The Only Advice You Need For This Decade

When I first started writing this post, we had not descended into the chaos of Covid-19. Things were as normal as they could be in an imperfect world. Now that we are months into a new world, and remixed understanding of what it means to live, I think it’s time for me to share what I entered 2020 thinking so that I can remember how to exist with a sense of purpose. I hope it does the same for you. So, here are the thoughts of January 2020 LaKase:

I’m old. There’s just no way around that fact, but I’m OK with it. Sure, my knees pop when I sneeze, I have memory lapses, I hate when people pull up in front of my house, and… You get the point. Wanna know why I’m not mad about being too old to make it past 10 PM? Here’s why: getting older means that I have a serious knack for survival and adaptation, which (if I may be so bold) makes me feel like a bit of a superhero.

To put it mildly, last year was difficult. There were plenty of downs to compliment the ups, and I received more “no thank yous” than I thought I could handle. I pushed my creativity to a breaking point. It all weighed on my spirit so heavily that I went to sleep on December 31st of the last decade dwelling on the mistakes of my youth (thank you beer!) until it hit me that I was already trying to waste the future on the past.

If you’re an anxious over-thinker you might understand this tendency I’ve described. If not, let me do my best to share what it’s like. You think and think until your thoughts become so vivid that you feel yourself in that memory, physically reliving it. Only, you can’t change anything. Things remain imperfect, and you remain rooted in present day. You begin to feel overwhelmed by the permanency of that fact, that nothing can be perfect. Paradise eludes us all. Yet, I’ve come to learn that paradise is attainable if you shift your perception ever so slightly to the left of what feels right.

It’s no secret that I love the works of Toni Morrison. One of her books that has haunted me since reading it years ago is Paradise. Mild spoilers for the book to follow!

Image result for paradise toni morrison

The book tells the tale of an all-Black town in the Midwest called Ruby, that has been hell-bent on perfection and order since the citizens were liberated from the bonds of enslavement. They carved out their own plot of paradise through hammering out any deviation from the patriarchal systems they believed kept them safe. Only the noblest of Black folks could stay, women had no say in the forward motion of their lives, and outsiders were regarded with disdain. The climax of the book comes when the men of Ruby attack a group of women living in an abandoned convent, because they believe them to be a dangerous blight on the perfection of their town.

That’s a lot right? You can expect no less from the late Mrs. Morrison, and that is why I will forever miss her. This little book contains commentary on race, colorism, misogyny, abuse, and the exchanges of power between men and women. However, what I’ve been coming back to lately is the way she challenges our perception of paradise, how we cling to notions of perfection even as we are dragged to our doom.

The people of the town of Ruby were so focused on protecting their ideals and themselves that they run off any chance at real happiness. They discard their own peace and obliterate a group of women who could have healed them all (leave it to Toni Morrison to inject some magical realism into a seemingly straightforward work). Love and life are dealt deathly blows all out of fear. The quest for power, nay order, serves to snatch away an semblance of either.

The Lesson

Don’t focus so much on the bad that you lose the good. When I read Paradise for the first time as a young woman, I was struggling to find my place in the world. As time has inched forward, I believe I have found that place, but now – as I revisit it – I’m working to reevaluate how I will maintain my sense of safety and belonging. I’ve realized that all my new year anxiety was tied to this fear of the unknown. A fear that I would lose what I’d worked so hard to build, as I had already struggled so much in the previous year. I, like most people, crave the idea of paradise: no pain, no struggle, no ending of joy. But what is there to keep us growing in the elimination of hardship?

Instead, I’m working to remind myself that love can be paradise, freedom can be a haven, and there is so much more to finding our perfect places than our location and archaic rules. So, good luck in 2020 and beyond. May you craft your own slice of paradise each day. Better yet? May you be brave enough to not destroy your happiness for fear of losing it.

With love,

LaKase

Happy New Year!

What a year, am I right? After a quick poll of my friends and family I’m quite certain that 2018 lasted a decade rather than the regular twelve months. We’ve had intrigue, disappointments and all kinds of losses across the globe – I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a stretch of time like this with so much destruction. While I’m working on being thankful for every day, this one almost did me in. In all honesty, I’ve had more anxiety attacks in this year alone than all of the years of my life combined. They’ve not only come on often, but they’ve come on strong. With today being the kind of day that can spark the sort of gut-churning anxiousness I’ve dealt with, I thought it would be a good idea to talk openly about how I’m getting through it.

First off, it’s confession time : I’m deathly afraid of bees and wasps. I’m talking freeze in place, frantic breathing, praying to the ancestors and anyone who might be listening to keep me safe from the pain. There hasn’t been a time when I’ve come face to face with something that stings without making a fool of myself. I got my first sting this year – go figure! – and it was just as awful as I’d always feared. My hand swelled and I was forced to walk around the Ren Fest (don’t hate) with an ice pack and beer to numb my throbbing ego. But, do you want to know the wildest part of all? I didn’t die. Thankfully, I’m not allergic to bees or wasps, so the likelihood of that is slim, however I always thought the pain could kill me. Now, I’ve got a little scar that only I can see and a good set of pictures of my swollen hand which I will spare you from looking at. You might be wondering why I brought up the bees, right? Well, surviving that experience prepared my closest confidante to help me better than I could have helped myself.

The last time I was debilitated by a panic attack I was overcome with worry. What would I do for work? I could I continue on this path without a clear finish line? What would tomorrow hold? All these questions swirled and swirled until I collapsed. I couldn’t see straight, couldn’t fill my lungs; it was as if my body was shutting down on me. My partner, the steadiest ship on raging tides I’ve ever known, bid me focus on my breathing and remember – of all things – the bees. We closed our eyes together, and he began to speak about a bee hive. He spoke about the fear that overcomes me when I see bees, but to remember how the fear is rooted in what I believe could happen. By remaining calm, breathing in, and focusing on my breathing in all those times I was able to walk away without being stung. After a few moments of this seemingly counterproductive meditation I was able to rest for hours.

Panic attacks begin when your mind swirls and curls up on itself, usually brought on by your fears and anxieties. Fears, like mine of bees, are not invalid. They’re rooted in the fact that bad things do often happen. I believe in acknowledging what turns our blood cold so that we might learn how to overcome it. However, I never thought focusing on what I’m afraid of could lead to peace.  Panic attacks, like my fear, are warning signs. Signs that you’ve got to slow down, or talk, or change course. Just as you stop and let the danger pass in a the company of a bee, it’s good to listen to your body and stop in the midst of mental chaos.

If you’re feeling anxious about the new year, then I suggest a reassessment of how you view the future. For many of us, this is an ending. In our minds, time pauses, there’s a red tape we run through, then we become brand new people. But, that’s not how it works, my friend. You don’t have to change your life in a day, nor could you if you tried. You don’t have to eliminate your sorrows and claim 2019 as the year that you were eternally happy. The key to happiness is accepting you wont always be happy.

Joy is transient, but so is pain.

The new year, and every day, can be an opportunity to recommit to your healing. It doesn’t have to be an ending, or a beginning you’re setting yourself up to fail at, but a chance for you to redefine what your needs are. I think it’s worth it.

 

 

For my last post of 2018 I want to end with a thank you: if you’ve only stopped by for this post, if you’ve subscribed, commented, liked, or just nodded at me in the distance – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to see you tomorrow.