Confessions of the Brokenhearted

When I began blogging, I made a firm decision to always present a positive, hopeful, encouraging, and solution-focused position every time I write. I did not want to create just another platform for ranting, complaining, mean-spirited criticism, or merely reporting problems. On this blog I do talk about potentially controversial or painful topics such as colorism and absent fathers, but I do my best to avoid griping, ranting, blaming, and complaining. The reason I talk about these issues is to encourage others to confess their own pain and struggle and to give them hope and empowerment for positive solutions, healing, and growth.

Visit the new site ColorismHealing.org

Complaining Vs. Confessing

There are essential distinctions between complaining and confessing. When we complain and rant, we focus on the faults of others without acknowledging our own shortcomings and complicity. Complaints and rants don’t promote solutions, healing, or growth.

Confessing is preferable because it’s meant to free us from guilt and burden so that we can make significant changes. Confession is about letting go, moving forward, courage, agency, faith, hope, and reconciling both the limits and potential of our humanness.

The Courage to Confess

It’s easier to rant, fuss, and complain than it is to confess. We don’t like to face our own flaws. It hurts to be honest about our struggles even to ourselves, so the idea of sharing with people who might judge and reject us can be terrifying.

In an early post on colorism I explained why I hadn’t talked much about the subject before. I had been afraid of what people might think or say, so for years I kept my thoughts, feelings, and ideas to myself. When I finally built up the courage to confess, some of my fears cam true. A few people misinterpreted my message, made mean-spirited comments, and tried to discredit and shutdown my views and my voice.

But many more people responded positively (or at least thoughtfully), and I knew my blog was fulfilling its purpose.

Costs vs. Benefits of Confessing

Confessing can be painful, but it’s worth the difficulty. Being honest with ourselves is the first step in making our lives better. When we confess to others we are free to come out of hiding, we are able to find support in dealing with our struggles, and we inspire and encourage others around us.

Confession helps to repair broken hearts.

Love Sarah

Visit ColorismHealing.org

Stop Hating

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Awhile back I read a tweet from a woman that said it’s hard not to become just a little jealous or insecure around a beautiful and successful woman. With the ubiquitous images of catty women on television and in movies it’s easy to think this is true of all women, especially black women. Yes, this is a result of capitalism, racism, misogyny, and patriarchy. Because of capitalism, film and TV producers will compromise other people’s dignity to make money. Because of racism, there aren’t enough positive and nuanced portrayals of blacks in mainstream media. Because of misogyny and patriarchy, women get the worst of capitalism and racism. AND it’s all about getting a man, right? Many people seem to think the bulk of female envy stems from the need to find and keep MR. GOOD ENOUGH. (Again, the media exaggerates this phenomena in portrayals of black women.)

Structures are in place that provoke and support hatred among women, structures that we can’t readily change, structures that have become self-sustaining. But I believe we can empower ourselves as women to love or at least appreciate each other.

So how do we remove the jealousy, insecurity, or hatred from our hearts? Reading a blog post won’t get it done, but I suppose it’s a start.

Don’t compare. 

Even if you’re not a hater, per se, simply comparing yourself to other women can make you feel insecure, which makes you miserable and produces bad vibes. Bad vibes often cause conflict. On the road of life, someone’s always farther along or farther behind, so you might as well focus on your own journey. Use what’s in your own hand.

Be inspired. 

This was my personal epiphany. I was about to be jealous of someone, then I thought, Why be jealous? If she can do it, I can do it too! Now when I see women who have something I want or who do something I want to do, their accomplishments validate my dreams. In fact, my dreams seem more and more plausible with each new successful woman I see.

Learn something. 

Instead of smoldering in envy, ask the other woman how she does it? If you listen to her story, you might realize she’s overcome tremendous obstacles. When you see a successful woman, instead of whispering and staring, try networking. You might get the hook up with a new job, a new stylist, or a deal on a new car!

It sounds simple for such a deep and complex issue, but these attitudes have actually worked for me.

I’m curious to know what your experiences have been. How do you handle this issue? I really want to know.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

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Relax Your Hair and Get a Nose Job Too!

Plastic surgery, facelifts, boob jobs, but implants, collagen lip injections, Botox, skin bleaching, extreme tanning, tattooed makeup… All of these things are still kind of taboo for many African-Americans. We criticize people who resort to these methods of beautifying themselves. We condemn them as being shallow and fake. Michael Jackson is called a disgrace to the race for wanting to be white. We shake our heads when Asians complain about their eyes, and we ask, “Why can’t everyone just love themselves.”

But are we any different when we get addicted to hair straightening and extensions? If our natural hair is not good enough, maybe our natural lips, eyes, nose, skin, and breasts aren’t either.

I’ve come to the conclusion that chemically altered hair is no different from other forms of physical alteration. In each case, for whatever reason, people aren’t satisfied with their physical features, so they change them.

We as African-Americans fail to see the connection because the majority of us have been straightening our hair for so long that we’ve normalized it. For decades, the unnatural thing has been the natural thing to do. We believe we’re normal. Those other people? Well, they just need to love themselves the way God made them.

Peace and Love from Sarah L. Webb

What’s in your hand?

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4 Essential Practices For Single Moms

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No matter where dad has gone, or what dad has done, mother, mom, mama, makes the difference. Mama must forge ahead with her children on her back and dreams in her gut. This is encouragement and empowerment for single moms.

The reason the situation looks grim for single mother households is that everyone focuses on the absent parent, the father, who is no longer around to make a difference in the child’s life. If there’s a solution for single mother households, it lies within the parent who’s still involved in the child’s life, the mother. We can’t afford to spend another minute pontificating about the effects that absent fathers have on society because it takes attention away from the most urgent issue of equipping mothers with what they need to carry on.

My own mother’s example inspires most of what I write, but I’m also inspired and educated by stories of mothers around the world. (This is not just an American women’s problem.) I’ve chosen two stories as examples of what can be done to carry on when dad is gone.

Victoria Young

Victoria Young is an 11 year old piano prodigy. She’s one of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artists featured on NPR radio where she shares her gift and her story, a story spoken in a humble, innocent, articulate voice. On the radio program, Victoria talks about her love for modern art, and world class museums, and blesses the crowd with a stunning piano performance. But Victoria’s feature on NPR strikes more than just a piano chord. Even while on a world stage playing Johan Sebastian Bach and discussing infamous paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Victoria identifies the struggles in her life. She recounts her father selling her piano without her knowing. She remembers her home on the brink of foreclosure. She explains how she managed to continue practicing the piano even though she and her mom had to take refuge in a domestic violence shelter far away from her school. Yet, despite the tough times, this 11 year old girl hasn’t given up on excellence.

So much about Victoria’s story evokes admiration, but one daily ritual shines as a testament of what it takes to thrive. Every afternoon, Victoria and her mother commune over a cup of tea. In Victoria’s own words:

“It’s really exciting. We go and we talk, and we eat at the same time. . . . We have a lot of fun.”

Of course we don’t hear Victoria’s entire story on the radio. We only get fragments. But they are significant fragments because in them is shimmering hope for all mother-daughter duos. The bits of Victoria’s story that we dohave show us at least two essential parenting practices:

Spend quality time with your children, and have conversations with your children.

Victoria’s mom understands the need to consistently offer her time and her ear to her daughter. Notice that their quality time is very simple. They don’t even have to leave their house. They spend nothing more than what they would normally spend  on groceries, which is important for single mothers who often need to save every dollar they can. What makes their time together effective is that it’s consistent, genuine, and it’s about Victoria, the daughter. It’s not about the occasion or the event, like a concert or party. Victoria is the center of her mothers attention, and she can count on that attention every day.

What’s your version of afterschool tea time? Consider the everyday tasks you do with your children. How can you turn those moments into quality moments, if they aren’t already? As single mothers, already short on time, you try to maximize every second, but you may be losing quality time with our kids. When you’re around your kids, minimize the time that you’re on the phone talking to adults who don’t need your attention the way your kids do. Quickly cover housekeeping issues, such as what time practice ends or reminding them to submit an important letter, so that you have time for quality conversation about their interests, their fears, and their opinions. Our days are filled with these kinds of mundane tasks that could be turned into quality moments with children. Determine what works best for your family.

Victoria gives parting advice to young people:

“I would tell them not to give up, and just keep going because there’s still hope, and try as hard as they can because they still have their future ahead of them.”

This advice to young people is just as true for their mothers.

Esperanza Spalding

Perhaps a more recognizable name, Esperanza Spalding is a famous jazz musician launched into the national spotlight when she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2010. Spalding began her performance career at the age of five, released her first CD in 2005, and just released her latest album, Radio Music Society, in March 2012.

I recently read a profile about Ms. Spalding, “A Day in the Life of the Jazz Star,” by Abigail Pesta on the Daily Beast. Pesta emphasizes Spalding’s committed work ethic as the primary reason for the jazz musician’s success. Unlike some, Spalding was not born into a musical dynasty. As stated on her official website, Spalding grew up in Portland Oregon “in a single-parent home amid economically adverse circumstances,” even dealing with a childhood illness that required her to be homeschooled. So what did Spalding’s mother do that might have contributed to a prosperous life today?

According to Pesta, Esperanza Spalding

“credits her mother, a single parent, with her early interest in the arts, recalling childhood evenings together spent reading books like The Little Prince, and later the biography of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. She listened to the ‘oldies’—Motown and British rock bands from the ’60s and ’70s—because her mother didn’t think the modern stuff was good for her.”

This example reveals another essential practice:

Provide a deliberate education.

I don’t mean you have to become a certified, public school teacher and stand at a chalkboard while your child buries their head a thick textbook. I do mean this: Decide the values and life lessons you want to instill in your children. Then determine several positive methods for modeling these values and lessons. For example, reading with your children can show them the value of reading, but selecting certain material can make the experience about more than just the act of reading itself. Depending on the content, reading time can also teach children about various themes presented in the text, such as compassion, hard work, generosity, and perseverance. The same is true with music, movies, and television. Even shopping trips can be utilized for modeling financial responsibility.

Just like Esperanza is able to point to her mother’s reasoning, children should not have to guess what values are important to you. Parents may think values and lessons are obvious, but that’s like asking, “Can’t you tell I love you by my actions? Why do I have to say it?” You don’t have to say it every time you speak, but be direct and open about your values and priorities.

The fourth essential practice I glean from Esperanza’s story:

Don’t dwell on what’s missing. Allow your family to enjoy life.

In Esperanza’s own words:

“I’m sure my whole life we were under the poverty line, you know, but I still felt rich. I had a rich upbringing, rich in the sense of a lot of love, a lot of education, nature, music and art, and laughing. . . . It’s not just about the income you make.”

Esperanza Spalding’s mother provided her with rich experiences that countered, even outweighed, the negative side of her reality. I think this is the single mother’s first order of business, as it was with my mother. Don’t allow yourself or your children to languish over the absence of a man, or the absence of financial resources.

Whether or not your child is a musical prodigy, they still deserve the best of you. I hope you’ve found some inspiration in these stories that will keep you hopeful in your parenting journey.

With Love, from Sarah L. Webb