Into the Dark

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Photo courtesy of D. Ranielle

I have a thing for early mornings. There is a sweetness to that post 4:59am pre 6:59am time for me. Perhaps it’s the newness of the day, or the quiet that the rest of the day just cannot seem to replicate, or the darkness that must come to a close for the dawn to come. I get up early out of desire. I make tea, I read my bible, I journal, I put in some time on any number of creative projects I am managing. I send text messages so folks whom my heart has a sweet spot for will wake to them and smile. I write notes, or love letters as I like to call them, and set them aside to put in the mailbox across the street.  I also go for walks.

I slide into my tights, pull on my t shirt and hoodie, lace up my neon pink or orange sneakers,  zip up my jacket, pocket my phone and neon pink headphones, grab my key, and head out the front door into the dark, the quiet, the still. I don’t always know what route I will take. Depending on what I think my body can manage, I loop around Clark Park, or the University of Penn campus  before the bridge, or the University of Penn campus over the bridge. I launch into the dark, into a circumstance that looks like it did when I slid into my pajamas and under covers only hours ago, not exactly sure of what way I will go, but confident I will get what I need and that the light will come.

I launch into the dark, I launch into the uncertain, fully confident that I will get what I need and that the light of day will come. I never start a walk questioning if the sun will rise. I never worry that my body won’t get some exercise and that the endorphins won’t be released giving me all the good feels. I don’t fret that the early morning looks the same as the late night. I simply start and expect.  

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Photo courtesy of I Heart Fashion UK

 

And so as I stepped onto the slightly uneven sidewalks this morning, wind causing me to contemplate if I should go back up four flights of stairs for my jacket , not as tired as I anticipated after spending the weekend packing up my life in Buffalo, NY, I was acutely aware almost simultaneously of three things. One, I still had no idea what was next for me career wise, if Philadelphia and I are on the mends (it’s been complicated for the past 3 and a half years) and that is scary. Two, I step into the dark and unknown most mornings when I go for my walks and with expectation and confidence.  Three, if I physically  can step into and walk through the dark and unknown and still expect light and goodness, I am capable of doing the same with anything else that is unknown, dark, or looks vaguely like a  past circumstance I have no desire to repeat.

Maybe I’ve made a skeptic out of you comparing early morning strolls through west Philadelphia to the squelchability (I made that word up, roll with it) of all of our strange typically unpleasant feelings toward the unknown of the future, especially the future of things we’ve been taught to worship like careers, where we’ll live, settling down with partners, babies (the making, having, and rearing) financial security establishing, etc.  But maybe we’ve gotten really good at complicating the way we meet the future when it rises to greet us, just like a new day, dark, unknown, mysterious, slowly peeling back it’s layers with the light. Maybe we’ve spooked ourselves into thinking that because it is not fully unveiled before us when we want it to be that it won’t ever happen, or will be too late, or we did something to kept it from happening. The day comes whether we are ready or not and lays before us hours, minutes, and seconds of opportunities for us to shape it throughout.

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Photo courtesy of Bryan Adams

The dark, the unknown, the resemblance to a past we’d prefer not to repeat don’t have to unnerve us.  It doesn’t have to give cause to pause, doubt, fear, or get cozy with analysis paralysis. We can step into it with certainty that we will get what we need and the light will come.  We can go boldly, courageously, hopefully, messy, broken, slowly, step by step. We can go with ideas, thoughts, wonderings and ponderings, with secrets, with memories. We can go into the dark of loss, of grief, of chronic illness. We can go into the unknown of the layoff, break up, failed GRE. We can go into the passed over promotion (again), the rejection letter (again), the miscarriage (again), the divorce (again). When we think we can’t, we can slide into our core identities (those parts of who we are we know and there is no convincing us otherwise), lace up our goals and dreams, put in our headphones that play the carefully curated truths of the life stories we are writing and we can go expectantly into the dark, the unknown, the resemblance of the past, knowing it is a new day bringing with it light.

The ROI on Distraction

ROI photo courtesy of pinterest

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com 

I laughed slightly as I allowed myself to ponder the idea that it was only a matter of days before my apartment building was swallowed up by a hole the crumbling blocks around created for it. At the corner of the street was a crack and a brook of water bubbling forth, water that when it froze took car tires captive.

About halfway into the next was a hole large enough that a fountain of water sprung up. It was the kind of fountain that if it were July and not January would have little ones in their swimming trunks and bathing suits laughing, giggling, and splashing in city summer time fun.  It was the kind of fountain that had the city’s water company come out and place huge concrete road blocks, yellow and black caution tape, and planks of wood  over and around the hole from which the fountain sprang.

If you made it to the end of my block and made a left, yet another hole. No water, just a crater of sorts.  I’m pretty sure it helped the block to bring in the New Year, and folks who wanted a new car probably got one because their tires and axles got jacked up courtesy of the crater.

Keep in that direction and go one more block…another hole. It’s the baby of the bunch, I’m sure. But if you aren’t paying attention, that’s your ankle, your knees, your face, and your tooth making it across the street without you.

I’m learning in life, if we’re not focused, we can become easily distracted by what is happening around us. If you were raised like I was, you were raised to pay attention to your surroundings; to be aware of where you are and what else is going on. Perhaps as you’ve gotten older you received some of the same messages in terms of paying attention. You’ve been encouraged to stay for the meeting after the meeting (the debrief of the meeting that was just minus a few folks). You  were told to observe what your boss and her way with words when it comes to your work bff , to notice how her language suggest she has it little positive regard for your work bff so you may want to distance yourself, you know, to keep your job (the one you really don’t like and have been leaving for the last five years).  You were told to maybe occasionally read Fred’s texts or his call log, just to be aware of the kind of company he keeps and who he communicates with.  Besides, if there’s nothing to hide what’s the big deal? You told to stop renting and see how this one and that just bought a house, and houses are great investments, so you should be a house (even if you aren’t ready, don’t want one, or need one).    Somehow a good habit, being aware, has us distracted. It has us losing friends, sabotaging relationships, and buying houses we don’t even want (and have no bff or boo to enjoy it with).  The distraction ultimately costs us. We somehow end up with the holes in our relationships, goals, and paths to purpose.  

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Photo courtesy of T. Ezzamb

We end up with the broken ankle, the misaligned axle, the frozen tires. Technically, all of which are repairable. All of which have costs- real costs. Distraction cost. Read that again.  In fact, let me write that again- Distraction costs.  What can seam innocent, easy enough, or smart at the onset can undermine, become a habit, and set us back.

My building is still standing. I don’t foresee the streets of west Philly swallowing it up.  I am still standing. Well technically, I am sitting on this vinyl bench in my favorite Starbucks in Philly on a rainy unusually warm January afternoon, nevertheless, I am here knowing that I’ve  paid the cost of distraction. It seemed cheaper than the cost of focus. It’s not. Just want to put that out there. I don’t care how hard it may be to focus, to say no, to live on a budget, to create some space in certain relationships (or let them go altogether), the cost of a distraction is always more and the ROI (return on investment) can’t even buy you a free cup of coffee.

You absolutely can make a comeback from going down a distraction rabbit hole, I just to encourage you to leave the hole alone altogether.  Mind your business. You can make a note of the advice, knowledge, well meaning cautions tat people offer, but how does it directly impact your purpose, you goals, your dreams? If it doesn’t then keep it moving. You can’t afford to be distracted. You can’t afford to undue a friendship based on some one else’s opinion or relationship. You can’t afford to lose your romantic partner taking suggestions from folks who stay sabotaging their relationships and have trust issues with everyone including themselves. You can’t afford a house in an area that you don’t know you want to stay in or working a job that has high turnover and a revolving door approach to retention and is stingy with pay increases. Pay attention for the sake of your purpose. Even if the mayhem is near, stay focused.  Pay attention for the sake of focusing on your destiny, your mission, your calling,  not for discovering a new long, unnecessary, costly detour. Ain’t nobody got time for the scenic route to purpose. Enjoy the journey, trust the process, but don’t get distracted. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Lee Oliveria

Counting Your…Losses

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Photo courtesy of Emily Shur.com

“I just want to see you win,” became a more familiar phrase I was hearing from friends and strangers alike upon my move back to Philadelphia. I liked the sound if it. Especially from friends who know me, my story, my struggle, and won’t let me get cozy in the temporary or put setbacks on the pedestal of permanence. Knowing there are people cheering you on, watching and waiting for your success makes a difference. Especially when you’ve drowned out your voice of belief and confidence.

But we don’t always win. Not me, not you, not Beyonce, not Steph, not LeBron, and not Hillary. Sometimes we lose. And the same folks who want to see us win, we pray and hope they still see us in our losses. We hope they see us on our off days (or months, heck someone reading this is like “Year. I had an off year.”). We hope their gaze doesn’t shift when we are stumbling beneath  situations that are crumbling. We hope the same light of hope stays lit when we are heartbroken, discouraged, knocked on out backs by what we didn’t see coming or saw coming and could not move fast enough to miss a head on collision. We too have to see us in our losses. We have to wipe the tears and gaze deeply,compassionately, hopefully, lovingly, courageously.

We’ve got to count our losses. I know. I didn’t even butter that up for you. I just served it all raw and fleshy, no sparkle, glitz, glam, no dusting of powder sugar or rainbow sparkles. I’m pretty sure our losses aren’t served up all pretty either. So let’s agree for this time anyway to just be okay with the unpretty, the lackluster, the losses.  Our losses shape us and  impact us just as much as our wins. #Facts

Losses have a way of showing where we are tender and need some tenderness, where we have held on to the point of detriment and hurt, where we underestimated perhaps others but often if we are honest ourselves- and not necessarily our ability, but our capacity and or our need. Our losses tend to wash over the things that resonate with us, rock our cores, take our breath away, and bring us to our knees like only loss can.

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Photo courtesy of A. Leta

I sit cozy on a sunny bitter cold Philadelphia Saturday morning, responding to a friend who’s question was “What are your plans today?” with “Getting my life together.” It’s my overall term for figuring out and doing the necessary, assessing what I need to accomplish a myriad of desired outcomes, from going to a certain store to get the leave in conditioner I love so I can show some tlc to my curls, to stopping by the bank to get quarters to do laundry this afternoon, to meal planning so I can return to a routine of Sabbath on Sunday day, to taking inventory of my closet and seeing how my style has progressed so I can make smarter purchases. The list also includes:

  • Figuring out the Logistics for packing up my life in Buffalo- a loss.
  • Putting in a few hours for a job that I am grateful to have but more days than not has me asking myself “How did I get here?”- a loss
  • Scheduling my calendar to accommodate counseling to process the onslaught of trauma hurled on me in the last year, and while counseling was what I knew I needed (especially since I like to keep my friends friends) and I am getting what I need, it is a weekly reminder of assaults on my identity, especially my race, that is unpacked- a loss.

The only way I get to win in rebuilding is tending to the losses. I only get to seriously look at where I want to settle down next by closing up shop in Buffalo. I only get to answer “What am I doing here?” with because it’s where I want to be, by doing what I need to get where I want to go even if it’s at a slower pace than I’d prefer. I only get to heal from trauma by dealing with the fact that it’s residue still has me marked and that if I am not careful will drip on future decisions and relationships. I can’t win without counting and tending to my losses.

Hillary wrote a whole book looking at her loss of the 2016 election. You better believe Steph and LeBron are looking at film after each loss, perhaps with a keener eye at films where they loss to each other. As for Beyonce,  that loss experienced by a spouse’s infidelity gave us a lot of Lemonade.

I know it’s a brand shiny new year, month, week, day, shucks let’s be honest, moment. I know we are all about the new, including new opportunities to win. I want you to win. I want me to win. I want us to win. I really do. I also know that winning cost, and those costs usually come in the forms of loss. Loss that can profoundly and positively change us and strategically place us in a position to win if we let it. If we acknowledge it. If we confront it. If we grieve it. If we go back for it (every loss is not a death). So count your coins, your sheep, your blessings, and your losses.

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Photo courtesy of Free People.com

Restocking The Necessary

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

It was that time again. Time to restock on all the necessary personal hygiene stuff. The necessary trip to Target. It was more than the just wanting to go, browse the racks, see what’s new in that cute little dollar section that will help make decorating for the holidays more festive. It was the spend money and not have a single cute shirt, dress, sock, or necklace to show for it trip. It was an at least get you some Starbucks trip.

So we did just that. I was not the only one on a necessities only Target run.  Yay for friends! Starbucks in hand we made our way to the personal care section of the store. The toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash was easy enough to find. Next was my pursuit of a hair care product I like to use to keep my blonde curls healthy and well moisturized.  We strolled down the aisle for said product and it was nowhere in sight. I was confused and disappointed. Every other product in the line was there, fully stocked, but what I was after- nowhere to be seen.  I stubbornly, and she patiently did a lap or two around the additional hair care product aisles to see if there was something comparable or if I’d just overlooked it. Nothing.

She needed to go look for something else and so I decided before I went on to the next items on my little index card of a list I’d check one more time. This time I stooped down to where the line of products were and began to read every white and red sales tag. There was a tag for the moisturizer but the space looked empty until I tilted my head slightly and saw that all the way on the back there was one bottle left. Victory!  I grabbed it, put it in the cart, and made my way over a few more aisles for the rest of my items.  I left Target with everything I set out to purchase, but what brought me the most joy was perhaps the product I felt I needed the most, had some difficulty finding, and still managed to obtain in the end. It just took a little persistence.  I’m finding that life is similar, especially if we remain persistent and active participants in our lives.

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Photo courtesy of Vogue Magazine.com

It would indeed be somewhere between wonderful and absolutely glorious if the things we needed in life were always there on demand requiring no effort on our part. No circling aisles, no stooping. No head tilting. Just show up, reach slightly, expectation  fulfilled, need met.  If we could just show up with our lists and readily go to where we think what we need should be, find it, take it, and keep it moving. If we could just move to San Francisco, need a job with a certain salary, show up somewhere and it was just there for us needing our signature. If we could go to the birthday party or wedding, and ta to the da, there is that vision of a partner and when we need them to ask for our number and to take us to dinner, we just rattle off those ten digits and share that Thursday or Friday that week would work really well for our schedule.  When we need the doctor to say that the lump we felt was not the cancer…again.  When we need the police officer to not start his visit at our front door with “I’m sorry have to tell you this…”  But life doesn’t really happen that way. Our needs are not always met when and how we anticipate. We find ourselves having to make laps, reach higher, bend lower, shuffle to the left, shuffle to the right, reconsider if we really need what we think we need or if something else will suffice. We find life requires our active participation and our persistence.

I could have shrugged and kept it moving in Target. I could have been annoyed and decided I’d go to another Target or just pay the higher price for the same product at the drug store. Or I could have just settled for another product altogether. I could have told myself what I thought I needed was a want and that what I needed was a moisturizer for my hair type and what I wanted was that particular brand. But I didn’t. I wasn’t convinced that my need wasn’t  a need and that where I was, that current circumstance, that Target, was not going to deliver.  It was just going to require a little more action on my part and a little patience on behalf of my Target run partner.

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Photo courtesy of Analidia Lopez

I have no idea of what you are in the need of as you read this.  If it’s a moisturizer for curly hair, I love Garnier’s Buttercream. It comes in an orange chunky bottle and runs about $6.00. But if you need more than some hair moisturizer, I want to encourage you this week to not give up on what you need and the faith that it will be met.  How it gets met is absolutely going to take some participation on your behalf.  Read that last sentence again.

Your life requires your participation. It requires that you adjust, that you shift, that you stand on your tippy toes, suck in your gut,  lean back slightly. It requires moments that are not glamorous and are strictly about the necessary things to keep you healthy not looking and passing for healthy. It requires vulnerability and connecting with other people who will go with you and be there with you when your life is not just about the vacations, promotions, soirees, new handbags, and hosting a fabulous girls’ night at your place.  It requires a level of self-awareness and grit to know that even when circumstances suggest this is not what you need or what you need may elude you that you are exactly where you need to be for the need to be met.

Persistently participate in the meeting of your needs this week.  Showing up is a start, but sometimes you have to be willing to do more than show up.  If you need help, ask. Sometimes we need others to help us on our journey towards getting our needs met. For my beloved fellow believers reading this, yes, God meets every need we have. However, to suggest that even He does not require us to participate would not be true. He’s a good, gracious, and giving God, not a genie.  Hang in there this week. Don’t walk away too quickly. Trust that you are where you need to be for your need to get met.  xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Shopstyle.com

I Before It

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Photo courtesy of Samantha Hammack

I was moody. I could feel it. I wasn’t exactly sure as to why. I was easily irritated and I cleared shelved my “Make space for grace” mantra.  While I managed to keep my moodiness to myself, I knew it was a matter of one more request or one more “My bad, I’m sorry” and I was going to have an academy award nominee worthy explosion.

 

As I walked the two blocks home I kept asking myself what happened that had me very left of center. I replayed the day and the previous days in my mind to search for any dots that needed connecting.  There wasn’t anything that stuck out. In fact, the few things that I had to do over the past couple of days went much smoother than I anticipated. The night before I caught up with an old colleague over drinks and then had an amazing dinner with my mentor at this new Thai restaurant in Kenmore. Delish!  I slept soundly and woke up refreshed and checking things off of my to do list.  Yet and still any interruption and my eyes were rolling, I was sighing, hand resting on my hip, and lots of “are you kidding me?” “Oh this is how we gonna do?” or “Yeah, so no. I’m not in the mood” one liners took up residence in my mind.  Finally, as I turned up Hoyer Street I announced to myself and the squirrels “I think I’m stressed.” I laughed and texted my friend my epiphany who responded “um yeah.”

Processing trauma, moving, job searching/applying/interviewing/not a god fitting/overqualified-ing, claim and benefits filing while sistering, aunting, daughtering, friending, recovering and self caring is A LOT. Like A LOT. Like A LOT.  I will stop with the A Lots, because, you get my drift. But just know, you could take that last A LOT and add an exponent  of 1000  to it and then, well then you’d probably respond to my I think I’m stressed text the same way my friend did. It’s taken me about six weeks of all of that (and we’re talking repeated exposure to and engagement in traumatic situations for three years now, most in professional settings but some personal as well) to say I think I’m stressed. Not it’s  stressful, but me, all 5 feet 4 inches  a little over 150 pounds, wild blonde and brown curls, and a serious love for that which sparkles, devout tea drinking, huge fan of fresh flowers, hopeless romantic on the low (don’t mind my chill), me. I was stressed.  And quite a few other things too if I was honest. Overwhelmed, angry, annoyed, afraid, anxious, insecure, exhausted (physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually- Lord that whole don’t get weary well doing and forgiving 70 times 7 and loving your enemy etc. was wearing on me). I was tired of striving and struggling to enjoy the present because usually something would remind me of just how unstable my present is from moment to moment as well as my future.

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Photo courtesy of Madame Figaro

After the laughter subsided, there was a goofy grin plastered across my face and then a few deep breaths as I walked into the house and was warmly greeted by Tucker who was sniffing me out for food.  “I am stressed,”  I repeated to myself. Not in that affirmation type of way but that welcome to your reality type of way. Because let’s be serious, it’s hard to become less stressed or stress free if we’re in denial. It’s hard to create change period if we are not dealing with our reality no matter how much we don’t like it or want to believe it.

It helped that my friend was able to validate my being stressed. But even if she had not, I had new knowledge about myself and was already in a better position to address it, if I chose. Knowledge is power, power to act in ways that help us to live well. Knowing I was stressed (not the situation or people stressing me out, but me, real live me) helped me to then delve into what I need to decrease me stress. I spent time thinking about ways I’ve dealt positively with stress in the past and which were going to be suitable options currently. It wasn’t long before I was back out the door and strolling to the coffee shop to take advantage of the quiet, the regulars I’d miss seeing over the past few weeks, and my favorite seat with a great window view to write and draw my way through plausible coping methods to begin alleviating my stress.

Now, if you’re looking for me to say that I am writing this post stress free then keep looking, cause I’m not. I am however significantly less stressed than before I was willing to pause and tend to me and own the reality of my stress.  Applying for jobs and interviewing is stressful. Being honest about how many interviews I can manage in a week and scheduling accordingly is helping decrease the stress. Hanging out with my super cool nephew is reenergizing, but the hour plus trek to my sister’s place each way is not, so I see him less but I still see him and spend time with him. Coffee shops are a huge help to me in getting focused and getting things done, but the ones in the city are too noisy, so I’ve been going to the ones in the suburbs just outside the city and it’s been wonderful.  Socializing, even for this introvert, is fun, especially with people I care about, but packing my schedule with lunches and happy hours (even if it’s their treat) still leaves me more tired than I’d like, so I’ve been saying “Unfortunately, that won’t work, perhaps another time. I’ll keep you posted.”  Being engaged with Negative Natalie’s who often complain about situations they are pretty capable of changing but won’t because it may mean a pay cut, or a longer commute, etc.- I’ve been creating some distance. Their negativity is not helpful.  Not to mention, but at some point my constant availability for a “vent session” enables them to keep complaining and perceive themselves powerless in their ability to create the change they desire.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Bowen Smith

This week I’m just getting reacquainted with me and my reality- the messy and the beautiful parts.  I’m drawing closer to I instead of dispensing lots of it’s. I’m tuning into what I need, want, am capable of being and doing. I’m sifting through what is me, what was me, both what is temporarily me and what is core to who I am.  I’m making decisions that are rooted in I and not it, that, , they, him, her, etc.

This week I’m inviting you to do the same.  I’m inviting you this week to put I before It. Instead of It was a good day, I had a good day. Instead of It was a hard conversation, I had a hard conversation. Instead of It’s been stressful these days, I’ve been stressed. Instead of It was celebratory event, I celebrated at the event.  Because here’s the thing, when you say I, you will in that moment check in with yourself about your reality and how you’re living. If the event was celebratory but you didn’t celebrate, why not? If the ordeal was stressful but you weren’t stressed (sweet!) what kept you at ease? If the day was good but you don’t  feel good , what’s going on with you and what may need some adjusting?  I’m inviting you to see you, own you, and check in with – all of you. “It” can wait this week, I (you)  however, cannot. Remember, I before It especially when life is throwing around a lot of _____________xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Levo League.com

 

 

Oh The Scandal!

scandal life of beyonceWe hadn’t seen each other in a little over a year. Talked and texted, sure. Had a sense of the highs and lows of each other’s lives over the past year, absolutely. But there was something to be said for sitting at the grey and black speckled marble bar top, on a seat that demanded full concentration getting in and out of it (regardless of how much you had to drink), sipping rose margaritas with seductively red rose petals floating in them, and catching up in real time.

Our word that night was scandalous. We’d used it both several times and I think I may have initiated the word into our conversation regarding a chance encounter with a guy I met in LA who was visiting Philadelphia several years ago. Scandalous was a good word forte encounter as was stupid. She laughed, in part because well it wasn’t as scandalous as I made it seem at the onset, but the encounter could have ended very badly (seriously- very new  acquaintance, his hotel room, and I’ll stop right there). Plus, if you know me, the way she does, it’s a situation you’d never associate me with.  She of course shared a few scandalous stories of her own, more guys, more hotel rooms, sometimes alcohol was involved, sometimes not.  We laughed, lamented, and laughed some more.

We parted ways and I wisely negated the four floor walk up and opted for the creaky old elevator home. I was as quiet as possible as to not wake my friend who’d been undoubtedly sleep for a couple of hours and was fighting a pretty ugly cold, dressing for bed, removing the makeup, taking down the hair, putting away the earrings, easing into bed awake just enough to think about the evening spent catching up and all of the scandal.

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Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

I also thought about how the real scandal I’d engaged in the past couple of weeks didn’t involve any guys, hotel rooms, little black dresses, heels, or perfectly styled tresses.  In fact it didn’t involve anyone other than myself. It was a one person scandal (is that possible? Idk). It  involved me hoping, despite circumstances that would typically suggests a resignation to being under covers, occasionally soothed by some of the most faithful men I know- Ben and Jerry, getting ahead on Christmas shopping online,  Netflix binge watching, maybe showering (I mean where was I going?), and random bouts of crying. Hoping, I decided,  was the real scandal.  I was going to defy logic, and hope (not false hope or wishful thinking), and use that hope to stay vigilant, persistent, engaged in my life, still writing my narrative, putting periods where necessary and adding semicolons where appropriate.  Some things, circumstances and relationships were indeed over, but I and all that is me was not over. I knew if I had allowed the job, the people, the city, to be all that there was to me and all of that had come to a close, then I was screwed. I also knew I was never created for a job, a few folks, or a geographic location. I knew I was created for and capable of so so much more than the last three years of my life and if I was going to become anyone of that, I had to manage my hope.  I had to be a rebel with a cause- living. And living without hope is merely existing sweet thang. It is taking up space and I nor you were created to just take up space.  We were created thoughtfully, purposefully, fearfully, wonderfully, with a plan, with gifts, and abilities.

When life’s tabloids suggest otherwise, we must rewrite the front page story of our lives as scandalously hopeful as possible.

 

My hope for you this week is that you awaken the rebel within you.  Send Ben and Jerry home. Deep condition your hair and use the body scrub. Throw the sheets in the wash.  Put on your favorite whatever. Sip on your favorite whatever. Grab your phone, ipad, laptop, good ol’ pen and paper (even a napkin) and resuscitate your hope.  Dare to let your mind linger on that thing. And only you know the thing. Side note- please don’t let that thing be unhealthy. Don’t let your mind linger on someone’s spouse, revenge, getting so drunk you black out etc.  Linger on the small business idea, the application for the promotion, the book you want to write, the home you want, etc. Linger on the way you want to end the unhealthy relationship,  take the vacation you’ve been saying you were going to take but have been afraid to go alone. Linger on the dance class or pilates class you swear your body type won’t accommodate- it will. Sign up for the class.  Linger on the hair color or hair style. Linger on your birthday party- the one you’ve been promising yourself for the past six years but always end up to busy to host. Linger on the upcoming date and shove the anxiety to the back of the closet as you pull out that little black dress.

Scandal is unexpected, seemingly forbidden, the plot twist of all lot twists.  Let hope be your scandal. Let hope be what buoys you out of those really hard spaces this week, those spaces where the expectation is anything but hope, joy, peace, laughter, or love (self love included).   Let hope be as acceptable as wearing white after labor day (remember when that was a fashion no no?).  Maybe your circumstances have seemed like the climax , so let hope come in and hijack that with a plot twist. It’s corny, I know, but Keep Hope Alive. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Skinny Sticks.com

 

 

If You Don’t Like Your Reflection- Change Your Outfit

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Photo courtesy of Taibo Bacar

I may have been more ready for my sister’s 30th birthday celebration than she was. And by ready, I mean, let’s get this party underway, bring on the guests, let the planning cease and the partying commence, DJ cue the music. Planning had been underway for months. Color schemes, set up ideas, decorations, visioning the flow of people traffic, music selections, menu items and drink selections, and of course…party worthy outfit selections.

A few days before the birthday festivities I thought it was time to come out of the various outfits I’d put together in my head mode and actually try on the outfits. While it wasn’t my party, I wasn’t Cinderella. No need for me to not look cute too.  I tried on the outfit that in my head was “the outfit.” And sure enough…it was not. The hard work I’d been putting in to slowly lose the pounds I’d gained over the past year was paying off, and so things didn’t fit as well as they had when I initially purchased them and tried them on a few months back. With mixed feelings (I mean who doesn’t want to lose a few inches? But who wants to scramble for a great party look at the last minute?)  I changed the outfit. I tried on another, and another until finally what I saw in the mirror gave me all the feels a great outfit is supposed to give. I kept remixing my look until I was pleased with and confident in what I saw.  And if you’re just a tiny bit curios about the winning look, just check out my IG @AhyanaJenise, there are plenty of fun birthday festivity pics and video from this past weekend’s party.

Sometimes we don’t like what our life’s mirror reflects- and that’s fine. What’s not so fine is when we don’t “change the outfit “until we see a reflection that we take pleasure in, smile at, snap a selfie cause we’re so cute, accept, compassionately loving towards, and confident in. If you don’t like what the mirror is reflecting, change the outfit.

If you are finding that your life these days, emphasis on your, is not reflective of you- your beliefs, values, core characteristics, talents, goals, purpose, or abilities, let alone the future you see for yourself, then you have to change it up.  You have to notice the top is a little looser or tighter than you’d like, the pants not as flattering as you remember, and the hues of blue too drastic and not giving you the monochromatic look you imagined. You have to choose between the block heel or the stiletto, if you can get away with the slipper style flat or a pointed flat, if mixing up the patterns between your shoe and the dress is something you can pull off.  Only you will know if the sequins is too much or the dress as understated as it is needs the sparkle of a great necklace or cuff style bracelet. Only you will know for sure what in your life needs to change in order to reflect the life you know you were created to live.

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

Like many friends and family knew, I knew that I needed to resign from my job long before I actually did. But only I could actually resign.  You know like only you can, whether or not the person you are about to marry is really the person that will best complement your life and the future you desire for yourself.  You know like only you can if you haven’t heard back from whatever university or college you’ve dreamed of attending is really because you never completed the application (not an unorganized admissions office). You know like only you can know if you are living above your means, no matter how awesome the sale is, or if you are living below your potential because the past is still painful and humiliating and holding you captive. You know if the job you have is a job or what you believe to be work that is meaningful, vocationally fulfilling, and allows you to use your gifts, talents, and abilities. You know like only you can if you’ve been having an emotional affair, telling yourself that because no physical boundaries have been crossed you and your actual partner are just fine.

You also know what needs changing.

Don’t look at this screen and shake your head and say “Oh Ahyana, but I do not.” Nope boo, you do.  You know if it’s the fear that needs addressing and dealing with the past issues of rejection or abandonment. You know if you just need an accountability partner. You know if you are fighting feelings, beliefs even, of unworthiness. You know if you need to return the engagement ring or not bring so and so home for the holiday just to keep up the façade for your family. You know you need to leave your job and find meaningful work, and in order to do so you may need to start spending less and saving more, look at going back to school, consider a pay cut, etc.  You know if you need to break up with Ben and Jerry, despite their unfailing faithfulness. You know you need to confront certain people in your life and stop letting them run all over you. See, I told you you know what you need to do.

Now if this was a Nike ad, I’d say just do it. I’d say make sure in your reflection you can see the iconic swoosh. I also know there is a gap between knowing what we need to change in our lives and changing it.

outfitspopsugar

Photo courtesy of Pop Sugar.com

I really really liked the first outfit I tried on for my sister’s party, but together, the top and the skirt did nothing for me. I had to start by acknowledging the outfit was not working for me the way I hoped or needed it to. I had to be open to the idea of another possibility that something else I already had would work better, and better reflect me. Something had to change. It ended up being the skirt.

So this week I’m just gonna ask you to baby step it. I’m gonna ask you to just be open. Be open to looking at your life and seeing what it’s reflecting back. Hold on to the feel goods. Hold on to the peace, the joy, the excitement, the freedom. Relish it. And if there are some areas that are being reflected that you are not feeling, that no longer suit or serve you, linger there and be open to changing things up. xxoo

 

You Can Choose To Eat The Breadcrumbs Or The Bread

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Photo courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar March 2014 

My mother used to call my sister a little bird. And even now she still teases Rachel with that nickname. It suits my sister in a number of ways. She’s petite but that doesn’t keep her from a personality that easily soars above her barely over five feet stature. She also manages to nibble on food here and there throughout the day. She barely eats all of anything, but will eat a lot of things throughout the day, typically only consuming the whole of which she really really enjoys or was craving.  Unlike Rachel, if you’ve ever watched a bird go at their grub, you will notice they take and seem satisfied with the tiniest of morsels. They will happily take a piece of the whole and fly off to their little corner of the world.  Perhaps the habit is because of their anatomy and they simply don’t have the capacity to digest much. Perhaps they’re super frugal creatures on the low and discovered the whole minimalist life and joy of tidying up long before us human folks did. Perhaps you’re thinking this post is about birds- it’s not. I promise.

Birds are satisfied with the breadcrumbs tossed their way. They may draw closer to the person tossing the crumbs, but they don’t go for the entire piece of bread. Even if the entire piece of bread is there on the ground, they go for the crumbs- for bits and pieces. And I’ve noticed, like birds, sometimes we do the same thing. We teach ourselves to be satisfied with the breadcrumbs of life never going after the bread. We wait for a little of this and a little of that to be tossed our way and we take what we can get and drag it off to our little corner of the world, convinced the little scattered haphazardly offered bits are enough.

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Photo courtesy of Who What Wear.com

We settle for the paycheck never mind how many times we were denied the promotion we deserve, applied for, and are completely qualified for. We settle for the partner who can manage to call us back when they get a chance yet give you all kinds of attitude if you don’t text back or call back in 15 minutes or can’t give them the money to pay their cell phone or credit card bill. We are cool with the bestie that expects you to be your best when life is pummeling her but she’s busy when you need her to reciprocate. We nibble, munch, slowly sip, on “It could be worse” and “In due time” and “Maybe tomorrow” until life has passed us by and we are further away from every wish, hope, goal, or dream we ever managed to imagine and claim as our own. We are completely removed from life’s table where the spread is bountiful, and instead fill our napkins with the scraps that have fallen from the table.  We sit convinced that things will change, overlooking our responsibility for creating that change. Overlooking our identity (we are not birds) and our personal power to get up off the floor and find our seat at the table.

You can choose to eat the breadcrumbs or the bread. You can choose to settle for less than what you know you want and are worthy for. You can choose to hustle your heart out for afterthoughts and scraps. Our you can get you a slice of bread. Or shucks, be greedy, get a couple of slices. Try the rye, the multigrain, the wheat, the ciabatta, the sourdough, gluten free, etc.  You catch my drift.

I challenge you this week to pause and see where you are trying to feast off of breadcrumbs of life. I challenge you to be honest with yourself about the areas in your life where you have been coasting, getting by, and surviving. Now don’t get me wrong, I know what it’s like to be in survival  mode, but survival mode is not a way of life. It was never meant to be a way of life. Furthermore, when you have crossed out of survival circumstances, don’t keep yourself in survival mode by using tactics no longer necessary.  I challenge you to check the nearest mirror and see if you may be amid an identity crisis, thinking you are more of a bird (a scavenger animal) or a deeply complex, carefully created, purposefully designed human being with gifts, talents, abilities, and contributions that the world desperately needs at the table.  I challenge you to live this week, and live on the bread of life not the breadcrumbs. xxoo

breadAishaTaharan

Photo courtesy of Aisha Taharan

Unfolding

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Photo courtesy of Solonge Music.com

My body was longing for my old normal amid my new normal. It was craving the usual and I was on day seven of giving it anything but. Routine override started with just being tired so sleeping in and skipping out on the gym, then there was the migraine that led to another missed workout but a greet encounter with a pretty decent guy, then there was a couple of dates with said pretty decent young guy and farewell gatherings with people who’ve been nothing short of supportive during my year in Buffalo. There was an early flight, then the glorious girls trip to DC. Not finished. There was the early rising to see my east coast nephew off to his first day of kindergarten  then staying at his puppy eye sad face request for when he got off the bus that afternoon, then returning the following day to pick him up off the bus again. There were several trips to Marshalls to get a few things to help me get organized and settled. Lots of movement and no two days looking even close to the same.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely have a thing for adventure, flirt with spontaneity often, and pride myself in my flexibility. However, I (body, emotions, mind, and spirit) was beyond just not in the mood. #Overit #Done #Ikilledmyownvibe

In fact, as I walked through the crowded lunch time streets of downtown Philadelphia, only wanting to get to the Target  on 19th and Chestnut for a new laundry bag, I could feel myself giving way to the week that was and the rest and routine that wasn’t.  I was tempted to call my teary eyed feet dragging I just want my bed moment  a breakdown, a fall apart, a rapid unraveling that would sure enough unveil my private thoughts, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and anxieties smack in the middle of the cross walk full of suits, dresses, really cute heels, strollers, and dogs on some the longest leashes ever (like seriously, owners were really far behind their pups).  But for as overwhelmed as I felt in that moment, I knew I was not falling apart. I was not having a breakdown. I was not unraveling and forced to reveal all of the things I’ve yet to make peace with about myself especially all of the rejection and discrimination and retaliation  I’ve faced daily the past eight or so months at work. It was more of an unfolding.

 

In that moment, I took a deep breath, and imagined me unfolding a white linen napkin. But I didn’t just unfolded the napkin. I unfolded it and placed it in my lap. I placed it in my lap as if I were expecting a meal, expecting nourishment, expecting what I needed to be well.

unfold by tezza

Photo courtesy of By Tezza.com

My life is in a season of unfolding. What it has looked like- folded, compact, pretty, still, and quaint is not looking like that any longer. It is unfolding into a blank fabric square capable of multiple purposes, including being reshaped and refolded, but also protection, and catching the overflow of what is next in my life. It is strategically and slowly becoming undone in full confidence that what will be served to me next (this next season of my life) is a combination of what I want and need to be, do, live, well.

My hope for you this week is that in those moments when your days have become weeks and even months of not being what you need let alone desire that you are reminded that your life is unfolding.  It is going through a process where it doesn’t look like what it did at first glance. It’s shifted. The creases are no more. While it looked awfully pretty and proper folded on the table and now looks rather plain and bare on your lap, its purpose remains. Your purpose, amid all that life is gifting you presently remains the same. Circumstances don’t dictate your purpose any more than a meal dictates your appetite.  And don’t bother trying to refold the napkin the way it was. It doesn’t typically work out. Have you ever tried to recreate that fanned out linen napkin look? It ends up looking like a wad of used tissue. It makes you snatch it off the table and put it on your lap, right where it belongs. Don’t let your current season try to push you backwards and engage in behaviors or with people that no long serve the fruition of your destiny.

Let this season unfold as you wait in confidence for what is next. Trust that what you have experienced thus far was not in vain, an accident, coincidence, or happenstance. Trust that you have been and continue to be in process as you progress towards what you both desire and need to be, do, and live well. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Basic Chic.com