How to Live Victoriously, According to Shameless Maya

Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

Jennifer Lee

I still remember the first video I ever watched by Maya, seven years ago, and how it made me feel. She was going to cut her lustrous curls to start over and learn to love herself without the mane, which was something I had just done for myself not long before. However, unlike Maya, I was feeling, well, terrible. It wasn’t just that I looked like a slightly more feminine version of my younger brother, nor that headbands just kept slipping off; rather, it was the fact that I felt like I had no idea what to do with my life. In many ways I transferred my emotional anxiety about forward movement and maturity onto my hair. I was feeling stuck, scared, and destructive. In my mind at the time, if I could change my hair then I would feel better about everything else. When I watched Maya go through the cutting process, even though I was already done with my own, I felt re-invigorated. I wanted to re-visit myself with kinder eyes and wade through the muck of my fears to arrive at a new appreciation for how beautiful the future can be if we allow ourselves to meet it shamelessly. I would cut my hair several more times (not a fast learner), but now I’m in a place where I don’t have to use my hair to force an emotional change.

Once again it feels like Maya has put out the content I needed before I even knew I needed it. Like Maya, I am on the cusp of a life change. And like Maya, I will have to work harder than ever before to see it through. While I’ve already planned with my husband how to make the changes, figured out where I hope to be – five year plans are underrated!- and gotten all the nuts and bolts arranged, I still find myself feeling unsure about the decision to go forth after my dreams. Thankfully, I’ve got an internet friend (in my head) who is skilled at giving permission. Below is Maya’s video on how to live victoriously. I hope it inspires you as much as it has me!

June Mood: Sunny Disposition

As a child, I used to look at summer as a break from my daily responsibilities. It was when I could be free to come and go as I pleased, eat ice cream handed out by people who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to operate ice cream trucks, and escape reality into movies and books. I have been, and always will be, a warm weather child looking for the safest place to nap under a tree. I’m still channeling that kid who ran around in a swimming suit most days, but now the freedom I’m chasing is a bit more intentional and focused on a goal. That might sound counter-intuitive, as freedom is supposed to be all about eschewing plans, but as I really start to marinate in my 30’s I have discovered the joys of acting with intention in all things.

For some of us, freedom is frightening. For me, it’s a recipe for disaster. Without a goal, a journey, a prize, I start to flounder, and inevitably become upset with myself. For a long time I was aimless, and as a result, truly joyless. I didn’t see a point to most things and my primary concern was instant gratification wherever I could get it. I’m only now realizing how trauma, and the fear it instilled in me at a young age, has hindered me from being able to do things with not only intention, but confidence.

Every day is an opportunity to grow, if we’re lucky. So, I’m looking at summer as a continuation of the work and growth, not a break from it all. And you know what? It’s been a joy.

Now, on to the only two things for this month’s moody post. First, a beautiful piece of art that is a reminder I need to see every day. This piece is by Tyler Feder of the Roaring Softly shop on Etsy.

Anxious Girls are Brave Print Hand-Illustrated by roaringsoftly

Last, but never least, is a great video by The School of Life on “How to Overcome Trauma”. I post their videos so much (I know), because I love the clarity of their advice. It’s been a helpful tool for me as I continue to move with intention through my days and goals. This particular video arrived literally right on time for me and I hope you feel the same after watching. You can read their blog post with the video’s transcript, and other related content, {here}. Enjoy!

 

What The F*%! Is Feminism And Why Do We Need It?

I hope you enjoy this final post for Women’s History Month 2019! It has been a pleasure for me.

Few labels elicit the reaction that springs out of people when you call yourself a feminist. It will go one of two ways: they will scrunch their faces up in disgust, or they will look at you like the second coming. I would like to argue that both reactions are totally outrageous, because feminism should be natural to us all. The first reaction is borne of not truly understanding what feminism is and how it helps us, while the second reaction is a result of being isolated in your feminism. If we dive into educating ourselves, both will be eradicated.

So, let’s dive in!

Image result for feminism
Washington Post

 

What is feminism?

Let’s be frank with this one: feminism is not about hating men! This is the first and most formidable wall I come up against when I encounter people who don’t want to identify as feminists. If anyone tells you they are a feminist, and that they hate men, then they are engaging in misandry. Feminism is about equality. It’s the belief, in simplest terms, that women should be afforded the same opportunities as men. We should not be overlooked or discriminated against based on sex, nor should we be considered second-class citizens. It’s not about hate, or ruling the world, or the subjugation of anyone who doesn’t identify as female. Easy enough, right?

But, feminism doesn’t just affect women, it also changes the landscape for men. When women have freedom to choose their own paths, to be the masters of their journey, it flows into the lives men have the right to lead as well. Everyone wins as we break down restrictive gender roles.

Why do we all need it?

Feminism is self-care for us all. Through this shift we are not only healing the cultural landscape, but also redefining what lives we have access to. Where women once had to ask permission of their fathers and brothers to marry, drive, own property, work, go to school, and so forth, many of us now have those rights without male intervention.  Our world is more powerful when we help one another to become free.

Feminism tells us that we’re all worthy of healing. Being believed. Having access. Shaking the table. Each and every single one of us – regardless of gender- has a right to joy. So, the next time someone tells you they are a feminist, remember this and consider joining them in the struggle.

Fymsa GIF
Giphy

Some further reading if you would like more information on feminism:

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie {here}

A Brief History of Feminism, by Patu and Antje Schrupp {here} 

History of Feminism {here}

“The Waves of Feminism, and Why People Keep Fighting Over Them, Explained” by Constance Grady {here}

The Magic of Authenticity

Do you have a hero? If so, what is it about them that has earned your admiration?

Like most kids, my heroes were big and flashy. They wore capes, they could sing, they could act, and they had the love of millions of fans. I never questioned why I seemed to only look at celebrities and superheroes as the best of us, because their fame spoke for itself. If you’re popular, then you must be perfect. But is that true?

As I began to take better care of myself, a key piece of the journey was coming to terms with my identity, with who I wanted  to be. I had a long list of heroes I wanted to emulate, however as celebrities with carefully crafted images, superheroes, and film characters, they represented a type of unattainable perfection that made me feel stuck. So, I began to look at things another way: rather than trying to become a copy of someone with status, power, and control, I decided to explore who I am already, in order to discover my authentic self.

By definition, “authentic” means “of undisputed origin;genuine”.

Distilled down for a regular person like myself, I believe authenticity means existing as you are without regard for the molds others want you to fit in. For example: I’m a survivor. I’m a Black woman, a Kansan, a right-handed singer with allergies. These are all facts, but in between those societal molds are the details and experiences that make me LaKase. I might not be exactly like Brandy (one of my earliest heroes), nor do I have the power she wields, but my authentic self is important and good in its own right.

Nowadays, my admiration is rooted in more abstract concepts: kindness, bravery, and authenticity. There are many ways to define each, whether it be through a cultural lens, a personal preference, or how I might be feeling in the moment.  But what remains constant is the work we have to put in to live our lives well. I broadcast who I am to others in the way I dress, how I speak, and in what I value in this world.

When I think about the people I admire now, it rarely has anything to do with the number of friends they have, how much money they make, or how beautiful they are but what they put into the world. The folks who continue to inspire me, and unwittingly push me to better myself, have been decidedly, radically themselves. Being yourself can be difficult, even dangerous depending on where you live or what you look like, but living your truth gives others permission to be who they are as well. That’s the magic of it all.

The videos below feature two women who make me so happy and encouraged about walking my path on my own terms. I hope you enjoy their words as much as I do.

 

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Unknown

Let’s Avoid A Holiday Implosion, Shall We?

It’s that time of year again: Snow! (depending on your location) Time off! (depending on your vocation) Love and Cheer! (depending on… you get the point).

I’ve been singing the praises of this month loud enough for you to get the hint – I really and truly love December. When I was growing up, my parents infused our winter with magic and information. I didn’t just learn the Christian stuff, but also got to hear about the traditions of other religions. Their stories, mixed in with my own imagination, transformed how I see the changing of the season. It became more than a time for presents – which I love – instead morphing into a time when anything at all is possible if your spirit is willing.

On the flip side, this is also a time when joy fails. With the influx of family cards, lovey-dovey Hallmark movies (that always seem to be set in the same advent calendar- type towns) , and people portraying perfect lives, comes the onset of despair. Not to mention, the grey and unforgiving frosting of the Northern hemisphere can nix any hope for the healing quality of daylight.

Seasonal depression, dear reader, is real and alive.

I come from a place of extreme privilege. I was raised by two loving, while admittedly flawed, parents, who worked themselves to the bone for my brother and I. Our home was warm, our bellies were full, and we woke every Christmas to find toys, no matter how bad *I* had been that year. That is incredibly rare. A home life like that would set anyone with more than five brain cells onto a path of success. Even as a survivor of sexual abuse, I knew happier days than a lot of people. To say that is not to negate the gravity of my pain, but an acknowledgement of my reality.

Still, even with all the stuff and things that make childhood a fond memory instead of a nightmare, I have experienced less than stellar holidays. Those unfortunate times took place mainly in adulthood, and I shudder to think of them. But, that’s what fosters growth, right? After looking back on the times when my Yule celebrations were rough, I’ve come up with some tips to help you navigate the stress without a spontaneous combustion.

Let’s hop to it!

saturday night live christmas GIF

Be with those you love, if possible. If impossible, why is being alone so bad?

Most of the points on this list operate under the assumption you will be going home to be with your family, however I want to acknowledge that oftentimes that isn’t a possibility. Whether it be estrangement, death, or how expensive it is to fly or drive, you might not be with your family over the break, and that is ok. I know that isolation is one of the greatest tools of depression, because in the solitude of your room you can weave all kinds of tales of your inadequacies. Yet, I’m starting to wonder whether being alone in itself is the problem. There are lots of things we can do for ourselves in the quiet of an empty home. What if you were to treat yourself to beautiful things like compliments, a good meal, some you time? Besides, how often do we really get to be paid to stay home and take care of ourselves? This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you can, I say run wild with the possibilities.

 

snow drifts and chimbley nymphs GIF by Yule Log 2.015

 

Not every battle is worth fighting.

Yes, I know the drill. We’re supposed to go home for the holidays, set aside our differences, and sing songs at the end of the night with everyone coming to an understanding of the meaning family.  *eye roll*

That’s a movie. In fact, it’s a movie I wrote in one of my journals when I was 13. We’re not all going to get along just because our religious text told us to. Politics (that dirty word) is the fastest, most sure-fire way to watch things go left at Nana’s house. If you want to enjoy your time you are going to have to learn when to fight, and when to bow out. In addition to that, you’re going to have to look out for when your relatives are just looking for a sparring match, rather than an honest and respectful discussion. No, you shouldn’t let your auntie say wild things about the world, or sit idly by when your great-uncle on your father’s side tells a rape joke, but the little digs from people who don’t care about you might not be worth your time every single time. Ya dig?

Speak up when you can, and in the meantime just radicalize your cousins and siblings.

happy living single GIF by Bounce_TV

 

Take care of your body.

This one is simple: eat smart, drink water, don’t blow your stomach to smithereens on pie. You deserve to indulge, but know your limits. As a recovering bulimic, I have to give myself permission not only to eat what I want, but to step away before I spiral. So, mind your body and how it affects your brain chemistry. Take care at the parties, at your family home, or in your own home!

 

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Remember your successes

When I go to holiday functions, I always start to sweat when I think of the dreaded “So, what do you do?” question. Which is usually followed by the devastating “Is that really a job?” As a writer, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. These questions are accompanied by a smirk, silence, and me slinking away to think of good comebacks in the bathroom.  I’m often reminded of this Tumblr post:

It’s true on a lot of levels, even among family.  Some people don’t know how to respect others based on – oh, I don’t know – being able to happily survive this cruel, heartless wasteland we call Earth . Your mere existence might not be enough for them, but it’s sure as hell good enough for me and the people who aren’t d-bags. Try to remember that while they’re looking down on you, you’re making a life for yourself the way YOU choose to. That’s powerful. Not many people are brave enough to be who they want to be, rather than what will get them shallow accolades. The world needs you just as much as anyone else, regardless of your job. Take stock of your triumphs – whether they be emotional or monetary – and keep it moving.

In closing: BREATHE

Whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or just another day off, you can survive this. When I’m on the verge of a panic attack (which I’ll be writing about soon) my husband gets me to settle into my breathing and by the end I’m much better. You’d be amazed what our bodies can do when we let it run on autopilot. I’d like to encourage you to give it a test drive this season by just breathing in, then, funnily enough, out again. The rest will flow from there. So, be well this holiday season. Be strong when you can and forgiving when you can’t, and never doubt your right to the warmth of the sun.

the proud family GIF