Rae Lewis-Thornton

Now that I'm well into my 50s, there seems to be no turning back. I'm doing what I should have done in my 30s and for sure when I started to see my 40s that is, live with intent. Well, I sort of lived with very limited intent for 20 years plus, that is, to tell my story to as many people as possible before I died. It was a lofty goal that I did very well. I mean I have spoken at literally hundreds of venues from colleges, churches, high schools and conferences. The only thing is that this goal was single focused and connected to death. Then, I didn't die. Limbo!

As crazy as this may sound, not dying, honestly, left me scrambling day to day. I've done everything I had to do to get to the next day, but I rarely thought about the bigger picture and how next month or year was connected to today. As I move into the future, I know it's time for a paradigm shift. I not only need, but I want a new life construct to get me through the rest of my life. One that enriches both me and the lives of others.

I used to say that I was living in the midst of dying and that was my truth. For sure, as AIDS was eating away at my body, I was doing that thang. I got up every morning, dressed up and participated in life, but expected death.

Now my vision for myself is to live until I do die. That means that I'm living life with intent that encompasses the fullness of life. This means I ask myself "Why am I doing this?" with every single thing. From the food I put in my mouth, to buying a handbag, to every blog I write. I ask these questions: What's my intent? Does it enrich my life or the lives of others? Does it feel right? Or do I have to convince myself? By the way, when you have to convince yourself or have someone else amen your corner, it's probably an action from the head and not the soul.

I ask myself even with each purchase: Why this handbag, today? Is it to fill some void or make me forget? Is it to show off? Why do I have that need? Is this purchase drama free? Drama free meaning, will it leave me broke and unable to pay the rest of my bills? Will I like how I feel tomorrow if I do this today? Why do I want this thing in my life today?

I search my soul for clarity because the mind can convince you to do some dumb shit. Y'all know I'm telling the truth. This is how it goes: You say to yourself, if I don't get the handbag today, it may be gone when I come back. If I use some of my bill money for this, I will make it up when I get paid next week. And the list goes on and on.

That even goes for a man, me included. Been there, done that thang that hurt my soul and rationalized it away. I'm not even going to entertain the justification list for a man; that's a blog for another day because the list is too long. At the end of the day, we just let our mind run all over our soul. The soul always knows what to do! ALWAYS! And it always has your best interest.

Oprah says that she asks the intent question with everything she does. She wants to be at peace going into a situation and coming out of a situation. That is the goal for me. I want a clear and positive focus. I want to make the best moves for my soul. Lawd, yep, I'm planning for my 60s and 70s in my 50s. It is NEVER too late to change course. For me, this means that I have grown by leaps and bounds. I'm proud of me.

I just finished reading Kris Jenner's autobiography. And I know some of you are not Kardashian fans. I've heard the mean things people say and while y'all talking shit about them, they have not missed one beat. Their brand keeps growing and growing. I'm curious as to how people live their lives and build their brand, so I picked up her memoir, Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian. It was a pretty good book. For sure she has worked her ass off.

After leaving her husband Robert Kardashian for a younger guy who was a piece of shit, and then realizing it after the fact (see the mind can make you think a good fuck is love), she found herself with no money of her own.

When Kris met Bruce Jenner, she was in the middle of a divorce with four kids and Bruce didn't even have a business card and was living paycheck to paycheck. She got deliberate about their life and helped to put him back on the map. During that time, it was about putting food on the table. I know what that feels like. What am I going to do to simply get from day to day? Food on the table was her primary motivation.

It wasn't until Kris was hitting 50 and the show was in its first season that she started living with intent for the future of her family, rather than hand to mouth. She listened to her soul. Her gut told her it felt right and, with everything she did, she asked the hard questions. What's next? How do we continue to be better and do better? How do I turn 15 minutes of fame into 30 and 30 into an hour? What does it mean to live our life on stage and how does it help all of us, her family and the universe.

You must ask yourself the hard questions and be ready for the answers, your truths. You must also be prepared to do the hard work. You can't make sugar out of shit, but you certainly can make candy out of sugar and the last time I checked sugar was less than $3 for a five-pound bag. But first you got to buy that bag of sugar. Every action has a reaction.

You must be willing to buy into your own dream. No one is going to hand it to you on a silver platter. You must invest in yourself to reap any benefits. Every time I think about a new handbag, I remind myself of the tea line I'm working on. I ask myself: Which is more important, Tea With Rae or slinging a new handbag?

No one owes you a damn thing. You reap what you sow. If you sow handbags, five years from now you will have a lot of old bags taking up space. If you invest in your feature, you will reap the benefits, with handbags you dreamed of.

Kris said, "Passion can be as powerful as preparation." Oprah put it this way, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." Kris had a vision and made a plan. She had a checklist, and every time a door opened, she wasn't afraid to go through it. Kris and Kim meet every six months to plan their next step. No matter what you think about Kim, she is one hard-working woman, nor is she afraid of failure. There is nothing lost in trying nor is there loss in preparation. Something good going in, always means something good coming out. When are you going to STOP talking about that dream and put it into action?

Vision is everything. Your gut, your soul, whatever you want to call it, is never wrong. The problem is the limitations we place on ourselves. My limitations were rooted in the life expectancy of a person living with AIDS. Back then it was three years. I was blinded by death and then I lived.

Oprah said she had a vision that she would be teaching thousands of people and it was very different from her talk show. Her vision finally came true, but first, after years of the Oprah Show, she had to be willing to walk away from one thing to embrace another. Fear lays in your head, not in your soul.

As I move forward with my life, I will pause and ask you: How are you preparing to live your best life? Intent is deliberate and deliberate means action.

This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.