From the Black Girl Project Summit With Love xxoo

Last Saturday was the end of a three weekends in a row away from my cozy corner of the world tour. There was a birthday shindig for my east coast nephew one weekend, chaperoning some rather amazing international students in Manhattan, and then as fate would have it, my last weekend away I would spend it doing what I love- talking to women and girls about living incredibly victoriously and emphatically. I would spend two hours with forty eight beautiful brown feminine faces keeping it real on the ways in which we need to imagine wellness and redefine strength. It was glorious!  I had the absolute pleasure of spending time with some incredibly beautiful, brave, and talented young women and girls at The Black Girl Project Summit in Brooklyn, NY. I was thrilled to have conversations about functional depression and redefining the strong Black woman, as well as sit in on sessions about intimacy and gender roles. Just sharing a few pictures from the day where I got to do what I love. Have a sweet weekend and I will greet you on the other side of October Monday morning! xxoo

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A Word on Intimacy

pinterest intimacy

There were a little over twenty of us around the long white table, various hues of beautiful browns waiting for our facilitator to start the conversation we were all eager to partake- intimacy. She started the conversation by sharing that we have for better or for worse been drawn into a transactional culture,  our relationships have not been spared, and true intimacy has been left under a sheet of dust in the back of a closet of what real relationships used to be like. On the surface the transactional model  seems to make sense. It seems to have a republican fairness about it.  You give me A, I give you B.  You take me to dinner I give me sex. Okay maybe that wasn’t a good example. Yet I am willing to bet that if many of us think about our past romantic relationships, maybe our current one(s) there were a series of transactions. He approached you so you gave him your number. He didn’t seem like a creep so you went to dinner. He paid for dinner so you kissed him or perhaps more. He pissed you off so he gets nothing,no dinner, no “GM” text, definitely no sex, and not even an air hug. This constant negation that we have accepted as relational normalcy that inadvertently and often leaves us emotionally disconnected with intimacy bankruptcy impacting our romantic relationship credit score.

Just to be clear, there is a difference between the presence of reciprocity in relationships and transactions. Transactions negate humanity. It refuses to see interactions as impacting the whole person-mind, body, spirit. It comes from a very selfish place.  Healthy relationships, romantic or otherwise don’t thrive on a steady diet of selfishness. Relationships built on foundations where considering, supporting, and meeting emotional needs is optional at best or made to seem frivolous and overlooked at worse simply do not thrive. Nor should they. And sex, regardless of how mind blowing multiple orgasm producing it is, does not equate to intimacy. Having sex can be a part of intimacy, but the act itself i not the same as intimacy. 

Photo courtesy of Obliterated Heart Tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of Obliterated Heart Tumblr.com

Furthermore, if you can’t show up and be present for yourself, assess and seek to meet your needs, be in tune with and manage your emotions, sit with bouts of disappointment or loneliness, celebrate your own successes or what I would like to suggest as being intimate with yourself, how can you expect or have that in the context of a relationship? 

I have met my fair share of people, especially women who have no clue of who they really are. Sure they can tell you their weight, height, favorite food, why they prefer to wear their hair a certain way, where they went to school, and what they love about being a mother or godmother or auntie. But ask them about what they do that brings them joy. Ask them about the last time they were disappointed and how they worked through that disappointment. Ask them the last time they wept because their hearts were full beyond what words could describe. Ask them the last time they said no and didn’t feel guilty. Ask them the last time they knew they were doing what they were born to do. Ask them what makes their soul shine and heart smile. Ask them their dreams.

When I ask, they usually aren’t sure. Some used to know because they used to know themselves. Yet somehow they stopped choosing to know themselves, to know the ebb and flow of their needs and desires.  They didn’t keep up with the person they were becoming and gave up on dictating who they desired to become. They’d become empty- bankrupt. Many looked exasperated at the idea of figuring themselves out. Their account was empty with the exasperation that often comes from knowing everyone else and meeting everyone else’s needs. The fatigue was the consequence. Like overdraft fees when we have no idea what’s in our account and keeping making withdraws; withdraws from empty places,lonely places, forgotten, unknown, strange places. 

Photo courtesy of Vintage Black Glamour Tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of Vintage Black Glamour Tumblr.com

If you want intimacy in your relationships be intimate with yourself first. To thine own self be true, true to what is true of who know yourself to be. The better you know yourself the better you are able to be in relationships with reciprocity and not transactions. Where there is mutual respect, trust, vulnerability, and love. You are better aware of knowing what you need and what you can offer. You don’t need to self preserve and protect, get yours first, or feel obligated to give out of fear of rejection or abandonment. You have reasonable expectations of yourself and others, and you are clear on the power you have and responsibility you have to yourself to meet your needs. Now hear me clearly. I do not believe as imperfect fallible human beings we can meet all of our own needs. We are relational beings. However no one person is going to meet every need we have and they should not be expected to meet needs that we need to meet for ourselves.

The conversation we had was rich. As I listened to the women in the room speak it was apparent to me that some had foregone themselves to go after someone else. They’d come up short. They got their emotional bank statement and it was full of overdraft fees.  My hope  for you this week is that you will take a moment and look at you emotional and relationship accounts. Where have you overdrawn? Where are you incurring hurt and disappointment because you’ve negated being intimate with you?

Falling In Love…Again

Photo courtesy of  Pinterest.com

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

There I was on my olive green sofa, under the mustard yellow and white chevron velour throw, with my stove top popcorn and glass of pinot grigio watching season five of Sex and the City. Charlotte, the hopeless romantic was sharing that she amended her “one great love in a lifetime” rule to include two great loves. Charlotte’s marriage had ended and she refused to believe that she was destined to never fall in love and marry again. She was willing to fall in love again.

Falling in love again isn’t just for Hollywood. Everyday people find the courage to fall in love again too. One such woman is Akirah Robinson, LSW, and author of Respected, a book written to help women bolster their sense of self-worth and as a result, become better prepared to participate in healthy romantic relationships. Akirah speaks from her own experience of a very unhealthy relationship that she didn’t let stop her  from ending, loving and healing herself, and then meeting, falling in love with, and marrying her now husband Dan. I got to chat with Akirah recently about falling in love again and this is what she had to say-

TSLL: When you think about when you fell in love with Dan versus the young man you were in an abusive relationship, what do you feel was different?

AR: A big thing for me with Dan was he had himself together the way my ex never really seemed to. When I met Dan, he had a career that he was passionate about, a car,  and a group of friends. He had a life that he could share with me. My ex and a few other guys I dated were finding someone, me, because they didn’t have much going on for themselves. Dan was looking for someone to complement the full wonderful life he had. Dan wanted me. He didn’t need me.  There’s a difference.

TSLL: What else about Dan made you feel like you could open yourself up to dating and falling in love again?

AR: This may sound strange, but Dan shared with me that he was friends with all of his exes. I know to some that would seem like a red flag. But for him to be on good terms with women he has dated in the past communicated maturity to me. He has never bad mouthed an ex and that was big for me. My ex would refer to his exes as bitches.

TSLL: We often hear people talk about red flags regarding dating. You even used the phrase a moment ago. What would you consider were greenlights that dating Dan was healthy?

AR: I met Dan online. We got to know each other at a pace that worked for me. Our first date happened after five lengthy phone conversations.  By the time I started dating Dan I also had a better idea of what I knew I needed and wanted. I knew I didn’t want someone who was going to put me on a pedestal. I was still leery of being someone’s everything. I also wanted to be with someone who was looking for a relationship- not someone who was dating for the sake of dating. It helped that Dan was clear in his communication about what he was looking for. He was clear in communicating his interest in me and direct in communicating wanting to get to know me more. Yet he did it in a very respectful slow paced way. He would ask if I wanted to see him and clearly shared that he wanted to see me. His clear consistent communication communicated respect and removed any doubt about how he felt about me.

TSLL: What would you encourage other brave hearts- those working on a comeback from an unhealthy or traumatic relationship experience to do to heal and maybe fall in love again?

AR: Give yourself time. You are going to feel bad for a bit and you really will be okay. I am also a huge advocate for therapy. Depending on how deep the pain goes it may be good to find a counselor or a support group- people who can either relate or model compassion. You have to be compassionate and loving towards yourself before you can do that for someone else. Also, identify what you need from a potential partner and don’t be afraid to need those things. Healthy relationships are ones in which two people can express what they need and work together to meet those needs from a place of respect and love.

Want to know more about healing, healthy relationship building, self love and respect? Visit Akirah’s blog at http://akirahrobinson.com/blog/or pick up a copy of her book, Respected.

Look Up Love!

Photo courtesy of Violet May

Photo courtesy of Violet May

The iconic new York skyline was inching closer as we made our way through the traffic that was slowing that Thursday afternoon due to accident. We waited in awe of the city, it’s whirling traffic and larger than life buildings confidently reflecting the October sky.
Shortly after we checked  into our hotel room we headed out to catch the train uptown for lunch. We got off in Times Square. If you bother to look up in Times Square you notice things you simply wouldn’t otherwise. You catch the well crafted creativity that announces itself unabashedly via architecture, sculptures, billboards, lighting, and occasionally people with sweet smiles looking down from their balconies.
We ate at Obao off of west 46th street and even sitting at the bar, my eyes were drawn up by the light fixtures, high ceilings, and the rolling ladder attached to the end of the bar used to get the top shelf liquor- the good stuff.
It’s kind of funny right. The good liquor is what’s on top, what you have to look up for, what you pay more for. It’s not shelved at eye level. It’s not kept in plain sight.The good stuff is never easily attained or left in plain sight.

Photo courtesy of David LaChapelle

Photo courtesy of David LaChapelle

The rest of the day I found myself looking up more. Sometimes it was necessary, like to see the sign on the corner of Broadway for our hotel. If I didn’t look up I would miss my turn for the side street entrance to my hotel. Sometimes looking up is necessary. Sometimes we will find ourselves in circumstances where we feel boxed in, acutely aware of the barriers to be overcome. The way to overcome them may mean looking up in order to gain perspective.
New York city like many of the cities I love- built up. When horizontal expansion was no longer an option they built up.
What I have learned is that the things we love are rarely the things that were easily attainable. We fall in love with the things that didn’t come so easy. Whether it’s the vintage dress we found after four hours thrift store hopping, the living room that is now our favorite space in the house but took 18 months to curate and decorate to our liking, the relationships we have that well cultivated over moments of misunderstandings, ruined borrowed clothes, waiting over an hour for drinks, awkwardness in how to support us in difficult situations. We love who and what we love because the more we saw, the more we looked up, we saw the beauty, the creativity, and the worthiness of giving our love.
Take a moment to look up. Be surprised, see things differently, notice what has gone unnoticed. Choose to challenge your perspective and don’t be afraid to go for the top shelf good stuff. The good stuff isn’t within everyone’s reach for reason. Look up love! xxoo

Photo courtesy of My Modern Met.com

Photo courtesy of My Modern Met.com

Weekend Infatuation- New York City

Welcome to the Weekend! It is Friday and you can find me in Starbucks on Fulton in Manhattan, just a few blocks from the hotel that I will be home until Sunday afternoon. Later you can find me over in Soho browsing the racks at Bloomingdale’s. At some point you will catch me in an number of thrift stores, Union Square, Macy’s on 34th street, in Koreatown, at a food truck, oh and at ABC Home and Carpet. Basically, you will find me doing the things I love in a place I love- the city. Specifically- NYC, but the reality is I just love cities.  To me, weekends were made for doing things we love that we don’t get to do during the week for any number of reasons. Weekends are made for giving our minds, bodies, and souls the nurturing necessary to be the best lovers we can to the objects of our affection. Any recommendations to places to go, things to do, places to eat or hear goo music you can let me on Twitter @ahyanajenise.  #DaretoShare Happy Weekending! Until Monday! xxoo

Photo courtesy of Estillo Tendances.com

Photo courtesy of Estillo Tendances.com

Lovin’ Me Long Time

Photo courtesy of Hudlin Entretainment.com

Photo courtesy of Hudlin Entretainment.com

I was so overwhelmed with joy I could have cried.  All it took was a bookstore, magazines with covers graced by some of my favorite covergirls- Mindy Kaling, Lupita Nyong’o, and Emma Watson, and a tall soy green tea latte from Starbucks. Oh, and being in a city where I wasn’t the only person or one of the only persons who looked like me. While I have been recently smitten with myself, I was never smitten with the loneliness. They don’t tell you that when they gas you with gusto to be who you envision yourself to be, chase your dreams, live your beliefs with reckless abandon (except of said beliefs include harming yourself or others- do not live that), speak up and out, change the world, or live out loud. Perhaps if they did we would chicken out and roam the crowded streets of mediocrity.

I digress. This is not about loneliness. It’s about love. What I realized that sunny Sunday morning, was I was so overwhelmed because I was feeding my soul. I had fallen so hard for me that I had made my way into a time and space that fed the very core of who I was. Who I am. Everything else could wait.

Love does that. Especially when recently smitten. It usually annoys family and friends as they find themselves afterthoughts, back up plans, regular recipients of apologies and acute sudden amnesia about any number of things we were supposed to do for or with them. The object of our affection gets our attention, time, energy, effort, our everything. I was finally getting my everything. And it was intense.

Photo courtesy of Vintage Chyld.com

Photo courtesy of Vintage Chyld.com

I wasn’t raised that way. I don’t know if you can be raised to give yourself your everything  when you are one of five kids, live in the nation’s sixth largest city, attend a public school, often ride public transportation, and have the fortune of aunties, cousins, and a great grandmother, and grand parents living within walking distance in any direction of your too small for seven people but you are too young to know it at the time row home. You are raised to give. You give toys, and spots in line, turns, shoes and clothes that are too small. You give your creativity to drawing in the sketchbook your mom saw on sale in the toy store and bought for you because she knows how much you want to be an artists, bargaining with your brother to switch dish duty nights, or your sister to borrow her super cute iridescent purple jeans. You give your best behavior to attend birthday parties, sleep overs on long weekends, for extra spending money at the mall, or to ride to the store with your Aunt on a “school night.” You give your Sundays to church (Sunday school, service, and sometimes evening service), your brilliance to school for scholarships, and your love to God, family, and best friends. So me giving and giving to me- new, strange, slightly uncomfortable, but absolutely lovely and loving. Me giving me my undivided attention, nourishing my mind, body, and soul- exhilarating.

Now perhaps it shouldn’t be. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking if you get this excited over a bookstore, magazines, and a green tea latte, how excited do you get when you get a great deal on a sweet pair of shoes? Get a job you want? Get into a school you hoped to get into? Have an opportunity to speak at a conference? Travel out of the country? Meet a handsome young (or older) sir?

I wouldn’t disagree that perhaps my joy seems a bit much. In fact I would say it’s indicative of having gone too long without having been head over Nikes for me and all of the idiosyncrasies that make me me. I have been an admirer of me for a while. Flirted with me lots. Been in deep deep like. But actually decided to go all in and fall in love with me- not so much.

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Love is risky business. Even when it is with ourselves. To love ourselves means to accept ourselves. Every last part. To mourn the parts that we lost unwillingly. To acknowledge the bruises, the ones we would t let heal, and the ones we have denied the opportunity to heal because we have denied its existence. It means letting ourselves gush over the things we are proud of even if no one else notices or ever makes a big deal. It means owning our mistakes and our futures. It means committing to getting to know w ourselves because we accept we are ever changing. Love is work. It is worth work because we are worthy. We, you, me, us, we are worthy of coffee shops on sunny Sunday mornings in cities that allows us to stop and nourish or souls, our very cores, knowing that we are our greatest loves, Out of our great love for ourselves we can love others greatly. May you keep falling in love with you this week. With each new day may there something about you that you accept and deem worthy of giving your absolute everything. May you go from flirting to liking to loving- you. Every last part of you. xxoo

The Women Fellas Have Fallen In Love With

Photo courtesy of Emmy Lowe

Photo courtesy of Emmy Lowe

While The Simply LIVEd Life is a space primarily for women, it’s also for those who love us-including the fellas. We’re talking about falling in love this month with everything from careers, relationships, and the very things that make us who we are. But today I’m going to share what a few fellas shared when I asked them to think of one woman that they loved or love, and share what they love(d) most about them. From coast to coast, this is what they had to say:

Her laughter and the way she understood me in many ways most people don’t. They way she would care about me and the things I was interested in and also allowed me to be myself and care for her in the same way… Because I try to be that way with everyone. Its just not always reciprocated.”- MT

“What did I love most about her? Her independence. It allowed her the opportunity to share with me how and when she wanted me in life…it gave the power to dictate when she could rely on me for support, etc…rather than me demanding such things from her. It was (and still is) the most attractive part of her…to see her strong and independent and vulnerable all at different times.”-MS

“I love her ability to see people.”-JS

“I love my mom’s heart for people she doesn’t even know. She’s the person who stops and helps the person stranded in the rain with their kid, holds up traffic to help someone get all the way across the boulevard, and helps the homeless person that all the ‘more jaded’ people think probably isn’t really even homeless and is just scamming.“-AB

“I would have to say the thing that made me love her most was how goofy we could be around eachother and it wasn’t weird but fun and created memories.”-MK

“I enjoyed that we grew together. I loved that she listened, didn’t nag, and allowed me to be myself.”-BR

“She was supportive and selfess.“- WC

A Lady Who Loves Herself & Her Work

gwen2It is in my most bias far from humble I pronounce it as fact although I suppose it is really an opinion- that everyone should have an Aunt Gwen. Especially women. We need someone in our lives who lives, breathes, and bleeds the courage to live what they believe and what they know they were created to do. We need someone who is so in love with who they know themselves to be that the love wins out over fear and allows them to take leaps of faith. My aunt, Gwen Wright, did that about twenty years ago. When private banking lost its luster, she struck out on her own as a business consultant in San Francisco. She helped the owners of one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, 1300 on Filmore, get its start. She also has a few clients in the Midwest and in NYC. She hasn’t looked back and since I was twenty I looked on in absolute awe. When I thought about who to have on the blog that is head over heels about their work Gwen was the first person to come to mind. She has absolutely fallen in love with her work.

TSLL: How did you know you’d fallen in love with your work? That it wasn’t an idea or something that could just be financially profitable?

GW: Oh it was something that brought me joy. It was something I could do all the time. I looked forward to it when I started and I still look forward to it. There’s nothing about it I want to avoid. It’s my life. I don’t compartmentalize. It’s integrated, fluid, and holistic. This is who I am.

TSLL: What do you love the most about your work?

GW: I love the flexibility and there is always something new. The industries are the same. I primarily do a lot of fashion and restaurants. But the clients are new with new ideas whether they are just starting or expanding . Something is always manifesting and it’s great to be a part of and to watch.

TSLL: What do you love least about your work?

GW: When clients have unrealistic expectations. Some clients are stuck in the past or the present but refuse to commit to the present. I help them focus. There is also the reality of being an entrepreneur that some people have unrealistic expectations about. I have a background in finances so I can help them with that but it is still a pain sometimes you know.

TSLL: How did you choose the work?

GW: I don’t know if I chose it. Maybe I did. I just knew I couldn’t work in corporate world. I was in private banking which was fun and it’s also very entrepreneurial. However, when the big banks started taking over, it was less fun. So I left and started contract work and then that turned into what I do now.

TSLL: What do you love about the people you work with?

GW: Oh I love love love my clients and the other entrepreneurs I am connected to. I love their support, friendship, comradery, and their help when needed. It’s a community.

TSLL: What has been a highlight for you in this work love affair? 

GW: Every day there is some type of highlight or low light. Sometimes the low light is clients who don’t get it and struggle to focus. Multi passionate people are great but they don’t always realize you have to pick one place to start. So that can be annoying.The highlight is when it manifest. When we do the work and it’s done.

TSLL: Tell me about a challenge you encountered in your work and how did you work through it?

GW: I’m a patient woman which comes in handy with clients who struggle to focus. Now, if a client is too needy, I have no problem letting them know that I can no longer work with them. Usually when I have a client who is all over the place I give them assignments.  Sometimes I won’t talk to them until the assignment is done. Action is the part of strategy that makes things happen. I model the consistency I want them to have.

TSLL: How do you make time to do the other things in your life that you love outside of work?

GW: I always take time for self. I just schedule time for me on my calendar. I pencil it in and I will say “I am so sorry I am unavailable that day,” if a client request to meet during a time that I have set aside to take care of myself and do the things I enjoy.

TSLL: How does your work compliment the characteristics you love about your personality?

GW: I’m adventurous and a good critical thinker. In my work there is always something new and my inkling for problem solving gets tapped into regularly.

TSLL: What are some hints that you think might help someone identify that they are falling for a particular career path or business venture?

GW: I would say sit down and ask yourself –

  • What do you do all the time?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you enjoy?

Also, think of your interests.  Sometimes you can learn a skill set you don’t have but are interested in if you go learn about it. I tell potential clients, if you are really interested in a particular field, go work or volunteer in it, and then tell me if you still want to start a business in it. If they lost interest, it was a fantasy. I say try it on and see what you like. Is it feeding the soul?  If it is- explore it. Some people think they can’t do any number of things and I always say “How do you know?”

TSLL: What advice would you give for the person who doesn’t love what they do? 

GW: If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing then you better do something else. You can have more than a job. Where is the job taking you? Some people I tell them get a job so you can keep your business. There is a difference between a job and the work you love and until you get to do the work you love full time; sometimes you have to get a job. But it’s a different way of thinking and the job is a means to an end, not the end. Doing what you love every day, that is the end. A very happy ending at that.

To learn more about Gwen or yo work with her visit http://www.thewrightconsultants.com/

LIVE-ing for the Weekend- Falling in Love xxoo

I was twenty something and I warned him not to tell me if he had fallen in love with me. “Keep that to yourself.” I said. He laughed. I was serious.  Mostly because words at that point in my life meant very little. Show me. “It’s okay if you show me, ” I told him. That Christmas I suppose he couldn’t help himself and the words after his signature in my card read “I love you.”  He admitted that almost a month in he had fallen in love with me, and that day at lunch I told him not to tell me he had a card in his pocket that he wanted to give me that expressed those exact sentiments.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

I promise I am not anti love. In fact I am so pro love that I am looking forward to spending this month talking about Falling in Love. Super corny, with fall just beginning, but I couldn’t (or maybe wouldn’t) help myself. But not just romantically with other people, but in love with ourselves and the very things that make us who we are. I look forward to having a few guest on the blog to talk about falling in love with their work, in love with healthy relationships, and with helping others. Love is a many splendid thing. Plus after we fall, allow ourselves to get mess in it, love has the power to transform our lives. You would be surprised with how much you can do when you harness the power of love, but first, you gotta be willing to fall in love. Happy weekending! Until Monday! xxoo

Photo courtesy of Private Island Party.com

Photo courtesy of Private Island Party.com