The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Good Grief

Are there days when you just wake up sad?

I have those days sometimes where things just seem a bit melancholy. There’s no one thing to point a finger at — it could be the weather, a bad dream, no coffee, a late start. Any number of things may add to that feeling.

I think some days it’s a culmination of grief. Grief over loss especially — and not necessarily a dramatic loss, like a death in the family, although that certainly adds to it. I’m thinking more about the loss of small things, like time as your mind wanders over how big your kids are getting, or the loss of opportunity when I think about ideas that I have that I’ve done nothing to advance. Even the loss of money can make me experience moments of micro-grief (I made that up, I think, lol) — wasted money, unearned money, unexpected bills!

My daughter experienced loss-of-money grief the other day. She had saved up enough money to buy a toy she wanted and it was really hard for her to save the money since she wanted to buy so many other things, but I told her that if she bought those other items then it would take longer to save up for this toy she wanted.

After losing her two front teeth, she finally had enough money for the toy and when we got to the store to buy it, they were sold out. She was bummed, but we went online to look for it, she was going to be even more patient and wait for it to ship, but she didn’t like the versions of the toy that were available online. She decided to go back to the store the next day to see if it was restocked and if not she would buy an alternate toy.

Her first choice wasn’t in stock yet, so she found an alternate that she was happy with and made the purchase. We had a playdate with a friend right after and she was happy that she got to debut the new toy with a friend.

However, on the car ride home from the playdate, she burst into tears, “This toy is so boring. Why did I spend my money on this? I want my money back!”

Buyer’s remorse. Oh boy, did I feel sad for her, but I knew it was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes, we just want a shiny new thing to distract us, even when it’s not our first choice, we just want to spend money and have something new. Usually, in the end, those purchases never feel good. Why did we buy it? We certainly didn’t need it. It wasn’t even what we really wanted.

I could have let her take the toy back to the store, even though it was already out of its packaging and played with, but I thought the lesson about making wise choices with money was more important.

That brings me back to grief…

Sometimes we lose things even more valuable than money. Sometimes we lose friends. Not necessarily to death, but sometimes a friendship just comes to an end. You know the saying that people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes you meet a reason or season person, and when the friendship ends you feel so sad because maybe you thought it would be a lifetime friendship.

I had friendships end like that in high school, then another really close friendship in my late 20s, they were all sad experiences and I suppose that I grieved in my own way at the time — even without knowing that’s what was going on. After the experience in my 20s though, I did a lot more thinking and reading about friendships and relationships in general. I realized that I tried so desperately to hold onto relationships because ending them reminded me of the lost relationship with my dad, which I didn’t have any control over. That didn’t stop me nevertheless from blaming myself for that lost relationship and the others that would follow. So, in an effort to control the outcome, I tried holding on to friendships and relationships wherever I could without realizing that I was only one factor in a myriad of reasons why a relationship comes to an end.

Earlier this year, my daughter kept coming home from school and sharing that she had a sad day because a friend “broke up” with her. We talked about these situations a lot and it always seemed to be the same friend. I suggested that maybe things were meant to be with this friend and maybe not, but all she could do was to keep trying to be a good friend and let the chips fall where they may. I also suggested that she work on trying to have a good day despite the status of their friendship. I urged her to look to some of the other things that were going well in her day and focus on those things, even though there may be moments of sadness about losing a friend.

Don’t you know, earlier this week, while making dinner, my daughter shared with me that this same friend “broke up” with her again. She then shared, “But I didn’t let that ruin my day. I had a great day…” and she proceeded to tell me about all of the other things that happened at school.

Friends, I can’t tell you how much joy that brought me. Is it possible that my daughter has learned something at age 7 that took me 20-30 years to understand?

I mean, I know that she’ll experience greater friendship losses than a fickle classmate who’s in some days and out on others, but the framework is there for understanding that one, someone deciding not to be your friend is out of your control, and two, it will feel sad, but it won’t ruin your entire day or life.

After the recent presidential election, I lost some friends — some closer than others. It makes me sad to think about losing those friendships, and I still have to consciously have the conversation with myself about the life cycle of friendships. It’s grief or micro-grief for sure, but it’s good grief. If you can work through the sadness and understand that it’s all for a purpose — in most cases, to teach us life lessons that help us to grow and help others along their path of learning.

Today, while driving, I was reflecting on this good grief. It’s important to feel the sadness of a loss, that makes us human, but it’s also important to understand that loss is an integral part of life — we cannot escape it. We must embrace it and learn the lessons that come along with it.

My prayer today is for God to comfort anyone experience grief, any level of grief — big or small, and that God sends an angel your way to hold your hand through the experience.

Light and love.

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Written by Shara

March 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Perceptions of Racial Reality in Media

On the way to school this morning, I asked my son to name one of his favorite shows (which are mostly cartoons) that had a girl or woman of color as the lead.

“What do you mean? Like Sandy in SpongeBob?”

No… close, but no.

I explained, think of a show with human characters or human representations in the case of cartoons. Is there one you can think of where the main character isn’t what we call White. I also explained that for some reason I don’t like the words White and Black as descriptive terms for skin color, they don’t truly represent the different shades and hues in our beautifully diverse world, but they do help to get the point across quickly.

He thought some more and couldn’t come up with any.

Then, I asked what about supporting characters. He quickly named Maria from Sesame Street, who he mentioned had recently retired, and another character from Rugrats. There! He sat back with a smile and kinda proud of himself.

Good job, son, but the conversation wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

We talked about how media shapes our perceptions of beauty and how he uses terms he’s learned through media to define beauty. Terms like “hot girls” which he almost always tends to use for girls scantily clothed with blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I asked, if this is the standard of beauty set by most of the media we consume, then what message does it send to girls who don’t look like this?

He didn’t know.

He thought some more and then said. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t need to see people who look like me on television to know I look good.

Swag.

I know, son and that’s great, but much of that is because our society doesn’t use beauty as a standard of value or success for men. Not so for women. Can you see that?

Yeah, I guess you’re right, he agreed.

So, what do you think we should do about it?

I guess just like the saying goes, “we should be happy with what we have.”

Maybe, I said, but what about the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

I told him that the world needs his stories and that little boys and girls who have brown skin, like him, deserve to see main characters who look like them in their media. If we don’t see them, we shouldn’t sit complacently, we should ask for them and more importantly, we should create them.

Teenage Boy Sitting On Sofa At Home Watching Television

I’m having more conversations about race with my children, in a very intentional way.

Sewing seeds.

I need my children to understand the country we live in wasn’t necessarily designed for them, but it needs them. They have an important role to play now and in the future. If they don’t understand that perceptions are both created for and skewed by a dominant culture, then they might mistake this perception for their reality. But it’s not the whole truth, far from it.

Do you have conversations about race with your children? Are you scared to talk about it? I’d love to hear more.

Written by Shara

December 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

How to Appease Anger and Frustration

It was the same routine. This morning, my lovely darling didn’t agree with the clothes that I picked out for her to wear to school. This always happens when we don’t jointly prepare the week’s wardrobe in advance. “Okay, but we don’t have a lot of time and if you aren’t helping me out, then I’m going to lose my patience,” I warned.

I gave her a few minutes to come up with a reasonable alternative given the drop in temperature this week. She couldn’t find the right leggings to go with the dress she wanted to wear. In a rush and in my haste, I lost my patience.

“Just put the clothes on that I picked out so we’re not late!” I snapped.

I have a late gene and I’m afraid that I’m passing it down. It was passed down to me from my mother and her mother passed it along to her. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to fix it. We even got a note from her school about my affliction and I’m trying, really trying, to do better.

“Mommy, it hurts my feelings when you yell at me,” she said — after she was dressed and her hair was done. “When my feelings are hurt, my face looks like this,” she sulked. The alarm on my phone went off and I hit “Snooze” because I’m gonna need another reminder in five minutes. It’s time to leave so we can get to school with a few minutes to spare.

“I know. I’m sorry, but I did warn you that I was losing my patience. Did you brush your teeth? Let’s get that done and head out.”

I usually try to acknowledge when I’m in the wrong, even when I’m feeling under pressure. I want to have endless patience and I want to get her to school on time.

My son’s morning prep game is tight. He’s dressed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, sitting on the couch, earbuds in, head bobbing. Boys!! SMH.

As she slowly walked to the bathroom to brush her teeth, I added that I didn’t want her face to be sad and that I didn’t want anyone to have that control over how she was feeling — including me. “I don’t want you to be sad. I just want you to hurry up and get ready,” I reasoned … with a seven-year-old.

Ten minutes later, we’re in the car and I’m waiting to turn onto the road in front of her school. One final argument about what she’s wearing and how I don’t understand the kids at her school and what they will say about a jacket with thumbholes. I suggest we can donate all of her clothes that don’t match her schoolmate’s requirements including this new Justice jacket and that I’m sure there’s some kid somewhere who would be thrilled to have it. “I’ll place a call to your friend’s mom before I buy you any more clothes to make sure she has the same thing,” I added to make my point clear. “No, no, no!!” she exclaims. Then, her brother initiates a discussion about yelling at mom. The game of “I’m not/You are” proceeds.

She now has two minutes to run inside before the bell rings. I open the van door, “Okay, I love you. Have a great day!” I smiled, genuinely. I really want her to have a great day. I want the last words she hears before heading into school to be words of love and support.

As I pull away and watch her run into the school building, my son sits trying to understand why she yells when she’s frustrated, but then tells me it hurts her feelings when I yell. The apple/tree thing hasn’t quite dawned on him. He wonders if he could have said something different to get his point across to her.

At which point, I explain that when someone is angry and frustrated, they usually are not listening. Nothing you say will matter and in most cases, it doesn’t even matter how you say it. Their response will come from that place of anger and frustration. The best thing you can do is to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” Once things have calmed down, you can try to revisit the topic if it’s important, but trying to reason with someone who is angry and frustrated is a fool’s errand.

Conversations with my kids are very enlightening.

I’m still angry and frustrated about the presidential election. I have every right to feel that way. You can appease me by using calming words. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” But, I’ll still be angry and frustrated. I’m not listening. I’m just reacting from a place of anger and frustration.

Don’t call me a victim. Don’t call me an out of touch liberal. Don’t tell me it will all work out, just wait and see. I’m still angry.

Don’t tell me we’re all in this together because clearly some of us don’t even recognize the humanity of others.

If you can’t commiserate with me, then just limit your response to, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” And be sure that IF you’re saying it, you mean it, genuinely. Otherwise, best not to say anything at all.

Written by Shara

November 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Why I’m Getting Really Good at Accepting Failure

Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to work on a project full-time onsite with an amazing company. I was super excited!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the flexibility of working from home, keeping my own schedule, and working for various companies on fun, diverse projects. Still, the allure of one steady paycheck was too much to overlook. I could use some consistency after having a couple of clients decide to just not pay for work already completed. Yeah, accounting and collections aren’t my strong suit. 

So, I lined up our current projects and worked with my team to take the lead on keeping those going and off I went to try out this new venture. It lasted three weeks and half a day before I went running for the hills. #epicfail

Uggh! I forgot how bad I was at office politics and kissing hiney! And BTW, I have no patience for bullying and intimidation. I know that I work best in environments where team leaders and managers set you up for success. I try to do that for my team members as well. I figure we all want to succeed and have a great outcome.

The truth is, however, I am only one part of the equation in any project that I take on. And, I’m getting really good at accepting failure. Saying that probably makes you think I’m terrible at my job — I’m not. But, honestly, I fail at things every day. I’m pretty sure everyone does, but you shouldn’t be defined by your failures or shortcomings — or the collective failure of any group to which you belong. Don’t take that on! Don’t define yourself that way! Other people are going to judge you and say mean, horrible things, that’s life. Bye Felicia!

Like Former President George W. Bush recently said, “Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

bushquote.png

Wow. Never thought I would be quoting Dubyah with such a profound statement, but no matter the source, truth is truth.

I think the problem is that we’re always judging… ourselves and others. But, it’s really not our job, so why take it on?

Once we accept that failure happens to everyone, then we can just move on to the next opportunity to fail or succeed. It really could go either way!

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try your best or make every effort to get things right, but it DOES mean that you’re not the only part of the equation and sometimes timing isn’t right, people aren’t the best fit, budgets are off, or any number of elements that you just don’t or can’t control.

I once had a really wonderful and bad-ass friend tell me, “Show up, be present, give it your best, and don’t be connected to the results.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing something she probably heard from Oprah, but those words come back to me often.

A lot of my women friends take on the full responsibility for failures. Failure in a job or on a project. Failure in a relationship. Failure on a diet or new fitness program. Failure as a parent. I know I fall into that trap. But while you don’t need to take full responsibility for these failures, in most cases, you should get really good at accepting them and knowing that they don’t define you. Tomorrow is another day (God willing) to get up and try again or try something else.

So, let’s see… did I fail to complete the project — yep, I did not complete the project despite my offer to do so off-site. But, did I fail to protect myself from a soul-sucking journey into a neverending battle against bullying and intimidation? Well, I think I got that one right and the stars must have aligned because I’m happy with my decision. That’s #winning, to me, every time.

How do you deal with failure? Are you really hard on yourself when things don’t go the way you planned?

Written by Shara

July 12, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Musings

Tagged with , , ,

An Even Year!

It’s the strangest thing, but for some reason, I love even years. I get really excited when their time rolls around.

It’s not that odd years are bad, not at all. I’ve had great odd years. For example, 2015 was pretty decent. So it’s not so much about disliking odd years, it’s just that I really look forward to the even years. I was born in an even year, graduated high school and college in even years, met my husband in an even year, had my first born in an even year. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

So here we are in 2016. Not sure what this new even year will bring, but I’m starting it off by thinking positively about my career aspirations, personal dreams and family goals.

I have some tough decisions to make, right out of the gate, but it’s all moving towards greater happiness, peace, health and prosperity.

Happy 2016!

Written by Shara

January 22, 2016 at 2:33 am

Posted in Musings

Stereotypes Keep Life Simple and Small

Some people are so sure that they have this life figured out. I’m still working on it, but I do have some navigation advice for those who want to head in a more enlightened direction:

Negative thoughts may cross your mind, but don’t give words life by uttering them. Maybe you aren’t even aware that some thoughts are negative. Try to get in touch with what you’re feeling as things come to mind throughout your day. Deeply examine those thoughts that cause you to feel fear, anxiety, hate or discord. Get to the bottom of your fears, so you don’t speak from a place of ignorance or pain.

Sweeping generalizations about a group or segment of society are often wrong, off base and out of touch. Statements like, “they always…” or “[said group] never …” have no place outside of valid research studies where segments of the population and their actions are clearly defined. Even then, most research results indicate correlation, not causation.

I think some people generalize, stereotype and discriminate to keep their world simple and small. Big and complex can be scary and overwhelming. It’s like organizing… when everything has a place, things run smoothly. So, I think that subconsciously some people find it easier to categorize people like things. And, just like things, they assign a level of importance and value.

I like Oprah’s approach (shocker) to thinking about each person as an individual with a story to tell. Everyone just wants to be heard. Just because my story has similarities to other women, minorities, moms or others doesn’t make it the same story.

My journey is unique. So is yours.

Written by Shara

May 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm