4 Spiritual Growth Lessons Learned from Jay Z’s 4:44
Last week Jay-Z broke the internet with his latest release 4:44. Being hailed as his most reflective masterpiece yet, the project is filled with honest nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his obvious maturation. I have had this on repeat for the past week and came up with my summation of the top 4 spiritual growth concepts he conveys with his heartfelt lyricism. Even if you’re not a fan, you cannot deny the gems he spits. Like Jay said, “stop me when I stop telling the truth”.
- Maturity. This is known in the Word as “dying to the flesh” which he addresses on “Kill Jay-Z”. In order for us to achieve success in life, we must all come to a point where we decide to kill our unproductive desires. Even if change does not happen as quickly as we like, the very act of choosing to pursue integrity as a way of life is stepping up to spiritual maturity. Pursuing spiritual evolution is part of “adulting”. Mental and spiritual evolution is always the precursor to a shift in our physical and material expressions of success. Offering apologies, developing compassion, investing in ourselves, financial freedom and ongoing self-education are all signs that the maturation shift has taken place. Jay talks about the critical voices in his head urging him to “die Jay Z”, die to the criminal mindset that no longer represents who he is. “Let go your ego over your right shoulder, your left side is saying finish your breakfast”, a lyrical nod to the struggle of keeping his cold gangster demeanor to protect his ego. Change is inevitable and we should embrace it. When we resist change and become stagnant, we are consciously choosing to stay immature, usually to our detriment.
- Transparency. Vulnerability and transparency is what endears us to others, it’s also what many of us fear the most. This is the reason conversing with someone who also shares their story with you causes you to feel comfortable in revealing your true self. When someone else is as flawed as us, we don’t feel judged. “You can’t heal what you never revealed”, sums up the reason everyone needs to seek out some professional therapy at some point in their adult life. Unless we identify the root of our pain, become transparent about our struggles in safe environments, the bitterness will subconsciously permeate all areas of our life. Despite all the braggadocio verses and gangster knowledge that Jay has dropped over the years, it is ironic that his most vulnerable album will turn out to be a classic beyond his own expectations. All because he decided to publicly acknowledge his flaws and emotional pain.
- Marketing is everything. On “The Story of OJ”, Jay raps, “I turned my life into a nice first week release date.” This speaks to the brilliance of taking control of your own narrative, especially in this age of social media. Whether you are a public figure or not, people are going to gossip about you. Why not get ahead of the story and profit from it if you can? The paparazzi and even regular folks with cell phones are sure going to if possible. Gossip and viral videos are big money these days and if you have a chance to make money from your own idiosyncrasies, please do. Remember the “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” lady, Sweet Brown? She enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame and got some cash before she fell off. People were laughing at her country grammar and she was laughing all the way to the bank.
- 4:44 Pay attention to spiritual signs all around us, like the synchronicity of numbers in our world. I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence, only Divine signs and wonders that seem coincidental to us. The song 4:44 was written because Jay-Z was awakened at 4:44 in the morning with a prompting to write this powerful apologetic song revealing his shame and regrets for disappointing his family. Seeing repeating numbers signals that we should pay attention to inner promptings that we receive at that time because it usually means the Holy Spirit is trying to get our attention.
Designed in Canva
“Work, work, work, work, work…say mi haffi work” to achieve my spiritual growth! This is real work, learning how to come up higher and not give in to my base emotions like rage and apathy. Just when I think I have achieved some milestones, God shows up with more lessons!
So, the other day my wife and I were in the process of finalizing the accommodations for our wedding reception in Puerto Vallarta next year and I discovered that there were prohibitive stipulations placed on the villa we rented for the express purpose of holding this ceremony. Once I found out that she knew of this for a whole week before telling me, I lost my entire mind! 0-100 is an understatement of my reaction, which I could tell from the expression on her face. Ironically enough, I had just had the thought, “Wow, I haven’t needed to see my therapist in quite a while, I am so glad to be getting better with handling my emotions.” Obviously not. The underlying rage is still there, seething under the surface, waiting for opportunities like this one to emerge. I knew that my anger was about more than this situation so I immediately made an appointment to see my therapist, yet again. I feel like Kendrick, “Be Humble, sit down.” I accept the victories I have achieved but I need not get ahead of myself or God in thinking that I’ve arrived.
Life is all about progress, not perfection and this lesson becomes clearer the longer I live. There is no shame in admitting we’re works in progress. Although I give advice based upon my multitude of experiences with faith and other areas of spiritual growth, it still surprises me when more issues pop up that God clearly wants me to deal with. For the past year, I have been focused on bettering my physical body and I’ve let my spiritual practices slide. Not that I don’t pray daily, but I have neglected that dedicated time I used to look forward to each morning before the sun rose. I relish that early time of morning because I’m able to hear from God with clarity. Prayer is asking from and talking to God but more important is the meditation time where we listen to God. We need to hear the answers we’re begging Him for right?
Since this is nearing the end of Mental Health Awareness month, I thought I’d acknowledge my own issues. I deal with anxiety, depression, a tad of ADD and a few addictions, so yeah, I guess I have some mental health things going on. I don’t really like to identify myself as mentally ill, since I only recently realized that’s what these issues are. However, I cannot ignore my behavior and the need for it to change. This realization is what caused me to seek therapy in the first place. With all this stuff going on, I can’t let taking care of my mental or emotional health slip for a minute. Proverbs 4:23 says to guard your heart above all else because what’s in it flows from you. I have jokingly called myself a Bitter Bitch for years and while I am penning my memoirs of the same name, I have discovered a few roots of my bitterness. This last angry outburst caused me to identify a couple more roots to work on destroying.
I believe that a large portion of mental health is your spiritual relationship with God, the Universe, Your Higher Power, or whatever name you choose to identify Spirit as. I am my own experiment in this. As soon as I get out of the habit of my dedicated prayer and meditation time daily, the blanket of depression drops right over my head. Or the irrational rage-filled tirades spring up and reveal the darker side of me that I am still working to accept. By filling my mind and heart with words of affirmation daily I can at least control the frequency of these episodes. When I feel closer to God I am more comfortable with myself and the anxiety is at bay. I feel like I am enough.
So, to further prove my point, yesterday I woke up about 5:30am and got right into my P.R.R.A.M. routine (Prayer. Reading. Reiki. Affirmations. Meditation.) I was excited about the special blessings I felt were coming my way that day. I went to a Toastmasters meeting in my area because I am preparing myself for what I feel will be the next level of my calling, public speaking. Although the meeting was held in a church, I had no idea that it was going to be like a church meeting. The two speakers were so transparent, authentic and emotional that we were all riveted and changed in some way after their speeches. One woman gave a poignant speech about forgiving an abusive Mother. When the evaluator came up to critique her speech, it became evident that she was dealing with the same issue and the speech opened some deep wounds which she still needed to forgive. After the meeting, I noticed both women being comforted by some of the members. I felt like the Holy Spirit used this time to both connect and heal the speakers as well as the audience. Only God can orchestrate a healing event at a Toastmasters meeting.
So, I got motivated, felt the presence of Spirit and met some new encouraging people all in 90 minutes. I feel like I was primed for this experience all because I stuck to my schedule with God that morning.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. This sums up the main reason for dedicated prayer time or else get ready for the rage, depression, manic compulsive behavior or addictive binges that come with slacking off spiritually. Until next time, work, work, work on this spiritual growth, it’s worth it. Peace and Blessings!
So, I got married Good Friday to my partner of the past ten years. Leading up to the day, I kept being asked how I felt and was I excited and my answer, much to everyone’s consternation, was always the same…not really. Now let me explain, I want to break this down from my viewpoint so it won’t ever need to be asked of me again. As I have stated in previous posts, this is not because of any lack of love for Johni, my real “Ride or Die Chick”. It’s more because of having to face the rejection from my blood family because of my “chosen lifestyle”.
Although I put on a brave face for the public, I don’t like rejection either and I have spent years learning how to erect the wall before the fiery darts hit me. Fiery darts in the form of hurtful words or sentiments regarding my life, not lifestyle but life. Gay is who I am. Puberty did not arrive and I suddenly had to make a choice about girls or boys, I always loved women. Period. A Believer in the Most High is also who I am and who I have always been. These two things are NOT mutually exclusive, despite what those who don’t get it think. Trust me when I tell you that God and I have had innumerable conversations about this topic over the years and we’re good with the current situation.
First off, I never really had any concern with the concepts of marriage or children. I considered myself way to impetuous to be laden down with either. That may be selfish, but as they say, “To Thine Own Self Be True”. Plus, being gay, I never imagined that these things would be part of my life equation. Marriage JUST became legal in the past few years, so I’m trippin when people keep saying, “It’s about time”. Like I was holding back on making her an “honest woman” or something. Honestly, it wasn’t on my radar when we initially got together. Plus, none of my “model couple” friends, who have been committed for over 20 years are married and they are extremely blessed. I figured we were good. My emphasis has always been on making the actual relationship work and the ceremony/celebration can come afterwards. I know quite a few couples, both hetero and gay who did all the pomp and circumstance and still ended up crashing and burning in fiery separations. At first I even resented the push from friends to get married because I felt like I already was. I mean a relationship is work. Like Common said in “The Light”, “You know I ain’t the type to walk around with matchin’ shirts
If relationship is effort I will match your work”. I felt like once I said “Hey, let’s build something together”, I was all in. I didn’t think a piece of paper would change anything about the effort I was investing into this relationship. I didn’t need the validation of the government when I knew that God put us together, because we have both been consulting Him all along. Anyway, this was just the top layer of reasoning. The root was even deeper.
I didn’t even want to deal with the real reason for my reluctance. I had to let the blunt cry for me on this one. I was forced to face the facts during my conversation with my sister-in-law yesterday. She texted me to confirm that I indeed got married on Good Friday and why didn’t I tell anyone in the family. Once the answer formed in my brain and the words were typed, the old wound was reopened. “Why? nobody in the family wanted to attend so…”. Then of course the phone call ensued and I had to explain my position to her. Once I heard myself verbalize the complete answer, the bleeding was unstoppable. I refused to let my voice crack when explaining how I wanted to avoid the painful rejection of realizing that my sententious siblings couldn’t set aside their views to celebrate my happiness with me. Although I have and always will consistently support their life events and their children’s events…simply because I love them and we are blood. If religion is the reason then let me point out the hypocrisy. Even Jesus hung out with sinners. Like Jadakiss said on Rapture, “If you ain’t God it ain’t in your actions to judge It is what it is turns into it was what it was”.
In my opinion, what is being conveyed when family chooses not to support me because of my “lifestyle” is that we’re cool but you really think I’m going to hell because I am gay and you want to distance yourself from that. Also, I’m great to eat and joke with, I’m good to babysit my nieces and nephews but not good enough to celebrate my type of love. As if celebrating me finding someone to love me unconditionally, just as you all did, will contaminate you somehow. But, it’s fine, because I forgive you and I made peace with this a long time ago. It was just hard reopening old wounds that I thought had scabbed over permanently. I have been to a few gay weddings where the situation was similar. All the supportive friends gather around the happy couple but the unspoken pain of no family members being present is palpable. I guess that’s why real family is more than who shares your DNA. This is also why there is an LGBTQ community, to hold each other up for life events such as this. I never wanted to be that couple, but now that it’s been done and I survived, I have reached another level of freedom. I’ve also reached another level of faith, because you know God always has that ram in the bush.
Connecting with my Cayonne family has been one of the best things to happen to me in my life. The unconditional love from all of them, from Trinidad to Toronto to Cali and NYC, has been so affirming. They all met me and accepted me for exactly who I am, along with my life partner, my wife, no questions asked. None of them are gay, as far as I know, yet there was no judgment about my “lifestyle”. No judgment, only respect and love, as it should be. I even discovered new family members living right here in Maryland who despite meeting me only back in February have embraced and supported me thoroughly. The circumstances of our meeting were so random that only God could have orchestrated this blessing. Shout out to Auntie Eastlynne, James and Regine.
God is so awesome that even when I didn’t know how to celebrate the blessing of love that He hooked me up with, He sent friends and family to show me how. I will be forever grateful for this. Now that I’ve had this wedding ring on for the past few days, I admit that I smile whenever I see the glint on my left hand. Saying “my wife” is getting more natural rolling off my tongue. The best part has been receiving well wishes from people I didn’t even know were watching on social media. As I am learning, it’s the kind words and small gestures that mean the most in life…these things give me life. So, the next time you want to skip a family member’s gay wedding because you don’t support the “lifestyle”, please consider putting aside to your beliefs to show unconditional love, you know, like the Jesus you believe in said to do. Until next time, Peace and Blessings.
This month I am taking part in a writing challenge to prompt me to be more consistent with my writing. I will be posting some topics from The Speak Write Challenge to vary my content. I have shared the link on my FB page for anyone interested in joining the challenge.
Today’s topic is “Why We Do What We Do”. What motivates us to be the people that we are? I’m talking about both the good and the bad. If we are to be honest about it, at least in my own life, I find myself asking “What keeps me from doing what I should be doing”?. I mean we all can cite reasons for being on our grind, on our search for success, spiritual connection or whatever. Many people grind for their kids or to achieve material goals or career goals. I think that both our motivations and lack thereof is what really completes who we are. There is a reason why we have the Jay Zs and Bill Gates of the world and then we have the dudes who pump gas and work at the 7-11 up the street at 55 years old, right? I would like to think that gas station dude didn’t start off life with this as his career goal, but this is how it ended up. I am intrigued by the traits that separate the ambitious from the settlers. Sometimes life just chews you up and spits you out and you end up barely maintaining because you are emotionally drained. Other times though, you get your swagger back and decide to fight for your blessings. I believe that the difference between both types of people is faith.
In terms of my motivation, I strive to use my gifts of gab and wordsmithing to inspire others before I leave this earth. I fear dying and having to answer to God why I squandered what I was blessed with. It might sound cliché, but for me it’s very true. This is the anniversary of God sparing my life from a heart attack last year and I am sure I am still here because I have work left to do. Over the past few years it has been revealed to me that I am a leader at heart and I need to stay engaged in spreading love and wisdom to be satisfied with my life. My health has prevented me from having a conventional job in recent years, but I can contribute to society by sharing my life’s lessons through writing. I still hesitate to call myself a “writer” but I can’t deny that this ability springs from my soul. I have a natural curiosity about everything so I can always find some subject matter to analyze and glean wisdom from. My other motivation is my family, especially the younger generation. I don’t want them to always think of their Auntie as the crazy weed smoker with arthritis and no job. I would like to inspire them to express themselves and utilize every gift and talent they have been blessed with, despite any obstacles that come their way. I feel that I need to be an example of the qualities that I want them to have; faith, hustle, integrity, compassion, wit and wisdom.
On the flip side, my days of procrastination, depression and laziness also contribute to the sum of me. Although I know both practically and spiritually what habits I need to let go of, I am still puzzled by my own disobedience. I can start off my day pumped up with a workout, prayer session and a healthy breakfast but by 2pm, I have wasted hours on the couch playing video games and watching TV. My mentor told me that this form of procrastination is based in fear of not being enough. I had to mull that over a bit before admitting that it was true. That old perfectionism had returned. So again, I have to tackle the fact that I need to work on the fear factor that creeps up in so many insidious ways. This is where the faith comes into play.
The only way I see to balance what I want to do and why I don’t, is through prayer. I am learning the true meaning of the verse, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5). Basically the only way to stay on the righteous path, despite me succumbing to temptation daily is by asking Jesus, The Holy Spirit and God to help me. Constantly. And Yes, I distinctly ask all 3. To be honest, I don’t really get the whole Trinity thing so I just ask everybody. Can’t hurt right?
I have found that spending time with God increases my faith. When I slip up and let the days lapse in between my dedicated prayer and meditation time, essentially being apart from God, that’s when the depression creeps in and zaps the faith I built up. After attending the Global Leadership Summit for the past 4 years, I have observed very prominent business, political and creative leaders share the core of their success and it is their faith. I am sure they get discouraged at times but over the years, after building up their faith muscles, they know definitively that they will be victorious. Since we are all unique, this faith muscle is developed differently in each of us but the key is to intentionally build it up. Intentionality goes a long way in spiritual development.
So to bring this back around to my original reasoning for what makes me who I am, and who I would like to be. At my core is a fierce faith that allows me to experience the highs and lows of life but still know that God’s got me. My faith pushes me to do better and affect mankind positively. My faith also lets me forgive myself and not be consumed by my flaws because I know God loves me unconditionally. I may have temporary lapses, but I am not consumed.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 states that God’s plans for us are for a great future. The passage goes on to explain that once you pray God will hear you, answer you and restore you. When I find myself sliding too far down the dark hole, I remember this verse and get motivated all over again. Faith is really the only way to connect who we are now with who we want to become. I strive to become a better version of myself everyday so I will continue to intentionally seek spiritual knowledge which builds my faith muscle. Until next time, Peace and Blessings!
So, this morning I woke up with a need to reach way back into my Bitter Bitch bag and spill some of this vitriol from my soul. Since I reached my half century mark a few months back, I really have zero F’s left to give about how people perceive me. The reality is that I spent so much time giving a shit and building these emotional walls that I even masked from myself how sensitive I really am. This is probably the reason that these episodes affect me so deeply. Today I want to talk about this thing called “ghosting”.
For those who may be unfamiliar, “Ghosting” is when someone abruptly ends a relationship without any type of direct communication. I don’t believe this is a new phenomenon, just as with everything else, it has gotten more common because of this digital age we live in. Since many relationships are sustained these days by social media and texting, it feels more pronounced when even this minimal form of engagement disappears. There are a couple of types of ghosting; one is experienced after bad dates and the other happens between what were thought to be genuine friends.
Not to justify, but many of us are guilty of the first kind of ghosting, even me. I remember I showed up for a date that I met online and shawty told me she was feminine and professional, and in person she looked like a broke Rick Ross. Umm, that was not you in the picture Sir! I couldn’t even keep a straight face so I just left…got ghost. I mean, I figured she knew she lied so I couldn’t even feel guilty. When the person is a casual acquaintance or a Tinder date we feel like we don’t owe them any type of explanation because “we don’t even know them like that”.
To me, the most emotionally damaging type of ghosting is when it happens between longtime close, or so I thought, friends. Like, whoa. This means that I totally misjudged your character for years and you know my intimate business. Now I’m doubting myself, wondering what event triggered this and can it be fixed. Driving myself crazy replaying previous conversations in my head, my anxiety and obsession on full throttle. It takes me awhile to convince myself that I need to drop the guilt. Then I get pissed off, thinking about all the apparently fake ass conversations that took place over the course of the relationship. I’m thinking, what red flags did I ignore?
Perfect example of this is my last ghosting experience. I met her about 8 years ago and she pursued me for the friendship, then she disappeared suddenly after a few months of deep conversations. It bothered me then but since I hadn’t known her that long, I let it go, but my gut was bugging me. How do you go from texting me and calling regularly to nothing? It’s not like we were dating so it couldn’t be on some emotional shit. After advice from a mutual friend, I decided to show compassion and no judgment when she suddenly reappeared right around Thanksgiving with a story and an apology.
This became her pattern for the next few years and it was cool with me. I understand the need to withdraw from time to time to refocus. I understand that life gets in the way and time slips away. She reiterated our “family” status every time we spoke and would always seek me out for prayer and advice. I’m a sucker for the whole prayer thing, if you ask me to pray for you, I take that seriously. I believe this is how I got played. I was so busy trying to be a prayer warrior that I ignored the pattern of disrespect to herself and others. I should have known that same disrespect would be aimed at me in time. Gotta watch how people move with others, it won’t be long before they move funny-style with you too. She was always supportive of anything I was involved in so I guess I had no reason to suspect anything was awry. Anyway, after a couple of months, I noticed that my calls and texts weren’t being returned so I took the hint. I hadn’t unfollowed her social media though so I saw a post that my intuition told me was about me. I was like hold up, what is this cowardly nonsense from someone who prides themselves on being so confrontational? It’s so crazy how people are quick to do some dramatic shit like air out their grievances on Facebook but not simply confront the offender in person. I mean picking up the phone is easy, just like you picked it up to ask for money or bend my ear asking for prayer and advice. WTF?
There are a couple of reasons why people ghost someone. Some people think “we’re sparing the other person’s feelings because being honest would hurt them worse”. Nah, we just want to spare ourselves the emotional drama of having to explain exactly what is “wrong” with someone else. This is that passive-aggressive, non-confrontational, weak AF approach. Being honest with others about what you think about them can be painful so many people simply avoid it by disappearing. This also avoids witnessing the pain on the ghostee’s face when the rejection is experienced.
According to Psychology Today, there is a link between social rejection and the biological reaction of physical pain. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-forward/201511/is-why-ghosting-hurts-so-much) Unfortunately, this type of emotional pain is the core of many opioid addictions because rejection of any form chips away at a person’s self-esteem. But that’s a subject for a later time…
The other reason for this immature approach is, because like Common told Ice Cube back in the day, “I see the Bitch in You”. Real Talk. When you have built a relationship by presenting yourself to be something you are clearly not, the shame eventually gets to you and poof, you’re gone. Once you realize that people have accepted you without judgment, you can’t believe it because you don’t deem yourself worthy. Now you must sabotage the relationship and make the other person out to be the villain. You are ALWAYS the victim, right? Nah, we all do ratchet shit and the truth is you need to accept yourself as you are, just like your friends do, just like God does. Once you realize that it’s fine to let someone know what offends you and discuss solutions without losing your value, you will no longer need to be the victim and get ghost.
Bottom line, Ghosting is the ultimate form of psychological cruelty because it leaves the Ghostee unable to determine how to process the event. When this happens between friends that you love and trust it especially feels like a deep betrayal. We all need closure but without communication we don’t even know what behavior to address. Ghosting renders us powerless over expressing our emotions and beginning the healing process. Despite the Ghoster thinking it’s not that deep, this act can leave deep psychological scars. The best way to heal these scars is to go through the stages of grief over the loss of the relationship, pray for the offender, forgive them and let it go. This process can range from days to years, everyone is unique. I believe that everything occurs for a reason and perhaps this person was only meant to be in my life for a season. I’m good with that. But then the petty part of me reminds me that Karma is a Bitch and I don’t wish ill on anyone but…can’t say I wouldn’t smirk a bit if it happened. Yep, God is still working on me. Until next time, Blessings!
So, it’s Valentine’s Day and I have been “meaning to” and “about to” start back up Wani’s World for at least a month now. I turned 50 in December of 2016 and for me that was always some kind of magical deadline when my life would miraculously somehow fall into place. I mean, I had put in half a century of work right? But, I quickly found out that even at 50, the struggle is still real. I know we all have struggles but I feel like my particular struggles might resonate with someone so I guess that is why I have been prompted to share. My struggles in a nutshell are: Fear, Forgetting my Why and the rollercoaster of waning and gaining self-confidence.
I woke up this morning feeling grateful but a bit ashamed at the pound of ground beef I ate last night, trying to assuage my feelings of guilt for not writing and being productive yesterday. However, I decided to shake it off and make this a great day. I prayed, decided to show love to myself and others because after all, it is Valentine’s Day. All the while, my mind was wrestling with what profound message I wanted to share to explain my lack of presence in the blog world. I wanted to come up with some grand explanation and how my absence has been filled with intense periods of introspective writing and productivity. But, as we all know, real life shit is what really happened during my absence. The death of family, friends, my seemingly declining health causing me to stare my mortality in the face, taxes, bills and just dealing with regular life stuff is what really happened. So, just before I talked myself out of writing anything at all, I was returning from Starbucks and getting on the elevator in my building and this little boy, who looked about 10 years old got on the elevator with me. He was a cute little boy, unaccompanied by any parent and he simply turned to me and said, Happy Valentine’s Day. For some reason, that simple gesture just warmed my soul and I felt at that moment God sent me a cheerleader to prompt me to just keep going. I know it seems simple to most, but sometimes the simplicity of a kind word goes such a long way in dispelling fear and depression. I mean, when I got home, I immediately went into worship mode and thanked God profusely for the myriad of blessings that are sent my way daily. You see, God has been impressing upon me the need to write, not for myself but to help others, for at least a year now. Yet, for various reasons, that is the one thing that I have not done. However, despite my disobedience, He continues to send me cheerleaders to let me know that my mission cannot be aborted. I keep trying to talk myself out of it, and He keeps sending me cheerleaders, in many forms. A perfect example of this came a couple of Sundays ago in the form of a text from my sister-in-law.
First of all, my sister-in-law and I never text each other and we have not connected in almost a year. Not because of any animosity, it’s just that we don’t hang like that. She is actually my sister’s sister-in-law so, we are not that close. Anyway, I have always respected her as a true woman of God and I am sure she doesn’t even know this but, I have some Bible study notes that I took during her class in 1998 that I still refer to from time to time. In other words, I know that when she speaks, the anointing is present. Anyway, I woke up that Sunday with a confused heart, still grappling with my purpose in life, and out of the blue she sent me a text that read. “This is not the time to become distracted. Stretch your goals. Be the best you can be. Watch God move.” So I replied, trying to make light of it, “Did you wake up knowing that I needed this? LOL” Complete with the grinning face emoji. “I receive it, Thanks.” She came right back with “Push. God says you are paralyzed in fear. Rise above it. You are greater than you think.” Dead ass serious. So I knew this was directly from the Source. All I could say was, “Got it.” I was stunned. I hadn’t revealed to anyone the depth of my fear based paralysis. I thought my hamster wheel thoughts were only privy to me and perhaps my partner, simply because she lives with me. Only my Creator could have known that this paralysis was keeping me stuck.
What is so crazy to me, is how I continue to have faith for others but neglect doing the same for myself. I have been affirming for the past 7 years that: I am an encourager. I am an edifier. I am an exhorter. I am a prayer warrior. Yet for some reason, I act like these things are not my life’s purpose. I have also been told many times, that I am a healer and a leader but since I don’t feel like I am leading anyone and I definitely have not healed myself yet, I have shied away from taking on these titles. I even spent the time and money to become a Reiki Master, but because of that ever present rollercoaster of self-doubt, I haven’t acted upon that either. I even started, reluctantly, looking for a job, although I know that writing is my new career. However, I swear, each time I have started looking for a conventional job my health takes a downturn. It’s almost as if God puts me in a physical position where all I can do is write. I guess the real issue for me has to do with something I thought that I had conquered. I thought I had conquered tying my self-worth to my earning ability. Truth be told, my faith has not reached the point where I can see myself earning a livable wage writing. Which again sends me on that rollercoaster…you get the gist.
To wrap this all up, I am happy to say that despite all of my pitiful excuses, brushes with death, disobedience and plain old laziness, God still uses me and encourages me daily. The last few cheerleaders, along with various conversations I have had with folks in the past month have helped me rediscover my Why. I may not have any profundity to spew, and I surely have not accomplished a quarter of what I wanted to. However, I know that regular old me and my life experiences are just enough for someone to gain encouragement from. For this reason, I jumped up to write this on Valentine’s Day to show someone that loving yourself just where you are, flaws and all is what this day should be about. So, welcome back to Wani’s World and for any newbies, thank you for visiting. As always, I wish you all Peace, Blessings and Prosperity! Happy Love Day!
I attended a conference this past weekend which offered practical advice on taking your business goals from dreams to reality. One of the portions gave each panelist a chance to share a nugget of wisdom that would best convey their philosophy regarding business ethic and entrepreneurship. These are my takeaways from the advice given and I wanted to share them with all my people. I know that I am not the only one who may need these reminders and some of them were fresh takes on things we already know. Enjoy…
DON’T BE A FLAT SQUIRREL. The world is full of dead squirrels that couldn’t make up their mind while crossing the road. You know how you always see squirrels dart out in front of your car and then they suddenly change their mind and dart back to safety? Well many of those squirrels end up as roadkill because they hesitated too long to get back to safety or they decided to wait until the oncoming car was too close to stop before they ran out. This often happens in life to chronic procrastinators. Opportunities are meant to be seized and delaying taking action will make us miss those open doors. This can mean lost revenue, in the case of business, or even a lost life, when we are talking about taking care of our health. “A double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways”, is how it is stated in the Bible. (James 1:8) Even if you make a wrong decision, just make a decision and stick with it. This is far better than doing nothing or putting it off indefinitely. Don’t get caught up with Analysis Paralysis, Just Do It!
AN EXCUSE IS A LIE DISGUISED AS A REASON. When I heard this nugget, I had to sit back and say “Whoa!” This is so true, at least in my own case. Whenever I really don’t WANT to do something, I can come up with at least 10 excuses as to why I CAN’T. They all sound legit, at least in my own mind anyway. My excuses usually mean one of two things, either I should never have committed to something in the first place or I simply don’t desire to put in the effort. For instance, if I was told they were giving away $20K and I just had to make my way out to the Eastern Shore by 8am…I would have my ass up by 3am, clutching my heart, moving my arthritic limbs and all, happily heading to collect my cash! It’s all about the motivation for real. Now, every time I start collecting the thoughts in my mind to release an excuse from my mouth, I pause and recall this statement.
REMEMBER YOUR WHY. My gifts and purpose are not for me and therefore I have no right to procrastinate and keep people from receiving what I have been put on earth to share. Since I have already faced two of my fears, the death of my Mother and suffering a heart attack, my final fear is to die and have to answer to God why I did not fulfill my purpose. I have always known that I was blessed with being a good writer, I knew that this was God’s gift to me. What I recently learned was that this gift was placed in me to help others, not for me to hoard just to get A’s in school. So now that I have this knowledge, I am responsible to act accordingly. I have heard this statement before, “What is your why?”, but I never really was confident that the” why” I had in my gut was actually valuable. Now I know. I have no doubt that somewhere in Internet land are readers that need to hear my perspective on things and this may even save a life.
DON’T SIT ON YOUR PASSION, GOD WILL MULTIPLY YOUR GIFTS OR TAKE THEM AWAY ALTOGETHER. Jesus told the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) where essentially each servant was given a number of talents to be stewards of while the Master went away. Stewardship of these talents consisted of investing them wisely so they would prove profitable to the Master upon his return. All of the servants that were given multiple talents invested them wisely and were blessed with even more talents when the time came to report to the Master. However, the servant with only 1 talent was lazy and never invested his talents, therefore he never reaped a profit. The Master was furious with him, called him out on his laziness and then took the little bit of talent he had and gave it to the servant that had the most talents. The Bible is speaking of money but I am speaking of literal talents here to portray my point, it is the same principle. The longer we sit on our gifts, the greater the risk of our lives getting away from us and we never utilize these gifts for their Divinely intended purpose. The other adage that says “use it or lose it”, applies here too. Times change and abilities wane or certain talents become obsolete and opportunities are lost simply because we took too long to act.
I can’t let this be me…Don’t let it be you either! The incentive for me is the promise of multiplication of my blessings if I work with what I already have. Which is partly the reason I have a fire lit under me to push through the obstacles, both physical and emotional, to continue chronicling what goes on in Wani’s World. What gifts do you have that the world can use? If this resonates with you, please feel free to leave comments on what you will do right now to leave your mark on this earth. Until the next post, Peace and Blessings!
This month, I wanted to highlight some people, mostly creative spirits, that I find inspiring because of their gifts and hustler mentality. Many of us dream about “stepping out on faith” and pursuing our God given talents and entrepreneurial dreams, but for various reasons few of us succeed. The human-interest subjects that I have chosen to highlight in this series are people that literally started with a dream, limited funds and massive faith to create a path to their dream life. I find that the common denominator in many successful people is evidence of a spiritual journey that is interwoven with their route to career success, and these are the types of questions that I delve into during my interviews with each person. First up, let me introduce Kiretha Pratt, phenomenal visual artist and actress.
I first met Kiretha back in 2007, when I committed to doing a play entitled Girl Talk. The play was about a church affiliated book club where the topics discussed were about much more than the assigned book. I played a character, which was a lesbian friend of one of the regular members and was invited to participate in the book club. One night after rehearsal, one of the young ladies that was helping out backstage came up to me and introduced herself as Kiretha, a budding actress and a Believer. She specifically wanted to know if the character I portrayed was how I viewed myself in real life, and I said, “Yes, I am unapologetically Christian and openly gay”. I gave her my info and we agreed to stay in touch. I loved her bold and candid approach in asking me about such a taboo subject, so she intrigued me. I also figured that this was not a “chance meeting”, since I believe that everyone in my life is placed there by Divine order.
The thing that I have always admired about Kiretha is her joy; despite her circumstances, she always gets back to that place of joy. She has dealt with homelessness, betrayal, devastating loss, and a multitude of life’s other challenges, but every time I see her, she is filled with joy and gratitude. Celebration, spirituality and empowerment are the words that leap into my mind when I view Kiretha’s pieces and I wanted to delve into the journey that birthed such beauty.
Another quality that I admire about Kiretha is her constantly evolving style. I feel like one of the things that showcase a person’s spiritual growth is their sense of personal style. Kiretha is so talented at taking the simplest of materials and thrift store finds to craft bohemian ensembles that thoroughly convey the quirkiness of her personality. Every time I see this Queen, she represents pure artistry from the stunning hair colors and styles to her unique accessories. When I arrived to interview her early on Sunday morning, she did not disappoint, greeting me with her bubbly demeanor wearing some beautiful African print harem pants topped by a burgundy knit tank. Her fashionably shaved head was coiffed with grey silky locs and since we were comfortably at her home, no shoes were needed. I love her Afrocentric Boho Chic style from head to toe.
Who is Kiretha Pratt, the artist? She defines herself as “ an optimist, a healer, a lover, childlike, affectionate, passionate, open to life and open to accepting new things and being compassionate towards people.” Being open to learning new things, such as Kemetic history and other spiritual beliefs besides orthodox Christianity has, in her opinion, allowed her art to become more robust. Expanding her consciousness caused her to give more depth to her subject matter and express her passion for seeing the beauty in everyone. “ I see things in people that they may not see in themselves and I want to bring that out in them. I am a believer of others, and that’s art within itself, loving people, seeing the beauty in others.”
Kiretha’s initial supporter of her creativity was her Mother, Sylena Pratt. “My Mom always bought me art supplies to encourage my creativity, even though I always made a mess. LOL She would threaten to stop buying me things like colored sand or beads, but she never did. That was true love, her belief in me was her way of showing true love. She always kept me in dance class or any activity that allowed me to explore my artistic side, and I always wondered why she used to do that, but now I know it was because she saw something in me, she believed in me.”
Kiretha experienced horrible tragedy as a teen in 2002, when her Mother was killed accidentally while crossing the street on Christmas Eve. She was 15 at the time and the experience left her numb with grief, which also numbed her creative gifts. Her father passed away when she was 11, so this loss left her to navigate life alone. “I had to learn to live at 15 and I went through some shit. I stayed away from painting for 12 years because the last thing that I wanted to do was something to remind me that my Mom wasn’t physically present. “ During this difficult period, Kiretha became involved with the creative arts ministry at a prominent local church where she was able to exercise her acting gifts and keep some creative juices flowing. Meanwhile, she also began dealing with her burgeoning sexuality, simply put she discovered she liked women. Unfortunately, this got out to the well-meaning “church folk” who considered it sinful behavior and publicly shamed her.
This very un-Jesus-like behavior emotionally scarred her towards “church folk” and a relationship with the punishing God she had been taught about. “The God I was taught about in church was an evil God, I was motivated by fear. I was always walking on eggshells with God. They always talked about being perfectly flawed, but you really couldn’t be flawed and not be shamed.” The major difference in her belief system now is the freedom to be exactly who she is without condemnation. “Now I feel free! The God I serve now makes me feel protected. When you really decide to take that leap of faith to learn about God for yourself, that’s the real leap of faith. The God I serve now, I feel like I can go to about anything. I like this God.”
We have had so many candid conversations about how she came to learn God for herself, on her own terms and how different God is from what she was taught. Even uncertainty about the concepts of the Trinity and organized religion does not keep us from really knowing God, simply because God uniquely connects to each and every person on this planet in the way that is most beneficial and effective for that individual. I believe that Kiretha’s constant pursuit of God and acceptance of herself is what led to this being her appointed time to show the world her skills.
By developing her personal spiritual practices, like meditation, connecting with her tribal rhythms at the Malcolm X Park Drum Circle and above all, constant prayer, Kiretha has released her Divine gifts. That spiritual light burst through and manifested in an explosion of artistic expression!
Moving to Baltimore in 2015 proved to be the catalyst that reignited her return to her first love of fine visual art. Being surrounded by a community of artists reminded Kiretha of her own gifts and she desired to see what she could do. “It was kind of like a Divine tap that said, Kiretha don’t forget this is your gift, don’t forget this is what used to make you happy.” So she took the time to relearn her craft and stepped out on faith and simply created her own lane.
At the core of Kiretha’s being, she is a true Hustler and Survivor. Instead of Jack of all Trades, I like to call her the Queen of the Art Hustle because she is one of the few women I know who is actually sustaining herself through faith in her artistic abilities. Kiretha is a woman of many passions and talents; painting, acting, photography, clothing designer, model and hair stylist…she does quite a few things, and does them very well.
“I wanted to be able to have complete control of my life and being artist gave me that ability. Art has always been a part of my life so decided to pursue it as a career. I also have a passion for teaching people about nutrition and exercise.” Her future goals include opening a facility for homeless singles and an art space for others to explore their creativity.
Being the music lover that I am, I was curious to know what artists get Kiretha in the zone to create. “I like Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Future, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bas, FKA Twigs, Erykah Badu, The Hics. I like a mixture of HipHop, R&B, jazz, anything that gets me there. If I can imagine myself in the video, I can be a little hood, I can be a little gangsta, you know, that’s what I like.”
Kiretha’s images celebrate the unique strength and beauty of the feminine form. The vibrant colors and brilliant layers to each piece celebrate the majesty and multi-hued beauty of the women of the diaspora. The joy that flows from her soul onto the canvas is indicative of the passion she puts into her work. “I paint women because I appreciate them. When people see my paintings they gravitate towards them because they appreciate them, and that is something I desire. I am a woman and I thought I was supposed to be appreciated. I feel like Black women are the most disrespected people on the planet, and since I am one, I know what it feels like to want respect. I want Black women to know how beautiful they are in their many colors. I paint out of my own hurt and desire for respect.”
Creation is a very emotional experience and she feels very connected to each piece. “It’s a struggle to part with my art once I create it, I really don’t like to sell it and I pray that when I do sell it, it goes to the person that it was created for. Selling commissioned paintings feel a bit different because it means that someone has trusted me with creating art for them.”
Kiretha has been getting booked for art shows and selling her commissioned paintings for wages that are representative of her worth. She has showcased and painted live at various art events in the DMV area. Her talent even piqued the attention of the internationally acclaimed RAW Artists organization. Kiretha Pratt is destined for greatness and I know that her testimony and heart for her community will compel her to reach back and tell her story to other youth in her situation. God always gives Beauty for Ashes and Kiretha is a perfect example of this. I declare that with talent like hers, Kiretha will soon be known as one of this generation’s great contemporary African American female artists.
Ever since I entered the workforce as a teenager, I have known that I am supposed to be a leader in some capacity. I never wanted to lead in the military or in corporate America, partly because of fear of failure and partly because I didn’t feel comfortable conforming to such conservative standards. I have always called myself a boss, with grand visions of running my own non-profit that makes a large profit but I guess it’s not my time yet. At least judging from my current bank account. LOL. Anyway, I don’t believe that anything is sheer coincidence and after deciding to pursue my passions back in 2010, I have been gathering knowledge on becoming a boss for real.
I became aware of this Global Leadership Summit back in 2012, while attending Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia. I was intrigued because the speakers were revered leaders from all areas of business, entertainment and the spiritual community. One of the things I love about BCC is it’s commitment to community service and they encourage their attendees to get involved in service as a way of living out personal spiritual practices. I’m down with that so I volunteered to serve on the Registration Team. I love engaging with people and this is a fast paced duty where I am on my feet and never bored. The perk of serving in this capacity is that once registration is over, we get to attend the summit and soak up all of this wisdom that hundreds of people pay hundreds of dollars for. I figured that this opportunity is God preparing me for my future TED talk or whatever platform I am given to encourage others with my stories. Y’all know I got stories…so many stories. So, although I am a leader in preparation, the principles of leadership are applicable in both the preparation and implementation stages, making this #GLS event a valuable resource.
Anyway, I have learned so much over the past few years from both the BCC team and the GLS speakers. The 2015 faculty included Ed Catmull, the Academy award winning president of Pixar Animation Studios, who really inspired me to continue blogging. Catmull explained his views on how fitting art and science together through great storytelling can change and improve the world. He explained how storytellers are the world changers because stories are how we communcate with each other and how we can connect through the emotions of a great story. I had never thought of the importance of my “gift of gab” until he broke it down that way. The lightbulb came on for me as to why people get engrossed in a good book or a well crafted movie, such as Inside Out, because of the universal ability to relate to the story. This was also my turning point to think of my storytelling ability as a service to the world, not just amusement for my friends and family. He ending his session by stating a variation of words that I had been praying for many years, “Use your stories for Good”. As a child, I took pride in telling some fantastic lies, and I thrived on being a petty criminal. Once I got older and grew a conscience, I used to ask God to change me and to use my “powers” for good. I took this a confirmation that I am on the right track with Wani’s World and my current authoring goals.
This year, one of the speakers that I was impressed by was Melinda Gates. She spoke about how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation effectively serves women in developing nations from a perspective that is not really talked about, particularly in religious settings. She explained how one of the principles of leadership, especially when you are claiming to serve an underserved population, is the need to actually LISTEN to what the people want to be provided with. What is really going to serve their best interests instead of what Western thinking assumes is necessary. She learned, much to her surprise, what women in developing countries want is female centered birth control, such as Depo-provera shots. While sitting down with women in Africa and India, she learned that condoms are not effective because of the stigma attached to them. Women often cannot ask men to use condoms because of the assumption that if a condom has to be used then they will be accused of having AIDS or they think the man has AIDS. Also, in many countries women have no control over when or how they have sex, because they are considered powerless. Having control over the timing of their pregnancies by using birth control without their husbands knowing is an important part of empowerment for them. The option to not have babies back to back has improved the suvivability rate of both the mothers and children. Apparently there used to be wide access to Depo-provera shots that has been taken away in exchange for the widespread availability of condoms, to supposedly stem AIDS. This was so enlightening to me, how important it is to serve others through the lens of reality and not Western ideas of morality. Melinda Gates grew up Catholic so she explained that it was a struggle for her to even speak out for birth control and how she eventually realized that in this instance, it was God’s will for her to use her resources to serve in this way.
My final takeaway from her talk was that unfortunately, there is so much more that can be done by so many more celebrities and millionaire business owners. She mentioned how Warren Buffet was the one to give her the idea of coordinating a group of millionaires, both believers and non-believers, to fund charitable efforts that would impact the world greatly. It’s so crazy how many of us, especially in America, have a multitude of resources that we amass over a lifetime and we can’t take them with us when we die, yet we don’t even think of donating even a small portion of it to less fortunate communities. Umm, rappers and Ballers I’m looking right at you. I mean how many Jordan’s and Bugatti’s can you own, and really enjoy? We have got to do better folks. For real though. But, that’s another post, for now I am looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson at the #GLS2016. Hope your day was productive, Stay Prayed Up!