Home Is Where You Let Your Farts Linger

Farts will never not be funny to me. Perhaps it’s juvenile and uncouth, but when I hear the sound of flatulence and look to see the perpetrator turning red in indignation my heart warms. It’s as if we are bonded in the reality of the situation, that through bodily functions they are communicating to me their humanity. Also? It’s just plain hilarious that we can make sounds and smells that send people running as though they were going to be destroyed by funk.  It’s preposterous to me that we would shy from something so natural; if everyone poops, then, by logic, everyone farts, too.  I say all of this while also acknowledging that I feel ashamed when a toot escapes me in the company of strangers, or in public, or – worse – when I think I’m alone and release something so disturbingly loud that it elicits a gasp. Still, even those moments of horror are laughable once I’ve escaped them. 

Farts GIF

My parents are undoubtedly to blame for my affinity toward a loud, healthy fart. We used to compete to see whose could be the stinkiest and most impressive. If it made the room rumble? Double the points. We were safe in our green-tinged house to be as ridiculous and rank as possible. I used to imagine my parents at work, swelling up due to the unreleased gas, only to come home and blow the roof off, finally free. 

I was back in my childhood home last week, which was a strange yet calming experience. It feels odd even now to write about it as the home that was rather than the home that is. However, any distance I felt when I was there was instantly eradicated when my father walked by and farted on me. He hadn’t done it on purpose, but the effect was no less shocking. We all laughed about it and I felt like my childhood self all over again. For a sliver of time I was no longer adult LaKase doing very adult-like things, but the LaKase who always will be there just below the surface. If only just for a moment, I was home in two places at once.

What I love about farts is that they are proof of our imperfect humanity. They’re a grounding force that evens the playing field between us all. However, after being with my parents again after a long time apart, I started to think that maybe farts are a symbol of something deeper – maybe they’re the marker of what home really means.

Can we even truly define home? Is it a place, a feeling, a knowing? Is it where we rest, or a place where we are without calm, or can it be everywhere at once? Do we carry it with us, or must we leave it behind? Does it change based on culture? If there is no clear way to define home, then why not let it be a place where you can sit in the hazy mist of your stench and be at peace with yourself? There’s no pretension there. No fear.

Red & Howling GIF

Maybe – if you’re willing to grant me this – everywhere has the potential to be home. Perhaps when we cease delineating where we stop and others begin, we won’t have to walk around stuffed to bursting with the parts of us that make us feel ashamed. I think letting it all hang out, even the uncomfortable parts of ourselves, offers the opportunity to discover we are not in fact so far removed from where we belong. Loneliness comes when we take ourselves too seriously and when we forget that a little humility mixed with laughter goes a long way.

Did I just use farts as a very clunky (if not gross) metaphor for acceptance, home, and life? Yes, I did. But! I hope you’ll consider the logic behind it when you’re struggling to define home for yourself. We belong everywhere and should make sure others feel just as welcome, especially if they are predisposed to flatulence.

Here’s How to Build a Community That Keeps You Healthy

And why it is so important.

Recently,  I wrote  about my move to California, which you can read here. I offered suggestions for how to prepare yourself when undertaking a huge move, sharing tips from the practical day to day tasks, to the emotional support you inevitably need when you’re far from home. Being uprooted, then planted in a new environment can be touch and go for a shrub, so there’s no doubt it will be a battle for people. What becomes of us emotionally when we’re physically isolated can be compounded ten-fold when we hide our emotions opting to go through it alone.

I think it’s time for some serious candor on my part: I spent the month of August under the covers, alternating between eating carbs and crying. All my grand plans of joining a yoga studio, snagging a doctor, and conquering my fear of meeting new people got swallowed up by the seemingly insurmountable odds: how do I do all that when I’m afraid to step outside, when the landscape is off, and people stare at me like a sideshow? I’d put so much pressure on myself to be amazing that I was incapacitated by the possibility of failure, or worse, being ostracized. While I was safe under the covers the world turned around me, but I was too afraid to join in, even with people I know for fear of their disappointment.

Luckily, my brother and husband broke through my tortoise shell to get me thinking about the nature of community, how we build it, and why we really gotta let it do it’s thing. Community doesn’t have to be a gaggle of friends, who run off to save the world and unite nations – sometimes it’s as simple as a person who lets you cry on the phone. Community is being present, open and caring with those you have learned to trust. It’s not always nice; oftentimes the people who love you the most and want to see you win will piss you off. Sometimes the communities we need aren’t in town, or in the same country. If you’re far from home, or your home doesn’t feel like home, there are times when community has to be found across the internet. No matter where you find i,t I believe you owe it to yourself to hold onto it and to be an active member within it.

Today, I want to share with you what these two have helped me to (re)discover about the power of a circle of confidants and how we can continue to nurture those relationships. If you can build a core group of friends I guarantee growing will be made easier through their emotional support. Below I’ve laid out how to build your community. Let’s hop to it!

Vulnerability

Have you ever had one of those dreams about being naked in front of a crowd? Maybe you’re singing a song horribly, or giving a speech, then BAM – fully nude.  That’s one extreme of vulnerability you don’t have to go to, but if you can think of community like singing the bad song or giving a speech that makes you sweat,  all while dressed, then you’re on the right track. You see, community – the real deal, not the shallow stuff – is all about being open to discomfort. When you peel back the layers of yourself to expose who you really are it’s crazy uncomfortable, bordering on painful. When I finally let my husband see me in distress( and all covered in tears and snot)we made a breakthrough. Together, we learned that vulnerability isn’t a one and done situation. Being open is a 24/7 deal, that isn’t always fun, but is guaranteed to make a difference in your health.

There will be times when you’ll attempt to be open and honest with others and they’ll betray it or ignore it. However, I hope you’ll still remain open to trusting again. I’ve had many disappointments in the vulnerability department, but part of finding your tribe is going out on a limb. Also, those times I’ve been let down have actually helped to feed into the next point.

Empathy

Most of us have had that naked dream, because humans are cut from the same cloth. We’re all afraid, born naked, and just a little bit weird. I find it so fascinating that despite being separated by time or space we can find common ground. The beauty of empathy is that it transcends most obstacles. I say most, because there will be times when no matter how reasonable it seems to get along, there are people who aren’t here for it. Applying the concept of vulnerability can run you into some walls, but when you find people with shared experiences like depression, anxiety, PTSD, a similar home life, or even favorite anime shows, the honesty will pay off.

The huge thing about empathy is that it keeps communities, no matter the size, patient. When we take the time to understand where someone has been we are much more likely to stick around to help them out. In your respective community, and outside of it ,it is so imperative to remember kindness. Empathy lays the groundwork for you to give and receive with understanding and care. If we practice it with one another, showing a little love to ourselves becomes that much sweeter.

Humor

The best part about those embarrassing naked dreams is when you get to laugh about it later. Everyone has had them, they’re always preposterous and they take the edge off any of your other worries. Your circle is the place to air out your ridiculous fears – even if they don’t seem so far-fetched – so that you can remain grounded. Laugh with each other, bust each other’s chops, and stay humble so that you’re not carrying the weight of the world. When I finally got real with my brother and broke down why I was so afraid to be out in this new world of mine he took a breath, was honest about why I shouldn’t be afraid, then made a joke at my expense. He didn’t make fun of me, but rather he made me see the humor in life and in my situation.

When you take yourself too seriously like I was, building up real fears into dragons, you risk never putting forth that brave step. Staying grounded is difficult on your own, and laughing about things that feel like the worst situations ever can be pretty impossible. If your community isn’t one that’s able to look at the fears you present critically, take out what’s silly and get you to laugh? Run for the hills, because a place without laughter is dead.

At the end of it all, we need to encourage each other to feel joy in between the tears. You don’t have to be Patch Adams (great movie) to your friends, nor do they have to be circus performers for you, but we have to remember that it’s ok to release with some happiness, too.

Forgiveness

You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it.

Let me say that again: You can’t have anything if you still don’t think you’re worth it. I say you can’t, because you won’t allow it for yourself if you feel unworthy and you’re punishing yourself. Please believe me when I say it’s ok if you were a bully in 4th grade and now feel bad about it. It’s fine if you couldn’t get out of bed today, or for most of the week. It’s ok. You still deserve the help and love of your people.

I wasn’t following the previous guidelines I’ve laid out, because I was ashamed and angry with myself for not being fine on my own. I didn’t make room for myself to be reliant on others, and when I discovered just how much I need my community, I wasn’t ready to handle it. So, I turned in on myself so far that I didn’t know how to forgive myself for “messing up”. You know where that got me? Nowhere good. I’ve realized I would rather learn to forgive myself for perceived shortcomings than being alone.

You deserve people who want to help you. You deserve to be pulled up, and you are absolutely worthy of the struggle others choose to put in to keep you around. So, work on forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings and try to be a better person moving forward.

 

In conclusion, I just want to encourage you to be with people however you can be in the BEST way you can be. Who you are in your community bleeds into who you are out in the world on your own. If you’re closed off, an unfeeling bully, or too serious, then that’s who you’ll see outside with others. Allow yourself the room to be human with other humans and you’ll be better off for it.

Thank you for reading and following along with me. If you would like to share what you love about your community, or the ways you all take care of one another, please comment below. Stay safe out there!

 

A Perfectly Odd September Mood Board

When I prepare a mood board it’s usually done with the intention of reflecting what months, or various times of year, mean to me. December is a time for holiday imagery, October is solely for pumpkins, and that has worked great for me in the past. But what happens when you come to a month that has no easily assigned imagery? What are we supposed to look forward to without the road map of cultural practices to guide us? Better yet, what do we look forward to when the page of the mind is blank?

I’ve run into this conundrum with September. In my culture – black, American, raised Methodist – there’s really nothing. There are events that have been solidified into the mind like Labor Day and 9/11, but I couldn’t put a finger on what the month of September was besides the period of time before Halloween. Being a professional over-thinker, I started to explore what I wanted this time of year to symbolize for me. To start, I listed off all the things that have happened to me in September: I was married last September, ten years ago I survived a suicide attempt and recovered in September, and I love the fashion spreads that hit the shelves in September.

From there I looked a bit deeper, in the hopes of pushing away the words to get to the feeling in my heart when I thought of those things. The words that came to mind were love, strength, beauty, and freedom. Love kept me alive long enough to meet my soulmate, strength got me out of bed and out into the world to try life again. The beauty of the world, and creativity of its inhabitants, keeps me excited and enthralled in life. Last, but never least, I discovered that every day can be an opportunity to free myself from the darkness of my past, and that I am no less amazing from the days I might fail. Now it seems September might be the most important month of them all.

So, in honor of those truths, those lovely feelings in my heart, I want to share my September mood board with you. Enjoy!

Tessa Thompson for The Cut by Awol Erizku
Tessa Thompson for The Cut by Awol Erizku

Via Into The Gloss

 

The Catharsis of Loss

My grandmother died the Sunday before I moved across the country to begin a new life. I’d spent that day packing and loading a shipping container with my husband, parents, and brother, which was more fun that it had any right to be. Our raucous laughter shook the house we were leaving behind, rumbling out into the sleepy neighborhood. I’ve never had a day without joy when in their company, regardless of the weight of the world or the stress of boxing up your life to be replanted elsewhere. It was a joyful, yet bittersweet experience to share with my loved ones.

Once we’d finished with the house, leaving just what Mark and I would need to keep with us for the drive to California, we decided to go see a movie. We rushed to the theater, anticipation for popcorn and soda sky-high, anxious to have a respite from the heat and stress of moving. No more than five minutes after the movie began my father got the call. I don’t know that there are words to describe the loss of someone you care for, when it’s known they eventually have to pass on. Death is never expected when it enters your life, no matter how prepared you might be to let go. We left the movie in a general state of disbelief. My parents had spoken to her the day before. My brother, husband and I had laughed with her at my cousin’s wedding, but I still can’t remember what about.

Two weeks later my large extended family sat down to eat together after her memorial service, then descended into laughter. We teased one another, played with my cousin’s babies and shared stories in a sort of mad libs only close families can understand, picking up where others left off. I was struck by the realization that none of us were crying or down-trodden. The even was more of a party than anything, a potentially macabre celebration of a woman we all loved and lost.

Death is still a taboo subject for many people, but I don’t think it should be. Perhaps my mind is warped from being forced to confront how little control I have over the circumstances affecting my existence, but I believe the more we talk about a thing, the less said thing can break us down. The pain will still exist, however we might get up with more grace if we know how to move forward in a healthy way. My grandmother is gone, yes, but what she gave to me remains. I have her cheeks, her nose, the shape of her face, just like most of my cousins and aunts and uncles. We’re all stubborn as hell and never back down from a fight. Her death doesn’t have to be the end of the lessons she can teach us about who we are. In loss we are forced to confront the chasms separating us.

I’ve had quite a lot of time to turn over the feelings swirling in my chest: surprise, fear, sadness. The one that I’ve returned to the most is a sense of relief. The emotion isn’t tied to wanting her gone; I feel relief that my grandmother no longer has to feel pain. I feel relief that she got to meet so many great-grandchildren. Most of all I feel relief that she is with her own beloved mother again in a place that may or may not exist, but nonetheless removed from our perception. In loss we are forced to confront the chasms separating us. We get to choose whether or not to build bridges, who we want to move on with or leave behind. So, I feel relief that even without the maternal glue of my grandmother my family remained whole; that is where the peace is, the release of my fears.

I believe the real weight of losing someone is tied to the fights we will never get to have and the opportunities for growth we were robbed of. I didn’t cry during the ceremony, and I noticed few of us did. When the tears began to well up, I stopped them with a vengeance, because it didn’t feel right to cry. I didn’t understand why until I came across this quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe:

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

My grandmother never left us to wonder how she felt, whether good or bad. Regret didn’t exist in her world. She was a woman of her word, and she passed that on to her descendants. She knew that when she was gone we would have to find peace in one another, but you can’t do that if you hide pieces of yourself. If I feel any sorrow, it is that my grandmother and I will never again be able to forge new paths together. Yet, I choose to focus on the paths we did carve out, the fights we did have and the growth those rows fostered. All in all, I have no regrets with my grandmother. If I did, I would have to find a way to make peace with them and make sure that I have nothing to regret with those loved ones I have left.

No matter how far I creep away from the staid Methodist teachings of my youth, I always return to the belief – the desire – that the end is worth the race. However, now I’m beginning to rethink the type of race we’re running. Perhaps it’s something more akin to a relay than a straight up sprint. We pick up people along the way, trade stories, pass on pieces of ourselves, then hand over the baton. My grandmother’s passing has created a new spot on the team, a void in my heart for others to occupy, but I’ll never forget how well she lived.

 

 

Mama Tammye Hicks is Personal Growth Goals

Each week we will feature the kind of everyday heroes you can look up to. They come from all walks of life, age groups and beliefs. We hope you’ll learn as much from them as we have!

** Spoilers for Queer Eye Season 2 Episode 1

Do you want to feel encouraged to go out and live your life as you see fit, but also kind of need to cry your eyes out? Good! The brand new iteration of Queer Eye just launched season two on Netflix, and so far they guys are delivering on inspiration and emotion. They kicked the new season off with their first woman client, Tammy Hicks, an individual guaranteed to warm your heart.

On the surface this episode should have been a disaster: Tammye is a Christian, Southern, traditional woman who struggled with her own son coming out as gay. The town she lives in might be named Gay, Georgia (for real!), but that didn’t mean the gang would be welcomed with open arms. Yet, they’re greeted by the kind of person we should all strive to be. Tammye encourages them all to call her “Mama”, to treat her home like a safe place, and shares her world with the group in a loving and surprising way. She was still in the process of reconciling with her son Myles, and spoke openly with the Fab Five about how to build him up and support him as a gay man.

Watching Tammye – a loving mother and active member of the community – welcome the Fab 5 into her life without the ugly judgement they described encountering in their private lives was a revelation, but what truly shakes the episode is her willingness to admit that she was wrong to judge her son for who he is. She details the moment she came to her son and asked for his forgiveness for not loving him unconditionally, which very few people would have the courage to do. In the end, Tammye speaks to each member of the Fab Five and thanks them for being who they are and doing what they do in a moment of pure earnestness that nearly put me in the grave.

It is so easy to get caught up in what we’ve been taught, who we surround ourselves with, and antiquated ways of thinking, because those familiar methods afford comfort in a scary world. Yet, the bravest of us can truly begin to grow when we step outside the echo chamber. Tammye is a great reminder that love, honesty, and courage can change the world, no matter how small the shift appears.

Below you can watch an extra episode of the series released to YouTube that features the crew traveling to Australia to help a rancher at the behest of his (kinda fine) son. If you’ve got Netflix we highly recommend you check out Tammye and the rest of the series! Don’t forget to invest in an economy pack of tissues.