Individuals have power, too—not just gods

Far too many times people use (g)God(s) or religion as a crutch more than as a springboard.

Owning up to one’s prowess and greatness takes courage. Dr. Cornell West maintains that it takes courage “to love,” “to have faith,” “to hope,” and other such actions and held beliefs (Terence Blanchard’s Choices, “Winding Roads”). Well, not being afraid and realizing the power within takes courage, too.

Responsibility is often a burden that, at times, people do not want to carry—such obligation(s) can be stunting or debilitating through pressure. Distress is paralyzing; eustress, galvanizing. It’s not shocking that an outlet, a reprieve of sorts, is looked for in the form of another being not human; but it’s unfortunate when own strength is disregarded as a reward from the same outside entity and not acknowledged as inner power.

The aim here is not to strip away anyone’s faith nor question their beliefs but to renew the confidence of self; to regain the shining light that resides on the inside, allowing it to spread forth from within.

There are issues that can be overcome if looked at after one has witnessed her reflection in the mirror, looked past the limits of her flesh, into the eyes of her mind and at the spirit of the skills she possesses, taking stock of her accomplishments lined up with her goals’ placeholders. It can be a scary revelation, but one that causes exhalation.

In Sacred Cows, Nikki Giovanni touches upon the lack of ownership of success by young Black folks, especially men. She speaks on the deteriorated Black “leadership” who’ve managed to inculcate their followers into believing the White man owns them, is the true driver of their success (or failures). This was succinct and annoyed me. Not her words, but the truth behind them, because it fits perfectly in line with my beliefs of the ills of the world: no one takes their own strength for truth, for what it’s worth—always someone (White man) or an idea or entity (God/gods) that receive credit. I push against it, preemptively and as a reactionary tactic.

If by continuing to spread the gospel of individuality, i lose good favor in the eyes of an assumed existence of divinity or an entity greater than myself concerned with the trivial daily inner-workings of man, then so be it; i feel it a necessary loss to encourage and push fellow humans forward and toward their own greatness, utilizing what’s truly within already.

not too long ago i had a paltry $3.11 to my name

The week of August 9th 2010, I had $3.11 in my bank account. My savings accounts totaled around the same. The bills in my pocket were a tad over $10, and my business account was a goose egg. I was a financial mess. And it’s not like i was unemployed or was stuck in a mediocre, under-paying gig; i was, unfortunately like many of my peers, foolish beyond belief, possibly more so than them.

See, i have an issue with moderation: i totally eschew the constraints of possessing discipline, i’m a firm believer and practitioner of indulgence. It’s a form of my OverZealous-ness.

I vowed—and i will admit that it wasn’t the first time—to never allow that to happen again. It was embarrassing. I broke that vow—innumerable amounts of times.

Even before writing this, i asked myself, “What’s different this time? Why am i putting my foot down? And why so confident?” The answer was quite simple: i was getting too old for the financial foolishness and irresponsibility. During that tumultuos week, i happened to read a candid article by then Congressmen hopeful, Kevin Powell, entitled My Financial Life — and Yours, too. It was apropos to my dire straits; a wake up call to the ambitious, twenty-something within.

It all sounded good in my head … and on the sticky notes … and on the texts i sent my (then) girlfriend … and blah blah blah. Yet, regardless of the words written above—the audacity, confidence and proclamation of absolute resolve—it sure wasn’t easy, i’ll tell you.

Two months had passed, and i was back in the same predicament—albeit worse. For proof, look below at the screenshot of my bank accounts. Pitiful. I couldn’t even order a very inexpensive, used book on Amazon, even with my free two-day shipping (courtesy of Prime). And, that book was required reading for class, too! That was rock-bottom for me—or, at least i thought it was. I was already clawing, trying to slow the descent down the mountain of financial woe, and although i began to get my footing and balance, i fell to the floor nonetheless.

The hits to my accounts weren’t the worse bit, though. It was the repeated, utter personal embarrassment that rattled me the most. I continued to shake my head and berate myself, not understanding where i (continued!) to go wrong. Why was i so foolish? The adage goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Heck, i was shameful on both counts—time and time again over the years.

All Ancient Greek heroes suffered from harmartia or a fatal flaw. Although mine was not tragic, pride and exulted vanity wouldn’t allow me to seek assistance from others in my self-inflicted predicament. I wouldn’t even speak candidly on my situation. Not until months later. Not until now, honestly.

During April, i re-read one of my favorite books, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, which changed my 19-year-old life, and would assist me, interestingly enough, seven years later. One thing that came from Johnson’s memoir was his admission that as a youngster he didn’t know how to save; he never had a reference point or shining example to show him the ropes, either. We both shared financial ineptitude, lacking the ability of spendthrift. We were a mess—and something had to give for each of us.

Throughout the beginning of 2011, i was doing all right. Up until around April that is, when i took my first trip to Nawlins (boy, do i love that city!). It began my borrowing binges. I was lucky enough, or, as my mother would say, blessed, to have a great, great friend in Nigel who throughout the year bailed me out by at least a stack, as well as finding frequent financial buoyancy from both my parents and even my little brother, a telling sign that things weren’t right. I even needed to borrow against my retirement accounts in the form of a loan–not smart.

I want to begin 2012 with more monies in my accounts at the end of January than last year. It may be difficult, however, since i’m always trying to do everything with whatever funds i have, and that is the problem: i never leave any buffer—it’s all or nothing with me. There goes that moderation problem again.

Eventually, though, through much trial and error, i will figure this out, i think. Or, i just need to make more money. Eh, even then, i know what will happen: i will spend it. It’s a wondrously subversive, perpetual cycle. I gotta keep reminding myself of the paths taken, to re-read my posts more often, to constantly keep the foolishness at the forefront. This is the first time i’ve read and tweaked this in about six months—it was time.

Two-thousand and eleven has been an interesting year—one of growth, malignant and benign. I’ve been able to recognize the ailments, but for some reason i have not been able to utilize any aliments to rectify the situation. I have ideas, but nothing concrete, nothing that i want to truly acknowledge, at least. I’ll touch more upon that, will go more in-depth in the search for acceptance in a forthcoming book review (of sorts) of a book that spoke to me greatly. I’ll reference this post when i do.

Rain down encouragement or chastisement. I deserve the latter, at least. Here’s to a more improved and focused 2012. It just might by our last year (if you believe in such foolishness).

Wish me luck. Peace.

my life in 365 days

Directly inspired by Ev’Yan and her “my life in 365 days” post, i’ve decided i want to try taking a photo … every day … for a year.

It’s tempting to think it’s easy, but as a person who’s attempted (and “completed”) several poetry 30-in-30s (at least one poem every day for 30 consecutive days), i know better. The fuel to do so and excitement is there for the first couple days. But then life happens. A procrastinated assignment here; a sick dog there. Next thing you know, you’re behind by three days, forced to cheat by writing seven poems in a few hours, hoping no one notices. But, someone will; and that someone is yourself, the most important person at that.

Anyway, I am interested in doing this mainly because i love snapping photos and it reminds me of Andy Warhol. About three years ago, after reading Warhol’s Diaries, a massive tome chronicling the seminal author’s quasi-daily activities, including photos, food receipts and other ephemera, i was inspired to chronicle as much of the tidbits, important and mundane, of my life. I succeeded for maybe six months, but eventually ran out of steam. I still keep it up to this day, though entries over the past year have been for maybe two or three consecutive days, but then nothing for five or so months. My dedication and remembering to do so has been paltry at best.

I think this 365 photo project plus little blurb (but knowing me, it’ll be some a long-winded memo) will give me a refreshed spirit and resolve to chronicle my life.

And, I think i might have a strategy for this test of habit endurance and dedication: create a daily calendar event in my phone. Now, to figure out what time of day would work best. I’m not a morning person, so right when i wake up won’t work. Maybe lunchtime. Yeah, that sounds like a good time.

Wish me luck!

essential ingredients to breaking and forming habits

We all have habits. Some good. Some not so good. Some downright terrible.

It’s an accepted rule that habits take 21 consecutive days (three weeks) to form—or to break. Knowledge is power, so they say, so let’s use that power to make or break some habits.

To begin, it’s best to take a few minutes to think about habits we have—all of them. The good and the bad should be acknowledged.

Now, write them down. We can separate them into categories if desired, such as good, bad, and terrible. For the bad and terrible habits, think about and write down what you’ll gain once these habits are broken. Does it allow for more time for other, productive tasks? Or are you a workaholic lacking time to relax and relieve stress? Will breaking this habit free up time to be with family or loved ones?

Jot it all down. One or two sentences at most is recommended so you can quickly glance at them all later on. This can be hand-written or a note on the computer. Whatever is comfortable. Important thing is that you will see it daily.

I’m a believer in getting the small or “easier” things done first, and since all habits take the same time to make or break, working on breaking “easier” habits first is the best idea in my opinion. This way we’ll know it’s not as difficult as we thought, and will also give us positive reenforcement (encouragement) to work on other habits. You’ll notice you feel good after knocking off a habit or two. Dopamine is released after accomplishments or productivity—think of it like the “gold stars” from elementary school. That’s what i do.

Choosing the first habit to break is next.

Remember: the first 72 hours will be the most difficult, especially if it’s a bad habit we attempt to break during a Friday to Monday (the weekend).

This is typically because many of us have little to no structure on weekends. Without work to keep us busy or having tasks to focus on, we can lose sight and motivation to stick with the habit-breaking.

But don’t be discouraged.

The weekend may be the best time depending on our schedules. We may need the leisure time to actually unwind and take a few hours off to relax. Finding time to unwind, to decompress for 2-3 hours daily could be a habit we’re attempting to form. Everything is relative and on an individual basis.

The most important step now is to keep track of our progress. Whether we use a physical calendar with dates or a whiteboard, it’s vital we mark down in some way each consecutive day we complete in our habit-breaking.

And, after a measley 21 days, we will be better, more productive (or less stressed) people!

I hope this was useful. Give it a try and let me know how it works out.

Stay focused on breaking and forming habits!

finding that writing sweet spot

Everyone is capable of writing.

I think many people are under the impression that there’s a secret code to doing so, some sort of arcane practice or rite of passage they must go through first.

Nope.

You just need to find that writing sweet spot, that place where you feel most comfortable—and the medium that works for you.

For me, depending on what i’m writing, be it a poem or random thought or idea or notes on a book, i have a different location and medium for each. Well, usually. Sometimes, they all criss-cross and overlap; but i’ve figured out what works best for me, specifically for blogging.

Since i’m on the move more than not, i tend to use one of two digital mediums the most: the trusty BlackBerry’s MemoPad, which gets the brunt of the workload, usually poems and journal/diary entries, and on the MacBook (TextEdit).

When i’m home or at my job, i write things of various length and subjects on a PC, sticky notes (which end up plastered on my office and home walls), and in several Moleskine notebooks (usually personal stuff).

When it comes to writing for my blog, i find it very difficult—it really feels impossible, actually—to do so on anything but my MacBook. I’m not too sure what it is. It’s weird.

Being a Millenial probably has something to do with it: the smaller stature, digital medium feels closer to a physical notebook or pad. Any traditional writer understands the feeling of pen on pad, embracing and shunning ink stains on their fingers. With the MacBook (or maybe an iPad, has anyone tried?), it’s the perfect meshing of old school notebook size with software and hardware.

When i’m home sitting in front of my PC, which is primarily used for my graphic and web design projects, and i attempt to write a blog post, i lose focus and any motivation to write. The larger LCD monitors aren’t as intimate, they seem daunting, like some monolith i’m trying to overcome.

However, once i open my MacBook, i feel comfortable, at ease, and I’m ready to write. Everything flows. I can write blog posts or journal entries, papers or poems on it. The smaller screen allows for a tunnel vision of sorts—with a lack of visual real estate to distract me, i’m able to focus on the task.

As of right now, i have about two dozen blog posts in draft form. When i saw that number on the LCD, i became overwhelmed. It just seemed like so much. Now, though, on this smaller laptop screen, i’m not hit with a feeling of dread, but am able to take a breath and tackle some posts. I hope to have a few more finished by the end of day, so i can get back on my schedule of five posts a week.

I hope others can find their writing sweet spot:

Discover that perfect bean bag position for your butt, grab that netbook or iPhone and fire up Documents to Go or bust out your Bic Velocity Gel (0.7mm) pens and legal-ruled notepad.

Regardless of what you use, make sure you start writing!