The Lies We Tell

The course of every persons’ life shape and mold their perspectives, their tolerances and their intolerances; some for good and some for bad. I try to be as aware as possible of my own unnecessary intolerances to improve as a person. I try to strengthen and exploit my tolerances (or positive personality traits) because those are my strong points and the traits that I have to better the people that I come into contact with. So I face deep internal conflict when the worst of me start to overcome the best of me.

I hate being lied to… and it is wearing heavily on my patience.

Now I blame my father for the way I feel about being lied to. Growing up I could get away with just about anything; anything but lying. Lying shows direct disrespect for someones’ intellect or mental ability for solving common sense problems. It shows that you do not believe the person you are lying to, cannot connect the dots that will expose whatever it is that you are attempting to cover up. So every time my father caught me in a lie, I would be disciplined to teach me that I am not as smart as the truth. Truth will always show up. It taught me that lying does not work, and it actually makes every situation worse than it could have been.

(Side note: You know that ugly sweater you got for Christmas? Put it on and smile. You cannot tell your kids the truth about that. I say that just to say that I do not believe the raw truth is the best way to handle every situation. Lying to deceive and manipulate is what I’m referring to right now.)

My patience has worn so thin when it comes to waiting and looking for someone change and improve the condition of the social climate in America. That is for the best though. I see now that I cannot wait for someone to do what I can start to do myself. This is my America; and if it needs cleaning, I should start doing my part first. Besides, I’m sure I have better cleaning supplies; Christ, love and hope. I may only be able to do it through a kind word, a few sandwiches and some mentoring, but it would be getting done. So I stopped looking for any politician, activist, celebrity, actor or entertainer to clean dirt that they rarely see; dirt that they are barely unaware of; dirt that does not even effect them. So my patience running out in that area actually pushed me to not complain. Instead, I now attempt to do more myself to change whatever it is that I come into contact with.

As I carry on though, I have to push through the media constantly lying to me. The other day I turned on my television and noticed that the Kevin Harts and Chris Rocks and Tyler Perrys are constantly making movies and TV shows to make me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I am not faulting anyone for doing whatever it is for them to earn a living. But at that moment in time, I realized I’m being lied to. I am constantly being distracted from the realities right outside my doors with comedy and feel good stories. The reason I feel as though I’m being lied to is because I have not heard nearly as much as I thought I should have from these people to support the turmoil that our country is going through. I feel as though between all of the black entertainers and people with a voice, there could have been some type of camaraderie amongst them to get everyone else to follow.

You are lying to me.

You want me to pay my money to watch your shows and movies, while I cannot pay you to ask your opinion or where should I send my money to contribute to your funding to help the condition. I do not need to see you in a t-shirt. My newborn godchild can wear a t-shirt. What should I do with my money? Go see your movie?

You are lying to me.

You are acting as though there is not an escalating problem in this country that is affecting and oppressing the very people that you are marketing to. To be fair though, I know that those three blanket names I called (I would hope) have donated to the causes. I would be ignorant to assume that they have not donated anything. I would also be ignorant to not see that there is only so much that they will do or say to not cut into their financial losses. I’m not going to be too critical because I don’t have millions to lose. Therefore, I pray to God that money at any level never becomes so important that I would let it silence me to keep it. Since I’m not in their shoes, I will reserve some judgment and place a majority of the fault on people like me who can talk a mile a minute, but won’t donate five bucks to a change you say you believe in. Luke 16:10 states, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” I was talking with a guy one day, and he was telling me how much he would do if he was a celebrity with millions at his disposal.

He was lying to me.

Whatever you do with the money you have now, is the same thing you will do if you had millions — just on a larger scale. So instead of constantly being lied to, from those at the top all the way to those like myself, I have decided to only do whatever I can do as an individual. The culture is changing, and there are people nationwide deciding to do the same thing. I just hope that whoever does decide to make that individual push for change, has enough strength to continue, because it can be extremely frustrating when your ideas are grand but your voice is insignificant.

“I Understand”

Attempting to empathize with someone’s expressed discomforts can be extremely awkward. Naturally, you want to make people feel better about whatever they may be going through. So you sit, talk and listen — most times that is the only thing needed. However, in your panic mind to not seem useless, you will utter the most convenient but inconsiderate words to respond to the situation; “I understand.”

“I understand” carries the implications that if there was absolutely anything I could do to help or change your situation, I would. I’m pretty sure that is how it is interpreted most times, but I had one occasion when that wasn’t the case. While listening to a friend about somethings that she had been going through, I reached into my underdeveloped arsenal of sympathetic responses and pulled out that false empathic patch of an answer and said, “I understand.” She simply replied, “No you don’t.”

Up until that point, I had never realized how generic I had made those words. “I understand” is a form of empathy; a statement that says, “I have experienced what you are talking about and can relate.” Even though I have sympathy for the situation, saying “I understand” can be a grand overstatement if you have not gone through a similar situation.

That instant realization that I had only used “I understand” to smooth over real frustrations was a wake up call for me regarding that phrase. As I am constantly encouraging perspective and compassion, I actually do attempt to make it common practice. I learned that your genuine intentions can be easily be confused for patronizing if you do not consider your words and their meaning. These days when I say, “I understand,” I make sure that I can thoroughly explain my personal experience to the other person’s experience with accurate relevancy.

“So what if you do not understand?” you may ask.

If I cannot genuinely empathize, I still sympathize; and sometimes to do so, all you need to do is shut your mouth and listen. Saying something that is not genuine can ruin the genuine intentions of the conversation altogether; so just shut your mouth and listen. If anything, you could extend an offer to assist going forward (that only be done if you really mean it).

Sometimes stating understanding is done better with actions than with words. I had to learn it the hard and embarrassing way. Hopefully, this could divert some of you guys from making the same mistake; and if you do, I’ll understand.

Week 14 Recap

It’s four days until Christmas and about ten days until the New Year — which I am very excited about. For now though, I will just focus on what I wrote this week.

On Monday, December 15, I actually wrote a piece of poetry. I didn’t intend to though. I was in a bit of a creative mood while writing something else. So when my pen ran out of ink, it gave me an excuse to stop what I was originally writing and do something a bit more… useless. I enjoyed it though. “Words” was just an expansion on what could have happened if I had tried forced my pen to write. Even though it is kind of farfetched that a splotch of ink could spell out anything, you can’t judge my imagination (maybe my style; but not my imagination). It also released a bit of pressure off the poetry valve. Since I have been blogging, I have complained about my discontentment with my poetic skills, even though I write a great deal of it. Maybe next year I will exhibit more personal writing in that area.

I also found out that the editing functions in WordPress did not allow me to double-space between stanzas. That was kind of a bummer, because I wanted it to be clear that there were five three-line stanzas in front of you instead of whatever else it could have been interpreted as. I am still unsure if it is the theme that I am using or not, but I am soon to find out.

On Wednesday, December 17, I wrote about the pros and cons of city life versus the lifestyle offered by my hometown in Alabama. Having grown up in Atlanta, I never thought that I would see the day when I would even fathom of wanting to permanently reside somewhere else. Maybe that is a change that comes with age, familiarity, or simply wanting to explore more. Nonetheless, the rural quiet ways and family accessibility is drawing a distinct line between what I thought I wanted and what I may really want — even if it is just for a temporary change of speeds.

No matter what city you live in, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases this week. Remember that this is a season for giving just as well as receiving. No matter what happens, keep and open perspective and show compassion during this holiday season, and I guarantee it will brighten the spirits.

Country Guy, City Life

The fact that I cannot occupy two places at once is a disappointing reality that I accept simply because it’s impossible. The next best alternative to my problem is relocating to face extensive travel times and gas prices.

So what problem would one be facing for these to be possible solutions? The problem is not knowing whether you prefer the peacefulness of rural living or the constant and ever-changing days of city life.

I grew up in inner city Atlanta. I went to school in downtown Atlanta. I attended Georgia State in downtown Atlanta. I am currently employed in downtown Atlanta. Atlanta is all I know; and I have loved every moment of it. I can honestly say that there is always something happening, there is always something going on, and there is never a dull moment. Is it a New York City? No, but the city is always buzzing. There is always something to be seen and someone to be heard. Something is always changing, so there is always something new to do. As the city grows, I never feel a need for more. No one I know, not even the most inquisitive and adventurous people have discovered all of Atlanta. No one has done all there is to do. No one has eaten at all the hot spots or relaxed at all the cool spots. Everywhere is within thirty minutes (max) of the next destination and each destination leads to another. The city is small in size, but is condensed with activities, changes and life. It never gets boring.

However, even though is does not get boring, it think it does get tired. There are instances when you need a break from it. For me, that is when I get thrown into a decision of which is better. I am originally from Phenix City, Alabama, where my mothers whole family (for the most part) still reside. My father is from the next town over — Seale, Alabama — where his parents still live. It is quiet and homely. Out-of-towners stick out like sore thumbs and when I have gone to the local grocer, I have been asked, “You must be a Richardson?” There are no strangers except the ones passing through vacationing in Florida. I love it. It’s quiet and quaint. To me, the quality of life now seems to have a direct correlation with the busyness around you and the amount of visible vegetation. The days are brighter and the nights are darker. The clouds are whiter and the stars are brighter. It is a relief every time I go, and every time I go, it gets harder and harder to come back to the city that I have loved my entire life.

After thinking about it for a while, I think I came up with the reason that the city life may be losing its grip on me. I think it is because of the slow but steady loss of culture that is spreading across Atlanta. I’m not saying that there is not a culture here, but it is a new culture that is replacing what the heritage and history of Atlanta. I came to this when I thought about this when I was  considering my favorite part of Atlanta; Historic West End, Cabbagetown, and Little Five Points/Grant Park areas. Even though these are popular areas, they all have historic and symbolic places to offer. These were hubs for Civil Rights movements, places of historic interest and when you are in either, there is a sense of history the rests there. There are stories behind certain buildings and sites that may not mean much to anywhere else, but to Atlanta, it means a great deal.

For example, a few months ago, Friendship Baptist Church and Mt. Vernon Baptist church were both bought by the city so that the land could be used for the building of the new Atlanta Stadium and future home of the Atlanta Falcons. Friendship Baptist Church is the oldest African-American church in Atlanta being organized in 1866. Morehouse and Spelman colleges were both started with some of their first classes being held in the basement of that church. That is the type of culture that I am talking about. Whether the city forced them to sell or they did on their own, the deal is done now. Cities attract money; money is capital; and in capitalism, everything has a price tag — even history. As different historical sites are lost amidst the city growing in entertainment and cosmopolitan attractions, more of the original feel of what Atlanta used to be is being lost.

The parts of me that enjoy naps on the porch surrounded by quiet greeneries grow more and more every time I think about where I intend to live out the rest of my life. The commutes do not seems as long. The loss of urban adventures do not seem that great. The beckonings of my family to move “closer to home” does not help either. Lord knows I love the country life and everything about it, but I never thought it could compete with living in Atlanta.

Words

My pen stopped working on me.

I don’t think it was out of ink;

It just stopped working.

I had a pink colored pencil

And an elusive thought.

So I did what I had to do.

I started banging away at my pen.

I can’t take pink pencil seriously.

Even if the words are my own.

Shake, bang, scribble — nothing.

Shake, bang, scribble — nothing.

Shake, bang, bang, bang — splat!

All I wanted was to get out a few words,

But I could be happy with this.

Besides, I forgot what the others were.

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Week 13 Recap

It’s nearing Christmas… Excited, right?

I am too.

I will be working extremely hard to make sure I get out a decent number of weekly posts. I think in week 11 I only did one and last week, I only did two. I had an idea to write predated material and post when I didn’t have the time to actually write, but for some reason that doesn’t work for me. By the time I get to use something in a stockpile, I rarely find something that fits what I’m feeling like at the time and would rather just write something completely new. Even so, going forward, I’m going to get it back to at least three per week; even through the holidays. If I worked 40 hours a week doing this though, you guys would be tired of me. 🙂

So on Tuesday, December 9th, I wrote complications of writing despite your emotions and what you may feel like… writing against the grain. I’m sure it is a common occurrence for 99% of writers, but for me, it is so common that I have different methods around the barricades of sentiment based on the degree of the oppression. The first and easiest is to sidetrack to some poetry just to release and put in on the paper. My biggest thing these days is all about productivity, so I try not to let any emotion block any production. I will settle for a different product, but something will be created. No time for down time. If I’m working a story, I will fast forward to a part to write something that fits what I’m feeling. Now that method is a bit tricky and can result in a lot of wasted time. So which is why I tend to end up writing a short short story of some sort. This is my favorite because with less than a thousand words, I instantly change how I feel and my outlook on whatever it is that I’m facing. With poetry, you tend to submerse yourself into the situation. In a short short story though, you can fantastically create something, read it, and tell yourself, “Oh yeah, I’m a writer! It’s all good!”

On Friday, December 12th, I wrote about my selfish ways of traveling alone. It’s not a bad selfish though; if a good selfish even exists. It’s more of the fact that I would rather do things alone, rather than do things with groups sometimes. I’m one of those people who like for everything to go as planned. Even when the unexpected happens, if things are properly planned, we can still continue on the trip without it being a major disaster. But I cannot tolerate having to stop 45 minutes into the trip because the gas light just came on. That will leave me quietly doing breathing exercises to calm whatever ulcers that might try to develop on what is sure to be an aggravating drive into Crazyville. Just the thought of it now gives me the heebee jeebees. So when I want to get up and go somewhere, I just do. I can go to the same place and do the same thing with family and friends and still have the same fun; but not if it prohibits me from enjoying what we went to do or see. Geesh!

So with that being said, enjoy your week ahead. I hope that at any level, you gain a new perspective from reading and I always look forward to the feedback; whether it be negative or positive. You can’t go through life always thinking you’re right. Someone will eventually disagree and you will eventually have to be corrected. The best thing to do is it take it and grow from it. Perspective is key to learning and growth and we should all welcome and embrace it.

P.S. – I believe you’ll be hearing from me tonight. This feels like a two post kind of day.

Lone Travels

Growing up as the eldest of seven children, privacy and time alone were things that I learned to do without before I ever knew the importance of either. So getting away and creating my own space started as soon as I got my driver’s license and a car.

Fast forward a decade or so later, and I have made a hobby out of traveling alone. Maybe it started when I was younger when I would go to the movies alone. I understood that it could be considered strange then because we were in an age group that thrived on social interacting. And when my friends got together and hung out, I was there with them, but if at any point I wanted to do something and didn’t want to wait on friends, I had no problem doing it alone. Now the same thing applies when I plan on visiting the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC on Friday night; I can simply wake up on Saturday morning and do it. The only planning needed is the quickest route to take.

However, after coming from one of this impromptu trips a friend of mine asked me, “You don’t think it’s a bit weird that you randomly leave the state for weekend vacations… alone?” Until he asked that question, in that tone, I hadn’t given it any thought.

First of all, if that was the ONLY way that I ever did anything, that would be strange. I spend 95% of leisure time with family and/or friends. The other 5% are the times that I catch a midday movie on my off day alone or have a day’s trip to somewhere I’ve never been. No one I know have any real interest in visiting the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky, so I already know that going to be a solo trip. No group itinerary, no family voting of where to eat, no one who has already read everything to know about the attraction and talk about it the entire time. I can go, get what I want to get from it, and it’s over just as quickly as I can get back to my bed. Now when the family puts together family vacation, I’ll go. My cousins are in talks of a summer cruise, I may go. A few friends may get together and catch a movie later on, and I’ll be there. but if at any moment, I want to do any of these things, I have absolutely no problem doing them alone.

More than being weird, I feel as though this has more of a selfish nature when it comes to me personally. I have no problem admitting it, because I believe admitting you have a problem is the first step to fixing it 🙂 (sarcasm). I can be a bit of a stickler, so rather than annoy everyone I’m around about getting to the correct theater on time so that we can get concessions and good seats, I’d rather just go alone when it’s a movie that I really really want to see. So it’s more of the attitude behind traveling alone, than the actual act. So my reasoning doesn’t make me weird, it makes me a bit selfish… maybe! In high school when we had group projects, I would do the entire project to make ensure that all of it would be done promptly and correctly. That’s the same attitude that puts me on the road alone.

So if you know someone that travels alone on a regular basis, they may in fact be a drug mule; but they may just a very picky side and peculiar tastes that they don’t want to risk external opinions with. I don’t know many other people like that, but I know I’m not the only one, so if you come across one, hopefully you now have another perspective on possibly understanding them.

Moody Writer?

Unless you are writing poetry, emotions will often betray the point of whatever it is that you are writing. It is a problem that writers often go through during the creative process. One minute you could be in an upbeat mood and pressing your story through a cheery line of events. If for whatever reason your mood changes though, it can be difficult to keep that story on the same pace. So what do you do when you don’t feel what it is that you want to portray?

Personally, if my mood takes a dive for whatever reason, I use that energy to practice poetry. However, while in such a mood, editing and rewording is not a priority! So if there is any display of skill that is presented as “above average”, it is simply luck, or raw talent; either way, I am still not interested enough to invest my good moods in honing the craft.

Hypocritically of me, I am not a fan of sad poetry. I do enjoy heartbroken verses from time to time though; as long as though they stay within the bounds of staying alive. (Say no to suicide!) With an art as diverse and boundless as poetry, it is hard to legitimately critique a poem. But if your poems can provoke an internal fear of being alone, I will probably avoid reading it. It was years ago when I first read Langston Hughes’ “Suicide’s Note”:

The calm,

Cool face of the river

Asked me for a kiss.

It still creeps me out. I mean, it’s cool. I guess it’s good. I just don’t like the feeling that I got after I read it. I remember thinking, “He must have been in a really bad mood.”

Another method that I try when when my mood isn’t up to par is skipping forward in the story that I’m working on. I will fast forward to where I think the story could go, and write a whole scene or chapter based solely on how I feel at the time. Then when I am back to myself, I will start back writing at the original stopping point and hope that the two sections will connect. If you are a writer, you know that everything is subject to change; so either the part written preemptively can be a checkpoint or it will be scrapped and that will be time wasted. So I try not to practice that route and use that energy editing — if I must work on the same project.

What I often turn to though, is the short story. I may write something that reflects solitude. In Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, I felt a sense of loneliness in his writing. I’m not saying that this is the case, but it is definitely the vibe that I picked up from it. As I got older and began to read more about Hemingway as a man rather than just an author, I can just about be sure that he was not a very “happy” man when he wrote that. Writing in a wishful state of desire can also be method of cheering myself up. So it may be rather difficult to distinguish what was being felt by the author when he or she wrote it. The feeling of my reader takes precedence over my own when writing. If I think too much emotional is bleeding into the work and could possibly deter what I want the read to get, I will scrap it altogether; or journal it.

I’m sure the methodologies for moody writing are infinite, but those are the three that I use. Whatever method you use is just fine as long as you push through and produce something. Writer’s block can only beat you if you let it. 🙂

Week 12 Recap

So we have come to the close of the twelfth week. I was only able to publish one post this week. Time was scare. My mind was a so occupied with the social occurrences rippling through the United States that every time I sat down to type, it was all I could think about. So my apologies for the absence. However, I did get a chance to read a bit, which was much needed. Te reading produced a backlog of topics that I would like to cover, so next week will be back to normal.

On Tuesday, December 2, I wrote about the lack of gear that writer’s have to show off. I also stated that the lack thereof may be the part of the relevance behind the typewriter in present day  writing. After posting, a reader sent me a screenshot of this cool Weapons of Mass Creation t-shirt from Pinterest; I will be wearing one soon.

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I also had a chance to write a couple short short stories this week that I may share. They are completely fiction and I believe they were prompted by the stress that has been going on around me, the stresses of the nation and the fact that I think I may be coming down with a cold. Writing is what gives a temporary way of escape to a perfect world that you create; but hopefully every writer knows their fantasy limit. 🙂

With that being said, I will write to you all next week. Hopefully it will grant another perspective for some of you, inspire some of you, and encourage some of you. Remember keep an open perspective and to show compassion wherever you can. Laugh a little and smile a lot and spread positivity and encouragement everywhere you go (if possible; I know how it is sometimes).

I’m going to find the NyQuil. 🙂

Writers’ Tools

One of the best things about being a writer is that I can pretty much do it anywhere. I carry a pocket notebook, ink pen, and phone at all times; and all three items can fit into the same pocket. So whether I want to jot notes, blog or even work on larger projects, all of it is within a very short reach. That has to be one of the best, if not the best, feature of the profession.

However, when I look at other artistry professions, there is a “gear envy” that I find myself battling against. What I’m trying to say is that with my pen, notebook and phone, I could be a student, businessman or any other organized human being in America. Think about a guitarist. Not only is he going to have a guitar, but there are different types of guitars that produce different types of sounds. Let’s say we have a barber; there a different blades and clippers to produce different cuts. Photographers use different cameras and lenses. Painters use different types of paints and brushes. It seems like every other creative art have a gear package that you can build to do whatever it is that you do… And only that!

It’s not like I hate the other artists, it’s just that there is nothing a writer carries or uses that only a writer would have; except a typewriter. The typewriter is the only thing that only a writer would have. Everybody uses pens. It doesn’t matter what brand you buy or how many you have; it’s still a pen. Notebooks and paper are used by everyone. Softwares don’t count because that’s not physical equipment. I doubt if anyone that is not a writer want to hear about the capabilities of White Smoke… because it’s software… and software is boring and non-tangible. The only thing that I can think of that means writer, and writer only, is a typewriter. You’re not going to have a typewriter to do anything else with besides writing. That’s all you can do with it. This is why in December 2014, typewriters are still relevant (in my personal opinion); because it is all we have that we can brag on that no one else would ever use. Besides that little weird lady with the glasses who types everything during court, no other profession would ever use a typewriter! That’s our thing; but I feel like we should have at least one other thing. Or maybe I’m just looking for a reason to have more gadgets.

Anyway, it’s not that I want people to see me and say, “Oh that guy has a _______. He’s a writer.” I simply wish there was some tool or object that we could carry around and compare with each other like other artists do. We just have to admire the complete work… Unless we type it on and read it from a typewriter.

(And this was a writer’s temper tantrum.)