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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

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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.

MISSING IN ACTION: The Silence of Black Organizations That Serve Us

via BlackEnterprise.com

via BlackEnterprise.com

It’s often said that silence is golden. Contrasting with the clamour and din of the world we live in, there’s a beauty in silence; a special solitude in the space that it gives us.

Then, there’s an aspect of silence that stuns in another way. When the world’s noise begs for a voice to respond, that revered solitude festers into neglect and the golden beauty of silence tarnishes into ugliness.

For marginalized people in this city, this country, this world – things aren’t just noisy, they’re deafening. Individual voices raised in retort have done amazing things, but when voices combine in effort, even more impressive things ensue. That’s why for me, at this time, it’s distressing to feel the crushing silence emanating from long-standing Black institutions who have failed to add their voice to our current struggles.

This past weekend, I passed on an invitation to one of Toronto’s – if not Canada’s – premiere Black events. I looked forward to the opportunity to get dolled up and connect with old friends and new people. What I didn’t look forward to was the nausea of watching Toronto’s mayor grace the event with grandiloquent comments celebrating the same demographic victimized by the carding policy he supported a week prior. The cognitive dissonance is unsurprising, yet it’s hard to shake the feelings of frustration and disappointment.

Even more disappointing is the fact that organizations that purport to advocate for Black community/communities and support their advancement have failed to take their place at the current tables of discussion on the issues affecting the people they claim to serve. No representatives at police board meetings. No participation in or organization of town halls. Poor outreach to the community in favour of more insular, self-congratulatory efforts. Refusal to engage in the conversations that community members are asking – no, begging – for. I guess you can chalk some initial silence up to lack of awareness. Then, you can say, “Well, maybe they’ll be present at the next meeting/will have a quote in the next round of media coverage/will issue a statement of their own.” Then, you wait and wait and grasp at nothing but empty silence and realize that their silence is their statement.

The Star’s “Searching for Toronto’s next generation of Black leaders” covers a spate of perspectives on issues affecting advocacy and activism in the city. Why do older leaders hesitate to pass the baton on to younger generations? Is there a misunderstanding of new waves of activism? How do we increase community involvement in various initiatives? This article asks questions and attempts to answer them, highlighting some of the very issues that I feel compound on the function of Black organizations in our communities.

Far too many Black organizations uphold narrow paradigms of respectability, putting an asterisk beside the definition of the demographic they represent. Far too many ascribe to the modus operandi of “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps” without acknowledging that sometimes those very bootstraps are given to us, already frayed and deliberately unable to support our weight. Far too many think that their presence is effort enough, failing to actively engage the individuals and communities around them. Far too many cry that there’s no one new to helm the ship when their white-knuckled clutches on power impede their ability to let new blood in. What we need are organizations that understand, as Audre Lorde said, that “the Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s house.” We cannot build an empowered Black identity using the sociopolitical tools that were created to work against us. We need organizations that are truly open to new voices and new ways of doing things; ones that are accessible in a myriad of forms; ones that aren’t afraid to speak up when and where it matters; ones that don’t value photo ops over true progress.

Perhaps some of these organizations are misunderstood. If that’s the case, I truly hope that they do the necessary work to make change and align their internal missions with external perception. Maybe a redefinition of who they serve or a revamp of the hows and whys of doing what they do is needed. Additionally, a reminder needs to be given that there isn’t much room for ego in community work. All critique and criticism isn’t cruel – more often, it’s a sign that your community is invested in what you do and wants you to do even better, so disparaging that response isn’t always a smart move.

Then again, maybe I’m the one who is looking at this all wrong. Maybe I’m expecting things of people and executives and institutions that they aren’t meant to deliver. When it comes to carding or police brutality or fighting for higher minimum wage or support for Black women, maybe I’m waiting for people to speak when they truly have nothing to say. What I do know is this: your silence speaks volumes, and I hear you loud and clear.

FULL OF YOURSELF: The Audacity of Self-Confidence

 

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“You can’t wake up looking for the recession.” – Jenifer Lewis

While doing some research, I came across an episode of Black Actress featuring the incomparable Jenifer Lewis. As soon as I heard that quote, I internalized it in a way that told me something I needed to hear that day: “Bee – stop looking at the things you lack. Stop claiming your deficits and ignoring your gifts.” It’s easy to fall into a self-confidence recession, and sometimes I have to ensure that I don’t fall into that hole.

There’s an air of audacity around self-confidence in women. From birth, it’s drilled into us that it’s more noble to minimize compliments and to not toot our own horns. We’re taught that it’s preferable to be more sugar than spice. We try to embody “everything nice” until we see that the jig is up – “everything nice” usually serves others at our expense, and that realization sometimes comes too late. To buck those trends – to accept compliments, to celebrate ourselves, to stop worrying about being nice and start busying ourselves with being authentic –  breaks the mold of what “good girls” do, thereby fragmenting the view of what a “lady” is.

You’re more malleable when you aren’t self-aware. You’re easier to predict and control when you aren’t self-assured. People know what to expect of you and how much space you’ll take up when your words and actions show that the answer is “not much.” I realized I didn’t want to be malleable, predictable, or controllable. I wanted more than the basics and more than the small space I allowed myself, and the key to that is through self-confidence.

There’s levels to this, though. For me, self-confidence is rooted in the fact that there ain’t nobody else out there like me. No one with my skills, laugh, height, skin tone, hair texture, voice. No one with my past. No one awaiting the gifts that are coming specifically for me in the future. There’s no one who possesses all these things the way I do – and for that fact alone, how can I not revel in the fact that I’m a 1 of 1?

I work damn hard, too. If someone compliments something I’ve done, I’d be a gotdamn fool to act like my merits are minuscule. And trust me – I’ve been that gotdamn fool. I’ve said “Oh, that was just a thing I did,” or “Gosh, it’s nothing big” when I’ve actually wanted to heartily say “Thank you!” and bask in the fact that yes, I did that.

I love me. I didn’t always – I didn’t hate myself, but I was indifferent – but I do more and more as the years pass. I love me enough to bounce back when someone else doesn’t. Or when I’ve failed and had to remind myself I’m worth the effort to try again. I love me enough to say “I want more” and follow up with “You deserve it. Go get it.” I love me, so it makes bouncing back from “I’m not feeling me” to “I’m dope as a muhfucka” a bit easier.

When did we start to believe that any step into self-confidence equated to arrogance? When did we start to believe that it was more important to make others comfortable than to take up our rightful space in the world? When did we decide to wait for someone else to confirm the things we already saw in ourselves? When did it begin to matter that other people sometimes don’t like the fact that you like yourself?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: low self-esteem is an epidemic of massive proportions. Playing yourself small under the guise of “being humble,” denying yourself the opportunity to be enriched by others, not celebrating the things that make you you – I don’t know about y’all, but acting like this starves me. I like feeling full, and when someone tells me it’s bad to be full of myself, I remember another necessary quote from Nikki Giovanni:

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu
so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
    and i’ll show you a hungry person
Fight the recession. Be full.

MONDAY RANDOMS: A Mish-Mash Of Thoughts

aye fam

So, I’ve started this post about 3 or 4 different times, erasing and re-crafting new opening statements that speak to whatever particular topic I feel should be my go-to for this week. The problem is, my mind is so all over the place that I want to equally speak on 3 or 4 different things, and I figure I’ll just do them all instead of trying to choose one.

Bee The Yogi

Last week was a really rough week for a few different reasons. I had a particularly tough day on Thursday but found solace in an unlikely spot – my neighbourhood yoga studio.

I’ve always been a sporadic yogi, mainly due to cost and the fact that yoga studios were often too far out of the way to make them easy for me to attend. I’ve always loved how yoga made me feel, so when we moved into our new ‘hood over the summer and I realized that a yoga studio was within walking distance from my house, I was curious about the possibilities of signing up. Instead of doing my usual investigative process before attending any fitness class, I simply Googled the studio, found a class starting in 30 minutes, grabbed my mat, a towel, and a bottle of water, and showed up.

I’m so glad I did. Moving my body, sweating, challenging myself, and focusing on something other than my problems worked like magic. After a day where I felt like I could do absolutely nothing right, the “Good job!” I earned from the instructor as I held the eagle pose meant everything. At the end of the class, I cried all through Savasana to release my remaining stress, then signed up for the newcomer special. Let’s see how this goes…

Sights Set On Spring

I’m not sure what it is, but winter 2015 is feeling like some ole bullshit for myself and a number of people I’ve spoken with. It seems like a lot of us welcomed this year in the midst of major flux – people are looking for new jobs, searching for new places to live, dealing with health issues, managing family issues, assessing current relationships, and are generally trying to just figure things out.

I’m calling it now: spring/summer 2015 is about to be amazing. With all of the trials and tribulations people are experiencing right now, I’m clinging to the belief that all of this chaos is just shifting the best parts of our lives thus far into place.

One of the quotes I live by in times like these is from Pearl Cleage:

The Buddhists believe that sometimes when everything is in turmoil, it’s because something wonderful is ready to be born and that thing is distracting you so it can have some privacy during the birthing process.

Here’s hoping that springtime gives birth to wonderful things.

Accountability Is Key

Are you working on something? Trying to achieve a goal? If you don’t have an accountability partner, do yourself a favour and get one.

I have accountability partners for various things. A group of veritable strangers on Twitter make up one group – if you follow the #GetCreative2015 hashtag there, you’ll find a gang of creatives who are using Twitter to keep each other working, learning, and growing, and it’s been SO helpful in these first few weeks of the year. I have a girlfriend who lives in Texas who keeps me in check and inspires me on various levels, including my goal to be more physically active (she was super proud when she heard of my yoga adventure the other day). Having even one person that you can check in with and who keeps you on track with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve makes a huge difference in productivity.

I’ve talked about mentorship and sponsorhip (two practices I wholly believe in), but having someone who keeps you accountable is another piece of the puzzle. Try to find that person for yourself, or offer to be that person for someone else – it’s truly a gamechanger.

 

Whew. It feels good to get those mini-thoughts out. At this point, I’m just hoping for a week better than the last – and I wish the same for you.

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

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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.

INHALE/EXHALE: Reflecting On 2014

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After writing my last post (nearly a month ago – Lawd!), I decided I really needed to step back a bit to address some of the things I wrote about – feeling overwhelmed, being addicted to achievement, and not taking a moment to let all of life’s changes sink in. I’ve been trying to work on all those things, and I think I’m starting to make some headway. 2014 has been a hell of a year – both personally and with society overall, I feel – and now that we’re here at the end of it, I figured that I’d use this post to continue to aid in my aim of self-preservation and reflect a bit on what was before thinking about what will be in 2015.

I think 2014 was the first year in a while that I didn’t make a vision board. I had all intentions of doing so – I even started one on my favourite vision board app on Oprah’s site. I never got around to finishing it, and part of me wondered if this would, on some supernatural level, equate to me having a year without direction. Funnily enough, now that the year is closing out I feel that I have more direction than I could have ever imagined. They say “to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been” – so I feel that this moment of reflection is akin to the drawing back of a bow before the arrow is launched at its intended target. Draw back with me for a moment, will you?

2014 was the year of excess. Not in any kind of hedonistic wealth-driven kind of way, but in the way of having so many decisions, so many changes, so many risks, and so man achievements. 2014 has made me exhausted in some of the best ways possible, and 2014 has transformed me in ways that still haven’t settled themselves fully in my spirit.

Achievements/Lessons Learned

I learned (yet again) that my big mouth can and will get me into “trouble” – voicing my opinions about a TV show hosts’ misogynistic blog post on women in media earned me a spot on his show, giving life to the Rick Ross lyric “F*ck a blog, dog, ’cause one day we gon’ meet!”

I got to meet one of my girl crushes – the awesome Yendi Phillipps – not once, but twice, and tested out some new interviewing skills in my first set of ’83 To Infinity videos. That experience taught me not to sell myself short – I almost didn’t email her management for an interview request because I thought I was too small-time. Had I not, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity and would have stunted my own growth. And I’m all about growth.

I learned that pregnancy/motherhood can slow your roll, but it doesn’t have to. From hosting events to being a featured panelist to facilitating workshops to speaking at conferences, I somehow found a way to keep myself more than busy this year. I also found time to start/continue 3 “signature” events – Brunch With Bee in March, Curls, Coils & Cocktails in July, and Mirror Images in October. Don’t ask me how I did it – I think I’ve been running on adrenaline for most of 2014.

I stepped my freelance writing game up in a big way. From writing some great pieces for my current outlets to being nationally and internationally published, I’m growing into my writing skills daily.

I can now call myself “an award-winning blogger” after taking home the Best Blogger award at the 2014 Black Canadians Award. My mantle now has a bit of extra sparkle to it, but the recognition of my hard work is even better. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, I launched The Brown Suga Mama. It’s been fun juggling my two online spaces, and both have seen awesome growth.

New Identities

I tried on a bunch of new roles and titles this year, some because I believed in myself enough to succeed in them (like my Community Health Ambassador role), and some because other people have believed in me to succeed (like some new projects I’m working on that I’ll share soon!). The one new role that merges both is the new identity of mother. My Little Magician is almost 6 months old at this point, and life has changed immeasurably since she’s come into it. She’s made me tougher and softer at the same time. She’s caused me to rearrange some of my priorities and re-evaluate what I think is/thought was important. She’s made me want to know myself more than ever before, because everyone (including myself) sees me differently now. Those who previously saw me as a wife/daughter/sister/friend now see me with a new dimension added, but for her, I have always been this entity, this icon, this person – so I’ve kinda gotta get it together and be honest about it in the process.

It’s not easy. I’m not good with change. I put too much pressure on myself. I overthink things. I struggle. A lot. All of this is a recipe for disaster when getting acclimated to a new addition to the Venn diagram of self-identity, but such is life. I’m still figuring out how to do this, how I want to do it, who I want to be – but through her birth I’ve also been reborn in a way, so one day I’ll thank her for allowing me to grow with her.

Reset. Renew. 

Though we often get in the habit of reviewing the past year at this point in the calendar, I always have a bit of a reset period in May leading up to my birthday. This year I happened to write: Hello, 31: that curious point in life where – if you’re blessed – you not only feel like you’ve lived a full lifetime already, but you also feel like you’re just getting started. I’m blessed. If I felt that in May, I feel it tenfold now – especially the point about just getting started. Remember that earlier point I made about having direction? So many things this year have given me clarity on what I believe, where I stand, what I want, and how I’m going to get it. There is so much out there for me to immerse myself in, to taste, to touch, to discuss, to learn – and I refuse to waste any more time with self-doubt. My goal is to wrap up 2014 with gratitude, and enter 2015 feeling renewed and ready. Drawing back that bow is like taking a moment to inhale deeply – but it’s almost time to exhale, let go, and let that arrow fly.

DIAMONDS & DUST: Succumbing To Pressure You Put On Yourself

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I had to do something really uncomfortable the other day. I had to sit down with someone I really cared about, look them in the eye, and tell them, “Hey. You’ve really gotta cut the bullsh*t and get it together.” I knew this person was avoiding the conversation, and I knew they didn’t really want to hear it, but it had to be said.

That person on the receiving end of this reality check was me.

Though I’ve maintained a steely exterior, fault lines have been forming below the surface for some time now. I’m always reminded that diamonds form under pressure, but I’m quick to note that things crumble under it too. I always err on the side of being sparkly, beautiful, and conflict-free, but I finally had to admit that if the products of pressure were laid out like a fork in the road, things were actually heading down a dire path.

I’m a true Taurus in that change is very difficult for me. Becoming a mom, physical fluctuations, moving and becoming a homeowner, leaving my 9-5, having more time for passions, having some passions lose their lustre and turn into burdens – things have changed so much that sometimes I look in the mirror and have a hard time recognizing myself. Being a chronic overachiever, self-critic, and overthinker do nothing to help with my identity shift, either.

I see now that there are things I’ve done, things I’ve agreed to, more for the purpose of proving I could do them than actually wanting to do them. I’ve tried to hold on to parts of life that were familiar, and I’ve tried to mold something magnificent with these new compartments – but the way I feel much of the time shows me that I’ve gone about it all wrong. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve done a good job of internally dealing with all these changes, and I’ve been using external things to pretend like I have.

How common is it to hop, skip, and jump over things that need to be addressed by just layering something else on top of it? Sometimes retail therapy is my chosen cloak of oblivion. Sometimes I get very vain and focus wholly on the external – feeling “together” if the outside is shiny, painted, and pretty. Other times – like now – I get high on achievement and doing things. Doing things keeps my mind busy. Gives me something goal-oriented to focus on. Lets me know people still value me when they ask me to be somewhere/do something. Achievement and accomplishment get a bit addictive, especially when someone even slightly insinuates that there’s something I can’t do. So instead of taking a break, checking in with myself, and giving myself time to adjust to everything swirling around me, I’ve been pushing through, masking my insecurities and poor adjustment skills with doing more and more.

I sat down with myself the other day and said, “Self, this cannot continue.” I had heard it from those near and dear to me, but didn’t take it to heart until I said it to myself. It’s time to assess why I do the things I do, what I may be missing in the constant noise, and how I’m going to proceed. I’ve only gotten as far as that conversation with myself and this blog post, so I have some work to do.

Sometimes the hardest conversations are the ones we have with ourselves. I believe that they’re also the most transformative ones, so here’s to being real, being honest, and coming out as a more balanced and well-adjusted person on the other side.

WISH/CREATE: Why I Created #MirrorImages Ft. Black Canadian Women In Media

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There’s nothing more liberating – and frightening – than deciding to create instead of wait.

Let me explain.

I tend to get myself into trouble (good trouble) when I open my mouth or mind and say “I wish…” I’m usually wishing to see something, do something, have something, or visit somewhere. And I’m usually waiting for someone else to do the leg work in order to grant me my wish.

Lately, I’ve taken a bit more of a proactive approach to making my wishes come true in two big ways.

One day, I openly lamented the scantiness of parenting blogs run by non-White moms and dads in Canada. The next day, I stayed up til 5am buying domains, picking themes, setting up emails and social media accounts, and writing posts for The Brown Suga Mama.

One day, I read a piece about natural hair in the eyes of Canadian media from one woman’s perspective, and openly wished to attend an event featuring Black Canadian women in the industry. Two hours later, Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media was born.

The presence of Black women in media has been a major talking point of late. Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, black-ish, Suits, and Sleepy Hollow frequently come up in discussion, opposing the images of Black women offered via reality show vehicles. Here in Canada, the recent Globe and Mail gaffe mixing up Traci Melchor and Tracy Moore led to discussions on the cross-race effect, or other-race bias. Arisa Cox’s earlier-mentioned piece on being ordered to straighten her natural hair (and her decision to quit instead) was the final catalyst to the creation of Mirror Images. These points and more inspired me to forge a space to have an authentic conversation about the issues around diversity and representation in media, particularly from the perspective of Black Canadian women.

I find that the majority of conversations I engage in around race and media come from an American lens. Having those kinds of discussions here in Canada seems rare, but is not something we should be shying from. As I’ve said before, Canada’s PR team is GOLDEN – we often snuggle under our cozy blanket of multiculturalism, but far too often we pull that blanket over our heads and refuse to discuss the nuances of that multiculturalism in various contexts. I’m hoping that Mirror Images will help us to pull that blanket down and bring light to a variety of issues from a Canadian perspective – this is a conversation that EVERYONE needs to be a part of.

I have an incredible panel line up:

Tatiana King: Radio Personality, G 98.7FM’s “The African Groove Show”
Arisa Cox: Freelance Journalist & Host of Big Brother Canada
Kim Johnson: Producer, CityNews
Nneka Elliott: Reporter/Anchor/Co-host, CP24 Breakfast
Ingrie Williams: Stylist & Editor of HOLR Magazine
Namugenyi Kiwanuka: Columnist & Videographer

These women are all representing various arms of Canadian media, and will all bring rich perspectives and experiences to the table. With these women, I hope to foster an important discussion and allow room for new connections to be made. If you’re in the media industry, aim to be, create content, or consume media, this event is for you. Mirror Images sponsors Harlem Restaurant, R Flavour, Soulafrodisiac, and Caribbean Vibrations TV all believe in the vision of the event, and the support has been amazing. Like I said at the start of this post, creating the things you wish for is liberating yet frightening – but genuine support helps to alleviate some of those jitters.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to show support as well – if you’re in the Toronto area, please join us for Mirror Images: Conversations On Diversity & Representation In Media on Sunday, October 26th from 1:30-5pm at Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond Street East)! Tickets are $10 and available here on Brown Paper Tickets.

Mara Brock Akil’s acceptance speech at the 2013 Black Girls Rock award show has stuck with me since I first heard it. She stated “My work is driven by my belief that the human spirit needs validation,” and continued to let us know, “Even if no one else sees you, I see you.” With Mirror Images, I want us to be seen, to be heard, to be validated, and to be respected. That’s what I wish for.

FEMININE FOUNDATION: Lessons From My Mother’s Room

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about womanhood and my understanding and expression of it. I recently wrote a piece about how my Caribbean heritage played a role in my development from girl to woman, and a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of another way in which my womanhood was molded – by visiting the sacred space known as my mother’s bedroom.

Someone on Twitter threw a question out to the timeline the other day – “How old were you when you realized your mom was fly?” I couldn’t remember the exact age, but I recalled being in Jamaica one night when my parents were prepping for a night out on the town. I remember sitting on the bed watching my mom in the mirror, painting her lips red while fixing her curls. She wore a pretty gold dress and slipped her feet into black pumps before floating out the door in a cloud of perfume, and I swore she was magic. After that moment, I loved being able to sit in my mom’s room and soak up all things grown woman (cue Beyoncé).

My closet was full of little girl clothes, and my drawers filled with little girl undershirts and underwear. My toiletries were pink and purple bottles, marked with cartoon princesses and other accoutrements that signified my youth. My “nail polishes” and “lipsticks” were kid-friendly lacquers that didn’t compare to the real thing, and I knew it. And everything was plastic. Plastic could be cleaned, could drop without shattering, could be refilled when the familiar wheezing sound alerted us to its emptiness. Plastic wasn’t precious.

Meanwhile, everything in my mom’s room had a presence that demanded respect and the utmost care. Waxy lipsticks in rich reds and deep burgundies. Clothes that shimmered, that exposed brown legs and décolletage. Satiny, silky, lacy undergarments folded carefully in drawers. Shoes that my feet swam in, but that pumped me up a few inches when I slid them on. Jeweled hair clips and glass perfume bottles with vintage atomizers glittered on her dresser, and everything begged to be touched. Some of the most fun I had in my childhood was the time spent in my mom’s room, getting lost in her take on beauty and womanhood, and daydreaming about what my own expressions of the same would look like. My childish trinkets weren’t enough for me, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to be a grown woman just like her.

Well, I’m gettin’ grown now and I’m my own woman. Like my mom, a good red lip and black eyeliner are among my beauty staples. I appreciate the power of a hypnotic fragrance, and agree that some of the best fashion statements are made in the small details. Unlike her, my hair and earrings can never be too big. My style isn’t as refined and classic as hers, and we have differing boundaries on what’s ‘too sexy’. She gave me the starting point with which to build my foundations of femininity and womanhood – but even more importantly, she gave me the freedom to develop into the kind of woman I wanted to be.

Time is a funny thing. It can crunch years into a tight coil, making a decade ago feel like a day ago – or, it can take the span of a month and stretch it into what seems like forever. Now that I have my own daughter, I wonder what lessons she’ll learn from nosing around my dressers and closets – and it feels a bit surreal that history is already repeating itself. No matter how much I may be solidifying my own definitions of beauty, femininity, and womanhood, there’s nothing like tiptoeing into Mom’s room and running my finger along her dresser to make me feel like a little girl again.

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