Thursday, May 29, 2008

Even With My Issues

I once read a book by Dr Wanda Turner titled, Even With My Issues, and it was enlightening. A book of self realisation and if you haven’t worked it out from the title, it is a self-help book. I have to admit it was a pretty good book.

I liked it. In its simple delivery, it was honest, unapologetic and true to itself. And if you are honest with yourself about your issues you will find that we all have issues but the key is to know what they are and work on them one at a time. It could be that you over-eat or sleep when you ought to be awake pursuing the dream.

You don’t have to tell me but be honest with yourself. Trust me I have mine to deal with. I’m happy to listen and share, and together we can grow but I would never impose on any one. I have done too much of that in the past and it only got me into unnecessary trouble.

Before I deviate further from my mission today, recently, I have been struggling with a particular challenge. It is affecting a few things right now, especially my studies and I have been under a considerable amount of stress lately. As a woman of African descent with the full understanding that we have cultures, traditions and beliefs about what you tell and don’t tell others about yourself.

Believe me, I’m not one for sharing my challenges with the world either. In fact, some of my closest friends don’t even know what I am about to share on this page. It isn’t that I don’t want them to know. I just feel its best if I don't make an issue of it.

I was raised to always smile even when you are dying, no one needs to know. Forgive me but I have to admit that I agree with that mindset to a certain degree.

Now before you get all judgemental. Hear me out. Why share your challenges and troubles with individuals who are neither the cause nor solution to your problem. If they have no significant role to play, then it is none of their business.

Here it is, I am a young woman living with a medical condition. I won’t share the details with you because you have no right to know. If I change my mind tomorrow, I will let you know. I respect Kirsten Dunst for letting the world know she struggles with depression. That takes guts and kudos to her. I respect the young man dying of leukaemia, yet, he is using the platform of his blogpage to help others.

I respect individuals who bring a voice and attention to any medical challenge that society needs to pay attention to. If Magic Johnson didn’t tell the world he was HIV positive when he did, the attention it garnered would have never taken place. People would have never woken up to the fact that HIV is not a disease from Africa or a poor man’s disease. It is a respecter of no one and it can happen to anyone.

Magic did so much coming forward and I respect him everyday for that because he didn’t give up. He has fought all the way and from where I am standing; he is a fulfilled man.

Back to me, when I am ready to let you know I will but this is the point I am trying to make and don’t get it confused. It remains uncontested that our medical records is indeed one of the most private things we have a right to. It is no one else’s business.

I chose not to share mine because it doesn’t matter. It is what it is, life and my personal little challenge. The beauty of it is that I never let it dictate the pace of my life. There are good days and there are bad days. There are teary days also. Today for example because I was overwhelmed by it but the good days are better than the bad days.

I picked up my newspaper this evening and found out presidential hopefuls in the US have to let the world know about their state of health. Obama, was today, declared healthy and fit by his doctor. McCain has also been said to be healthy and Hilary is yet to reveal her medical records.

Surprise is not the word to use. This is the first US presidential election I have followed closely and I am learning new things everyday. However, I can understand why they have to let the world know they are healthy. After all, if you want to be my president, I need to know you will last the four years you have been elected to lead.

This brings me to the point where I ask, who really has a right to know those issues we struggle with? Don’t get me wrong. I am not ashamed of my challenge. To be honest, I am so proud of the fact that despite all I have to deal with I still have a zest for life. If anything, it has made me so passionate about life that every minute counts. I’m living and loving, learning to be me and no obstacle can stop me because nothing can stop me. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you, B is crazy. She does things she knows she should think about twice or has no business doing.

I only ever tell those who need to know because of my safety or for the purpose of work and education. I remember when I was at Uni and had to tell my lecturers. It helped a lot because they understood why I was missing from class or could not meet a deadline or needed a deferral. It also meant they understood when I slept off during a lecture or seminar, and didn't pick on me because I could not help the situation. Yet, I completed my degree.

Even with my postgrad right now, the sitaution is the same. I look so drunk when I get home, all I can summon strenght to do is take off my shoes and hit my bed.

Recently, I had to fill in a job application form and there was a question about any personal or ethical challenges you may have faced and how you dealt with it. After much consideration I used my medical condition as one of the most challenging things I have faced in life and was quick to explain how I have dealt with it to date. Low and behold, I have an interview with one of the world’s most respected newspapers very soon. Now I don’t know if that was appealing to them but it was a milestone for me. I never share that part of myself so publicly but I took a chance and it worked out okay.

I don’t know what you or any one thinks about this or how you feel about it. Do people have a right to know about our personal health issues? I’ll leave that decision to you.

As for me, I am happy to keep my issue my issue because even with my issue, the beat goes on. Life goes on and nothing can stop me.

Image: Google Images

Monday, May 26, 2008

All About Love - Book Review

In the last three years, I can boldly confess that I have not missed an issue of Essence. It is and will forever be one of my all time favourite magazines. I find it therapeutic to read the stories of courage and empowerment every month. The magazine caters to the needs of an African beauty like me.

The first time I read the column, ‘In The Spirit’ by Susan L. Taylor, I was blown away. It was touching, honest and real. Here is a woman, who is known world over sharing her heart and soul, from her failures to her success, her fears, insecurities and anxieties. It takes courage to stand bold and be naked with other women because you know what we are like. Come on tell the truth, you know I am talking about you.

I thought to me myself, isn’t she a lady? She is the epitome of beauty, at 61, she looks good for a granmama. I love her to bits. Then I discovered the first instalment of those powerful columns I had been reading for months. She had put it into a book years back. If you have never read, ‘In The Spirit, The Inspirational Writings’ Of Susan L. Taylor, go get yourself a copy.

I am not one for plugging people’s product but you should get one as a woman. Read a chapter before you go to bed, meditate and girl! You will feel good about life and love even if you are all alone in your bed.

Since then, I have read every article by her religiously. It gives me strength to know a woman like Taylor is willing to stand naked before the world, and she is not afraid to say, this is who I’m.

Her latest offering, ‘All About Love’, is no different. Powerful, punchy and straight to the point; she is telling it like it is and I’m saying ride on sista. The stage is yours.

Once again, Taylor takes us on a journey of self-discovery, inner strength, self-love, faith to walk on water, forgiveness, family, finding peace, your love relationship with yourself and of course your man. She tells us about her struggles, her fears and how she takes each day as it comes to her.

Above all, she puts things into perspective from the point of view that there is a higher source you can always go to. She tells us the answer to life, our challenges and those personal issues your friends don’t even know about is LOVE.

When you love yourself, you will treat yourself right and because you are love, those around you will also feel the love that is within you because it will come out. You can’t fake it, sooner or later, the mask will come off.

I have devoured my copy every night since I got it but when I got to the section on relationships, it blew my mind. Here I am, a young woman in waiting. If you are wondering what that means, it means, I am a single lady who knows one of these days, she is going to meet the right man for her. You know what we call it. My heartbeat. At the same time, I am doing what I know to be better in life because I don’t want to mistreat my man. Hell no, he gets enough of that out there. Hence, when he gets home sista needs to set the atmosphere for brotha to flow.

Guess what Miss Taylor did to me, she took the lid off. She told me the truth to my face and said, Belinda, you have work to do. It isn't all about getting the man. You must be ready for whatever he brings on board. Ouch! That hurt but it is the truth. How about this for some home truth?

“When a sister is connected to her spiritual core, she has found her glory. She is on fire with desire for living and loving. She’s openhearted, full of joy and passion. Her way of living is an expression of reverence for life – for her own and all others – so she’s soft and sensitive. She honours above all else her covenant with God, and so she wants for nothing. Men of dignity and faith show up. They can’t resist her. They feel at home with her because she’s at home with herself.” Susan L. Taylor – author, All About Love

Can you boldly say you are at home with yourself? That is the task every young woman out there should set for herself, to be at home with herself. To be comfortable and love who she is and never apologise for it. It has taken me years and I’m still in that classroom of life, where I’m learning to be at home with myself. You see, when you are at home with yourself, people will know. You will never have to conform to be accepted because you know who you are.

Society has given us different images of a woman but I ask of you today, what kind of woman are you? Who is that woman you have you defined yourself as? Have you mapped out an action plan to becoming her and finding fulfilment in her?

Before you can find fulfilment in a man’s bed, you must first find one with yourself. If not each time you get with your man, it will be sex and not love making. When you are filled with love, you will make it memorable for him. Remember, it is you the woman, who comes to bed with your emotions. For him, it is physical. However, when you are the fulfilled woman that you are, you will make it memorable for him. He will be at work and start calling, I’m on my way home. Why - because you left a piece of yourself in and with him last night. Don’t you dare stop reading; you know I am telling the truth right there.

In conclusion, like Miss Taylor, I will never apologise for the behaviour of a man who does not know how to treat a woman right but if you are like me, take this to the bank.

“Choose a man you can love, and work with him. Or commit to understanding more deeply the one you’re with. But before any man becomes your lover, make him your friend and, most important, see him as your brother. Don’t let little things irritate you. When there’s conflict, soften your heart, recognise his innocence – or ignorance – and don’t have an attitude. Speak kindly. Be reverent. Practice peace. Be a role model for the behaviour that you want him to adopt.” Susan L. Taylor - author, All About Love

Easier said than done but it is possible. This is where I tell you that's one of many nuggets in this book. Go get yourself a copy because I am not coming back to this subject.

Images: Essence Magazine and Barnes and Noble

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Killing Streets Of London

It was just another normal day for me today but it wasn't normal at all.

I left my house this morning for my NCTJ Mock Exam because I have a news writing exam tomorrow. So, I thought why not pop down to Oxford Street, get myself a portfolio to use for my news cuttings.

You see, I am a trainee journalist. I went into Ryman's and being the woman that I am, went down to H&M to get some tops for the summer. I never got the tops because it wasn't important anymore.

So, I walked on and got the shock of my life.

A young black man in his twenties had been stabbed. "A severe stab wound to the chest" according to the police officer, who unknowingly blurted it out without realising I was a journalist.

Today wasn't about getting a great scoop or being the first journo on the scene. It was about the fact that for months I have read about knife crime in the newspapers, seen it on television but to see it live is a different ball game.

Yes, the journalist in me kicked into action. I took pictures, asked questions, even called the BBC news desk. Almost got my head taken off but that's okay. It comes with the job.

But the story before me didn't change. The young black man was being worked on by paramedics and I could see them trying to stabilise his heart. I have never seen so much blood or seen a heart beat so fast.

He was so helpless and I knew it was a case of fingers crossed.

A stab wound to the chest is always fatal.

This is where I say, enough is enough London.

Its time we wake up and reclaim our city. Its time they stop killing our sons, brothers, cousins, friends and family members.

We need to take a stand and this is the time to do just that.

I don't care if the government is struggling because the public has lost faith in them.

I don't care who is saying how it should be done or shouldn't be done.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of this. If we are not careful, society will soon become desensitised to it and soon, it will become just 'another stabbing' and that should never be the case.

Now is the hour for real action and we must take our children back and let them be children again. We must take our sons back and let them be our sons again.

I am tired of all the promises and never seeing any action.

Parents, take charge of your children. Communities stand up to your sons and tell them this isn't the way to go.

Where is the 'golden youth of Britain' going to?

Very soon we will have no young black men left because they are either in jail, unemployed or they have been killed by way of the knife.

I have had enough and enough is enough.

'It takes a village to raise a child,' let's raise our sons to be men and not murderers.

What are you going to do about this evil that is hovering over the land?

What am I going to do about it.

Alone, we can achieve nothing but together we can get our sons back.

Let's go get our boys and raise them to be men of valour and honour.

Image: Belinda Otas