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Souls RevealedA Souls of My Sisters Book of Revelations and Tools for Healing Your Life, Soul, and Spirit
SOULS OF MY SISTERS BOOKSCopyright © 2008 Souls of My Sisters, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLife Support
Most of the major roadblocks in our lives are not tests from God, but are self-inflicted. We go in circles, avoiding our purpose, not making decisions, sabotaging ourselves, and basically barely holding our lives together.
You may know life support as medical terminology to describe a state when individual body systems can no longer function efficiently. In order to sustain the body, an artificial means is used to stabilize and prolong one's life. Your breathing may need the assistance of a mechanical ventilator; tubes hooked up to machines become a lifeline for your vital organs. You lie in a comatose state and aren't able to make decisions for yourself so that power has been relegated to your spouse or health proxy. Without directives or clear instructions your loved ones are left to make decisions about your life. Publicly they will quantify each decision as being what you would have wanted. Actually, these decisions are based on their own abilities, needs, and convenience.
The thought of leaving decisions about your life in someone else's hands is very scary. We can all think of a few people in our lives whom we would not want to have this responsibility without clear directives.
How about not leaving the decisions to anyone? Many of us go through life just existing, too frightened to make decisions, leaving everything to chance. They are the people who tell you, "I don't know. It just happened." You may be that person or have felt that way. You check out of life for a period of time when you just can't do anything but exist. We've all experienced that state. Life support has kicked in-life continues, you are not really living.
The concept of life support is clear. We are waiting for someone to save us, when we know deep in our hearts that we have to save ourselves. And that doesn't start with a visit to the doctor's office-it starts with a trip through our own minds. By challenging our own thoughts we can create new patterns of behavior, happiness, and success. Many books encourage us to think happy thoughts, look on the bright side, and change the way we view our lives. That's easier said than done, but how do you do it? How do you make sustainable change in your life? First, by recognizing that it is your responsibility to do it. There are a lot of things that we should do for ourselves but we have found ways to get other people to help us. If we are too busy and too stressed, others can come and clean our homes. If we aren't able, someone else can feed our families. Even if we don't make the changes necessary to rid ourselves of that baby fat, we can raise enough money to get liposuction. Others can work in our homes, change our bodies, and help us get new jobs. But no one has found a way to change our minds for us.
This is a crucial lesson. The way we think dictates the way we behave and respond. In fact, if we go into a situation believing that something is not good, we will automatically seek out those experiences that confirm the negative status of that endeavor. Conversely, if we want to believe something is good, we seek out evidence to prove that fact. If you aren't sure of this, think of any situation that someone accused a child that you loved of doing something wrong. You think of every reason that they could be wrong. You wanted to hold that innocent opinion of the child. Now, why don't we give ourselves the same courtesy, to believe and expect the best about ourselves?
The "At Least" Factor
Some of us are just holding on as if life is happening around you but you can't actively participate because YOU are holding you back. Being in a state of life support is what we call the "at least" factor. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word least as the smallest in the amount of degree; lowest in importance.
It's a lessening of who we are as women-by staying in a marriage where your husband has not lived with you for years because you tell yourself at least you are still legally married; remaining in a job where you are mistreated or underpaid because at least you have a job; getting involved in a marriage or relationship that you know is unhealthy and worse staying in a marriage or relationship that is stressful and toxic; loving someone who is emotionally unavailable; overeating or starving yourself; raising children who are not responsible because their father is not around; being in denial about a sick child; waiting to the last possible minute to do anything; battling a disease by yourself; dealing with aging parents and siblings who are not doing their own share; having a closet full of clothes and no significant savings; competing at your workplace or with your mate; or maintaining friendships with people who have toxic personalities because at least you won't be alone. Whether it involves addiction, finances, family, or co-dependency, you deserve to let God give you more.
As parents we get really annoyed when our children tell us, at least they're not on the street selling drugs when they don't bring home the A's that are expected of them. Our response to them, as it would be to anyone else, is why would you expect so little of yourself? Aspirations are not about seeking downward but looking higher and beyond one's current state. It has become too commonplace for us to say, "At least I _____." You fill in the blank. What gets us to this point at such a young age? When did it become so commonplace to settle for less? That's not what our ancestors believed in because if it was, we wouldn't be here today.
The "at least" factor is any woman's propensity to minimize the negative issues in her life in order to justify her current situation. To believe you should get more than you have been getting, you should expect more than you have been receiving.
To put the "at least" factor to the true test, try any one of the following statements and see how they sound to you.
At least I got a job.
At least my boss doesn't treat me as bad as he did my predecessor.
At least I got a man.
At least he comes home to me when he's done.
At least my credit is good enough for this kind of car.
At least my child straightens up when his daddy is around.
At least I'm not as heavy as my girlfriend.
Some part of you read this and didn't like the way "at least" sounds. At first glance these statements are limiting and depressing. It is not encouraging to think of how we compromise about some of the most important things in our lives. But, take another look at each of these statements and see how you would feel if these words were spoken by Oprah Winfrey or freedom fighter Sojourner Truth or the pastor at your church. What do you think would have become of Oprah if she had settled for less? How far do you think any of the slaves would have gone if Sojourner Truth had settled for a plantation that "at least" wasn't as bad as the other one? What if she had accepted ("anywhere but here") instead of going all the way to freedom? What if your pastor said, "We are going all the way to heaven and sit on the steps of the pearly gates." You would want to go in those pearly gates, so what kind of person would you have to be to make it all the way?
There's not a mystical or magical plan that makes some women sit at the steps of the gates and others walk on in. There are circumstances of our birth that make some goals a longer shot for some women than others, but God gave us all the right and the opportunity to choose.
In the most practical terms, what if we were to give you a camera that only had a lens pointed toward the ground? You would think the world was a dirty, uninteresting place. If you focus on the least, you block what you have coming to you. So instead, focus on the most optimal place that you can imagine. The disadvantage of dreaming big is the possibility of a major disappointment if you fail. The advantage is the amazing feeling of victory if you succeed.
We will let you in on a little secret. We have interacted with so many people who are at the top of their games in politics, music, entertainment, and even sports, and we have found that successful people haven't just had everything handed to them. We wrote this book but you could write the next one. We know lots of writers and most of them have to work hard to complete the perfect manuscript that you buy. But the difference between these superstars and average women is they have high expectations and they move forward with each dream "as if."
"As if" they are the most talented people on their work teams.
"As if" the perfect men are just waiting to meet them.
"As if" the solution to their child's experience at school is building on what's right to overcome what might be wrong.
Think of one of the most significant areas in your life that you would like to see change. You must be honest about your feelings and where you are at this stage of your life. Allow yourself to complete all of the "at least" statements that come to mind about your current situation and jot them down as a sentence. Write a statement about any area of your life:
Job and/or career Love life
Marriage Family roles
Your children's performance Your health
Your weight Your habits
Your finances today Your future finances
1. Take the time to do that right now by spending at least five minutes going over the areas in your life that you could improve, then spend five minutes writing down all of your "at least" statements that make your current situation viable.
2. After you have written your list, go back and read through it again. See if you notice any patterns about things that are working for you and the areas where the "at least" factor is actually holding you back.
3. Use the following chapters to figure out what is keeping you from wanting, and expecting, the best from the life you have now.
When you settle for the least amount of anything, that is exactly what you will get, so don't be surprised. We've met so many women across the country who have shared with us how their boyfriends or husbands have abused them and when we ask them why they accept that type of treatment their response is, "At least I have a man." Yes, you do and he will literally love you to death if you let him.
In our society, less isn't more. Black women are designed to achieve greatness. We should never settle for less, which is what gets us to that point where we become dependent on life support. We don't have to think outside the box or look for anything better because we don't believe it exists. In part this is because we are afraid of failing or being disappointed, hurt, alone, abandoned, destitute, or even being successful. Fear is a big part of why we get to being on life support. It paralyzes the senses and puts us in a state of immobility.
How Do We Get to This Point?
There are many experiences in life that can make anyone want to check out for a period of time. It can be an unexpected traumatic experience or the slow burn of stress. Whatever the cause, maybe it has to be dealt with in order to move past the state of being socially, emotionally, and spiritually comatose.
Take our friend Stacia, for example. Stacia is a beautiful, successful, career-oriented woman. She owns her home and has a loving husband. Out of nowhere, Stacia developed panic attacks that left her emotionally and physically debilitated. Not sure of the cause, Stacia went to her doctor, who prescribed medication. When Stacia was asked how she felt, she said she was what she called "emotionally numb" and that left her feeling calm and panic-free. But when asked if she ever found out the cause of the panic attacks, she said no. How can something be fixed if you don't know what caused the problem in the first place?
Many of us sense or even know we have a problem, but instead of actually dealing with it we want to circumvent it. We want the quickest solution to a problem that may have taken years to manifest. Give us a pill for this or a shot for that, but we don't want to know exactly what is going on. We love Stacia and we are not against her using medication to help her cope with her attacks, but we want to know what it is that caused them so she can deal with that as well.
Many of us don't go to a doctor for medication to deal with our stressful situations. We use other forms of therapy instead. Retail therapy, sex therapy, alcohol therapy, and food therapy. None of us are immune and all of us indulge in something or other to bring us joy, but when we use these things as crutches they become a part of our life support network but don't necessarily help us deal with what got us there in the first place.
Do you have a pattern that keeps you on life support? We have a girlfriend who, whenever something bad happens, goes to the store and buys things for her house. You may say OK, that's not so bad. But she has nowhere to put these things or even the space to use them. She buys glasses, linens, lighting fixtures, candelabras, napkin rings and all the things people would use to entertain others, but has no use for these items in her already congested house because she never entertains there. You can't tell her she doesn't need these things because she just tells you she will use these for her house, all the while she stores them in a room that she could utilize as a dining room!
Meanwhile, she's a single mother of two struggling to make ends meet. We know she is depressed about her failed marriage and wishes things were different, but until she faces this fact she will remain in a state of life support-just existing for her children and going through the motions from day to day, and, oh yes, buying another set of wineglasses.
Running a High Fever
There are hundreds of thousands of black women who are running a high fever, which is one of the symptoms that can lead you to life support. Without any intervention, just a few more events can make their lives literally catastrophic. Those events can take the shape of people and things that prevent you from dealing with the truth about you.
Going through life with a high fever causes you to carry around issues that have occurred in the past, but were never resolved. Subconsciously it becomes almost an internal mantra, embedding itself as part of your value system. You will defend it at all costs. This will occupy your soul and shape all your patterns and practices. A slow burn can easily deplete your energy, hindering your ability to make good, soulful decisions.
Chlarissa Pope's Story
"My life was rocky at best. We went without electricity, water, and food quite often. There were times when I would beg from other kids at the lunch table, then put the food and milk they gave me in my backpack and bring them home. I was proud. I felt as though I was helping my mom take care of us. I was too young to understand that after carrying the milk in my backpack all day, it often spoiled. When I asked my mom where the milk went, she always told me she drank it so as not to dampen my spirit.
"Mom worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. She was so selfless that she sold her blood just to have enough money to buy food and other things we needed. Where was my dad, you may ask? Dad wasn't there because he didn't want to be. Dad was married, taking his new family to theme parks and appearing to be having a grand time. My mom tried as hard as she could to make up for all the shortcomings, but nothing can take the place of a father's love in a little girl's heart. I entered my teen years angry at my mom, my dad, and the world. I knew my mom loved me and did the best she could, but something was still missing and it made me angry. I began searching for something ... someone to complete me. The next thing I knew, I was pregnant at seventeen.
"Someone said, 'I thought you were going to be something,' as if my having a child at seventeen automatically committed me to a life of failure. That statement fueled something monstrous within me. I was now considered a statistic, but I refused to BECOME A STATISTIC. I was determined not to disappoint my unborn son. My son wasn't going to have to struggle like I did. My son's father was handsome, sweet, and said all the right things, so I just knew he would be there for me. I was wrong. His love and sincerity went right out the window when I refused to have an abortion.
Excerpted from Souls Revealed Copyright © 2008 by Souls of My Sisters, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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