(Lay Your Head On My) Pillow

“…and just relax, relax, relax…”

I know I can’t be the only one who remembers that groove from Tony! Toni! Toné!. Yes, that song came out when I was, like, 7. No, I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about (there are some pretty adult themes in those lyrics). But hey–I’m a sucker for a good R&B tune! (And if you’ve never heard this song, please give it a listen–it’s awesome.)

You’ve probably figured out I use songs as the titles for my blog posts. Sometimes the songs get stuck in my head for days–they won’t leave until I get my thoughts out. Most times, the songs remind me of a particular feeling…a moment…a memory. Today’s song actually came from a conversation with my therapist.

In a session earlier this week, I shared how overwhelmed I felt–just plain stressed and anxious–with all the changes in my work schedule and obligations in my personal life. After I was done explaining everything, she asked me a question that knocked me right on my ass:

Can you be relaxed on the busiest day of your life?

Now I had to think about this for a minute, because basically my entire life I’ve assumed busy = stressed. I enjoy having things to do; I love staying busy. But I don’t like being stressed the fuck out. (My guess is most people don’t.) My therapist challenged me to relax and not get tense even when I’ve got a lot going on.

So yesterday, even with the stress of work and home, I tried to relax. Instead of worrying about every possible thing that could go wrong, I tried to focus on the present–what was happening in that moment. And the day went surprisingly well! Usually at the end of a work day, I’m dragging myself back to my car–all the stress of the day just weighs on me, so much that it feels like a physical weight.

Yesterday, I left work feeling light as air.

So many of us struggle with anxiety and stress; we weigh ourselves down with worrying and feel we’ll never be able to accomplish everything. If you feel this way, you are absolutely not alone–I’m right there with you. But I’d encourage you to ask yourself that question, “Can I be relaxed on the busiest day of my life?” Allow yourself to see things in perspective–you don’t have to be stressed or anxious just because you are busy. Handle your shit–don’t let your shit handle you.

And just relax…relax…relax.

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.

Vulnerability

The world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

A few weeks ago, my therapist told me that vulnerability is something we should work on. She said I don’t trust people.

Well, duh. I know firsthand that the world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

After our session, I tried to think of when I first learned that lesson.

Was it sixth grade, when I wrote a note to my secret crush (a white boy) and he laughed while reading it aloud to the entire class?

Was it my 13th birthday, when I planned a big party, invited everyone I knew from school, and only two people showed up?   

Was it the summer after my sophomore year in college, when the man I loved dumped me but still strung me along so he could have someone to clean his apartment and cook for him?

Was it when I was publicly shamed by a dentist for crying out in pain during a root canal?

Was it the multiple instances of racism, sexism, or the brutal combination of both known as misogynoir that I’ve experienced in my life?

Most likely.

I truly wish that I could open up and be myself with everyone. But lessons learned the hard way are ones not quickly forgotten.

This world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

Wayside

As you can tell, this blog has gone by the wayside for…a while.

Honestly, some days it’s been a struggle to get out of bed, much less come up with something to say.

If I’m being really truthful with myself, depression had me putting myself by the wayside. But, this is a new chapter.

I’m in therapy. I’m in a good place in my career and relationships. And I’m going to do everything I can to prioritize my happiness and well-being.

Here’s to new beginnings!