Monday, April 2, 2018

BDSM 101: What It Means and Why It’s Hot as Hell to More People Than You May Think


Alternative, or “kinky,” lifestyles are still very hush-hush in the African-American community due to conservative views of morality, religious beliefs, and engrained opinions about “what black folks do” and “what white folks do.” BDSM is especially tricky in the black community because of both our history and the current state of our country in which there are constant reminders to black people that we are not safe in America. Can you imagine a sex play scenario that involved whipping & calling someone “master” or playing cop & perpetrator? For black people in America today, that conjures up fear & disgust, not sexual excitement or lustful desire.

So, I am writing about this topic in the hopes that eyes will be opened, and the stigma might be removed from this totally consensual sexual lifestyle in which adults participate in sexual play based on a power exchange that is governed by protocol. The BDSM lifestyle requires that you know and understand yourself on the deepest level, that you know what you want & are willing to embrace your truth, that you are willing to go beyond your own limits and societal constraints, and that you fully trust your playmate.

Since the release of 50 Shades of Grey, however, the popularity of BDSM has skyrocketed. Yet, many people still do not know what the acronym even stands for. BDSM refers to three different sexual “lifestyles” and four different sexual “players.” They are all VERY different. BDSM is NOT about: kids, breaking the law, violating anyone’s consent, violence or maliciousness. It is about pushing the boundaries of sexuality in a controlled and safe environment.

The players:

Dominant – controls play within the hard & soft limits of the Submissive
Submissive – voluntarily relinquishes controls to, and follows the instructions of, the Dominant
Sadist – willingly and intentionally inflicts pain on the masochist
Masochist – voluntarily receives and endures pain inflicted by the sadist

The acronym defined:

“B” is for BONDAGE. Bondage refers to the voluntary restraint of the “Submissive” or “Sub” by the “Dominant” or “Dom” using anything from collars, cuffs, gags, shackles, and spreader bars.

“D” is for DISCIPLINE & DOMINATION. Discipline is achieved in learning how to delay climax. Domination is power, freely-given, to the one who oversees play.

“S” is for SUBMISSION & SADISM. Submission is voluntarily following the instructions of the Dominant. Sadism is the need, or desire, to cause pain to another for arousal and/or sexual pleasure.

“M” is for MASOCHISM. Masochism is the need, or desire, to be subjected to pain or humiliation, inflicted by another for arousal and/or sexual pleasure.

The distinct lifestyles:

“BD” is for BONDAGE & DISCIPLINE.

“DS” is for DOMINATION & SUBMISSION.

“SM” is for SADOMASOCHISM.

Unfortunately, these terms get intermingled, interchanged, and interpreted all wrong. All four players are looking to have ultimate pleasure. That ultimate pleasure is achieved in very different ways, as the terms identify. While all BDSM relationships exercise the dichotomy of powerful versus powerless, they are different in that BD and DS show respect while SM shows degradation (SM).

The Dom-Sub relationship is a powerful relationship in that the Dom has the power to make demands on the Sub and the Sub has the power to end play when their limits are reached. Dom-Sub relationships often involve very detailed contracts outlining the expectations of both parties as well as hard and soft limits. Hard limits are those actions, or implements, the Sub absolutely refuses to participate in or with – so an absolute “no.” Soft limits are those actions, or implements, the Sub is not sure about but will consider – an absolute “maybe.” Actions that might be contracted in a Dom-Sub relationship, outside of intercourse, include, but are certainly not limited to, withholding orgasm, fisting, paddling, flogging, caning, blindfolding, golden showers, or anal penetration. Implements that might be contracted in a Dom-Sub relationship include, but are not limited to, nipple clamps, butt plugs, paddles, floggers, riding crops, gags, blindfolds, spreader bars, canes, and more. The Submissive must have the utmost trust in the Dominant to take them to an orgasmic nirvana by using implements to enhance and intensify their sexual arousal and sensation without inflicting intentional harm. The Dominant must trust the Submissive to use a safe word if they are reaching the point of exceptional pain or any other overwhelming emotion. So, in the Dom-Sub relationship there is mutual respect and mutual trust. The goal is to create the ultimate pleasure for both parties involved.

The Sado-Masochist relationship is a powerless relationship in that the Sadist doesn’t exercise their power to be nice and the Masochist doesn’t exercise their power to stop the Sadist from being cruel. This is not a relationship for the faint at heart. The abuse in this relationship can be physical, mental, or emotional. There may be whippings, cutting, burning, criticism, insults, and other forms of degradation involved.

As much as society has opened up about sex and sexuality, BDSM remains on the “taboo” list for various reasons. Most BDSM players are Caucasian but more people of color participate in this lifestyle than you may ever know. They often meet for dinner, in groups, before heading to the dungeon to play so they can interact with others like them without shame or judgment. More people of color are starting to ask questions about the “draw” to the BDSM lifestyle and admit & explore their secret desires. The topic of sex is handled somewhat differently in each culture, but kinky sex is usually always considered somewhat “taboo” in all cultures. And many people still just prefer vanilla sex. “Vanilla sex” is a term used to describe what most of society considers “normal” or “regular” sex; in other words, heterosexual with one man and one woman, no toys or implements, no role play, no identified difference in power. And in some cases, “vanilla sex” has come to imply “boring” sex. But, to each their own. One person’s kink is not another person’s kink and there’s nothing wrong if you only like “vanilla” too.

If you want to find out more about BDSM in the black community, there are classes, workshops, blogs, chat groups, and forums you can join to learn and keep up with what’s going on in your local area. You can check out:
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (https://www.ncsfreedom.org/)
Black Rose (http://www.br.org/)
Black Beat (http://blackbeat.org/)

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dating Diluted to Nothingness

Dating today has been diluted to the point of nothingness. Dating used to be something special. Dating used to be fun. Dating used to mean hours and hours on the phone, laughing until you cried, and going out for a meal or activity that required you to sit upright and stay clothed. Dating used to include feelings of giddiness and “butterflies in your stomach.” Dating used to genuinely lead somewhere. Dating started as purely platonic; progressed to holding hands; built up to the first kiss; and at some point, way down the line, it might, or might not, involves sex.

Today, you are lucky to even hear a person’s voice before you are asked out - not for a date - but to “hook up.” Flowers are rarely presented anymore. Phone calls can be few and far between; and when they do happen, don’t be surprised if you get asked a sexual question within the first 10 minutes of the conversation. “Relationships” executed via text messaging, sadly, are today’s norm. A lot of people, admittedly, do not even seek emotional connection. For many people, most of the time spent with “a person in whom they are interested” is spent horizontally with the lights out. Believe it or not, being good in bed, giving good head, or eating pussy well have now become prerequisites for even being taken out to dinner.

No lie. I had a guy explain his dating rules to me, in all seriousness, as follows: “We need to have sex first; so, I’ll know if it’s even worth me spending $50 on you to take you out to dinner. If the sex isn’t good then I don’t need to waste my money.” When I started laughing out loud, he was offended. So, I said, “oh, you were serious.” To which he responded, “Hell yes! That’s what’s wrong with women today, especially black women. Y’all want a man to wind you and dine you and spend all this money; then, you may not even give up the pussy. If we do get lucky enough to hit it, it may not even be good. Then we’ve spent all that money for nothing.” To this idiot, getting to know me - a fabulous woman - wasn’t even worth a cheap $50 dinner; but, my ability to bring him to orgasm and be an acquiescent “cum dumpster” was worth, at least, a cheap $50 dinner and maybe a little more. Newsflash jackass: I am worth a hell of a lot more than a cheap $50 dinner whether I screw you or not. I AM WORTHY BECAUSE I EXIST.

I even asked a friend of mine, whom I do not consider to be a shallow idiot, if this mentality made sense and if he had heard of this new “dating rule.” To my shock and horror, he responded, “Oh yeah, that makes total sense. Why should I have to pay to get to know you? I might take a woman out for coffee; but I’m certainly not buying an expensive dinner. Hell, you can come to my house, for free, for me to get to know you.” I was utterly disgusted. And to top it off, if a woman has the audacity to respect herself enough to say “no” to sex right away, she should be prepared to get cursed out.

The fact that this mentality has thrived enough to become the disappointing norm says that there are people out there who have complied with this new “dating rule” and are okay with the complete dilution of dating. And if swiping left or swiping right and hooking up is all you want to do, that’s cool. I am not judging anyone who enjoys that lifestyle. It’s just not for me. I just wish people would be honest, on these dating sites and apps, about what they really want. Let people make an honest, informed decision about whether to invite you into their life. Why not post “looking for a fuck buddy” instead of “looking for a relationship” if you are just looking to hook up? If there is no shame in your game, stand on your truth and put it out there. There will still be people interested - maybe not as many - but they will be willing nonetheless. And at the end of the day, no one’s feelings get hurt and no one’s heart gets broken because you both knew you wanted nothing but sex from the beginning.

If you have a soft, or genuine, heart, are empathic, or have a caring, nurturing personality, be very careful when perusing dating sites and apps. People lie. There are exceptions to every rule. I know two or three couples who have met on a dating site or app, gotten married, and lived happily ever after. Most of them, however, are white. Once, when I was on match.com, I entered my search criteria preferences and I got 12 matches back out of the whole match.com database. Eleven were white and one was black; but none of the white men were interested in dating black women. My search criteria included:
  •        Age: 45 to 55
  •        Body Type: athletic, average, or a few extra pounds
  •        Drinking: social drinker
  •        Education: college or graduate degree
  •        Height: 5’6” to 6’3”
  •        Marital Status: divorced, widowed, or single
  •        Race: Black, White, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander
  •        Religion: Christian, Catholic, or spiritual
  •        Smoking: non-smoking


If none of this seems plausible, check out some of the documentaries on Netflix. The second episode, in Season One of Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, is titled “Love Me Tinder.” The episode is about a 40-year-old former reality TV star who hooks up with droves of 20-something women he meets on dating apps and “ghosts” them when he loses interest. He has some interesting revelations towards the end of the episode. It is certainly representative, though, of how nonchalant people have become about keeping even the smallest promise like: "I'll call you later." There is also a documentary, on Netflix, titled My Sex Robot that discusses the "fembot" rage as it probes what's possible as two inventors compete to build the world's sex robot - a woman who cannot feel, protest, connect, or leave. Yet, some people in society want to call this, too, a "relationship."


What do we do? Where do we go from here? It would be unrealistic to think dating sites, and dating apps, will go away. There are too many various kinds of sites out there. We seem to be too busy to go out and meet people. Plus, the Internet opens the dating pool worldwide. It’s been a good thing for some. It’s been not so good for others. No dating site, or app, can regulate the truth versus “alternate facts.” No dating site, or app, can keep sociopaths, narcissists, or other life-draining leeches from taking advantage of, using, and/or abusing, the na├»ve, kindhearted, and/or desperate. I suppose we will just have to wait for the times to come full circle again; to bring us back to a place of mutual respect and appreciation for genuine connection.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Parenting

I visited my brother, Robert, and sister-in-law, Beth, this weekend in California; and as always, was amazed by how wonderful they are as parents. They have 3 biological children and adopted my granddaughter, their grandniece, as a fourth without hesitation. So, they have 4 children – ages 10, 8, 6, and 3. My brother works outside the home as a project manager and my sister-in-law is a stay-at-home mom who does it all. They are the busiest little crew I have ever seen. My nieces and nephews are home-schooled, play several different sports, play piano, participate in academic competitions, and the three oldest were just baptized today.

I don’t know how they do it! They really ENJOY being parents!! I have asked Beth to write a book, repeatedly, and she just laughs me off – as though she is not doing anything special. Well, I beg to differ. Parenting takes more than a lot of people may realize. I know I didn’t have the full picture when I became a parent. And I am one of the few people who will admit that, despite the incredible love I have for my daughter, I didn’t enjoy my parenting experience and would not choose to do it again. I pulled my hair out with ONE child. Robert and Beth very rarely raise their voices with FOUR!

Being a parent means you have accepted responsibility for the life of an innocent child who will not survive without you. And that responsibility requires a lot more than simply food, clothes, and shelter. Beyond those basic needs, a baby needs to be touched, held, and interacted with. Babies need to be nurtured, protected, and taught every day that they breathe air. Children need structure and discipline – rules and consequences. Then there is 12 years of helping with homework. Parenting requires that you give guidance and advice so your children can survive on their own in adulthood.

Babies grow into adults. What type of adult they become depends quite heavily on how they are parented. As I say in my book, Soul Graffiti: What If Your Mother or Father Was Wrong?, children come to us with their souls as clean slates. What we write on their souls can be good or bad – either way, it will stick because when an opinion comes from our parents, it is perceived as truth. I’ve seen what happens when crap gets written on those tiny innocent souls. I see those broken adults sitting on the couch in my office still hurting, still longing for a parent-child relationship, still questioning their worth, still doubting their abilities, still wanting to be loved, still needing validation – stuck in their mid-life, depressed and unfulfilled, because they never got a solid life foundation from their parents that said, “You are good enough and you are lovable just the way you are.”

So, I watch Robert and Beth do the things that ADD to a child, not take away. I watch them do family Bible Study. I watch them live and teach by example. I watch them enforce discipline that teaches a lesson without breaking the spirit. I watch them read to their children. I watch them listen to their children read to them. I watch them limit the TV and electronic time instead of allowing gadgets to entertain, and babysit, their children. I watch them, not just dry their children’s tears, but seek a genuine understanding of why their children are crying. I watch them teach etiquette and respect. I watch them shower their children with verbal affirmation and physical affection. I watch them make healthy meals and eat together as a family. I watch them enforce a healthy bedtime and, actually, tuck their children in at night. I watch them play wholesome games with their children. I watch them exercise with their children. I watch them encourage their children to think and make the right decision in life situations. I watch them teach their children the importance of family and the importance of loving one another as siblings. I watch Robert and Beth remember to be affectionate and loving towards each other so their children will know what a healthy, loving relationship looks like. I watch them sacrifice their time, energy, and money to make sure that they provide the best lives for their children. I watch them pray with, and over, their children. Most importantly, though, I watch Robert and Beth, not just teach their children about Christianity, but support their children in having a personal relationship with, and knowing, God for themselves.


Today, I watched my brother baptize his three oldest children and I could not hold back the tears. I was so proud of him, as a father, in that moment. The love he felt for his children was easily evident in the air and in the baptismal pool. Beth’s face and eyes were full of love, too, as she looked on. Hearing my nephews and niece proclaim God as their Lord and Savior warmed my heart. Knowing that they really know God, and want God to lead their lives [like their father and mother], brought me peace and comfort. I know, no matter what happens in their lives, God will never fail them. He has kept His arms around my daughter, even as she made some of the worst decisions of her life, and brought her back to Him. And He will keep His arms around Robert, Beth, Joshua, Johanna, Caleb, and Zayda because, in their home, they serve the Lord.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thy Will Be Done

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1 MSG)

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…

Having faith in God’s will is easier said than done at times. We say it, and pray it, as though it is an easy thing to do, however. God’s will and purpose for our lives is not always what we see for ourselves. His vision for our life is often much bigger than what we could ever even imagine. I have seen God’s vision for my life and it scares the hell out of me!

Glory belongs to God, whose power, is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20 GW)

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give to you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11 MSG)

What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am truly an introvert. I have consistently tested out as an introvert on every personality test I have ever taken – and I have probably taken close to 20 different tests as part of my doctoral program and post-doctoral research. People think I am an extrovert because I am constantly interacting with people. The truth is that is exhausting for me. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you cannot be extroverted. It simply means that you gain energy from time alone; and therefore, being extroverted takes a lot of energy. I much prefer to be in the background rather than the center of attention.

Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 GW)

Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants – what is good, pleasing, and perfect. (Romans 12:2 GW)

So, when God’s vision for my life includes facilitating huge workshops, book signings, interviews, and other things that put me “out there” as a leader in my career field, I get very anxious. One would think that my anxiety stems from a fear of failure. It is actually the exact opposite. My anxiety stems from a fear of success because of the huge responsibility I feel comes with that success.

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:48 ESV)

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He’ll keep on doing it. (1Peter 4:19 MSG)

God has given me an incredible gift of discernment. He has also walked with me, or maybe carried me, through several life experiences that sent me to the depths of Hell so that I could understand people’s most painful journeys from personal experience – not just textbooks and research. When God called me to be a therapist, I believe He entrusted me with my clients’ hearts and spirits.  And to me, that is a huge responsibility which I take very seriously. But God has expanded my territory beyond the walls of my practice and my clients. I have gotten feedback from my book, Soul Graffiti: What If Your Mother (or Father) Was Wrong?, like:
Your book changed my life.
I cried all the way through your book because I felt like someone finally understood my pain.
Your book made me want to be a better parent.
Your book gave me hope and helped me to heal.

After God saved me from my last suicide attempt, I knew He had a tremendous purpose for my life. I knew I was supposed to walk life’s hardest journeys with people because I knew how daunting it was to battle depression alone. So, I became a therapist to answer my calling. Then, God told me to go into private practice. And I told God He had the wrong number. LOL. I disobeyed His instructions for three years before, begrudgingly, “giving in.”

Why do you call me Lord but don’t do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46 GW)

But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair  and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously. (Micah 6:8 MSG)

I laugh when I look back on July 2010. I called myself “challenging” God; saying:
    Fine! Since You insist on me opening this private practice, I will do it. But, You watch; it’s going        to fail! I don’t have the money to start a private practice. I haven’t been licensed long enough to get on any insurance panels. It takes time build a clientele.
You get the picture. So, long story short, I opened my private practice 60 days later with no debt, two weeks worth of clients, and being on every major insurance panel for which I applied. To this day, I cannot tell you where the money came from to pay for all the furniture, office equipment and supplies, deposits, and rent. I know God intervened with the insurance panels because you are supposed to be fully licensed for 2 years before you can get on the panels – I had only been fully licensed for 2 months.

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21 NLT)

Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you. Teach me how to live to please You, because You’re my God. (Psalms 143:8, 10 MSG)

For the past 6 years, God has continued to grow my practice by leaps and bounds. But, I was only doing it part-time so I could keep my day job for the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance. In July, against my better judgement, I accepted a promotion at my full-time job and had to cut back on my appointment slots. Yet, the referrals kept coming steadily. I was getting so many referrals that I had a waiting list. Now, while some might think that’s a good thing, it made my heart sad. I felt like I was failing God because I was not doing what He called me to do. I was not fulfilling my purpose. Every day, I would pray for God to either stop sending referrals or make a way for me to see all the clients He was sending my way. On February 3rd, He made it very clear that it was tine to move on.

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1Peter 2:15 NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

I thought I would be freaking out about leaving my full-time job, after 16 years to run my practice full-time. I thought I would be in a chronic state of panic trying to figure out how to survive without a steady paycheck. I thought it would take so long to build up my clientele that I might end up homeless. For the first week, I thought maybe I was in shock because I was not panicking and I was not afraid. Maybe it would hit me in the second week, I thought. But in week two, I actually felt better, stronger, and more confident that everything would be okay. So, week three would have to be the breakdown, right? At some point, I thought, I had to be overcome with fear and doubt. So, week three came; no fear followed.  And going into week 4, in addition to another fully booked week of clients, I have confirmed two equine therapy workshops for veterans in Idaho & Ohio, AND I am preparing to negotiate a contract with a large company to facilitate corporate coaching with their executive and senior leadership following a very difficult merger.

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:27-28 ESV)

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27 NLT)

I know this is only the beginning of this chapter in my life. I will have challenges to face and my faith will be tested. God may even go silent at times; but, I have learned that the teacher is always silent during a test. God has never turned His back on me and I know He has not brought me this far to leave me now. God has kept His promises to me even when I was outside of His will and He has not missed a beat since I stepped out Omni faith and submitted to His will for my life.

I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. (Psalms 40:8 NLT)

Now may the God of peace – who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with His blood – may He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Focus in 2017

Thank you, God, for another year. As always, the past year has had its ups and downs. But, here I am; blessed to be above ground facing this new year - 2017.

Not having a vision for last year was awesome! There was no pressure to achieve. I simply practiced the art of being. I accepted what life sent my way. I spent a lot of time alone. I saw the true colors of some so-called "friends," who have now been relegated to the "acquaintance" category; and gained some deeper friendships. I feel like I had better balance. I did go golfing more often. I did several EAP workshops with Hershey which is just as good as, if not better than, a pleasure ride. I got plenty of massages. I tried about 20 different champagnes to figure out what I really like. I fell for a guy. I did not learn my lesson about giving, however. I still gave too much of myself at times, but not as often as I usually would have. Most importantly, I took it all in stride. There were some intense hiccups along the way but nothing that broke me completely - meltdown, yes, complete breakdown, no. LOL.

So, I am taking the same overall philosophy into 2017. No concrete vision; but rather a central focus. This year, my focus is on SUCCESS. Success in my private practice. Success in maintaining personal balance. Success in creating and maintainimg a reciprocal intimate relationship. Success with my writing (3 more books to write). Success in building a new bi-coastal business with my friend, Lynn, in California. Success in creating a realistic, healthy lifestyle - eating better and exercising some. Success in personal growth. Success in establishing the non-profit arm of my practice so I can continue my work with veterans. Success in continuing to define and believe in my own "good enough." Success in creating true, sustainable happiness. Success in deepening my relationship with Christ. Success in limiting my generosity. In other words, success in creating my legacy.

What is the legacy you want to leave? Are you on the path to creating that? If not, how long are you going to wait to get started? What if someday is today? Why not make 2017 your year to either determine what you want your legacy to be, start taking the first steps towards creating the legacy you've already defined, make sure you are still on track with the legacy on which you've been focusing, or redefining your legacy altogether? In the grand scheme of things, that's what we're really doing - not just living from year to year but building a legacy.

So, this year, 2017, I wish all my readers happiness and success - neither of which is finite or concrete. You define your own happiness and you define what success means to you. Success to me is not solely accomplishing the entire goal but staying focused, being consistent, and making measurable strides towards the end result. Success is making a conscious effort to do more than nothing. Success is finding reasons to do something rather than all the reasons not to do it. Success is making no excuses.  I believe true happiness will come, not when I have accomplished all the things I want to accomplish; but, rather seeing that I have made consistent and intentional efforts towards making my dreams come true. True happiness is believing in myself rather than doubting myself as I start new ventures. True happiness is being in alignment with God's purpose for my life, listening to His guidance, and following His direction. My life is always more peaceful when I am spiritually aligned.

I challenge you to work on your legacy, focus on yourself more, take life in stride, get aligned and balanced, and to define and create happiness and success in your life this year.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Daddy's Girl

Let me first explain why I am purposely using the term “Daddy” versus “Father.” And this is just my own personal opinion. A father is someone who believes that by donating his sperm for your creation, he has done his duty in life. A dad is someone who gets up every day and does whatever he can to put a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food on your table. He might have to dig ditches, flip hamburgers, deliver pizzas, work in a factory — or all of the above. He might not own a suit and tie. He teaches the value of hard work not because he’s looking for help mowing the lawn, but because he knows idleness leads to trouble. He realizes his job is to make his children productive citizens, and to do that, he can’t always be his child’s friend. A “daddy” is a man who steps up to be there, no matter what, in a very special way. He does not solely donate sperm or simply raise productive citizens. A “daddy” actively participates in his daughter’s life. He attends her sporting events, recitals, and concerts. A “daddy” is the first man to teach his daughter what it is to be special. He is the first man to recognize and acknowledge both her inner and outer beauty. He is the first man to believe in her and to help her believe in herself. He sets the bar against which every man in her life, thereafter, will be measured. Before my daddy walked me down the aisle, he said to me, “Remember, nobody will ever love you like your Daddy.” And in many ways, he was right.

Men, seemingly, have no idea how important it is to be a good daddy to their daughters. It’s not solely about providing food, clothes, and shelter. It goes a helluva lot deeper than that. Our daddies are our first “boyfriends.” Daddies are supposed to teach us how valuable we are and set the standard for how a man is supposed to treat us. A daddy’s love for his daughter, or lack thereof, has the capacity to empower or destroy a little girl and the woman she will become. If you didn’t know that before, now you do. Daddies are important, especially in the lives of little black girls.

I am simply devastated by the number of women I have seen professionally, and met socially, that tell the story of “looking for love in all the wrong places” because their daddy was either physically absent, intoxicated, emotionally unavailable, or a combination of all three. Our daddies are the first men who tell us that we are pretty. They are the first men to say,” I love you.” They are the first men who look at us dreamily. They are the first men to hold our hands. Daddies are the first men with whom we laugh, with whom we have fun, and with whom we feel “special.”

My daddy and I watched cartoons and ate Fruit Loops together every Saturday morning. My daddy taught me how to read when I was four years old from a book titled, “Joey’s Horse.” My daddy was my soccer coach from age 6 to 14. In high school, he forced the school to let me play on the boys’ varsity team because the school did not have a girls’ varsity team. He was at every game. I remember one game in which I had the wind knocked out of me by a hard-kicked soccer ball. My coach took me out of the game and had me laying on the sideline with my knees up trying to catch my breath. When, I heard my dad’s voice, I realized that he was standing near my head asking my coach, “Why is Renee out of the game?” My coach replied, “She got the wind knocked out of her, Mr. Godfrey, and I didn’t want her to get hurt any worse.” My dad chuckled slightly and got the sly grin on his face that he always gets when he thinks he knows something you don’t. He said, “Hurt? She’s not hurt. She’s as tough as, if not tougher than, these boys out here. Now, she wanted to play with the boys, so let her play with the boys. She’ll be fine.” My coach then asked my dad, “Are you going to take responsibility if she gets injured?” My dad replied, “Yes, because I know she can hold her own.” My coach looked disbelieving and said, “This is not Little League; and as her coach, I have to do what I think is best for her and the team.” Before my dad turned to walk away, he said, “Coach, I have been her coach since she first began the sport and I have been her father since the day she came into this world. I know my little girl and she’s tougher than you think. Put her back in [the game].” Then, my dad reached down, took my hand, and pulled me up to a standing position. He looked me straight in the eye, cracked that unique smile of his, and said, “Now, get out there and show those boys how it feels to get their asses kicked by a girl.” Although I didn't play soccer through college, I did play as an adult in the Georgia Amateur Association. And again, my dad was at every game. He was my number one soccer fan.

Most of the time, my daddy made me feel like I could do anything. He was my knight in shining armor. He could do no wrong. And then he left. When I was 13, he walked out of the door and out of my life. I waited by the window all night, crying & begging him to please come back. After he married my stepmother, and had my half-brother, his focus changed. I no longer felt “special.” I no longer felt loved. I felt abandoned by the one man in my life who, I thought, believed in me & would have my back. I felt like I had been fired from my position of “daddy’s girl.” My relationship with my daddy was never the same after he left and started his “new family.” I was never the same after my daddy left. My heart was broken like it would never be broken again. As Daddy’s little girl, I had lost my first love. And I started to believe that if my daddy - the one man who is supposed to love me - didn't love me, then nobody else would either. It created an emptiness that I eventually learned no one else could fill. Over the next 10 years, my daddy and I had a very rocky relationship. What made that 10 years even harder was the fact that I still loved my daddy like I’ve never loved anyone. And all I wanted was for him to love me too. So, my goal in life became to make my daddy proud – to prove that I was [good] enough for him to love me again. To this day, I am not sure if I accomplished that goal. However, I did reach another goal that had been buried in my subconscious, I guess – I came to a place of understanding and forgiveness.

In my early 20s, my daddy explained to me that my stepmother was the absolute love of his life – his true soulmate. He explained that as much as he hated the way he left, and hated that my little brother and I got hurt in the process, he felt like that might be his only chance to be genuinely happy. I understood his reasoning and respected his honesty. I realized that one day, all the kids would be gone and my daddy would be left with his spouse. So, of course, I wanted him to be happy just like he wanted me to be happy. I couldn't deny him that; so, I forgave him for walking out on us.

Now, 20 years later, an oncologist has suggested that my daddy has an “average” of 55 months to live with combination chemo/hormone therapy, 40 months with hormone therapy alone, and 18 months with severe pain with no treatment at all. WTF?! This is MY DADDY! And the tears started rolling and haven't stopped since. In fact, I can only get through about 2 sentences at a time as I write this blog post before my emotions become overwhelming. We all know that we are going to die. We all know that one day we are going to lose our parents. But we think of that time in a vague, abstract sense, not in terms of a finite number. As a therapist, I remind people all the time to live their lives to the fullest, to create good memories with those they love, to say “I love you” and “I’m sorry” today, and to not ever take time for granted. Now, I have been slapped in the face with my own accountability.

Have I lived my life to the fullest? Has my daddy? Have I created good memories with my daddy? Have I said “I love you” enough? Have I ever said “I’m sorry? Have I taken our time together for granted? This incurable diagnosis has shaken me to my core and has me taking a real inventory of my own life and my relationship with my daddy. So, these are the thoughts that have come to mind so far:

1. My daddy is the absolute love of my life and I can’t imagine life without him.
2. My daddy has a dry sense of humor that is hilarious.
3. My daddy is not perfect but he is mine.
4. My daddy taught me the joy of reading and encouraged my love of learning.
5. My daddy bought me an inflatable swimming pool when I was a little girl that had a palm tree in it and it was best the inflatable pool on the block.
6. My daddy doesn’t talk about his feelings so I am concerned about his journey through this cancer fight.
7. I don’t like it when my daddy doesn’t feel good. As a nurse, however, I know that bone cancer is incredibly painful and I know that chemotherapy wipes people out – making them nauseous, extremely tired, and even shutting down their tastebuds so food tastes like nothing. So, I don’t want him in pain but I also don’t want him sick or exhausted.
8. I hope my daddy has no regrets and can truly enjoy the rest of his time here no matter how much time that is.
9. I hope my daddy is proud of me.
10. I hope I have been a good daughter in my daddy’s eyes.
11. I need to visit my daddy more often.
12. I need to call and text my daddy more often.
13. I need to take more pictures with my daddy.
14. I need to record my daddy’s voice so I will never forget it.
15. My daddy gives great hugs.
16. My daddy always gives good advice and I always know that I can go to him for objectivity.
17. My daddy always puts on a strong face no matter what is going on in his life; and as much as I know he doesn’t like tears, I don’t know that I will be able to control mine. At the same time, I know I must.
18. At least God has given me time to make some new memories with my daddy.
19. My daddy taught me how to ride a bike.
20. My daddy invited me to a bar on my 21st birthday and introduced me to Patron tequila which I still love to this day.
21. My daddy only spanked me one time in my life – when I drew all over the walls, that my daddy had just painted, with a big, purple crayon - and I think it hurt him just as much as it hurt me.
22. My daddy taught me to cook soul food.

I’m sure more memories, concerns, thoughts, smiles, laughs, and tears will come. And I know all my memories are not good. My daddy has hurt me in the past; but knowing that I am going to lose him - this time forever - is the worst hurt ever in life. So, I choose to focus on the good and happy moments and to create more of them. I encourage all of you other “daddy’s girls” out there to cherish every moment with your daddy. Let him know, TODAY, how much being his little girl has meant to you. Let your daddy know that you love him, forgive him, miss him, need him, or whatever. Share your favorite memory, of the two of you together, with him. If your daddy is alive, it is not too late. And don’t ever apologize for being a daddy’s girl! Feel free to share your comments about your experience as a daddy’s girl.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Living in Darkness Dying for Light

“Why did you try to kill yourself?” …………………………………. “You told me to be happy.”

I have asked people to tell me what their depression feels like and I’ve heard things like: dark, empty, lonely, scary, exhausting, bad, heavy, and more. When I asked a friend how his depression felt, he said, “Being sad for no particular reason and not knowing how to fix it.” When I asked one of my clients how her depression felt, she said, “I wouldn’t even call it a feeling. It’s not a feeling because you feel nothing.” Nothingness, a black hole, a never-ending pit, a vast cavern where hellacious voices echo. For the past 29 years, for me, depression has been a roller coaster that, at times, has delved into the fiery, darkness of hell where I saw nothing but death as a solution. It feels like standing on the edge of the lip of the Grand Canyon, trying not to fall over; and the balancing act is beyond exhausting – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

But, everyone experiences depression differently. Depression is expressed differently by each individual who experiences it. And ultimately, most people find a way to overcome depression – whether through talk therapy, medications, combination therapy, prayer, meditation, or other methods. The goal is to identify one’s triggers and implement the healing process.

“Sometimes when I say ‘I’m okay,’ I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight, and say, ‘I know you’re not’.”

One of my favorite music artists, Eminem, puts it like this:
              You smile but you’re not really happy.
              You ask but you don’t want to know.
  You talk but you aren’t saying anything.
  You laugh but you don’t find it funny.
  You cry but it doesn’t really mean anything.
  You get up but you’re really not awake.
  You sleep but you aren’t resting.
  You’re alive but you aren’t really living.
Depression is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die. Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer. Depression is putting on a fake smile so you don’t have to explain why you’re not happy. Depression is that feeling when you’re not necessarily sad, but you just feel really empty. Depression is saying to yourself, every night, “This will be the last time.” Depression is like a war; you either win or die trying.

“Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer because most cancer patients feel loved and have hope and self-esteem.”

I hate to hear people say, “I suffer from depression.” To me, that is a defeatist attitude. I have lived with depression for most of my life. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance, extended grief, trauma, job loss, retirement, being broke, and whatever else you can think of. Depression is lonely. Depression is scary. Depression sucks.  Depression does not discriminate by race, creed, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or sexuality. One is not immune from depression because of level of education, amount of money in the bank, marital status, or length of time in therapy. Sometimes, it hits me out of nowhere, all of a sudden, this overwhelming sadness rushes over me. I get discouraged and I get upset and I feel hopeless, sad, and hurt. And once again, I feel numb to the world. “But you’ve got it all,” people say, “a doctorate, a private practice, two real careers, blah, blah, blah.” And yet, I continue to question whether I have met my own “good enough.” Worse still, I question whether I have met God’s expectations for me. Have I fulfilled my purpose?

“If you could read my mind, you’d be in tears.”

Despite all that I have and all that I have accomplished, depression can sometimes still consume me. My days get dark – just a constant shade of gray. My medication doesn’t seem to be working. Therapy is starting to sound like Charlie Browns’ teacher – “whah whah whah whah whah whah.” But, every morning, I am met with the same choice – get up or not, go to work or not, see clients or not, stay late to do notes or not, get rest for tomorrow or give up, pray for another day or pray for death. Most people I’ve talked to, admittedly, “don’t understand how a person can get to the point where they want to take their own life.”

“Right now, I really don’t see the reason for trying, or for talking, or for breathing. I’m just done.”

I think “not understanding” is actually a better place in which to live because when you do understand “how a person can get to the point where they want to take their own life,” you have seen the depth of despair. You see, there are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. There have been times that I would rather be a “cutter” than have suicidal ideations. How sad do you have to be for death to really be a fucking option?! At what point will it no longer be on my list of options? I’m exhausted from trying to be strong. I’m empty from giving everything I have to others. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. I’m unhappy. I’m scared, no, terrified. Because once again, I am on the edge of the Grand Canyon, teetering on the edge; trying to keep my damn balance so I don’t slip over the edge into the abyss. What most people don’t understand is that when you have made the decision that death is the only option, it doesn’t mean that you are no longer afraid. It simply means that you are so tired of being hopeless, hurt, lonely, sad, disappointed, misunderstood, and “not good enough” that you welcome the eternal silence. You breathe a sigh of relief that you have found a way to end your suffering, to stop having to depend on others to love you, to stop feeling like a failure, to stop hurting, and to stop wishing that life would be better only to be disappointed repeatedly. It’s a lonely, scary place to which you never want to take your “friends” or “family.” It is that place in which the person who tries to keep everyone happy ends up being the loneliest person.

“No, I’m not okay. But I haven’t been okay since I was a teenager. I am still here though. I’m still breathing. For me, sometimes, that will have to be enough.”

I no longer want to die – not like I did 26 years ago. I’m not even asking for help. I’m just sharing with you, my readers, that even the best of us go to that dark place. And even though I know that I want to love this difficult life of mine, the thought still crosses my mnd after 29 years, that I could just end it all and never have to feel lonely, inadequate, hurt, ashamed, disappointed, or shitty ever again. I want, desperately, to believe that:
Depression is useful. It signals that you need to make changes in your life. It challenges your tendency to withdraw, it reminds you to take action.
No matter how deep my sadness or how hopeless my despair, I pray that God will help me to sustain my strength as I face each new day.