When I was a kid, I had a Baby Skates doll. I can still see her vividly in my mind… she had a little Condoleezza Rice-ish bob and a neon pink and yellow outfit. Her shorts might’ve even qualified as hot pants, now that I think about it. I was none the wiser back then. All I knew is I pressed her button and she would whirl into action, rolling all robotic across the kitchen floor. Then, if I didn’t have her trajectory lined up just so, she would hit a wall and skate against that ugly wood paneling until her batteries were drained.
Sometimes I feel just like Baby Skates.
As much of a big dreamer as I am and as many times as I’ve written out my goals and pasted additions to my vision board, I have had to recognize that sometimes it ain’t the wall standing in my way. Sometimes it’s me. I indulge in more than my fair share of self-sabotage, and I’ve discovered that I’m pretty good at it. I procrastinate like nobody’s business. That right there is my special hidden talent. You need some time wasted, honey? I’m your woman. Thing is, I always look busy. That’s because I’m also easily distracted. While I’m flitting all around, I’m not getting too much of anything done. It drives me crazy about myself, and ultimately it’s blocked me from scratching as many things off my to-do list of accomplishments.
Several years back, my pastor — the amazing Rev. Harold B. Hayes, Jr. at Hunter Memorial AME Church in Suitland, MD, in case you’re wondering — preached a New Year’s Eve sermon telling us that we already have access to the things God has for us. We just need to tap into it. He encouraged us to activate it in the physical by shaking our keys at things we were praying to manifest in our lives, the keys representing access.
My friends and I hopped in the car the next day and shook ourselves silly. We shook our keys at beautiful houses. We shook our keys at the BMW dealership. We shook our keys at the airport because we wanted to be world travelers, at banks because we wanted to be philanthropists, and at schools because we all want advanced degrees minus the burden of student loans. And of course, we shook our keys at David’s Bridal. I mean, it couldn’t hurt.
After that exercise in faith, I was all prepped and ready for my breakthrough. God was going to do something powerful after all that naming and claiming and key-shaking. Then I struggled through three of the most terrible years of my life. I landed in eviction court — three times — because I was too broke to pay my rent. My car got repossessed. My daughter was having emotional problems and failing out of a school that, unbeknownst to her, I was thisclose to having to pull her from because I couldn’t afford the tuition. My relationship with my man was on the fritz. Life wasn’t looking anything like the wonderland of blessings that I was expecting after I jingled those keys. I was more than a little discouraged. Some days I was insulted. Others I was flat-out pissed. What was the use of being a big dreamer and having these elaborate visions if God wasn’t going to set them off?
It’s easy to get in a habit of blaming circumstances, situations and people for what’s not going on in our lives when in actuality, it’s us. Just regular ol’ everyday, look-at-ourselves-in-the-mirror us. Life happens to everybody and being here and being good and even, if you’re a person of faith, being a dedicated follower doesn’t absolve anybody from trouble. That was a hard pill for my broke tail to swallow, but I went on ahead, considering I didn’t have health insurance. While I was waiting for my personal storms to pass, I also had to get clear about things Janelle was doing to slow down Janelle’s own progress.
I started calling myself out on being a time-waster and scatterbrain. I could only log onto Facebook or answer emails from my bestie if I worked for a half-hour straight, uninterrupted. That was my reward. If I didn’t send a new story idea to one of my editors for the day, I couldn’t watch TV. That was my consequence. Instituting a system of checks and balances for myself held me accountable for the things I could control in the progress toward my dreams. God was ultimately in charge, yes. But I played a part in how swiftly — and gracefully — I came out.
I’m still learning how to get out of my own way. Lord knows I am. Unlike Baby Skates, I’m more flexible. I had to learn how to stick and move, even against myself.