If You Could Describe Yourself in One Word…

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Just now I posted this picture to my Insragram. That’s who I am. Uncompromisingly forthright and for the most part I unapologetic for being this way.

I either sugarcoat the hell out of things or I keep it too real. I care too much about how others feel so I’ll either tell them what they want to hear, say what I really want to say in a nice way, or I come off like an unexpected punch to the stomach. I wouldn’t say that I lack empathy, I just internalize the feeling because I don’t know how to express it. Some may say that I’m aggressive, I’m an asshole, or being inconsiderate of one’s feelings when I am. However, what no one can say about me is that I’m dishonest.

For the most part, people associate blunt with having a negative connotation. Not necessarily. My being this way makes me hilarious. I throw around one liners with random references and my friends can’t help but laugh because I’m normally saying something that is true or I’m asking the question many are afraid to ask…but they’re thinking it. I’ll address the proverbial elephant in the room in a light hearted manner. If I can make you laugh I can earn your trust. Once I’ve earned your trust my being honest makes me loyal. One can trust I’m going to give objective advice and love unconditionally because there’s no hiding.

The truth is that if I am frank with someone that means I hold you to the highest regard. I respect and see you as someone who can handle the truth. On a deeper level, I am revealing who I’m: guarded. I am blunt because by nature I am a very shy person. I hide behind my sense of humor and wit because it’s my wall. How people respond allows me to extrapolate how they will act in extreme circumstances and I know where to place them in my life. I’m reactive so my facade of sarcasm gives me an avenue to assess one’s character and personality. I’m looking for the unconscious knee-jerk response in which people reveal who they really are.  My defense and coping mechanism is also a simple psychological test. Because I’m reading body language, looks in one’s eyes, the speed or lack of response to a text message I’m always right. No, I’m always right. I can’t be hurt by someone who revealed who they are and they didn’t notice it. With that said, the way that I use being blunt isn’t aggressive; it’s passive.

In friendship, my direct approach is what makes me a good friend. I have a friend who had one foot in the door and one out in a relationship. She loved her boyfriend dearly; she wad just afraid to fully allow herself to fall in love. When they would get together and drink she would often get into fights and the insecure teenage girl would come out. So she was en route to to visiting him and was looking forward to it. I told her she’s going to have a good time until she’s had a drink and get mad at him about it. She said “You’re just going to pull my card like that?” Yes. What I did was tell her without telling her was to keep in mind this pattern of behavior because it could potentially be a hindrance on their relationship. Sure enough it happened. But she was aware of the pattern and was able to make what could have been a breakup a teachable moment. For the most part, people don’t like blunt behavior because it holds a mirror of one’s self up and they have to face their own fears, phobias, and shortcomings. The other side of that is that while one may be mad at the messenger they are on the road to self – improvement which is much easier to do when you have someone to be there with you. And that’s where the loyalty kicks in. I also treat people how I want to be treated: be honest with me. The truth may hurt but it’ll also set you free.

In love I’m the opposite. I don’t communicate at all. I’ll let a few infractions slide and then comes “Where keeping it real goes wrong.” I’m very forgiving so I usually get over being hurt very quickly. Yet, I’m going to hold one accountable and eventually once things have blown over I will say “Hey, this hurt me feelings.” Well, it doesn’t always come off that way and even when it does a fight usually will ensue.

Accountability is the reason I am blunt. In being loyal I’m going to let someone I care about know how they affect me so that they are aware of their actions. It is never for a guilt trip and for the most part it isn’t for me. In fact, the being direct is so that they are conscientious of how they treat others. Why? Because as a jerk I should be able to take what I dish out.

I’m also blunt with myself. I constantly put myself under the microscope in an effort to continuously tweak my own shortcomings. I’m actually my harshest critic so I welcome such honesty to strive to be the best person that I can be.

I love that I’m blunt. I owe my successes to it. No matter how compelling my story may be; what has made me good writer has been that I do so candidly. And to be frank I have the numbers to back that up.

…for the sake of humor I left the informal definition of blunt being a hollowed out cigar for marijuana purposes intentionally.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding

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One of my best friends since high school got remarried this past Friday in Tennessee. He moved down there almost two years ago for his dream job and was in the midst of a nasty divorce. They had two children together and through it all he has been a great father to them.

In May of 2013 he was in New York handling some business and we went out. We were talking about life and I showed him a picture of this girl I had just started seeing and he knew by the way I talked about her she was a pretty big deal. He then pulled out his phone and told me he had recently met the girl whose picture he was showing off. I was happy for him. After all I know that he’d been through it was good to see him smiling again.

We talked every so often and I would ask how things were going. He was turning into a different man than the one I had known since I was thirteen. He was going to church, telling me about lessons he had learned from the sermon, and that the girl he was seeing was the reason why. I clowned him for turning into a southern church boy because I had to do it.

This past June he called me and let me know he was coming to town and wanted me to meet her. Of course I had to do it. He also told me that he was going to propose to her. I got to his parents’ house shortly after he got on one knee. I said to his new fiancé “I’m not here to see him. I came to meet you!” My friend couldn’t be happier showing her off. I’d never seen him be like this about a girl, ever; including his ex-wife.

Last Sunday I ran into his mother. I was driving with my mother to my nephew’s football game, I saw her going for her morning walk, and stopped her to say hey. She said “Have you spoken to your boy recently?”

“Nah,” I replied. She said “He’s getting married on Friday. So you should call him to curse him out.” Out of respect for his mother’s wishes I did just that.

With his story on my mind I sent him a text message Friday morning because I felt compelled to write about him and I wanted his permission to do so. He called me and I was there for him like a best man but over the phone. I asked if he had something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and told him to be careful when he throws his bouquet to his bridesmaids.

After making fun of him for a little, his ex-wife had come up in the conversation from both of us and I said “Fuck her. We’re here because of one woman!”  This shit right here is a huge fucking deal! Today is gonna be the day you all will remember on the bad days and is the start of the rest of your life.”

I was truly happy for my man. He left the place that he’d known on faith. He had no idea what God would possibly have in store for him. He became a changed man and he was blessed with someone who wanted to share life’s journey with him. In spite of some fairly fucked up circumstances he never got jaded and took that out on someone else. He was willing to try again as if the first time didn’t happen. Now he’s her husband and because he loves her dearly, the father to her son.

I told him I better see some pictures, when he gets deflowered that night that it may hurt the first time but it gets good, and to text me the garter since I’m not there to catch it.

Without realizing it my best friend gave me a little hope. I had been through some pretty rough experiences that have made me even more cynical than I was before I met Timile.

I have been unafraid to try again, yet there was always a part of me holding back. Not because I was afraid; but because there was a phobia of the unknown. I’m not looking for someone to be a substitute to Timile that could never fill her shoes because that’s false.  My mother said it to me last night and gave words to what was just a feeling to me just last night. She said “Timile met you because her spirit knew it was leaving soon and she needed the best person she could find before she left.” Not that I think I’m the best at anything, but it was in fact true. I told her some stories about the beginning of our relationship that confirmed what she thought. I say all of that to say that while Timile was once here she isn’t anymore. I have been blessed with a wonderful little girl and as much as I would love for her to have a new mother that’s not what I’m looking for…Just someone who could be good company until one of us goes. For that I’d give her the world. For being there for Cydney I’ll throw in Venus and Mars as well.

I want to thank my boy for reminding me and solidifying some of my thoughts by just living and being an example.

Being Aware of Breast Cancer

One is never fully aware of cancer until it affects someone they know personally. We all know someone who has been affected by it. However, it just doesn’t hit home until that one person you knew one way begins to slow down, goes bald from chemo, fingers get dark from neuropathy, has scars from surgery, and gradually become a shell of the person you once knew before the end in many cases.

July 2011: I am living in Buffalo taking care of my family as my wife Timile is undergoing chemotherapy treatments. She was diagnosed as stage four February 23, 2011; nine days after our daughter Cydney was born. It had been a rough time; but we were making it and Timile was actually beginning to do better. Her cancer which metastasized all over her body had been localized to just being the tumor in her lower esophagus. Things were starting to look up.

One evening I got a phone call. It was my father. I don’t remember his exact words because they don’t matter. He told me that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she didn’t want to tell me. In spite of what she had just heard she was still trying to be my mother by not giving me anymore bad news at a really hard time.

Fuck….

Within five months I became a father, the love of my life is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and so is my mother. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. At twenty-five years old I was barely a man myself and was virtually forced to become someone thirty years older than I really was. There was to time to process things of grieve. I had to keep it moving.

I remember being in the car driving somewhere with Timile and Cydney when my father called. I told Timile right away and I could see her feeling really bad and as much as possible trying to be there for me. She suggested that almost right away we should drive down to New York to see her.

Sometime in August I recall being on the phone with my mother. She was just venting to me about how she felt. She didn’t want to do surgery. The idea of possibly having a mastectomy was devastating. In theory, I understood because to her it meant losing part of what makes her a woman. We talked for a while; well she talked and I listened. By the end of the conversation I said to her something like “Look, I understand. Be thankful that surgery is an option. What I wouldn’t trade for surgery to be an option.” She was silent. It was one of those moments when I had really felt life was about to be different. Keeping it real with my mother based on my own experience was one of those moments that made me realize I was a grown-ass man.

Moving back to New York shortly before Timile died was hard. It was difficult to relive what I just went through immediately after Timile succumbed all while fighting to get my daughter back. The silver lining was that all that I had been through made things a little easier for her. If she needed to talk to someone I understood and could tell her about the process. When something new came up I was able to relate as much as humanly possible.

As I had said before, my mother was still trying to be my mom by looking out for my mental well-being. I may have driven her to surgeries; but she knew I couldn’t really visit her in the hospital. I just couldn’t do it.

My mother didn’t want me to take her to chemo, either. That was probably the most emotionally experience for me. It was May 3, 2013 and I had just met a girl about two weeks earlier. We were going out on our second date within three days and something inside of me felt like she was someone special. My mother knew that this was a big deal and offered to watch Cydney after she had chemo. She was adamant about me not taking her. Her plans had fallen through and I had to do it. Watching her get hooked up, her metaport being flushed, and sitting in that chair that I had done every two weeks for six months two years prior was hard.

While I was in the present moment with my mother I had flashbacks of sitting with Timile. I laughed and joked with her through it. The moment had felt like life was coming full-circle. Here I was sitting with my mother undergoing a process that reminded me of how I lost my partner…in order to begin the process of my own healing and moving on. It was as if God was giving me a mental and emotional cup-check before I got back in the game. By all means it was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. But through the whole experience I mostly thought about how excited I was to see the girl in a few hours thinking she must be some kinda special for me to go through this…

It is October 7, 2014 and my mother is cancer free and is celebrating another birthday. It’s her first birthday without her mother and I’m sure that is on her mind. But I know one of the reasons that her mother stayed around as long as she did was that she wasn’t leaving earth until her oldest daughter was out of the woods. That’s what mothers do.

Because my mother is going through her own personal struggles she can’t and isn’t always available; but I know in her own way she is doing the same for me. I may not be a mother but as a parent this experience may have been one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned from her. The other day my mother told me out of nowhere that God doesn’t give people what they can’t handle and that this road that He made for me was because I could handle it. My daughter by all means is a firecracker and handling her under such circumstances means God must think pretty highly of me.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Love is Not Patient…

“I don’t take any days off.”  Timile didn’t have any response to that statement.  I had finally shut her up.

It was the summer of 2009 and I was selling cars.  I worked seventy-five hours a week trying to convince affluent Atlanta suburbanites to buy Volkswagens for commissions.  I hated the job; but I loved the challenge of coaxing people into buying the product.  I would meet people who were just coming in simply kicking tires, have a conversation with them, talk in circles until I found what their needs were, and then make them think that it was their decision to buy the car.  I would get off of work at 8pm, travel forty-five minutes home, still give Timile an appropriate amount of time, be in bed by 1 just to do it all again at 6am with just Sundays off.

One day I was exceptionally tired.  It was a slow day and I felt like going home.  I left work early and called Timile.  I told her this was my plan and she was starting to get annoyed with me.  She was fixing to tell me about how as many times she didn’t feel like going to work and I would tell her to go.  For once I got stern and basically said to her “Look, you can say what you want about me but if there’s one thing I don’t do, I don’t take days off.”

She knew exactly what I meant.  I wasn’t just referring about work; I was talking about us.

“All night grindin’, I don’t take no breaks.  All day grindin’, I don’t take no breaks.”- Ermias “Nipsey Hussle” Asghedom

Timile could say just about anything about me.  Even though I can be lazy at times the one thing that I never did was take a day off when it came to her and me.  Timile moved in with my roommates Devin, Walter and I shortly after we started dating.  She had severe depression and anxiety disorder.  She was seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist.  Being in our spacious townhouse was much better for her than being cooped up in half of a dorm room with dull walls made of concrete.  Some days she would just lay in bed and I would write her papers for her and she would edit them after.  I was doing this all while taking eighteen credits and working at a record label.  In fact, part of the reason that I left my job was because she needed me at home.

Whenever times got tough I never faltered.  My love and work ethic was truly unconditional.  When Timile had decided to move to Virginia and I didn’t have a job I did what I had to do to make things happen.  I sold insulation at home expos, bussed down motorcycles, helped my cousin with multiple sclerosis take care of her ninety-five year old husband for anywhere between twenty to one hundred dollars a day, and just about whatever I could get my hands on to help her get her own place.  I even talked to a friend of ours which is how she got her job when she moved back.  There were plenty of days that she didn’t deserve that level of commitment.  However, it wasn’t my place to say whether or not she did; my sole purpose was to love her through her mess and make shit happen by any means.

Many people quote 1 Corinthians 13-the love chapter-but they don’t really live it.  

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” New International Version

I have probably written this somewhere else before; but I’ll say it again: the proper translation isn’t “Love is patient.”  It is “Love suffers long.”  Patience gives a connotation of resilience and long-suffering is about persevering.  Resilience means to be buoyant while adjusting one’s self then going back to one’s original state.  It is an adjective.  Like love, persevere is a verb.  It means to actively endure, work through, and wade in deep waters.  Patience is a return to form after periods of stress.  It is a guitar string that is plucked, vibrates, and eventually rests.   Long-suffering would be the energizer bunny that keeps going and going no matter how many walls it bumps into.  Patience is empowering and can take one’s capacity to long-suffer to another level.

The difference between Timile and I was that no matter what happened between us I kept going.  To this day I remember things that Timile has said and done that hurt me and even left scars.  However, it never stopped me from loving her.  My day-to-day output never changed or faltered.  

I recall sitting in our living room one time.  Timile was on Facebook and she was looking at pictures of someone she had begun to date a little before we started.  She looked at pictures of him and his new wife at President Obama’s first Inaugural Ball and I wasn’t appreciating the look on her face.  She looked jealous and said something about them attending while we were in out apartment in Georgia and I was unemployed at the time.  She showed me the picture and I couldn’t bear to hear it when I was trying the best that I could.  I left the room and went into my little home studio and began to listen to some music.  Shortly after, she followed me into the room because she had kinda worked herself into frustration.  She said to me that this was who she chose me over.  That was the life that she could have had.  

Now mind you, we were living in the apartment that I had bent over backwards to get.  The lights were on because of the job that I helped her get.  I paid half of the rent and bought groceries.  I had my own apartment; but my lights were off because we had moved into her place and I had let mine fall to the wayside.  That really hurt.  Timile had been on dates and dated other people while we were living together.  I never did.  None of this changed how hard I worked for us.  That’s why she had nothing back to say when I told her “I don’t take any days off.”

“A lot of n****s ain’t cut from that same cloth.  They might give em space.  Gotta play it safe.”- Ermias Asghedom

Nipsey Hussle’s “The Hussle Way” had become an anthem of mine ever since the first time I heard it.  While I wasn’t from Los Angeles, never was in a gang, or sold drugs I just felt where he was coming from.  I played it heavily during the spring of 2010.  By the fall, I had to give it a rest.  After not listening to it for months I found myself driving around New York running an errand for a pregnant Timile.  As soon as the beat dropped I rapped every word as if I had those same experiences.  Timile didn’t like when I fell asleep before her.  So I would stay awake until 4am, wake up around 7am to do what I could to find a new job or hustle up some money, by the time she woke up it was all about making her pregnancy as easy as possible.  My family and her weren’t getting along and I was feeling torn because everyone was putting me in a very compromising position.  Each time I recited the chorus had become a crescendo.   I got louder and louder as I rapped “All night grindin’.  I don’t take no breaks.  All day grindin’ I don’t take no breaks.”

I still live my life the Hussle Way.