And you can ask anyone who sees me on a regular basis, I, indeed, wear the same old shaggy (and wrinkled) dress, etc. day-in and day-out.
I also tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, even if I do cover it up often with a shawl of sulky silence. And it is when I am silently sulking, which I’ve most recently observed between the time of my previous post and this one, that I am charged by my higher self to try a little tenderness…toward whomever I’m blaming for ushering me into my sullen state.
At 33, I’m old enough – and dare I write, wise enough – to know that any emotion I feel is my choice to feel it. No matter the stimulus (however shitty said stimulus may be), my reaction is mine alone. I can blame whoever and whatever I want for making me feel the way I do, but as an 88 proof Taurean who knows that nobody and nothing can make me do shit, I am, then, compelled to point the finger of blame for my feelings of disdain at the woman in the mirror. Even still, even with her, I am pointing less and pondering more.
As a rule (or an observation, or a figment of my fallacious philosophy), we forgive others as easily as we forgive ourselves. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve traveled a long and winding road to forgive myself for my flaws. Hell, it’s been a trip just acknowledging them in the first place. So, you can imagine the toll that others have had to pay for the wrong turns they’ve made while on my warpath.
“Maybe it’s because I find it hard to forgive the follies and vices of others, or their offenses against me. My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” – Fitzwilliam Darcy
I thought I loved Elizabeth Bennett because I resembled her so. But, perhaps, the real reason that I love Lizzy is because I, more so, resemble Mr. Darcy.
Whether or not you know who the abovementioned people are (and whether or not you care), you and I must take care to remind ourselves – often – that forgiveness and tenderness must start with us before we can extend them to those we feel have wronged us. We can only give what we have.
If I have mercy on me, then I will have mercy on you. If have love for myself, then I will have love for you.
This formula may seem wrong in a world that tells us that others must, first, earn our mercy and love, and, then, make no mistakes in order to maintain them. But trust me, I know what I’m writing about. I am a wise 33 year old, remember?
Old enough to know better.
Young enough to not have yet mastered my knowledge.
“[He’s] never late/
[He’s] always on time/
Get ready for your miracle/
Move to the front of the line/
Today is your day/
Today is your day/
Today is your day/
Get ready, get ready, get ready/
You’re next in line for a miracle/”
– Pastor Shirley Caesar
Well, what did you expect?
I already stated – in my previous post – that I’ve been listening to Gospel music pretty much non-stop for the past couple of months or so. (Nothing salvages the heart of this savage beast like a good song about the Good News.) So, these days, you can expect Gospel music to be at the forefront of my mental soundtrack…and apparently, at the helm of this post.
That’s not to say that I’ve completely abandoned my temporal tunes, or my worldly ways, for that matter. (Hell no.) But what I will say is in keeping with not only the secular world, but it’s spiritual counterpart as well: “To everything, there is a season.”
As the current season shows itself in orange-colored leaves and the louder whispers of a chillier breeze, it shows itself to me as a time of viable change–in the air and in my account…my bank account, that is.
At the beginning of this year, I kicked my blog into low gear with a post about my low balance.
“Forty-six cents,” I sighed.
I stared at the numbers with a surprising level of nonchalance.
We’re back to this, are we? I thought.
To find out what “this” was, click here. To find out what this is, keep reading.
Almost nine months from the date that I posted about my impoverished life, I’ve given birth to a new one–one that consists of a consistent place to live, consistent schedules to work, and consistent paychecks deposited consistently into my account. (Hallelujah!)
No, my new life isn’t perfect, but it is better. And to sum it up adequately, brothers Bert and John Jacobs got it right when they pronounced, Life is Good.
This morning, as I spoke with a friend about the tumultuous terrain I traversed to arrive at this moment in time, I couldn’t help but shed tears of gratitude for the goodness of life. The joy and the pain that embedded every step of my journey welled up in my eyes and my throat as I talked about Mother Maui making me face and embrace my fears, and God and my angels making me lie down in green pastures while making my paths straight through those fears.
I was particularly choked up as I recounted the fearful circumstances surrounding my ordeal with the IRS earlier this year. For some reason, I shared this story on my Facebook and LinkedIn pages, but not here on my blog. Odd, but true. It’s also convenient. (Why reinvent the wheel when I’m already on a roll?)
I’ve experienced a number of miracles in my life, and I’m amazed to state that that number has seemingly doubled just within the 11 months that I’ve called Maui home. But this one, this IRS one…this one really takes the cake. And here’s a slice for you:
A lesson about the IRS and angels.
God will put you in the most unbelievably back-against-the-wall situation just to show you that not only can you survive it, but you can make it through to the other side.
On February 18, 2016, I sat down with a tax preparer and handed him my 2015 tax documents, fully expecting to receive a refund in return like I always have. But what I received instead was a piece of paper that stated that, this time, the IRS is expecting to receive funds from me.
My reaction? Tears. Ugly-cry tears.
First of all, I’ve never owed the IRS before and was terrified by the thought of it. Secondly, I did not have the amount that I owed anywhere near my bank account. In fact, I barely had enough to pay the tax preparer what I owed him for telling me what I owed the IRS.
True, I was working two part-time jobs. But both jobs, at the same damn time, were dropping my work hours like Oprah is dropping pounds. (Heeey, Oprah. Looking good, Girl!) Anyway, I was devastated. And I spent much of the last two months devastated.
No, money did not fall out of the sky – or my parents’ pockets – into my lap like manna from heaven. No, I didn’t make the acquaintance of a sugar-daddy who pledged to give me the desires of my wallet. No Disney, Pixar or DreamWorks plot-twist came to fruition.
But what did come was a very small and very still voice inside of me that said, “Just try.”
So, with tears in my eyes and a tear in my heart the size of…of…something big, I tried to save up the large amount that I owed the IRS – in two months – and still live in one of the most expensive states in the U.S. Honey, I cried and tried, and tried and cried.
But God (!) stationed angels around me, and while I was crying and trying and trying and crying, these angels fed me FREE food, clothed me with FREE clothes, and gave me FREE shelter to lay my head.
As a result of these angelic beings and my scrimping and saving, on yesterday, April 18, 2016, I wrote a check to the IRS for the full amount that I owed. (Today, April 19, 2016, I got paid so I’m able to actually cover that check.) In any case, God is good, I am good, it’s all good.
Alas! My emotions have been on bleak and, as a result, my Facebook fingers have been on fire.
Not only have I been wearing my weary heart on my sleeve, but I’ve also showcased it on my Facebook News Feed–so much so, that a couple of days ago, in order to contain my fiery feelings (and retain some of my dignity), I felt I was due a self-imposed sabbatical from my social media mouthpiece.
My emotions were bubbling so close to the surface that if I had not taken action soon, y’all would’ve soon known all my little business. And like Liz Gilbert says, “this is a story that I am living, not a story that I am telling.” (Not yet, anyway.)
So, to prevent me from becoming my own Gossip Girl, I uninstalled my phone’s Facebook app and stayed clear of the site on my phone and my laptop for Two. Whole. DAYS.
Now, I’m not saying I’m a Facebook fiend, though, I can see how one could arrive at such a conclusion given my “Two. Whole. DAYS.” bit.Nevertheless, I can also see the – many – holes in my daily routine that Facebook used to fill. For the last 48 hours, however, those “holes” have been filled with questions, tears, rants and prayers…and a lot of Gospel music. I may not have attended a church service in almost a year, but best believe, I know from whence cometh my help.
In the past two days, I’ve also been reminded to seek help from a good book whose wise lessons I had almost forgotten…that I had written. No, it hasn’t been credited with saving souls from eternal damnation, but it can damn-sure help you (and I) save your (and my) sanity in these last, single days.
Lesson 5: Being single is not the end of the world—really, it isn’t.
When I was in college, I read a magazine article in which a prominent businesswoman was interviewed. Though the interviewer asked the woman many questions, there is only one piece of dialogue from that entire interview that has stayed with me.
Interviewer: “Looking back on your life, what are some things that you wish you would have done differently?”
Interviewee: “I wish I would have stayed single longer.”
Upon reading the woman’s response, my eyes widened immediately. I scanned her words several times to make sure that I read them correctly. I couldn’t believe that she had said what she said. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that any woman would have ever said what she said. Why would a woman want to stay single any longer than she had to? I wondered. At that time in my life, it seemed like every single girl I knew, including myself, couldn’t wait to find the man of her dreams, get married, and live happily ever after.
You:So, what was her reasoning for wishing she had stayed single longer?
Me:She wished she had stayed single longer in order to take more time to get to know herself before the labels of “wife” and “mom” were added to her plate.
I was stunned by the woman’s admission. In all my head-smart/heart-dumb years leading up to the point of reading that article, I don’t think I ever saw being single as something to be cherished. On the contrary, I saw being single as punishment. I believed that not having a boyfriend meant that I was ugly and not good enough to be loved, whereas having a boyfriend meant that I was beautiful and loved. So, with this belief, I looked to guys to validate my beauty and self-worth.
I still remember when I, as a head-smart/heart-dumb pre-teen girl, demanded to know from my mother the exact age at which I would be allowed to have a boyfriend. I also remember how fiercely annoyed I was by her answer. “Thirty?” I repeated in disgust. Of course, the answer that I wanted to hear was somewhere between 13 and 13 ½. I was experiencing such intense emotions at that time in my life – as is natural – that I wanted to make the most of those emotions right then and there, not wait for what seemed like a 100 years for 30 to come around. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I began to understand why my mother thought that it was such an appropriate age to pursue the prospect of having a boyfriend.
You:What’s so special about 30?
Me:I realized that the closer I came to 30, the closer I came to understanding who I am.
Though I believe that people’s perspectives and tastes can adapt to the different circumstances we face in life, I also believe that we each have a core part of who we are that remains constant, despite the various changes that life throws our way. This core part of who we are houses how we fundamentally feel and think about things. As I approached 30, I began to understand that there are certain thoughts and feelings that I have that are a part of who I am.
Generally speaking, during the early part of our lives, we are very concerned about being liked and accepted by other people. We tend to downplay or hide aspects of ourselves that are not considered favorable by the people whose acceptance we seek and, instead, play up or invent qualities within ourselves that those people do find favorable. This scenario is frequently seen in dating situations and even in relationships when a guy or girl pretends to like things that they really don’t like, or behaves in a manner that is not their usual behavior just to impress or gain approval from the person he or she is dating or in a relationship with. Though we may be able to maintain this charade for a little while, as time goes on, this task grows more difficult due to the core part of ourselves consistently bubbling to the surface, revealing pieces of who we really are.
Juggling who we really are and the false person we present ourselves as to others is a tiresome game, to say the least. Nevertheless, this is a game that I have played many times in an attempt to win the affections of a guy by saying and doing things that did not reflect my true thoughts and feelings. But for me, the older I got, the more tired I became of pretending to be someone that I’m not just to impress or gain approval from someone else, particularly a guy. What’s more, I’ve found that my annoyance toward pretending to be someone that I’m not has actually spurred on my acceptance of who I really am. And I think it’s when we’re at a place of self-acceptance that we are genuinely ready to accept someone else into our lives.
You:Is time the only way to get to a place of self-acceptance?
Me:Time is important, but there’s also homework that one can do to get there—self-homework.
Several years ago, I asked a friend for some advice about a guy that I was interested in. I told her that I really liked this guy, but I wasn’t sure if I should pursue my interest in him. My friend answered my question, though not with a “yes” or “no.” Instead, she told me how important it was for me to figure myself out before I tried to figure out this guy’s potential role in my life.
Her response came as a shock to me. I thought I did have myself figured out. After all, I was myself. But she explained that figuring yourself out – or, understanding who you are – isn’t just about knowing trivia-like facts about yourself, like your hobbies, career objectives, and favorite color; it’s about having a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. My friend told me that it was important that I know what makes me cry, what makes me happy, what makes me angry, and so on. She suggested that I take a detailed inventory of the things that make me uniquely me, and examine what makes me do what I do; in other words, investigate the core part of me—how I fundamentally felt and thought about things. She said after I did this, then I would be in a better position to determine how or if the guy could fit into my life.
Me:I didn’t listen to her.
I decided to pursue the guy without having done my self-homework first. Though I acknowledged that my friend’s advice was good, I wanted a speedy solution. I thought that if I spent time examining myself the way she suggested, it would take too long and the guy would lose interest in me and take off. Adding to my need for speed was my desire to receive the guy’s validation of my beauty and self-worth. I was so keen on getting his OK that I ended up placing a higher value on what he thought of me than what I thought – or understood – about myself.
During the course of my pursuing him, I noticed myself acting in ways and saying things just to gain his approval. For much of that time, I felt uncomfortable and at odds with who I was; although, I had a terrible time diagnosing those feelings of imbalance because – as I stated before – I hadn’t taken the time to fully figure out who I was. At one point, I even told him that I loved him, which I now know was just an attempt to hear “I love you too,” as proof of his validation. As you may have guessed, the final outcome of this pursuit was dismal, to say the least. However, since this failed pursuit and similar failed pursuits that followed, I’ve learned to review my thoughts and feelings on a regular basis in order to monitor whether or not what I’m saying and doing is true to the core part of who I am.
The takeaway from this lesson:Pursue yourself, and love will follow.
As a single head-smart/heart-dumb girl, I spent a lot of time and energy pursuing guys in the hope of finding love and validation. It took me a long time to learn that the only way for me to really feel loved and validated was for me to love and validate myself. That’s why my pursuits of guys failed; I was looking outside of myself for things that I first had to recognize within me. Thus, in order for me to feel the love and validation that I so truly desired, I had to change my focus from pursuing guys to pursuing myself.
Being single gives you a clear path to pursuing yourself; you have the freedom to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings, and really get to know who you are. In reference to the woman from the interview mentioned earlier in the lesson, when the labels of “wife” and “mom” – and even “girlfriend” – are added to your plate, your freedom to pursue yourself is relatively limited. Although it’s possible – and important – for you to pursue who you are while wearing these labels, you will function better in these roles if you go into them already knowing, loving and validating yourself—a practice that you can develop while you’re single. Therefore, being single is not punishment; rather, being single is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of who you are. And understanding who you are is the foundation for building a loving relationship with yourself as well as someone else.
I recently found myself on the receiving end of such a series of queries. And to the surprise of my jaded sensibility, I answered said queries in the affirmative. As in:
“Yes, you may take me out tonight.”
Or some variation of that.
Maybe it’s Maui. Maybe it’s the go-with-the-flow attitude that seems to arise from every crevice of this island. Maybe it was his gentlemanly demeanor. Maybe it was my being cooped up with Algebra and adolescents for the past six weeks.
Whatever it was, it was enough to make mesay yes.
And from saying yes to that experience and to that person, and very-well enjoying both, I’ve decided to – wait, let me steady my jadedness – say “yes” more. Not to everything and not to everyone, mind you, but to more things and more…ones. The next one, in fact, that I plan to abide is me.
For those of you who are new to this website and/or new to me, allow me to introduce you to…me.
I am Stephanie. I like to write…except when my head is filled with Algebra; in which case, I like to take a two-month break from writing. When my head is Algebra-free, I like to write about me. My growth. My pains. My story of head-smart/heart-dumb girl recovery.
Hmm? What’s that you say?
“What in the actual world is ‘head-smart/heart-dumb girl recovery’?”
Well, friends, if you know what growth is and you know what pain is, then you’re almost there. (To fill in any remaining blanks, click here.)
So, now that you know more about me, it’s now my turn to get to know more about me. Yes, I’ve got a date…with myself.
You see, along my road of head-smart/heart-dumb girl recovery, I’ve learned the other golden rule: I’ve got to treat myself the way that I want to be treated by someone else.
If I want someone else to respect me, then I’ve got to respect myself. If I want someone else to love me, then I’ve got to love myself. If I want someone else to treat me to dinner and a show, then, by God, I’ve got to treat myself to dinner and show!
I think it’s safe to say that Maui has completely obliterated my comfort zone.
In addition to the bus, my other mode of transportation these days are leaps of faith. From one steadfast fear to another, I’ve leapt again and again; and looking back to where I started this journey six months ago, it’s amazing to see just how much ground I’ve covered.
I’d like to think that, by now, I passed Maui’s hazing test and can now leap less and luxuriate more. Alas…
…based on today, I don’t think so.
Or maybe, just maybe, the goal of all this fear-raising rigmarole is to teach me how to luxuriate within the leaps. How to face my fears with finesse. How to – it’s trite, but apparently true – go with the flow.
Ugh. (I meant, yay.)
And maybe, just maybe, I’m also learning that my true comfort zone is much bigger than I once envisioned; and that the bigger my comfort zone is, the harder it is for me fear. Not that I’m completely fearless, but I do fear less.
I’ve never felt so amazed and so in awe and so pissed and so impatient and so determined and so doubtful and so courageous and so fearful in…my…life.
Tomorrow will mark five (5) months since my most recent arrival on the “Valley Isle.” Hmph, the Valley Isle; how appropriate.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [and debt–college loan debt, credit card debt, IRS debt], I will fear…” EVERYTHING.
“…Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff [and my friends, acquaintances, co-workers, Facebook News Feed] they comfort me.”
Have you ever held your breath without realizing it?
Have you ever lived your life without actually living it?
For the past several months, I have felt like the walking dead–going through the motions of living without really doing so.
You: “But you’re living on Maui?!”
Me: “And your point?”
I’ve never seen a more idyllic locale with more drug addicts. I’ve never witnessed a more utopian place with more people living from paycheck to welfare check to no check. I’ve never encountered a more paradoxical paradise. Granted, the pictures that you see on the postcards are real. But what’s also real is what they do not show.
Visiting Maui is very different than living on Maui.
(But you probably could’ve guessed that from visiting vs. living wherever you are. Maui is no exception.)
Maui is also no exception to the Law of Attraction. Focus on the extreme amount of lack on this island and you will experience it firsthand. I can testify to that. Similarly, focus on the extreme amount of wealth on this island and…well, I’m still waiting to be able to testify to that.
As I wait, however, I am no longer holding my breath.
We were in the living room of the hostel where we both had been staying – i.e. living – for months, catching up with each other while sitting on the couch–the first couch in six days, in fact, that had not also served as my bed.
Many people come to Maui to surf. I, apparently, came to couch-surf.
I also, apparently, came to learn. If life is just a classroom, then this month has been AP calculus. (And it’s only the 17th?!)
“So, what’s been up with you?” she asked.
“Life is a series of coming to the edge of a cliff, peaking over, not seeing a net, jumping anyway and hoping that you’ll either fly or be caught on the way down,” I answered.
(That’s how I respond to “What’s been up with you?”)
“Yep,” my friend nodded knowingly.
(That’s why she’s my friend.)
At that moment, I was not ready to divulge the details of how I arrived at my answer. Nor am I ready to share that information with you now. But I will…later…most likely in the form of something that rhymes with “a look.” (Hint, hint.)
In the meantime, let this post be a PSA that I am safe, sleeping in an actual bed, righteous, and being miraculously fed…on $1.71.