Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Case of the Matthews

Picture this: empty red wine bottles, chocolate wrappers, balled up tissues, and “It’s Called a Break-Up Because It’s Broken” on the nightstand. This was my bedroom about 2 years ago. It was kinda worse than this video there for a minute. P.S. I laughed like it was my first time seeing this when I uploaded it. 

Well, it looks like we’re taking a turn for really personal town. Buckle up buttercups! 
This wasn’t my first break-up, but it was my first break-up that made me want to jump off a cliff. It led me to say things like “I just don’t know if I’ll ever be happy again”  which my dear friend Kathryn hastily mocked in an Eeyore voice. We laugh about it now. 
If you’ve ever experienced this type of split you know how gut-wrenching it can be.
Why was this particular parting so dreadful, you ask? He was hilarious. I’m talking knee-slappin, spew your morning coffee, ‘please stop, my stomach hurts!’ kind of funny. We laughed until we cried. And we traveled. We traveled all the time. Our first kiss was in the Broad River. He had just rescued me when my kayak tipped over...I had to thank him for his gallant effort somehow. He told me he loved me for the first time on the top of a mountain in the Puerto Rican rain forest. That was 5 months in. 

We were the kind of couple that made everyone gag. By the end, I was gagging too.
 We hardly ever argued. Sounds dreamy, right? Think again. If a couple doesn’t have conflict, then a couple doesn’t communicate. If a couple doesn’t communicate, a couple doesn’t grow. I ended up feeling like he was selfish, but I’ve since realized that he was in a place in life where he had nothing more to give. I broke up with him on a Monday, and haven’t spoken to him since. 
A month or so later, I went on a date with someone new and cried the whole way home. I actually had a nice time, which seemed to make matters worse for some reason. 
The next guy I dated was fit for a straight jacket. I locked myself out of the house when he and I went to lunch one afternoon, so I used the spare key hidden outside to let us back in. Yes, I realize now that I should have changed its hiding spot, but I didn’t know he was crazy enough to use it to enter my home while I was away on a camping trip and leave me a bouquet of flowers the size of China. I know now.
Needless to say that around this time, I was in Cynic-Town, USA--population me. The issue wasn’t the absence of the perfect man, but it was the presence of an unyielding fear that every relationship would eventually disappoint me. No, this wasn’t simply loneliness; I was suffering from a looming sense of let down. The defeat of ending a relationship with someone who I had previously decided was perfect for me was worse than the heartache I felt about no longer having him in my life. And I was afraid that I would continue to live in that feeling. I was afraid that what I was looking for was unattainable (that seems so ridiculous now, but it didn’t at the time). Sidebar: Fear often snowballs, so it’s important to nip that shit in the bud the minute it shows up. 

You see, Matt and I were really good friends, but our relationship was about as deep as a kiddie pool. I was spiritually and emotionally starved while we were together, and I was craving a connection with more substance.
Now, I can tell you right now that I did not expect to meet someone who was capable of satiating such a desire when some girlfriends and I hit up the bars in Athens, Georgia last year. I was chatting with some guys there once before and when they asked me how old I was I replied, “Older than you for sure.” They persisted, and I answered “25.”
“Wow, I hope my girlfriend is as hot as you when she’s your age!” was their response.

Jammin' out to Man in the Mirror in Athens

However, the town is not entirely composed of children, and if you’ve frequented  the home of UGA (I can hear ‘Dawgs’ fans barking in the background) you know that all in all, it’s a fine place.

Matthew was wearing cowboy boots and his hair in a pony tail that night. We talked for a while, and I gave him my number even though he was living in Oxford, Mississippi where he was finishing up his Ph.D in history. That’s about 5 hours from where I live in Atlanta. Why, you ask? Excellent question! My answer is I’m not sure. That is, I’m not sure why I did at the time...too much whiskey, I guess...but I know now that it was because we had a genuine connection, which I’m sure my sub-conscience picked up on when my conscience was pre-occupied with bar tabs and taxi rides. 
I was actually surprised when he asked me to lunch, since I knew he would be headed back to Mississippi soon. I said yes, mostly out of curiosity. 
That lunch date may have been the only 14 hour lunch I’ve ever had. We stayed up until 4am discussing the role of technology in society, how he teaches his ‘New South’ and ‘African American History’ classes and how important it is to name your car (his jeep is Blue Baller and my focus is The Silver Bullet). 

Now, lunch (and dinner and a midnight snack) was one thing, but accepting an invitation to visit him in Mississippi was another. I knew how utterly impractical that would be since I had no intention of embarking on the treacherous journey of a long-distance relationship, so why waste the time? Or more importantly, the emotion? But, Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is considered to be the ‘birthplace of the blues’, had been on my list of desirable destinations for quite some time, and I was dying to go. 
I met him in Oxford, and we drove about an hour and half to Clarksdale where we  checked into the ‘The Shack-Up Inn.’ Now, before you go making all kinds of assumptions about this establishment, allow me to clarify. You literally stay in a shack. The grounds are comprised of a bunch of sharecropper homes and an old cotton mill. The description on the website reads, in large print font, “The Ritz, we ain’t” and goes on to say, “drunken frat boys stay away.”

“Whether you're looking for an overnight stay on your way to Memphis or Chicago or New Orleans or you need to stay longer to conduct historic blues business, and or monkey business, the Shack Up Inn will add a new dimension to your stay in the Delta. As you sit in the rocker on the porch, tipping a cold one while the sun sinks slowly to the horizon, you just might hear Pinetop Perkins radiatin' the 88's over at his shack. Perhaps, if you close your eyes, even Muddy or Robert or Charlie might stop to strum a few chords in the night.”
Fucking awesome. 

We spent that evening basking in live blues music at Morgan Freeman’s bar ‘Ground Zero’ and spent most of the night relaxing on the screened-in porch drinking beer and sharing stories, feelings and ideas. 
The next day, we headed back to Oxford where we toured William Faulkner’s home and poked around Ole Miss. Matthew gave the same tour he gives his students; he walks with the whole class around campus and discusses the monuments and how the nuances of each one symbolically represents some historical issue. I was in nerd heaven. 

Later, we packed a cooler full of beer, hopped in the Blue Baller and headed out to Lake Sardis to watch the sunset. It was glorious. 

Myself at Lake Sardis
In fact, the whole weekend was glorious, and we lived happily ever after...separately.  Which is GREAT. Here’s why: life is about experiences. Life is not about finding a means to an end. 
Matthew is an awesome guy. There is no doubt that we had, and still do have a  connection. Neither of us did anything wrong; we’re simply not right enough for each other to warrant a long-term relationship. BUT, he served a divine purpose in my life. He allowed me to see that men could embody exceptional emotional depth, sensitivity, compassion, and openness while maintaining their masculinity. It may sound ridiculous, but I had convinced myself these aforementioned traits would have to be accompanied by a vagina. 
The experience of being with him for that short time also allowed me to see that beautiful relationships come in all shapes and sizes. A short-lived romance can be just as meaningful as a lifelong one. It’s all about what you experience and learn from it. 
I almost didn’t visit because I knew that we probably wouldn’t date long-term. But I know now that it is important to refrain from compartmentalizing how people should function in your life. We often think that if a relationship isn’t going to last a lifetime it isn’t worth our attention. And while I understand that many people consider marriage as a goal, we you shouldn’t miss out on life in it’s pursuit (I’m not one of them, for the record). When a person walks into our lives, we may not understand their purpose in being there right away, but I can guarantee that they serve one. Much of my learning to open up my heart again and releasing the fear of disappointment was due to knowing Matthew. And now I can honestly say that I look at dating as more of an experience rather than a means to an end. I’m not saying that I don’t want a long-lasting connection; I’m open to it if one comes my way. I’m also not saying that I will date anyone and everyone. I’m just saying that, using my gut feelings as my guide, I’ve learned to enjoy a genuine connection of any kind regardless of it’s length, practicality, or purpose in my life, and this has proved very rewarding. 
Matthew and I had lunch the last week, and I’m pleased to know he feels the same way. 
Special thanks to:
Athens, GA

This book

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hater Repellant

Katt Williams says "If you got 14 haters hating on you, you need to figure out how the fuck to get to 16 before the summer get here!” 

A friend recently told me that every time she walks into a room and people turn their attention towards her, for however brief a time, she always feels uncomfortable. Always. Another girlfriend thinks people are staring at her everywhere we go...she says that they’re looking at her like she’s a ‘home wrecker.’ Both of these women are beautiful and sharp-dressed, so what’s the problem?

There was a time when I was convinced that everyone would essentially have nothing but positive things to say about me if I played my cards right; just as long as I was smart enough, funny enough, skinny enough, considerate enough, with nice hair, make-up, clothes...I think you get the picture. I’ve always owned my eccentricities, but I simultaneously overloaded my psyche with details of appearance in hopes that no one would ever utter a critical sentence with me as its subject. 
At some point though, I can guarantee that someone has talked shit about each and every one of us. The reality is that some people are gonna hate. Period.
But never fear! With this potent recipe for Hater Repellant you’ll be safeguarded from over 50 different kinds of hate including: jealousy, discouragement, competitiveness, nit-picking, deflection and many more!

Aunt Tiff’ney’s Old-Fashioned Hater Repellant:
(8) cups of understanding 
Always remember that if someone says or thinks something ugly about you, it’s because they are, in fact, insecure or discontent. Don’t take it so personally! Katt Willliams says that “haters don’t hate you, they just hate good shit, because good shit ain’t happenin’ to them!” But listen, we’ve ALL been in that position before, so let’s have a little compassion for the haters. They can’t help it!  When people are struggling to get where they want to be, they often put others down so they can move up. *whispers* they don’t know that there is plenty of room at the top for us all! *wink* 
(10) gallons of self confidence
This is not just about knowing that you’re hot, but that’s part of it. Trust me, if you believe you’re hot, then everyone else will follow suit. Guys, puff up your chest a little bit, and girls, add a little sashay to your step, and watch the magic happen. But more importantly, you have to love yourself completely. This includes loving the fact that you sometimes eat nutella out of the jar with a spoon, that your copy of Woody Allen’s ‘Manhatten’ says ‘Atlanta Fulton County Library’ on the top because you never returned it, and that God, I hope Zac Efron is in it!” is your first reaction to the making of Magic Mike 2...who are you to judge me?! Just kidding. No shame. I don’t give a....
(15) teaspoons of “I don’t give a whaaat?!”
Real Talk - a person’s opinion has no power over you unless you give it power over you. No one on this earth, or any other fucking planet, has the right to inform you of who you are. Not once. Not ever. Never. You decide who you want to be. Who you are. Who you will become. 
Positive people (to taste) 
Oprah says, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” When you have a network of people who believe in you and your dreams, come hell or high water, it is easier to block negativity from those who aren’t lucky enough to know you. 
Stir well. Apply daily.
I’ve definitely realized that what you see in the world directly reflects what you see in yourself. When I’m happy with me, I never (a) notice people looking at me with judging faces and (b) hardly ever judge others. 
My brain when I’m discontent:
“Am I too old to be wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt? That lady is looking at me like I’m a jackass.” 
“Maybe glasses AND pigtails is too much...”

“Look at that girl. She wouldn’t know what to do without that silver spoon up her ass.”
My brain when I’m at peace:
♫ ♪ La, la, laaa, la, I’m wearing my favorite shirt and I’m happy, la, la, laaaa!” 
“Good god, these azaleas are fucking beautiful!” 
“She is gorgeous. Great hair. I should tell her.”
“Look at that girl’s outfit. Sequins, purple leggings and feather earrings...how fun!” 
Let your thoughts about others serve as a self-love gauge. If I find myself being critical of others I immediately turn inwardly and examine how I’m feeling about myself. I say, “Hey Tiff, are we cool? I just noticed you’re projecting a little negativity and wanted to check in...” This practice keeps me aware of my own self-love and the love I’m sending out into the universe. 
If you find yourself on the giving end of the hate exchange, you will, by default, end up on the receiving end as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what you put into this world is what you receive from it. Make sure to send out love, if you want to get love in return. 
Like everything, thinking positive thoughts about others, instead of critical ones, takes practice, but before long it will be second nature. Let’s set a goal to compliment at least one person a day. We’re gonna spread so much love, y’all!
Special thanks to:

This delicious food item

God and the photographer who took this photo

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Joy of Giving...Vegetables

When is the last time someone gave you vegetables? If you are within a 10 mile radius of my grandmother, chances are it was very recent. It doesn’t matter if you want the  cucumbers or not. “You don’t like cucumbers?! Well, these are different, you’ll like these. These are homegrown.” 
I drove up to Royston from Atlanta on Saturday, to attend our annual family reunion, and returned home with a big bag of okra and some green tomatoes for frying. If that ain’t country I’ll kiss your ass. Royston is the small town in North Georgia where I grew up. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? I’m shocked. It’s the home of Ty Cobb! I actually met a guy who said, “Of course I know Royston! I stop in to pay my respects to Ty Cobb every time I drive to South Carolina!” He turned out to be a nut-job...he actually freaked out on me because I thought it was strange that he went to Dallas just to buy a hat. 
“What’s so fucking crazy about that?! If you had ever been to my house, you would know that I’m really into hats but you DON’T because you refused to come over when I asked you the other night!!” 
“I was with my friends. And it was like 2am. Why am I justifying this to you?! I’m leaving.” 
I think that was the only time I’ve ever walked out in the middle of a date.
Guess I should have seen that one coming...

Fun Facts about Royston:
  • Population 2,708
  • The most popular restaurant in town is The Roystonian. Booty’s Catfish House is a close second. 
  • You will see at least 3 people you know at the grocery store, so you can’t wear your pajamas to buy ice cream. Also, you can’t buy ice cream after 9pm because that’s when the store closes. Also, you can’t buy liquor there at all.  
  • We eat a lot of butter beans. 
  • There are two traffic lights in town. 

The best thing about Royston is that my grandmother lives there. She is one of the most fascinating creatures I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She says some mean shit sometimes, but she loves me so much. 
This past Saturday:
“Hurry up and shower, you don’t have time to wash your hair...it looks fine! You have to take me to meet Annie Louise to get some vegetables!”
...shower, shower, wash, wash, rinse...putting on makeup and she comes in...
“Good Lord! When was the last time you washed your hair?! It looks awful!”
I turn and scowl
She busts out laughing, and then quickly puts on a straight face...
“You’re gonna sweat at that park anyway, it looks fine, let’s go!”

We meet Annie Louise in Danielsville, about 20 minutes outside of town. She pops her trunk to reveal large bags of fresh okra, butter beans, plump tomatoes, corn that she calls “jackpot corn” because it bares both white and yellow kernels, and a beautiful orange pepper the color of a sunset. She grew all of these vegetables in her garden, and picked them specifically to give to my grandmother. 
On the way back, we stopped at Rite-Aid because Cascade is on sale. Obviously, this was a pressing matter. I stayed in the car and kept the air conditioning on the tomatoes. When my grandmother returned to the car, she had the store manager with her. “Here, take some of these tomatoes, we can’t eat em all! Here, here, take some okra too.”
One thing I’d like to note from this vegetable exchange is the pure desire to give. Sure it’s just homegrown vegetables...wait, it’s homegrown vegetables! That’s awesome! But the giving here is simply for the joy of sharing. There are no expectations attached at all.

Oprah says “Every gift is your way of expressing how you feel about another person.” It’s not just about the vegetables here, it’s about sharing joy. It’s about a small gesture that says “I care about you, and I’m glad you’re in my life.” 
My grandmother is notoriously giving. If I tell her “I like your shirt” the first thing she says is “You want it? Here, let me change real quick.” She literally offers me the shirt off her back. It’s really amazing. But then she gets pissed when I tell her I like it on her but not for me. I mean, it’s an old lady shirt for gods sake. 

When contemplating this sharing of garden goodies (because these are the kinds of things that occupy my mind, apparently), it occurred to me that gifts can be small, completely random and yet very meaningful. We don’t have to wait until the perfect time, or for the perfect, most badass gift ever. We can start giving more now. Although, currently...as far as give-able items go...I’ve gotta a bunch of craft paint, some extra mason jars, about 20 rolls of ribbon, and some apple vodka...but I know an awesome little girl who would love some paint and a lush who would love some vodka. 
It’s no secret that what we put into this world is what we get back. When we give, we receive. +PLUS+ it just feels good to give to others. So let’s challenge ourselves to be more giving. Feel free to start challenging yourself by giving me some stuff *wink*
OR, better yet, you can donate to the Nicholas House Transitional Living Shelter where I tutor the aforementioned awesome little girl by clicking here.
Have a super amazing, energizing and exciting week!
P.S. I love you

Special Thanks to:

Papa who shells butter beans

Monday, July 2, 2012

Don't Jump!

So, you’ve discovered your honest dreams, and you’re all kinds of energized and ready to make them a reality when your actual reality smacks you in the face with some big ole’ ugly obstacle...what do you do? How do keep from getting discouraged?
I have no fucking idea. But luckily, I have books written by people who do.
“I’m reading don’t kill myself books.”
“I thought that you said the book wasn’t yours.”
“Don’t worry about the book. It isn’t mine. But I glanced at it.”

I’m breaching this topic because I recently discovered my honest dreams (as I mentioned last post) and then proceeded to start the worst job I have ever had in my entire life. To put that in perspective, I’ve worked in telemarketing; I once had a guy, call in and detail for me his history with drugs, (and how it’s ironic that he now works in the narcotics department in his police precinct) and how he got into a fight with a rival karate studio owner in the middle of the street in front of his students AND how he is great friends with Chuck Norris (you mean Walker Texas Ranger? The guy who round-house kicks through car windshields?)--I’m soooo impressed that he “came to your nephew’s birthday party” and that “he’s so humble that he drives a Pinto.”
Well, that was actually a pretty entertaining day, but most days people just called to yell at me because I, not Bank of America, was sending them too many credit card applications in the mail:
“Yes ma’am, you’re right. I paid the postage and everything. I also chopped down the trees that they used to make the paper that the applications are printed on.”
“No ma’am, I’m not being sarcastic. I come from a long line of lumberjacks.”
“Yes ma’am, I am aware that this is not a joke.”
“No ma’am there is not a supervisor you can talk to because I AM the supervisor. I’m also the President and CEO of Bank of America.”
“Yes ma’am, that is ridiculous, and that is exactly why you shouldn’t be yelling at me for your receiving too many applications. I just answer the phone. Now, I’ll be happy to take you off our mailing list...”

A few days ago, when I came home from said horrendous job and saw my recently finished ‘vision board’ laying next to my college diploma (still in the paper tube it arrived in earlier that day), I burst into tears. The following night, Libby and I were admiring the officialness of this official document and reading it’s inscription in an old English accent (similar to Sir Hiss’ in ‘Robin Hood’), she suggested I have it framed. “Oh, I will when I have the money,” was my response. We cracked up at the pure irony...

I’m too poor to get my college diploma framed.
Laughing always helps. My friends are good at reminding me to Remember Rule #6: don’t take yourself so goddamn seriously. 
But I needed a pearl of wisdom that will have have long-lasting effects on my spirit as I spend hours on end writing cover letters and applying for jobs. For this, I turned to a book that was given to me by one of my favorite ex-boyfriends, Jeremy, years ago: “The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff. The book uses Winnie the Pooh as a metaphorical framework for explaining the core principles of Taoism. 
Hoff discusses the importance of the Wu Wei, which means “without doing, causing or making” or, more specifically, “no going against the nature of things.” 
“When you work with Wu Wei, you put the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in the square hole. No stress, no struggle. Egotistical Desire tries to force the round peg into the square hole and the square peg into the round hole.” 
Trying too hard to force those pegs into the wrong holes causes tension and stress which inhibits the mind and causes discomfort in the body. Have you ever had trouble zipping your jacket? Tugging harder does nothing, but relaxing, taking in a deep breath, and then gently gliding the zipper works every time.

Cooper is more concerned with being unzipped
Basically, no forcing things that don’t fit. We have to understand that the natural world abides by natural laws, and no amount force will change the circumstances. However, we can change how we handle the circumstances. This involves trusting that obstacles serve a purpose in our journey, always...if we relax and go with the flow. We have to remember that things happen in the right way at the right time. This is always more clear in hindsight, but real peace comes from trusting this in the present. Hot damn, it’s so awesome and so beautiful and so true. 
I could allow myself to stress about how I haven’t found a suitable job, which would probably lead me to send out as many cover letters as possible, paying little attention to how each one reflects the specific job at hand. 

Instead, I’m going to relax. Sit down and write a few letters at a time. Sip on some red wine. Do what needs to be done. Trust the flow of the universe. Trust that the future will bring better things than I could have imagined. Trust that my dreams will come true in just the right way at just the right time.  

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get drunk and watch Disney movies. 

P.S. I love you all. 

Special thanks to:

The Telephone

Action Jeans for facilitating Chuck's badassery