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LIKE DEAD LEAVES: Doing The Work Of Purging & Pruning

purge-image

For the past couple of months, nothing has made me feel as good as purging things that I no longer need in my life. Little by little, I’ve been going through all my spaces – physical, mental, emotional – and clearing out the things that aren’t serving me anymore. I haven’t felt this light in a long time.

It started innocently enough, with me going through my closets and transitioning from summer to fall. Away went the wispy fabrics that reminded me of warm nights and sunny days, and out came the comfort clothing that enveloped me in hugs each time I put them on. I encouraged myself to undo the emotional ties to my clothing at the same time, and started my grand purge. Things had to go: worn out shirts, way outdated skirts, and pants that I kept around “just in case” when the case for their continued presence never made itself clear. Soon, drawers that were overflowing could shut properly again, things didn’t topple off the top shelf of my closet anymore, and laundry was no longer as overwhelming a task. After my clothes were addressed I blazed through my home, de-cluttering my night tables, bathroom cabinets, and office spaces, filling garbage bags with things I thought I needed, but truly didn’t.

It felt like I could breathe a bit easier. I liked the feeling, and wondered what else I could let go of.

I started attacking my financial debts with a gusto unseen in recent years. I’m tied to many things, and a lot of them are more suffocating than supportive. Debt was one of those constraints, and I wanted to end that relationship as soon as possible. Having a plan and being utterly serious about sticking to it made all the difference in the world, so seeing positive change each month let me know that some relief was on the way. (This is a wayyyyy simplified few sentences about something that could be its own blog post. But the sentiment stands.)

I decided to let go of some projects I was involved in – some that weren’t serving a purpose, and some that had just run their course. In this new season of the purge, I’ve gotten honest with myself about being busy vs. being productive. There’s a comfort in being busy – a comfort that makes it easy to hide fears and insecurities behind stuff. The Bee who’s everywhere and does everything is a great cover for the Bee who frets over failure and fears that nothing she does will ever matter. Being busy has only left me feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and frustrated, and I want to be happy, accomplished, and ever-evolving. Shedding some layers of busyness will be good for me, and will help me to uncover the real skill of balancing downtime and productivity.

Finally, I took a look at some key relationships and purged what I needed to from them. In some relationships, I purged my inability to ask for what I want. In others, I purged old grudges and gave elephants in rooms their long overdue exit. Other relationships had to come to an end completely, but the main area of purging was looking at relationships I wanted to keep and finding ways to make them better. There have been some tough conversations and some peering through fingertips as I hit “Send” on an email, but every move was a step towards more freedom, and I feel it now.

The thing with purging is you need to know when to stop. I’ve gone through multiple areas of my life and pruned the excess and the overdue, but now it’s time for the new cycle of life – the resting period before allowing new growth. I’ve never been a minimalist, but the freedom of letting things go has renewed my excitement at what’s to come. There is room for the good things now, and I welcome them. I’ll keep them around for as long as they’re good to me – and as I’ve learned about myself these past few months, I won’t be afraid to let them go when their time is up.

FORGIVE/FORGET: Living Through The Process Of Forgiveness

 

forgiveness

I needed a reminder that I was still a good person.

You see, last week I found myself months-deep in my email inbox, looking for a document for the ever-dreaded tax season. I typed some keywords into the search bar, hit enter, and watched the results populate. The first thing I saw, however, wasn’t the email I was looking for – it was one I never really wanted to see again, but there it was.

I should have deleted that email long ago. To be honest, I think I only kept it to refer to in moments where I wondered, “Did that REALLY happen? Did this person REALLY speak to me that way? Did this person REALLY blindside me like that and make me wonder if I was as horrible as they wrote?” When I needed the reminder that, yes, those things were all true, there sat that email to give me the proof I needed. It probably isn’t a healthy practice to revisit, even subconsciously, a moment that causes you great pain – but I think I was in such disbelief for so long that it was part of my process of acceptance, moving on, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a tricky, tricky thing – and in this particular situation, the work of forgiveness made me angry. It’s one thing to be wronged by someone and have them come to you, arms wide and heart apologetic as they lay down the acknowledgement of what they’ve done to you. You, as the forgiver, still bear the weight of working through your emotions and granting forgiveness when and how you see fit, but you’re not the only person in the conversation. An entirely different level of effort is required when you have nothing from the other person but the pain they’ve left you with – no apologies, no contrition, no acknowledgement, no agreement to sit down and talk it out – but in order to save yourself, you still have to find forgiveness on your own. It’s exhausting. It’s unfair. It’s anger-inducing. That exhaustion and unfairness and anger wrapped up in the process of forgiveness can make the whole thing implode from the inside out – but as I’ve learned, the process is largely inevitable, so you’ve got to push through.

I’ve had to question how effective the act of forgetting is in relation to forgiveness. Forgetting feels good, and when you remember that you’ve forgotten, it can feel like a step towards being able to forgive. When you forget, and move on, and start living your life outside of whatever connections you had with that person – when you do those things, you start to fill your life with new experiences that can soften the blow of the hurt you felt before. But inevitably, you remember. Something reminds you of that person or that situation, and one of two things happen. Either you remember and it doesn’t hurt as much (or at all), and you’re able to smile at your growth and perhaps even look up to the sky and wish that person well, wherever they are. Or, an uncomfortable pressure builds up in your chest and tries to bubble out of your eyes, and you swallow it down, convincing yourself you didn’t feel it. In one situation, forgetting moves you towards forgiving. In the other, forgetting is a flimsy mask for the forgiveness process. I’ve been on both sides, but I know which one feels better.

When I came across that old email the other day, I felt enough of that pressure building to concern me. In the past, I’d been able to smile and nod to the sky, so hadn’t I reached forgiveness? Hadn’t I actually stated out loud in the past that I’ve forgiven this person? So why was I now feeling like I had taken a step back? What I’ve learned here is that forgiveness can be a straightforward process, or it can come in and out like the tide. Maybe I haven’t fully reached the destination yet, or perhaps it’ll be a cyclical thing where the biggest goal will be to make sure each low moment is higher than the last. Then eventually, maybe one day it’ll all even out.

In writing this post, I can say that my biggest win has been taking the lens of forgiveness from the external to the internal. What I mean by this is that I’ve moved from wondering why, wondering what I did to make this person act the way they did, wondering what was and is going through their head – I’ve stopped caring. I know I’ll never get those answers, and even if I did at this point, they’ve lost the impact they could have on my forgiveness process. I’ve moved that lens internally, where it should be. I’ve learned to focus on what I need to do to feel good, what I can do to be a better person in the future, what I can do to accept what was and move on to what will be in my life. Forgiveness is a process for me, not for anyone else. Once I realized that, the process started to flow more authentically without cliched expectations of how it should feel.

So, I’m still on the journey of this and other paths of forgiveness in my life. Being able to forgive – or more realistically, dedicate myself to the process of forgiveness – reminds me that I’m still a good person, and I’m getting better every day.

OH HELL YES: Making Space For Life To Take Shape

shape your world

For the past few weeks, I’ve been binge-watching Girlfriends, one of my favourite sitcoms. I’m currently in the middle of season 5 – Joan and William are (inexplicably) in a relationship, Lynn has connected with her birth parents, Toni is pregnant and ducking divorce papers from her estranged husband Todd, and Maya just got a huge endorsement from Rev. Al Sharpton for her girl-you-can-do-it book, Oh Hell Yes.

It’s Maya’s story that currently resonates with me – our relationship statuses aren’t the same, but our prioritization of our children, our desire to do the work we’re passionate about, and our desperate fear of settling and being stuck in something that makes us miserable ARE the same. Funnily enough, these same traits resonated in a real book I read recently – Shonda Rhimes’ Year Of Yes, which details Rhimes’ journey through a year where she said yes to everything that scared her. After reading her book at the end of 2015, I decided I was going to make 2016 my year to say yes – or, oh HELL yes – and I was going to put themes of priority, passion work, and not settling in the forefront of my mind to create the life I want.

Walking into 2016, I realized that the only way I’d be able to live the life I wanted would be to make room for it. The work I want to do, the experiences I want to have, the goals I want to achieve – none of them will come to fruition if there isn’t space for them to thrive. I took a big leap by leaving my job and taking on a new role that gives me more time for my family, my writing, and my other projects. I dropped projects that were taking up time and not giving me equal ROI. I was approached with some opportunities that in the past, I would have hemmed and hawed over before likely declining them out of fear, but this time I didn’t waste time – I said yes, jumped in, and blossomed because of them. (Note: there’s a message here about innately knowing the difference between declining something because you know in your heart of hearts it isn’t for you, and declining because you’re scared, even though you know you’re capable – or at least curious about your capability. Sometimes fear masks itself as humility, but we know in the pit of our stomachs that we’re lying to ourselves. Might write more about that later.)

I’m determined to see some real progress in a variety of arenas this year, and I quickly realized that a) I had to stop talking about it and BE about it and b) nothing was going to grow if I didn’t clear the space for them to do so. Change is extremely difficult for me, so stepping out of my comfort zone has been an uncomfortable process. However, I believe so earnestly in the promise of the things I’m working towards that sacrificing my comfort is a necessary move.

Last year, my goal was simply to get through the day. Balancing my first year of being a working mom took a lot out of me, but set me up for this year – where I’m back to having goals, benchmarks, and renewed ideas of what success looks like to me. I have big plans, and now I have the space to execute them. This year, I’m not just saying yes. I’m saying, oh, HELL yes.

What is one thing you can let go of to make room for what you want or need in life?

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT: Moving Past 2015

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Exhale.

It’s after midnight on December 31st, officially making it the last day of the year – and all I can think to do is exhale.

I didn’t even realize that holding my breath had become a habit until recently. While working on my vision board for 2016 and reviewing what 2015 was for me, I caught myself holding my breath. A lot. It didn’t take much for me to hypothesize that that was my psychosomatic response both in anticipation of what’s to come, and in reaction to what had already come to pass. I flinch and hold my breath when I think about what 2015 was. I hold my breath and pray when I think about what I hope 2016 will be.

I had some wins in 2015, but if I’m being honest about this past year, it was simply about keeping my head above water. This year I juggled the most balls I’ve ever juggled, so it’s no surprise to me that I didn’t feel like I progressed as far as I would have wanted – I was too busy standing in one spot, trying to keep all the balls in the air. I grew and I learned a lot, but didn’t move forward in a way that signifies a level of success for me – so while this year wasn’t terrible (asking myself “But did you (or anyone you love) die though?” helps keep things in perspective), it wasn’t one of my best.

I hold my breath when I’m nervous. Or when I’m panicky and overwhelmed. Or when I’m happy and excited (and sometimes subconsciously expecting something bad to happen next). I held my breath when I walked back into work for my first day after mat leave, and when I was about to film a segment for a TV show, and when I awaited news to see if I earned a fellowship position (that I didn’t get). I held my breath when Little Magician took her first steps, and when I stood up for myself in ways I never imagined I would have. There were good moments and great moments – but when I looked back at my resolutions for 2015 and saw that very few of them came to pass, I realized that I failed to breathe life into my year.

Moving into 2016, I plan to hold my breath less and breathe more. I want to inspire and be inspired, and those very words aren’t possible without the intimation of breathing. I want to keep growing, but also progress in life – so those balls I’m juggling? I have to graduate from standing in one spot and watching myself toss and catch them, to learning how to keep them in the air while looking and moving forward.

Here’s to the year that was and the year that will be. And if nothing else, I’ll remember to breathe.

CHANGING SEASONS: The Art of Letting Things Go

protect passions

When I started writing this post, I searched “letting things go” on my blog to make sure I hadn’t used the title before.

It felt like something I’ve felt before – and if it’s something I’ve felt before, I’ve probably said it before. And if I’ve said it before, I’ve surely written it before, so my thoughts were that I’d be repeating a sentiment with this piece.

The good news? I hadn’t used those three words in a previous blog post title. The not-so-good news? I’ve definitely expressed this sentiment before: here, here, and here.

I had a bit of a breakdown recently, where I tearfully admitted that “Nothing feels fun anymore.” This blog has led to an incredible amount of awesome opportunities doing things that I’ve really enjoyed. Sure, there have been downsides to it too – chasing freelance publications for monies owed, uncomfortable clashes between online/offline life, battling my own insecurities and imposter syndrome symptoms – but even the crappy moments have become wonderful teachable moments that may not have felt great, but served important purpose. The major lesson I’m learning now is that I’ve hit a wall, and instead of trying to find my way under/over/through it, I need to just sit there for a while with my back against its firmness, and just…be.

At my annual physical, my doctor noted that some of my bloodwork results looked a bit off, and sent me back for a do-over. I’m awaiting those results now, but made the poor decision to find my way down a rabbit hole of WebMD and Mayo Clinic websites, getting more stressed and worried with every click. I’m sure that – as has always been the case – I’m fine, and the majority of my concerns are related to stress that I don’t manage well. In those posts I mentioned before, I’m sure I acknowledged my issues with control, stress, worry, taking on too much, not finding a good balance or taking a break when needed, but I clearly didn’t do a good job of remedying them. I feel like this is the moment where I need to really work on those things and find a way to a healthier and happier me, and I need to be serious about it this time.

I always start out excited about things. Sometimes I’m giddy and passionate about an idea I’ve come up with, or I’m honoured to be approached by someone else who wants to work with me. Sometimes I see a posting for an opportunity that I know I’d be perfect for. Other times I say yes to something because of what I hope it will lead to. The FOMO (fear of missing out) hit me not as a fear of missing out on social media, but a fear of missing out on some incredible opportunity. I’d say “yes” then find myself in the midst of emails and meetings and drafts and rehearsals and busyness with nothing but good intention, ready to grow as a multi-faceted person who’s aware that she’s cultivating a personal brand at the same time. Some of the things I was excited about recently have left me feeling anything but. Chasing entities for thousands of dollars owed, being asked to work for compensation below my worth, consistently showing up for others and noting that reciprocity isn’t in everyone’s vocabulary – these things have been draining me lately, but I’ve kept pressing on.  Other things I remain excited about, but I feel burned out to the point where I have nothing left to give them right now. I miss things like Sunday mornings before anyone else is awake – just me, a cup of tea, and my blog. I miss feeling like I’m not always behind or chasing an ever-lengthening to-do list. I miss taking the time to enjoy life and be inspired by it. The work is fun until it’s not – and it happens so rarely that when I feel it as strongly as I do now, I need to heed the message.

All of the things I do are supposed to compliment each other and give me outlets that other parts of my life don’t provide. When my outlets start feeling like burdens, it’s the most frustrating thing – where do you turn next? During a Twitter chat about making your side hustle a full-time entrepreneurial pursuit, I tweeted that it was crucial to protect your passions – just because your passion becomes your full-time gig, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever end up disillusioned by it like any other job. My passions need to be protected right now. My health needs to be protected right now. My desire to be and do and create needs to be protected right now. All of these things need to be tended to, cared for, nurtured back to a place of fruitfulness and rejuvenation, otherwise nothing that I am or do will ever be where I want and need it to be.

It’s a new season, and we always joke about the cold weather being our sign that it’s time to make like bears and hibernate from the social scene. Instead of thinking of it as hibernation, I’ll take my cue from the trees. There’s something beautiful about the way trees shift, change, and let go, taking time to be still before flourishing again. Maybe that’s what I need. Maybe that’s what more of us need. There’s much to be said about the doing of life, but none of us can afford to miss out on the being. This is the season to pick and choose; to be careful and intentional about what I do and how I do it. I’m sure that soon enough the balance, inspiration, passion, and fun will all return for me, and until then, I’ll just take my time.

DATE LIFE: How A Tarot Card Reading Led To My Worst Date Ever

BadDateChronicles

A few weeks ago, a Twitter friend of mine (shout out @HonorbleMention) came up with the hashtag #BadDateChronicles – he encouraged followers to tweet stories of their worst dates so that we could all reminisce about love connections gone wrong. I shared my story in a series of tweets, but really did no justice to how tragically comical my worst date was.

So today, I take that walk down memory lane and share with you: my worst date ever.

The Reading

For my 24th birthday, I wanted to keep it low-key. It was a warm spring night, so my homies dragged me out to dinner, then we took a post-dinner walk through downtown Toronto. We stumbled upon a tarot card reader’s shop and the great (or terrible) idea for me to go in for a reading was born.

We opened the door into a dark hallway, ascended a creaky staircase covered in plush carpet, separated strands of chimes and beads hanging from the ceiling, and entered the tarot card reader’s lair. It was everything I imagined a tarot card reader’s lair to be: dark with corners lit by candles and vintage lamps, lots of velvet furniture, figurines and crystal balls and soft music playing from a small stereo. A woman emerged from a side room and greeted us. My friends explained the situation: it was my birthday, I needed a tarot card reading, don’t give me any bad news. She laughed, waved me into the other room, and asked my friends to wait downstairs. Clears the space of competing energies, she said.

During my reading she told me a ton of interesting things. What stuck out most was around the issue of love – I had gone through a tumultuous breakup, and was ready to get back in the dating game. Here’s what she told me:

“You’ll meet a tall man – a very tall, good looking man. When you meet, I see him in a shirt with an emblem or logo on the chest. He’ll have brown skin and light eyes – his eyes will be the first thing to catch you. He’ll be the love of your life – you’ll travel, and I see a wedding happening in an exotic location. He’ll take care of you, so look out for him. Oh – and you have an ex who is trying to get back into your life. Don’t let him.”

Y’all should have seen my face. A tall, fine dude who’ll sweep me away to exotic locales? Plus the confirmation that maybe I should be ignoring those “Hey stranger” texts from the ex? I was sold.

Fast forward a week or so later.

The Meet-Cute

I was at a soca fete with my homegirls. Music pulsated and bodies jumped and waved and wined in the hot and sweaty venue. Just as I stopped to fan myself with a mix cd some dude handed out in the crowd, I felt someone come up behind me and start wining. Sidenote: ain’t no “Excuse me, miss – may I have this dance?” at soca fetes. Everyone generally dances with everyone, and if you’re not in the mood, a cute two-step and spin away from the hopeful partner usually solves the problem. I was in a dancing mood though, and my homegirl in front of me gave me the raised eyebrow that signaled, “Girl – he fine. Do ya thing.” So I did.

When I took a second to turn and see how cute he was for myself, I was surprised to realize that my eye level was at his upper chest level (I’m 6ft tall, so it’s not often I meet dudes THAT much taller than me). Turquoise Polo shirt, with the familiar horse and jockey logo on the chest. Suddenly, I remembered my birthday tarot card reading. I looked up, slowly drinking in the broad chest and shoulders to the neck and finally the face. Smooth brown skin. Piercing green eyes. IT WAS MY MAN, Y’ALL!

We engaged in a bit of that ‘music’s too loud so we have to lean in real close to talk’ club convo, sharing names and smiles, with me taking in the scent of his cologne while being glad that I had some minty gum in my mouth. The night went on, and we danced, talked, had his friends to get with my friends so we could be friends, then exchanged numbers at the end of the night. We chatted the next day, made plans for an after-work date later that week, and I floated around daily on a cloud of tarot promises and soca music.

The Date

Date night came. Since it was a weeknight, and I like my first dates easy with ample room for conversation, I offered up the simple idea of going out for ice cream, but I didn’t know of a good spot to go to. “Oh, there’s a great dessert spot near you at Markham and Ellesmere,” he said when he picked me up (mad late, I might add – strike one). I was absolutely certain there was no dessert spot on that corner, but he was absolutely, arrogantly certain there was. “Nah – you just don’t know the area,” he said. We headed out, and – surprise, surprise – no dessert spot existed. “Man, I was positive it was here! They must have just closed it.” I stayed silent. It was late, we wasted time driving to a non-existent location, AND he didn’t listen to me. I suggested we just go to a nearby McDonald’s so we could grab sundaes and chat.

We got our ice cream, took our seats at an outdoor table, and got into a decent stream of conversation. I convinced myself to give him a fresh start after the earlier mishaps, but something in my spirit just wasn’t meshing with him. I thought, ‘this has to work – the tarot card reader said so!’ and continued to push through.

Out of nowhere, I heard a loud ruckus in the parking lot behind me. I turned to see a group of dudes coming out of the McDonald’s with a manager chasing after them. I caught snippets of threats to “go get my ting” (aka “get my gun”) and promises that the police were on the way, then recognized the dudes from around my neighbourhood and knew they were harmless. A few of them started to jump in their cars and get away with pilfered Big Macs, so I turned back to my date. The look on his face was one of pure terror. “It’s OK,” I told him. “Those guys aren’t serious.” He didn’t believe me. “Maybe we should just go before this escalates,” he said, completely frozen save for his green eyes that cautiously watched the commotion behind me. “Nah, really. They’re all talk. So – what were you saying about your last vacation?” I tried to get us back on topic, but he paid me no mind. It was then that I noticed he was doing something very peculiar. He was shrinking his 6’6″ frame down into the bench, assessing the parking lot action behind me, and actually using me as a shield between him and the angry neighbourhood dudes.

“Are you – are you actually trying to hide behind me?” I shifted in my seat and he whispered “Wait – don’t move!” and I knew then that this love story was doomed. “You know what, maybe you’re right. We should probably go.” I started to stand and gather my things, but he was still stuck to the bench. “Well, maybe we should wait until they’re gone – I think I’m parked beside one of them.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I hopped up from the table and stalked away. He finally chased after me, unlocking his car doors and sliding into the seat like it was home plate. I got into the car, waving at one of the neighbourhood dudes who stopped cussing to give me a “Good evening, empress,” before resuming again. “Whew, that was crazy,” my date said. I tuned out after that. We got to my place, he tried to sneak a kiss, I shot it down, then headed upstairs to bed.

He called me a couple of times after that, but I rebuffed his talk of another date. The calls stopped and life moved on – but I ran into him at another soca fete a few weeks later.

As I made some friendly talk with him, I noticed something was off. His face looked different. I couldn’t place it, but all of a sudden, there it was.

“Your eyes – they’re brown?”

“Oh yeah – I usually wear my coloured contacts but I’m going au naturel tonight,” he chuckled as if his joke was actually funny.

The Moral Of The Story

Don’t date guys who use you as human shields.

If a tarot card reader tells you you’ll fall in love with a guy with light eyes, be aware that coloured contacts may lead you astray.

And that ex she told me to avoid? We got married. We had a baby. And I call him HomieLuva.

Fin. 

UNAPOLOGETIC: Focusing On The “Self” In Self-Care

SelfCareRevolutionarySelf-care has been a topic of much discussion in my various circles these days. Whether at work, with friends and family, or on social media, many of us – mostly women – are in the process of prioritizing ourselves in order to preserve ourselves.

Just yesterday, I commented on a Facebook posting on the topic with the following:

I have to be very mindful about my own needs and really have to train myself to stop, say no, relax, and rejuvenate. The two biggest things I’ve realized are: 1) for me, self-care doesn’t have to be a huge action – it can be as small as going inside a bathroom stall and doing some deep breathing, or going for a 10 min walk – and 2) getting over the guilt of practicing self-care is crucial – we need to take care of us so we can take care of everything else.

As soon as I hit send, I had an epiphany and quickly added the following:

Actually – though women have tons to take care of, the validity of our self-care still doesn’t need to be contingent on being able to take care of others. We have to take care of ourselves because we owe it to ourselves. That just popped into my head, so I wanted to add on :)

When we tell people – especially women who carry a multitude of concurrent roles and responsibilities – that their need for self-care is valid because it helps them care for others, is that truly self-care?

At the root of it all is the understanding that we need to create space in our lives to rejuvenate and replenish ourselves. It may look like booking a spa treatment. Or taking a walk on a beautiful day. Or buying ourselves something nice. Or saying no to every hot Friday night plan in favor of Netflix & wine after a tough work week. We can honour ourselves and our immediate needs in a way that no one else can, but we often feel guilt around the practice.

If we need to take a day off from work, we feel like we’re letting our team down. If we tell our families that we’re taking an hour to ourselves to unwind with a bubble bath, we feel bad about not being there for their needs. If we disclose our self-care practices to people who mock us for our “indulgence,” we feel like maybe we’re truly being selfish. A method that’s been used to curb this guilt and second-guessing (and to encourage us to continue along the path of self-care) is the phrase “Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others” – and while that’s undoubtedly a valuable asset to making ourselves priorities, it shouldn’t be the only reason we do.

We juggle so many different hats. Parent. Lover. Friend. Coworker. Caregiver. Financial Advisor. Student. Homemaker. We could be wearing any combination of hats at any given time, and self-care is crucial if we’re going to be any good to the people who depend on us. I definitely believe that in order to be there for others, we first have to be there for ourselves. They say you can’t give from an empty cup, so self-care helps us give to others from a place of abundance, not a place of martydom.

HOWEVER.

It still isn’t enough to value self-care solely for the ability it lends us to take care of others.

Isn’t the reverence we have for ourselves enough of a validation for self-care? Isn’t it OK to just say, “I’m doing this for myself” without further explanation? I’ll admit, when I thought about this while writing the aforementioned Facebook comment, I was hit with a nervous flutter in my stomach that signaled the guilt I thought I had swept away. It takes effort as a woman with multiple people depending on her to say “This is for me” instead of “This is for me so that I can be for you.” For those of us who fall prey to the fallacy of the Strong Black Woman trope, it takes effort to separate ourselves from the value we earn by keeping things going. We are prided on our ability to take everything the world throws at us without missing a beat, and we often aren’t afforded the opportunity to drop bits and pieces or the whole load to focus on ourselves, even for a short while. We give ourselves permission for self-care by equating it back to the asset we’ll be to those that need us, and that helps to make it OK. The benefit to others is the easiest defense against cries of indulgence of selfishness, so we grab at it quickly. Forcing myself to move beyond that, and allowing myself to care for myself because I care for myself is a revolutionary act.

As I said on Twitter:


Now, I just need to remember that.

SAVE ROOM: Learning How To Make Space For Life

birthdaybe2015

I get dramatic about birthdays. I love my birthday, and a personal goal is to accomplish something so incredible in life that May 10th becomes a national (or international!) holiday.

I know I’m dramatic. Luckily for the people who are forced to put up with me, I can step outside of myself and see how ridiculously extravagant I get about each new rotation around the sun.  That being said, this year feels even more profound than usual. I initially chalked it up to needing some positive anticipation – last year was an overwhelming whirlwind of amazing highs and troubling lows, and this year I know I need more stability and growth. But as I thought about it more, I realized this birthday felt so profound because I finally learned a crucial lesson:

I need to make room in my life to let life happen. 

Things have been severely crowded for too long. Moving + baby + work + side hustles + bills + friends + trying not to forget about Bee = a life so stuffed that some days felt downright paralyzing. The most crippling thing was the fact that everything I had gotten myself into, I had chosen to do – so I had no one to blame but myself, and it seemed like no one could help me but myself. Nothing felt optional. I had to go to work. I had to take care of my daughter. I had to pay bills and take care of home repairs. I had to keep up with my freelancing. I had to keep working with the film festivals and magazines and youth groups and projects I was tied to. Everything linked to something else: I kept taking on cool projects because maybe something would pop off and I wouldn’t have to go back to my day job after mat leave. I forced myself to do daily social media management for clients because I needed the extra money to help with diapers and daycare. I felt obligated to try to plan events because I thought I had fallen off and wasn’t “on the scene” anymore like I used to be. Everything seemed indispensable, so while I started feeling stifled, I told myself I couldn’t drop any of it. If I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I convinced myself that the problem wasn’t the amount of things I tasked myself with, it was my work ethic. I had to find ways to focus, to be more efficient, to make sure I got things done and done well – in short, I wasn’t kind to myself at all.

Yes – I have an amazing partner in life who shares many of the responsibilities I named above, but when it came down to the things I do outside of home and baby, he wasn’t with me shooting in the gym. The writing, the events, the projects, the work – the choice to do them and the reason why I was doing them lived solely in my head and heart. The pressure I was putting on myself to do them lived there too, so I knew that while HomieLuva is an incredible sounding board, I’d have to initiate any change I wanted in my life on my own.

I started off by doing a basic time audit of my life. My days were full of things to do, but I soon realized that a lot of these things weren’t serving me well anymore. There were things I was doing simply because I told myself I had to, and further – I told myself that to not do them was to be a quitter or a failure. When I was honest about what some of these things were doing for me, I realized they weren’t doing a gotdamn thing except stressing me out. I could barely stand things that used to fill me with excitement, and it was downright depressing. My next realization was that there was a constant, nagging feeling of some awesome opportunity just within my grasp, but my life was so cluttered that there was no room for it. I felt things passing me by and though I couldn’t definitely state what it was that I missed out on, I knew that I literally had no space for anything new – so good things were undoubtedly floating away.

Next, I thought about my current priorities. Taking care of my family, my finances, and investing in myself topped the list. Comparing my priorities to my audit, I realized that a lot of the things I felt obligated to do didn’t fall in line with any of my priorities. They may have had a place at one point in time, but things changed and I was now just forcing a square peg into a round hole. There were things I knew I’d have to say goodbye to, say “not now but maybe later” to, say a firm no to – and I had to say it all immediately. Over the last couple of weeks, emails have gone out, calls have been made, and the things that I needed to say have been said. I’ve finally reclaimed a bit of freedom. I have room to breathe and to just be without having to do, and it’s the best birthday present I could have asked for.

I’ve given myself the gift of leaving room for life. I’m trading in excessive guilt and undue self-imposed pressures for the space to find things to enjoy, inspire me, and help me grow. I’m letting go of things that put some dollars in my bank account, and believing that things are coming that will give me even greater prosperity. I’m clearing things out and making a new foundation, and it feels like I have nowhere to go from here but up.

Let’s toast to fresh starts and swift, sustained ascents. Happy birthday to me.

THE MISSION: 3 Ways To Thrive When Life Is In Flux

 

thrive-survive

It’s been about one week since I ended my maternity leave and went back to work.

Going from pre-Magician: balancing day job and side hustle

to

post-Magician: balancing baby and side hustle

to

post-mat leave: balancing baby and day job and side hustle

has left me feeling like I’m a certain state of chaos.

Now, I’m blessed to have a great partner in HomieLuva who not only encourages me to do my thing, but is also taking on house-husband duties and staying home with Little Magician (more about that to come on The Brown Suga Mama). That aside, it’s still quite an overwhelming transition to figure out how I fit into this new world, how I succeed in this new world, and how I continue to be me in this new world.

These first few days have been an OVERWHELMING blend of waking up early, attempting to say goodbye without crying, navigating the work commute, trying to remember staff names and computer logins, being stuck in rush hour traffic, writing deadlines, event planning, trying to remember to eat dinner, baths and baby laughs and going to bed so late that I start stressing about waking up before I even fall asleep. But I’m doing it, and pushing through. It’s all I can do, really.

Do you know how scary it is to feel like you don’t know how to do something, but know you have no choice except to get up and do it? When Little Magician was first born, the mornings used to give me that kind of anxiety. HomieLuva would leave for work, she’d wake up, and I’d say a silent prayer just hoping to get through the day without making any huge mistakes. That fear and anxiety left me for a while, but now it’s back. I don’t know how to be this woman who’s a mom with a full time job and engrossing side hustle – and be good at it all – but every day I get up, say a silent prayer, and head out into the world to to do the best I can.  I’m not the first woman to struggle with balancing her various duties – I encounter them on social media, I read about them in magazines, and I see them in real life. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone, but it’s still lonely in the days where I’m figuring out what my perfect recipe for success is.

I recently decided that my theme for 2015 is going to centre around the world thrive. I’m determined to be full and fulfilled in all aspects of my life, so I’m starting to function from a place where the things I do and the decisions I make support that.  There are a few things I’m committed to doing to help me thrive and to feel more settled in my multiple roles and identities:

Create room.

I’m realizing that I don’t need to be doing all of the things I’m doing. Certain things have expired and are no longer serving me well, and that extra baggage of duty just adds to my stress levels. In order to make room for the things and opportunities that I know will help me thrive, I have to cut some things loose. This means saying no. This means letting go of FOMO (fear of missing out). This means remembering that quality is of more importance than quantity at this point.

Less complaining, more action.

I tend to do something that HomieLuva calls “spiraling”: I get stressed about one thing, then I start bringing up everything that’s going wrong, and before you know it, I’m a mess who can’t find her way out of the hole she’s dug herself into. Yesterday I decided that venting is important, but I need to partner it with a piece of action as well. I”m going to start trying this: whatever I vent about, I’m going to end the vent session with a declaration of action, and follow through. It’s important to remember to not be paralyzed by your stress and to find ways to make even the smallest step towards something better.

Remember I’m doing fine.

In juggling all of these different roles and identities I have to remember that while things seem daunting or overwhelming in the moment, once it passes I realize “Hey – I survived. And things weren’t that bad.” I’m more capable than I often believe, and situations aren’t usually as dire as I make them out to be in my mind. Just remembering that I am, in fact, doing OK helps to keep going when the going gets tough.

I’m able to look ahead and see a vision of myself with things more figured out than they are now. I see the Bee who is integrating the various aspects of her being, who is a walking Venn diagram with things overlapping and intersecting in harmony, who is thriving and seeing growth in the layers of her life. I can see her and I’m trying to catch up to her – running without a map and stumbling along the way, but trying to reach her nonetheless. Here’s hoping that sooner or later, we meet – and start walking thriving together.

2015 FEARS: When You Can’t See What’s Next

newyear2015

2015 is here, and I have to admit something – I’m a bit scared.

I usually welcome the new year with anticipation or more aptly, vorfruede: (n) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures. Especially since 2012 – which was one of the worst years on record for ya girl – I’ve tried to muster as much courage and optimism as I could with each new year, willing it to be better than the last.

And that’s generally what’s happened.

2013 was about rebuilding after enduring the traumas of 2012 (which I’ve sorta talked about but never written about). I started reconstructing my self-esteem and did the work to really begin figuring out what I wanted my life to look like. 2013 was my personal “Pheonix rising from the ashes” year, and I went through it dusty but determined to get back to who I knew I could be.

The work paid off in 2014. That was the year I felt I really started to step into being the woman I’ve always dreamed of. I took personal and professional risks, I practiced forgiveness, I found success, and I accomplished things that have been present on my vision boards for years now. I became a mother and in that role have found a new opportunity to mold this woman called Bee, who now has a girlchild looking to her for love and guidance.

2014 was a lot. I’m still trying to catch my breath and let all the wins, losses, and changes settle in, but now we’re in 2015 and it’s go time again. What scares me is that much more change is afoot and the year is beginning with me in a fuzzy haze, unable to see my next step, unable to find a map to help me get to some unclear destination. After a few years of working in set goals and absolutes, maybe 2015 is about letting go of control a bit…letting the change wash over me…focusing more on who I want to be and how I want to feel about life than merely working towards the acquisition of things. What scares me is that despite having goals for the year, I don’t really see anything. I can’t remember a year filled with more unknowns. On the positive, I try to view the unknown as the sign of an open road, of possibility. On the negative, it makes my stomach tight, my breath short, and my sleep disturbed.

I want to be consistent with blogging, continue to earn my stripes as a freelance writer, and work on some other new creative projects. I want to put on great events. I want to travel. I want to read more. I want to make money. I want to continue to work towards fulfillment in my professional and personal lives. So, the intentions are there, but this 2015 haze has perfumed the air with the scent of trepidation, watchfulness and assessment. Was 2014 a fluke? Will I make the right decisions when it comes to my career? Will I take good control of my health? What will my shifting priorities mean for my life? How am I going to balance the various identities that jostle against themselves in my body like atoms do? How will I handle all the changes in my life, knowing I’ve never been good with it at all? Too many questions make me nervous, but all I see are the questions and all I feel are the nerves.

I know I’ve grown, because even through the nerves and fear, I still carry a tiny sparkle of hope that everything will be alright. In fact, one of my personal mantras (that always makes sense to me if it doesn’t for anyone else) is “Everything will be alright, then it will be better than alright” and I’m carrying that with me. Old Bee would allow this fear to paralyze her, to cause her to shut down when things get too hard, to crumble with even the slightest touch of negativity, to fuel a never-ending game of “What If” where she tries to control every possible outcome of a situation. I’m not 100% removed from that girl, but this year I’ll attempt to let these nerves be the energy that propels me while embracing the fact that “I don’t know” is an answer I can give myself. “I don’t know” doesn’t mean “I’ll never know,” but it gives me time and room, allowing me to be a bit kinder to myself in what will undoubtedly be a year that requires self-care.

So, 2015 is here and we have no choice but to be present and make the best of it. Hopefully this haze will dissipate and my way will become a bit clearer – but until then I’ll just float along, letting go of things that don’t serve me well, grasping the things that do, finding the beauty in “I don’t know,” and making an effort to simply do my best every day.

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