Monday, October 31, 2022

The Worth of my Proof

 There are a thousand messages telling us of what it will take to make us acceptable, worthy of being counted, of being awarded a contract or job or presence.

Constantly having to prove our lives are counted as one good enough to care if we live or breathe.

I have been thinking a lot about it.

Perhaps it is the time of year, October is a month of reckoning and loss, of changes and remembering.

How long does one pay a price to be alive in the world?

Just the other day, I was musing about the ways that social media has overtaken our lives and connections when it was supposed to be a way of connection. The problem, it became, seems to be the over exaggerated ways of our lives being worthy enough for likes, clicks, and views.

Is simply breathing and walking and being human enough to be among the cherished in the world?

When I think about the ways that human beings are with each other, I often think of the ways that we miss celebrating just the sheer essence of breathing in this world with seven million other uniquely made individuals. All with hopes and dreams and gifts and purpose.

When did it become not enough to simply be?

Placed in a position of constantly having to prove one’s worth is exhausting.

We are never going to be good enough or strong enough or smart enough or enough of enough to have enough proof for the ones who say we are not enough.

Here is a thought.

The proof of our worth is not in how many random people we may have met once in an undergrad lecture Hall randomly find us on the book or follow us on the gram, our proof is in the fact that we are human beings filled with all the wonder and possibilities of life.

When that sinks in, it doesn’t matter if anyone likes that awesome picture you posted, post it for yourself. You are not a commodity whose brand identity is tied up with how many moments of your existence you sell year over year.

It could be the changing seasons or the tide of life, or a page from my Generation Z daughters, but I am a bit tired of seeing all the amateur stunts becoming more and more outrageous for attention. 

Isn’t being alive good enough to be good enough?

If no one told you that, well, let me say it, it is enough.

Whether anyone else notices that it is not your problem.

Live and be free.

That is your proof.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Word Power

 There is a scripture the says “life and death is in the power of the tongue.”  In the Hebrew Bible, there are so many poems related to what one says and how what comes out impacts so many lives. 

I am a writer.  We live and breathe on the words that swirl around in our minds that eventually make it to the end of our pen on paper or fingers on a keyboard.  

We all want to persuade, encourage, motivate, and call people to action of some sort. To make an impact is the goal of every writer of every genre, to be remembered is even better.

The other day, I wrote about how I was getting a divorce from social media and after the official Twitter take over yesterday, it looks like that separation will be not just on Facebook. 

Over the past decade that I’ve used what I called the virtual picket fence, I’ve noticed the severe lack of civility that comes with the anonymity of the keys.

People don’t really know each other that if they posted and then ran into them at the coffee shop or the grocery store, wouldn’t necessarily know that is them by their Twitter handle or Facebook name.  Granted, one is supposed to use their real identity, but with the influx of the bots during the last three Presidents, we have seen that the space once created for connection has become more for contention.

Sipping coffee this morning and reading the New York Times - virtually, of course, who still has the daily paper delivered - I saw the breaking news about Paul Pelosi, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband being attacked in his San Francisco home.

The first thing I said to my husband was, “these people are crazy.” I amended that to they are dangerous and acting with the lack of critical thinking skills that has also been a result of the way the country has dumbed down education, making it something to ban and dilute, making robotic creatures out of the regimented day, instead of people who examine and ask questions of what they read.

I pondered how much of it was also the result of the one I called the orange menace. He was definitely a master manipulator who could twist words and incited people to action based on what spewed from his mouth. Regardless of political ideology, the rhetoric has been dangerous for the lives of so many people.

That is the premise of that scripture. Like flaming arrows and darts, the words being used by him and others during this election season are like missiles launched out that will always hit a target. We just saw one -famous for his intentional disregard for decorum-singer get completely cancelled for his rhetoric that was finally the last straw of what the media folks would tolerate, no longer seeing dollar signs in his demeaning of entire people groups for year, they finally pulled the contracts, but the damage had been done.

One can heal from a knife wound or even a gun shot, but it takes so much longer to heal from words seared into the soul, that shatter the heart, and that destroy possibilities.

Silence is as loud as saying something to quiet the dragons of fire. Silence is consent as they say and it is not safety.

People are not powerless to act, though. 

There are things we can do to protect ourselves.

For me, I have distanced myself from people and those whose rhetoric is divisive and harmful. I’m an Empath and I know that I feel deeply what is said to me. 

For others, it may simply be perfecting the comeback, the dozens as we used to say growing up in the Black community. We sharpened our iron and our emotions to not jump because someone insulted us, it developed self control. Yet, it was still hurtful, I still remember being dubbed Toni Bony Baloney.

There is no escaping the tongue.

It truly is everywhere, only those who have a hermit life can get away from it and even then, the tentacles of the media, of social rhetoric has reached. 

So what do we do?

Push back.

Love is a greater weapon than hate.

Reading broadly is more powerful than simply taking what someone says at face value.

Meditation and shoring up oneself spiritually - of whatever faith you believe - will strengthen your inner person to let it fall off your back.

Writing. For me and all that I have lived through in this life, writing it in my journal has helped me process it and literally get it out of my heart. Not everything is for public consumption and my kids have strict orders to destroy some of them upon my death, but knowing that I gave validation to what happened, was enough for me.

There is power in words and in good words there is power in protecting the rights to our thoughts, to learning, to engaging, and to making a true difference in this society.

For all our sakes, I hope we choose to do good.


©2022. All Rights Reserved.

The writer is musing with a lavender latte snuggled under warm blankets taking in the end of October.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Discovering Sweetness in Life

 When was the last time you took a moment to really truly discover something sweet?

Something new?

And just relish it?

Appreciate it?

For me, that has been pomegranates.

I’ve had them served on a Chaat Dog at a local Indian street food restaurant in New Haven and they were sprinkled on top as a garnish. It added a gentle flavor and crunch to the treat, offsetting the other flavors.

Then, of course I’ve had them purchased in the little containers from the grocery store.This s I decided to get a real one.

This summer, during the height of fruit season, I picked up one from the farm up at Bishop’s Orchard. 

I was preparing a rice dish - heirloom rice with sautéed pecans and wanted to add a pop of color and sweet to the dish. I was still a vegetarian and was always looking for ways to enhance my diet. 

It’s shell is touch, can’t really peel it with your hands, you need to cut it. Then you have to pull it apart.

I will admit I was a bit shocked and in awe of what I saw inside. I resembled a honeycomb with these pretty hot pink pearls just nestled in each comb.

The beauty of it was just smiling up at me. 

At first, I was a bit impatient, and hungry. But then, I realized the treat was in the discovery behind each yellowish comb was another nest of these delicate fruits.

It was the way they had the little jewels beckoning to be found, to take my time, to be patient and discover each one.

So I sat down with the now cut and pulled apart pomegranate resting in one of my little square white bowls. I picked up one of the pieces and with a couple fingers, pulled out a few and immediately felt the pearl-like surface of it and then popped it in my mouth, it crunched a bit like a nut and the juice was gentle like a tea.

Too often in our Western colonized life, we are rushing through to the next that we don’t often enjoy the now. Even in our nourishment, it is the swiftness of how fast it can be made and consumed without regard to the simple essence of being present and letting our bodies enjoy sustenance.

Maybe it is a gift I have been given for the past almost twenty years that my work has centered around balance and family, home and community, and being present. I was remote/hybrid before the pandemic made it a thing. So to me, the mornings are my most precious and I don’t rush through it. Like my lattes, the pomegranate was waiting to be cherished for all the flavor notes and sweet gems.

Life is like that, if we let it.

It can be frightening otherwise, to just rush rush rush so much that the adrenaline is so high that the body can not process out the toxins. 

Take a step back.

When I was in my M.B.A . program, we had to take an economic course. Now, everything economy is in the news and on social media and has people so anxious, others so greedy, but it is top of mind.

Well, in the course and watching my professor draw the diagrams on the whiteboard, there was a point that stuck with me. There become a point of diminishing returns. No matter how much energy we expend on it, the return can never be as great as it was when it started out. 

I thought of it yesterday as I was straightening out my shoes that line a wall in my bedroom, all of them in boxes save for the summer sandals that are telling me to pack them away for next season.

Once-upon-a-time, I didn’t have such a wall.

There was one pair of gym shoes for walking through the Chicago loop to my office job. I had one pair of Black pumps and black flats. I had one pair of black leather boots. I think I had one pair of summer sandals but not being blessed with pretty feet, probably not.

Looking at those shoes, I thought about thirty years ago when it was simpler for me, quicker even. I had one coat, one coach saddle bag in black that I saved up to get and still own. I had one pair of jeans, you get the idea. It was simple.

As I grew older and more successful, define success, I acquired more things. Yet none was a sweet as that first grown up purchase of that coach purse when I was about twenty-six years old.

What does that have to do with pomegranates and life?


The older I get and the wiser I become as a middle aged Black woman, the more I realize that the most amazing thing is time.  

Right now.

Like the time it took me to cut that pomegranate and pull back each section and peel each comb to discover yet another nestle of sweet jewels.

Life is like that.

A precious precious thing to enjoy and not to spend simply grinding for more when the returns will not be as wonderful.

There is truly a sweetness in life if we take the time to be there for it.


©2022. All Rights Reserved.

The writer is enjoying pomegranates and rosemary brown sugar lattes gazing out the window at the trees changing colors in the picturesque landscape of Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Big Divorce

 I am getting a divorce.

No, not from my husband.

From Facebook.

It has come to the place of irreconcilable differences.

Can’t get past the habits of the BOTS and the constant clones.

Yesterday, last evening in fact, I wished my elder cousin a very happy birthday. He turned seventy-two and for my paternal side, that was a milestone that just a generation before never achieved.

Barely did I press the little blue arrow to post the comment then I get a yellow warning notice that my account is not visible and I can’t use it. Of course, I refuted it and then the notice said if they find I my account is in keeping with their community standards - I will be able to use it again and if it isn’t, my account would be permanently disabled and click the button to download my information.

Maybe my spider sense could be going off and this could be a bot, but it had me thinking of how much time I’ve spent on the platform.

“Cousin Toni, you should get on Facebook,” one of my younger cousins told me at a big family cookout in a city I returned to after a lifetime away. “What is a Facebook?” I had barely been in the world of smart phones back then, in 2008, when he suggested it to me.

I think I got on the platform around the time of the Obama elections and after some of the community work I’d been doing in Kirkwood.

What’s the harm? It was just family, just sharing some updates on the kids, my family was literally around the world. My page is still private, but that definition of family has expanded and so have the “friends.”

The reality, however, is that they are not all my friends, they are associates, we have some common connections like book worlds, or our kids went to school together, or we went to college or seminary together, but friends, no, not really.  They didn’t show up to my sister-in-law’s funeral before the pandemic and didn’t show up to my brother-in-law’s just a few weeks ago when I flew back to my hometown after being away for two years. Of course, they did the social media thing and typed in quick condolences. One of my cousins did come, others lived too far away, it was a workday, it was real life.

It dawned on me while I was there and after last night, that this medium has created a lot of superficial relationships.

Now to writers, such as myself, it was a gift and a curse. The gift was that more people could know you by your nome de plume and could find your work, but it didn’t always translate into sustainable work or compensation for that writing. 

To social justice activists it was a platform to gather folks quickly, but even then, in some ways, those smart phones going live were more fuel to the fire of all the isms we are facing in this country. People were being more and more sensationalist for the clicks and likes and followers.

Sipping my turmeric-brown sugar-cinnamon latte while looking out at the changing colors of the season, I realized how much of my attention was given to this space. We had to be present to be relevant. In my former position, I was the social media/communications director (not titled, but that was what I did) and had to be on all the platforms, had to work with my team tracking which posts had the most engagement, if we had new followers, if anyone clicked on the donate button. It was consuming.

Consuming, that it is, it was taking away hours from real life. The phone replaced my camera, Instead of curating what parts of our vacation down at the Gulf Coast would be facebook worthy, I could instantly share the pictures we took at the sea wall just the other day. Some of the artistry was lost.

This facebook divorce was already coming, if barely speaking and separations are any indication of a failed relationship.

I had already switched to Instagram and yes, I know that they are owned by the same company, but IG is all pictures of books and me reading and talking about reading without the social, political, cultural exchange that became the picked-fence of facebook. I could just post a reel, like other writers, and go about my day. Twitter, my long-time writing relationship was even better with fewer words, even when they changed the options to write stories on there, I still liked that 280-character limit to get a point across. It is also where I have connected with other writers, so for now, I am keeping it, even with the somewhat hostile takeover by a certain narcissistic billionaire.

But the book.

The kids my daughters’ ages are not even on there. 

My inbox gets these New York Times Articles newsletter-like updates every day. This morning, how ironic, was one by Kevin Roose, “Good morning. Top Social Media Apps are struggling after a decade of dominance.” It was almost as if he was reading my mind…or my blog!

Truth be told, they are barely on Instagram and non-existent on Twitter most of the time.

They cherish real life, this generation that was born in technology and have had screens in every part of their lives for all their lives, they prefer real interactions. When they do post, it is like I used to do in the old days, choosing one or two pictures to tell the story of a moment,

I began to pull back.

They are adults, after all, and the lives belong to them, if they want family to know about everything, they will involve them, so fewer and fewer pictures of their performances or speeches, or whatever else my moms group was chatting about in cyberspace.

My IG was connected to my FB and if I shared a “story” or something, it would show up on FB, that had become the extent of my engagement for the past almost year. I was making fewer and fewer social-cultural-political commentary. I think I was exhausted from it and was shouting to deaf ears, wasting thoughts

I still have a lot to say. Yes, we are in critical times in our country. There is an election coming up in a couple weeks and I hope people realize they need to be engaged in the franchise to make any difference that impacts the people they say they care about. There, that is my political statement.

But I have more to say in other ways, through my other writing, through all the books on my TBR and the ones I’ve read that become a picture on my IG. Perhaps this divorce from facebook will relieve me of the daily need to try to be relevant that I am seeing on some of the posts, on IG, on some reels that are seeking to be more and more entertaining. Folks want their IssaRae come up.

It isn’t for me anymore.

Perhaps it never was.

I won’t have to worry about some folks reading a post and running to tell my husband what I said - yes, that happened.  

I won’t have to worry about analyzing the current political climate and posting about it to get people to awaken from their stupor and decide to show up.

I won’t have to worry about checking in or not or whatever.

It is not a good space anymore for an INFJ+Empath. 

Whatever will come of our ways of engaging in the future, I hope they will be less consuming, less toxic, less voyeristic, less one-sided. Maybe actually meeting people in real life to talk about social-cultural-political issues and realizing that chatting over coffee is a much better way to be present for change.

Who knows.

I do know that I’m not sad about it. I let some folks know I’m not on the platform so they won’t think something happened to me.  I may go on and download my information mostly because it has been a capsule of my life for a decade - I just want the pictures I posted. Maybe I will do that scrapbook my daughter reminded me I used to really enjoy.

For now, this pending divorce seems final and complete. We just need to finalize the paperwork and go our separate ways.

If you are looking for me, see the bespectacled curly haired caramel honey colored lady with her custom pens and journals sipping a latte looking out over the ocean.


©2022. All Rights Reserved.