I just got off a really thoughtful and empowering Zoom call and am energized from what will come of it for my company, Empathy Lab.
I had an eventful and forward moving Zoom call earlier today that has positioned me to do more great things for a client.
Someone is picking up my son at 3pm so that he can have a “playdate” with another boy in the neighborhood until 5pm. This gives me more time to work.
I have generally slept well, eaten healthy, exercised, and found time to renew. I do actively practice building and sustaining my own energy (ie. micro-skill #1 Energy from the Empathy Decathlon).
I own a home, have food in the refrigerator, have a loving family, and a couple of close friendships.
By all measures, I should be content, happy, delighted.
I AM content, quite happy, and positive about where I am at and where I am going. I do my best to live in the moment and see all the beauty around me.
None-the-less, there is anger inside of me. It’s an anger that I have managed for quite some time now, longer than I can remember. I am sure that the anger was stoked by the passing of my grandmother in 2019, my mom in 2020, and my grandfather in 2022. I will never stop desiring more time with them and cherishing my memories of them. I lost almost ALL of the people that loved me unconditionally for all phases of my life. The loss of my mom especially hurts because I could always be me, Shelton, Shelton J, Shai, and at times, Bashir.
I am angry because I have allowed the world to add sharp edges to my otherwise organically rounded, strong, caring, and loving soul. My mom raised me to be confident, worldly, curious, and optimistically seek the good in all situations. I am angry because I have purposefully augmented my true self into fitting in, being safe, and making money. I have bit my tongue until it bled, I have worn button down shirts that itched unbearably, and I have accommodated people that didn’t respect me. I have made myself smaller and smaller and smaller, quieter, quieter, and quieter.
At what point am I nothing but a compromise?
At what point do I no longer belong to myself and only belong to those that want to put something on me, have a piece of me, pull me to their side? I didn’t grow up like this, yet I’ve not been strong enough at times to hold off backwards social pressures.
My origin story has a compromise in it, but I think of it more like a beautiful blend. A blend between worlds and a blend between purposes.
I was born as Bashir Bologala Davis, in 1980. I was born to a soulful white mom that saw me as a gift and knew me as the “bringer of good news”. I was always told I was an “old soul” and I believed it, even to this day. As a kid, being an “old soul” amongst my peers meant that I saw things much differently, liked hanging out with those that were wiser (the gray haired people), and had a calmer, more patient demeanor than most. I was odd then and I am still odd now. My mom named me correctly when I was born, Bashir. By definition, I started life as “a good omen; apostle; bringer of good news” and will always be this.
At some point along the way, my mom decided to blend me even more beyond my mixed race genetics and rename me to Shelton J Davis. In 1983, the soul and self that was known as Bashir by the family and Bashi by caretakers was now to be Shelton. How can one start off as a “bringer of good news” and then end up being defined as “A ledge – literally “shelf town”. WTF?!? At the cute afro-having age of 3, I became the first and only mayor of shelf-town, where everyone and anyone could put their stuff on me. Little did I know, this meant that I had to be sturdy enough to hold everyone’s books, 12th place trophies, and precious dusty knick-knacks. Oh, and not just be strong and hold them, but care for all their stuff while caring for mine at the same time.
The anger inside of me might have started off early, say at 3 years old or about 40 years ago. I didn’t want to be the mayor of shelf town, I wanted to be the town crier shouting out all of the good news. Let someone else be the mayor and carefully hold all the self-help books, unfinished photo albums, and sex goddess statues.
Over time, as the only mayor of shelf town I’ve gotten tired. I had tiring signs as a kid that the fatigue of holding things together was getting to me. It came in the form of childhood epilepsy and would floor me because I was trying to do and hold too much for myself and other people. One minute I would be showering, the next minute (ie. 7 hours later) I would be waking up on my mom’s crazy water bed with my grandfather sitting next to me reading National Geographic. One minute I would be hanging out with friends after cleaning up from prom, the next minute I would be dragged into a good friend’s red car on my way home. One minute I would be turning in a final psych paper, the next minute I would be slowly escorted to my girlfriends house wearing only polka dotted sleep pants. Being the mayor of Shelf-Town (yes, it’s now official) is rough work that few people appreciate. “I hold and care for your shit…so you don’t have to!”- there’s my commercial jingle!
My anger isn’t with being Shelton, the Mayor of Shelf-Town. Being the Mayor has made me strong, resilient, and observant. It has also shown me things that I don’t want to hold onto for myself, for this culture I live in, or for others. It has shown me what I desire to hold onto for myself; deep intimate love, caring people, nature in all its beauty, adventures that stretch my mind and body, and being in the moment.
My anger isn’t that I am no longer Bashir, the official town bringer of good news. As an old soul, this has always been part of the caring side of Shelton’s duty as a shelf. This good news seeking and sharing has produced a lot of great results for myself and those around me.
My anger is that I have failed to actively blend these two personalities together.
My anger is that I’ve allowed others to use me as their shelf.
I will bring more good news while carrying only specific things on my shelves. I am not your damn Public Storage, but I will be your friend if you are willing to be reciprocal in this emotional exchange.