Can You Picture This?

It is said that one way to overcome a fear, is to face it head on…

It started years ago; a camera pointed in my direction would immediately plummet me into a self-conscious tailspin. Yes… I know I was a model. I used to say that that was precisely the reason for my aversion – occupational hazard and all that. I remember my disinterest in viewing the photos after a shoot and others’ disbelief at my refusal to look at myself (I mean… I was a model!). What no one understood was my terror at what I saw. So, for the first time ever, let me hold a mirror up to myself and reveal this truth to you. Be patient with me as try to explain the truth behind your belief and exasperation that I am simply trying to be coy, even fishing for compliments. Please… let’s address this.

It was never a dream of mine to model; I have never been either that confident or arrogant to view myself that way. I got approached and after much prodding from friends, decided to give it a try. As the years went by, I remember thoroughly enjoying the dressing-up process and the walking? Well, I admit to having a torrid love affair with a runway. There was/is something seductive about standing at the top of an expanse of walkway, centering oneself and asking your core to move in unison with your stride. In knowing that from here to there, you can move your body as a reflection of all that you are… in every step. The movement is a celebration of childhood, womanhood, motherhood and queendom. It was the one place I dominated and every footfall silenced those other noises.

The noises that ruled when I was asked to stand still and pose. The noises that shone through my eyes and fashioned my mouth in celebration of its dominance over me. Listen, there is truth behind the phrase, ‘still photography’ because that moment is one you can ill do anything about once captured. So, for as much as it was possible, I shunned the camera. I rejected all voluntary opportunity to document the pain and insecurities that lived inside of me. I refused to be complicit in opening that particular window to my soul. I mastered the art of looking away and reveled in the staged “candid” shots.

In this era of social media and documentation, I receive a lot of flak from those that still believe I am simply being difficult when it comes to picture-taking. It saddens me. Often I wish I am able to be as spontaneous as many and always be camera-ready. But for me, “camera-ready” does not mean perfect hair and make-up (although there is an element of that as well), but it means searching my soul to see how it is doing. It means being brave enough to allow my insides to permanently be displayed for all to see. Staring into the lens of a camera means trusting you enough with the outward manifestations of my emotional history. Knowing that every divet, wrinkle, scar, curl of the lip, droop of the eyes, frown or smile means something. Acknowledging that every harsh word, criticism, slap, punch, spit on, ridicule, lie, abandonment, infidelity had permanently etched its presence into my skin.

I have challenged myself to own the strength I give away every day. I force myself to embody the words of love I offer. I remind myself that scars mean I have survived and should be proud. I have dedicated myself to forging a legacy to my daughter (and future grandchildren) that epitomizes strength and the presence of determination… especially in the face of fear. So, I am taking more pictures and with each one, I am gaining more confidence. Smiles are reaching my eyes and laughter is loud. Movement has become a celebration, where it was once a mechanism to drown out the noise. So, I am challenging this fear not as an act of vanity, but as one of sanity. With each snap I am drowning out the voice of the critics… both external and internal. It is still a struggle, but I am learning to smile and laugh through it. I am slowly taking the steps to look at; not away.

One day soon I will look you all dead in the face and never look away. Then you would know I have fully healed.






Familiarity Breeds Discontent.

It has taken me a bit over two weeks to sort out the emotions of my last post; finally I am able to publicly articulate again.

Because the earlier part of this month has been so very (beautifully) emotional, I have found myself still residing in that place that allows for the magnification of emotions. My oneness with everything around me has been at a level that is impressive… even for me. One of life’s realities that has been vibrating at a consistent frequency is this question of intimacy. Now, I am not addressing what we do in our homes (yes… I know some of you do it even outside your homes; naughty!), what I am addressing is the etiquette behind intimacies in those other places where perhaps a more professional form of behavior may be appropriate – like our workplaces, schools and churches. And, I am only addressing those of us in positions of authority, leadership or influence.

Over the years and since attaining a position of management, my remoteness has become a frequent source of bewilderment for those around me. In the hospitality industry, there seems to be an unspoken and expected doctrine that mandates an informality that is inclusive of team-drinking/drugging/partying. An informality that is disregarding of the management-subordinate protocols. An expectation that my personal self, life and loves must be shared after-hours with those that I am charged to govern during-hours. And, vice-versa. A sense of entitlement that demands the knowledge of my real name and a blow-by-blow on each stilettoed step I took to get me here.

Not gonna happen.

I cannot even say, “I am from that school of thought that…” because I am surrounded by peers who blur the lines of influence and authority on a daily (or, is it nightly?) basis. Those supposedly in authority who see nothing wrong with socializing with those they will be called upon to discipline the next day. Subordinates they allow to see them in less-than-flattering lights, oftentimes doing less-than-flattering things while using less-than-flattering language. Becoming embroiled in situations that lessen their positive leadership and authority.

I never socialize with my staff.

I limit my inclusion in their lives to those conversations that can happen in between the responsibilities we are both hired to handle. Sometimes confidences are shared… by them. I treat them with the respect they are due and leave them there. I do not delve into those intimate spaces that may give the impression it would be okay to be reciprocal. I care… and yes I do, without blurring any of the lines. I never forget that at any moment, either during the conversation, immediately after, or tomorrow, it would be my responsibility to manage them. To correct behavior, discipline or fire. I keep the lines clearly defined because it keeps us both in our places.

Naturally I know some of you may disagree with me. In fact, maybe most of you will. You may prefer a more hands-on approach to leadership; leaning more on the side of intimacy. For me, I have found I prefer to be regarded as hard-ass, strict or remote rather than getting so intimate that one of my subordinates can know I actually do have a hard ass! My way will never get me invited to the weekend socials or after-hours hangouts, but it also will never get me accused or sued.

So, this is how I govern. And like most things, I take it all the way. I also like to be governed that way. I was raised to have respect for my elders and my leaders; and the biggest component of that respect is trusting in their ability to guide me. Understanding and accepting that in negating the delicacy in the balance between them and me, I run the risk of diluting the magnitude of what should have passed between us. I never get confused between, friendly and friend. I do not want intimacy in those spaces where information alone should reside. I want to always do my part to ensure not only do I give what is expected of me, but that I get what is due to me. I believe one of the greatest disservices I could do myself would be to corrupt the pure purpose of something or someone that was placed in my life.

It is a very human tendency to in-formalize our relationships; especially of late with social media. (Mostly) gone are the days when our teachers, employers and clergy are referred to by their titles. We have bought into the seduction of Facebook by believing the ‘friend’ part of a friend-request by those who should neither be our friends, peers or contemporaries. The desire to ‘follow’ and the need for attention have blinded us to the appropriateness of our on-line actions. In no way can it be justified that I know the intimacies of those who govern or lead me. And yes… I am saying this as a fifty-one year old woman! There are mystiques that should never be sacrificed for the sake of popularity or intimacy. I am indeed entitled to the care of and respectful access to those I consider my leaders, but my trust in their knowledge, ability and authority should never be compromised in my eyes by their becoming too familiar.

Look back at your lives. If there is (at least) one partner or lover you have had that you know came into your life and should have stayed just a friend, but your need to make intimate that that should have been left platonic dominated and now you have neither relationship… I have made my point. Furthermore, for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would bother to put in the work to keep on growing and achieving in life, to then continue to tumble back down to those places you left. Isn’t the whole point of achievement to mentor, help and inspire those coming up behind you? How can you pull someone up or forward when you are both standing in the same place?

Everyone says, “Lead by example.” Let’s try it this way (it may resonate more effectively): “Lead. By Example.”

A Mother’s “Thank You” Note.

Dear (Future) Son-In-Law:

I am saying this now for a few reasons: (1) both our lives are about to get quite hectic with wedding plans, (2) Lord knows the mess I will be on your wedding day… tears of joy may render me (almost) speechless and perhaps the most important of them all, (3) tomorrow, never mind next year, is not promised to any of us and I would hate for this to be left unsaid by me and unheard by you. So Kevin… let’s address this.

I remember when Neesie first told me about you; I remember her excitement at the thought of you and later, I remember her wonder at falling in love with you (even as she tried to deny it… even to herself). I remember all the emotions expressed and those left unsaid, because of fear and uncertainty. I remember also holding my breath for the same reasons. Because Kevin, you probably will only understand when you become a father to my grandchildren, what a parent carries around in their soul, not just their heart, for their child. You will fully understand then how every single one of their dreams, hopes, aspirations, plans, wishes, thoughts and schemes creep into you and become one of yours. So, when I recognized my child was in love with you, you became extremely important to me.

I admit that at first that importance was mainly out of hope that her heart would not be adversely compromised, heaven forbid broken. So, I stood guard. I checked in often and took the ‘temperature’ of things from her responses. I made sure my visas were always active in the event, well… I held my breath and prayed. And waited. “For what?” You may ask. Well, honestly, for anything. For everything. I charted the course I would take to get to you if you ever did hurt my baby!

You didn’t. At every juncture when it mattered most, you showed up. You soothed her fears and taught her how to dream. Then, you made her believe in them. I have given Neesie the experiences of getting on a plane. You are teaching her how to fly…

And now? Well now Kevin, we plan a wedding. I say, “we” because I want you to know… well, I want everyone to know that not only do you have her heart, but you have mine as well. You see… this parenting thing again. When I gave birth to Aneesa Adele Hinds some odd years ago, with every breath she takes, the blood pumps with my heart. I no longer own it. She does. God in His brilliance made it so that children can move through the journey of their lives with their parents’ hearts, even as the parents continue on. So you see Kevin, she loves you with both her own and mine.

Take care of her. Please. I trust you will. But I am formally asking, “Take care of her please.” She is tough in all the ways that would protect you, your children and the life you have created, with every breath of her. But, please also understand her heart is totally vulnerable… to you. So please, take care of it. I know because of the man you are you will continue to lead your family and that Neesie will learn and flourish because of it. I trust that. As a mother, as a woman I promise to do any part that becomes necessary in guiding her, woman to woman. Wow… the tears.

Before I wrap up here, please let me say, “Thank You!” again for including me in the asking; my soul responded by healing in those other places that had once hurt. Thank you. Kevin, our family is in no way perfect; but I pledge we will all do our best to be the perfect match for yours. I am thrilled to be gaining all you bring to the table with your family and look forward to all the joint celebrations to come! Thank you.

Welcome to our family, Kev.

Your (Future) Mother-In-Law.

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