Cause Life Is Not A Rough Draft- Just Some Of The Circumstances

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Photo courtesy of Urbana Tumblr.com 

I am a sucker for a good story. My friends are too. When we gather, whether face to face or via a phone or skype date, they can count on me having a good story to share and life has rarely ever allowed me to leave them disappointed.  And, I’d be lying if I didn’t share, I kinda like being the one they can always count on for a great story. Now, I d o not, I repeat, I do not go out in hunt of a good story. I promise.  The stories find me. It’s like this weird “she likes stories” LoJack thing going on. The stories find me, I readily surrender, and it’s a done deal.

 

So, in true perhaps subconsciously asked for gift from the universe to  Ahyana King form, there was no way I was leaving Buffalo to move back to Philadelphia this past week, without a story. And honestly, maybe at this point, the creme de la creme of stories.  Now, I’m not going to give you the story right now. I know. You feel  led on and want to go read some other blog right at this point. I don’t blame you. But, do me a favor? Hang in there. I am going somewhere with this whole story thing.  However, as great as the story is, what I realized, as I laid in bed in my sweet hotel room in DC on my impromptu girls trip get away, staring at the beautiful brick rooftop patio on the hotel across the now quiet street from our hotel, was there is having a story to tell about someone or something and then there is wanting someone or something to be a part of your story. I had met someone who I want to be a part of my story- it’s a choice, it’s my right to edit and add, as opposed to edit and delete. It’s a pot twist with a yes and and not a no, not today, not ever.

When I write,  I remind myself to tell the story that is mine to tell.  I am reminded that I have ownership, and with that comes responsibility for sure, but also freedom. I am free to create distance between what is happening and what I am creating in my life, or to move closer with curiosity or caution (sometimes both), compassion, and commitment, because it is my story, my life, and I am not victim to cosmic happenstance.  You are not victim to cosmic happenstance.

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Photo courtesy of The Madmoiselle.com

I know. You read that and maybe you are tempted to roll your eyes. Maybe you succumb to your temptation. It’s cool. You’re probably thinking that there is a lot in life that has “happened” to you legitimately through no fault of your own. I hear you boo. I didn’t ask to be born with any of the social identities I have, especially the ones that have incurred pain and oppression (cause make no mistake, I heart my social identities even if others don’t), and neither did you.  I realize that you didn’t ask for the life changing diagnosis, the fertility challenges, the layoff, the death, car accident, flood, wildfire, earthquake, or to live in a country with corrupt leadership and years upon years of ethnic wars and genocide.  Those things write themselves into our stories.

However, we get to choose the impact and role they play in our life stories. Every incident doesn’t need to be the climax. We can choose if the circumstance serves as context for our stories, giving understanding to our sensitivities, passions, and decisions. The story can be, we are unable to have children. Or it can be, because we were unable to have children, we decided to adopt, and to adopt children with special needs, because we learned that children with special needs are not as readily adopted as children without them. We can decide that because we witnessed government corruption, we will run for office, engage in community mobilizing, or be like my rockstar friend lola Adele-Oso and start organizations like Act4Accountabilty that work to hold governments more accountable for their actions or lack of action.

We are still the chief editors of our stories even when life decides to author a chapter of it here and there. We still get to choose if it is just a story or we want to integrate it into our story- if we want to own it or let it own us.  I have to tell you, when you chose the latter- integrating it into your storm, it’s a bit vulnerable, yet super empowering.

My hope for you this week is that you choose your story versus a story. That you move closer to your current circumstances, perhaps with caution, and edit as you need. Just make sure you realize that editing is not always about subtracting. Sometimes it’s substituting and sometimes it’s adding or multiplying. Engage in your life this week, and as much as your mind, spirit, and body can manage (self care is important and for some of you, your story right now is begging for some deleting), be all in, show all the way up, linger, talk it out, work it out, shoot, dance and sing it out.  Get all up in in you and all that you are and do this week. Get all up in the bed time story with your little one because you really do enjoy parenting and time with them. Get all up in their soccer game, all up in the person trying to get to know you better at their soccer game (unless you are already with a partner- please don’t be flirting and cheating and then trying to say I told you to “be all in” and you want to “add to your story”). Focus at the meeting and when the numbers or idea doesn’t make sense, carefully craft and ask your questions or pitch your alternatives at the appropriate time. Get all up in the research to start your new business, even if the last two didn’t go as well. Everybody who has a business didn’t hit it out the park on the first swing.  Get thee to that weight-watchers meeting and figure out this diet and exercise thing, so you can create the shift you want, for the level of health you want (or your doctor says you need). Remember, life in it’s entirety is not a rough draft, just some of the circumstances. My hope for you this week, is really what it has been since this blog was launched four-ish years ago- that you live, and when your story comes to a close, those who read it will know you wrote your story and not a story. xxoo

2015 Dylan & Ceara LA

Photo courtesy of Tomas x Alex.com

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

Can I Get a Witness?

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Photo courtesy of Bryan Adams

It was a rather public and maybe even scandalous divorce. I remember being so a miffed and hurting for her, for him, and for their little guy. I remember her sharing that while she wasn’t sure getting married again was something she wanted; there was something about having a partner in life to bear witness to her life and her doing the same for them that mattered deeply to her. She got married again 🙂

Her words about bearing witness have stuck with me, years later, moves across country and back later, jobs later, moments after speaking to a friend interviewing for a job and remaindering her that I am cheering her on, that she will be the recipient of prayers, good thoughts, and well wishes today during her journey. Moments after reading a text from another friend who was starting her own professional and scholarly journey, remixing her resume and starting a PhD program application. Moments after skyping with one of my favorite friends back home, sipping our morning beverages, laughing, sighing, breathing, smiling. Moments after reading text from another favorite friend navigating the hurt and bouts helplessness that comes with her living here in the US and so many friends and family members in a country that is being overcome with government greed and corruption. Moments after watching people I care deeply about wade through the loss of a miscarriage. Moments of bearing witness and an immense sense of gratitude to bear witness to their lives and them bearing witness to my own.

Witnesses are present. Observant. Sometimes silent partners in the business of our lives, but their presence, contributions, investment in us matter deeply. They are part of our stories, key characters, but not the authors or even the editors really, although they may serve from time to time as narrators.  They are the people in our lives who we can trust to cheer us on, because they show up and witness us in all of our human glory- the glorious failures and the glorious successes.

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Photo courtesy of N. Gardner

It’s been very recent, like oh, I don’t know maybe a little over a week now, that I have found myself acutely aware of and grateful for the folks who are witnesses to my life. Hard times will do that for you. Challenges in life will usher the folks who can stand and give an account of us, of our strength, our heartiness, our power, our creativity, capacity, and hope to the forefront of the crime scene tape, the danger zone signage, the chalked outlines of the things that have died- the child, relationship, job, goal, dream, etc.  

Witnesses will nod at the well meaning protectors of us, and say “I know her” and “You are forgetting something that can help.” They bend under, step over, mind the shattered pieces, and reach out to us. They aren’t put off by the moments we tremble, our tears, the dirtiness of the situation, the sweat, or the wounds. They draw closer because in moments that we can’t see particularly clearly, they see for us and promise to see with us as we move onward, upward, forward, lingering in case we stumble backwards.

Witnesses believe. They believe us, in us, for us, with us.

As I’ve recently been advocating and wading through a breach of civil rights and discrimination, the witnesses in my life had made all the difference.  They have been the ones who’ve believed, who wouldn’t let me give into being gas lighted, sent and served as resources, didn’t sugar coat the uphill battle nor did they let me just roll down the mountain into a valley of despair.  They’ve reminded me of who I am and what I’m capable of. They’ve reminded me of whose I am and what He is capable of.  They’ve breached the crime scene tape,  swept together the broken pieces, assisted in crowd control, photographed the things that died and kept track of the things that are in critical condition but able to make a full recovery.  They’ve not shied away from my trembling, swollen, heavy, complicated, wounded self.

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Photo courtesy of Rachelle Rae

My hope this week is that you are reminded of the people who draw close to you and bear witness to your life. Despite the current challenge you face- the loss, the separation, the lay off, the break up, the diagnosis, that you can see through the blurriness of your tears and surpass the shock of your wounds, and see the person or persons in your life who are breaching the black and yellow boundaries yelling “I know her” or “I have something to add to help” and moving towards you. May you welcome the witnesses and may you serve as a witness. May you breach someone else’s roped off situation.  May you yell “I know her”, may you add to their lives as they muddle through addressing the situation. May you remind them that you believe them, believe in them, will believe for them, and with them.  May you be aware of the people who will show up and be present in your life and may you be and do the same for others (and yourself, you can show up for you too boo). xxoo

 

 

 

 

Actively Authentic

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Photo courtesy of Urban Bush Babes.com

“But here’s the thing,” I wrote in half print, half lazily but legibly curled letters, “Don’t call me if you don’t know Jesus,” and left him my phone number.  I showed the note to my friend who laughed a laugh that was somewhere between good luck and don’t you think that’s a bit much, to make sure my handwriting was legible. I sat the note atop the receipt, gathered my bags as my friend gathered hers, and slipped out the side door of the restaurant just as easily as we slid through it, tired and ready for drinks and appetizers. “Well, I guess we’ll see, ” I told her. “Oh he’ll call, ” she said. “Only if he knows Jesus or is illiterate. Cause I said don’t call if you don’t know Jesus.”

The following morning I was relaying the story to another friend while I picked over a veggie frittata and sipped a soy chai latte, telling myself I can indeed leave the cute little shop on Connecticut Avenue without a slice of caramel, carrot, or chocolate cakes, cookies, tea bread, or any of their decadent desserts staring me down across the marble table. “Oh, so did he call? ” she asked. “No, or at least not yet. But that’s the thing. If he doesn’t call it means he doesn’t know Jesus and I don’t want to waste time getting to know someone who doesn’t share the same faith as me. Or he does call and unless he’s rebellious, then at least I know we have our faith in common, ” I responded. “Oh Ahyana that is so smart. I love it. No wasting time- yours or his.” “Exactly!”

It was bigger than not wasting each other’s time though. For me, it was about being actively honest about what I want and don’t want. It was the commencement to me living out a renewed commitment to myself to not settle for knowing what I want and not going for it, taking a wait and see approach, but knowing what I want, owning it, and living it out.  The reality for me is I am not even close to interested in getting to know a guy who does not have the same faith as me. I’m not into missionary dating (Oh if I date him, live out enough Jesus, he’ll come around and join my faith). I’m pretty open to a lot of things in the guys I do occasionally date (race/ethnicity, hobbies/interests, them not liking the Warriors the way I do, political views, etc.), but the faith piece, that is a non negotiable. Because it’s a nonnegotiable, I need not negotiate my time to get to know someone who doesn’t share my faith. I need not get attached or let them get attached, when that’s not what I want in a partner.  I need not buy a dress, shoes, get my hair done, sty up past my bedtime on a work night, or force myself to watch a sci-fi movie for someone who doesn’t share a core value of mine, something I know I honestly want in boo and is a part of a lifestyle I honestly seek to live out.

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Photo courtesy of Lolo Bu.com

It’s also been me getting my stride as I keep striving on a journey that has been painfully difficult for me the past couple of years. The past few years have been riddled with this weird strange now I see you now I don’t phenomena. When it’s convenient all of me is seen  and when it’s not convenient bits and pieces of me are seen and desired. When I’m visible it’s what can be taken for their gain and when I’m not visible it’s rejecting what I have to offer despite my knowing or the research to say it’s necessary at this time. This moment however, this moment of here’s the deal sweet guy with all that southern hospitality and humor, if you aren’t interested in all of me which means knowing sweet grown man Jesus, then you gotta keep moving was my refusing to be seen or shared in bits and pieces. I’m done with the folks who like bits and pieces. I want the folks who are interested in me as a whole, a whole person who really sees and engages the world through how I’ve come to know Jesus and how I’ve come to make meaning of my faith and living it out.

Here’s what I’m hoping for you this week. I’m hoping that you do something, anything, that reflects you actively living out what you know you want and or need in your life. That you get past the list on your phone, picture you posted on your vision board from Glamour magazine, swiping right, inserting the chip, and actually do something that really reflects the person you desire to be. My hope is you take a moment to be honest with yourself and then with others in some real way. You say “Not today,” “No, ” “I’m not interested,” “I’m not comfortable,” “That won’t work,” “I’d like to try that,” “I don’t need that,” “Don’t call me if you don’t know Jesus.”  There is something wonderfully liberating when we choose to move past thinking, wanting, longing, envisioning, praying, and imagining the person and the life we want for ourselves and start doing.  Some might have said as someone who doesn’t date much and hasn’t had many boyfriends, it was risky saying that to a a guy who could be a potential partner. That I’m not getting any younger. Maybe.  I know. I think it would have been risky if I consciously made one more decision that wasn’t aligned with what I want and  my own potential. May your week serve up moments to live out your honesty and authenticity.  Oh, and yes, he called 😉

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Photo courtesy of Start Handing Out Stars Tumblr.com

Glow Through What You Go Through

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Photo courtesy of 41 Media Tumblr.com

“My name’s Dan,” he said and extended his hand.

I smiled and extended my own. “Ahyana,” I said.

He complimented my hair, made a joke about his own mostly silver cropped bone straight tresses, shared he’s a regular at this particular Starbucks and has no idea how we’ve never crossed paths. I told him I tend to come in the mornings and being here in the afternoon was not my norm but is where my day had led me.  He smiled, said he didn’t want to keep me from whatever I was working on, but just wanted to say hello. “You’ve got this glow and you’re just really giving off some good energy. You’ve got great vibes.”  I smiled, returned to the project that brought me to Starbucks on a sunny gorgeous Saturday afternoon, and was grateful that it was just a light short conversation-  nothing more. He strolled over to the high top two seater table near the pick- up counter to wait for his order.

Staring at the presentation on my screen, highlighting the text to change the font, I laughed. He was perhaps the fourth person to mention this “glow.” The others previously weren’t acquaintances, but friends. They were friends I’d known for the past 8 to 15 years, friends who knew that the past 8 months had been really hard, two who knew that just the past 48 hours had been really painful, like headed to the hospital kind of pain. Shucks, the past 48 minutes had even been a struggle. Seriously. Starbucks on a sunny gorgeous Saturday afternoon was in part because I needed to focus and get some things done, but it was also the best I could manage in an attempt to deal with my anxiety.  Anxiety that came as an attack just a few days before and had been coaching me to stay home, inside, in my bedroom where it was safe, familiar, and I had some control.

I wanted to go to the art festival downtown. I wanted to go capitalize on the semi annual sales with my collection of rewards and coupons. I wanted to get my nails done before heading to DC to present at conference about mental health and wellness for Black and Latino students. I wanted to go to Target and see if that light weight white and multi colored striped tassels at the ends throw that I thought would look great draped over the chair in the corner of my bedroom was still there (and still on clearance).  But I was too anxious and thought that perhaps I’d stick close to home today and maybe later try to do some of the things I wanted to do, or maybe Sunday would be better than Saturday. After all Saturday was better than the anxiety I was feeling Friday, and Friday was better than Thursday.

So, I took my differently styled blonde curls, made up face, fun floral printed swing dress I snatched up with whispered thanks to Jesus at Nordstrom Rack during my last trip to Philadelphia, grabbed my laptop ad went half a block to Starbucks and met Dan, who said I was glowing.

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

I’m calling the glow friends and Dan the random older guy coffee shop man are referring to as my glow through what I’m going though glow.  More simply stated- my making it glow.  Because after all, that’s all I’m doing- I’m making it. Not barely and not swimmingly, but slowly, purposefully, creatively, tenaciously, rebelliously. I’m committed to pushing, pulling, and pumping the breaks when I need to. I’m devoted to advocating for myself as fiercely and persistently as I have for the students and clients I’ve been privileged to work with other the past 12 years.  It’s that don’t call it sweating, call it glistening kind of glow. That flickering flame in dark moments that just keeps burning because it keeps getting fanned, sometimes by myself, sometimes but my tribe of family and friends glow.  It’s the glow that comes from a deep knowing that I’m going to be alright, everything will be okay, and despite the circumstances, when I focus, I don’t need to worry about a thing. It’s the result of a decision to constantly be in touch with myself, letting in who and what I need to let in (wine, chocolate, Redbox movies, a smaller and tighter circle of friends, church, etc.), and keeping at bay who and what I don’t (an entire pizza, candy/sugar, too much wine, brother man  who tried it and brother man who keeps trying it, etc.), and not beating myself up for those necessary decisions kind of shine.  By the way, if you need to let in that whole pizza, go on and do your thing.

I started this post when I was so over editing my presentation for Friday afternoon. I’m finishing it the following day, in Stabucks, but no Dan. I’m finishing it having managed to get my nails done, gone to Target, tried lunch at a new coffee shop downtown that I stumbled across while meandering the streets of the art festival (mhmm, I made it there), and having made peace with the weekend coming to an end and capitalizing on those semi annual sales online…or while I’m in DC this week.  I’m finishing this post with the same glow.

I’m also finishing it holding space in my heart and prayers for those reading this who feel like you’re doing anything but making it and made it is nothing more than a cute artsy font mantra on a canvas or mug you rolled your eyes at while making it to the line in TJMaxx. You’re making it. We’re making it. You’re glowing and I bet you don’t even realize it. You’re glistening girl. You are oozing with the hope that comes with knowing that your current circumstance is not it. You are working this life thing out-refinancing, downsizing, parting ways with relationships that are more harmful than healthy, applying to go back to school, applying for the promotion, filing the HR discrimination or harassment complaint, going to the gym, admitting that your anxiety, depression, grief, etc. is more than you want to handle on your own. You. Are. Glowing.  Your light is shining and it’s lifting others and you. Trust me.  For those of you whom life has granted you some reprieve and overall things are pretty good, that is awesome!  You got a glow too. Just do me a solid- point out the glow in others this week. Someone might need to hear or read (mhmm, you can send a little text, email, tweet, direct message, snail mail, etc.) that you see their light, even if it’s embers from a fire that is so close to being out and needs you to speak life to fan the flame and kindle a full on bonfire type of glow. Shine on this week. Don’t give up. Reach out to the people you trust care for you and let them know what’s up and what you need (or don’t need, or think you need). Glow through what you go through. Stay lit! xxoo

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Everything Isn’t for Everybody

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Photo courtesy of Jasmine Sanders via Instagram

“Everything isn’t for everybody,” I told myself perplexed by the events that had just taken place. I couldn’t wrap my head around the behavior and I knew it was behavior that was so not me. “Don’t judge,” I told myself. Then I let that one go cause we, I and you, judge all the time. All. The. Time.  “Maybe I’m old or it was how  was raised,“ I thought and that was why the behavior seemed so strange and confusing to me.  Then I circled back to “Everything isn’t for everybody.”  And  trust me, what I observed, sure enough was not for this body.

 

A few days later shortly after listening to a podcast I called a friend to recommend it to her. I was going on and on about how great the podcast was. It was spot on for things I’d been pondering, praying, and journaling about. I found it both convicting and comforting, insightful yet strangely reminiscent of a conversation my friend and I had three springs ago when I was taking a walk down one of my favorite endlessly winding roads while still living in the pacific northwest.

Her enthusiasm did not match mine. Like wasn’t even close. Like I could have said I found a five legged puppy or a dress that was a little snug on me a few months back now fits flatteringly well again and I would have heard the same lack of enthusiasm. She listened patiently, threw in an occasionally “Oh okay” or “Mmm. Mhm.” She even offered an “I see.”  To which internally I was like “Um but do you really though?” I  thought she must be distracted. But I could tell she wasn’t, mostly because I have gotten good at being able to tell when she is.  She was really listening. I just didn’t understand her lack of excitement about my experience, my revelation, my reminder that the prayers prayed and thoughts pondered, had not gone unnoticed or unheard. I called her to share what I thought was a great experience and recommended the podcast so that she could experience similarly. Yet it didn’t seem like she was headed down the road to my experience, because the reality is, it was my experience and everything isn’t for everybody.

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Photo courtesy of Urbanna Tumblr.com

It’s not uncommon to hear me say that “Sharing is caring,” or “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I’m a believer in “Better together”, and a fierce fighter against misery loving company when it should be joy and happiness and all things positive that loves lots of company.  I write this blog because I refuse to believe I’m the only person rocking this planet with the thoughts, experiences, disappointments, joys, ponderings, strivings, successes, or need for reminders to keep going and that I get to choose even when circumstances in life strongly suggest otherwise. I love me some me, but I also have a huge soft spot for some we.

What I’m learning however is that some things in life are meant just for me. Some things aren’t meant for sharing and that doesn’t make me less caring.  Sometimes it’s a party of one situation and that doesn’t make me any less team oriented or deter from the goal at hand.  There are times that things will resonate with me so strongly because it is truly a response to something that I have been seeking insight about. There are parts of the journey in life that are not meant to be shared, that aren’t a bus trip, girl’s weekend, staff retreat, coupes seminar, family reunion. Nope, it’s a narrow path in a strange land, sometimes with just enough room for me to inhale and hold my breath for safe passage.

Furthermore, if we don’t learn to identify those me, myself,  and I moments, we hijack our journey, delay arrival to our destiny, pitch a tent on the periphery of our purpose. We  waste time trying to get folks to board a kayak for one, swearing it’s a cruise liner. We linger with our backpacks on waiting for folks to pack theirs, to join us, on a trip whose itinerary was set for just us. We forgo getting started, continuing, or even finishing different jaunts during the journey because since they were so positively life changing, we can’t bear the thought of not having others join in. We thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp linguini that we buy some for them, waiting impatiently for them to eat it, not realizing they have an allergy to shrimp and what we found to be extremely delicious will kill them. Everything is not for everybody.  We give up time, perspective, progress, peace, joy, and so many other things when we don’t take a moment to discern if this is a moment that is meant for us and us alone, or for others.  Sometimes there are seasons in our lives that are intently and intensely just for us. The same way there are things we only learn about ourselves in context and connection of others, there are some things we can only discover, experience, love, or change unless it’s just us.

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Photo courtesy of Vogue Spain 

My hope for you this week is that you pick up on what’s meant for you and you alone, and that you treasure that, hold onto it, be selfish with it. It was meant for you.  May you begin to come to peace with the fact that there are some things that aren’t meant for you to share, and you need not feel guilty about that.  Take the love notes, lessons, and reminders offered to you this week and make sure you acknowledge that the sender sent it you- not you and your partner, you and bae, you and your family, you and your staff, you and your bff, but you. The moment , revelation, podcast,  etc. was addressed to you. Open it, enjoy it, live into it.

Plot Twist

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Photo courtesy of @EvellynLousye

I first saw it on blessed Pinterest. It was a cute reminder in some cute font probably named something pretty and random like the Arielle font or the Pinky Promise font (I wouldn’t mind getting a gig naming font types), “When something goes wrong in life. Just yell Plot Twist! and move on.” That’s what I yelled  (Internally I yelled this, you can’t be outside by yourself at a bus stop yelling, on the phone or not. You either look disrespectful or slightly left of center) Wednesday afternoon on my way home from work talking to my mom.

 

I “yelled” this as soon as I heard myself say to her “I keep going to the toxicity and I just can’t anymore. I don’t want to.”  It took saying those words aloud, verbalizing the sick habit I had of constantly re entering that which I knew was chronically toxic and unhealthy, for me to declare a plot twist, that things as they had been were done (for real this time).

We hung up shortly thereafter and as I rode home, I rode quiet and content with a decision that I had been putting off at that point almost two months. A decision that would alleviate if not obliterate the dysfunction.  I was hoping, despite just finishing a book about decision making (don’t judge me) that if I waited it out things would change and I wouldn’t have to decide. If I did more of this, less of that, tomorrow, next week, or next quarter, it would be different.  If I re evaluated then maybe I’d see where it was actually my fault, that I wasn’t being gracious enough, was too quick to judge without all of the information, they were busy, I needed to learn to be more patient, maybe I was making mountains out of molehills. But nothing changed, except I was getting sicker (literally getting physically sicker) and found myself increasingly low key angry (I don’t know if low key angry exists, but I know when you are constantly the minority as a Black woman you work mad hard to keep that rational angry response under the surface as hard as possible), sad, or numb.

I arrived home, changed, and headed to the gym smiling. In part because I was hoping to cross paths with my super fine gym crush whom. Think Jesse Williams with a dash of Brian Austin Green, and that’s him.  In part smiling because the nausea I felt for the last two months about my decision had dissipated and despite knowing that there would be many more decisions to be made after this one, and I’m gonna have to step my emotional resiliency game way up, it aligned with who I am,  what I believe, and who I aspire to be.

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Photo courtesy of Ebone Coffee 

Gym guy was not there, but was there as I pedaled, walked, and glided was the realization that I’d had enough of all the toxicity in my life. Somehow someway in the past couple of years, dysfunction had become a very regular bedfellow of mine. Just like the rise and fall of the elliptical, memories, decisions, relationships, circumstances  came to the forefront of my mind that each were colored with various shades of dysfunction, toxicity, default. I’d been experiencing life in default.  I was over it.

Dysfunction may seem sustainable, but honey, it’s not. It presents as low maintenance (and as women in particular, we like a break every now and then. We love a good deal, something that will make our lives just a little easier even if just for a moment), and it is low maintenance if the type of low maintenance you are looking for is death. Because that’s what it does. It squeezes life from us, our goals, dreams, relationships, etc.  It leaves us less in a deficit and tricks us into dysfunctional default until we aren’t us anymore.

I took to my journal highlighting the various themes of unhealth. It was fascinating to see the overlaps and the commonalities. Moments where decisions seemed very independent of each other because it was a different physical environment, guy, area of study, charge card, number on the scale, age, but at the core, same patterns and familiarity of learning to settle, accept, and function in dysfunction and toxicity.

Post Wednesday’s epiphany, I’ve been looking at the themes and patterns of dysfunction in my life and what I keep saying I want (but am moving at a snail’s pace towards).  It’s been everything from knowing I need a solid morning pre work routine that’s been hard to establish since moving to Buffalo so this week purposefully getting up earlier to go for morning walks and drink green tea and take in my favorite part of the day.  There’s been a pause on communicating with folks who I should just wish them well, send up a prayer, and keep it moving  to communicating with someone and letting them know that it just ain’t gone work.  There’s been more reading, a balance of non fiction and fiction, because while I love a good book about helping me be the best version of me, sometimes reading and laughing about the lives of  fictional characters and imagining their southern accents is what I need.  There’s also been some time really planning my future, coming to terms that I’ve done more wishing than actually planning and making calculated decisions and steps to manifest the life that I want and believe I was created to live.

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Photo courtesy of We Heart It.com

Sometimes we need to disrupt the stories of our lives. To do that, we have to be reading and willing to edit what has been written.  It was not until those words left my mouth, intended for my mother to hear, that I heard them too and was jolted out of the haze of dysfunction I’d been recently navigating my life through. It wasn’t until I heard my own voice in my own story that I was able to say I don’t like this, and not settle for “it’s got to change” or “something’s got to change”, but that I’ve got to change.

So my hope is that this week, if your story needs disrupting that you go on and disrupt it. You don’t have to wait for someone else or something else to disrupt it. Truth is, it may not happen. The person may never apologize, pay the large amount of money they borrowed from you and has now left you in a financial bind three years later, tell you why they broke off the engagement, ask you out on that date, promote you, etc.  The environment may not get any better  despite how often you’ve gone to HR, senior leave administrators shuffled into new roles and more trainings, how much bigger the house is and it being in the suburbs, etc.   You can change your story.  You can re evaluate, re imagine, and recreate. You can yell “plot twist”.  And if you aren’t ready to yell it, maybe you whisper it. Maybe it starts with a resolve to sit down and look at the dysfunction to see how isolated or pervasive it is. Maybe it’s just taking a break from seeking validation on social media. Maybe it’s giving yourself permission to actually leave the office at 5pm or tell your mom that you actually can’t take her to bingo this week but maybe your sibling who lives with her or the sibling that lives in the apartment of her can do it. Maybe it means you are going to the library to read after work instead of going home to make dinner, because well your 14 year old is totally capable of dinner for herself even if that means a bowl of cereal and your partner is capable of doing similarly.  Maybe it means going to the gym and making sure that if you and cute gym guys cross paths, you’ll actually speak. Be brave enough to write your story and yell “plot twist,” and move on when necessary. Be well!

When something goes wrong in life. Just yell Plot Twist! And move on