This Week’s Discovery

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My mother-in-law passed away in February of this year. Among the things she left behind, was her collection of books which I have been so eager to dive into. Now that all of her affairs have been settled, I plucked a book from the shelf by closing my eyes and grabbing the first book my hand landed on. It just happened to be The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace by The Dalai Lama. This is my “This Week’s Discovery.”

The book is 181 pages long and serves as an introduction to the idea of how to live life without suffering. It focuses on developing a disciplined mind by first recognizing that our minds are subject to ignorance, confusion, and misconception, all negative states of being. Then it shares the Buddhist approach to overcoming those things. I cannot go much further into any concepts or ideas right now as I’ve only completed Chapter 1 but it has been an inspiring read so far.

It’s fascinating to me that this book is the one that I came to because the question of how to live without negativity has been a prevailing question throughout my life. As of late, it has had a strangle-hold on my consciousness. The primary motivator of the negative emotions I experience these days, have a great deal to do with exposing myself to news media as well as social media. At times, it gets to be an obsession. When I feel the obsessiveness becoming too toxic, I am able to pull back from engagement and try to balance out the negative energy by seeking ways to positively connect with people or to share more positive, funny, and inspiring posts or articles. It’s important to be engaged with news and social media in order to stay informed, but it is a constant battle not to drown in the vitriol, gossip, and negativity.

As I read this book, my goal is to remain focused on the ideas presented because so far, what I’ve read has resonated with me in a positive way.

Now, I’m not of a religious nature. This means that I have no desire or compulsion to rep any religious order. I do believe; however, that my spirit, made up of a cycle of energy that governs my thoughts, has to be fed through a quest for understanding. I’m stating this here as a reminder to myself not to move beyond the pages of the book to seek out information on the person through which the resonating ideas have come. The ideas are what I’m interested in. Not the Dalai Lama. He is no more of a human being than I am. He is filled with as many good qualities and flaws as I am and it is too easy for me to allow human flaws block the ideas that could prove to be helpful in my life’s journey.

In closing, another wonderful discovery I made this past week is brevitymag.com! This site publishes 750 word essays by new and established writers. They also have a wordpress blog for writers to connect and share ideas.

This Week’s Discovery

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Each week I’ve decided to post something new that I’ve come across. It could be anything from a new concept or idea, to something more tangible like what I’ve chosen to share as my very first This Week’s Discovery. I hope you check out my discoveries and give me some feedback when you do.

This week’s wonderful discovery is Larry Wilmore’s “Black on the Air” podcast! I’ve missed Larry’s voice since his show was cancelled on Comedy Central leaving me to wonder why Tosh.0 seems to have an unnecessary lifetime engagement. Please pardon the digression.

Anyway, it’s nice to hear Larry’s distinct voice as he interviews various people like Ibihaj Muhammad, the Olympic Fencer, or engages in random discussions with someone who fills in for a guest who was MIA and who tries to take Larry down the conspiracy trail of  JFK and the moon landing. That episode reminded me of the many discussions with my son who is so thankful to be “woke” about the Illumanti and Valiant Thor, the alien from Venus who worked in the Petagon. What do you even do with discussions like that? I generally find myself poochie mouthed, furrow browed and looking at him in silence until he says, “What? You just want to stay sleep mom.”

For anyone who doesn’t know Larry Wilmore, I first became aware of him on The Daily Show during Jon Stewart’s reign. His title on the show was Senior Black Correspondent. He would come on to provide a humorous “black perspective,” as if there is such a thing, on news events involving black people. He then branched off with his own show on Comedy Central called The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore that followed The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was a nice lineup on Comedy Central. Unfortunately, the Nightly Show was cancelled shortly after Wilmore’s, and I have to keep it one hundred, painful to watch performance at the White House Correspondence Dinner in 2016. He doubled down on his lackluster jokes by closing with a “tribute” to President Barack Obama by saying, “I’m going to keep it one hundred, yo Barry, you did it my nigga.” I located the video specifically to quote him and I still cringe when I hear it. I’m not going to get into the reasons why I feel that to be horribly wrong because it’s just something that will live on as one of those moments of the Obama era and possibly the unfortunate end to a very good show. Even in light of making the decision to use that term, which he totally owns and probably doesn’t totally regret, I find Mr. Wilmore to be smart and of course fearless. He’s someone I’d love to be in  a room with and just talk about all of the latest political events of the day. He’s been resilient since the cancelation of his show. He has his executive producing hands in the brilliant “Insecure” with Issa Rae on HBO and helped to launch Black-Ish. Prior to those recent accomplishments, Mr. Wilmore had developed a long list of writing creds, including the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and In Living Color. The man is clearly talented and I’m so happy to be able to reconnect with him through his podcast.

Below is a picture of Larry Wilmore (Center) with my husband and our wonderful cousin Julie.

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Hysteria

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two apples on the board

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The time is now. Yet, we sit frozen, waiting for the monster to knock down the door. The moment that pulls us away from life today, into a tomorrow that makes yesterday a dream. Our ancestors know that feeling. We have that feeling in our DNA.

We hesitate from the speed and absurdity of it all. Which is reasonable, predictable, and why we will be overtaken and thrust into a world we thought we’d never know again.

It is not easy to decide to resist when uncertainty sets in. Information sources run 24-hours and have been made suspect. How seriously can one take a news source that reports on a missing plane as breaking news, for three months straight, and includes serious consideration of supernatural events and a black hole? Let alone a news source where 86% of the statements made in front of cameras are false or mostly false*?

The poor public, so far removed from being able to see for our own eyes. However, even when given the chance, the voices of fallacious debate builds cataracts. We wade through the chatter to determine the right thing to do. Ambivalence sets in or there is a hunkering down on one side or the other because someone said you must choose. Will it then become a matter of coming out on the other side with only your body intact or what’s left of it?

Yes, this writing is out of sheer hysteria. I am of the ilk who clings to words rather than guns when simmering in fear. We can come back from a misuse of words and I have no faith in any source to cause a finite ending of anyone.

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*Politifact.com

So You Want To Have A Baby?

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By S.R. Taliaferro

She was in her forties and had just gotten married, this former coworker of mine. When she returned from her honeymoon, we chatted about how lovely the wedding was and spent time looking at the beautiful photographs of the wonderful day. A short time into all of the gasps at the pictures of the bride and groom, she hit me with the news that she and her new husband were trying to have a baby.

I am not the one to spout off and rain on someone’s parade, but that does not keep my mind from internally screaming the question: Why?

Why, became even more resounding when she told me about her medical issues and the fertility process she was embarking upon. My internal angst about this probably showed through the frozen smile on my face but was only detectible by someone who knew me fairly well.

Why are people so adamant about having children? Is it vanity? Is it purely a biological compulsion? Is it a religious demand? Odd questions coming from a woman with six children, but it’s primarily because of having six children that I ask the questions. I know why I had mine and it wasn’t any of the above, or that I was dying to have children. Honestly, I don’t recall ever thinking about being a mother as I was growing up, except to bemoan, through tears, how I wouldn’t treat my children in such a way, after I had gotten a whipping for misbehaving.

A short time prior to when I started having children, my sister already had a child, and many of my cousins and peers were having children as well. In one conversation with my dad, he asked, “When are you going to have a baby?” I thought it was odd for him to ask that question, since I thought marriage should have been the first question. In hindsight, he most likely asked because it seemed that everyone else at the time was popping out kids without the benefit of marriage let alone any inkling of strong relationships. I had also turned down his offer to help me go to college. Those were the days when a good job was still in good supply with only a high school diploma.

Anyway, this question stuck in my mind and I began to second guess my own logic. I began to feel as though something was wrong with me since I didn’t have any thought of having children. Regardless of the fact that I wasn’t in a relationship and there was none on the horizon, the seed had been planted that I should be drawn to the light of making babies by any means necessary.

So, when I was caught in the web of a man, whose primary idea of women was that they were baby making machines, and that he wanted to ultimately have an army comprised of his seed, I was in the right place for such a warped mindset to take over my life for a considerable amount of time. It was a mindset that I allowed to impregnate me, in fact, seven times within eight years.

That started over 23 years ago, and resulted in a tumultuous divorce 11 years ago, that wound up being the most empowering thing of my life. Through that divorce, I learned huge lessons not only about myself, but the individuality of children. I learned what a monumental task and responsibility it truly is when one makes the decision to bring a life into this world, without consent mind you, then to attempt to rear the child up to be happy, loving, and a positive contributor to the world.

The rearing of children, is so huge, especially when your goal is to do it “right,” that I now wonder how the human race even goes on. How does this task not scare the living crap out of most people? Why do so many people go to such great lengths, like my co-worker, to have children? These questions might lead one to ask whether or not I even love my own children. The answer is that I most certainly do. It’s just not that smothering clingy kind of ownership love that I’ve seen many parents display. It’s a love that’s been guided to embrace who they are, purely as individuals, completely separate from me. It’s this separation that allows me to see the monumental task for what it really is.

In order to get away from the bliss of procreation and get to the nitty gritty of it, we have to start with the terminology. We say, “I want to have a baby.” This conjures up images of a cute little bundle of fat cheeks and squishy legs. A little being of sweetness whose only form of communication is a melodious gurgle of a cry that is easily quieted with a breast, a clean fresh bottom, or a gentle rock to sleep. We envision fluffy blankets, tiny booties for tiny feet, a snug bottom fitted into onesies, and the twinkling of music coming from a mobile positioned just above the baby for the child’s amusement. We may even think of late night feedings, and chuckle it away as a minor inconvenience to having the wonderful gift of an infant whose life is completely dependent upon the parent’s dutiful love and guidance. In return, is given what some laughably seem to interpret as unconditional love.

This imagery is quite an alluring thing. What I loved most about having a baby, was the way newborn babies smell like pepper around their necks. I could not get enough of nuzzling my nose into the necks of my little ones, and breathing in that wonderful fresh scent and the feel of the closeness of their little bodies. I have a smile on my face right now, as I reminisce about it. I’m even getting a little giddy about it all, but being the very present person that I am, I would not lose my mind and think that I need to go down that road again. Memories suffice just fine. But as you see, I actually do understand the compulsion of wanting a baby.

Babies are wonderful. It’s what they could possibly turn into for a whole host of reasons, that people should take a considerable pause. In fact, I would venture to say, that schools which embark upon having teens carry around baby dolls or eggs to discourage them from having babies, should actually figure out how to tether the little darlings to life sized thirteen year olds who they have to feed, clothe and help navigate through the changes of their bodies and minds. That is where the challenge begins. That is where the real deal awaits. That is why nobody ever says, “I want to have a thirteen year old!”

In those teen and young adult years, lies the measure of one’s fortitude as a parent and where the inevitable question, “why did I do this?” or some variation of that question, seep into one’s thoughts. The utter befuddlement of watching them bobble around in their lives, puff chested, with faux independence; demanding to make decisions when they can’t even decide to use the container of milk that is already opened in the refrigerator rather than opening another. A mild example, I assure you; however, the big to-do that a discussion surrounding this lack of basic awareness could bring about, is one that could raise the roof of any household.

Now, imagine dealing with such a developing mind if you’re fortunate enough to have selected a co-creator that is committed to you and the family versus the possibility of doing it alone. When you’re able to co-parent, there is at least the opportunity to share the insanity. However, there is a 50/50 chance that this endeavor would be a solo one, since 51% of single mothers are ether divorced, separated, or widowed, while the other 49% were never married in the first place. (Single Mother Guide) There is nobody for you to turn to, just to check to see if you’re the crazy one or if it is indeed the child, when his response to the question of why he stepped right over a fabric softener sheet lying on the floor instead of picking it up was, “Don’t nobody be looking down on the ground.”

More seriously, think about how to deal with drug and alcohol use and hanging around with the proverbial “wrong crowd” who are basically kids of similar mindset or situations as your child. Think about how you’re going to guide him or her down a good life path that is their own. This is more difficult if the child doesn’t gravitate to something he or she has a passion for before leaving high school. Once they leave high school without a plan, the issue becomes “grown folks” playing video games to pass the time in between waiting to hear back about one warehouse job or another.

I realize that deciding to become a parent is a very personal choice. I offer no advise one way or the other. But, what I do offer is the idea of the gravity of the decision. The understanding that it is not simply having a baby, but rather, an endeavor into the development of a human being. The most progressive yet regressive; creative yet destructive being on Earth. How will you ultimately fair with the challenges that come? I welcome all comments.

Not Right Now to the Career Switch Itch

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samechangeEvery now and then someone will ask me if I’d like to do something different for a living. Also, every now and then, I get the urge to peruse the most popular job search sites just to see what’s out there. It wouldn’t be natural if one didn’t wonder what career opportunities had been missed if they had only did this or that, or to wonder what the job landscape currently looks like. Bar my long-term goal of having a publishing contract for a collection of my own poetry, each time I think about a career change I generally end up reflecting on why I enjoy what I do so much.

Not a lot of people understand all of the interpersonal as well as technical skills that go into being a good word processing operator. A leader in an organization I worked for considered my job to be that of a typist. This showed not only that she was nearing retirement, but also showed her lack of knowledge regarding the technical expertise and interpersonal aspects that govern what word processing operators actually do.

A highly skilled word processing operator demonstrates a superior level of customer service abilities. He or she knows her role well enough to anticipate client needs even when the client isn’t 100% sure of what his or her needs are. A highly skilled word processing operator is astute in time management and is constantly working from an efficiency standpoint with a strong focus on accuracy. A highly skilled word processing operator is at an advanced level with all of the most popular business software applications. Being at the advanced level, you will find him or her sometimes stepping into a tech support role troubleshooting software problems for colleagues across an organization. If an organization has allowed the role of the word processing operator to organically grow, you will also find that a word processing operator can be quite excellent at project management and processes and procedures development and documentation.

I thoroughly enjoy all of those technical aspects of what I do, but nothing has benefitted me more than the customer service skills and philosophy that I’ve developed and strive to live by. During my employment with one of the leading tech startup law firms of the dot.com age, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a 2-day customer service training module through AchieveGlobal. My outlook on life as not only a service provider, but also as a wife, a parent, a co-worker, a colleague, a friend, all changed in such a wonderful way. If I had to sum up the training to its most basic principle it would be to always treat others as you want to be treated whether you are in the role of service provider or the role of customer in whatever type of interaction in which you are engaged. Always striving to be in the other person’s shoes has helped me navigate through some very tough customer service experiences toward successful outcomes. This outlook and ability is something that will always guide me through life and helps me maintain a balanced perspective on daily interactions.

While that might be a bit of Oprah Winfrey feel-good stuff, it’s nonetheless the truth about how I view my career as a word processing operator. It’s truly something that I enjoy and intend to continue to grow with and evolve toward whatever technology and business practices dictate. My role as a lead word processing operator will serve as a sound foundation for whatever the future holds, for whenever I decide to give in to the career switch itch.

Embrace Change and the Force Will Be With You

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Change In the SkyWe are coming to the final week of January. I haven’t made any resolutions, but the idea of change has been a resounding thought in my mind all month. This morning, I wondered why many people embrace making resolutions but seem to have a fear of change. After all, isn’t a resolution all about making a change? I guess the difference resides in the amount of control a person has in the process. A person deciding to make a change is one thing, when change is thrust upon them it is an altogether different thing.

Where I’ve encountered folks who exhibit the greatest fear of change is in the workplace, where many surrender to the status quo of how things have always been. Keeping up with new technology or figuring out more efficient and creative ways to use existing technology is something that some seem to find no time for. The thought, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” prevails, even when things are changing in various ways around them.

This can be fine for a while, but what I’ve learned from the time of MS Word’s crushing destruction of WordPerfect as the word processing software of choice to when I was one of thousands of folks in 2008 who found themselves looking for work due to business closures, is how imperative it is to make forced change work for you. The best ways I have learned to do that is 1) accept that change is inevitable, and 2) always embrace the opportunity to learn something knew.

Back in the days of WordPerfect, I was a Jedi Master of reveal codes. Reveal codes were little boxes of code that held all of the formatting properties. I made that software sing. Then along came MS Word and reveal codes were no more. I couldn’t wrap my brain around how I was supposed to process words without reveal codes! In my mind it wasn’t going to work and I dragged my feet into the training that they tried to loft me into. Fast-forward three months into the change, I remember thinking how much easier MS Word was than WordPerfect. Fast-forward to today, whenever I happen to come across a job posting where WordPerfect is a necessity I wonder why are they stuck in a time warp.

I learned a huge lesson from that experience. In the long run it prepared me for the layoff that I would go through in 2008. I went into that forced change with a great deal of confidence. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would secure employment. I had developed a work ethic that embraced the concept of lifetime learning at the forefront, which essentially gave me that confidence. I learned not to look at new technology or a change in process as a threat, but to see it as something else I can add to my repertoire. While I sent out hundreds of resumes that went into the black hole of the internet, within three months I was gainfully employed. This period of time was without much handwringing and stress because I was thoroughly confident in my skills.

Change is something we are always going through. It comes with the rotation of the earth and there’s not a darn thing anyone can do about it. Accepting that and embracing the idea of lifetime learning helps mitigate the fear of change when we have little to no control over things. You just might find that doors will open up for you when things appear pretty bleak.