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

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

 

 

Managing the Middle

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Photo courtesy of Dear Frances.com

If you’ve ever lived on a  super cute little side street,  with porches and front yards that make you swoon, the occasional barking dog, and trees that beg you to step up your multi tasking game of looking up and watching where you walk, book ended by two main thoroughfares or even one main thoroughfare, you can relate. I live on said super cute little side street.  In order to make it just about anywhere- work, the gym, the grocery store, Target, or Starbucks, I have to cross a big ol’ busy street.

Now, there’s a method to crossing at the end of my street which intersects smack in the middle of the busy street.  First, the traffic lights at one end of the busy street has to be red and at the other, they need to be green.  Then, I have to make it to the middle of the street before it narrows into turn lanes. If can make it to the middle, getting all the way across the street is typically easy peasy. Make it to the middle then make it all the way to my final destination, which depending on the day could be to work or to get a tall soy green tea latte.

I’m learning in this season of my life, it’s important to get to the middle but not to get stuck. The middle is not the final destination, just a place to pause, so I can strategically get where I am trying to go. It’s important to start. To make the lists, to apply, to purge, to let go, to shift. It’s necessary to take the class, download the app,  meet with the financial adviser, unsubscribe from your favorite shops so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on “a great deal” every time an email comes through,  do your homework on the best counselors in the area, etc.

It’s even more important to accomplish work through the list and get stuff done, submit the application, attend the class, use the app, stick with the budget prescribed by your financial advisor and use that budget to empower you to not re-subscribe to your favorite shops for “a great deal”,  and complete an intake with the counseling practice you think will best meet your needs.

But what’ most important, is to make it all the way across, to get to the other side, journey on to our final destination.

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Photo courtesy of By Tezza.com

Can you imagine if all I ever did was get to the end of my sweet little side street, make it safely to the middle and stayed in the middle? Can you imagine if I just stayed there? If i never paid attention to the changing lights at either end of the busy street that created the conditions for me to finish the process I started? If I ignored the slowed cars, waving hands, and usually smiling faces that signaled “Danger is not present, be cautious, but go for it, cross the street, continue your journey, get to your destination”? Someone would probably call the police and say “There is a woman who is just standing in middle of the street. While she’s not disrupting traffic per se, she may end up getting hurt or causing someone else to get hurt.”

It sounds pretty ridiculous, right?

Yet, we do this. We make it to the middle and we hang out there. We are somewhere between grateful, surprised, excited that we started and made it past the first part of the journey to the middle. We didn’t get hit, no broken bones, no EMT coming to our aid. But then, we stay in the middle. We stay  longer than necessary, ultimately foregoing  our destinies.

We settle for the job because it pays the bills and provides insurance.  Never mind that it’s not even close to the work we’ve dreamed of doing or went to get a graduate degree for.  We stay with the partner because they’re not that bad really. They pick you up from work in your car. They help out with the kids (or your kids, depending on their mood)  as long as it’s not when the game is on, they aren’t tired, there’s another happy hour, or overtime isn’t being offered. We don’t apply to the ivy league school because college is college and if you got a scholarship to Princeton you can surely get one to the state school.  Slim thick is the new black, so no need to really go to the doctor about the weight we’ve put on that we know is a result of our job, because we’re not leaving the paycheck or the comfort of being there at what was supposed to be two years tuned seven  or the half priced appetizers where we go on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday after work. We’re not going on a date after the divorce. In the middle “taking time” is acceptable. So we take six years and we look forward to year seven, even though the marriage ended because the abuse needed to end before someone’s life did.  We don’t let anyone get too close romantically because they may see the scars from when we used to cut or notice we tense up at their touch because of the attempted sexual assault, so we text a lot, talk a lot, and after the third date we find the reason to cancel date four, block their number, and try a new dating app. And we’re definitely not leaving the church we’ve been going to since we were four.  They depend on us to lead the small group bible study at our home, set up and tear down for the events, step in as second soprano if sister Angela does have to go visit her poor sick momma in Kentucky. It’s familiar. It’s manageable. We haven’t been hit.  It feels safe. The middle of that big ol street can be safe, but only temporarily.

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Photo courtesy of Because It’s Amazing Tumblr.com

The same way my chances of being hurt or causing hurt the longer I hang out in the middle of the street as opposed to finishing the process of actually crossing the street, we increase our chances of self harm and harming others the longer we linger in the middle of our journeys toward our purpose.  The longer I stay in the middle of the road, the longer I expose myself to the driver who is not paying attention to me and hits me, or swerves to avoid me at the last minute and hits someone else or something.

When we don’t figure out how to strategically navigate our middle or look for others who signal it’s safe to keep on keeping on, we rob ourselves of abundant lives;   lives that were meant to also help others on their journeys. We aren’t the best employees, partners, parents, entrepreneurs, daughters, friends, cousins, artists, leaders, versions of ourselves we were created to be.  We cheat our partners, children, friends, community members, patients, clients, and students-  offering them a hologram of us.  And, we know this.  Our bodies know this. We heap on unhealthy habits that typically lead to some type malady. We say we’re tired, feel stuck, just need a vacation, but it’s more than that. It’s the cost of settling for an illusion of safety. The middle offers an illusion of safety.  It offers the promise of almost. Let’s us take pride in starting, but it deters us from moving forward, reaching, completing, thriving, living- if we’re not mindful to manage the middle.

I’ve spent the last few years in the middle.  At first, it was exhilarating to make it to the middle. To observe enough to know when it was safe to make the initial cross- to start. There was entering a new field of work, a nice title, solid salary, new freedoms, new people, travel, and so many experiences and opportunities. However, I’ve noticed recently that it’s time for me to finish crossing the street.  The middle has served its purpose in facilitating my journey to the other side. It’s given me the time needed to note how temporary it was and how much more I’ve still got to do in order to be who I was created, gifted, and called to be. It’s given me the time needed to note the pain that results from hanging out there too long and the living that I am missing out on just hanging between what was and what will be.

My hope for you as you are on your own journey is that you stay mindful of the middle. Use it wisely, but don’t linger, don’t get stuck.  Let it serve its purpose in your life, but don’t let it hijack your purpose or your role in someone else discovering and living out their purpose.  Pay attention to the lights, the drivers, the signals so you know when to proceed with caution, but proceed nonetheless.

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Photo courtesy of HuffPost

 

 

Listen to Your Life

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Photo courtesy of Marie Claire

I sent this lovely picture (to the left to the left) of the oh so stylish SJP to one of my close girlfriends, Serena, and said “I’d like a photo op like this please.” Her response was “I can make that for you.” I didn’t doubt that she could because she is one of the most talented creatives I know and I am beyond grateful that I get to call her friend. We continued texting, about anything and everything including the winter storm threats both of our cities were under, her asking in response to my day not being what I needed when I was going to let it go and go be the best version of myself,  and good words I heard earlier in the day from one of my favorite podcasts, Chrystal’s Chronicles with  Chrystal Evans Hurst. “Listen to your life.” I texted Serena. Her response “And what’s your life saying?”

 

Can I just say that only a real friend  responds like that. Only a real friend asks the necessary question and waits for the vulnerable, unmasked, scary to text or say out loud answer. “It’s saying there’s a lot I need to shed/let go of.” 

She called me after that text and kept doing what good friends do. She shared some things she noticed when we last got together a few weeks ago over tea but waited for a better time to speak on them. She encouraged me and shared how excited she is and has always been about my gifts, talents, and goals. Lastly, she agreed that there are still some things that I need to shed.

We ended  the call with me expressing deep hope for a snow day the next day, because what I needed almost as much as I needed to go to sleep, was to be purposeful about listening to my life. I just wanted a moment.  A sweet tea, journal, pen, bible, moment to listen to what my life was saying.

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Photo courtesy of LaBella Tumblr.com

Well blessed grown man Jesus heard my prayers. Around 6am, jut after hitting snooze for the second time (I was listening to my body) a text came through from my college saying campus was closed for the day. Hallelujah!  I tried to go back to sleep after a round of group texts with family, but only for about a half an hour. Then I was up, sipping tea, and reading the devotional I purchased for Lent. The overarching theme in the passage for the day- timing, including the time for what was. I took it as a hint to make sure I made time to listen to my my lie today about what there still was for me to shed and let go of.

I won’t lie. I didn’t immediately grab my journal from my side table, ink pen, and curl up in the chair by the window in my bedroom. Nope. I got on Pinterest, Instagram, checked personal email (it was a snow day, I was not trying to check work email), etc. I got up and enjoyed some banana chocolate chip pancakes and then made my way to the gym. Don’t worry, the snow in my part of the city was still fairly reasonable to navigate and my gym is like three- ish blocks away. Walking there would be my warm up.

In fact, there was no “sweet tea, journal, pen, bible, moment” because life isn’t a moment. It’s a series of moments. So throughout the day, throughout the moments that made up my day, I did more tuning out and more tuning in to listen to my life. I paid attention to what I was attracted to on social media. I took a 2 hour nap. I didn’t answer each call that came in and was only the initiator of a few calls that went out. I didn’t even immediately respond to each text that came across my phone screen. I chose low impact machines at the gym and didn’t watch any of the televisions playing a steady stream of political news. I was selective about how I spent my time today, tuning into the decisions to be made about upcoming travel, financial commitments, time commitments, heart string commitments, telling my entire truth to a student who emailed me from my former institution about the ways in which racism, discrimination, and inequity were pervasive on campus (and from what she shared, still is) during my tenure there.

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Photo courtesy of Q. Taelor

I’m still working through Valerie Burton’s book Successful Women Think Differently. Recently I answered a series of questions helping me understand what helped me to be at my best in my relationships, finances, career, health, and faith. When I look at my responses to those questions and think about the words of Chrystal Evans Hurst, “Listen o your life,” it was crystal clear that during my best moments, I was at my best in terms of listening to my life. My boundaries were firmer, my work aligned with my beliefs, spending wasn’t a means of coping or purchasing items to look happy in an effort to overcompensate for misery, exercising 5 times a week wasn’t something I even though twice about, and I made decisions that aligned with my beliefs and the goals I had that best allowed me to live from my strengths and on purpose. The more I listened to my life, both to what I needed and wanted, the better I was. 

I want to encourage you to start listening to your life this week. Listen to what your life is telling you. Don’t hush the whispers for rest, for connection, for exercising. Don’t roll your eyes at her voice to write more, connect face to face over coffee with a friend instead of texting, make reservations for date night with your bae to nurture your relationship. Resist putting your fingers in your ears when she says call a therapist to help you navigate the burn out, depression, anxiety, or PTSD. When she says you need to spend some time dreaming a new dream, dream on. When she says you need to assert yourself, strategically and confidently go forth. When she says draft the resignation letter, draft it on the nearest napkin if you have to. When she says you are on the run, it’s okay to ask if you running from or running to. Listen to your life. Can you hear you now? 

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Photo courtesy of Start Handing Out Stars Tumblr.com

 

 

 

Finally Friday

Raise your coffee mugs, travel mugs, the baby’s sippy cups, tumblers, and wine glasses cause it’s Friday!!!! It’s been a crazy week where I’ve had quite a few unexpected plot twists in my narrative for how the week was going to go. Nonetheless, I made it, you made it, we made it! Not to mention, made it with some joyful moments that I’m sharing below. xxoo
Getting Lit
As in new lighting kind of lit. I am ant any type of ceiling or overhead light and pro lamps. So when I strolled into Target this week for a few grocery type things…and then you know over to housewares my eyes widened and my heart smiled. Not only were there lamps upon lamps on sale, like real sale, none of tat 30% off foolishness, and they were in my favorite home metallic hues…I was overjoyed. I walked out of there with two new lamps. One to cozy up my office and one to cozy up my bedroom. Both with gold bases, but one has a gold and wooden base to it, very retro, and one has a geometric pattern to it, very modern. Both very satisfying!
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Cute lamp right? xxoo

Chatty Cathy
I used to be really good at calling people back promptly. Recently, not so much. Granted recently its been much more dependent on the caller. Maybe a little dependent on my day and thus my mood. This week however, I was determined it would not be dependent upon my mood. So despite being tired from an eventful day, I picked up the phone and called some of my west coast people. People who may or may not have called um like three weeks ago ish. Don’t judge me. A few days later, I did it again. Post long day of meetings, a presentation, a post gym work out and I still got that call in.  A rescheduled phone date from last week with one of my homegirls in Philly. Feet up on the couch, white cheddar popcorn in bowl, life over the past few weeks shared, laughter in abundance.
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Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue UK

Workin it Out
This week I decided it was time for regular workouts at the gym to make a comeback. So they have. That sounds really simple, but it’s true. I decided no excuses. I have the time and it’s a matter of choosing to use the time this way. Plus the gym for me is free. As I’ve been doing all my soul work these past few weeks, paying particular attention to developing new habits and shedding habits that don’t serve me,  there’s one core element to habits- doing them. A habit only becomes a habit by doing it the first time an the then the second, third, fourth, and so on. With a commitment to being healthy and knowing exercise for me has been a great way to manage stress, there was nothing more for me to do regarding exercising than to just Nike it.
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Photo courtesy of New York Magazine 

Soul Work
When I say the universe has been against me this week- it has. I know it sounds a smidge melodramatic, but I promise you last week and this week, you would have thought I put an additional wrinkle in time, held a blow torch to the polar caps to speed up the melting process, launched  larger holes into the ozone layer. Seriously. It was week two of struggling to catch a break and put some elbow grease in joy finding on my journey to freedom. With that being said, I still manged my self care night Wednesday night. I pulled up a podcast from an author and speaker I’ve come to really enjoy lately- Chrystal Evans Hurst. The podcast was “Signs that You Don’t Want to Grow.” The podcast only reinforced what many of us know, but sometimes need to hear several times over- change only happens when we do it. Not think about it. Not consider. Not ponder, do an excel sheet, pie chart, or create a color coded list. We do it or we don’t. Growth is a form of change. We can’t want to grow if we aren’t willing to change. 
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Photo courtesy of Glamour Spain

All In The Knowing

Photo courtesy of How To Chic

Photo courtesy of How To Chic

It was probably my therapist who said it, but I honestly don’t remember who it was. Someone once said to me “Yeah, but Ahyana, you have such a strong sense of self.” I remember my face clearly communicating “Like what does that mean and why is that relevant?” This is why I am pretty sure my therapist said it. My favorite one at that. I’d feel comfortable making such a face with her.  Those words have rolled around in my head ever since they were spoken. As I sent an email reaching out to a woman who worked at my local library, they rang even more true.

The email was bout gathering over coffee to catch up since we last saw each other.  I wanted to learn more about her experience and observation of my little just under 5,500 people town on the eastern shore of Maryland. It’s hard for me to imagine doing my job well a part from relationship with the community. It’s hard for me to imagine thriving without relationships in my community. I clicked send and smiled thinking, it’s who I am. Community, connecting and connecting others is who I am. My job hasn’t made and I haven’t gotten the slightest impression that building a strong relationship with all of the town (not just those with financial abundance) will be made a priority. But it is for me.  It’s an integral part of the AKing package.

My experiences as a woman, a woman of color, as a Christian, as a Christian woman of color who grew up in a real US city with any type of strength or assuredness has not traditionally been validated or supported and sometimes tested. I’d say it’s been shamed. Whether it’s been seen as intimidating and hence my single status, or rebellious and not pleasing to the Lord thus needing to be squelched or surrendered, or used to instill fear (especially in the work place) so that I didn’t self advocate, create, imagine, or try something new as I wouldn’t want to be labeled insubordinate.  You can imagine why I wasn’t elated about being labeled strong or any other word that was similar, like confident, or even grounded.

Photo courtesy of Who What Wear.com

Photo courtesy of Who What Wear.com

It’s hard to go all in if you don’t know and accept all of you. As much as possible anyway. We change over time, with experiences, yet some core things about us are just that, core. They won’t change and those are the things to invest in knowing about yourself, knowing them well, and unapologetically. It has been in very recent years, like the last two, that I have come to own that strong sense of self I was first made aware of about three or four years ago.  So when I emailed the librarian, and later finished the calendar of events for my department at saw that both reflected integral parts of who I am, the parts that I don’t need or care if I get a directive to incorporate, don’t care or need to get paid for, were woven into what I saw, I was pleased and sent of a quick prayer of thanksgiving for who I am.

One of the scariest things about going all in is the fear of losing ones self. What happens if you dive in to the new business, the graduate school program, the relationship, the decision to get chemo or have your breast removed because breast cancer has stolen the lives of your mother and sister, the move across the country, and somehow you get lost in the sauce? It’s a real fear. One that I think is actually a sign that there are some things about you that you really like, because the thought of losing them freaks you out. Yet the reality of giving ourselves fully is we bring our entire selves and have the privilege to choose which parts of us need to evolve, be let go of, change slightly or be overhauled. We get to choose how we emerge. Even the scrapes and scratches, we can wear them with pride if we choose to.

Last week was a doozy. It was not the first week of the year I anticipated for several reasons, all the way to being in the end much of Saturday trying to recuperate. Friday afternoon I had an overdue meeting to address some bothersome dynamics between my supervisor and I.  As he got comfortable in his seat I told myself that I could just let it go. Then I reminded myself there was no way I could go all in on my goals to return to working for myself and avoid having a less than chummy conversation. Tough but necessary conversations are a part of life. Sometimes they are easier to navigate (or seem easier) when you know the person or consider yourself equal with the person. But if I am hoping to one day own a business and supervise a team then I will undoubtedly have conversation to address bothersome relationship dynamics. I was going all in and so I had the conversation.  When things were rocky, I absolutely tapped into that strong sense of self, that strong sense of knowing wat as acceptable and what wasn’t, what would benefit our working relationship and what would not, to help me lead and focus the conversation.

If you don’t have a strong sense of self or any sense of self might I suggest you make that a priority. It will be difficult, borderline impossible,  to pursue any goal, dream, calling, or purpose wholeheartedly if you don’t have any idea of what’s in your heart, moves it to action, hurts it, nourishes, and what still needs to heal.  LIVE-ing well does not happen by accident. The fruition of your dreams don’t either and neither happen by tip toeing around, wading in, or part-timing them. It takes knowing and committing your whole nothing short of amazing self. Let’s get in there.

Photo courtesy of Seventeen.com

Photo courtesy of Seventeen.com

 

LIVE-ing for the Weekend- Me & We Time

The weekends are perfect times to tend to ourselves. I personally think the weekends wee designed for us to indulge- just a little bit anyway. Last week we talked about practical ways to self care over the weekend. From bubble baths to blowing bubbles I hope there was something you found yourself doing that tended to your needs. I also shared there was a giveaway of a self care kit and that goes to one of our readers- Shakirrah R.! I’m so happy to assist in her commitment to taking care of herself. I am also happy to share what that is looking like for me this weekend. While my new town is small, it is mighty when it comes to it’s town spirit and festivities. There’s legacy day, complete with  parade, drum line, jazz band, dancing, and honoring a historical ladmark- The Uptown Club that had all type of well known jazz musicians play its stage back in the day. Then there is a little day trip a few towns over with new fun fashionistas for some outlet shopping, and of course I’m still making my new space homey, and cooking. Sundays were made for cooking…and eating. So my self care this weekend, good music, company, shopping, and food. POW! What you got? #TSLLSelfcare Until Monday! xxoo

Photo courtesy of Vimeo.com

Photo courtesy of Vimeo.com

Photo courtesy of Verily.com

Photo courtesy of Vogue Italia

Photo courtesy of Vogue Italia

Photo courtesy of Britt + Co

Photo courtesy of Britt + Co

Photo courtesy of me- yup  made and ate that. yum!

Photo courtesy of me- yup made and ate that. Eggs, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Asiago and Mozzarella cheeses. yum!

Humor Me on a Hump Day

Welcome to Wednesday, affectionately referred to here in the US as hump day. I’m sending you some hump day you can do it vibes from some of my favorite funny women. Because you know what, one of the ways I take care of myself is laughing. Whether it’s watching Pitch Perfect or Coming to America for the umpteenth time, looking at old photos of me as a kid (Sometimes there is a mixture of anger- like who let me out the house looking like that? Then there is laughter) or visiting the humor page on Pinterest, laughter makes my whole body smile (And jiggle, even the thinnest of us jiggle when we laugh. Oh and maybe Kanye doesn’t jiggle, but does he laugh?). So do yourself a favor today, soak up these thoughtful words from these funny folks, but laugh a little too…or a lot! xxoo

Photo courtesy of  Pinterest.com

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

Photo courtesy of Levo.com

Photo courtesy of Levo.com

Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller

Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller

Photo courtesy of Pin Words.com

Photo courtesy of Pin Words.com

Photo courtesy of Monica Schipper

Photo courtesy of Monica Schipper

Me, Myself, and Mindy Kaling

Photo courtesy of Birchbox.com

Photo courtesy of Birchbox.com

Tuesday nights were my comedy nights. I’d make a big ol’ bowl of stove top popcorn, smother it in butter, pour a big ol’ glass of white wine, sit cross legged in the center of my couch,  and laugh my heart out at New Girl and The Mindy Project.  If you called or texted during those shows you didn’t exist to me. Granted I would check my text and voicemail to make sure no one died or was dying- no one ever died or was dying.

Watching the Mindy Project gave way to buying her book “Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me?”.  I started the book and could not put it down, except when I had to like to go to the bathroom, pay for the soy vanilla latte I wanted to sip on as I read, go to work, oh and sleep. Then of course you had Mindy on a series of talk shows where she was talking about being herself. But not like her Beyonce self, Brad Pitt self, or Sarah Jessica Parker self.No her real brown Indian not a size 2, 4, or 6 and I don’t need to be , no blonde hair and no Hollywood I’m not dying it blonde either, I like and eat sweets several times a week if  I want  self. It was somewhere between refreshing and revolutionary. Which is kind of sad if you think about it. A human being being a human being, not a version of a human being- mind blowing. Nonetheless Mindy was out there being all authentic and as someone who was feeling like she was losing her own authenticity I was beyond appreciative of all that Mindy was daring to put out into the world. That she was daring to continue putting herself out into the world, her not a fan of one night stands, believer in marriage and romance, knows the difference between men and boys (and by boys- grown men according to age but not lifestyle) and preferring men, has experienced rejection and lived to tell about it, hardworking, ridiculously humorous, and unapologetic self out there.

Photo courtesy of Style Caster.com

Photo courtesy of Style Caster.com

It’s hard to care for, love, nurture, and protect that which has become strange to us. It’s hard to recognize our thoughts, voice, hopes, and dreams, when they’ve been smudged by hardship and unexpected circumstances that we never bother to clean (aka process- make meaning of when possible, let go as often as necessary). It’s hard to convince others that we matter when we have stopped reminding ourselves that we matter.

Mindy Kaling could have written about any number of things but she chose to write about herself. And even then, she could have offered up a version of herself, the version that didn’t admit to enjoying doughnuts so much, the time things didn’t work out with a guy that she spent half a day and dropped some money on preparing to go to dinner with only for him to cancel via text, or that she has items in her closet from Forever 21 (or had anyway she totally left that jacket at a party she skipped out early  on), and the list goes on. Read the book, I’m not offering up cliff notes.

The point is watching the Mindy Project, as well as reading and rereading her book has been a great reminder that one of the best ways to take care of myself is to be myself. It is hard keeping up with a version of me. It’s much easier to be my authentic self and live in a way that honors that person. It makes for better and healthier relationships, decisions about how I spend my time, energy, and creativity, career and academic decisions. It allows my yes to be yes and my no to be no, for my boundaries to be in place and effective.

Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

Photo courtesy of Buzzfeed.com

I’ve had guys ask me what was the best date I went on and I don’t hesitate to share that it was going to a basketball game where we had amazing seats. Afterwards we went to his place and had pizza and wings.  The second best date, just going to his place and watching the game and having pizza and wings. Do you know why these dates stand out? Because I was so myself, not a version of myself.  My jeans, t shirt, and bomber style jacket and boots. My sloppy top knot and mascara and lip gloss only beauty regimented face. All of my trash talking and eating three slices of pizza and about half the wings  and not caring what he thought about a girl who….likes to eat pizza and wings self.  I was comfortable. I was bringing myself not a version of myself, not selling myself, just myself to these dates.  While things didn’t work out in the long run, it wasn’t because of the aspect of myself that I enjoyed basketball, pizza, and wings at his place. It was because of a different aspect of myself. But here’s the thing, I didn’t change that for him and I don’t regret that choice.

The jobs that I’ve enjoyed the most were jobs where I could show up, not a version of me that met my employers satisfaction.  The friendships that have lasted the longest are the ones where I could show up. In fact one of my friends is particularly amazing at making room for people to show up whether at their best or absolute worse.

Be your doughnut eating, forever 21 jacket wearing (read the book), three slices of pizza and half the wings with the guy on date number four eating,  calling out gender bias and discrimination in front of the administration, self. It is liberating. It’s hard to take care of prisoners, especially the self imprisoned.  And if you need some serious modeling of how to just be you grab your copy of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. Read, laugh, love yourself, be yourself, eat a doughnut, and repeat.

photo courtesy of Food52.com

photo courtesy of Food52.com

Life In A #Hashtag

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sarna.com

Photo courtesy of Sarah Sarna.com

Part of why I’m glad to have this whole month to share about self care is because there are so many aspects to self care. Okay lies. There are two. Self and Care. But the self is pretty complex and there are so many different ways to care for ourselves depending on who we are, need, and desire. And, a lot of that is grounded in who we know and believe ourselves to be.  So today we are starting with the basics. Self 099 or as I posed the question to a few of you “What’s your life’s motto in a hashtag?” The way I see it, we all walk around with words we hold as truths, that motivate us, and shape our behaviors, and communicate what we value and believe.  Words are powerful and communicate who we are, what we care about (including ourselves), and where we are headed.  So these were some of the “My Life In A Hashtag responses people sent to me. Thanks for sharing!

Photo courtesy of Cuded.com

Photo courtesy of Cuded.com

#Betheexpectationsoffurexpectations and #Timewaitsfornoman- Barbie F.

#WhenIRiseWeRiseTogether and #ImLikeAPhoenixiRiseFromTheAshes- Sabine S.

#WorkHardPlayHarder and #LiveOutLoud- Caroline D.

#Daretobeextraordinary Madeline H.

#Workhardstayhumble- Camina H.

Photo courtesy of Miss Femme Xo Tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of Miss Femme Xo Tumblr.com

What’s your life’s motto in a hasthtag? #DaretoShare