Thank U

This week I (like many of y’all) am celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in my hometown. Family, fellowship, and food–the holy trinity of this particular celebration. An opportunity to appreciate all we have…then go out and buy more on Black Friday! And of course, the question asked around dinner tables every single year…

“What are you thankful for?”

The pandemic made me extremely thankful for the many blessings in my life. I imagine others had a similar onslaught of overwhelming appreciation for life, health, and other things oft taken for granted. COVID really helped us put things in perspective, y’all.

But sometimes it’s hard to see the sugar for all the shit.

Lately I’ve been stressed, depressed, and just plain exhausted. Work life has tried me. Home life has tried me. My inner saboteur has been working overtime to convince me I’m a terrible human being who only deserves the worst in life.

How am I supposed to find the sugar in all that shit???

I’m thankful I have a job, even if it feels like work gets added but never gets taken away. I’m thankful for my family and friends, even if we don’t always see eye to eye. I’m thankful to see another season, even with the cold, dark, windy days. Every day I draw breath is a great day, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Because each day gives me the opportunity to be thankful for the beautiful things–big and small.

And if you have nothing else to be thankful for…

Be thankful for the ability to be thankful.

Buy Me a Rose

“Give people their flowers while they’re here.”

You’ve heard that saying, right? Basically, we should tell people how much they mean to us while they are around to hear it. It’s a call to action we can all take on.

Sometimes, I wish it were taken more literally.

I absolutely adore fresh flowers. (I honestly think it’s a hereditary thing–a lot of the women in my family are flower freaks.) While expensive to send, I know nothing will thrill my grandmother more than a beautiful bouquet. My great-aunt always had fresh flowers in the house when she was alive. Just last week, my husband surprised me with flowers and I thought my heart would explode. It’s wild how something a small as a $15 arrangement from the grocery store down the street can bring so much joy.

So I want to start giving people their flowers by literally giving them their flowers.

Over the next year, I want to send surprise flowers to people I care about. Family, friends–anyone who’s made a positive impact in my life. Not for a holiday or anything in particular, just because they are special to me.

I hope their hearts are fill with joy.

I hope they feel special, appreciated, loved.

I hope they see the beauty in the gift as a reflection of the beauty in them.

I’ve heard more than once that flowers aren’t a great gift because they eventually die. Who wants a gift that doesn’t last? Cut flowers show their colors and slowly fade away until nothing is left but the memory.

But isn’t that true of all of us?

We eventually die–we cease to exist. While we’re living, we show our colors: our talents, our feelings, our love. We grow older, and eventually all that is left of us is the legacy we leave behind.

We are flowers: beautiful, colorful, fragile, temporary. Acknowledge the beauty in everyone you meet, but especially those who’ve impacted your life in a positive way. Cherish those people; give them support and encouragement just as you’d give water and sunlight to the beautiful blooms you arrange in a vase.

After all, flowers don’t last forever.

No More (Baby Imma Do Right)

“I’m gettina lil’ tired of your broken promises, promises…”

Y’all remember that song??? 3LW had middle school me hype! I was really out there singing (definitely off-key) to my (completely imaginary) boyfriend to get his (entirely hypothetical) shit together. 😂😂😂

Now, those three little women didn’t know what the hell they were singing about either. (Or maybe they were more sophisticated young adults than I was—who knows?) Either way, I appreciate the message behind the song in a way I couldn’t back then.

Sometimes, we stay in situations we know aren’t good for us. Whether it’s a job or a relationship or something else entirely, we stay because we feel comfortable. We stay because it’s what we know. We stay because we can’t imagine another way.

So we put up with the lies. The abuse. The broken promises, promises. We push aside our intuition and let the situation control us, instead of the other way around. Eventually, we find ourselves two options: stay or go.

Not an easy decision, but a necessary one.

Today, I stand at this crossroads. I can stay comfortable (and unhappy) where I am. I could journey to a new (scary and unknown) place.

I don’t know what to choose.

Without sharing too much, I’ve been in this situation for a long time time (over a decade actually). Many aspects of the situation are excellent, but a few key areas conflict with my personal values. I can choose to overlook those few things and just focus on the good, but that makes me feel like a fraud. I don’t want to lie to anyone, especially myself.

So here I am, between a rock and a hard place. I don’t know what I’m going to choose, but I do now this—I need to make a choice. Because as those three little women sang all those years ago…

“You do, or you don’t. You will, or you won’t.”

She Will Be Loved

When I was a child, I learned not to make mistakes.

Now, perfectionism is a pretty complex concept. By no means am I saying i fully grasped it; my four-year-old brain didn’t quite understand what it was learning. All I knew was, “If I do things just right, grown-ups will be happy.”

Unfortunately, that’s a lesson I can’t quite shake.

I always thought perfectionism was a good thing, a motivator to make me bring my best self and do my best work. But perfectionism has a cost. If I make a mistake–if I don’t get it right on the first try every time–the criticism starts, and it doesn’t let up.

My therapist and I talked about inner-child work recently. (Apparently shit that happened to you as a kid can fuck you up as an adult–surprise, surprise.) Yesterday she asked me to find a picture of me as a child and imagine the picture was real, that I was talking to my four-year-old self. How would I respond to her if she told me she felt like she wasn’t good enough?

Would I reinforce her doubts, break her heart further?

Or would I wipe her tears, pull her into my arms, and tell her she’s spectacular–just as she is?

I’ve gone with the former for most of my life, mistakenly believing shame and criticism were effective motivators. Effective in the short term? Absolutely. But the long term damage isn’t worth it.

And four-year-old me deserves the support she didn’t feel she had.

I Am Not My Hair

Today I’m starting my loc journey. After almost 10 years of being natural, I’m trying something new. And I’m terrified.

Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to see Black women with various natural and protective styles. Fros, locs, twist, braids—we rock them all. For my wedding, I wore crochet braids and never felt more beautiful!

But still, I worry.

I worry my coworkers will treat me like an animal in a petting zoo when they see it. I dread the questions I’ll have to answer from my in-laws. My stomach turns when I think about showing my grandmother (who was very vocal about her dislike of my cousin’s locs).

But I can’t worry about them. I need to focus on me.

That’s part of the reason I wanted to loc my hair in the first place. Growing up, I was a “creamy crack” girl through and through. My hair was constantly in a some kind of ponytail—straight back, low with a side part, maybe some bangs if I was feeling fancy—because I didn’t know what else to do with it. I’ve been in a battle with my hair since I went natural.

For so long, I tried to force my hair into shapes I found “acceptable” and cursed how “difficult” it was to maintain my kinky coils. I called my hair texture “4Z” (‘cause 4C just didn’t seem descriptive enough) and lamented on how the lord didn’t give me the patience to deal with all this hair. I bought every natural hair product out there, thinking some magical elixir would give me the Traces Ellis Ross curls I craved.

Spoiler alert—it didn’t work.

No combination of products, techniques, or gadgets gave me the “right” natural hair. Because there is no such thing as “right” natural hair. It’s called natural for Pete’s sake—that should have clued me in right there!

But society has a lot of expectations for Black women. If we’re going to have natural hair, it needs to be the “professional” kind. Not too kinky, or coily, or wild. My natural hair is all those things, so I never felt like I could let my hair just be.

That changes today.

Today, I’m making a choice for myself. Today, I’m embracing the “4Z” and allowing my hair to transform into what it wants to be (not what I want it to be). Today, I’m taking the first step in what will *hopefully* be a long, beautiful journey.

For me.

peace

Every morning, my husband and I do about 15 minutes of yoga together. A quarantine habit that stuck, we lay our mats in the living room floor and start our day with a short practice. Our YouTube yogi, Kassandra, always encourages us to come up with an intention–a word or phrase for how we want the day to go.

It’s been 21 years since my daddy died. Today, on the anniversary of his death, Today, my intention was “peaceful.” Peaceful for him, wherever he is.

Peaceful for me as I continue to exist without him.

I’m so thankful to have a stepdad who’s exactly the kind of father you want to have–attentive, funny, supportive, always there with a word of advice when you need it. My stepdad (who I just call “Dad”) is like the dads I saw on TV growing up. He’s what I always hoped to have, and I’m grateful he stepped into that role in my life.

But my daddy is always present, even in absentia.

My daddy suffered from alcoholism; that’s ultimately what took his life. Even though I know he was sick, I can’t help but feel like he gave up on our family. He didn’t try to get better for us (at least that’s what my my 9-year-old perspective gathered). I’ll never know what he thought, or felt, or hoped for in those last few years he was alive.

I wish I could come to peace with that, the not knowing.

Would my parents have stayed married? Would my daddy and I have a close relationship? I have so many questions I’ll never know the answers to. I’ll never know how things would have been had he gotten treatment, and it tears me apart inside.

I try to comfort myself with the thought that maybe someday we’ll be reunited. Maybe my daddy will be waiting for me, ready to take my hand and lead me into wherever we go when our lives end. Maybe we’ll finally get to sit, and talk, and cry, and he’ll answer the questions that have run through my mind since he died 21 years ago today.

Until then, I’ll think of him and ask the universe to keep things peaceful…for both of us.

Dream On

Somehow, I lost my ability to dream.

I’m not talking about the dreams we have when we sleep—I still have plenty of those. (Honestly, my nighttime dreams are so active sometimes I wake up still tired.) I’m talking about dreams for myself, my life, the person I want to be.

When I was a kid, I used to dream I’d be a famous actress making movies in Hollywood.

As a young adult, I dreamed of becoming an executive at my company helping to make change for sick people around the world.

I even had dreams for this blog, that it would blow up into my own lifestyle brand where I inspired all sorts of people to be the best versions of themselves.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped dreaming. You know what?That’s actually not true at all. I didn’t stop dreaming…

…I just stopped believing my dreams could actually come true.

How do you find the courage to dream again? How do you find the hope when you’ve lost it? How do you dare imagine a better future when the present day beats you down so thoroughly?

I truly don’t know. I wake up every day and go to sleep every night and just continue through the motions. I tell myself I’m stuck, there’s nothing else than what is now. Be grateful for what I have and never wish for anything more.

I am grateful for what I have, no doubt about it. But I want to allow myself to dream of more again. I want to rediscover that version of me who was convinced she’d make an impact on the world.

So I’m back on the blog after almost a year of inactivity. Maybe this blog won’t turn into anything at all. Maybe nobody cares a rip about what I have to say.

But hey, a girl can dream.

No Air

Living as a Black woman in America means rarely breathing freely.

My struggle to breathe has nothing to do with COVID-19. This lack of air is a result of a different illness, one that has lingered in the air since the beginning of America. This illness ruined families, ruined health, ruined lives. This illness has changed forms through the years, but is just as prevalent and deadly today as it it was when it started.

My breath catches when I see a police officer, even if I’m doing nothing wrong.

Air leaves my lungs in a sick rush at the sight of a confederate flag.

At each microaggression, dog whistle, and ignorant comment I heave a hefty sigh of exasperation.

Racism is a disease infecting every area of this country. Sadly, too many among us don’t recognize how sick this country is. We need to open the windows and release the stale, sour air of this country’s racist past and present if we ever want to eliminate the disease in the future.

Acknowledge the original sin of slavery and its negative impact on Black Americans, then and now.

Apologize through words and actions. Try to right the egregious wrongs. Nothing can ever truly pay what is owed to those who worked this land for nothing, those who were seen and treated as nothing.

But we can try.

As I wait to see the results of this presidential election, I hold my breath. With each passing day I pray we are closing in on the final days of this disease. I hope I live long enough to see racism draw its final breath so we can all breathe freely.

Dear Future Husband

You’ve got your work cut out for you, my darling.

I promise I will not try to make your life difficult. In fact, I’ll do whatever I can to help you, to ease your spirit and give you comfort. But I’d be lying if I acted like I didn’t know I’m a bit of a handful, and I think you deserve to know why.

Men have abandoned me my entire life.

The first was my father. When it was time to choose between alcohol or me, his addiction made the choice for him. He left our family. He died a few years later.

The second was my first love. He took all he could from me, then threw me aside. He decided I was good enough to cook and clean and coddle him, but not good enough to be his girlfriend.

The third was the boyfriend who assaulted me. He didn’t ask for my consent. Maybe he didn’t think he needed to. Or maybe he felt like I wasn’t worth asking.

The fourth was the fiancé who tokenized me. He wanted all I had to offer, but not me as a person. His true feelings showed when I ended our engagement; he told me just how terrible he thought I was.

The fifth was the fiancé who abused me. He hurt me mentally, emotionally, and physically. He gaslit me. He expected me to do all the housework, pay all the bills, and raise all of his children. He spent all of my money. He tried to strangle me.

That cruel man was the last to break my heart before I met you.

In spite of all the negative, I still believe in love. And when I love, I love HARD. It may take time for me to give you my heart, but if and when I do, you get all of it.

I’ve decided to give my heart to you, future husband. I expect few things in return.

I expect you will treat me gently and with kindness.

I expect you will defend me and protect me from anyone or anything that attempts to do me harm.

I expect you will listen to me. Pay attention to my words and actions. I say what I mean and mean what I say—all you have to do is listen.

I expect you will be there for me when I need you.

All of these expectations are ones I have for myself also. I will be kind. I will defend you. I will listen to you. I will be there for you whenever or whatever the circumstance.

I will treat you how I want to be treated.

Because even though men have abandoned me and broken my heart, the strong women in my life taught me to always treat others with the respect and dignity I want to receive. And I will. You will have my full, never-ending adoration, respect, and love until you treat me like you no longer deserve it.

Marriage is something I plan to do once and only once. Choosing a husband is not a choice I make lightly. It means a lot to me.

It means I’ve found the man who will treat me the way all the other men didn’t…

…like someone worthy of love.