Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Weapon Formed Against Ray Lewis Shall Prosper

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.

~ Isaiah 54:17 (KJV)

I wouldn't call myself a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan, but I support any California NFL team that makes it to the Super Bowl.

That said, I don't think the 49ers are going to win the Super Bowl this year.  And it's not their fault.

This is Ray Lewis' year, and no weapon formed against him in the pursuit of his final Super Bowl ring will prosper.

I'm not a Ravens fan, either, but you don't have to be to feel the profound love and respect the Ravens have for Lewis.  My husband Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) always says, "The team that wants it the most always wins."  The desire of the Ravens to bring home that Super Bowl ring for Lewis is palpable.  They've already named it and claimed it in Lewis' name.  Even members of opposing playoff teams have made the pilgrimage across the field or to the Ravens' locker room after losing to the Ravens to pay their respects to Lewis.

Despite Lewis' obvious deep love of God, the game, and his teammates, at least one person of small spirit (a Patriots supporter, no less) has taken the opportunity to attempt to besmirch Lewis, bringing up his murder trial, his children by different women, etc.

Lewis, ever the believer, forgave the woman.  He's content to "let the game take care of the game."

I'm no Bible scholar, either, and whenever I would hear anyone quote Isaiah 54:17, I'd get a little perturbed that they were using it out of context.  God isn't saying that "no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" simply because you're you, but because you're aligned with His purpose.  Quoting Isaiah 54:17 to yourself when you're in line to try to snag a pair of Air Jordans, for example, would be a misunderstanding, to say the least.

But maybe, just maybe, it is God's purpose that Ray Lewis win.  God does reward His servants.

That's why, as much as I would love to see the 49ers win, I believe in my spirit that it's Ray Lewis' year, and no weapon formed against him shall prosper.  The best thing the 49ers can do to honor Lewis is to play as a team worthy to take the field with him.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yes I Can, Because I'm a Delta (Happy 100th Anniversary!)

One hundred years ago today, twenty-two women at Howard University had a vision for a sorority dedicated to public service and followed through on that vision.  That sorority is Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and I am a member.  And I am a better black woman because of it.

As many of my loyal readers know, I've been going through some things at work.  The other day, I came out of my office at the end of the day, walked down to my car where my husband was waiting, and told him, "I'm quitting."

"Really?", he responded.

"Yes, but not yet.  I'm not going until I have exactly the kind of job I want.  In the words of my nephew, I can 'thug it out' on this job until I get exactly what I want,  I pledged Delta; these people ain't got nothing on me."  I can rise above adversity and come out the better for it precisely because I'm a Delta.

I pledged Delta Sigma Theta -- and we don't even use the word "pledge" anymore -- back in the day when the membership intake process was, shall we say, arduous.  Not as arduous as the process for women who pledged in the '40's, '50's and '60's, but arduous enough.  The process broke my spirit and built me back up.  What it taught me was that I could persevere through adversity and come out of it stronger and stronger-willed.  Pledging Delta tested me in a way that better prepared me for all of life's real tests -- death, illness, infertility, job madness --  because I knew what I was made of long before I was tested for real.  Because Delta showed me.

There's far more to Delta Sigma Theta than its intake process, past or present.  I was drawn to Delta because of all the powerful black women I saw who were members, most notably Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, and U.S. Ambassador Jewel LaFontant.  I was drawn to Delta because it wasn't a social club at its inception -- the twenty-two founders came together with the purpose of public service and, specifically, fighting for women's right to vote, even as the suffragette movement rejected them.  I wanted to be part of that tradition.

I'll be the first to admit that Delta has done far more for me than I've done for Delta, but every little goodbye ain't gone, and there's still time for me to get my Delta act together.  That said, I could not let this day pass without saying thank you, Delta, and Happy 100th Anniversary.

BWB

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Advice From a Mature Black Professional Woman to Younger Ones

I have a colleague from college, a black woman, who is extremely successful in her profession.  She has been an innovator in her field, and some of the most newsworthy successes in her profession are due to her.  After speaking to her a few months back after not having spoken for decades, we started catching up on each other's lives.  She said that if she could give one piece of advice to young black professional women, it would be this:

Plan for marriage and children as meticulously as you plan your career.

My colleague is approaching fifty and she's single with no children.  Mind you, she's not some tragic case wallowing in pity, but she just didn't envision that she wouldn't have married and had kids.  Like many women in our generation, she thought that if she just put her effort into her career, all the other things she wanted -- marriage, children -- would simply fall into place.  She thought the career part was the hardest part of one's life to get in order.  Finding a suitable mate and producing kids, well, not so much.

Wrong.

Before you start creating visions in your mind of this woman, let me just say she's very pretty.  She's also kind and well-spoken and funny.  She'd be the perfect person to be a wife and mother.

Simply put, I think my generation of black women got it wrong when it comes to work/life balance.  I know many black women from college who are single, and within that group are many who have not had children.  I'm not saying that marriage and children are the holy grail for black professional women.  What I'm saying is that if you even harbor a thought that those things are or might be important to you, you're going to have to make as much of an effort to achieve them as you make in achieving your career goals.  Unlike what my colleague thought, achieving career success does not mean that love, marriage, and children will just, as she thought, "take care of themselves."  They simply don't fall into place because you are a successful professional black woman.

I didn't value marriage and children during my early career years.  In fact, I started devaluing marriage and family early on in life, starting with my own mom.  I remember how my mother, She Who Is Exalted (SWIE), used to say that the one job she really wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom.  I, riding high on feminism, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, pre-teen hormones, and way too many choruses of Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," informed my mother that she lacked ambition.  Why would anyone want to be a stay-at-home mom, a job that my pre-teen self had decided required neither qualifications nor skill?  I told my mom that if education was so important, as I was always told by her, why didn't SHE go back to school, get her high school diploma, go to college, and get a better job?

"Because I've got six kids to raise," she responded dryly. 

My mother was a saint.  Any other black pre-teen telling her mother that she "lacked ambition" would have had the taste slapped out of her mouth, or at least would have been in need of some orthodontic work.

What I saw from marriage and children as a child was constant struggle.  I saw my mom and dad trying to pay the bills, keep us fed and clothed.  I couldn't understand taking on so much responsibility when you didn't have to.  From what I saw of my parents' marriage, a husband was just another human to feed and clothe.  What was the point?

With age comes wisdom and discernment.  I know now that there's a lot more to marriage and children than struggling to pay the bills.  Maybe if I had realized this earlier in my career, I might have had some impetus to try harder at finding a mate and having kids earlier.

Anyway, I just thought I'd pass along my colleague's advice.  If you even think you might want marriage and children in addition to your career, you're going to have to work at getting them.

And, quite frankly, I'd be more than happy to be a stay-at-home mom right about now.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stop Bending Over (You're Going to Disappoint Some Folks)

"Cain't nobody ride your back if you don't bend over."

~ Black Man Not Blogging's Late Grandmother

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been working on a project for work that's been a doozie for a number of reasons.  First among them is the fact that, for whatever reason -- age, menopause fog, whatever -- I can't sit for hours on end behind a desk analyzing and digesting legal briefs and cases like I used to.  When I was in my twenties, I could read and make sense of this stuff for hours on end until I finished whatever I was working on -- a brief, a bench memo, whatever.  I'm at the point now that if I can read a decision or a legal brief for an hour straight, I've done well.  It simply takes me longer to do what I could have done faster in my twenties and thirties, and I don't know why. I think the second reason is that, at this stage in my life, I'm more interested in creating and building than analyzing and defending.  I'm tired of having to prove myself with every project I handle, knowing there are people who are just waiting for me to slip and fail, waiting for me to not be as good at my work as I know I am.  I've got a bad case of analysis paralysis.

Against all this is the backdrop of my superiors at work metaphorically perched on my shoulder, asking me when I'm going to finish, wanting to know how far I've come on the project and why it isn't finished yet.  The answer I have isn't acceptable -- I can't do this stuff as quickly as I used to do it -- but it's the only truthful answer I've got.

So the anxiety of not being able to analyze and write as quickly as I used to combined with my superiors badgering me ("Can you finish this up today?  Thanks.") drove my already high anxiety level through the roof, so much so that I got really sick not once, but twice, during the holiday season.  So much so that I missed a family member's funeral and Christmas.  I'm still not at 100%.  I've spent most of this weekend on the couch resting and watching Turner Classic Movies.

Even when I dragged my sick behind in on New Year's Eve just to prove to everyone that I was indeed working away on this project, the promise I made, and the expectation I created, was that I would work through New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, if required, to finish this project.  Mind you, there's no statutory deadline for this project.  No one is going to be harmed if it isn't completed this week or even in this month.  Yet, because I've always come through with an excellent work product in less time than it's taking me now, the expectation is that I will continue to work away at whatever cost to myself until it's done and done well.

In other words, I've been bending over, letting my superiors ride my back.  And for no good reason.

That is, until I spoke to another co-worker who was also at work on New Year's Eve long after Governor Brown let everyone leave early at 1:00 pm.

I was telling this co-worker how I had been working on this project for what seemed like forever.  I worked on it after work, in bed.  I worked on it while I was sick in bed. I worked on it during weekends.  And because I don't have the attention span I used to have, it was just taking me longer than usual, and I was getting questioned by my supervisor  as to what was taking so long and I had no good answer.

Co-worker responded:  "It's New Year's Eve.  Nobody else is here.  What have you done that's so bad that you deserve to be here on New Year's Eve?  Everybody else has gone home to their families.  You ought to go home to yours."

Talk about an a-ha moment, as Oprah would say.

It dawned on me -- like my BFF has been saying to me since my thirties, "The work is always going to be there.  It never ends.  We just die.  And then someone else comes along and takes up where you left off."

And then I thought of all the events I'd missed trying to meet these deadlines -- two Stanford college reunions, a family funeral, you name it.

And I got angry, because I can't ever get that time back. 

But I can make sure I don't lose any more of it.

My co-worker went on to say something to the effect of, "Don't lose perspective.  Right now, I have to decide whether to take an ill family member to an event on New Year's Day, so as far as I'm concerned, if something I'm working on doesn't have a statutory deadline, well, these folks will get it when they get they get it.  And yes, they're going to be disappointed, but I've got bigger issues in my life right now."

Indeed.  So do I.  That's when it hit me:  "Cain't nobody ride your back if you don't bend over."

With that, I straightened up, -- literally and metaphorically -- left what was left of my project on my desk, grabbed only my purse and my coat (and not my briefcase), and walked into the frosty New Year's Eve air to bring in the new year with my husband, Black Man Not Blogging.

So, don't be like me.  Don't let anyone ride your back.  Just don't bend over.  Yes, you're going to disappoint some people, but better them than yourself.

Happy New Year!