Memorial Days…

This year will be the first year that we don’t go to Arlington National Cemetery to put flowers on my Uncle and my Father. While we may not be celebrating our Memorial Day in our usual fashion, today, and every day, we remember those who gave it all fighting for our country. We remember those who gave it all even when they were looked upon as second class citizens. We remember the women who had to fight the enemy and fight for acceptance in the military. We remember those who were fresh out of high school when they took up arms and gave their lives for their country. We remember the men and women who left behind spouses and children and families in the name of protecting our freedoms.

I grew up a “military kid”…not in the sense of moving around and living in a new state or country every few years, but as a kid who was constantly surrounded by the grandeur, the grit, the pomp and circumstance, the honor of the military. My father and Uncle were both Marines and my mom worked for the Marine Corp for nearly 40 years. I spent as much time on military bases as I did on suburban streets. It is this upbringing that has allowed me to always honor and revere the men and women of our military. Few will ever know all that they sacrifice to fight for our freedom. Today I honor the two soldiers who impacted my life the most.

Edward Leon Green was a US Marine and Purple Heart recipient. He fought in Vietnam. He received a Purple Heart for the physical injuries he received in war, but mentally he was damaged as well. He was never quite “the same” when he came back from war. I’m not sure anyone ever could be the same after what they saw and experienced. Nevertheless he was more like my father than my Uncle. He loved and cared for me like a father. He always looked after our family. He was a hardworking man of God until he was called home. I honor him today and I am grateful for the man that he was in my life.

My father, David Anthony Duarte, though absent from my life since I was 3 years old, I still go and place flowers on him every Memorial Day. He was a proud Marine. He loved the Corps. He rose through the ranks and became a GYSGT in a time where ascending the ranks in the military wasn’t easy for a black man (sadly, it still isn’t). I honor him for the man he desired to be. I honor him because when I got older, the hurt in me saw the hurt in him. Fight or flight often applies to our inner demons as well. Some of us face our demons head on. Others spend a lifetime trying to outrun the hurt. Thankfully, even in our inaction, people can learn from our choices. I am thankful for the lessons his life taught me.

On this Memorial Day, and every day, we honor all of those who paid the ultimate price, and the families they left behind. On this day we memorialize not only the fallen soldiers, but also the death of innocence, the death of “normalcy” the death of dreams, and the death of peace that war has taken from so many of our men and women who are still here today. On this day, and indeed every day, we remember you, we love you, and we thank you for all you have given. For those who have gone on, we will never forget you. In loving memory of all who have fallen.

Giving You the Best That I Got

I often think (and respond) in song lyrics. Am I the only one? I mean I really pray no one at work ever says “it’s getting hot in here” because I’m liable to shout out “SO TAKE OFF ALL YOUR CLOTHES”!!!….and then I’ll be looking for new employment. *Kanye shrug* I watch TV shows and low key analyze the song that is played in the background for a given scene. If I like it, I’ll Google it and add it to my Tidal playlist. Yes, it’s that serious. So now that you know THAT about me, it should come as no surprise that when, at the end of a long day of homeschooling and teleworking, helping my husband with his business and fielding calls from every bored co-quarantine-er on the east coast…at the end of THAT kind of day when one more person asked me for me for one more thing to add to my already full plate, I responded — “I’m tapped out — I’VE GIVEN YOU THE BEST THAT I GOT!!!” *insert puzzled look on the face of the recipient of that response*

As women we often give “the best that we got” to our spouse, our children, our parents, our girlfriends, our churches, our organizations….to everyone…!! (except ourselves) Even with our new-found “Self Care Sundays” and our meditation and our me-time…and as we “live our best lives”, these things often come at the end of a long day, after we have nothing left to give, after we are beat down and exhausted, after we have taken all that we can take and THEN we say enough already, I need a break!!!! Rarely do we self care just because. My deepest moments of meditation come after my children have called my name so many times that I wonder why I was in a rush for them to learn to talk….it’s THEN that I retreat to a quiet place, queue up my meditation app, and clear my head. After stress, exhaustion, and anxiety kick in, I book a room and have a staycation where I can just relax and write, or read a book, order room service, and unwind. After my husband and my son have tap danced on my last nerve by battling each other on the fart app *insert eye roll* or after I’m ‘all cried out‘, I lace up my sneakers, throw on my sweats and my headphones, and let the breeze, the sun, and the pavement beat the stress out of me. Sadly, for many of us, it’s not until we’ve come to the ‘end of the road‘, that self care becomes a priority.

Here’s your aha moment for the day boys and girls. If you are giving everyone else the ‘best that you got’, then you are giving yourself sloppy seconds. Hell, you might be giving yourself thin thirds or feeble fourths. Let that sink in. You can’t give everyone your best and still have your best available to feed YOUR mind, YOUR body, YOUR spirit, and YOUR dreams. Think for a moment, what if we gave our best to our “side hustle” or our dream business instead of our 9 to 5? What if we made our self-cation or our stay-cation a regularly reoccurring event instead of a last ditch escape when we’re stressed? Girls trips, yoga, meditation, daily self care — all a priority. Giving ourselves our best and then bestowing that best upon those we choose, at our discretion.

There’s no time like the present to start being good to yourself FIRST. We are all in trying times….and while some people would say that you should use this time to be ‘thinking of a master plan‘, the truth is you should be using this time to take better care of yourself — whatever that looks like for you. Maybe the quarantine has given you all kinds of newfound time and you use it to finally write that screenplay you’ve always wanted to write. Maybe the stress and anxiety of the unknown makes it hard for you to focus on much of anything. Whether you are working from home or the quarantine has left you unemployed. Whether you are wondering how you can drop your kids off at their teacher’s house, or whether you have binge watched everything Netflix ever created…. Wherever you are personally in these times AND even once things return back to whatever-comes-after-normal…begin transitioning to a mindset of giving your best to yourself. Be your ‘number one, two, three, four, and five‘ for a while, and then share with the world what you will.