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.

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.

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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

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Photo courtesy of Aisha Taharan

Weathering The Storm

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Photo courtesy of Courturezilla.com

I’d been there for five hours. Shifting positions, trying to get comfortable in a seat that was meant to be anything but. I’d get up and walk, but never too far. “We could board at any minute,” I told myself. Never mind the monitor had kept updating to reveal a new increasingly later and later departure time.

We were told it was an air traffic control issue. There were just too many flights in the air and no point in boarding us to sit on the plane when we could just wait in the airport…in uncomfortable black vinyl chairs.

So after about 5 hours, the flight was finally cancelled…due to weather. Insert eye roll. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was in no way eager to return to Buffalo. Not in the least bit. I was just tired, and felt like the flight should have been cancelled hours ago. I could have been left the airport, headed back to West Philly, got tacos from Honest Toms or pizza from Clarkville, cozied up on the couch, and watched a movie on Netflix.

I made it to my friend’s in a storm that lasted longer than I imagined. Insert awkward smile at gratitude the flight was cancelled due to weather. It took me a while to get to sleep, as my friends 4th floor flat lit up from time to time from flashes of lightning and thunder rolled over and over again and I tossed and turned over and over again.

When I woke the next morning, there was a cool breeze, swaying trees, foot, bike, public transit, and car traffic. Sunlight flooded the apartment. I eased out of my sleepy haze realizing I’d been gifted an extra day in the city. No scheduled lunches or happy hours. No interviews or doctors’ appointments. No stores to revisit because I totally regretted snagging those super cute strappy block heeled sandals for my sister’s party in a couple of weeks.  There was nothing I “had” to do, yet I knew I was going to be out and about in the glorious sunshine, taking in the new day that rolled in, without reminders, save a huge puddle here or there, of the storm that was ever so present only hours before.

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Photo courtesy of @NaturallyTemi via Instagram.com

I journaled and sipped on lavender tea at the Green Line cafe on Baltimore Avenue. I went downtown and picked up a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s for my Aunt Joyce and then went to her house to visit with her. I went to lunch with my Dad and savored every chicken finger, french fry dipped in cheese, and crunchy onion ring at Nifty Fifties. I visited with my grandfather who had a stroke the week prior but was home now and on the mend (thank you sweet grown man Jesus). I even got to see my youngest brother and enjoy freshly baked snicker doodle cookies that he’d just finished baking.

Sometimes life changes because of a storm. Courses are completely altered, or cancelled altogether. Try as we might to just weather the storm and wait for it to pass,  we are bothered, agitated, annoyed, flustered in our attempts to accommodate and work with it.

Yet the storm passes. The thunder and lightening ceases. The rain does not leave its calling card on window shields or window sills. Branches begin to lift as the burden of the water lifts. Sidewalks and streets turn ombre in color as they return to their shades of origin. There are very few reminders if any that the storm was there, pummeling us into survival.

I’m learning in life that storms are part of the course. They come regardless of our perceived need for them or not. They are loud, disruptive, and obnoxious, despite their unassuming approach and abrupt departures, after arrogantly lingering longer than we’d like. We get fired. We get sick. We get cancer. We lose a partner or a child (or children). We get the divorce papers. We don’t get the loan.  We find ourselves unfulfilled and cheat on our partners, who find out not because we told them. We lose the house. We gain the weight back. We have our identity stolen. We don’t know how to stop swiping right on tinder just for the night. We run into the person who sexually assaulted us when we were 11. We lose the scholarship and can’t go back to school as anticipated. Storms come, but they don’t last always.

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Photo courtesy of Mariel Claire.com

Sure they last longer than we anticipate. Sure there are those annoying scattered storms. You know the ones. One storm after another. You think it’s passed and here comes something else. But I want you to remember, the storms don’t last forever. Survival mode will not last forever, because were weren’t created to survive. We were created to thrive. 

I will tell you a secret- we thrive, because of the things we learned when we survived.  You will navigate those gloriously sunny moments in life because of what you had to forego during the stormy days. You will become more grounded in what you know you deserve, what you value, what you need to live well, and you will be relentless in obtaining and maintaining it.

Our storms in life aren’t in vain. Remember that. They may thwart what we thought we were supposed to do and where we were supposed to be, but they have a way of creating new opportunities, new perspective, new strength, and eventually new joy and new peace. Do what you need (as healthily as possible) to take shelter in the current storm of your life. Just do it knowing it will pass. And when it does, get out there and take in all the sunshine. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Urban Studio NYC

 

 

 

 

Between Seasons

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Photo courtesy of Bohemian Tumblr.com

My struggle was real going to the gym this morning. I didn’t understand why I was so tired and at a little over a month into my early morning workout routine, I really had no reason to be tired. Until I remembered I was up later than usual. Like considerably later. Like I forgot today was Monday.

I signed in and strolled over to warm up on the stationary bike. I was tired. I knew my level of tired was up a notch because Roy, the owner, and the bestower of a variety of nicknames for me seemed chattier than normal and I was slightly bothered. I told myself I’d cut the workout short today. I’d be  little more mindful of what I ate because I was just not going to put in as much time today…until of course I got going, and ended up working longer than I usually do.  I left the gym, started my walk home, pleased with myself. Pleased with overriding my sleepiness and getting to the gym, only to exercise longer than I usually do when I’m not nearly as tired.

As I waited at the corner of LaSalle Street to cross Delaware Avenue , I looked up at the sky that seemed to be stubbornly letting the sun shine through. The clouds were moving at the pace of the breeze that hinted at a borrowed crispness that belongs to the mornings of the fall. That’s when I noticed, amid the clouds and the trees, thin little wires. I hadn’t noticed them before and they didn’t cross the streets. Where the street ended, so did the wire. As I walked home, each new block, a new string of wires, with little bulbs. “Lights! It’s the Christmas lights!” I exclaimed.  Excited at the thought of Christmas. As I entered my house and winked at the cat curled on the arm of the sofa, I smiled at the memory of the lit streets during the holiday season. In a few months, during the season for which they are purposed, the lights will shine, the streets will be lit, and it will truly be a lovely sight to see. But those lights will not be on before then. They will be hung, correctly positioned, waiting, until it is time, until it is their season. I saw myself in those yet to be lit lights, waiting for their season to fulfill their purpose.

I just wanted to take a moment this week to encourage those of you who are waiting for your season to do all that you were purposed to do. You have learned, invested, researched, purchased, sold, saved, networked, prayed, fasted, read and reread, gone without, relocated, stepped up, back, and down, took pay cuts, served as interim, moved in with or out from living with, ended the relationship, etc. You have done all that you know to do to be positioned.  You are hanging there between what was and what is yet to be. I see you boo. I see you in the middle, in between. I see the sacrifices, the daring to hope, the resilience, the reset button that you’ve pressed more than once. I see the tear stained cheeks, and hear the trembling voice choking back the tears that want to come forth once more. I see the glazed over eyes from all of the staying woke, the belly swole and stuffed but not full or satisfied.  I see you between the credit score that got you the apartment but isn’t ready to get you the house. I see the fear as you return to the doctor for your annual check up praying hard that the cancer has not returned.  I see the maternity dress you purchase and placed in the back of the closet, holding on to hope for that child. I see the paper cuts from the rejection letter for the book, play, film, college, loan, or job.  I see the misbuttoned blouse as you rushed to the job that you used to love, think you still like, but being the only _____________ has exhausted you. I see you. Hang. In. There.

Your season is coming.

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Photo courtesy of They All Hate Us.com

Just like November will come, and Thanksgiving evening these lights will be lit and will stay lit until just after the New Year, only to then hang until the same time the following year, your time is coming.

Your acceptance letter, announcement that it’s a girl, approval for the mortgage, approval for the business loan, promotion, date to start training is coming. Your publisher who is in love with your book idea is coming. Your  curator who is expanding their clientele and wants your art for a spot in San Francisco is coming. Your medical clearance to travel is on its way to the lab and then to you.

Don’t give up honey bunny. Don’t lose sight of you and your purpose. Don’t lose sight of those dreams that have been giving you hope, that vision that you have and have already invested in. The trees will sway. You will get rained on, snowed on, brushed up against by big ol’ trucks making deliveries to others living their dreams, that seem not to notice you. But you stay right where you have been perfectly positioned to fulfill your purpose.

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Photo courtesy of Style In Details NYC.com

If you find yourself growing faint in this season, I encourage you to take a moment and take note of the last time you were in a similar season. How did you make it through? Who was there for you, cheering you on? What podcast did you listen to, book did you read, sermon did you watch on television or online?  Whose music played nonstop on your way to work, at the gym, or while you were cooking dinner? If you journal, go pull out the journal that captured that time in your life and be encouraged by the fact that you made it through.  Make a list of who and what you need to stay in position. Then go get it, and be open to asking for what you need. You have not because you ask not. Trust me, you’ve made it before, so you will absolutely make it again. For real, you will.

My hope for you this week is that you won’t lose sight of this season in your life as you stay positioned for the next. That you will be fully present to all that this season has, weathering it, knowing it has some deposits to make, deposits that will allow you to shine brighter, serve as a guide, and serve as hope and beauty in dark times for others. My hope is that you will resist comparison, jealousy, resentment, and despair as you wait. And finally my hope is that when your season does come, when it is your Thanksgiving night, and it is indeed time for you to turn on and do all that only you can and were created to do, that you will chose to do it well, fiercely, courageously, and compassionately.

Hang in there, it’s almost your time to shine. xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

Permission Granted

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Photo courtesy of Buro 24/7.com

I don’t believe in coincidences. I think I’ve shared that before. I am an “everything is connected” kind of person. I’m also a person who chooses to believe in a God who is more organized than not. So, no, I can’t explain to you what made me purchase She’s Still There: Rescuing The Girl in You by Chrystal Evans Hurst, but I did, and I’m glad.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I so enjoy her. I so enjoy her podcast, absolutely tune in when she is doing a Facebook or IG live type of deal, follow her on IG and Twitter, and my girls have definitely been recipients of me forwarding something that she has written or done their way as a means of encouraging them. But, as per usual I am amid several books right now, hard copy and audio. So I don’t really know what made me order her book, happily Amazon prime it to myself, and start my weekend reading it in bed, under piles of white linens, too lazy to turn off the air conditioning unit.

The heart of her book is that it’s not too late to become who we were created to be, the person we dreamed of being as a girl. And not the be a princess dreams some of us may have had as girls, but the live a life that we love, where we experience the ebb and flow of grace and compassion towards ourselves and others, where we boldly move towards that which fulfills us, that which we were created to be.

So when her book opened with her recalling a prayer she sent up to grown man Jesus to break both of her legs so she could call off from a job she hated and never saw herself being in, I laughed until I cried. I laughed because it was funny. I mean really. Of all the prayers to send up, like why not just ask for a new job? But I cried because I’d been there. Oh how I’d been there.  Like having a hard time removing the safety guard from the pizza slicer. I was like oh but if I cut myself, and the cut is deep enough, then I can go the ER and get stitches and then I can be out from work. Why didn’t I pray for a new job?

As the first chapter continues, she does an awesome job (pun intended) of reminding readers that we can reset and rescue. That those tough “How did I get here? “ “Why am I here?”  “Is this really my life?” moments we are in don’t define us but instead refine us. They strip away the unnecessary, the distractions, the almost but not really, until we get to the real thing, the real us, the real dream, the real girl who freely and unabashedly pondered, explored, ventured out, asked, searched, prayed with abandon and believed with all the sass a little girl could muster, hand on her hip and all, waiting for her God to come through.  She gives reminds us of our permission.

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Photo courtesy Be Frassy.com

 

When I think about permission, I think about being a girl. As a girl, there was always permission seeking. Permission to be excused from the table, to go outside, to go off the porch, to stay up later, to go to so and so’s birthday party, for so and so to come over, to go on the class trip. There was always this knowledge of ability, this certainty, but still a needing to seek permission.  None of the things I sought permission for as a girl were things I was not capable of, interested in, or desired. Yet, I would ask and wait for the answer before moving forward.  Or  wouldn’t ask and forego what I wanted. If I didn’t ask it was usually because I made up in my mind that my parent was already going to say no.

I’m clearly not a girl anymore. Neither is Chrystal. And the book isn’t for girls, tweens, or teens.  It’s for women who know that who they find themselves to be today is hiding in the shadows of who she believed herself capable of being when she was a girl. It’s for the woman who knows “This ain’t it.” Whatever the this is. It’s for the woman who needs a reminder that as a woman, she (you) can grant herself permission to keep going, even if going forward means a moment to pause, go back and get the girl in you, and two step forward.

Permission is a form of validation. It’s a form of saying, “Yes I too think you can do what you are seeking to do, so go on and do it.” We get to grant ourselves permission. We get to say that we are capable, deserving, and worthy. We get to say go forth, create, dream, explore. We get to say yes. We get to believe. We get to say “Yes, you can do what you are seeking to do, so go on and do it.”

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that God knew I was in need of a reminder that I already have the permission to live the life I dreamed of as a little girl. That I have all that I need to be exactly who I was called to be.

I don’t believe your reading of this post is a coincidence. Even if you are my mom who reads all my posts (thanks Mom!). I believe it is also a timely reminder to you that you too have the permission to live the life you dreamed of as a little girl. You have what you need to live the life you were created to live.  You can do what you are seeking to do, go on and do it.

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Photo courtesy of Marie Claire UK

 

Still Here

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Photo courtesy of Nicole Malonson

Yesterday I shimmied out of 32 and suited up in 33.  I celebrated the way I needed with lots of indulging in the things I love and give me life.  I woke up early on my birthday, wandered down the 14 wooden steps, gave the cat my usual side eye good morning greeting (I will never be the feared stereotyped cat lady, because I do not like cats, but I tolerate Eddie), put the kettle on, and tried to select a tea from the pantry, excitement swelled from within.  “I’m still here,” I whispered.

I’m still here. Emphasis on I.  Things that are core to who I am, how I see myself, life, the world, and how I choose to engage the world, are still intact. The parts of who I am that have taken a brutal beating this last year have not been obliterated, erased, destroyed. My heart, new fractures, but still intact, still beating. My dreams, shaded by hues of grey often, still have bursts of pinks, greens, reds, purples, and blues, still bringing me life and pushing me to breathe life into their process of transformation to reality.  My convictions, especially about treating people well , with dignity, justly, and loving them, rejected, retaliated against, hammered, yet still solid, firm, defiant, and smiling slyly. My faith, tampered with, picked at, tried, is still rooted, unrelenting, here. And my joy. Lord my joy.  A year full of joy stealing miscreants who nibbled and chiseled, but never got away with  my joy. I’m. Still. Here.

The period at the end of that phrase looks good. “ I’m still here.” It reads as a complete sentence. No need to edit, rewrite, or consult a thesaurus or dictionary.  It’s just enough. It even sounds good. Go ahead and say it out loud. I’ll wait. Sounds good right? Oh wait. Say it again and emphasize the I.  Sounds really good right? Focusing on you, giving yourself a verbal high five of validation, that despite all that you’ve got going on or been through yourself, you are making it. You are still here.

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Photo courtesy of Allie Berry 

As I sat on the front porch slowly sipping my tea  looking at my street welcoming the day with swaying trees, chirping birds, and couple of squirrels being coy with one another, “I’m still here” was followed by Now what?”  I’m still alive (Thank you sweet baby Jesus and grown man Jesus) so how am I going to actually live?

I gave myself permission to ponder that question not only in the moment, but the rest of the day, and the coming days. I had survived the last year and all of its offerings. I had even tasted moments of thriving. Knowing the difference between the two, is what kept me from shying away from the now what, what’s next, and instead delete the period after I’m still here and continue it on. Develop it. Dream it out, write it out, draft it, edit it, and continue.   I know that a huge part of my “Now what?” is moving back to Pennsylvania and returning to being a counselor with a private practice that also allows me to do some consulting with organizations. I know it also includes being a way better steward of all of my gifts and talents, but particularly as a writer. I love to blog, but I think there’s a book in me waiting to come out.

I am still here. You are still here. We, dear one, are still here. Take the emphasis off the here and shine the light on you. Shine the light on all of the things that make you you. Zero in on all  that life has tried to borrow, barter for, steal, snuff out, drown, strangle, or destroy but couldn’t. Those are your strengths, your gifts, your talents, that have been helping you survive. Revel in that. Smile, high five yourself, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and toast yourself.  Then use those same things to delete the period after “here.” Use those core attributes of you that are still intact to wade, tread, crawl, walk, run, leap, into what gives your soul life, transforms alive to living, and surviving to thriving.  xxoo

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Photo courtesy of Damon Baker