Sticks ‘n Stones, know thyself, that which doesn’t kill me and other clichés

Over the course of the last two years, I have pretty much re-invented a lot about myself. Some things I changed deliberately and other things were simply beyond my control. I cut off the Paycheck Plantation shackles, went out on my own and eventually pursued my lifelong dream of writing. My long-term relationship imploded and I began dating (Le Sigh) again. As a result of becoming an independent consultant and author, I had to learn how to maintain my lifestyle (and that of BougieMom) while adhering to (gasp) a budget (gulp). I've drifted a little in my overall walk of faith and I've learned to only apologize for things I actually had control over and deliberately did wrong.

So what, OneChele? Well, here's my point – when you are living your life, not everybody stays on path with your journey. Some people you meet don't "get" you and some people you've known for years look at you as if you're a stranger. What is amazing to me is how many people (especially those that don't know you that well) feel very free to share their opinions about you and your life. Five years ago, these little verbal barbs would have caused me weeks of self-reflection. I would have called three or four people close to me and asked, "Am I really like that?" No more. Age has its privileges and one of them is knowing what is and isn't true about myself. Ownership of self, flaws and all has come at a price but it's here.

Over these last two years, I've had very "interesting" things said to me. Instead of bringing me down, these statements buoy me and strengthen my already steely resolve to continue improving. Success is the best revenge, after all. For the record, here are five things that even if you believe them to be true about somebody… you should keep them to yourself.

  1. "I don't think you're as talented as you think you are": Yes, indeedy. Here was a gem said to me by my previous literary agent who failed to sell any of my work for twelve years. He called and quit being my agent and thought he'd share his opinion on his way out the door. Imagine my joy when he called two months later to congratulate me on getting a three-book deal with a major publishing company. He said he always knew I had it in me. [Yes, him calling me a talentless hack showed his confidence in me] He wanted to know if I needed him to look over the contracts for me. When I assured him that I had new (competent) representation, he abruptly hung up. Deuces, dude.

  2. "You act like you know better than everybody else": No, I act like I know better than that fool. I read a great post about superiority of educated, employed black folk yesterday, check it out. Everytime I start thinking I know more than anyone else, I pull out a post-it note tucked in my wallet that says, "You ain't all that, I could be empty tomorrow." Silly but it keeps me in check. If I actually go so far as to display some significant superiority over someone else, they have to a) be really, really stupid and b) have pissed me off something awful. But thanks for the reminder…

  3. "You are scared to let yourself go with me": No sir, I am too smart to let go with you. Believe me, if I wanted to let go, we'd have been there and back already. Men (God bless you all) love to run these sorts of games. I suggest they try them on the young, naïve and uninitiated to the game. You are not going to shame or goad me into doing what you want. I'm a grown-assed woman. You double-dog daring me or saying, "Ya scared?" isn't going to work out. But I admire your guts for trying.

  4. "Your blog sucks": Ha! This is new. And not wholly unexpected. The lovely thing about blogs is that they are out there for the world to see. The terrible thing about blogs is that the world can see them. And the world is chock full of bitter snarky folks. One such person sent me a twelve paragraph email detailing the ways in which 68 of the posts I have written were "bloated, self-possessed scabs of half-assed literary effort". To which I replied, "But you read all 68, didn't you?" Contrary to this person's intent, I'm inspired to write at least 68 more. But I appreciate the colorful verbiage!

  5. "You're not as bitchy as I expected you to be": This is my personal favorite. I always enjoy a good back-handed compliment. I call it a stroke with one hand and a slap with the other: Ooo/Ouch! If the devil on my left shoulder was reigning supreme, I would have asked where the preconceived notion of my apparent bitchiness came from. But Angelic Chele was having her way that day and the only reply I could muster was, "Thank you so much, that really says something." But you have to admire the fearless honesty.

The Police have a song that says, "When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around." Old wives' saying goes, "When the world hands you lemons, make lemonade." New wives' saying goes, "When the world hands you limes, call me and I'll be over with the tequila and the salt." Yet another, "No one can defeat you but you." The great Maya Angelou has a poem entitled, "And Still I Rise."

All of these clichés, I feel like I should be playing Christina Aquilera's Beautiful or Fighter in the background today… Who has a "rising above the negativity" story to share? Who has a good "can't keep me down" cliché?