Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Critical Thinking 101

There is a wonderful conversation going on at a blog I read regularly regarding what values do we hold close and what those values are rooted in. My post was about the practice of compassion. The blog owner asked me to define compassion since some people use the term as an explanation or excuse for inaction, accepting poor treatment, and embracing victimhood.

Beginning of response:

I base my practice of compassion based on what I’ve read and interpreted from thinkers such as Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Merton, and Thich Nat Hahn; Christian religious tradition; a wonderfully liberal Catholic priest (sadly he retired); my family; my yoga practice and studies; and my interactions with people on a daily basis. Also, I read a great deal, fiction and non-fiction, and I gather information from those sources as well.

Compassionate action expresses itself differently in different people. The same way love is expressed differently from one person to the next. To me there is no one way to live a compassionate life. Some examples of my practice are my intent to live in a non-violent (physically, emotionally, verbally) manner; to do no harm to myself or to any one else; to honor and respect myself and others; to see other people shine and not feel diminished or envious.

Compassion does not mean I am a doormat, slave, or sucker. I haven’t suspended my good judgment, critical thinking abilities, or dispensed with wise counsel. It does not mean I am in the “save alla our people” business either. I chose not to pursue this route not because I am angry or defeated or exhausted from trying to save people who don’t want to listen, but rather, where I have given honest effort from a place of love, what more can be done? If people don’t listen then, okay, I’ve done my best. I am not willing to destroy myself trying to save someone else. I will not allow someone to mistreat, use, or abuse me. The trust and respect I give in a relationship is the trust and respect that must be returned. If is not, then I change/end the relationship; not out of anger or spite but because to continue the relationship in its current form is harmful to me.

My practice of compassion is not just outwardly directed. In fact, my compassion is mostly directed toward myself. I do not know if it is possible to completely love and accept other people if I do not love and accept me. I am working on not allowing myself to stress out over what I cannot change --- others. I have lived that experience. I shall not repeat it. That is how I was introduced to my personal limits. I finally listened to my still small voice [well, during a panic attack…but hey at least I listened :-) ].

Each person has to define their own limits. Thich Nat Hahn’s limits are waaaaay different from mine. He’s a good person. I am a good person.

After deciding on cultivating compassion, I can tell the difference in my life. What and who manifests in my life now is 1000% more positive and loving and joyful than what used to show up. My practice is rooted in what I have encountered on my journey thus far and in my ‘Being-ness’ or ‘Authentic self’ or ‘Who I Truly Am’ or ‘Soul’.

For me compassion is not a generalized term. Compassion is a value. Compassion is not a slogan or some vague term. Compassion is a daily practice and lived experience.

End of response.

I regard compassion as a verb indicating action, not as an adjective implying hopelessness. Compassion is not powerlessness. Compassion is not about defining yourself as a victim. Compassion is having the strength to stand up to injustice. Compassion is the hard work of remaining true to who you are even when it would be easier to betray yourself and behave like some else.

It is important bw/bg define terms like compassion, friendship, honesty, and integrity. We must not merely repeat them, we must truly know what these terms mean to us. Not for approval by someone outside of ourselves, but for ourselves alone.

Let's get to work......

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

PTSD- Real Life Damage….. But Spare Me the Excuses

I was reading blog post by a male blogger, he’s a lawyer from the sound of it, a public defender to be more exact. Mr. Blogger Guy mentioned how one of his clients said he was suffering from PTSD due to living in the ‘hood and was, therefore, unable to work. *left eyebrow raise*

Mr. Blogger Guy and the commenters pondered whether PTSD from ‘hood life was an actual medical condition. Many agree ‘hood life often resembled a war zone; a conclusion the female empowerment bloggers have already reached.

What I found interesting is, to whatever degree this gentlemen may be suffering from PTSD, his not being able to hold a job was not challenged! I will admit I am not current on how PTSD impacts an individual’s life, perhaps the veterans returning home from Iraq are so profoundly affected by PTSD that it interferes with one (or more) of the major life activities (which includes working). If so, that is an identifiable disability.

Can the same be said of the effects of ‘hood living? Maybe not, maybe so.

My Mom moved us out when I was in the seventh grade. Except for a brief stint in a middle class, majority black neighborhood after the end of my military service, I have not lived in a majority black neighborhood in almost fifteen years. Consequently, I have no direct experience of the hazards of living in the ‘hood.

What I understand to be the dangers for the people living in these conditions come from work and the news media. I have watched/heard/read stories about drug dealers, drive-bys, prostitution, interpersonal/domestic violence, child neglect, addiction, home invasions, the list is endless. I can see how it is likely that a person living in these conditions must experience some level of trauma, even if the trauma is not acknowledged by the person experience daily ‘hood life.

That said there are a lot of women and children living in these environments. The women who go to work (when work is available) do so because they have to support their children. The children who go to school (not all of the children eligible to attend actually go or are made to attend) sometimes do so at risk to their safety.

Why can’t Blogger Guy’s client find and keep a job? If anyone is going to man-up and handle a tough situation like ‘hood life, wouldn’t you expect it to be a male person over 21 years of age?

Perhaps I am being too critical. To me it sounded like the Blogger Guy’s client was using PTSD as a convenient rational for not wanting to work. How does he support himself? Parents? Siblings? Wife? Girlfriend(s)? It didn’t sound like he was seeking help for his condition either.

I am blogging about this only to reiterate what other empowerment blogger-divas have already stated. Clearly, the ‘hood is a dangerous place to live and raise children. If this AA male is claiming to be damaged by ‘hood living; what are the implications for women and children?!

Denial, delusion, and burying you head in the sand will not make the facts go away. There is nothing fabulous, ghetto or otherwise, about living in these conditions! If you have a nice apartment in the ‘hood, you still live in the ‘hood!!!

Start making positive steps to get thee out of this situation:

-Create a weekly/monthly financial plan (aka budget) and stick to it!

- Save, save, save! Start a savings account. Even if you only deposit five dollars a week, get in the habit of saving.

-Create a strategic plan for purchases such as clothing, school supplies, etc.

-Know your credit score.

-Use cash only.

-Stop applying for major credit cards and store credit cards.

-Pay down/off credit cards.

-Save (at least three months) for any purchase greater than or equal to 10% of you annual gross income. (This does not include using your savings account!)

-Find a store that offers lay-away.

-Payday loans are not a responsible means of financial planning.

-Learn to delay your gratification. Just because it’s on sale does not mean you need it!

-Spend leisure time away from the mall. Go to the library, go for a walk, visit with family/friends, research home prices and safe neighborhoods.

The above list is not exhaustive. The point is to move ourselves away from mindless consumerism and to a more mindful way of saving and spending what you earn. Being conscious about your money will help you to reign in your spending so you can get what you really need, a safer environment for your children.

Remember wealth is generational. Start (or continue) the cycle in your family.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Switch Up/Change Up

Change is good. Especially positive change. I hope the new template makes the blog more reader-friendly. The font is larger and the background is lighter, so I hope it makes the reading easier [if not more interesting ;-) ]


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sex and the Single Black Woman…(or any woman for that matter)

“Let’s talk about sex, baby…let’s talk about all the good things & the bad things that may be…” - Salt&Pepper

Is it just me or have some black women lost their minds? Why are black women participating in hook-ups, jump-offs, or any other hyphenated term used to describe casual sex? In 2004, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25 and 34; the third leading cause for black women 35 and 44; and the fourth leading cause for black women between the ages of 45 and 54!!

Those statistics are nothing if not sobering! Yet some women don’t seem to get the message! Black women are extremely vulnerable to this disease because of our behavior and poor mate selection practices! All the magical thinking in the world will not make HIV go away once you acquire the disease!

Casually speaking:

Why would a woman engage in a hook-up or allow herself to be treated as a ‘jump-off’ without protecting herself? If you are a grown woman and you choose to participate in casual sex that is your business. But why would you have sex without a condom? Why would you voluntarily expose yourself to the myriad sexually transmitted diseases by not practicing safe/safer sex?

Telling yourself, “He doesn’t look sick”, does not negate your responsibility. This is casual sex not a committed relationship! And while you would hope he would be concerned about your health and safety (after all, he is sleeping with you), your health and safety are not his responsibility. That responsibility belongs to you.

Don’t just sing about being grown and sexy, ACT like it!!!!

Fear of a Single Black Female:

Is fear driving so many black women into the arms ….err, beds…. of these clearly unsuitable men? If all a guy wants from you is sex and if all you want from the guy is sex, fine. Get your safe sex on. But if you are trying to turn a jump-off (where did this term come from?) into a long-term relationship, you are destined for disappointment.

Remember, for most men sex and love are not the same thing. Giving him great sex more often times than not will only lead to more sex, not love. Don’t delude yourself. He is not Prince Charming.

If you are a woman who views sex as a commodity; something to be used to get your non-emotional needs met (i.e., money, cars, utility bills paid, whatever), use protection.

If you are a clear-eyed woman who feels she can have sex without the emotional attachment. Why wouldn't you use the same approach with regard to your sexual health?

There is nothing wrong with being single. If this reckless behavior stems from your belief that if you don’t sleep with the guy without protection he will leave you guess what, you are right. But understand, he is going to leave you anyway, condom or no condom. Not requiring him to use protection does not make you seem more wholesome or less experienced. It does, however, make you more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease.

I’ll take being single, celibate and healthy over being single (because you will probably still be single even if you sex him without protection), in denial and infected any day of the week.

Take charge of your sexual health:

Love and value yourself enough to take care of your physical well being.

Buy your own condoms, spermicide, etc.

Make it clear to any guy who wants to get with you that safe sex is mandatory not optional (I don’t care how fine, rich, funny, or healthy-looking he may be).

Don’t sell yourself out. If he says he won’t use protection, show him the door!