QOTD: Do We (as a collective) Really Love Women?

16 04 2015
Photo courtesy of Essence Magazine

Photo courtesy of Essence Magazine

I can’t tell y’all how excited I was to see this image come across my screen this week. I saw the picture Ms. Debbie Allen put up last week (and squealed appropriately), so when I saw this was what she was talking about… y’all, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been excited about a magazine cover like that since it was something I actually worked on. And on top of all the “yassssss” proclamations I saw from women exclaiming the pure awesomeness of this cover, I also saw men on my timeline talking about the power of this cover. They were all right. And it made me so happy to see us celebrate women in this way. I was overjoyed at the love we were collectively showing these beautiful, intelligent, dynamic, and inspiring women.

And then I saw this article about a young woman who was raped during Spring Break in front of several bystanders while no one (not a single person!) attempted to stop the rape from happening. What?!

I mean what?!

How does something like that happen?

Well I’d argue it happens because while we celebrate women seen in the public eye, we live in a culture that really doesn’t love women. Not in the real world. Not when it comes to real life traumas.

How do I know? Because Darren Sharper got 9 years for pleading guilty to raping at least 9 women in four different states. Because women and men alike stood around and watched (or neglected to notice) a woman get raped in broad daylight on a beach in Florida. Because states all over this country (including my own lovely home state of Louisiana) continue to try to do everything possible to regulate what a woman can do with her own body, including but not limited to charging women with freakin’ feticide.

That’s not love, y’all. It just can’t be.

So where’s the disconnect?

How are we able to celebrate images like this and talk about the love everyone has for their mamas when they accept awards and celebrate Hillary Clinton running for President and First Lady Michelle Obama just being all around awesome, but we can’t recognize the pain in the women right in front of us? Is it because it’s too difficult to handle? Is the disconnect something that happens out of necessity or just from a lack of care until it’s someone who is close to you or someone who’s in the spotlight?

I really don’t know the answers to all these questions. But I do know there’s a distinct disconnect for some reason. And that’s not to say it’s exhibited by everyone. Some of us really do show out with our love and support for women, but as a whole? As a collective? In this country? We have some serious work to do.

What do you all think?


Five Ways to Love Yourself in the Midst of a Crisis

21 08 2014

In light of the most recent events happening in our country and the rest of the world, I’ve seen a few a friends remind their social and email networks of the importance of taking some time out to self-love and self-heal. It sounds a little pseudo, but stress really does kill you — and you can’t tell me that folks aren’t stressed the hell out these days.

Thing is, my dad always reminds me that your brain doesn’t know the difference between physical and mental stress. That it all seems like you’re banging your body up against a brick wall.

So to help combat that a little (and to pay the reminder forward¹), here are my top five suggestions to loving yourself in the midst of a crisis/storm/stressful time.

1. Take some time away from whatever it is that’s stressing you — I know, I know. It sounds like you’re just avoiding things, but sometimes you have to step away from the stressful stimuli to gain perspective and also to not go crazy. That’s not saying to get under the covers for days, but you shouldn’t be afraid to turn off the TV, power down your phone, and avoid the Internet for even a few hours to help you de-stress.

2. Do something that makes you happy — For me, that’s usually dancing or hanging out with loved ones doing nothing. Your happy place will be unique to you, but you should find it and engage in it at least until you can find yourself laughing genuinely.

3. Get a hug from someone — Yes, the photo for this post is someone hugging herself, but understand, there’s power in the touch of loved ones. Let someone hug you (even if you’re not a hugger), and let him/her do it for longer than 30 seconds. You’ll see.

4. Get some rest — Sleep is so important. And I say this as someone who is a night owl and rarely goes to sleep at a reasonable hour, but I also speak as someone who can feel the difference when I get a restful eight hours of sleep and when I barely get four. My body knows the difference, and so does yours. And your body will break down if you don’t let it refuel to the level it needs.

5. Don’t feel guilty for thinking of you — I used to have this problem (sometimes still do). When I made time for myself in the midst of a stressful situation, I’d feel like I was letting folks down or being selfish. But I had to learn that it’s not about being selfish. It’s about self-preservation. And if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t be there for anyone else.

Those are my top five suggestions, but what about you all? Do you have any that would be good to share?

1 I also want to be sure to thank those who included me in their reminders. It was much needed!

PS: WordPress tells me this is my 700th post!! WOW! That’s kinda crazy — thank you all for coming with me on this crazy ride thus far. Here’s to at least 700 more 🙂

A Dialogue: Are We Scared of Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones for Love?

12 03 2014

“Tell me this,” he said. “If Simon and Schuster told you that a book deal with them was contingent on you moving to New York, would you do it?”

“Well yea, in a heart beat,” I responded.

“So what’s the difference?”

“The difference is one has to do with my career. It’s my livelihood; it’s what I was brought up to cherish. It would be about me standing on my own as an independent woman and going full force into my goals. And the other is…”

I paused. We both knew what I was going to say. That the other was something less stable. Less sure. Less everything but frightening. I didn’t want to admit that to this friend though, seeing as I’d just finished telling him how I was coming to the point where I was realizing that my career without love wasn’t as fulfilling.

“The other has to do with what you’ll do for love,” he finished for me.

“Yea, but c’mon, that’s a horrible comparison,” I suggested. “You know how I feel about my book(s). It’s a passion of mine I’ve had for years now, so of course I would do almost anything to make that happen.”

“And being with the person you love isn’t a passion of yours?”

“Don’t do this. Don’t act like this is as simple as you’re trying to make it sound. That’s a scary concept – moving to make things work with someone. Who does that?”

“Plenty of people!”

“And how many of those people looked stupid afterwards? No one wants to be in that number. That’s scary!”

“Of course it’s scary,” he said. “But when is doing something out of your comfort zone not scary? Do you think it wouldn’t be scary for you to up and move, even if that meant you’re getting an amazing book deal? No – it’s still scary, but you go into it with a different mindset.”

He continued.

“It’s not just you, though. It’s our generation. We have no problem taking risks and doing what it takes for our careers, scary stuff be damned. But suggest that we put that same action into our love lives and we clam up. We start to focus on what could go wrong as opposed to what could go right. Now, we don’t ever do that in any other area of our lives. You don’t take a job and think to yourself, ‘what if a month into this job I hate it? And now I’ve given up my other job and I can’t go back.’ NO – you think, ‘this may be scary as hell; I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know if I put my all into it, everything is going to work out like it should.’ Why don’t we do that when it comes to our relationships?”

“Well because the fall out from relationships seems so much more devastating. You move to make something work, and it falls apart, and now you’re the girl or guy who moved for someone, and it didn’t work out. You’re that cautionary tale of stupidity. Of thinking love solves all.”

“Sure, that could happen. Or you move and you find out that you all work perfectly together. And it’s something you would have never known for real if you hadn’t taken the risk. I think it’s just deciding what’s more important to you – the chance that it could go wrong, or taking the chance that it could go very very right?”

“Yea, I see what you’re saying,” I said, looking down at my plate for help in this discussion. Like it could actually help. “But it’s just so hard. Logically it’s easy to say, even if it doesn’t work out, God’s got my back either way, and at least I tried. But…”

“But fear holds you back,” he interrupted. “And we know just how beneficial that is.”

What do you all think? Is our generation one that gets weary when it involves stepping out of our comfort zones for love? And to be clear, stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean moving to another location. It could mean trying online dating, giving that guy/girl a chance who you never thought you would, deciding to abstain from sex until marriage when that’s the opposite of what you’ve been doing before — basically I’m talking about anything that makes you just slightly uncomfortable about doing it, but for reasons that involve things like how you’ll look to others and what happens if it doesn’t work out.

Running from Love

6 03 2013

Falling in love is one of the most vulnerable experiences that one can have in life. None of us know for sure what’s coming next, and that can be terrifying… To love is to risk. There is no way around it. If you are one to shy away from failure in life, if you are someone who plays only the games you believe you can win, then you are probably living a life that is way too small and far too boring, even for you. – Katherine Woodward Thomas

I’ve been in love 3 times, or at least that’s what I tell people when they ask. I can rattle off the guys pretty quickly, actually. The first was the guy I dated on and off my senior year of high school and into my freshman year of college. He was my first in a lot of things, but by no means my first in what many would consider THE thing. I found out freshman year that he didn’t take that relationship nearly as seriously as I did. The second was a really good friend who became a lover in college and also, eventually, was the man I decided to have sex with for the first time. Things ended a month later.  And the third? Well, the third was Jake.

And so even though I can quickly tell you who I’ve loved, the truth is I’ve lived what my girl S Curl calls an amor cauteloso (a cautious love) for most of my life. This cautious love has manifested in many ways, but mostly it’s resulted in me being scared that the bottom would fall out from me the moment I admitted my feelings, and thus I’ve run away from these feelings at every chance possible.

When I think about it, I realize that I’ve loved without risk. Often, my love has come reluctantly, after I’ve done all the avoiding I can possibly do, and finally resigned myself to the fact that despite all my efforts – damn it, I’ve fallen for this man. And usually, because I’ve been so focused on the bad that may come, it eventually does, not because that’s what happens – but because that’s what I put my focus and energy on.

Obviously, this is not the healthiest example of love. But it’s also just not a very good example either.

For what is love if it’s not opening yourself up to the possibility of pain? What’s love if it doesn’t include being vulnerable with someone to the point that they can hurt you, but knowing that they will do everything in their power not to? What’s love if it doesn’t include trusting that person with your heart; if it doesn’t make you happy; if it doesn’t grow you stronger? And how can you have this exciting, passionate, and yet healthy love if you’re constantly running away from the thought of being that open and that vulnerable with someone?

You can’t.

And so in my attempts to eliminate the chances of being hurt, all I’ve done so far is make those chances greater. I’ve hurt men who loved me. I’ve avoided my feelings for others and pushed them away before the risk became too great. And for what? The world doesn’t end when you tell someone you love them, even if that love is not reciprocated. No, it keeps going. And you keep going, but with the knowledge that you’ve done your part in being honest and open to your experiences.

For the longest time, I talked that talk. Just like with faith, I could quote scripture about love and talk about how it was a verb and not just a feeling, but I continuously ran from it. Always afraid. Always scared. Forever questioning the validity of those feelings. That fear also showed itself in other parts of my life, creeping into not just my relationships with men, but also with my friends and in my hopes and desires – because that’s what fear does. It doesn’t just stay in one part of your life. It grows and festers everywhere.

So, I continued to play it safe. I continued to take as little risk as possible. I continued to shy away from the possibility of failure, even with evidence showing that the times when I did take big chances, I was rewarded because of my leap of faith.  And the truth is I’ve been running from… well, a lot for a long time. And now, it’s time to stop. It’s time to let it all go and declare that I don’t want to run any longer.

That I’m no longer afraid.

The Power of a Hug

19 12 2012

When was the last time that you heard them say? Mother or father, I love you, and when was the last time, that they heard you say, daughter or son, I love you? ~ Stevie Wonder, These Three Words

About a month ago, I wrote the following as part of my comment on the blog post of one of my favorite readers, 29tolife:

But the ever-wise Mandy Pants, who always finds ways to break things down for me, once told me that my thoughts on cuddling and hugs were absolutely ridiculous. She said that while she understood where I was coming from, humans need to be touched. So I was missing out on basic human interaction that was needed to survive by limiting this type of interaction and that was why it had become even more intimate to me. Her theory – if you limit something you’re supposed to have, any version of it will then be overwhelming for you. Like how a vegetarian would get sick if she all of a sudden decided to eat a drumstick after years of not eating meat. But that if you began to enjoy it, you’d realize just how much you needed it in your life.

And in the midst of all that went down in Newtown, CT, in China, in Indiana, and in Los Angeles in the past week, (not to mention Chicago, New Orleans, and Baltimore every week) those words kept coming back to me. They kept replaying in my head… just how important it was to make sure we all knew that we were loved. Like Stevie asked, when was the last time they heard you say it?

But while saying “I love you” is great and needed, there’s also no denying the power of a hug. I’ve seen the strongest dudes break down and cry because someone gave them a meaningful and sincere hug. I’ve seen the biggest smile curl up on a woman’s face after witnessing someone give her a nice, long bear hug at the end of her day. Heck, I’ve even noticed what hugs do to me, which is why I avoided them for the longest time.

You see, the thing about hugs is that when you receive one (and not a raggedy half-arsed church hug with the pat on the back, a REAL hug), you can’t help but let your guard down and allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if just for a brief moment. It may not last long, but in the 5 to 10 seconds it takes to physically show someone you care, that person is allowed to take in that energy and just FEEL the love.

I know this may sound hokey and mushy, but it’s true. Why is it that most people’s instinct is to give someone a hug when something tragic occurs or even to excitedly hug someone when you haven’t seen them in awhile? It’s because as humans, we need that physical reassurance. We need person to person contact. We crave it. We long for it. We search for it… even when we don’t realize it.

But sadly, we’ve grown up in a society that demeans emotions. We laugh at people when they cry. We judge people when they need time to recover. We even look at people funny when they get very expressive in church (don’t lie – either you do now or you did). And guess what – we also withhold those powerful hugs. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re afraid to let too many people in or what? But we’ve definitely made it so that a hug is something that rarely happens, and when it does – it’s so quick and impersonal, it loses its impact. I’ll admit, I’ve even been in situations where I desperately wanted to hug someone because of something they told me, and I didn’t – because I didn’t know how he or she would take it. What kind of craziness is that?

All of this brings me back to the excerpt above. MandyPants was so right: humans need to be touched. So while I know it’s not always  as simple as I’m making it seem and there are certainly, certainly mental health concerns we also need to begin to address in our country, I would still like to implore you to give someone a hug today. You never know what that will mean for them.