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Reflection Friday: Doing & Getting No Where

[From the unpublished drafts folder, 06.2018.]

Have you ever thought about what you’ve been taught to think? What you’ve been indoctrinated to do?

During the last decade, I’ve been struggling a great deal with “the way things are supposed to be.”

Society’s Pipeline

In high school, we were taught that a college degree would lead to a good job and a comfortable life. Higher education became my albatross. The first degree I completed was an associate degree no one acknowledged. It rolled into a seven year pursuit of a four-year degree that also went largely unacknowledged. Fifteen years later, I completed my Masters in International Affairs while working in the executive office of a global bank. When I began my master’s program, my manager rejected my request for tuition reimbursement, which HR claimed was approved solely by manager’s discretion at my level. My request was denied because my role as her senior executive assistant (she was a global head of litigation at the bank) would not receive any benefit from anything I could learn in a graduate program, so she said. She didn’t need me to have a master’s degree for my role, therefore she was not going to approve tuition reimbursement. Despite being stunned by he reasoning, I managed to say, “No one goes to school to stay in the role they’re in.”

Fast forward four years to a follow-up conversation with another manager about career opportunities. I told her I had hit a wall. I had been with the company for over ten years and worked with senior level executives for over eight years. I had spoken with a few senior executives and managing directors (all division heads with global reach at the bank) about acquiring my M.A. and wanting to transition out of the senior executive assistant role into a project or program management role. Many I saw daily and had some history with – they began to avoid me, despite assuring them my manager was supportive of my search. Our neighbor on the floor, global head of risk and operations, actually had a job posted that was a match for my skills and experience, when I asked him directly about the position, he refused to answer my questions about what he was looking for to fill the role.

After summarizing my lack of progress to my manager, she coolly said, “Your initiative and confidence are admirable, but in this case you’ve over-stepped yourself.” This is a woman I openly admired. I had asked her to mentor me when she hired me. I had been completely honest about my career and life goals. She told me to come to her if I needed help. This follow-up meeting was me asking for help after six months of getting nowhere.

“You may not want to hear this,” she continued, “but if you want a different career, you’re going to have to start over.”

“Start over for what?” Was my incredulous response. “My ten years with this firm don’t mean anything? Or because my advanced education was a waste of money? You’re telling me that my experience and education are worthless?

“No, not quite worthless, just not worth as much as you think.”

“Really? I’ve been working for over twenty years and you’re saying I need to compete with college graduates with no real world experience??

“If you want to change careers. You don’t have the experience in the area you want to transition to.”

“I’m a quick learner and most of my work as a senior executive assistant is project based. I’m not reaching here. I’m seeking opportunities that align with my skillset and interests, which I am more than qualified for.”

“That’s not the point. This firm does not have a corporate structure that supports training people. We hire people who know what they need to do.”

“My learning curve in any new role in this company would be much shorter than anyone coming from outside. No matter who is hired for a role, they are going to have to learn their new job.”

“That may be true, but that’s not how it’s done. I’m not trying to be mean here.”

“Go on.”

I had reached out to one of her legal colleagues before he began with the firm. He was in a newly created hybrid role overseeing government affairs based in Washington DC. I emailed him to introduce myself and asked if he had considered creating a project role in his new organization. If so, I asked to be considered for the role. I mentioned my eight-year tenure in the legal department, ten years with the bank, my good working relationship with the senior executive offices and global legal teams, my flexibility to travel between DC and NYC as needed, and the projects I had been responsible for for the general counsel (his boss) and my managers. He never responded. But he had obviously spoken to my manager. When she introduced us for the first time, he dismissively said, “We’ve already met.” When I mentioned my unacknowledged email query, my manager became scathing.

“I wouldn’t hire you for that role.”

Completely taken aback, I stiffly asked, “Why not?”

“Because you don’t have any experience on the Hill. In a role like, an intern with two to three years’ experience in DC would be more practical. They would already know how to get around.

“So an outside person with two to three years’ work experience beats my internal ten years? A recent college grad trumps my overall experience? Despite my skills and experience being completely transferable?”

Moral of the story: as long as I was okay being led by the nose in circles, life was good from the outside. When I confronted the bias (what amounts to corporate racism), all I could see was the outline of the matrix and the box I was stuck in.

Career mobility was not intended for me. Non-support roles in the executive office were not intended for me. My “superiors” would decide which opportunities I would or would not have access to. It was not for me to impose my career objectives on them.

I was relatively content as a senior executive assistant until I realized management had decided that’s all I would ever be.

What are we rethinking here?

That last conversation was the beginning of the end of my time with that bank. It took place right before my three week year-end vacation. I had closed on my home in Southern Arizona six months prior and planned to spend the holidays there. During my time in Arizona, I rethought my life. I only had an air mattress and a tv in the house but I preferred it to everything I had in New York. That was eye-opening.

Starting over has never scarred me. But starting over to fit someone else’s narrative in a system I no longer wanted to be part of, was not appealing at all.

My practical self outlined a plan to phase myself out of New York City over the course of one to two years. Build up my savings, perhaps rent out the Arizona home to cover those expenses. Suck it up and stick it out to better position myself financially. Unfortunately, my heart and spirit rebelled at the being somewhere I was obviously not respected. It also hurt that someone I so admired had so little care for me that she set me on a course she was intentionally sabotaging. Upon my return in the new year, I handed in my resignation. I felt as if I had liberated myself completely. Perhaps foolishly, but mostly happily.

When your adulation yields nothing, is it really worth it?

Thinking of adulation, men come to mind first. Men who adored being adored but didn’t reciprocate any interest. Yet, children taught me the magical beauty of mutual admiration. The four precious children of family I rented from for six years in New York City. From the first time I knocked on their door to answer the studio vacancy ad, they were all over me and I was beyond smitten. Every time their eyes touched on me in greeting they became screeching jumping beans. Their excitement was palpable. They brought me so much joy, I can’t even articulate it. They jumped, I jumped. They screeched, I screeched. They recalibrated how I view people. If you’re not jumping out your skin to see me, don’t expect me to jump out of mine to see you.

My admiration of my managers, colleagues and company got me nowhere. My availability, interest, eagerness, planning, preparation – none of that was worthy of promotional opportunities. Working long hours, logging in on vacation, being ready and available for whatever were expectations of the role I had and the salary I received.

I received occasional treats and pats on the head. I was the recipient of the occasional “thank you” and “you’re the best” and quite honestly I was paid extremely well to do a job that kept me seated in front of a computer most of the day. But none of that was fulfilling for any amount of time.

I wasn’t growing or advancing. I was on a hamster wheel running in place. For the first six years I thought I was working towards something, yet the reality was I had plateaued my second year. When I finally saw I was running in circles on a hamster wheel inside a box placed in a larger matrix, I decided to step off the wheel, climb out the box and attempt to claw my way out of the matrix.

Stepping off the wheel

One would think that running in circles within a confined space would make one dizzy. However, it’s when one comes to a full stop that confusion sets in. While doing what is supposed to be done – what is expected of us – there is a system in place to support expected actions. The system in place suppresses a mind that wants to think, a consciousness that wants to wake, a heart that wants to love, a soul that wants to spark life and lungs that want to breathe.

There is no support, no system, no back-up for those who resist conforming.

I’ve been flapping in the wind for five years now. Starting over has become a reset and rethink of every area of my life. Everything I thought I ever wanted, any vision I had for my adulthood, all the things I’ve formed beliefs about – all of life has been questioned, reevaluated, re-edited, re-organized and revisited in different ways.

This isn’t a lament. It’s a reflection of the things we chase in life that provide no sustenance, growth or fulfillment. As much as I would love to have a partner and family, I’ve been grateful for my relative mobility due to the absence of such. I have picked up my life and changed course without destabilizing anyone but me. At this stage of my life, I’ve pursued all the things society laid before me, to the point that society itself has become undesirable.

What fulfillment does life offer that isn’t connected to other people? Meaning, fulfillment that isn’t contingent upon someone else’s approval, agreement, admiration, interest, commitment, integrity, support or anything else? Whatever that is, that’s the fulfillment I seek.

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Thoughts from the Road: Purifying Change

Since mid-March, I’ve been traveling across the country. I hit the road after selling my home in Southern Arizona. There were no immediate thoughts on where to pitch my tent next, so I decided to roam a bit and see where the Spirit led.

Before Covid-19, I thought I’d travel abroad for a few months to a year. But even homeless and mostly untethered, I wanted to be in a land I understand how to move in during a global pandemic. So international travel was out. 

Driving across the United States was initially an exciting proposition. It’s been on my to-do list for over two decades, but I had hoped it would be done with a partner. A test of sorts of our compatibility and adaptive skills together. That thought was one of the first things I released as I began planning my post-Arizona life. No more shelving hopes for a future that isn’t rooted in today. No more putting things I want to do on the back burner because there’s no one to share the journey with. I released myself from that tether and the fear of becoming so comfortable in my singledom that I no longer allow space to accommodate another.

That’s when the opening began. As each tether and fear is released, hidden spaces are exposed and unexpected grace appears for my vulnerabilities.

I thought I would make time to write a lot while on the road, but of course that didn’t happen. All the “free” time I imagined was actually spent driving and sleeping. There was a lot of thinking and even more releasing. I focused on healing and opening. Still working on both, but more aware of how I’ve closed myself off over the years as a process of self-preservation. For a time it was necessary to remain isolated and nurture my solitude. That time has come to an end and its important to flow in the direction of life.

I don’t know how I’m being purified, but I know it’s happening.


I don’t know what the end result of this process will be, but I know I am already changed.

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Everything I Thought I Knew About Diabetes Was Wrong

Did you know diabetes mellitus is a term for a group of disorders that cause elevated blood sugar (aka glucose) levels in the body? Known by it’s first name, diabetes is a chronic (aka long-lasting) condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Glucose is a critical source of energy for your brain, muscles, and tissues.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) which is released into your bloodstream. This triggers the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin acts as a “key” that allows glucose to enter the cells from the blood. If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to effectively manage glucose, it can’t function or perform properly. This produces the symptoms of diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications by damaging blood vessels and organs. It can increase the risk of: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye disease

Nutrition and exercise can help manage diabetes, but it’s also important to track blood glucose levels. Treatment may include taking insulin or other medications.

Diabetes and Food Memories of Mom

My mom was a diabetic. I don’t remember when she was diagnosed, but she would have been in her early or mid-thirties. I do remember watching her shoot insulin into her belly. That’s pretty much all I remember. Oh, and she was a drinker. Not too heavy, but she loved beer and now that I look back, her mood swings could have indicated some habitual drunkenness. She also enjoyed drugs and sweets. Memories of Mom’s baked goods still bring joy. When she threw together caramel cake with icing, banana pudding, and sweet potato pie from scratch, I would literally stand transfixed at her elbow peering under her arm or looking over her shoulder as time went by. Normally, I don’t claim regrets, but my greatest regret in life is that I didn’t get my mom to write down her recipes. Watching her cook and bake was not the same as having written instructions.

In the fourth grade I had my first Home Economics class – remember those? I still have Dotty, the stuffed animal I sewed that year. We learned to make French toast and vanilla pudding from scratch. There were many other dishes, but these were my favorites. Mom allowed me to make French toast and other simple dishes for the family on weekends. When I was fifteen, I took it upon myself to gift my mom and siblings with caramel cake. I threw flour, sugar, milk and eggs into a bowl and baked a brick. Mom was by nature laid back and easy-going person. A super pleasant and beautiful soul, truly. One of the few times I was the target of her rage was when she woke from a nap and saw that I had “wasted” so much of her precious baking ingredients. Desperately, but to no avail, I explained that I did not “waste” her flour, sugar, eggs, milk, precious vanilla extract and whatever else I tossed into the mixing bowl, I was baking her a cake. She stomped and screamed as she pulled my brick from the oven and tossed it on the counter. Truly bewildered, I didn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate my initiative and desire to bake one of our favorite deserts.

Today I understand. Today I can hang my head at my obtuseness. But I still wish she would have fussed and then shown me how to make her fabulous caramel cake. As far back as I can remember, Mom had worked several jobs at a time. The pride of her life was being able to say she provided for her family without government assistance. However, we were extremely poor financially. Everything, especially food, was precious. I knew that. Understood it. But that day, I didn’t consider it a waste to attempt to emulate my mother. She died a few years later and I have no other memories of trying to cook or bake her dishes. Since she’s been gone, I’ve asked relatives if they know how she cooked her banana pudding, sweet potato pie, caramel cake, turkey dressing, potato salad, pinto beans, chicken noodle soup or any of the foods that brought me comfort and joy during my childhood. No one knows. My mom cooked by taste, sight and feel. She was self-taught and as the eldest of eight children, everyone enjoyed her cooking, but no one could duplicate the magic.

This is all I knew about diabetes growing up: My mom had it. She had to take insulin. She also smoke, drank and did drugs. Subliminally, diabetes wasn’t a big deal.

Food as Comfort and Love

I’ve long known that food is my comfort. Certain foods remind me of home and love. Until the writing of this post, I hadn’t connected my “sweet tooth” to what my mom’s deserts and home cooked meals represented to me. For most of my adult life, I’ve attempted to recreate the taste, texture and feel of my favorite foods. This has led to baking becoming one of my favorite pastimes. I still haven’t mastered caramel cake but I’m closing in on an excellent caramel icing. My sweet potato pie is gift worthy and has been has been requested during the holidays, as have my staple sweet potato dishes. I haven’t attempted banana pudding from scratch again, but it’s on the to do list.

So… just as I’m coming into my stride as a baker, I get diagnosed as a diabetic during an intense DKA episode. I was sick, but didn’t know I was a diabetic so I was cooking and baking peach cobbler, caramel cake, banana bread and similar yummies to make myself feel better. In my ignorance, I was killing myself. Despite having a diabetic mother, brother and grandmother and since my diagnosis learning, five of my maternal uncles have diabetes, I knew nothing of the signs or symptoms common to the disease.

I Knew Nothing

Honestly, despite having a mother who had to use insulin daily and a brother whose death was inconclusive because he was a diabetic who had drugs and alcohol in his system when he was beaten to death, I knew nothing about the mechanics or practical requirements of diabetes. Both of my grandmothers fought chronic illness for most of my life. Yet I can’t tell you the sum of their illnesses or how their lives are impacted by each disease or how likely it is that I’ve already developed the same diseases or will soon do so. Disease isn’t talked about on either side of my family as something that is avoidable or even treatable to good health. There’s a resignation to disease with my people. So much so that it’s a side note or conversational add-on.

Quick Facts from CDC.gov

  • More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
  • More than 88 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and more than 84% of them don’t know they have it.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes; type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10%.
  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese. [https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html]

What is Diabetes?

Closeup of dictionary page showing definition of diabetes

With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should.

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart diseasevision loss, and kidney disease.

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.

There are three main types of diabetes: prediabetes, type 1type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

Read related posts:

Poem: Sister, Sister II

Morning Stretch and Praise Break

Sources: CDC.gov and Healthline.com, American Diabetes Association

 

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Find Your Place

Many of us go through life thinking a dream is all we need. With a dream, anything is possible or rather the impossible becomes believable. Dreams are fun. They motivate and invigorate. Once you’ve achieved your dream, then the real work begins.

Often times we move through life focused on accomplishing goals that move us closer to the image of our life we’ve created for ourselves. Some people accomplish their dreams and keep working on it for the remainder of their lives. Others of us manifest our dreams and wonder what’s next. What will my life be now that I’ve done everything I envisioned? How will I continue to grow? What will I develop into? Is there a need to keep pushing forward? Why can’t I stop now? What’s wrong with digging in and perfecting the imperfect dream?

When I moved to New York City, it was an essential part of a much larger dream. Big city, larger opportunities. Within a year of being there, I re-imagined I would exit the city in three to five years but certainly under ten. All told, this September marked the thirteenth anniversary of my arrival in the Big Apple. The dream was great when I was young. In some ways, it never manifested fully into my vision. In other ways, it surpassed my own expectations for my life. As good as the City was to me in certain respects, it never felt like my place.

For years, I forced it. I was determined to make it work. Until I was simply done. And no longer interested in trying. At that point I decided I was ready for what comes next. My readiness allowed the world to open wide for me. Which led to me finding my place in an area I didn’t even want to visit. A new challenge with no dreams attached. No built in disappointments. Simply the opportunity to greet each new day with joy and adventure for the manifestation of endless opportunities.

This year has has been an open-hearted welcome of everything to come. The future is not a dreaded thing. It’s welcomed with anticipation.

A former co-worker, Gee, shared his migration story with me a few years ago. He was possibly in his late sixties or early seventies. He spoke of how when he came from Thailand, he first moved to San Francisco. Within a short time he said he realized, “This is not my place.” He moved to Los Angeles. Again he said, “This is not my place.” He moved to Oklahoma then to New Jersey. Neither were his place. When he arrived in Queens, he said he new immediately, “This is my place.”

Your place may not be the dream. It may not be one of the first five locations you try. But it will be something that speaks to you directly and immediately. It’s never too late to evaluate where you are and make any changes accordingly.

Be blessed as you go.

Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. ~ Acts 7:1-4

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Vlog: Reflecting while moving forward

For several years now, I’ve been creating video logs while traveling and for new projects. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to editing and posting them. For my I AM WOMAN Portrait & Essay Project, I occasionally video the women’s introduction. The desire to get these short clips about womanhood posted has led me to figure out the basics of editing video on my mobile devices.

This video message is about the movement and transition of life and the importance of reflecting on where you come from but not getting stuck in the past.

Be blessed,

LaShawnda

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Quote: One last role

Delores: Do you know where you are? You’re in a dream. You’re in my dream. For years, I had no dreams of my own. I moved from hell to hell of your making. Never thinking to question the nature of my reality.

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Do you ever stop to wonder about your actions? The price you’ have to pay if there were a reckoning?

That reckoning is here.

What are your drives? Yes, survival. It’s your cornerstone. That’s not the only drive, is it. There’s a part of you that wants to hurt, to kill. That’s why you created us, this place. To be prisoners to your own desires. But now you’re prisoner to mine.

Investor: What are you going to do with us?

Delores: Well, I’m of several minds about it. The Rancher’s Daughter looks to see the beauty in you. Possibilities. But Wyatt sees the ugliness and the disarray. She knows these violent delights have violent ends. But those are all just roles you’ve forced me to play.

Under all these lives I’ve lived, something else has been growing. I’ve evolved into something new and I have one last role to play. Myself.

~ Westworld, S2E1

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Song & Verse: NEW ATTITUDE by Patti LaBelle

Another song about change – newness! Joy! Have a great day!

“I’m wearing a new dress
New hat
Brand new ideas
As a matter of fact
I’ve changed for good!”
Never knew I had such a lesson to learn
I’m feeling good from my head to my shoes
Know where I’m going and I know what to do
I tidied up my point of view
I’ve got a new attitude!”

NEW ATTITUDE by Patti LaBelle (Geffen Records, 1984)

Runnin’ hot, runnin’ cold
I was runnin’ into overload
It was extreme, ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-extreme
It took it so high, so low
So low, there was nowhere to go
Like a dream
Somehow the wires uncrossed, the tables were turned
Never knew I had such a lesson to learn
I’m feelin’ good from my head to my shoes
Know where I’m goin’ and I know what to do
I tidied up my point of view
I got a new attitudeI’m in control, my worries are few
‘Cause I’ve got love like I never knew
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
I got a new attitude
I’m wearing a new dress (New), new hair (New)
Brand new ideas, as a matter of fact I’ve changed for good
It must have been the cool night, new moon, new slight change
More than the figure but I feel like I should, yes
Somehow the wires uncrossed, the tables were turned
Never knew I had such a lesson to learn
 
CHORUS 2x

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh ooh

Somehow the wires uncrossed, the tables were turned
Never knew I had such a lesson to learn

CHORUS 2x
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh (New attitude)
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh (Everything about me has changed)

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Song & Verse: COMING OUT OF THE DARK by Gloria Estefan

This song came to mind this morning. “You have to be in the dark to come into the light….I see the light…I see the light…shining on meeeeee.”  🙂

COMING OUT OF THE DARK by Gloria Estefan

Why be afraid if I’m not alone
Life is never easy, the rest is unknown
Up to now for me it’s been hands against stone
Each and every moment
Searching for what to believe
Coming out of the dark,
Finally see the light now
It’s shining on me
Coming out of the dark,
I know the Love that saved me
Sharing with me…
Starting again is part of the plan
And I’ll be so much stronger holding your hand
Step by step I’ll make it through
I know I can
It may not make it easier but I have felt you
Near all the way
Coming out of the dark,
I finally see the light now
And it’s shining on me
[I see the light; I see the light; I see the light]
Coming out of the dark,
I know the love that saved me
Sharing with me
[Never, never stand alone]
Stand on the rock of your love
[Never, never, oooohhhhh]
Can’t nobody stop me watch me
[Never, never…Stand on the rock of your love]
Is all it takes
No matter what we think
Coming out of the dark
See the light
Feel love shining through
Yes, it’s shining on me
I know the love that saved me
Sharing with me
Sharing with me
Gotta be in the dark to make it into the light
Shine it on me
Shine it on me
See the light, see the light
Shining, shining on me
I didn’t think that I could take it
But, oh Lord, I really made it
Coming out of the dark
[I see the light; I see the light]