Thursday, January 10, 2008

Keepin’ It Real

I was supposed to start my new six-figure job this Monday but at the last minute the Project Leader emailed to let me know that my start date was going to be postponed for several weeks because sales projections came in drastically lower than predicted.

Several weeks!?!?! I had taken the whole month of December off to decompress knowing that I would be starting this dream gig in January. Last month was an expensive one, what with the holidays, the usual recurring bills for housing, utilities, food for my ravenous animals, transportation, a trip to New York, a prepaid Miracle Mastery conference in LA, impulsive and pointless purchases, and on and on and on.

Now I would have to wait for several more weeks before any income started rolling in. Like most people, I never put enough away for that dreaded stormy day. As a seasoned recruiter of twenty years, I knew full well that a job search could take forever. As I started to anticipate the coming penny-pinching weeks, I felt my peace dissolving and my equilibrium faltering.

I reached for the phone and dialed my best friend and fellow spiritual seeker, Medi Tate. Medi’s birth name is Donna, but she renamed herself Medi to remind herself to meditate. Well, that’s her story, anyway. Where I go for spiritual nourishment, my African-American friends change their names like they change hairstyles. Yesterday’s Laura could be tomorrow’s Imani. As my mom used to say to me when I was little, “to each his own, Maya.”

Medi told me once, “I know you’re always trying to be politically correct, Maya. Well, I come from the generation when we were called Black. Juz Black. Black is beautiful and I don’t have a problem with that. When I’m with you, you can say black.”

I shared my disturbing news with Medi.

“Oh, no, baby. Uh-uh. They can’t do you like dat,” she crooned soothingly, suave and silky, like only a sistah can.

“You mean to tell me their bookkeeper didn’t know sales would be down?” She spat each word out sarcastically, sounding sardonic and cynical. “What the hell kind of finance people do they have?”

Medi was on a rant. “And they tell you at the last minute? Hell, no! Why would you wanna work for them anyway? They can always take away your job anytime. Uh-uh. You bettah count your blessin’s that they told you now rather than later. If sales are down they all gonna find they butt out ova job, anyway. They can’t do you like dat. God don’t roll like dat. Uh-uh.”

Medi was getting off, and when she gets her groove on, it’s hard to stop her.

“Thank you, God, that you found out what kind of company they are! Thank you, God, that you didn’t start working there and start buying stuff! Thank you, God, that you can now look for a better job. GOD IS AWESOME!”

I tried to interrupt, “But, Medi, wait. It really was a good job. They offered me in the six figures to work from home. From home, Medi! With full benefits, reimbursement for all my office expenses, my landline, my cell, I don’t have to commute, I don’t have to pay for gas. With the price of gas these days…”

“No, baby, uh-huh…”

Medi would not be swayed. Medi doesn’t believe in working for corporations. She doesn’t believe in working for anyone. She doesn’t believe in doing anything other than what God created you to do.

Medi is amazingly insightful, intuitive, intelligent, spiritual and scriptural, with a wacky sense of humor. For a black woman, she is tiny-boned and dainty-petite with a personality as full and voluptuous. Her flawless skin is a creamy Hershey chocolate. She wears her hair short cropped, sometimes in “twisties.” When she feels like changing up, she weaves braids into her own hair by herself. Medi dresses quite uniquely. One of my favorite look on her is a golden tablecloth wrapped around her hubbahubba booty like a sarong with a simple halter tank. She wears no makeup at all. She likes to joke that she wants a guy to notice there’s something different about her when she brushes her teeth.

When I met Medi over two years ago she was living in her funky maroon Honda station wagon. Although on the physical level everything about us seems radically opposite, everything about us on the metaphysical plane is in synch. She jokes that I’m her good twin.

Medi’s burning passion is kids and childhood development. She used to work as a live-in nanny for a yuppie black couple in Montclair, an affluent neighborhood set in the serene canyons of Oakland. As Medi tells it – and I totally believe her – the wifey-poo started trippin’ and when the situation became too uncomfortable, she quit.

She quit because she doesn’t like anything that disturbs her peace of mind. Medi quit because she doesn’t like wifey-poo’s thick negative energy creeping into her bedroom through the slit under the door. She quit because she doesn’t like food in the fridge marked “do not touch.” Medi quit because she would not compromise her serenity.

She packed her few belongings into the Honda and booked herself a cheap Oakland motel room. She didn’t care that it was on prostitute row with crackheads down the hall. She just wanted her own space where she could be still and find peace. After a week, her money started running out and her car started acting up. It was a choice between staying in the hotel or getting her radiator fixed.

Not knowing what to do, Medi said she surrendered herself to God. She had options. She could go and join her brother in Houston. She could find another live-in nanny job. Those were the easy options. But “easy” was just too easy.

Medi didn’t want to leave Oakland. This was where all the kids needed her help. She could teach them living skills. She had the magic touch with kids. She knew how to turn them around. She knew how to mentor them, set them on the right path. She had programs in mind that she wanted to develop. She would find a church to sponsor her programs, and Oakland was dappled with denominations of all stripes.

“I surrender, God. I give my life up to you. Tell me what to do. Your will, God, not mine.”

Medi “got” that what she was supposed to do was stay in Oakland, and hang until she “received further instructions” from Spirit. She would live in her car rather than take a nanny job with another family and risk the same kind of distress. She wouldn’t ransom her peace of mind. Medi knew she was supposed to work with kids, but the how or the where and other details, she would leave up to God.

I don’t know how Medi ended up walking into the East Bay Church of Religious Science on Telegraph Avenue. I was working on a project there importing contributions data from a dinosaur database program and populating and reformatting a new one. Anyway, we met, and a deep soul connection was forged.

“Fuck that job. You can do better. Just take this time and relax.” Medi ordered. “Just be still and listen to that still, small voice.”

“Medi, I just came back from New York! I took the whole month off last month! What do you mean relax?!?! I feel like I should be doing something.”

“I know you think you should be doing something. But if the job isn’t there, then it isn’t there. If it isn’t there, then that means something better is. Thank God they fucked up. Now you can do what you’re destined to do.”

“What’s that?”

“Write, silly! Do you really think you’re going to write after working for someone else all day? Do you really think you’ll have the energy after dealing with corporate shit all day? Hell, no! You’ll just be postponing what you’re supposed to be doing, what you really love to do, what you were born to do. You can’t keep postponing your destiny. You can’t say, ‘Someday I’m gonna be a writer. You’re a writer NOW!’”

“What about my bills?” I asked incredulously. “I’ve got bills!”

Medi cut in, “Bills? What bills? If you ain’t got none, they can’t get none. Fuck ‘em. Look at me. What, you say they want my car? They can go get it, honey. And they did. I don’t care. Something better’s gone come.”

One day, Medi said, the cops finally caught up to her unregistered vehicle. She saw them towing her car away. Instead of interrupting the tow, she walked away in the opposite direction, chuckling under her breath and thanking God for all the time she was able to live in it.

It’s impossible to subdue Medi’s attitude of gratitude. She recounted to me that one winter night it was so cold out that all her car windows fogged up. But from the spot where she was reclining, the warmth of her breath created a clear hole from which she could see a big, bright, shining star. She said she slept in peace that night.

Medi used to say her “home” was centrally-located. At night she parked at the lot in the Rockridge Safeway, open 24 hours so she could duck into the ladies’ room anytime. Across the street was Wendy’s where she could sit and sip a cup of 86-cent coffee during the day and charge her cell phone. And just a short walk away was the Public Library, from which she could email friends and family, and borrow books and cds to her heart’s content. Medi is an avid and voracious reader, devouring everything from the Bible to Dick and Jane, to Thoreau. She could throw quotes at you from anywhere.

“Speak your truth and you’ll find your audience,” she admonished me. “Find something else to do in the meantime. Teach art or something. There’s so much you know how to do. You gotta use your gift, gurl. Get writin’ and keep it real.”

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