Back to School: Class is in session!

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My oldest daughter, Q, was sharing her dating woes with me recently. She was laying in my bed talking to me about a particular guy she had grown fond of. As I listened to her, I remember thinking, “Doesn’t she know how freakin’ phenomenal she is?” I mean, she’s truly brilliant, she has a beautiful heart, and she’s talented beyond measure, not to mention she’s absolutely stunning! 

I’m listening to her recount the latest saga with this boy who clearly does not value her and all that she has to offer. I want to say, “He doesn’t deserve you, your time or your efforts. Forget about him!” But as I’m listening, God is showing me something... 

Myself. 

A lump formed in my throat. I was frozen and could barely utter a word of advice to her, because I realized that this lack of self-worth is something I taught her over the years. Despite the conversations I had with her about loving herself, understanding her worth and not making room for people to use, abuse and disrespect her, my own behavior had shown her something completely different. 

Damn! 

I was reminded of my previous relationships and the constant lack of respect that was shown. I thought about the countless times I had been disrespected and unappreciated, yet, I stayed and kept fighting to hold on to those toxic relationships. She witnessed men lie, cheat and manipulate and she saw me go back time and time again making excuses for their behavior. She saw me fight tooth and nail to make it work and most times, I was the only one trying to fix it. One guy had the audacity to say to me, “I grew up with my mom doing everything. She worked, paid all the bills, waited on my dad hand and foot, cooked his meals, ironed his clothes - everything and he did nothing. So, in my mind, if I do 30% of what my father didn’t do, a woman should be lucky.” WOW! This was a man I gave 100% of everything to and he thought it was acceptable to give me 30% of nothing. What’s more is he actually fixed his lips to say it to me.

That should have been more than enough for me to walk away, but nope! I continued to jump through hoops and over hurdles, working overtime to win his love and affection. 

*skuuuuurrrr* Pump the breaks. Let's pause here. 

Remember that line in Waiting To Exhale when Bernadine was talking about her husband and she said, “I thought if I gave him what he needed, he would give me what I needed.” *cue that line here* That was my approach to relationships. Needless to say, it was ineffective for many reasons. When you are a giver in a relationship with a taker, you teach them to do what? TAKE MORE! They don’t understand reciprocity. And that is a breeding ground for resentment. [I’ll come back later to share a revelation I recently had on giving.] Secondly, what I needed really needed to come from me. The love I was in search of should have come from me and truth be told, if it had, I wouldn’t have been in 90% of my past relationships. Most of them existed and continued because of a deficiency I had at the time. They started from a place of brokenness. 

*resume* 

During my conversation with Q I realized the tolerance of emotional abuse, whether it was overt or covert, done consciously or unconsciously, had been a learned behavior for me too and without even realizing it, I had passed it on to my daughter. No matter how much I thought I was teaching her the importance of self-worth, she had a front row seat to witness my dysfunction and she absorbed lots of unhealthy ideals and habits as it relates to self-care, creating boundaries, holding people accountable and demanding respect. 

The good thing about life is, as long as we’re on this side of the grass we have an opportunity to make different decisions and work toward different outcomes. 

My daughter, both of my daughters are extraordinary! I know that. However, I know them having a full grasp on what that actually means and how it manifests in their lives is a learned behavior. The lessons start with me and what I allow and how I show up for myself in my own life.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. 

Girls, class is in session! 

Pregnant(see): A Look Into My Journey to Motherhood [the second time around...]

I've been a mother since I was seventeen years old. Sixteen if you count the forty weeks I carried Q. Needless to say, I became a mother before I knew who I was. So, that became my identity. I was Q's mom and I was okay with that. 

My life was filled with PTA board meetings, helping with homework assignments, sleepovers, working, juggling bills and worry. Constant worry about whether or not I was doing it right; the whole parenting thing. My greatest fear was failing as a mom. Every time I looked at Q, I wanted more for her. More joy, security, stability and experiences than I had. I wanted better for her and I would spend the next eighteen years trying to make that happen. 

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Over those years of mommy-ing I realized that parenting isn't a test. There is no pass or fail. You do the best you can and hope that all that you've instilled and invested in your child(ren) is enough for them to build upon in order to realize the dreams and goals they have for themselves. 

So, here we are, almost 19 years since the doctor placed an 8lbs. 3oz. baby girl in my arms to have and to hold. Forever. [They say eighteen years, but it really is forever. lol] Q is now a second year college student, working and striving to grow two business endeavors that she launched. Not bad for the product of a teen mom. 

Let's back up for a second. Last year, almost immediately after Q left for college, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. My adjustment to life as an empty-nester had to take a backseat, because there was a more pressing matter at hand. MY mom was dying... 

And two and a half months later, she did. In 2016, on Thanksgiving Day, my mother took her last breath.

Earth shattering. Completely. 

Do you remember when I said I didn't know who I was when I had Q? Her leaving the nest and my role as her mom requiring a less hands-on approach was going to force me to find out who I was and I was prepared to do that work. But THIS?! Losing my mom?! Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of heartache and devastation that would accompany such a loss. Not to mention the identity crisis. It was magnified now. If I'm not Q's mom and I'm not Jackie's daughter, WHO AM I? [Yes, I know I'm still Q's mom and I'm still my mother's daughter, but I think you understand what I'm saying.]  Q was away at college and my mother was... gone. What now?!

I was lost....

I spent the next several months on a wave of extreme emotional highs and lows. I was bouncing between the joys of a new love and tremendous grief from losing my mother. More than anything, I was depressed. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.

*insert crying and overwhelmed emoji here* 

Somewhere in all that I decided that I needed a fresh start. I was going to rent my house out and buy a new place downtown. Something in the heart of the City that fit my new empty-nester lifestyle. So, when I returned from a week long trip to Jamaica earlier this year, I put up a soft listing to see if there was any interest in my home. To my surprise, the response was overwhelming and I had several solid prospects for potential renters. I was nervous, but ready to turn the page... only I wasn't quite ready for the title of the next chapter.

I'M PREGNANT! 

WHAT?!

I could not believe it, but after two tests and a visit to my doctor, it was confirmed. It was true. I was having another baby. After eighteen years. 

I had so many emotions... and not only did I have my own thoughts and feelings to manage, I was also concerned with my daughter's and that of MANY others around me. 

This pregnancy has not been all glorious bump pics and happy nesting. These last 9 months have been HARD! In addition to complications I've experienced, nearly every relationship/friendship that I once held near and dear to my heart has been tested. Some survived, the dynamics of others changed and sadly, some ended. I always thought it mattered most who stands with you in the rain, but I've learned that having people dance with me in the sun is equally important to ME. Be happy for my happy like I am for yours. [But that's another discussion for another day.]

What I've learned and really want to share is - before you become anything to anyone else, know who you are FIRST. I must have read some variation of that message a million times over my lifetime and I never fully understood it... until now. It's easy to get caught up in titles [mother, daughter, friend, lover, etc.], but when those people, roles and titles are gone, what's left? Who are you? What do you have to hold onto? For me, because I love so deeply and give so much of myself to others, it is devastating to be faced with an ending, loss and deep disappointment. Whether it's death, a breakup, a friendship gone bad or a little girl who grows up and leaves the nest, letting go of THEM can be extremely difficult when you don't have a hold on YOU. That was the case for me, because I never established who I was for myself BEFORE taking on those roles. So, I hadn't quite learned how to bring my whole being to the table without losing the parts that should be reserved for myself. [If that makes sense.]

While I consider this pregnancy and the opportunity to bring forth [another] life a tremendous blessing, it has also been a time to uncover one of my greatest revelations to-date - I don't know who I am. I have allowed life, its circumstances and the people around me to dictate that for me. However,  I am now working diligently each day, with great intention to figure it out, and whoever I turn out to be, I hope it's someone I can be proud of and I promise to never, ever let her go.