“Want To Do” vs “The Right Thing To Do”

“Love Him vs. Needs Him”


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A 360 Degree Viewpoint

I had just leff from visiting my mom for the weekend. As our wonderful visit was nearing its end, we began to talk like schoolgirls in anticipation of our next visit, Mother’s Day weekend. Seems like it was just the other day when we were enjoying our Mother’s Day time last year…

I had recently performed my one-woman show, Timeless: My Journey; My Song (“TMJMS”) at an historically black college in Houston, Texas and was looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with Mom in the Chicago area. I had a few pressing matters to handle in my senior management role at work. My life had been busy those days given the fast-paced environments of both my music and law careers, and there was much planning to do on both fronts. Still, at the forefront of my mind were changes I had noticed in Mom.

I had often thought about these changes I’d seen in Mom. She seemed to have been unusually deep in thought and introspective lately. I knew she’d had a lot on her plate: vocal coach and spiritual advisor for TMJMS; care director for a sibling with recurring health issues, confidante to her grandchildren, pastor of a non-denominational church in Evanston, IL; CEO of a youth and family development non-profit organization, which she founded; and self-proclaimed worrier of each of her six grown children.

“What is it Ma’?” I had asked tenderly one day on one of our typical telephone calls. “What next?” Mom responded, wondering aloud. “Have I done enough? What is my legacy?” Here was a woman who had raised six college-educated children, each with their own gifts and talents. One who had mentored so many people; who had given so much hope to young children and who’d had such a rich and diverse life — from North Little Rock, Arkansas to Sacramento, California to the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois– as a national recording artist, minister and pastor. Now, this incredible woman whom I admired and cherished dearly my whole life was pondering what impact, if any, her life had left on her family and the world.

As I sat in my home office days later, I replayed this conversation with Mom. I could not conceive of how a woman who’d had such a huge impact on my life and the lives of her children, grandchildren, siblings, parishioners and community could not see the incredible legacy she had left in and through her children. I thought about how similar were our lives and thoughts, despite the thirty-two year age difference between us. I thought about how, when I look in the mirror or through my journey of a woman still evolving, I see my Mom’s eyes, her thoughts, her struggles.

As I looked back on my life, I remembered when I was a young girl who, “wise beyond her years,” knew how to articulate much more than she’d actually experienced. I thought about the successes and failures I’d had in my life’s journey and realized not that I was clever or lucky, but that it was Mommy’s seed growing stronger inside me every day. I thought about the wonderful gifts of voice and intuitiveness with which I have been blessed and about how Mom’s musical and emotional voices had inspired and mentored me. I thought about my love for education and learning and how that love was second nature to my being raised by a woman who honored and respected education, herself being raised by an educator. I thought about the Timeless Music Series, my own theme-based music volume of timeless music and how, like the music my Mom had written and produced, it tells a story that compels listeners to feel, to laugh, to love. I thought about TMJMS, the story of my inner woman evolving; the mirror of she who bore me. I thought about her legacy, the woman in the mirror and thought, “I am your legacy; I am because you are.”

I lunged at the telephone in my home office and soon heard that comforting singsong voice singing back at. “Hey Babe,” is what came through the telephone. “LET’S WRITE A BOOK!” is all I could immediately muster as I sat on the edge of my seat, smiling excitedly, staring at the receiver as if to see my mom — my mirror — smiling excitedly back at me.

“A book about us,” I continued both hopefully and excitedly. “About you and your legacy through me and the rest of your children. There are so many parallels between us, so very many.” Seeing the hope and longing in my eyes and, perhaps, seeking to encourage other mothers and daughters to share their legacies, she agreed to share this venture with me.

Sometimes when Mom would notice that a child (hers or another) or someone less experienced in a certain matter would try to instruct the more experienced person, she would say “That’s ‘Come Here’ telling ‘Been There.’” Now, as I think about this woman whom I have known so intimately for over four decades, and this journey of reverie on which we are about to embark, I am reminded of that wonderful expression and smile and it’s truth, relevance…and irony. From birth to young adulthood, she raised me and held me up. In womanhood, standing on the foundation that she placed under me, I endeavor to return the favor as she celebrates her golden years. And though our paths, which began in different decades, converged in some places and separated in others, our perspectives often met at the very beginning. So, whether it’s “Been There” telling “Come Here” or “Come Here” telling “Been There,” at the end of the day our journeys are one and the same–a three hundred and sixty-degree viewpoint. And boy am I enjoying the journey.

Finding the Lighter Side of Love

Ladies–Can we talk? I’m wondering if, between us ladies, we can go introspective for a moment and ponder a few things. Interesting things, strange things, curious things, things that make you go “hmmm.” We’re strong, intelligent, sassy and independent in many aspects of our lives, yes? Yet, when it comes to certain matters of the heart we, seemingly, lose our minds, no?

For example, we see the obvious signs in a relationship gone wrong–You know, unreturned phone calls, unkept promises and the like. And, despite that small inner voice whispering, “He’s just not that into you,” we make excuses for Mr. Right Now like, “He’s been hurt” or “He’s afraid to commit” and so on–hmmm.

We often become unlicensed, unsolicited psychologists and relationship experts when it comes to our girlfriends’ affairs. “I wouldn’t put up with ‘this’ or ‘that’ because this or that kind of behavior is demeaning.” And on and on we go. Yet, when it comes to our own relationships and what we do or don’t tolerate..hmmm.

We constantly complain that the good men are either married or, well let’s just say “otherwise unavailable.” However, we cannot run fast enough from Mr. Nice Guy who, with heart in hand, would lay the world at our feet. And to whom are we running? To the one for whom we would spend countless nights, crying, wondering, waiting…to exhale! Hmmm

We are the first at the alter praying for the real Mr. Right, but before the benediction has gotten cold, we already have our sights on another Mr. Right Now. And when yet another dead-end relationship doesn’t work…hmmm.

To our credit, we grow up and wake up and, in turn, realize the wisdom in that age-old saying: insanity is doing the same old thing over and over again and expecting different results.

(And here’s where it gets interesting.) We try to end yet another dead-end relationship that has kept us so emotionally and, perhaps, physically drained. We make up things to fight about thinking it’ll make the break up easier only to find that it–just–makes–the make up–sweeter. Hmmm.

When alas! Our evolution comes. We each, in our own time, find our womanhood and, in the process, realize that the best love is when you have learned to love and appreciate yourself. And from that foundation, you give true love and expect the same in return. And then and only then does the real journey begin. Welcome and enjoy your journey!

Excerpt from the one-woman show, “Timeless:My Journey, My Song.
Written and performed by Coré S. Cotton

Timeless Music

It has been said that music is a universal language. I think it’s true. I believe music has the capacity to transcend race, religion and even socio-economic status. I believe music can transform lives and even moods. Think about it. How many times have you put on that certain piece of music and it took you from a glad mood to a sad mood; or from a sad mood to a glad mood; or from either mood to a night mood (smile)?

You may not always know exactly what the artist is saying to feel what he or she is conveying. Many remember the wonderful song stylings of Ms. Anita Baker when she first came on the scene. We may not have known every word she was singing, but it was something about the way she moved through those lyrics and melodies that compelled us to connect the emotion that she was sharing. And what about the legendary funkmaster and godfather of soul, Mr. James Brown himself? (“Hit me!) To this day I don’t know what he was saying on some of his songs, but I sure could feel the funk when the godfather started to groove.

When I first started to tour internationally with the Sounds of Blackness, I wondered about the language barrier—whether people would be able to understand the subtle nuances of the language and the melody. But then we went to France and Japan and Africa and sang about healing and optimism and the spirituals, and the people would cry, and clap their hands and wave their hands. Their ability to connect with the music transcended the exact words we were singing.

My travels with the Sounds of Blackness afforded me experiences that I had never imagined–Grammys, platinum records, gold records, videos, excitement, accolades and invaluable lessons learned. The fame, the glitz, the glamour was all good, but underneath all that was the feeling, the message, the melody, the story. That, my journeymen, is my passion and it’s timeless.

So often we hear songs that remind of us a certain time, place or emotion. We are drawn to these songs because of the moments they awaken in us. We are inevitably drawn to that time, place or memory that will always be oh so real to us, commercial trends notwithstanding. Timeless.

Whether imaging or relieving moments of passion, love, heartache, serenity, sassiness or just plain joy, music is the vehicle that takes us to that place. And not just any music, but timeless music.
Capture it, embrace it, ride it and, whatever you do, enjoy the journey!

A Woman Evolves

A fellow team member at Wells Fargo recently asked me to speak to the Women’s Network Group in her region. She had heard me speak at a prior Diversity & Inclusion event on bringing your whole self to work and wanted me to share my message with her women’s group. I was humbled and delighted. More so, I was moved by her sharing that she had been aspired by my message and had decided to make a significant change in her work life and that, as a result, she was now loving life! And that’s what it’s all about: Living the life you love and loving the life you live.

It sounds simple, but I know personally that getting to that place in life is a journey, and that each person comes
to that place in his or her own time. For me it was that moment when I realized that I did not have to choose between my passion for music and my career in law. I did not need to lead a fragmented life, one person in my music career and another in my legal career. Rather,I could bring all of me to all that I do and, in so doing, excel in both my careers by doing what I loved and was passionate about in both careers. That’s the sweet spot! The great thing about all that is that with each phase of my journey, I find more opportunities to learn and grow.

The General Counsel at work recently selected me, along with another colleague, to participate in the 2013 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellows program. In this program I have the opportunity not only to engage up close and personal with executives in the corporate world, but also to connect with existing and emerging leaders across the country and build relationships that could last a lifetime.

When I attended the kick-off meeting in the nation’s capital this past weekend, I was a bit dismayed that I appeared to be one of, if not the oldest, Fellows participating in the program. But in the following days as I began to reflect on the opportunity and my experience over the weekend (and even in writing this post), it became patently clear that, though I have come a long way on my journey and have been blessed beyond my imagination in both my music and legal careers, I am still evolving.

Where this new phase will lead me, I am not certain. I do know, however, that I am open to the possibilities and excited about the potentialities.

And so this woman evolves. And, in the process, I know I will do and see amazing things. So, I will keep looking forward and hold my head held high, onward and upward to new growth and goals.

And just went I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew; that perhaps I’ve gone as far as I can go and done all I can possibly do, something inside will pick me up, push me on and make me strong. Why? Because I am still evolving and, frankly, enjoying the journey!

In the Moment

Ladies– Can we talk? We’ve all heard the expression “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” Many of us will attest to this viewpoint given sentiments like: “We’re just so different;” “He just doesn’t listen to me;” and “I don’t ask for much; just do what you say you’re going to do.” Sound familiar? Does to me. However, what if we’re not from different planets? What if he was actually listening to you when you were expressing your feelings? “How can that be?” you ask. Perhaps he was just “in the moment.”

I’ve had these types of discussions with my hubby many times. I used to (and still do, on occasion) get so frustrated with him because I thought he was not listening to me; that he wasn’t hearing me. Yet, Hubby would adamantly proclaim that he was, in fact, listening to me. It’s just that he had heard something different than what I had communicated. What was this phenomenon?

Over time, I began to realize that Hubby and I process very differently and, in turn, communicate very differently. It became our task to try to listen from each other’s perspective and respond accordingly.

This was no easy task, and we still have to remind ourselves of this task from time to time. But because we love each other and we trust that we have each other’s best interest at heart, it’s worth the effort.

Now, I am not suggesting that our husbands, boyfriends, or partners get a pass just because they love us. Or that they don’t have to practice the art of active listening. Or even that they’re always being completely honest about what they think they heard and such. I’m simply suggesting that when you find yourselves seemingly on separate pages for no apparent reason; when it seems that you’re saying one thing and he’s hearing another; or that he said one thing you heard another, that perhaps it’s not so much that he’s not listening to you or that he’s BSing you, but, rather, that he’s just in the moment. So, if the love and trust are in tact in the relationship, cut him some slack, work on the communication and enjoy the journey.

What Shall I Tell My Children?

I never bore children. Initially, I was terrified of labor and childbirth. Ever since seeing those unforgettable films about childbirth in elementary school, I was pretty much deterred from bearing children (smile). Later, I was pretty focused on my studies in school and aspirations for a career and did not have a burning desire to have children. Despite my lack of desire, however, I always had a strong maternal instinct — that innate capacity to love, nurture, inspire and motivate. (I suppose that’s why my closest friends and acquaintances often said to me: “You’d make a great mom.”) This maternal instinct was prevalent in many of my relationships over the years — with friends, siblings, team members and even lovers.

At the end of the day, I suppose one need not bear or raise children to possess an innate instinct or ability to love, nurture and guide another innocent or lost human being. And so, as I think of how I can give back to the universe a piece of what I have learned and gained on my journey, I think about the children, the future. And what shall I tell my children whom some have labeled “the lost generation?” What shall I tell my future, upon whose shoulders rests the fate of countries, of nations?

Know who and whose you are. Respect from whence you came. Move through life with intention; do not wander or waiver. Have faith in a higher power and believe in yourself.
You are creative and uniquely you and the world is your oyster. So, even when you think no one else believes in you, YOU believe in you.

In all your getting, get an understanding about your past so you can appreciate your future. And, if you feel that no one loves you, learn to love yourself. It’s ok to have heroes and “sheroes” in your life, but the greatest gift you can give yourself is to know that there is a hero right there inside you.

I wish that I could keep you from making my mistakes, but you’ve got your own life to live. If only I could show you that the road you’re taking has already been paved for you, thanks to the Martins and Malcolms and Sojurners and Sandra Days and Sotomayors and the ancestors, sung and unsung.

So go on your way and dare to dream. Yes, dream the impossible. Do the improbable. Fake it until you make it and, in time, you’ll see what I see — that all you’re meant to be is there inside you. Believe!

What shall I tell my children — young and old– in a world full of compromise, dreams deferred and hope that dies?

Stand tall. You are invincible, the ruler of your dreams. You’ll have joy and sometimes tears. There’ll be hope and sometimes fears, But yours is a life worth living and, in the end, the world will bow at your feet. So, enjoy YOUR journey and never, ever give up on your dreams!

His Healing Hand on Me

As a teenager and into my young adult life, I suffered from terrible menstrual cramps. In my late thirties, doctors discovered that I had developed tumors so large that my uterus had expanded to the size of a three and half month pregnancy. Surgery was imminent. My doctor in Minnesota had recommended a hysterectomy, given the size Iof the tumors and the fact that I was in my mid-thirties with no definitive plans to have children. My family doctor in Illinois, however, was of a different mind. He did not want me to have a hysterectomy at my young age. Rather, he wanted to take the time to delicately remove the fibroids, and he would personally take charge of my care.

Because having this surgery in Illinois would have constituted an out-of-network procedure for insurance purposes, I would incur significant out-of-pocket medical expenses. My surgeon graciously waived his physician’s fee so that I could come back to Illinois and not have to contend with that fee compounded with the hospital and associated fees. It was settled. In February of the new millennium, just a few days shy of my thirty-sixth birthday, I would take a leave of absence from work for surgery and recuperation.

Now, I can be somewhat of a jokester, particularly when nervous. And nervous I was. I remember laying on the gurney and looking up at the doctor saying, “Now you did have breakfast this morning, right?” and “You’re not mad at me about anything, are you?” I wanted to make sure that all minds were clear before going under the knife. Of course, my doctor had a sense of humor that rivaled mine. I had heard stories of the outrageous things people said and did while under anesthesia and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t apart of that statistic. Plus, I had a few secrets I was toting in my subconscious and this was NO time to be under the influence of any truth serums. So, I asked my wise guy doctor, “Did I embarrass myself while under anesthesia.” To which, Doc replied, “Oh no. Other than dancing naked on the table for all the interns to see, you were just fine.” We both shared a laugh and I was relieved. I was further relieved that Doc was able to operate without significant cutting on my abdomen. Also, I was blessed that I was able to stay with my mom, who dutifully cared for me, making sure I followed Doc’s orders and making and bringing my daily meals. Up and down the stairs she went so that I could rest as required. God had His hand on me.

Five years later, I started to notice swelling in my hands. Initially, I hadn’t thought much of the swelling. It was a hot summer and the swelling would come and go, so I chalked up the swelling to the heat. I was in the process of interviewing for a newly created Assistant General Counsel position in the Law Department at Wells Fargo and I had one interview left with the HR Director in San Francisco. Before leaving for the interview, I went to visit my BFF Lewis at her new home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I had noticed that my hands were swelling more and more such that I had to remove my wedding rings because they would no longer fit. I was concerned, so I went to see my primary doctor back home in Illinois. A few days later, I received a phone call from the doctor’s office informing me that I was being referred to an oncologist. An oncologist? I was referred to the oncologist because of abnormalities in my white and red blood cell counts, which prompted some concern that I might have leukemia.

This was unsettling news to me, but I prayed and reached out to my prayer circle of family and friends. I went to my appointment with the oncologist with my husband Dale by my side. Testing, waiting, testing, waiting. The oncologist came back with his report. “You definitely do not have cancer,” he said definitively. We were all so elated at this wonderful news. Still, I had no answers to what was causing these strange symptoms in my body. But, on with life I went.

I landed the promotion to Assistant General Counsel. This promotion required that I relocate to Minnesota and it was there that I found a rheumatologist who, after nearly two years of my struggles with gastrointestinal issues, swelling in my hands and face and fatigue, would finally diagnose my condition. I had developed mixed connective tissue disorder (I don’t like the term “disease”), a rare autoimmune disorder symptomatic of many different autoimmune diseases such as lupus, sclera derma, Raynaud’s syndrome, and the like. In fact, another autoimmune specialist in the Chicago area had ruled out sclera derma given that my skin did not appear to be thickening and my physical appearance was not changing. I would later understand what the autoimmune specialist was talking about as I began to notice the shape of my face changing and when my ring size went from a six and a half to a nine. I was mortified to have to resize my rings — three times– to accommodate the swelling in my hands.

Over the next few years, I would see more and more changes. My complexion would sometimes change right before a person’s eyes. During one of Mom’s visits to my home in Minnesota, she and I were in her favorite bedroom talking. I noticed a frightened look on her face and I immediately knew my face was changing. I excused myself for bed and Mom cried. I was used to this kind of thing happening to me, but I hated it. (If you look at the CD covers from each of the three volumes of my “Timeless Music Series,” you can see differences in my facial features, even though the photos were taken within several months of each other.) I would get additional symptoms over time, including hyperpigmentation as well as hypopigmentation.

It was a depressing time for me. Sometimes I did not even want to look in the mirror. But I persevered. My music recordings, the Timeless Music Series and my one-woman show, “Timeless My Journey My Song (‘TMJMS’),” were my refuge, my healing. I truly believe God uses music to heal hearts, minds, bodies and spirits. I was lifted to a higher plane when I was writing music, arranging and recording music for the series and the show. I would go into a zone during TMJMS. I could feel people being touched and I was touched through the telling of my story as well as by the connection I could feel being made between the audience and me. God is good.

In 2011, I would get constipation and gas in my lower back so badly that I would get sick to the point of extreme nausea. Sometimes I would lie on the floor in front of the fireplace in my home to warm and soothe my body. I also would find myself stealing away to a quiet room at work to lay down my body for rest and reprieve. All came to a head in the latter part of the year when I began to get what I thought were symptoms of appendicitis. I did not want to go to the doctor because I was in the process of preparing for a TMJMS show for Well’s Fargo’s Diversity & Inclusion group. When I could no longer bear the pain, I reluctantly went to the doctor for tests. After a short round of telephone tag with my doctor, I left her a message asking to leave a detailed message on my cell phone so that I could get my news of appendicitis, address it and keep it moving. She did. “I think you have ovarian cancer,” she said tentatively. I was sitting in my office on the sixth floor of the Wells Fargo Tower and I stopped in my tracks. It was all so surreal. I replayed the doctor’s message on my iPhone. Had I heard her correctly? Ovarian cancer? I called her back immediately. “We don’t know for sure, but we need to get this looked at right away,” she said. “I need to do my show,” I told her. She knew that the TMJMS show was hugely important to me. I had communicated that fact when had seen me previously in her office for testing. At that time, we had anticipated that I might have appendicitis, but she had the foresight to do a pelvic exam and order a vaginal ultrasound. We scheduled follow-up blood work and a meeting with an oncologist for two weeks out. I wanted the doctor to confirm that I would not be at risk by pushing out the follow-up tests a couple weeks out. Not only did I need to do the TMJMS show, but also the Sounds of Blackness’ Night Before Christmas play that would follow less than a week afterwards.

Meanwhile, I had to tell my family, music team and a few close friends. Everyone around me was so supportive. I had a band of prayer warriors in my corner to compliment my own faith. Dale stayed in “let’s get ‘er done” mode. I could feel Mom literally trying to pull this test from her baby child. When I called my BFF Lewis as I released pint up tears, she immediately broke into prayer and proclaimed, “It is already done.” Lewis, my niece Lo and friend Trudy summoned their respective prayer circles and I mine.
My sisters and back up singers engulfed me with their positive energy and vowed to have the most incredible TMJMS show ever.

As I waited in the oncologist’s office (seemingly forever) for my follow-up results, my mind soared. Finally, the doctor returned and took me to a separate room to talk. I was stoic as was he. “At a minimum, you’ll have to have a hysterectomy. There’s definitely a mass there, which was detected by your ultrasound. The question is, what is that mass? We will not know that until we go in. On one end, it could be a benign tumor or endometriosis, which we can take care of through the hysterectomy. On the other end, it could be cancer, which we’ll attempt to remove and follow up with whatever we need to do to take care of this. We could leave the ovaries, but based on the status of the tissue based on testing, we don’t want to take the risk. How extensive the surgery will be will depend on what we find when we go in. I just need you to give me permission to take necessary steps, because once we go in, we’re not going to wake you up to talk about going back in to take care of whatever we need to take care of.” He had been direct, but assuring. “We’re gonna take care of this,” he said.

I was determined to put all this behind me and focus on TMJMS and the Christmas Play. When my team and I hit the stage at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis on December 15, 2012 (and, yes, we took Wells Fargo to the theater), we were unified and electrifying! Who would have known what physical pain and emotional strain I had endured. We started the show with me singing my version of Donny Hathaway’s “Song to You.” By the time I got to the second verse starting with “You taught me precious secrets of a truth withholding nothing. You came out in front when I was hiding.” I reached for my sisters and they responded in strong, full harmony “Wha haa Whoo.” I knew we were on our way. For weeks to come we heard rave reviews about the show and we developed some wonderful relationships because of it. One down.

The Sounds’ Christmas play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis on December 19 the next week was a smash as well. On my signature song, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” I challenged the audience and the cast asking “Can we have church?” and the house went up an in a spiritual uproar. We had a great show that nice and, like with TMJMS, the community talked about it for weeks on end. Mission accomplished.

With both shows successfully completed and things tidied up at work, including informing my manager about my plight, I was ready to start the New Year getting my medical house in order. My global prayer warriors were at work. And might I say how touched I was at the tremendous outpouring of support I received from my colleagues and team at Wells Fargo. Also, I received loads of well wishes from my many Facebook friends. I was so humbled by the huge amount of support I had around me. In the end, I climbed on top of all that support and rested easy in surgery while God worked through my medical team.

I would have surgery on January 9, 2012 and spend the next six weeks at home in recovery. Prior to being taken to the operating room, I was in my usual comedic form, joking with the nurses and anesthesiologist. Of course, when the anesthesia kicked in, my humor got a little crazier, if you let my husband and niece tell it. When I woke up, I discovered that I was a medical miracle. My tumor, which was benign, was successfully removed, though I had lost two units of blood in the process. I also had my appendices removed. In essence, the surgeon created more space inside me to get rid of the congestion. What my medical team found in the process, however, was unnerving, even for my surgeon, who had practiced medicine for 38 year. My uterus was somehow connected to my bladder and most of my nearby organs were misplaced. Some of the medical team had indicated that they had never seen anything quite like that before. My doctor simply informed me, “It was a mess.” He did not know how I had been functioning with my insides in turmoil. Almost immediately after surgery, my appearance began to change again. My old complexion started to return. My eyes brightened. The persistent pain in my lower back –gone! Now, whether the “mess” was somehow related to the myomectomy I had some twelve years earlier is a question that has lingered with me. What I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God kept His hand on me. As my Mom can say, if the good Lord is kind enough to watch over the little sparrow, surely He will watch over me. Many experiences I have had in my life attests to this very fact and I, my friends, am enjoying the journey.

Calling All BFFs

Some people enter your life for a season; others, for a lifetime. I remember my very first best friend, Bernie D. Bernie was my childhood friend from my hometown in North Little Rock, Arkansas. She lived about a block from my house and we visited and played with each other often. We had been schoolmates in nursery school and kindergarten and went on to attend elementary school–first and second grade– in our segregated community. When I was nine years old, however, Bernie and I were separated. I was bussed to an integrated elementary school across town and Bernie remained in school in our community. We saw each other less from time to time, but our young lives began to develop in different directions. Though our time was short-lived, our precious time was my introductory lesson in sisterhood–A season.

After moving to Evanston, IL with my mom at the age of 13, I would meet other friends who would come and go for various reasons, but not without leaving a lasting impression upon me. Friends like Fisher, who was my “running buddy” in high school. Fisher even traveled with me with me to college my Freshman year, traversing the campus on cue and on time (as if she was actually enrolled there). We were like Frick and Frat, breaking into laughter with no more than a silly look, cheating as card partners in a “mean game of spades” and getting into mischief just for the hell of it. It seemed strange when, years later, our lives took different turns on different paths to different destinies. Rounding out our little “rat pack” was my dear Tore, a brave young sole who openly marched to the beat of his own drum. Tore adored me and I guarded him as if he were my precious baby brother (though he and I were actually the same age). Fisher, Tore and I were enseperable. We sang together in the school choir and hung out at each other’s homes on a daily basis. I would never have imagined losing touch with my “D” (as I called him). As fate would have it, I would lose D to a fatal illness from which even I could not protect him. Who would have thought that the rat pack would someday cease?–A season.

Then, there was “Lewis” — Professor Browne Cornell Lewis. Lewis and I met in law school at the University of Minnesota. I was a first-year law school student and Lewis was a year ahead of me. Though, initially, Lewis and I seemed to have nothing in common save law school, we would become fast confidants, entrusting each other with intimate(and funny) secrets. I would become affectionately known as “Cotton.” Over time, we celebrated each other’s successes — graduations, bar exams, first jobs and the like–and held each other up through our heartaches and disappointments — boyfriends, the death of our fathers and other loved ones, and promises unkept. There were adventures — moving in as roommates after law school (bad idea) and moving the contents of an entire apartment in a shopping cart while rolling down a hill (worse idea); green contact lenses (the worst idea) and lifting small cars in a single bound (don’t ask).

We were each other’s biggest cheerleaders and unqualified life coaches, listening to each other’s goals and dreams and holding each other accountable; cheering each other on to victory with our respective talents and ventures; knowing when to smile and nod and when to speak the unsolicited truth.

Unlike with other friends, when time, distance and life would separate us, we would instinctly find our way back to center at just the right time and pick up as if we had just talked the day before. Who else would take her solo stroll as my Maid of Honor? Who else would stand quietly by her side through her tragedies? Who else would drop everything and come uninvited to see me through major surgery? Who else would reciprocate when she had hers. Cotton and Lewis. Lewis and Cotton. Unapologetically ourselves, basking in our own and celebrating each other’s individuality. In as much as I gave I always received. I trust she’d say the same.

Ours is a relationship that has been tried and true for nearly 30 years. We have become more than more than colleagues, so much more than confidants, even more than friends. We are sister-friends! Best Friends Forever. Some people enter your life for a season; others, for a lifetime and with my BFF I am still enjoying the journey!