My Summer Rewind: An Ode to Self-Care 19-“call on me”

Lalah Hathaway and Redman are the perfect pair for a song. In their respective genres of r&b and hip hop, both are the favorites of your favorite artists. When either make an appearance-song features or onstage with their peers-it is all but certain who will steal the show, unless Lalah and Red relent with the intent to make the song better and highlight other performers.

First, I need to acknowledge the greatness of Lalah Hathaway. For those who do not know, Lalah is the daughter of the late, great Donnie Hathaway. In 1990, my mother played Lalah’s self-titled debut album all day, every day in our apartment. Eighteen years later, I was floored when I heard her live when my father toured with her, Norman Brown, Will Downing, and Gerald Albright; I’ve never hear anyone sound better. I’ll put it this way: there is a reason she won the Traditional R&B Performance Grammy Award in four consecutive years from 2014-2017.

For Lalah Hathaway, Redman pulled from a different bag than what we’ve known him to dig into. Twenty-six years after his debut, Soopaman Luva made a love song. It would be more fit to say “call on me” didn’t feature Redman; but gave a glimpse into Reggie Noble. Part of his greatness is no matter where he is placed, Redman is himself with unshakable compromise. On Christina Aguilera’s 2002 pop smash, “Dirty,” he was still Redman.  While his tone, timbre, signature rap cadence, and sense of humor all appear, the departure from an ethos I’ve known and loved for 25 years was pleasant.

I played “call on me” a lot in 2018 because it is a great song. I feel this song resonated with me because I was at a point in my life in which I was ready for a change. In the winter of 2018, I endured a hostile breakup and was more than okay with taking some time before I considered courtship if the right opportunity presented itself. A few months later, I took Cydney to Atlanta where she represented her mother for her 10-year reunion at Spelman College and it was an emotional experience for both of us. The closure to both chapters left room for a paradigm shift.

I didn’t show a lot of vulnerability in my last relationship. I had my reasons; nonetheless, I can acknowledge an area I could work on.

On occasions, I ask my daughter where she feels I could improve as her father. With consistency, her reply to my performance review is I don’t express my feelings. She gives examples of how I stay calm when I am angry or how I don’t smile, even in moments of happiness. Cydney has never seen me cry and in all honesty, in my deepest moments of despair, she would not have a clue.

In our conversations, I have told my nine-year-old, I have lots of feelings and she looks at me with surprise. I’m not sure why I am this way. Some of it is black man syndrome, whereby nurture, I am forced to bottle up my emotions. If not, it gives cause for someone with a preconceived notion of me-based on stereotypes and systemic oppression-a reason to say “You’re just like the rest of them.” It is tiresome. There is a lot more to this I will have to explain at another time; but I will.

Since Cydney’s first evaluation, I have worked to be more expressive. There is some work to do; however, I am proud of myself for the strides I have made. Within a realm of comfort and their appropriateness, I am more transparent to both my nephew and daughter and peel back a few layers. I’m not quite sure how they feel but it makes me feel good because it is an exercise in vulnerability. If children pick up their parents’ behaviors from observation, both need to see more from me.

One of my personal goals is to smile more. For years and years, I didn’t like mine whenever I saw it in pictures. As weird and forced as I may feel, it feels good to smile and express joy in other ways than my actions, words, and work. I could exert less energy and get much more out of a smile.  If I tell myself my smile is infectious, then it will be infectious, and it will make me feel great. I pride myself in my ability to make others smile, so I need to and should do the same for myself.

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