Greetings fellow Americans,
Three weeks ago we all received a shocking and historical blow. While the election is over, many fellow citizens are bemoaning the fact that this actually happened and "the Donald" pulled this off. It is time we stopped being shocked and instead start moving towards some action.
Here are my ten ways to survive in our new world order.
1. Stop bitching-Start a Revolution. I saw this on a bumper sticker some years ago and never forgot it. Probably because it's true. The time for belly aching is over. What we need are powerful people to build powerful coalitions and fight like hell to make sure we don't regress as humans. We also need powerful people who can actually listen to and be with people and their pain.
2. Make sure that all of your finances are in order. Moving beyond just paying bills and living paycheck to paycheck, it is important that we invest, understand what money can and can't do and plan for our future. So many of us are waiting for the government to save us/ bail us out and yet we turn a blind eye to their stellar record of handling money. No folks, we have to make sure all life insurance policies, wills, trusts and power of attorney paperwork is filed.
3. Pull your loved ones in closer and begin to work towards creating new and stronger alliances with people who are vastly different than you. For example, watch the great film , Lorenzo's Oil. In it the white female middle class mom unties with poor people of color in an effort to create and sustain change. When the world gets crazy, it is imperative that we get more sane.
4. Start obsessively reading and watching the fine print. Whether a written piece or a ridiculous talking head, task yourself to question, scrutinize and challenge. In the past 18 months, I've seen more tom foolery and hijinks than ever. Television interviews and news sources just love a good comeuppance and my god have we had our share of it this last year. Fine print in the written word is somewhat easier to spot. Incidentally, feel free to use this time to bone up on your vocabulary because mark my word, we are getting ready to see a whole lot of name changing, i.e. high falutin' code switching designed to confuse and immobilize many of our citizens.
5. Get all travel documents in order. For those of us who have done international traveling, make sure those passports are current. As a black gay man, I know that understanding and acceptance can be eliminated in a blink of an eye with awful repercussions. While it is wonderful and brave to stay and fight, let's not be the idiot refusing to cover all bases as opposed to hoping that good people will stand up when it counts and that humans eventually do the right thing.
6. Do you speak one language? Two? Three? As Americans, myself included, we are notoriously arrogant in our refusal to learn about other cultures and languages. With this new world order, it is wise to start learning Spanish, a language spoken by more than a third of the world's population. As comrades in struggle, we must join forces with a community that has largely been dismissed and overlooked. By joining with our Latino brothers and sisters we have the opportunity to harness the same power that made a Trump victory possible. We organize around people whose voices have been systematically squelched. Scared, voiceless people in serious pain can be a scary and misguided group. Scared, voiceless people who are self directed with a united voice can move mountains.
7. Figure out what the hell the Electoral College is so that we can either improve or eliminate it. I have no idea what it is, how it works or why in the entire hell it only seems to elect Republicans. It requires further examination and a firm commitment to making sure things work for everyone (all Americans).
8. Pray. Pray for courage and wisdom. The wisdom to know what to do and the courage to actually do it. It is easy to hand wring and fret. Be bold and take the right action.
9. Get a sense of humor and know that every loudmouth idiot has his day. Keep in mind that anybody over 40 has seen these type of shenanigans before. There are those of us who've lived through not one but two Bush Administrations and of course the one who promised to save us (Clinton Administration); he served us with Don't Ask Don't Tell and a failed war on crime/drugs with the lovely and highly effective "Three Strikes Rule". Humor helps with all this crazy shit. I live in the great state of California and when I arrived in 2008, the governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was our governor. Personally, I've always felt many folks liked him being in office because they could mispronounce his name Schwarzenigger and get away with it. Californians had no problem allowing a man with no previous knowledge or political experience to run our state. An out of work actor decides to throw his hat in the political ring and no one objects. I can't be held responsible. It happened before I arrived. The big question remains- what the frig are we gonna do now? Do you resist with angst riddled protests and demands for justice that quickly burn us out? Or do we say this shit is f#$@ and let's find something comedic that joins us as a nation and provides a way out of this mess?
10. Strive for personal and professional excellence. In a world of mediocrity and feeble minded individuals, it is time to buck up and smarten up. We're going to need everyone of us in this battle and no excuses.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its brilliant creator, Joss Whedon, brought a blonde female super hero into our living room on Tuesdays for six incredible seasons.
I initially balked at the idea of this young girl saving the world; I decided to take it on as my guilty pleasure once it hit syndication in the fall of 2001.
Besides all of the snappy one liners, cute outfits, butt kicking and hot boyfriends, this show spoke to me about the human condition in a very specific way.
Given the responsibility to save the world, she dealt with the worst in human beings in the worst environment ever: high school.
She is required to keep her identity a secret (hazards of the job)and navigate two extremes (high school and preventing the world's destruction by battling the forces of evil) without them intersecting.
When the series ended: she had battled a bazillion bad guys, stopped umpteen apocalypses and died twice.
She took care of friends, dealt with her own self doubt and raised a teenage sister.
It was the final season that really catapulted me into the rabid fan I am today.
In one episode she states: "We will seek out our darkest, biggest fears and face them".
Fast forward seven years and I am broke as hell, with no job and sleeping on a friends floor (21st Century version of homelessness).
On more than one occasion, I would remember a powerful line from the show to get me going and inspire myself to keep on pushing.
I love saying that Joss Whedon inspired me and gave me insight (via a fictional world) that all things are possible. I could go on about how the writing was so great or the character development was outstanding and why his fireplace should be overflowing with Emmys.
Instead, I choose to focus on what I learned from this show.
Joss Whedon allowed us to look for and expect power in all the forgotten and dismissed places in the world.
Whedon forced me to push past the limits of my imagination while viewing Buffy's weekly trials and allowed me to use this in my real life crises of finding work and a stable living environment.
Remembering that many people did not appreciate nor understand Buffy yet greatly needed her thinking and muscle to save them, I reminded myself that although people didn't see my gifts that didn't mean they were nonexistent.
When I was told fifty times in one day that I had no marketable skills, I fought back (using the chutzpah gleaned via Buffy Summers) by sharing my skill set and why it was significant.
I requested assistance (from the 50th person I spoke to that day) in learning the new verbiage that would allow me to be heard and my skills seen.
In a huge battle scene with a formidable and seemingly unstoppable foe, Buffy remembers her greatness and takes on the beast with these wonderful words: I always find a way.
After some time, all of the Buffyisms and hard work paid off.
I landed a great job that I took from part time to full time with benefits in less than a year, moved into a condo , bought a car and met a wonderful man who I eventually married.
Surviving and thriving despite adversity takes dedication and an unwavering sense of your own power and abilities.
Surviving and thriving forces us to dig into our inner resources (courage, perseverance and determination) and change the course of our lives.
Make this your motto: I always find a way.
During our lives, we will meet several people. Some of these folks we will know a lifetime. Some folks will be around for a good time and then dash when the first sign of trouble presents itself.
I have had several acquaintances and very few true friends.
True friends can save your life or at least make it bearable. I have laughed often with true friends. Cried with true friends about being misunderstood, lonely or scared.
At my recent wedding, I was able to bask in the love and support of many people.
I was able to identify the ones who were there for a good time, to see the house or simply to see two men get married and kiss.
Whatever the reason people decided to attend the event, it was quite an event.
Currently, I am examining all of the relationships in my life and asking myself some serious questions.
Am I at my best in this relationship ? Is this person bringing me their best and demanding that I do the same?
Often times we find ourselves ourselves in relationships of convenience. Relationships that suck the life out of us and are welcome distractions that move us into more nothingness and wasted time and life energy.
I have had many of these and most of them have been in the context of intimate interactions.
My recent obsession with true relationships and true love (which is one in the same to me) came to a head when I married.
Want to ferret out real love : drastically change the dynamic of a well defined relationship and watch the fur fly. People feign love for another and yet no vital and powerful test of their relationship has ever occurred.
It is easy to declare love when you are never challenged.
Because we are human beings, we have shit that is most unattractive and will emerge when given the correct environment to flourish.
Try to get emotionally close to someone and everyone's abandonment and "not enoughness" will appear in some interesting guises and in people you thought you knew.
Share your darkest hour and prepare for upset, anger, dismissal and in some rare and troubling instances, outright meanness and thoughtlessness.
This is the most frightening and exciting thing about interaction with other humans.
As an individual who is always pushing towards his own and the world's evolution, it is embarrassing to admit that there have been times when my envy and jealousy allowed me to go "on the attack".
While this was not my finest hour, I have learned that no one is above attacking another if change, abandonment or scarcity is afoot.
We all fear change.
We construct relationships on predictability. Things get real wacky when people get healthy, change the game or simply change the game's rules.
Many of us are assigned labels and characteristics at birth.
Several of us carry these ridiculous and arbitrarily assigned ways of being into the world and our adult lives. As a person committed to protean and relentless growth, I am often moving from one thing to another.
I look for the next opportunity to fail and or win big.
It takes a powerful warrior friend to walk with you as you explore all that life has to offer or allow your curiosity to lead you to the scary and unpredictable. Some folks only like it when you are fucked up, confused and emotionally stuck.
Having fought my way back from homelessness, joblessness, financial disaster and abusive relationships with cute sociopaths, I have witnessed the investment people (sometimes)make in the misery of "friends".
People that I thought were friends have said awful things with the underlying tone of "stay in your place ass wipe".
These are not friends or at the very least a confused friend who would rather not have things change. We must realize that we all have the capacity to fear and fight like the dickens to prevent change. We must realize that change is inevitable and is not the problem.
How we negotiate and respond to change is the most powerful and positive response when things and people begin shifting identities.
We must learn to welcome the new and not offer punishments to anyone who has the balls to dig deep and demand more from themselves and the world. Applauding and supporting the efforts of those we claim to love is the highest honor, a true and bold testament to what we think and want for the ones we hold close.
It (true friendship) demands that we honor all commitments and not simply flap our gums about what our friendships mean to us.
Black Men and depression have had an interesting relationship.
We are not socialized to psychological and emotionally see men.
Many of our behaviors people wrongly assume is just maleness asserted itself. Many of our behaviors people mislabel as men being men. Violent, moody, silent and unresponsive. We simple chalk it up to a gender deficiency and move on.
When we simplify a problem by assigning it to a particular portion of humanity , we miss important opportunities to change not only men but young boys as well.
Black Men are hurting.
Men have worlds of pain inside that come from not dealing with a multitude of failures covering everything from parenting to career choices and silent complicity with a status quo that none of us created but are expected to uphold.
I was an emotional wreck when I lost my favorite Uncle almost twenty years ago. I am not sure if any other men in my family had the same reaction.
His death is never discussed.
When we are not allowed to properly grieve, we simply perform in ways that leave us resentful, angry and entitled to any small piece of joy that we can steal.
As black men we must demand optimal emotional health( bell hooks). There must be space created for us to weep, grieve, discuss past disappointments. I have noticed when men approach any discussion regarding failing or an obvious shortcoming is not a conversation that any one wants to have.
In all recovery, there comes a time when the choice must be made that the unknown is more important than the fucked up familiar.
Ten years ago, I suffered a major breakup and the most severe depression I'd ever experienced in my life.
Five years into a relationship that I assumed would last another 50, we broke up and both realized we would never change the other.
I was devastated.
Having spent so much time as a couple, I no longer remembered what it felt or looked like to think and behave as a single person. I leapt into the seductive and licentious world of casual and anonymous sex.
Being in this world was an addiction.
Being in this world allowed me to be seen, to be a part of a community, to experiment with emotional death and levels of sexual experimentation that kept loneliness out while inviting alternate realities in.
In this world, I could invent new personas and rely on wit, charm and an ever changing parade of bodies to quiet the voices of shame (for not succeeding in my most recent relationship) and the constant barrage of "not enough".
If someone was willing to fuck me, I must be enough.
During this dark time, many friends stayed away.
It appears that black male pain is shocking, unjustifiable and should remain unseen.
While there are no textbook responses to how this (pain which leads to crippling depression if left untreated and unrecognized) should be managed and or eliminated, I have a few ideas that worked well for me.
If a person has just been through a death ( a serious relationship qualifies), this is not the time to give them space no matter what they say.
Run the risk of being labeled pushy or a busy body.
What black men need is someone to let them know that they matter.
Simply say: you matter to me and I am concerned about your behavior and choice making.
Another way might involve just being in the same space.
Men rarely ask for what we need emotionally.
We ask for more money in interviews and more sex from whomever we're with currently.
We don't ask for recognition or more emotional and psychological intimacy.
We hit the brakes when it is time to request the thing that will make our lives better and improve our relationships with ourselves.
We don't ask for what we need. We become resentful and angry when our primary needs go unnoticed and yet refuse to share the fact that we have them.
Black Men ask for what you need. Friends and communities listen and respond well without interruption, direction or poorly thought out solutions.
When I began writing Unfettered Mind: The Importance of Black Male Mental Health, I was unaware of the need for mental health tools and the denial by many that this was not an issue that needed to be addressed. HIV, unemployment, cripplingly low self esteem and a host of other issues menace black men in very particular and unrelenting ways.
This short interview encourages us to have a "new look" at things and offers strategies for increasing self esteem, self love and self acceptance. My goal in writing these essays is to bring focus and awareness to the root causes(radical examination and upheaval) of our suffering and offer suggestions to eliminate it. Feel free to let me know what you think.
Being unemployed sucks and the longer it drags on the worse you feel.
One of the first things to fade away long before the onslaught of dwindling self esteem is the way time misbehaves.
Time and its limits are understood by those with jobs, appointments and meetings.
When there is nothing that needs your immediate attention or response one day might as well be the same as another.
Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday ? Does it really matter ?
At some point, all of the days run together and nothing matters anymore.
The first thirty days post getting sacked can feel like a summer vacation.
One month of this is fun and we can convince ourselves that it will all end soon. When month two , three and four begins , things can start to look very hopeless.
When my third month rolled around and there were no savings, no income and no unemployment insurance rolling in, I began to legitimately panic.
With loads of time on my hands, nothing to do and nowhere to be I made a timely and costly mistake.
I foolishly reentered a relationship that was as hopeless as my bank account.
This relationship would ease as bit of the loneliness (or so I thought) and the uncertainty that accompanies being unemployed.
Why did I do it ?
Fear and an intolerance for uncertainty.
If I'd just trusted myself a bit more and held out a bit longer, things would have turned out very differently.
My impatience led to making some dumb decisions and prevented me from looking at what had gotten me to this point and what I could do to gain a new set of skills and preserve my sanity.
Many times in life we are presented with opportunities.
We are then required to say yes or no. Iyanla Vanzant mentioned this in a video I recently viewed. Being obsessed with the power of choice, I have begun looking at what occurs in my life when I respond to people, events, opportunities with a vigorous, heartfelt, maybe.
Going against what I knew to be true by wavering in my thinking or acting because I didn't want to offend or upset another has always left me fucked up, confused and ultimately mad at myself.
Dating a lunatic for four months that I fed, housed and constantly needed to emotionally corral was four months of one maybe after another.
If I could get him to stop drinking then maybe we could have a relationship.
If I could get him out of the house of a former lover who possibly, maybe had an interest in him, maybe we would have a shot at a decent relationship.
If I could get him to get a job, stop being racist, realize that he was in some serious medical danger, maybe we could move forward and actually begin to create a real relationship.
Maybes are designed to screw you up and over. Maybes are always extremely difficult to change and challenge.
A better way to live is to remind our constantly chattering minds that we have two choices that create wonderful results.
There have been times when I have been beyond clear.
Acting on this gut level intuition, my decisions and the results have been incredible,brave, productive and self esteem raising.
I have never regretted a yes or no response to anything in my life.
So many of us at one time or another have failed to make this simple and effective choice (yes or no) instead opting for the abyss that is the world of maybe.
My regrets have come from the passive and stultifying maybe that always comes back to menace and shame me in one way or another.
If I make a decision to do a certain thing, give it some thought, gather more information then go in another direction this is considered bold and powerful.
If I make a yes or no decision, then decide to waiver in the land of "maybe", I am considered weak and spineless in my own eyes and the eyes of those who love and care for me.
How do I prevent the constant doubt that accompanies maybe and the uncertainty it brings ?
I consult my gut collect and review information and then make a decision.
Maybe is not an option.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time explaining my thoughts,dreams and behavior.
Many of my artistic friends are brilliant,creative,hungry and driven.
The first time I heard Whitney Houston sing, I was mesmerized.