Many times when I meet people and work with them, at the end of the meeting they say to me “I love your energy, it’s so positive and passionate”. It’s a lovely comment and I noticed that I was getting it more when I came to DC. As you can imagine this is not a place that is full of optimism. The work I do is advocacy and encompasses social justice public policy in the field of disability rights. Anyone who has worked any movement that is about changing people’s lives understands that the process is long and tedious. “This work is a marathon not a sprint!” Stamina is a virtue and optimism is indispensable.
I have had a few people and especially advocates from around the country ask me “How do you do it?” “You are always so upbeat, positive and passionate!” So here is my answer!
Why I am so positive and how do I keep positive? (All the time?)
I must start with a huge appreciation to all who have bestowed these wonderful comments on me. It is part of the fuel that keeps me going.
First of all NO ONE is always anything. So, there are times when I am not as upbeat and passionate; it’s called my refueling time. How I got this way is a true work in progress. I have not always been this way but that is what life is all about, change. You want to make sure that change is for the better. The foundation of who I am makes me, me. Both of my parents were a strong influence in my life; and for this I am blessed.
My positive upbeat comes from many days of my parents picking me up and encouraging me to be better but most of all to be hopeful. I come from a pretty positive family. My maternal grandmother had rheumatoid arthritis. She was diagnosed at 18, on crutches by 20 and in a wheelchair by age 25. But she never wavered and she did everything. (more on her and our life in another blog) My parents were childhood friends and grew up in the same neighborhood. My father was my mom’s older/only brother’s best friend. They played basketball together and are still close to this day. So my dad was around my grandmother and saw her strength, they were buddies.
I say all so that you understand where I come from. My inspiration for moving forward each day comes from many of my family members who have overcome multiple obstacles. As many people all around the world have and continue to do.
My formula for positivity in my work is based on a foundation of my strong spirituality and my two first social justice actions. The first action I worked on was making the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday a federal holiday. In 1980 I was in sixth grade and the song “Happy Birthday to MLK” by Stevie Wonder was on the radio. I told my mom, I want to do something to help out this cause. If you read my posts you know that I come from a community-oriented and social activist family. So this was nothing new to me nor was it a surprise to them. They just gave me the tools to do something. The second action was on the campaigns to “End Apartheid in South Africa” and “Free Nelson Mandela”.
Both as you know were successful!
Although both my parents were city employees they did not want me to go to public schools so I went to an all girl private (elite) school in Upper Montclair, NJ. It was a difficult place to get an education, to say the least. Remember this was only about 15 years after the Civil Rights Act and I was “the one”! The one who integrated the school. I constantly felt beat up and had to fight for my rights in some way each day. My parents demanded better and I think it was only because I had active parents that the school changed and got a little better.
So with all of this, you can see how I was molded into this person who gets the compliments of being so upbeat and positive. My dad was a police officer and when I was going through elementary school he took the night shift. He worked 11pm – 7am. When he came home from work, I was getting ready for school. We would talk and have a good time getting ready to go. He is a music lover and so he would start my day by playing songs to give me inspiration. “Music will get you going and many times keep you going”, he would say to me as he got me ready.
He was a man of his own music. He had and has hundreds of records, DVDs and now loves that he can download songs. We listened to everything from Motown, rock, blues and country. He loves Patsy Cline. My dad taught me to enjoy the melody of a song but also listen to the lyrics, for they are meaningful.
There were some mornings when I really did not want to go to school. But my mom was not having that. I only missed school if I was truly sick. Although, I disliked the teachers at my school, I had some amazing friends and knew I was learning because I did things my other friends from the neighborhood were not. My dad and I are connected in a spooky way. It used to drive my mom crazy. Even when, he left the house because they separated, he would call on the phone and say “what’s wrong with my daughter?” It was usually a time when my mother and me were arguing and she would reply “you can come and get your @!* daughter.”
Those mornings I felt a little down, about facing those teachers, my dad knew without asking and he would play my song list when he drove for the carpool. This song list would get me going. They were songs that he and I sat down and chose because they would “inspire me to do well”. I would hum those songs on days my teachers were extra mean to me. (I will write about my private school experience in an upcoming post) Hearing those songs would comfort me, get me moving and really helped me to do well. I must state that at the end of each school year both my parents would sit me down and say “You don’t have to go to that school anymore!” But I was determined to prove those people wrong and graduate from that school and I did.
What gives me my energy is a combination of many ingredients. Here is what I think is the recipe for what gives me the energy to be passionate. I am loved and have been so all my life by numerous people. It is a true blessing and one that keeps me grounded. I am a person of faith and I begin each morning by getting out of my bed and falling to my knees to pray, prayers of thanks and for others, even thine known and unkown enemies. Then I meditate and then I exercise – walking mostly (I need to up my game on this). To get me through my warm up and my cool downs I play my new playlist. I mix it up everyday but two songs I listen to each day: “Pure Gold” by Earth Wind and Fire and “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys.
If you have never listened to these songs please do. “Pure Gold” by the EWF is one of the best inspirational songs ever made.
Opening of the song:
(There is a verse)
Where’s your heart, where’s your pride
Has it all been pushed aside
Life is dreams living high
Yet no substance in your life
It’s a hard world, I know
But don’t give into the lies
You have always been a star
Everything you need’s inside … your heart
I was not a huge fan of Alicia Keys until 2007 when Sen. Barak Obama was running for office and she sung at an event to get youth out and vote. Then she spoke so eloquently about being a young black woman and how proud she was of her heritage. It was heart warming. At that time her CD “As I Am” was out. I purchased it and “Superwoman” became my anthem. At the end of my workouts it elevates me each morning.
Superwoman – this is the chorus:
Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am
Yes she is
Even when I’m a mess
I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
I’m a Superwoman
My play list, songs that get me moving:(I mix it up daily)
Warm up songs:
“Hope” by Faith Evans
“Stand up for Love” by Destiny Child
“Revolution” by Arrested Development from the Malcolm X sound track
“Beautiful Day” by Mary J. Blige
“Live” by Lenny Kravitz
“Pure Gold” – Earth Wind and Fire
“Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
“Super Woman” – Alicia Keys
You can get the lyrics to each song– just google these titles.
One day my dad told me that those days that he has trouble getting through he listens to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers and watches me living life. Now he has to look at my pictures and hear my stories, but it still gets him through the day. Each time we end our calls I say -“I love you daddy” and he replies “I love you more”.
Here is the opening of the song:
When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind
Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day
Lovely day, lovely day, lovely day
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