I have an open mind toward folks who do not share a respect for diversity, I have a difficult time sitting back while someone is disrespected or treated inhumanely. Similarly, I cannot relate to someone who in adulthood struggles with coming to terms with who they are and living in their truth.

As my 40th birthday approaches, I’m filled with a sense of pride at how far I’ve come from that frightened 15-year old boy that was cast to the wolves. So many of the youngsters I remember sharing the street with are long gone, consumed by drugs, disease and despair. It is by God’s will that I’m here. It is by God’s will that I have the resilience to show bravery as the man HE created.

To my fallen friends who didn’t have the luxury of a fourth decade of life, I acknowledge that I’m here because of you. Your bravery taught me the skills to survive and, at times, you took the blows intended for me. Today, I can only live in pride and truth because the price of bravery is too high to squander on present day pleasantries.

Keep passin’ the open windows…

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Choosing My Battles

I’m not quite certain if I’m making better choices regarding what battles are worth fighting OR I’m simply suffering from age fatigue, but I’ve finally reached that point where I’m not likely to fight everyone or every battle that comes my way. The lesson to walk away from some of those nasty fights has been learned. Here are a couple of recent examples and the outcome of each…
1. My parents – my mom specifically – is a horrible money manager. Regardless of how much money she has, mom can burn through it. Recently, we discovered that she may be making covert decisions regarding their home in Puerto Rico. Decisions that can affect our ability (as her children) to inherit the house in P.R. When I heard of this, I was about to hit the roof. Suddenly calm came over me and I realized that the house is theirs to buy, sell, mortgage, give away, etc. I don’t have an interest in debating an issue that doesn’t directly affect me or my interests. Battle averted.
2. BD and I were having a discussion during lunch today RE: Facebook and our shared pictures being seen by our friends who may not know we’re a couple. I could care less, since I live openly and don’t feel I have any explaining to do to anyone. BD, on the other hand, recently asked me to remove pics that showed us together (simply standing next to each other) because his Facebook friends may deduce that we’re a couple. I let it go then, but as the conversation played-out today, it hurt my feelings…mainly because I thought he was beyond this…not so much, I guess. All said, I let this battle go too. I chalked it up as an issue he needs to work through. Does it change the way I feel? Yes, somewhat. It undermines my ability to feel that I live an open and proud relationship that commands the respect of others. Does he see this? Probably not. At this stage in my life, even this has become a battle I’m not inclined to fight. It is BD who should be concerned about the effects those types of blows have on our foundation as a couple.

What does all of this mean? It means that situations will arise that appear to be important, but under closer inspection they aren’t worth your time and aggravation. I choose to invest my time in THE MOST important person in the world – ME. It isn’t conceit, selfishness or delusions of grandeur that should bring each of us to the healthy realization that if you choose to make yourself happy first and back away from battles to force others to hold you to a higher regard, you’ll prove that the task of making you the top priority is best handled by you.

On Blast
It takes practice…a conscious effort to NOT fight. Sometimes it’s harder to turn and walk away from a fight then slugging it out for nothing other than a battle of wills. Upon close inspection, do you recognize one instance in your life where you’re fighting tooth-and-nail and you should be walking away from the fight?

Keep passin’ the open windows…

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Wedding on Independence Day

Jessica Rivera got married to Michael Qualter this Independence Day. The ceremony and reception were absolutely beautiful.

On Blast
Have you considered what your wedding ceremony would be like?

Keep passin' the open windows...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Cocoa Cure; Happy 4th of July Weekend!

On Blast
What will you do - extra special - for your birthday this year?

Keep passin' the open windows...

Do You Know Your Own Strength?

On Blast
Do you know your own strength?

Keep passin' the open windows...