Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Breathe Easy

At approximately 6:15pm on September 11, 2006, I sat down in my leather recliner and tried to remember if I took the time to breathe while dressing for work, while riding the train, and while at work. It is evident my respiratory system continued to function on this emotionally driven day of 911 remembrance. If it did not you would be reading a dead man’s commentary. Since I am not dead you are reading the words of a man who is alive, but drained from the stresses of his days.

Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to eat? If you know me you know that I will never forget to eat. However, I am one to forget to take a deep breath during my
self-created chaotic days. There have been countless Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s that I do not remember breathing. Seriously. It was not until I was sitting in my car at the end of a day while waiting on the light to change that I remembered to take a deep breath. And, at that time I was aware of myself. Truly aware! The deep breath was my reminder that I was a living human being. It was also my reminder that I have neglected myself. On days like this one, which is at least 4 days of my week, I did not leave my office, I ate at my desk, I rushed applicants off the telephone, I typed numerous emails with countless misspells (thank God for spell check), and I even forgot to drink my four quarts of water. This is not the way I should carry out my day. Unfortunately, I have become the one thing I dislike: A busy, self-centered, french fry craving American.

I cannot recall the last time I just relaxed. Even when I try to, the damn cell phone rings. How I detest my cell phone. I have told whomever would listen that I want to throw my cell phone out the window and never get another one. But, I have convinced myself that I need it. Isn’t it funny how our minds work? I forget to take a deep breath during the day to center myself, but I will not get rid of something that’s a constant nag.

Since I am losing the battle to slow down, I decided two years ago to take my deep breaths during my therapy sessions. Yes, therapy. You can’t be surprised that I have a therapist. If you have not noticed I am a complicated, conflicted, pissed-off, and intense black man. Some say I am a walking time bomb, and many believe my intensity is fueled by hatred. I contend that this is far from the truth. I don’t hate anyone or anything, I just dislike… Well, I will not get into that. If you are an avid reader of my commentaries you perfectly know what and who I dislike. You also understand my commentary objectives. Continue to read.

During college I did not understand why my white classmates were going to therapy. I thought they were trying to bring attention to themselves, and I also thought they were wimps. They complained about everything. “My toilet is stopped up; my room is cold; my room is too hot; I have too much research to do; my parents did not send me my $500 monthly allowance; etc.” It was an endless list of crybaby crap that I could not understand because I just was happy to have my own bed. It was their unnecessary whining that helped me realize that some of them were incapable of doing what was necessary to be happy, and I realized I needed to face the issues surrounding my upbringing. I could not do this alone. I needed therapy assistance to address REAL problems, and not trivial privileged people matters.

All this time I have been trying to be better than them (those white folk who threw temper tantrums at my undergrad school). Why wouldn’t I, when I was told, “Brian, you have to always be one step ahead of them because they have skin privilege and you do not.” This was hammered into my mental psyche every day of high school by my uncle Raymond. The pressure that developed from his ACCURAATE statement has overwhelmed me for years. To some degree therapy has eased the pressure. However, because of the accuracy of his statement I have been on a mission to stay three steps ahead. As a result of this, I have become an overachiever who finds it necessary to be “perfect”. We all know that no one can be perfect. Believe it or not, we cannot be “white like snow” like the church told us we could be while forcing the image of a pale face Jesus down our throats. Now, that’s perfection at its best: white like snow and a white Jesus! Many of us (black folk) have tried to be “perfect” and from our efforts we have worn ourselves ragged. To the extent that I can only breathe on Thursday mornings during my 45 minute $150 therapy sessions with a white man who is fascinated by my blackness.

So, Brian, what are you trying to convey here? Well, I am trying to encourage you to breathe. Really breathe. Take more deep breaths, turn off that text messaging machine, and most importantly look into going to therapy. I have always believed that black people are prime candidates for suicide. Considering our history we should have killed ourselves a long time ago. The raping of our heritage was brutal. It stretches back to the West coast of Africa. The affects of the rape is evident today in the way we treat each other, and in the methods we have taken to “stay ahead of them”.

Through my therapy I have discovered that I have spent years trying to please everyone around me. I have tried to be the image I created of Brian E. Payne, and not be Muata: He who searches for truth. I have worked so hard not to fail. So much so that I am compulsive with all my actions. This has led me to always attempt to be perfect. Not white like snow perfect, but PERFECT. My actions have suffocated me. I want to breathe again. How about you?

Written by Muata. Inspired by those black folk who finally stop saying, “Ain’t nothing wrong with me. I am just tired.”

11 comments:

Muata said...

Discussion: Reader AC and Muata.


This was very interesting Brian... Thank you for sharing. I also have taken a step back since the remembrance of 9/11 and have reflected on my life and decisions as well. The funny thing is; we always get this way during a moment of silence due to a life changing crisis. When will we learn that it should be applied all the days of our lives and not @ the time of sadness, depression, death or crisis? That isn't the real you, that's you being led by emotions. Our gift in life is to think, be individuals with our own thinking process to make the right choices, however our choices are always led by emotions first. Why is that?????? –AC

Muata responds to AC:

Because we are too busy thinking with the heart/emotions. The heart and emotions should not be used to make crucial life changing decisions. It is our mind that God gave us to think with. The heart and lingering emotions usually cause us to make the worst mistakes.
-Muata

AC response:

I agree totally. Thanks again.
-AC

Muata said...

Reader Responses:

This has my name written all over it. My leg has been in so much pain these last few days and I know it is because I have not slowed down and breathed. When did going to the gym not serve as a release? Hmmmm, that's how we know we are in trouble when even that becomes a chore and not relaxation...
–V

I am really impressed with your concern for the plight of our people. It has inspired me to “research” more. Thanks. Everyone else read on!
-RM

Don't be so hard on yourself...one thing has always and will always be true "life is what WE make it". Live your life...
–LG

Muata said...

Reader Responses:

Powerful commentary, this reminds me of my own life. I try to slow down and breathe, but I always have so much on my plate it seems impossible. It's always easier to say, 'slow down than to actually do it.......'
–JM

I'm breathing. Thanks for asking though. –LP

Well…. Thank you for sharing. I learned to appreciate therapy about 16 years ago when I was in graduate school. It is good for you. I strangely have not gravitated back to it in this new season of aging, parenting, marriage, challenges and changes in my life… Perhaps it is time. You are the 2nd to share a subtle suggestion in the last two weeks. Smile... I hear ya’ll.
–JA

Muata said...

Reader Responses:

Your statement: “You can't be surprised that I have a therapist. If you have not noticed I am a complicated, conflicted, pissed-off, and intense black man.” That's definitely da truth!!!!!
-MM

Muata said...

Reader Response:

Interesting read.

I understand and hear you.

However, I have never put myself in such a situation. In the past two years, I have been blessed enough to relax my mind, make decisions that are best for myself and those I love. Last month, I completed an assignment. I was asked several times if I wanted a permanent job. Each time, I responded with, “I am not ready for the permanent job thing yet.” I felt I needed to take a month off from the every day life, to reflect and refine my thoughts and goals. Guess what? That's exactly what I'm doing.

I believe that we create our life direction, once we become familiar with ourselves. When we truly know our self, we begin to live our destiny. There is a saying that I live by, and share with others. It is, "AS YOU GO THROUGH LIFE, WORK TO IMPROVE YOURSELF, NOT PROVE YOURSELF."

Taking time to breathe and finding inner peace is beautiful. Not matter what, I always strive to make each moment of each day beautiful.

Also, I have never been one to think therapy is for white folk, or the so called privileged. I feel that anyone who is in search of understanding self and behaviors should seek professional assistance.

We, as a people, need to learn what to have pride about. We also need to understand the purpose of therapy, and its reason for existing.

Yes, I think people should slow down and breathe. I also think people should slow down to find out how to love self; and then share that with others. No matter what the "race" you associate with (the word is in quotes because you can place it in whatever manner you choose).

I have a saying that I have told my daughter since birth. That saying is, "YOU CAN ONLY BE THE BEST BEING YOURSELF!

Peace and happiness always.

Thanks for sharing.
-RS

Muata said...

Reader Response:

Wonderful piece. And as I read it, I was able to breathe. You are right, and I have learned to breathe each night before going to bed.

I read something, anything every night before going to bed.

The day may be a hassle, but before I go to sleep, I try to unwind. That is an important time, b/c if you sleep all wound up you really don't rest.

-VW

Muata said...

Reader Response:

Dear Muata,

This was really good! There is a book you should have if you don't already. The Art of Breathing, by Nancy Zi she is quoted saying "The newborn infant gasps for its first breath, and life ends with a final exhalation...". I have yet to read it myself but I have heard good things. We truly take for granted our breath and so this was truly refreshing.

I am in the second year of graduate school. I am working towards a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology. If you are not aware of this branch of psychology it is fascinating. It focuses on the integration of mind, body and spirit to achieve optimal healing and health. This is what I hope to give to the black community and the world. A place to breathe, heal and grow. Therapy has a stigma in the black community but we really need to work on healing the wounds of time and history. I am happy that you are able to embrace the idea and find a place of refuge for yourself. Outside of that session it's on you, so please do breathe. I am working on this as well. Peace and health is a journey and not a destination.
Peace,
-SB

FREEDOM said...

Yes, I will begin to slow down and breathe again. This blog is like my therapist. I guess I need to start sending you a check Muata. Thanks for allowing me to take a deep breath on your couch of commentaries and sermons. Your writings and the feedback from you and others have helped me to slow down and breathe again! Thank you!

sj-the-infamous said...

I remain impressed with your resolve to seek the truth. Clarity comes when you're relaxed, so I hope you continue to seek relaxation.

I "accidentally" threw my celly in the trash not too long ago. That was sooo telling that day. Probably shoulda left it there....

Muata said...

Reader Response:

Fascinating . . .

What insight into a man that I have just discovered. I never thought you were the way in which you have described yourself. Fascinating.

I breathe all of the time . . . Especially when I go work out in the gym each morning. I breathe when I awaken each day. I breathe deeply when I sigh. I breathe deeply when I see a beautiful cloud in the sky with a silver lining. I breathe deeply when I think about my Lord and how he cares for me . . .

-PH

Muata said...

Reader Response and Muata responds:

Muata-

Thank you for being Real and transparent. As a counselor, I have been struggling with some things that I believe that are keeping me from serving and giving my all to others. I now realize that I need to speak with someone and quit acting like these items don't exist. Thanks again

-TM

TM-

My life is an open book. I figure one good way to connect with people is to be "open". I want whoever is interested to turn some of the pages of my open book. This way my life may just inspire.

Muata