About 18 months ago I purchased a set of mindfulness activities and games for the kids. To help them name their emotions. We’ve tried a few times since to work through them and all have failed miserably. Until today.
Where we had a 30 minute discussion on forgiveness, which then moved into discussion a number of emotions ranging from pleasant and high energy through to unpleasant and low energy.
We were floored. Brought to tears as Anaiya and Jaanu talked about their moments of anger and calm (what Jaanu was feeling when we were taking); or determined (what Anaiya was feeling) and jealous (something Anaiya says she has never felt but then expressed what she feels instead).
#iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the mindfulness exercise to work through the first day of this year. It was beautiful. And I’ve never been more proud or honored to be their dad.
On the first day after a year where I felt I got so much wrong, this reminded me I got something right.
I’ve been trying to write this post for 3 weeks. I’ve tried many different hooks and patterns. I’ve tried to be simple. I’ve tried to be poetic. i’ve tried analogies. I’ve tried to be detailed. Yet every time I got about 350 words deep, I’ve leaned my head back away from my laptop, frowned, selected all of the text in the editor, and hit “delete”.
Nothing I can write does my feelings and my appreciation for you, justice. Nothing.
I have no words. There are no words. Language is limiting. As I understand it, there are over 1,000,000 total words in the English language, over 170,000 in current use, and on average, a person uses 30,000 of them.
As I told your Mama when I proposed to her: “even 1,000 poets, writing 1,000 words a day, for 1,000 years can’t capture what moved me to propose to her”.
Now; for the second time in my life, I find myself verbally helpless; trying to find a way to bridge how I feel with the few words available and the even fewer words I know.
I don’t know how to capture what I’m feeling in words; in a way that you will read them at some point in your future and understand the weight of the feeling and the sentiments behind them.
But what I know, is that it won’t be for a lack of trying.
Anaiya. Jaanu. Buhboo.
For all of my worth as a human being: thank you.
There will come a day in your future; maybe a few, where you’ll wonder if you are up to the task. If you can pass some obstacle in front of you. If you can conquer some challenge. If you can go some Seussian places you want to go.
You will wonder. You will pause. You will hesitate. You will question.
And when you do, I want you to read this. And then, I want you to call me. On the phone. Over whatever device is in vogue when that challenge presents itself. And when I’m past my life while you’re still living yours, close your eyes and picture me. Reading this to you.
There is absolutely nothing you can’t do. Because at age 6 and age 3, you took the greatest punch the world has seen in over 100 years. You took something that crippled towns, cities, states, countries. You took a haymaker that brought humankind to its knees. In days. To our collective knees.
You took that. And you brushed it off your shoulder in a way that would make Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Barack Obama proud. You wiped a drop off blood of your lip in a way that would make Bruce Lee, and every Saturday afternoon Kung Fu theater hero (as well as your Dada Fua) proud.
There has been so much discussion about the lockdown the world has experienced post COVID-19. Coronavirus. Corona – why us? There’s been some discussion about how resilient and adaptable human beings are. How if you had told us 3 months ago the way we’d be forced to live now, we’d never have been able to imagine it; and we certainly would have denied it would be possible .But when it happened, we adapted, and here we are.
Yes. Adaptable. Resilient.
But none of us are doing this adaptable thing, this resilient thing, with your grace.And that is precisely where I lose all ability to express myself.
I want to tell you how one night you went to bed, ready for the next day. Your ordinary next day. An Alexa alarm. Breakfast and drop-offs. School and play time. Somewhere between 9 and 10 hours, a super majority of your life, for a super majority of your days each week, you were immersed in a world that we got glimpses of when we opened your backpacks, checked logs and updates from your teachers, hears mentions of when you had the time, energy and interest.
One night you went to bed, ready to do all the things we told you that you had to do. When we dropped you off at daycare. When we celebrated your first day of school Make friends. Play nice. Listen to your teachers. Eat your meals. Be strong when you’re being bullied. Find strength when we aren’t there and when you feel like nobody else is, however fleeting. Do all these things because they are the most important things for you to learn now.
One night you went to bed knowing the next day was going to be filled with all those things.
And when Alexa woke you up that next day, we told you that wasn’t happening anymore. We told you that schedule, that way, wasn’t going to be the way. For a while.
If that had happened to me, I’d have needed a lifetime to plan, and a lifetime to prepare, and a lifetime to adjust; and I’d go through the motions and I’d do what I’m supposed to do.
But I don’t think, ever in my life, that I have operated with your grace. How can someone be so strong, so unwavering, so staunchly making progress, while doing so in a way that seems so effortless, so natural. You see, when I look at you, I don’t remember the way our life was 5 weeks ago. Because when I look at you, and observe you act, and watch you interact — I am only convinced that the way we’re living now is the only and obvious way we have been living all along.
When I look at my calendar. When I talk to people at work. When I read the news. Tonight is Sunday. Week 5 of quarantine. Poised for an even longer and more isolated road ahead. Into a new normal. Never returning to the way life was before. And it can be overwhelming.
When I look at you, though.
What are we doing today, Buhboo?
Thanks for grading our worksheets, Buhboo!
Yay, we get to watch a movie, Buhboo!
I didn’t like my dinner, Buhboo, but I’ll eat it for you, Buhboo!
When I’m with you, it’s Sunday. It’s just Sunday for you.
And you’ve found a way to make it “just Sunday” for me too.
You can’t see your friends. Except, maybe from across the street. You can’t hug your Nana, Nani, Dadi, Tito Foi. Your Mamu is living with us, upstairs, in the guest bedroom and the best you can do is let him know when you’re downstairs so he can step out to get the tray of food we’ve left outside his door.
You can’t go to the park. You can’t go for ice cream. You can’t go to Charlie Brown’s (yeah, by the way, we need to talk about how for most of your childhood your favorite restaurant was a terrible chain restaurant that indicates you share a palate and a thirst for ambience with people born in the 1940s).You can’t go to school. You can’t go to Tae Kwon Do. You can’t go to Dance Class. You can’t go to Bagels 4 U. You can’t go to Genus Boni. You can’t go to Shop Rite and you definitely can’t get the free cheese handouts there and at Whole Foods. You can’t … do … everything that brought you joy.
Yet you’re still, full of joy.
You are. Absolutely full of joy. It is because of you, I wake up with a bounce in my step excited about what we’re going to do today. Because of how you ask your questions, I focus on what we can and will do today; not what we can’t or can no longer.“Buhboo, what’s our plan for tomorrow?”
What an absolutely beautiful question; Warren Berger would adore it. “What is our plan for tomorrow” is more intrinsically hopeful than “What are all the things we can’t do tomorrow that we could have done 5 weeks ago?
”It’s been 5 weeks, and you’re still asking beautiful questions.
You’re making me see the beautiful.
Your laughs fill our house. Your cries do too; but if we were to put them on scales, there would be no contest in terms of which direction we’re tipping.I’m also watching you grow.
Anaiya: Yoga. Dance. Math. Reading. Mentoring. Eating. Breathing. Guiding. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate to lose at a level that would make Michael Jordan proud.) Love. The way you clutch my arm, at bedtime, at wakey time, and at so many times in-between, and hold it like it’s the last arm you’ll get to hold and hug on earth. I can’t help but feel that some of that has nothing to do with me, actually; you’re holding my arm so tightly because it’s the one place where all that’s been taken away from you is manifesting. And riding your bike with no training wheels. Yeah, that happened.
Jaanu: Dance. Gibberish. Letters. Tracing. Troubleshooting. Putting away dishes. Cleaning. Defiance (I mean, you absolutely hate being told what to do.) The way you proclaim to every person who’s ready to hear you that they are “the greatest in the history” is tagline and catchphrase I hope you never lose. I can’t help but feel that you’re expressing that as a way of defining a new baseline for history, and helping people find positivity and feel special in this altogether new way of being.
I’m words, sentences, paragraphs in; and as you can see, I’ve written so much, and I’ve said so little that captures how proud I am of you. How honored I am to be your Dad, your Buhboo.1,000 poets. 1,000 words a day. 1,000 years.
Even when, as a family, we experience the most extraordinary of losses, you find a way to bring love, to comfort, to hug and support — videos weren’t designed to have this kind of impact and sincerity. You have managed to make video feel human and intimate.
Consolation is something you give to people. After loss. After disappointment. Right now, as I read what people write and say and share; I feel an excessive amount of consolation. I see a world full of people acknowledging loss and disappointment and sadness; and from that, trying to force a rose to bloom from concrete.
Consolation is what I see and hear in every interaction.
Except the ones I have with you.
With you, it’s “just Sunday”.With you, it’s “what IS our plan?”
With you, it’s not resilience. Or adaptability. Or perseverance.
With you, it’s not about the new normal.
With you, it’s just what’s next. Your ability to make everything that is, seem natural; and to make what’s next, seem possible. Is what makes me, so uncontrollably humbled and so infinitely proud, and so eternally enamored.
So when that hill, or that mountain, or that sea, or that valley, shows up in your way. I want you to call me. On your phone. On your <<unnamed device>>. On your memory.
And I want you to hear me. Loudly. Clearly.
The world handed you the worst the world has handed anyone. And you flicked, brushed, dusted, and resumed. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for you.
Thank you, my children. Thank you, my kids. Your Mama and I wish the rest of the universe had you to wake up to, you to bring tomorrow’s schedule to, you … to look forward to.
Because then, they’d all be as happy, as proud, as hopeful, as we are.(And just as speechless.)How much do I love you? More than anything.
Ok folks, let’s show the world one of the powerful fo CD’s for good FB can be…I need school breakfast and lunch recipes. What are your go to meals for toddlers up to 4-5 years. Breakfasts are key. Lunches for the 17 month old are clutch. Looking for a most likely impossible convergence of healthy, tasty, easy, with shelf life.
With Mom on a much deserved getaway, I leaned heavy on my sis, mom and dad. Lord knows my competence with our kids requires much much support to be viable. This dad needs training wheels. Any way, it was awesome.
The kids fell madly in love and it was all reciprocated. Special moments abound, for which #iamgrateful and #iamthankful From chocolate ice cream for dinner with Dadaji (him spending all his time holding her bowl so it didn’t fall, and her reminding him to eat his stuff), to dinner on the couch with Tito Foi, to fruit for breakfast, to Jaanu teasing Dadaji and Dadiji. Life is good.
Old school hip hop for me is late 80s early 90s. Fab 5 Freddy. Yo! MTV Raps. (Kudos if you nailed the punctuation.) EPMD dropped a great song with a guest verse by LL that was one of the best flows of all time. Furreal. It was also about being on a Rampage. One of the best video games of all time.
Today? Jaanu had a birthday party delayed but the cake was too late to be deferred. It, like him at 1, was on a Rampage. #iamgrateful and #iamthankful for the ripper, the master, the overlordian…thank you Blue Sheep Bake Shop
Another long one. As we get closer to Thanksgiving I’lll evolve my tone. But these need to be written. Yesterday i wrote about dark times. Today I write about some frameworks that shape how I think. You can be angry. You can be frustrated. You can be hurt. You can be so many things. But you also have to find your way forward.
There are four models and frameworks for evaluating challenges that I fall back on collectively, and when they are assembled and unified…and when checked against one another…have always made me feel something more was possible. They have always enabled me to keep moving. Literally, from the moments I have faced in my life that could be classified or categorized as a challenge or a even a tragedy. With these frameworks and mental models, I find ways to move forward instantly. Progress.
Each one of these was learned and acquired. From a book. A speech. Something.
1) Pendulum Theory. I read this one sentence in a history book but lost that book forever. We are, no matter what we choose, a reaction to what raised us. Think of a pendulum. At some point it is moving in a direction in response to the moment immediately prior to it. It is in perpetual motion but it isn’t so much linear as much as it is momentum against and a reaction to what just happened the moment before. This point is important to me because…it is about change and motion. We are constantly in motion. Never in a moment of stasis.
2) Revolution Theory: This is the Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones point. was lucky enough to watch him speak at Lucy Stone Hall on Livingston Campus while at Rutgers. And man. He was past caring what you thought about what he thought. A man who worked in our residence hall as a janitor attended in earnest. I can’t remember his name but I can remember his energy around attending. And he stood up to ask a question about revolutions. The janitor…got crushed. Baraka then fought all points about revolutions (physical vs psychological notably) and settled on one of the most important things I’ve ever heard in my life. The idea…that revolutions are only successful if they are above and below ground. Above so people can join with you, and below so by the time everyone else knows you’re coming, it’s too late. I have since evolved that for myself. But it’s so true. You need diplomats and rebels. You need lovers and fighters. You need … them both. Because when push comes to shove what you need, is the most allies. I made my own analogy this AM. About an underground revolution growing roots and growing under even destabilizing the counterpoint. While the above ground grows high and wide to cast a massive shadow. What I was too subtle about was where we chose to grow. Ideally in the cracks of our adversaries arguments. Because that’s the only way we can disrupt from the foundation and dominate optically, while ensuring we both come from the exact same place.
3) Progressive Spiral Theory: Thank you Francis Fukuyama. Who I also read as a freshman at Rutgers. It’s the idea that life doesn’t move linearly but instead, in progressive spirals. Which means we hit a point that in the moment feels like exceptional advancement (a half-black man becoming President) only to immediately see ourselves in the next moment that feels like an amazing step back (Google “alt-right” and filter the search results over the past 1 week.) But that’s what’s magical about it. We progress. And then we cycle back. To reset. Get our sea legs. But also, to find a way forward and then come back for the rest of us. Because at the very tip of the spear of humanity we’re a search party that reports back on what’s possible. 2008. 2012. That was what’s possible. 2016. That is us reporting back so the masses can debate and soon, join the rest of us in the future which just so happens to be 2008. But let’s realize that how close or how far you are from that progressive spiral is what directly correlates to your happiness and sadness. A minority living today on that spiral post-Trump is not happy. But it’s a moment. Seconds. No different than that same person being on that timeline on inauguration day 2008. One feels oppressive. one feels liberating. Depending on your choice, I’ll know where you stand.
4) Amalgamation Theory: How do you pull it all together? You pray. And you love the hell out of everyone. Even the people who make you question whether you’re loving too much. You say…if the pendulum is swinging in a certain direction
if the revolution is being fought on all levels
if we’re on a spiral, at some point
You feel hopeful. Because we’re moving. We’re part of that movement as lovers or fighters; as pacifists and revolutionaries. We’re part of it.
And focusing on steps forward and steps back only means focusing on distractions from perpetual (which it is), progressively spiraling (which it is) motion (which … it is.)
The first set of approaches as arrows in your quiver. What I’ve outlined above is how I make decisions everywhere. Those are my starting point. Let it be a factor in yours. Just a factor at least. Note the progressive spirals in 25 year increments … 1965 < 1990 < 2016.
Not in a hip hop way. Like when nobody’s around and I drop lyrics on you in a flow that isn’t disruptive to your eardrums without compromising
the integrity of the song (good hip hop like good folk music can withstand changes to music, IMHO.)
Today my love for you is musical in a kiddie musical kind of way. Why? Because Mommy took you and me to our first music class today. Wow, were you adorable. First off, you were the youngest by a mile. The closest was Alton who’s 10 months old. After that, everyone was in — gulp — YEARS!
But you held your own my baby. The interesting thing for me was that we showed up and you were already in sleep mode. Yawning on the stroller ride over. Full stomach in tow. I mean, these were prime sleeping conditions for you. But we got there, and the music was playing, and the teacher was singing, and you were all about it. Not a peep. Not a tear. Maybe a yawn or two. But otherwise, you were invested in this class. Sitting on your Mommy’s lap (let it be known that I was the only Daddy within miles of this class.)
You love music, baby. You love when your Mom sings “Happy” to you. You love when your Fia sings to you (just about anything.) You love when certain music plays in the background. And though nobody really knows it, you actually enjoy it when I’m rapping to you. So this makes sense.
But you also don’t always do things that make sense. Like when you fight sleep and shake your head to keep yourself awake. That doesn’t make sense. It’s awesome and adorable and cruel to watch at the same time. But it doesn’t make any sense.
You know what makes sense though? You loving this moment as much as I did.