My Goals: Week of Feb 16

So, my second weekly update. I am so excited. Along with at least 2 content posts and a picture, I have started the goal of measuring my goals here for accountability.

I’m keeping my goals shorter this week with the hopes I will update my progress throughout the week!

  1. Create a nighttime routine. I’m not getting any younger. I need some kind of retinol cream and way to relax.
  2. Hit the gym 3 times. Self explanatory.
  3. Home Project #2. Hang a mirror. Find a way to store my jewelry.
  4. Buy myself some flowers. Bringing love inside in small memorable ways.
  5. File my taxes. Let’s hope for a refund this year!

And in case you were wondering, these were my goals for last week:

  1. Put myself first. PASS. This time I really though about what I wanted without giving 2 fucks about what others thought. I missed a friend’s birthday party and skipped out early on a weekend work event. I needed to rest. I went to get at 8pm 2 days this week. Crazy hours and personal drama have kept me a little on edge. It was good to listen to my body for a change.
  2. Make my own lunch. FAIL. I did make my lunch more than I have in the past, but it was not all 5 days. I realize the key to this success is meal planning, which makes me feel like a 42-year-old divorcee. Tomorrow I am buying a crock pot and putting in my Fresh Direct order. I hope to use the extra day off to organize my apt, including my kitchen.
  3. Spend time with my man. PASS. My puppy Bernie has not been at his best. We spent time together at the vet which resulted in about $700 in vet bills. That’s $70 per pound. He has bladder stones and a collapsed trachea. He will be getting a harness and special food.
  4. Reconnect with friends. PASS/FAIL I got a chance to catch up with The Playwright, but everyone else basically got the boot. See #1.
  5. Home project #1. PASS! My ex installed my curtains and when they came falling down to the ground, where they stayed for weeks. I finally got the balls to fix something for myself.
  6. EXTRA CREDIT: Get rid of 5 things. FAIL but there’s hope. Gonna use this extra day to get something done!

My Goals: Week of Feb 9

I cannot believe that March is almost here. I am willing it to be here tomorrow in favor of better weather, but that is beside the point. A little over 6 weeks ago I made a series of goals that I would like to accomplish by 2015. Since the year is almost 2/12 of the way complete my goals should be 2/12. I am attempting to break my goals into little weekly bite sized chunks to prevent me from being overwhelmed.

This week’s bite size goals

  1. Put myself first. This week if I don’t feel like doing it…I ain’t doing it. I realize I spend a lot of time doing things I don’t want to do. Doing things at work that no one cares about. Going out when I want to stay home. Buying something I really want. This week, I will take a moment to ask myself “What would Kelly do?” Then follow the answer.
  2. Make my own lunch. I spend a small fortune on lunch at work. I have gained 10 lbs in the last month. I want to get back to the simple things. Cooking is at the top of the list. Hopefully it will help my bottom and bottom line.
  3. Spend time with my man. I have been neglecting the love of my life due to work commitments and melancholy. I plan to make it up to him by scheduling a time for him to visit the vet and the groomer at PetSmart. I may even make him a meal while I am at it.
  4. Reconnect with friends. So many people in my life have gotten engaged or had babies and I buy them things, but never take the time to write heartfelt notes and send them out. I will do that this week. I often complain about being isolated when there are definitely people in the world who love me. I would feel the love more if I just took the time to reach out.
  5. Home project #1. Do you know that I love power tools more than my own mother? I daydream while looking at Design Sponge or Apartment Therapy. It’s better than a third date. My new apartment is pretty blah and I think if I do a few small weekend projects I can change that.
  6. EXTRA CREDIT: Get rid of 5 things. The Bestie is coming and giving me all of her furniture before she heads to LA. Don’t worry, that will get it’s own post as soon as I can stop frowning. I am super excited for new furniture as I am about to set flame to this shitty Ikea mattress. But I need to make room by getting rid of 5 things every week.

I will check in on Saturday night! Let’s see how far I get. I’m not totally optimistic.

Be Very Afraid

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So far this is the theme of 2014. My plans of writing, wellness, and winning have all been surreptitiously dismantled by catching the flu, the pitfalls of becoming middle management, and unpacking my apartment. I sleep too much and often come home spent and thinking of things to write and not writing. I will do it tomorrow, I tell myself, right after I watch another episode of Criminal Minds for the seventh time. I do all this and expect things to be different.

I do this because I am afraid. Aziz Ansari was right about one thing: 30 comes at you fast. It is this mythical fantastical age where everyone in the movies has a large apartment, a career that they love, an enviable group of friends, the love of their life, and a baby. And it’s not just in the movies. In my own family I am the oldest grandchild to not be married or have a baby. In the era of instant gratification and humiliation, it’s not hard to find out weekly that the guy you dated with those mental health issues is celebrating his one year anniversary to an Evelyn Lozada look alike or the person who you used to perform with is now at Yale. In the aggregate, I feel like I have been left at the very back of my cohort. The one who never likes to read out loud. The one who is terrified of being called to the chalkboard. The one picked for dodgeball last.

I know that fear is the ultimate obstacle to purpose and to wealth. Thank you Oprah Winfrey and Suze Orman. Like the other dichotomies that have defined my life (Brooklynite from Mississippi, Ivy League sassy black girl; fat public health crusader), fear and ambition bite at my ankles enough that it’s all I can do not to fall down in a bloody, exhausted, legless heap.

How does one live their best life when they have become accustomed to mediocrity? How do you go out on a career risk after being unemployed during the Great Recession? How do you lose the weight when you know that it’s your only reprieve from the endless aggression and street harassment and black girl dating?

You don’t. Living your best life means getting over all of these things. It means fear has no place, which oddly enough makes me even more afraid. Over time fear has become the old pair of combat boots, long out of style but too comfy not to wear every time it’s damp outside. It snuggles me and let’s me sleep longer than I should and avert my eyes from attractive men with nice smiles. It tells me that trying to perform when I am this old and this brown and this tired and this fat is a waste of time. That working on my writing here is taking away time from working for publication. That no one will read what I write for publication. That I will always work nine to five. That I will always be alone.

Fear is a sickness wherein lies its own reprieve. Fear keeps us from being reckless. Sadly a certain amount of recklessness is required in risks. The shining irony is that the thing that has kept my fingers off the stove and good grades on my report card is the thing that makes me gasp for air.

2014: My Plan

I am so glad 2013 is coming to a close. I am blessed with many fortunes, but 2013 kicked me in the ass harder than an uncastrated mule. I languished in a job that wasn’t the best fit. I gained 21 pounds. I had the lamest relationship of all time. And I lived in an apartment complex that was riddled with bed bugs, trash, and homelessness. I didn’t finish one story or play.

I get excited between Christmas and New Year’s every year. This is the bane of my best friend’s existence. Over a glass of wine I excitedly ask her for her yearly resolutions and goals, and for the last 5 years she has rolled her eyes, taken the biggest sip of wine imaginable, sighed, and changed the subject. You could be doing the same, but at least I cannot see it.

This year, I am going through a little malaise. Alone in my new apartment with a small but very smelly dog, I never really got into the holiday spirit. I have no tree, I have 10 lbs of uncooked sweet potatoes that were meant to transform into a pie, and I have spent most of Christmas day asleep on an air mattress with aching lungs. There is nothing that will make you think about your life more than being sick on a holiday. Christmas tv is TERRIBLE (unless It’s A Wonderful Life is on), and when a Type A personality is left alone for more than 47 minutes, they have no choice but to make lists and plans. There is no time like the present. 2014 is coming whether or like it or not, and failing to plan is planning to fail. Here what I have up my sleeve for the coming new year.

1. Blog More

It’s no secret that I have not been around these parts in a while. I could say that life got rough, but blogging helps me through it. The truth is that I stopped knowing what to write. I love writing about dating, but since my personal life is basically as dry as the Sahara, I lost a lot of oomph. The last time I wanted to write about a guy or the trivial aspects of my brownsinglegirl life in New York, the Trayvon Martin verdict was announced. I sat in a room and cried. What was I doing with my life? Why was I writing about crushes and dates and I lived in a city/a country/a world where brown and black men AND CHILDREN were still getting robbed of their lives without any consequence? I am still trying to figure that out. I will never figure that out. But I think this blog is the place to struggle to understand. So Kelly’s Belly will be changing aesthetically and in content. I am committed to talking to you, yes you, three days a week. Be prepared.

2. Be a Pro, Not a Amateaur

Recently, a friend loaned me the book The War of Art, which pretty much put me on blast. I have watched friends perform and write in LA or write plays in NYC, while I fret out of fear. Inspiration doesn’t come from a bolt of lightning from Zeus. It comes out of habituated action. In other words, I need to find a way to but my butt in a chair and write, print, edit, and submit until I hit a nerve.

3. Make A Wellness Plan

I spend 40 hours a week worrying about the wellness of the greatest city on Earth. When I get home, I am tired. Where is my beer and pizza? NO BUENO. Again, it’s a problem of habit. I miss dancing and sweating, and I know it will help with my creative process, not to mention my cholesterol. The YMCA is right near my job. It’s where I plan to be everyday after work. I have a new kitchen where roaches don’t fall out if you open the cabinets, so homecooked meals will be a regular occurrence. Tap dance classes, I still have my eye on you!

4. Take Leisure (and Joy) Seriously

My free time tends to go either 2 ways: 1) Law and Order marathons or 2) overpriced dinner and drinks. Both are key, but neither really do anything to improve my frame of mind or quality of life. I love crafting, sewing, dancing, church, and crochet, but when I plop down after work or am faced with a wintery Saturday morning, I end up in bed until 2pm. I still need Law & Order and the ladies, but I also need quiet time to raffle through farmers’ markets, pray, and make things for friends.

5.  Travel, Dammit

I haven’t been out the country since 2008, my last trip to Africa. This is unacceptable. My NYC bestie had her 30th in Las Vegas, and the thought of putting $750 on my credit card sent me into such a panic that I told her immediately that I couldn’t go. Even if I don’t get on a plane, I need to get the hell out of this city. It drives me stir crazy. I need more trips and less shoes and cocktails. So here is to more weekend trips to Philly, bed and breakfasts in Vermont, and 16 hour trips to Boston to see Lauryn Hill in concert for free (thanks Samantha!).

6. It’s NOT Raining Men

My number one complaint besides having to step over dog poop and used condoms on the way to work? MY DATING LIFE. And what aspect of my life do I do absolutely nothing about? MY DATING LIFE. When you are trying to hussle, save, and climb the career ladder, admittedly looking for dates takes a back seat. But 30 comes at you fast. You mean I have to have kids (if I want them) in the next 10 years? Fuck. For a woman who used to have 3 dates with different men a week, this shouldn’t be an obstacle. But it is. Why…

7. Don’t Lose My Pretty

…Because I leave my house looking like a homeless person. A newly homeless person, but still. I spend my life outside thinking about how to help the poorest families in NYC achieve wellness and roughhousing with the smelliest dog in the world. I hardly get my hair done. I spent over a year without a full length mirror. Part of this has to do with body dysmorphia about my attractiveness weighing over 160 pounds. No one sees me. I spend a lot of time talking to men with no teeth. It doesn’t matter what I am wearing. And then I run into a man that has all his teeth and a good job, and I kick myself. It’s time to dust off the mascara wand and buy a new bra. Momma is letting loose.

8. Stop Worrying About Money

Should I buy Charmin or sand paper? I can save $3 if I buy the sand paper. Welcome to my life. I make tens of angst-ridden money decisions every day. It’s exhausting and prevents me from travel, hobbies, and other people I love. My friend lived in Paris for two years. I never visited because I never had the money. Now when I go, it will cost twice as much. I couldn’t raise $3k in 24 months. It’s embarrasing to think let alone write. 2014 is the year that I spend money on experiences. I want to be responsible, but I can’t take it with me. I need to spend money on making me happy, well, and whole.

9. Pay Off My Credit Card Debt

Never worrying about money it totally impractical, but as long as I am taking steps to pay off most of my debt in the next 18 months, I think I deserve the right to chill. This book is helping out.

10. Live and Love Fearlessly

Last week I saw Lauryn Hill in her post prison concert. It was life changing. During one of her Fugee renditions, she just kept singing “live fearlessly; love fearlessly” and I realized it would be my motto for 2014. I’m not too old, too fat, too poor, or too brown to accomplish what I was brought on the Earth to do. 2014 is the year for taking a breath and making the leap. Why don’t you come with?

How Long Do I Have to Take the Subway to Get to Success?

The year 30 brings a metamorphosis to anyone. Just like 18 and 21 changes your perception around what it means for you to be an adult, 30 is like that but different. 30 is adulthood bitch slapping you in the face.

Per the usual Type A thinking black woman I am, the last 6 months following my monumental birthday have been filled with ennui. I watch all my friends and colleagues achieve some of the adulthood trophies I already thought would be proudly displayed on my life’s shelf–making more than $75k, being in stable relationships, moving to Manhattan. I don’t feel like I am jealous; I acutely feel glee for the achievements of everyone I know. I just observe where I am in the process and how far away I am from “success.”

After a year of hell living in an apartment that has cost me a small fortune out-of-pocket, I have been looking for an apartment. If there is anything that makes you feel like you aren’t worth squat, try looking for an apartment in New York City! Being a single lady, I need to be close to a train in a facility that doesn’t resemble a crack house. Apparently, that costs $1500 a month…IN BROOKLYN. Not counting a broker’s fee. It’s pretty demoralizing to lay $4,000 down just to move down the street. This is the location I find myself. At the cross streets of “This can’t be my life” and “Dad, can I borrow some cash?”

How far is the subway from here?

Back to Black

I don’t know what happened. I turned 30 and then promptly stepped into a black hole. It’s possible that I didn’t step into it, but that it had been around me all along. I just put on glasses. Have you ever felt outside of yourself? That the life you are leading is not yours? That you are going about your life with the best of intentions, and yet is amounting to a glorious smidge of nothing? That you are so lucky to be alive, but know you are missing out of actually living?

That has been my last few months. The type A personality that I have always been loves to only speak about things after I have figured them out, hence my absence of blogging. But there is so much that I cannot figure out. Coping in New York. Financial planning when you have nothing left over. Dating in my 30s. This rash of gun violence and  unpunishable white on black crime. Marching for the same things we did exactly 50 years ago. I go to work as a public servant, and have figured out government is the place where passion goes to die.

I step past a drunk homeless man to enter my apartment. I am quiet and alone in the largest city in the country.

It will all be ok.

The Dog Days Are Over

The past month has been rough. Trying to find suitable PhD programs or new positions. Navigating that fraught territory of creating a friendship after a failed romance. A 6 month old computer inexplicably conking out. Regaining all the weight I had lost. Spending over $2,000 on something that is 9 pounds.

And all I can think are thoughts of gratitude.

MY TWENTIES ARE OVER.

Hallelujah!

Now, I do appreciate my last decade. I had a hot body. I got a Bachelors and then a Masters. I moved to big, scary New York city as a girl. I became a woman in Brooklyn. I wore the most impractical fashions. I hailed cabs everywhere and went on dates just because. I kissed a lot of boys. Those were some good times.

And I am so, so, so glad they are gone. Why would I be so happy to give up nipples that pointed toward the sky? This is just a small list…

  • I know my worth. I don’t work for free. I am not “lucky” to have a job. I spent time and money on training and expertise that I know I should be compensated for. As a woman and African American, I already know you are probably taking me for pennies on the dollar anyway, why would I give up more?
  • Stilettos make my feet hurt. I spent so many years in pointy-toed shoes and crop tops hoping someone would notice and buy me a drink. I don’t give a shit if you notice. I make enough to pay for my own drink, so I’m going to wear Birkenstocks when I want to. Yeps!
  • I know which guys suck. I spent about 3,424,298 hours dissecting texts and emails and waiting for calls. I spend about .04 seconds on shit like that now. If you want to hang out, you will call me. If you want me to take you seriously, you will pay for my dinner. You will speak to me with respect. If not, I don’t lose sleep over it. I can’t. I’m too old to function on less than 6 hours.
  • I know that I’m cute. Yeah, I am in the process of getting healthier and I would shed 20 lbs in a second, but I fretted SO MUCH about my appearance during the last decade. I look at the pictures now and think WHAT A WAIST–WHAT A WASTE! Why was I sucking in my stomach when I had no stomach?? Why did I flip out over my first stretch mark?? My body holds me up. I aim to treat it better. But greys and chin hairs are coming, so I appreciate how hot I am TODAY.
  • Financial stability is a priority. There was a time when I went out 5 days a week and my student loans were in forbearance. The me of today would punch the me of then in the face. I do miss my semi-extravagant lifestyle, but I realize that being ok later means sacrificing today. My retirement and debt eradication are top priority. I have to give up manis, cosmos, trips to Atlantic City, and fish tacos. But I will be having them daily at 65, so it’s cool.

And last, but not least–

  • The best is yet to come. Do you realize that the average American lives to be 80? If you peak at 25, you have 55 years to exist in mediocrity. I’m like fine wine, baby. I get better with age!

Here’s to me in my 30’s!

Wearing the White (Pimp) Hat

White Hat

Ah, so many twists and turns from America’s favorite smart black woman whose apartment and wardrobe looks so together in the midst of a personal life in disarray. What will I do on Thursday nights between now and August?

In the meantime, some other smart black women, me and BFF opine on the finale via gchat. Sorry for spitting in the face of punctuation. This is gchat.

ME: caught up on scandal. predictable ending
BFF: Yeah. It’s far too early for them to actually be together.
ME: no, they should never be together!
       i was surprised that he forgave her for jake
       i knew that budget morgan freeman was her dad
       and you called it saying she would never forgive him for Verna
       also, I thought Quinn killed the bad guy
BFF: They weren’t together when it happened and he’s been somewhat more reasonable recently.
ME: so, when he was waltzing during the perp walk, that was weird and inconsistent
       quinn is now going to be a killer
BFF: And yeah, she wouldn’t forgive him for that. Cyrus should have realized that was his trump card weeks ago.
ME: and im glad rosen is back as attorney general and that olivia has on the white hat
       Cyrus needs to get divorced and we need to see more of their black baby
       Sally Langston now has no hope of being president
       and i would like to catch her having sex with a fat hispanic man
BFF: Their baby and America’s baby are basically in hiding
ME: stop calling him america’s baby!
BFF: I just think it’s hilarious. And CNN and Fox News would totally do that.
ME: I also liked that their was cunnilingus in the last episode because normally you dont see that on primetime. It was his magic power.
BFF: Hahaha
ME: I am sick of Fitz. He is so weak. One woman rejects him and he goes right back to the other woman
       Disgusting, Truly disgusting
       Cyrus is the only one with balls
       I know he was out of breath after taping that episode
       He was yelling THE WHOLE TIME
       he really could have had a heart attack in real life
       but what am I saying…

SCANDAL IS REAL LIFE
BFF: When I talk about it at work with my co-worker Lucy everyone is like, “Are you talking about real people?”

 

Living the Dream

Unless you are a sociopath, career criminal, or criminally insane, if asked what your values include, you will probably reply something akin to “family, prosperity, the American dream, homeownership, etc.”  That’s why being a discriminating voter during the primary season is so difficult. Usually, there is just a line of over-the-hill white guys talking about budgets, foreign policy, and terrorism…saying lots and nothing at the  same time. 

So, how do you tell if a person is actually true to their value system? Their actions. DUH.

This is one of the MOST simple-minded observations of human behavior. 

And it smacked me right upside the head.

I have been spending the last 2 days of subway rides reading “168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” Author Laura Vanderkam dissects the lives of the truly busy, yet personally fulfilled–the women who “have it all.” She asks the general public why we lament how tired we are when sociological research shows we have more than enough time to rest, work, and have fun. According to Vanderkam, if you write down what you do in a week, you find out where your value system lies. You care about the things you spend time on.

So what is my value system?

  • Playwriting/Theater
  • Cooking
  • Connecting with Family
  • Meeting New People
  • Long Distance Walking
  • Spending Time With My Pet
  • Reading
  • Travelling
  • Crafting
  • Making a Healthier Lifestyle for Myself

Just kidding! According to how I designate my time during the week, here is my ACTUAL value system:

  • Sushi
  • Taking Naps
  • Criminal Minds
  • Law & Order
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • Scandal
  • Pizza
  • Lipstick
  • Reading fashion blogs
  • Reading in general
  • Spending Time With My Pet
  • More lipstick

Hey, I got 2 right. That’s not that bad, right?

Actually it’s horrible. I realize that I’m so spent because I don’t do things I know bring me joy. Yes, Law & Order brings me joy, but not the same kind of joy as cooking a pie from scratch or shipping hand crocheted mittens to a new baby.

I know that the life I want isn’t going to magically appear tomorrow. By the time I’m 30, I won’t be living in Rittinghouse Square, sipping a soy latte, walking 3 toy dogs, as I head to my loft that is supported solely by my freelance writing. [Also in this daydream, I am wearing a Tibi dress, C. Wonder jewelry, and Balenciaga sandals. Just in case you were wondering.] But by the time I’m 30, I can commit to a healthier lifestyle, regular writing, and going a little out of my comfort zone to meet men new people.

So yes, my dream life is pretty far off, but if I spend my time as I should, I should catch up soon. 

Don’t Go, Weight!

I recently had a panic attack in Target. Atlantic Terminal was it’s usual mosh pit of mayhem, screaming women with hideous eyelashes pushing strollers and bumping into yuppies perusing the lackluster Prabal Gurung items now at 70% off. Target isn’t my fave place to be (unless it’s a Sunday morning, everything is restocked, and I have the time to sashay down the “ethnic” hair care aisle), but it doesn’t get me flustered. I am there 2 times a week, more like 4 since I have moved into my new apartment.

Yet there I was. Rising body temp, echoing sounds, and slippery fingers. I was having a meltdown albeit a silent one. Those are the only respectable ones to have.

I knew why it was happening. A mere 45 minutes before, my beautiful blonde Polish OB-GYN had the following exchange.

Polish OB-GYN: Yeah, I don’t know why you keep having these adverse reactions to birth control. First the IUD. Now the Nuvaring. I haven’t seen anything like it.

Me: I’m special.

Polish OB-GYN: Indeed you are. [flips through chart] Did you realize in August you weighed 163 and now you weigh 177? And your blood pressure has elevated considerably.

[PAUSE]

Polish OB-GYN: If it gets much higher, you may not be eligible to take birth control.

Me: [HAS SMALL ANEURYSM]

I had the same conversation with my primary care physician a month ago when he talked to me about my cholesterol.

And I have had the pleasure of receiving off-handed comments from family members at a recent wedding when I collapsed in my hotel room more than once in an adjacent hotel room.

Kelly, you were never a fat child or even a fat teenager. Kelly, you were doing so well, what happened? You wouldn’t be this overweight if you didn’t live in New York. 

Apparently I will not eligible for a loving relationship, a raise, a healthy pregnancy, happy vacations, a functioning heart or respiratory system, or family support unless I lose about 40 pounds.

There is some truth to that. Dating is different for overweight people. The men that were attracted to me 8 years ago were richer and whiter without a doubt.  Apparently women who routinely exercise get promoted more. And I know all about diabetes and heart disease thanks to my day job.

So, how do I manage to like myself today? To wear a sundress and flirt and not scrutinize everything I eat and exercise for the joy of it, and find value in myself regardless of what society says? Well, that’s easy. Society isn’t the problem at all. I am a black woman from Mississippi who went to an Ivy League school; every day I spit in society’s face and go on about my business.

It’s hard, however, to spit in the faces of colleagues, family members, and friends. People who love me, they really do, but scrunch up their face when I order french fries. Or point out how we used to share clothes, or outright ask me why I let myself go.

I didn’t let myself go. My life happened. After 24ish, my metabolism slowed. I participated in the cocktail culture of the city. I ate out on dates 3 times a week. I sit for 3 hours a day on the train and 9 hours at work. I mostly lived in places with small I get home at 9pm, write down my thoughts and lay down. And I use food as punisher, soother, and reward.

In other words, I am an ordinary American. In my family or school cohort, ordinary isn’t acceptable. It’s isn’t acceptable to me either on most accounts, which is why this issue gives me such anguish and stress.

I truly have no desire to be thin. I do have a desire to be thinner, have more energy, and have more insulin sensitivity. Spring is a time of renewal; I am starting small. A  jog with the dog. Walking up the stairs, heading to the farmers market every week.  I don’t expect that I will see a definite change on the outside.

But it’s the inside I am more concerned about.

*PS. Feel free to share any success stories or tips via Twitter or in the comments!

White Noise

As of late, I have had a lot of quiet moments. Maybe the tv is on, maybe I   read a blog or a text, but I am not there. The white noise has let me recuperate from what I can only define as a hellish start to the year. I am still adjusting at work, determining minute by minute what I am doing there, if I can do better, and, if I can, what my next steps should be. In doing a favor for a friend, I caught what in New York creates more scourge and stigma than AIDS…bed bugs. Not necessarily bed bugs. A bed bug. But where there is one, there could be hundreds. I still hadn’t settled into my apartment when my home became some kind of decrepit spaceship  Clear, shiny, plastic bubbles holding all I owned. Spending 14 hours of washing with break you mentally…not to mention financially. Thirty five cents equals only 10 minutes. Not to mention dry cleaning and days off work when I had no vacation planned.

I could go into the other 4 plagues of Egypt I have gone through since the new year, but that would banish the white noise for the night.

And I need the white noise. Because when it stops, my brain begins to scream–

I AM DONE.

With this life. With my 20s.  With New York. With people not picking up their dog shit. With aggressive panhandlers.  With an exorbitant cost of living. With not having a yard. With $15 cocktails and men who expect sex on first dates.

With the lack of white noise.

In 3 months I begin a new era of life.

And in less than 12 months, god-willing, it will be in a new place.

Dear Martin

pic16My dearest Martin:

Every year on this day, I take time out to reflect on how to live a more purpose-driven life. Today was no exception.

As I sat watching the first non-white president get sworn in, I wondered what you would have thought. Perhaps, like for me, the moment would be bittersweet. A symbol that the eras of the past are being eroded the same way the ocean takes away the shore, yet still utterly exasperated by the height of the mountain still left to climb.

The mountain will be there tomorrow; today, while we have it, I will sustain the joy.

I miss you. We never met, but I feel the spirit of you and your wife hover over me and my family’s legacy.  The watershed year of 1963 occurred 50 years ago.  I know so many women of African descent who have capitalized on the events that occurred since the time my mother was a child. We are doctors, we are wives, we are lawyers, we are First Ladies. It’s amazing what we are, but particularly what I am. I owe a great deal of that to you. And to my father who managed to create a business, with the help of my mother, in the racial muck of 1980s Mississippi. And to my grandparents who battled poverty in Baltimore and the Bayou to raise children who upheld the values and traditions of the Southern Christian American blacks.

Today, I rededicate my life to the fight.  So much has happened, but I am still afraid.  Afraid of institutional racism at work. Afraid of raising a family in the era of police brutality.  Afraid that a loving black marriage is a thing of the past. And afraid that gay rights will vanish. Afraid of rape.

Today is the first day I realized that only action combats fear.  So in memory of you and your legacy and in appreciation of the fact I am not a maid in Jackson, Mississippi raising three kids, I’m making a new vow. I vow to speak, write, organize, and march. To laugh, love, and pray.  To do 1/1,000 of what you did to improve not only my life, but the world.

Love always,

Kelly

New Years Evolution

Traditionally, this is my favorite time of year. Since the age of 18, I have used the week between Christmas and New Years Eve to stress out about an outfit, find a pair of heels I can wear all night long, and grab my BFF for a night of people watching, fruity cocktails, and chair dancing.

In the middle of the evening, I inevitably slur, “So what are your New Years resolutions?”

The first 7 or so years, my best friend would answer. She moved back to her hometown to look for a job 3 years ago. I know not to ask now. If we are together, I just give her a hug and a drink.

I still ask the same question to myself. It allows me to combine my favorite tasks: daydreaming and type A planning.

This year, however, is different. I don’t have the energy to look forward. The last 2 months have been a blur. I write posts and plays in my head, then come home from work to pass out. I moved into a studio from a 1-bedroom. My new job isn’t going so well. I’m still working my old job. I put back on the 20 pounds I worked so tirelessly to lose this year. I find myself snapping at my dog, my boyfriend, myself. Today I didn’t leave my apartment, not even to walk my dog.

New Year’s Eve, Schmear Year’s Eve. Resolutions aren’t so fun when you feel like you are existing and not living. 

I realized that always working towards the future and beating myself up for not accomplishing something great by my imaginary grown-up age of 30 is counter productive. It robs me of the present, of looking at flowers, drinking water, and breathing deeply.

I need to EVOLVE, not RESOLVE. Step 1 is gratitude. I’m not where I want it to be, but thank God I’m not where I have been. I make over 10k more this year than I did last year. I began growing locs. I got rid of people who were sabotaging my happiness. I became a dog mom. I moved into an apartment to better live within my means. I began to fall in love.

2012 was a good year. Today is a good day. 2013, come what may.

The Upside of Urkel

The past two months, it’s been hard to breathe. Between working 6 days a week, trying to finish up a project at Job 1 and start a project at Job 2, I have all but abandoned faithful friends and confidants. I knew I couldn’t make it up to them individually, so I planned a picnic.

It didn’t take long for us to catch up. I love them; they love me. The leaves, turning colors anywhere from ruby-red to burnished gold, floated to our feet. I’m sure people were talking, but my soul sat in silence, content to just be.

And then it started…

“Kelly, so tell us about your boyfriend.”

It’s an innocuous query from a bunch of undersexed and overbrained New York career women, but it snapped me out of the dream-like space I was inhabiting. I answered questions in clipped phrases, sighs, and facial expressions not closely approximating a smile.

My friends were shocked. My boyfriend is, without a shadow of a doubt, better than the last one and anyone who has crossed my path in a number of years. We went foraging for 5 hours in Prospect Park, then cooked dinner with the greens we collected. We talk about retirement. We bike through neighborhoods to find thrift stores. He twists my hair. HE TWISTS MY HAIR!

So why am I so meh whenever someone asks about him?

Because I am dating Steve Urkel.

Do I make you swoon?

Seriously. Gap-in-teeth-questionable-fashion-sense-glasses-from-two-decades-ago Steve Urkel.

I have been dating for about a thousand years. For most of that time, I went out with someone because of charisma, sexitude, or swagger. It’s hard to care about someone’s values when you are drunk making out with them on the top of a Manhattan hotel bar. Chemistry is not connectivity. When I look at anyone’s stable relationship that I admire (I can count about 3), they all say the same thing– passion and chemistry don’t sustain you.

I guess my friends’ point is that it should be there at least at the beginning? Where is that set in stone? No, I don’t daydream about him. I don’t call him obsessively. We do not makeout on rooftops.

But when I am sad, he takes kisses my forehead and takes my hand. Even when he works more than me, he is always concerned that I am getting enough rest. He takes out the trash, walks the dog, fixes chairs, and washes the dishes. I never ask him to.

He doesn’t give me butterflies.

But there is truly no other place that I’d rather be.

TV Tokens? Not so much.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to be a historian. My subjects of choice were African-American gender history, LGBT history, and the history of reproductive medicine. My expertise allowed me to read old Ebony magazines, first-hand accounts of underage hustlers in Time Square, and protocols for testing early contraceptives on Blacks and Hispanics to find out if it was suitable for whites. A prospective career writing about sex and drugs helped me get through the dreary, dusty environment of my suburban elitist school.

Reading microfiche in the library’s basement I was enamored with early and mid-twentieth century Jet magazines. I skimmed past the advertisements for skin lighteners and hair pomade and always went to the Jet Firsts. Each week the Jet Firsts mentioned some woman of color who was blazing the trails in law, science, academia, politics, or celebrity. They served as beacons of hope during the South’s Jim Crow, the North’s smothering urban poverty, and the disillusionment that followed.

Today, it doesn’t make sense to have the Jet Firsts. Women of all persuasions are seen everywhere.

Except for on television!

During the past decade I have looked for a representation of myself. All I could come by was Meredith Grey and Carrie Bradshaw. I intimately understand Meredith’s neurosis or Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with shoes, but it doesn’t really reflect my life. The best I have is Living Single’s Khadijah James of 1993 on YouTube.

This season, however, is different. I turn on the tv and I see myself! Not just in terms of color, but in terms of character. Scandal’s Kerry Washington is an driven bitch who makes tough calls, leads by example, and has ill-advised sexual relationships with unavailable white men. WE’RE PRACTICALLY TWINS. The Mindy Project’s Mindy Kaling is a woman with big thighs working in the medical field and just trying to keep her head up and believe in love after about a million bad dates. HELLO MIRROR!

My excitement about these shows makes me equally ecstatic and sad. A black woman hasn’t headed a drama since Diahann Carol did in the 70s. I have NEVER seen a non-thin brown woman head ANYTHING EVER on regular broadcast tv.

It’s 2012. And we still have Jet Firsts.

My only hope is that I can get to a Jet Fifth by the time I’m 50. Until then I will be doing my brown girl duty…aka siting on my ass and laughing at the shenanigans of a person who looks like me.

Mindy, I’m rooting for you girl!