Colorism Ain’t Just About Color.

I’m trying to understand why I identify myself as just black when I am mixed. This writing is just me trying to unfold my blackness and navigating my racial identity. This is also a discourse on colorism and its relationship to black culture, racial identity, and racism.

Growing up in the suburbs in a diverse but segregated town, your experiences as a black person is interesting, to say the least. My mother is mixed white and black, and my father is black and Native American. In school, I would always proudly tell the people who asked, all of what I know to be my ethnic background. One reason was because I knew being part white was something that was liked by my white and black peers.

One day in high-school I was hanging out with Allison (name changed for anonymity), and her mother called to see where she was at. She had told her “I’m hanging out with Lakota”, her mother then said “Lakota?, you’re hanging out with a black person?”, and she said “No mom, she’s half white”. In that moment, I remember being uncomfortable, but I was happy that I had a little bit of this *whiteness* because now I could hang out with her without her getting in trouble by her mom.

I had several of these same experiences from elementary school to high school ,with my white friends parents not wanting me around because I was black, and I naively thought that this little bit of whiteness that I had would be enough for their approval.

I also knew that outside of just white people, my black male peers loved the idea of a mixed girl. Sometimes before they asked me my name, they asked ” what are you?”. I can’t say that back then I didn’t love the attention that my racially ambiguous features gave me. I felt like being ‘mixed’ gave me this higher status, opposed to being just being black. I hate that I am writing this, but this is the truth. I knew that I had a privileges because I was light skin. I knew that I didn’t have to deal with any jokes about being too dark, or having “nappy hair”. All I had to do was make sure I stayed out of the sun in the summer time and I would be free from bullying and torment.

Every day on the bus in elementary school they would make fun of this one kid who was dark skin, every single day; He would laugh back, and make jokes, but I couldn’t imagine how he felt when he went home. I knew the feeling of wanting to peel your skin, I knew the feeling of wanting to wash the tan off, and I knew that nothing hurt worst then your own people cutting you.

I didn’t know the term colorism until college, but already felt its plague. Colorism runs so deep in my community, and I know that because it ran so deep through me. Sometimes I think people don’t understand the strength of its grip and it’s complexity. The way a new born baby would be born and you would hear “check the ears”. A signifier in the black community of how dark a baby would be. How terrible. And I know some would ask how colorism has affected me as a ‘light skin’ woman, and would try to measure its affect in comparison to a dark skin woman; I know that my experience is just a drop in the bucket.Image result for colorism slavery

Colorism by definition is complexion dominated but detailed with other attributes such as hair length, hair texture, eye color, body type, etc. Colorism is about proximity to whiteness. The closer your features are to Eurocentric beauty standards, the more ‘attractive’ you are. This mentality has permeated so deeply into the way that we think about beauty, class, and value- that it is a pathological overburden among our community. The most recent example that I can think of is when I was at the Dominicans and this girl walks in and asks how much it would cost for a wash and set. They asked her to remove her scarf, and then began fondling with her hair. I was cringing in my chair just watching. The owner charged her $40 (for what should have been $25) because her hair texture was coarse, and tightly coiled. Dominican hair salons have also been known to put chemical relaxers into their conditioner without the knowledge of their clients- pushing the standard of beauty to one that is anti-black. I as a woman with a looser curl pattern, have never experienced something like that. Being light skin you have to understand the privileges you have because of your skin tone and/or hair texture. Saying “we’re all black” is silencing, is dismissive, and invalidates the experience of dark skin people who suffer under colorism. As a light skin person it is important to call out colorism and to be honest about your privilege. We have a responsibility to our community to dismantle these falsified stereotypes in the capacity in which we can. For example, we hear a lot of black men say that they prefer light skin women over dark skin women. This *preference* is rooted in colorism, racism, and white supremacy and should be called out as so. The trend to be with someone who is ‘foreign’, is not a new thing, it just has a new name, and black men 99% of the time are not talking about ‘foreign’ they’re talking about anything other than just black. If you know that your partner would not be with you if you were dark skin, you need to cancel them. This fetishization is what led me to the creation of this blog. I am exhausted of men asking me “what are you?“. As genuine as the question can be, it always comes off as just a ploy to feed their own fantasy of exoticism. If I am being ‘pedestalled’ or ‘chosen’ for my light-skin, it is not at all endearing, it is insulting.

Being light skin, and your race not being a thing that can be read easily, it is a tiring thing. People constantly wanting to know ‘what you are’, telling you what you ‘look like’ , disputing your identity, and doubting what you say you are. I hate this idea that I am somehow ‘less black’ because I am more privileged- whether it be because of skin tone or social class. I think that is something that I struggle with – trying to find the language to articulate how weighing it is for my own kind to constantly ridicule or diminish my blackness because they still view light-skin as ‘less black’.

I know that my privilege as a light skin woman has afforded me more opportunities because white people can somehow identify better with those whose skin approximates their own. It is seen historically, that light-skin slaves who were ‘almost white’, pushed the abolitionist movement because white people could sympathize with them. Being ‘light skin’ was evidence of  rape and sexual abuse that slaves had to endure. I think that I identify as black because of this reason. The white in my family, like it is in most black families, does not come from love, but from rape. There is nothing ‘cool’ or exotic about that.

The “one drop rule” has definitely played a part in the way that I identify. I remember watching movies like Queen and understanding the way that blackness/whiteness is interpreted in this country. The one drop rule was the way in which this country forcibly made ‘mixed’ or ‘mulatto’ people identify with only black- and to group them with their ‘subordinate’ race regardless of their genetic makeup. The way the one drop rule shows up for me is in generations of women in my family who went by this rule, not because it was the law, but because they didn’t want to be white- and they didn’t have a choice anyway. No one in my family identifies as part white, even though it may be in our blood. In writing this, I feel a deep pain in realizing that my grandmother could not and would not identify with whiteness, and in a way couldn’t identify with blackness either. To live your whole life as ‘other’, and to never know your lineage on either end, and to not feel fully connected or even welcomed by both races, has to make you feel a deep sense of incompleteness.

“Ironically, when a black American sister (or anyone for that matter) puts me, or other ethnic women of this society in the same category with the socially dominant White American Woman on the basis of lighter-than-black skin color, she is in fact denying my history, my culture, my identity, my very being, my pain and my struggle.”-  Mirtha Quintanales

Hair

We learn that we have ‘bad hair’ from the first time we remember getting our hair done. I remember crying every time my mom tried to put a comb through my hair. I vividly remember one day in elementary school looking at this white girls hair and thinking, ” why couldn’t I just have their hair?”, and I asked my mom that question when I got home, and she looked at me crazy and said “you don’t want their hair”. LMAO. Still funny. But I still couldn’t help but see the connection between me needing to get my hair permed before school started, and white people hair. I mean if my hair is good the way it is, why am I suffering getting perms all the time? This is what I mean by colorism being about proximity to whiteness, or Eurocentric standards. Growing up as a black child you already know what ‘good hair’ is, and what colorism is. The whispers of it being too thick and too coarse. As child you experience things that you feel are wrong, but can’t understand why it is. There were so many emotions I had around being black that I didn’t have words for. I don’t believe that I was some ‘enlightened’ or ‘consciously aware’ child, more than the average black child, my experiences, my feelings, and my thoughts are shared ones. I first realized this when I was watching the ‘doll test’ experiment where black and white children were asked to choose between two dolls. One doll was white, and one doll was black. In this experiment they had to choose which doll was the pretty one, and which doll was the smartest one. Image result for doll test colorismBoth children almost always chose the white doll as the pretty and smart one despite the dolls being identical in features, only different in skin tone. This experiment attests to my story of how colorism afflicts the mind of young children at such an early age- with no clear answer of why they believe the white doll to be smarter and prettier. There is something in our culture that is anti-black, and it is rampant and undeniable; and at its worst it is shaping the minds of our children to hate themselves- and love their white oppressor.

I see my own people not as oppressors, but as accomplices to oppression by our unwittingly passing on to our children and our friends the oppressors ideologies. I know that I spent that most of my time as an adolescent hating my skin tone, and I know that I projected that same self hatred onto my own peers. I cannot discount the role that I’ve played as an accomplice to oppression; I can only acknowledge and hold myself responsible for the way that I’ve used my words to uphold racist and colorist creed, unknowingly or knowingly.

” I write because I am scared of writing but I’m more scared of not writing.”

 

 

Please share this blog with friends, family, coworkers, etc. (TAGMETAGME) Have a discussion on colorism, and if you have no one to discuss it with discuss it with me, I’m on Instagram @lakotafae or via Email- lakotafwilder@gmail.com

I have a NEW poetry account @Lakota.Fae , Check it out !

 

 

 

The War with My Body

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photographer: bennierose

I think I’ve only known war with my body, so much so that peace felt forced, unfamiliar, and strange to me. Me and my body had never known compromise or reconciliation and I swear it was like two married people in a loveless house. I always wondered what people thought of my body before I wondered about what they thought of me -because my body announced itself before I could even speak. I always wished I could shrink the contours of my body just to see if it was me that they liked.

When I actually feel confident in my body, and I feel sexy, and I feel free- it is the cat-calling, and the gawking, and the disgusting words spoken by men that make me feel uncomfortable. Here I am feeling full, confident, and tall- and then men sexualize me, and I no longer feel safe. I no longer feel safe in my own body. Male privilege is when you feel safe in your body, when you feel that you have agency and ownership over your body- that is something that women simply do not have .cat calling

I am not just accepting my body, like it is some forceful decision that I must do in order to feel at peace with it, I am in love with my body. I am in awe with the way that my body has forgiven me, for the ways in which I have tried to manipulate its form to please the world in which I live-through diets and through not eating, and the unhealthy ways my body acted as collateral damage to my own mental suffering through binge drinking, self-harm and the obsession of thinking of how my body would look if it were smaller, always smaller.white chicks.gif

I am filled with gratitude for my body. The fact that my body has forgiven me for how I spoke about it, how I neglected it, how I abused it, how I scarred it- that is beautiful. For such a long time I’ve abused my body emotionally, and physically- and now, I am finally able to give it the love it deserves, and it feels revolutionary to me, it feels THAT powerful. And I know to some it may seem unimportant, or small, but to me it is huge, to me it is a celebration- a call for a party ;That this woman finally let go of the idea of how she should look, how she shouldn’t look. For me that is tremendous. I know my body applauds me. I feel happier. I feel stronger.

This is the longest relationship we will ever have. The one with ourselves; The one with our body.

How Did I Reclaim My Body?

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One thing I like to do as often as possible to give my body love is to use coconut oil all over my body. It shows appreciation to my skin, and leaves me feeling like a goddess. Just rubbing my skin from my ankles to my shoulders, feels really good.

I like lingerie. Pretty matching sets, bra & underwear, makes me feel sexy and sensual, and it doesn’t have to require the presence of a partner, I just do it for myself.

My top ritual has to be, and has been the most transformative for mw, is just dancing in front of the mirror. I started out doing it with underwear and bra still on- and once I got comfortable, I did it completely nude. I would stare at my body in the mirror while dancing to my favorite song, and I did this damn near everyday after I got out the shower, and I promise you a roll can’t bother me at all anymore.

*dancing to “dance 4 you-beyonce”, like you’re dancing for your future husband is my go-to*

Taking pictures of myself has also helped me tremendously with my quest to being body positive. I bought a small tripod from Amazon for like $8, and set that sucker up, and started taking pictures. This photo on the right I took by using two tacs pushed into my ceiling, and putting my phone between the tacs, and putting on a self-timer. Get creative, have fun !!

Music- girl turn on Freekum dress before you go out and it. is. over. Beyoncé always makes me feel like I’m Beyoncé, if you follow me on Instagram then you know how I be getting’ it poppin’.

 

I remember once when I was in high school one of my teachers asked a class of women to raise their hand if they were unhappy with some part of their body- everyone raised their hand; and she said, “one day you’re going to wish you loved your body when you were in high school” .And when I look back to what I looked like in high school , I’m like “damn what the hell was wrong with me?” lmao, and so I carry that thought with me all the time.

We have to love our bodies now. Not when we lose ten pounds. Not when we gain ten pounds. Our self love cannot be conditional. It cannot be ” I will love my body when…”, or “I will love my body if…”. I say that to you in the same way that I say it to myself. Even when I am feeling the most confident, I hear the voice saying “God, if you just lost a 10 pounds this dress would be perfect”, and even if it is just a whisper of a voice, it is still there. I’m okay though with how my journey is going, because that voice used to be much louder, that voice used to make me change my outfit 100 times before going out, and that voice used to turn my confidence into a quick “I’m not going anymore”. The joy in the journey comes from just knowing you aren’t in the same space that you used to be anymore.

My quest to loving my body has not been easy but it has been so worth it. I am finally my body’s best friend. I take care of her, and she takes care of me.

Last but certainly not least, remember not to body shame, and I wasn’t gonna add this but hell ,

“are natural bodies still in?”

“squats not shots”

“is anyone real these days?”

“built not bought”

“natural bodies matter”

YOU DONT HAVE TO PUT DOWN OTHER WOMEN WHILE YOU’RE CELEBRATING YOURSELF.

I DONT CARE IF YOU GOT A BBL, IDC IF YOU GOT A TUMMY TUCK. WOMEN ARE NOT MY COMPETITION, THEY ARE MY SISTERS, SAY IT WITH ME NOW, WOMEN ARE NOT MY COMPETITION THEY ARE MY SISTERS.

LIVE AND LET LIVE

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Vulnerability // DWI Story

I felt the need to write on vulnerability because being vulnerable is dangerous if you are not accustomed to the feeling- and I want to tell you how that showed up for me in my life.

Story time:STORYTIME

Me and my (ex)girlfriend were going through a lot, and our relationship had kind of dissipated into nothing. We were barely talking, our relationship was no longer really defined as a relationship, and we were in a gray area for a long time. I was uncomfortable with it, but I was just happy she was still there, you know?

I remember the exact day when I felt like it was over. I had called her, because I was so proud of myself for booking an Art Show. I had never done anything like that, and I was so excited. I asked her to come, and she said “…maybe”. I had understood though, our relationship was really non-existent at that point, but I was still hopeful. Then the day had came, and it was my Art Show. Yes, I was so happy that I had did it. A couple of friends and family had came- but I still stared at the door waiting for her to walk in. This time I didn’t even care if everyone knew she was my girlfriend, I just wanted her there.

She never came.

Maybe two weeks later, I was on my snap-chat, and I seen she posted something. It was her and another girl, out…kissing…having a great time. I could not believe what I had seen. I was devastated.omg

I guess I didn’t realize how bad things really were ya know? So I called her, and I asked her “when did we break up?”. I was surprised she answered the phone, because I knew that she was with her, and I know its sick, but I was hopeful that we could mend whatever it was that we lost- because why would she pick up the phone, in front of this new girl. Anyway, we argued for about 15 minutes- I cried, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever been publicly humiliated like that before.

All of this was followed by a lot more hurt, and disappointed- and I fell deep into a depression, I mean she really made sure I did too. She made sure I felt it. She posted this new person, everywhere. I had asked for closure, or for an answer, because I was so lost. She never answered, and I never spoke to her again. Three years together, and I never spoke to her again.

I said all of that to say this :

I have never been a stranger to depression, and I knew that I was vulnerable. I knew that I could not start drinking. I knew that I would really sink into it if I did. About 3 weeks had passed since seeing the snap chat thing, and I made a conscious effort to not have any wine, to not doing any drugs, to really just try to heal. My friend was tired of me being depressed and never going anywhere, and suggested we go out and celebrate- I had just bought a new car, and I hadn’t went anywhere. I agreed, I needed to go out, I needed to leave my room.

Long story short, I drank way too much that night. I was so pressed to have a good time, that I was giphy2.gif

buying everyone shots,

buying everyone drinks,

 

 

talking to everyone- trying to convince myself like, yeah I can do this, its lit.

 

I couldn’t do this.

My friend had met someone and was having a good time, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and on top of that I had some guy in my face trying to talk to me with a “Make America Great Again” hat on. That was the cherry on top of the shit pie. I left the bar we were at, and got into my car to call her. It was like 3 in the morning. The phone kept ringing and she wasn’t answering, and then she was just straight declining the calls. I just kept crying and crying. Two random girls seen me, and told me to get out my car, because there was a cop who was watching me. you-in-danger-girl

I got out the car, and just was crying on the side of the street with these two girls whom I’ve never met.

Then I ended up getting in an argument with my friend, then someone stole my phone, and then my friend got in a fight with some other girl – the night was a mess.

All I wanted to do was go home at this point. I had cried all my makeup off, and the night was disastrous. I got into my car, me and my friend not speaking- and within maybe 60 seconds I was pulled over. I was still crying from earlier, and all I could think was “wow, this looks so bad”. They told me to get out of the car, and do all those ‘drinking’ tests. I did the walk. I did the flashlight in the eyes. I did the alphabet backwards- or whatever it is they ask.Image result for DWI TEST GIF

Then they asked for me to blow into a breathalyzer. I was panicking, because at this point I was so emotional, and scared, that I didn’t know if I was ‘drunk’ or if I was really this upset. My last drink was maybe an hour before I started to drive, but I really didn’t know. So I refused, and I thought because I was cute, they would let me go. Nope, not this time. He said “Can you turn around for me?”- and that was it. I was handcuffed, and they brought me crying all the way to jail.cop gif

So you see, vulnerability was a key factor here. I was depressed, feeling lost, feeling hopeless, and I was very vulnerable. This was a teaching moment for me. I learned the importance of listening to my own voice. I knew that I wasn’t ready to go out, to drink, and perform ‘happiness’.

There are two sides to being vulnerable, you can either let it harden you, or soften you.

I could have let the whole thing harden me, I could’ve blamed everything on her, I could’ve blamed it on God, I could have told myself that I’m the unluckiest person ever- but my response never turned into that. As soon as I sat down in jail, I thanked the officer for arresting me, because the reality of the situation is, I could have hurt myself or someone else by driving. Then later I met an older woman who was the same age as my mother and had just gotten a DWI too, and she was in there crying. She told me that she had a daughter that was my age, and was going to be so upset with her. I prayed with her, and hugged her until it was time for me to see the judge.

There was a miracle in this, my vulnerability had helped her, and her vulnerability had helped me too. We were both comforted in sharing our stories, and by just being in our truth. If we had both been angry, legs crossed, and tight lipped, we would have never connected, and we would’ve never helped heal each other. I will never forget her, she was the cutest Italian woman, and I could see her strength, and she could see mine.

Is that not a miracle ?

Is it not a miracle that I am able to write my story all whilst bearing the risks of rejection, humility, disapproval, and judgement? I write my truth without regard for that. I know that for those who are reading this feel a connection, feel a depth, and feel a truth that they cannot receive everywhere else. So when I speak, I only speak truth, so that you will know what you get when you have me. Nothing but truth, nothing but honestly, and most importantly, vulnerability.

Vulnerability saved me. I became more opened because of my pain. I became more resourceful. I became stronger. Life pushed me into a place of discomfort but it was all for my growth.

I quickly want to thank those of you who have been supportive of my writing- your affirmations were necessary for me to keep going. Your comments, your statements of “me too”, “I’ve been there”, and ” thank you”, have all been so important for my journey.

 

Vulnerability is My Power

What does vulnerability mean for me?

-the radical idea that transparency and openness can be healing, in and outside of yourself- with the power to heal and connect the world.

How does it show up for me?

-it shows up in my capacity for growth. I’ve found that any hindrance or hesitation I’ve experienced that has prevented me from personal growth, was rooted in my fear of being vulnerable. When you are unable to be bare and honest, you run into dysfunction because you’re concealing the truth, or you’re lying about who you say you are.

Personal Example:

This year I decided to stop lying. I know it sounds like whaaat, bitch you’re a liar? Yes. I was a whole liar. For example, in the past if someone was trying to talk to me, and I was interested, girlllllll,  I would be putting on a whole performance of ‘perfection’. I was scared to be myself, scared to be vulnerable, scared to speak my truth, because I didn’t want to be rejected.

“Nah, I don’t talk to anybody”,

” I don’t know why I’m single either, shiiiiit”.

“Yeah, Friday sounds good” – knowing damn well, I ain’t coming.

So, story time of how being vulnerable (honest) really showed up for me in a small way.

So I’m in Miami, out to eat on Collins with my cousin. This guy sits down at the table next to us, and he’s by himself. At this point I got one of them big $25 drinks in front of me, and I’m feeling a little out-going. So my cousin goes to the bathroom, and I’m like alright,  this is my chance to talk to this dude, I really didn’t even know what he looked like ( he was sitting next to me, not across from me, so I would have really had to be in his grill if I wanted to like, get a peek, you know?) I just knew that this year, I was *trying* to be more outgoing. I don’t know what I said, but me and him just start talking, and we never stopped talking (my cousin was so annoyed by the way).

Anyway, I’m sitting here having a great conversation with this man. He was interested, he was honest, and very pleasant.

THEN IT GETS REAL.

He’s like “Are you talking to anyone?”

I was like “Yes”.

He just looked away and started staring off into the road all dramatic and shit, and in my head I’m like wow, that felt good- to just tell the truth and not care about the outcome.

Then he’s like “Have you ever cheated on someone?”

I was like “Yeah”.

Then he does the same dramatic look-away, and I’m dying laughing on the inside because its like “n*gga of course I have”. People have this weird fantasy of meeting a woman who’s perfect, and Mother Teresa-like.

Anyways, so then he says ” I hate that you’re so honest, I’ve never had someone be this honest”.

At that moment, I could’ve jumped for joy because I didn’t have that feeling of like , damn I just lied, now I gotta remember this lie, I gotta keep up with this lie, etc. etc.

So now, I just had a great dinner, great conversation, and I’m feeling hella good because I just told the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and this guy still is looking at me like the sun shines out of my ass.

So while I’m putting my number in his phone, I guess I was feeling like “Sis, let him know who you are”, so I put my blog site in the website spot in the contact. For me, that was a very vulnerable thing to do because I write about a lot of personal things on here. The miracle was that my perspective changed from ” What if he reads my blogs, and doesn’t like me anymore?” to “I love my writing, and it’s important to me”.

Lets get back to the point. Vulnerability.

Why do I need vulnerability?

Without vulnerability I would never be able to write, and I would never be able to connect with the amount of people that I do through my writing. My transparency has been groundbreaking for me. The writing saves me in the same way that it saves the reader. I know that my pain will be useful. When I am vulnerable with other people, they feel like they can be vulnerable with me too- and because of that, I have more connections with people on a soul level than on an ego-level; And yes- I think those relationships hold more value and importance because I know my friends’ hearts. I know what they’re going through, I know that they are not *bad* people because they didn’t answer my texts, I know them at a depth that I can understand, I know them at a depth that is familiar to me.

I asked three or four people that I knew who were struggling with being vulnerable, what their objections were, and why there were against it.

This was their answers :

  • Trust– they felt like they couldn’t be vulnerable with everyone because they didn’t trust them.

 

  • Betrayal– they feared that by giving people information about themselves, it could easily be used against them, and it has before in the past. (people throwing things you’ve said in your face, using deep things you’ve told them against you)

 

  • Accusations– people invalidating your experiences, your feelings, your pain, your trauma, etc. (I understand this one deeply, because I actually had a psychiatrist tell me that he thought I was lying about trauma that I experienced, and that made me closed off for a long time)

 

  • Weakness– they felt like being vulnerable made them weak.

 

  • Possibilities– being opened leaves us susceptible to all forms of energy, dangers, toxicity, and abuse. *

This is my response (which took weeks of digging deep inside myself to find answers)

There is a lot of anxiety attached to the idea of being an opened book because of ways people have treated us in the past because of it. The fear derives from an unpleasant experience that we had while being vulnerable, and because of that we have chosen that the best way to avoid pain and abuse is to put our walls up.

This is what I know for sure:

Being closed doesn’t serve us in any capacity. It leaves us hard and closed off. It creates a barrier between us and love, and more specifically-between us and anyone who is trying to love us.

If you prefer comfort over vulnerability, you will get just that. You won’t suffer much, or enjoy much- but for the rest of us we will know what victory and defeat feel like because we’ve dared to live outside the gray area.

To circle back to my story about the guy I had met- I could’ve easily used my past experience with men as a guideline for how I interacted with him. I could’ve been like “nah I know this n*gga ain’t sh*t, because none of them are”, “something gotta be wrong with him”, or “yeah he’s definitely broke, that’s what it is”. But I didn’t. I know now that I can’t allow my past experiences to sabotage new relationships. All those thoughts were thoughts of fear, none of them were thoughts of courage or vulnerability. “When you hold on to your history, you do so at the expense of your destiny“-Bishop T.D. Jakes. Sis, don’t nobody want a woman who’s holding onto so much baggage that she doesn’t know a good man when he’s standing right in front of her.

Kill the narrative that you’ve been telling yourself about men. Men are not the enemy. You are. You choose what you want to see in men.

Vulnerability is strength. When we are vulnerable with someone, we have no idea of the outcome. We don’t know if they are going to reject us, we don’t know if once we share our truth, and our wounds, if someone is still going to stick around. Being vulnerable is the most courageous act of love- to me at least. If someone can show me themselves- whole, even “the ugly parts”, I want that person. Now me and you connect on a level that you don’t share with most people.

When I am vulnerable with someone, and it’s an unpleasant experience (which I’ve been experiencing a lot), it doesn’t make me want to be less vulnerable, it just doesn’t. What happens though, is I get to say “WOW, you are not for me, and I’m happy that now I’ve realized our relationship can’t go beyond the surface”. Being vulnerable has only allowed me to weed out the people I do not want in my life. Sure, it can be painful if you tell someone about a wound, and they downplay the significance, or invalidate you- but it’s always worth the risk.

Vulnerability connects us. It is those painful truths that we have that will connect us. Most of the time when I can be be vulnerable and tell someone about who I am- and it is something that I think may make them feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or unsettled, I am scared. I am scared that if I tell them I struggle with communicating, or that I am not doing well financially – they won’t want me anymore. But the space that you create by being vulnerable provides comfort. Usually the person will respond by saying “me too”, or “I’ve been through that, and this is what I did…”. There is a lot of relief that comes with vulnerability. To have that weight off of you, to finally tell that truth that you’ve been scared to tell, is liberating.

Be free. And if there is ever any rejection that comes from you being free- then you’ll know to let go.

*please share my blog via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Book Clubs, Personl Group Texts, etc. if you’ve found this to be enjoyable, thank you so much*

 

 

Reclaiming Femininity in a Patriarchal Society That Would Rather You STFU

A woman’s body and the way that it is seen, interpreted, and scrutinized is usually a reflection of the culture that it is in. Western culture will have you believe that in order for a woman to be of value she must be conservative. I think what is important to mention is that men are not the only oppressors of women, but women to themselves and other women. There is internalized sexism, and then there is outright body shaming, and slut shaming done by other women. I want this writing to be less text-booky, and more of an examination of the common experiences, experienced by women.

My first uncomfortable experience with women shaming other women was on the topic of ‘strippers’. I remember a friend saying “I could never be a stripper”, “they’re dirty”, “they don’t respect themselves”, followed by more unimportant denigrating statements, and I remember thinking, “word, I couldn’t do that shit”. But at the same time in my head I’m like “well damn, why she gotta be all that”. I remember going back and forth in my head wondering if women who strip are worthy of the same respect that I am? (as a woman who doesn’t strip) Of course I consulted with my male companion who said they would never date a stripper- and so that steered my thoughts in a direction of me feeling *better* than ‘those kinds’ of women. I went on to believe that there was this unspoken ‘ranking’ of women dependent upon profession, amount of sexual partners, personality, etc. To give an example, I really used to not go out because I thought that my partner would find me less desirable if I went out a lot; I thought that the *better* kind of woman was the woman who stayed home. I wouldn’t form any platonic relationships with men,  because I didn’t want to make my partner feel uncomfortable or insecure.

Now through life experience and reading, I am unlearning all of the ideas about how a woman should be. I let go of the assertion that their is a ‘ranking’ that exists among women. I let go of the thoughts I had about sexuality, gender, marriage, family, sex, careers, and its connection to a patriarchal way of thinking. This returned my power back to me. Thinking for myself, instead of using our society’s standard perception of women and our rights, and our power. Now, I view all women (inclusively) as my sisters. When I view them as my sisters, it is a reminder that together we are powerful, and we have a natural relationship just because of what/who we are. We have experiences that are specific to our womanhood, some being a direct result of the society in which we live; I sat with my girlfriends one time talking about our experiences of ‘cat calling’, sexual harassment, sexual assault, unequal pay, domestic violence, body-shaming, double standards, etc.. I never realized the amount of experiences I had with sexual harassment until me and my friend were going back and forth with endless stories about things that have happened to us, and have been said to us. I realized at this point how much we as women have in common just on the basis of being women.

Wow, there is much work to be done.

Thoughts on Internalized Sexism

The thing is, we as women can be many things, and we are many things. It’s not even that we’ve been taught to feel boxed in, it’s that patriarchy has been so ingrained in us, that we have never considered another way of thinking. We followed the blueprint given to us, without a second thought. Some women are so set in their thoughts about sensuality, womanhood, feminism, etc. they don’t even know they’re boxed in. The reasoning for that, at least for me, was the lack of connection, and honest dialogue between me and other women. I never talked about sex with other women, deeming it as something private and sacred. But when I did have that conversation(s) with other women on sex, I felt something had been bridged. Certain things I thought I was alone in, and then I realized I was not. The revolution has and will always be, women connecting through vulnerability and transparency. Outside of just sex and sensuality- our difference in  culture, sexual orientation, race and class, is not something that should be used as a way to separate us, but connect us. I feel more comfortable in spaces with women that look like me, and come from a similar background, but that’s not where the revolution lies. When I meet women who come from other countries, and women who don’t share the same politics as me, or who are older than me…I always leave them feeling like I have been taught something. I always feel grateful and excited. Just being a woman, and seeing another woman should be enough for conversation.

Reclaiming Femininity through Emancipated Sensuality

sen·su·al·i·ty
ˌsen(t)SHəˈwalədē  noun
noun: sensuality
  1. the enjoyment, expression, or pursuit of physical, especially sexual, pleasure
What is sensuality to me?

It is defined by me in its relativity to the culture in which I live. I think it is important to understand that sensuality will be defined differently dependent upon the culture in which a woman lives. In most cultures, sensuality isn’t something women have put too much thought into because of the shame, embarrassment, and discomfort that comes along with it. Sensuality for me,  is the bravery and confidence to feel and express your emotions physically- especially in a way that is sexual. I think of it as my sexual body language. Being sensual is a radical assertion of ownership over your body.

Sensuality is affirming; It is the bonding of my mind and body. It is having agency return over to me, whereas with sex, agency is shared, and sometimes taken. Although it is expressed physically, I think it has nothing to do with your body and it’s form, but of something that is felt intrinsically. I think too often, women place their sexual desires secondary to that of men. Us receiving pleasure in a way that we would like is an after-thought, a special occasion, or only comes at our request. I find it interesting the dynamic between men and women during sex, more specifically those who have been in a long term relationship.

  1. A man’s orgasm is priority, even if yours too is important- a man’s is still mandatory and primary. Imagine a woman being priority, imagine you being a priority.

The dynamic is more interesting than I thought as my mind unfolds to the idea; But lets get into it. If a woman’s orgasm was the main concern, imagine the amount of men who would carry feelings of shame, and disappointment when they could not produce an orgasm for a woman. I mean wow, if our culture was designed for the pleasure of women, then more men would know our body’s and its’ functions. It would be a discussion. It would be exactly how our society is designed now for the catering of men, just the roles reversed. What would it take to reclaim our sexual needs as being just as important as a mans sexual needs?

2.  I think being honest about your sexuality, sexual desires, sexual trauma, sexual dysfunctions, can all be revolutionary to your relationship, and to yourself. I was having a conversation yesterday and it went like this.

Girl: I asked my ex if she would be into polygamy, and she said absolutely not.

Me: It’s funny you say that, because in the past when I was in a relationship, when I was asked about anything that was outside the ‘normal’ lines of sexual things, like “would you do this, or would you ever do that”, and I would quickly say ‘no’ because I knew that saying “no” is how he wanted me to respond, to keep up with this image he had of me. Now if I was being honest with him and with myself, I would have said well, yeah lets explore that…but I was so scared of the judgment.

If we could release the fear of being a sexual being, and what that means for us– I think it could be life-altering and really liberating.

3. Take up space in your sexual liberation. Understand that their are some women who are still scared to speak about sexual desires…too scared to even speak about it with their friends, let alone partners. The more we express our freedom, the more other women won’t feel the shame and fear in expressing theirs. I don’t do it for the male gaze, I don’t do it for the benefit of men, I do it for me. Just being a sexually liberated woman, and especially publicly, is a political statement- and I have never shied  away from being bold, being brave, and being controversial, it is what I was made for.

4. Sensuality as Self Care- Ain’t it crazy that even touching ourselves is looked down upon? Like for real, me touching my own body is shamed. I’m laughing right now too, because I remember a partner asking me like “why you gotta do that, I’m not enough for you?”like first of all, this aint got nothing to do with you!! I am allowed to give myself pleasure. I am allowed to learn my body. I think that through pleasuring myself, it strengthens the relationship between me and my body, and my sexuality. I think it helps me (us) release shame, and the stigmas regarding women and pleasure.

Things I Needed to Say Like Yesterday

I believe in sexual liberation and sexual agency for all women. ‘The freedom to be sexual’ as a woman has to be inclusive because the women who are often left out of the conversation are usually sex workers, trans women, black women, disabled women, etc., the women who need other women’s’ support the most. The shame from other women to other women disgusts me. Some women like to be with multiple partners and some women don’t, and what governs you to judge that woman, and to see her as less than you? It is okay to say that a certain lifestyle is not for you, but in saying it to elevate yourself to be seemingly superior to another woman serves no one but patriarchy. As women we have sexual desires, they are about as natural to us as being hungry- and yet we reject the idea. The problem is not the desire, the problem is the judgment that we place on ourselves for having the desire, and then we project that onto other women.

Being sexually liberated is easily reduced to a woman having her ‘hoe phase’. What do we call this same behavior for men then? Or are they more attractive because they are sexually experienced, and sexual experience is appealing too right? Oh but not for women, I mean you want me to be experienced but not too experienced, otherwise I’m a hoe, and not worthy.

I think the problem with social media is that sexual liberation is seen and learned from Instagram accounts featuring women with plants all around, and crystals, and sage, and she is celebrated for her ‘evolution’, but the woman who has on a tight Fashion Nova outfit, posing sexy with her skin out, is seen as unsophisticated and unworthy (even by women). If your feminism is rooted in being anti-hoe, it ain’t feminism and its wack. If it’s rooted in shaming women who have gotten their bodies done, you can also miss me with that too. If you put other women down to make yourself feel better, you’re also wack. The natural vs. unnatural, the makeup vs. no makeup, the skinny vs.fat, the natural hair vs. weaves, perms, it’s divisive, and does nothing for us.

We need to unlearn the ideas of what we have learned through a patriarchal society, and find what it means for us to be a woman. Independently think of what it is that you would like as a woman, sexually, socially, and culturally- and then be that woman. Be that daring woman to live outside the lines.

 

 

Who Are You Without Instagram?

A critical analysis of human behavior through the lens of social media as a means to shift a very normalized and common perspective to a perspective that is unpopular or obscure.

There is this thing about social media that I’ve grown to hate. It’s that nothing is real. The trends are there and the people follow. Self-care is done as a performance, depth is shown through the quotes of a book you’ve never read, and your said ‘knowledge’ is learned through memes so you can participate in the woke nigga Olympics and beauty is shown through an expensive camera, carefully chosen pictures & a filter to show your ‘perfection’- followed by (insert Alex Elle quote) a writer that you don’t follow. A book that you’ve never purchased.

this is a virtual reality. a distraction. nothing but performers, and the audience. I want to walk out, I do- but I’m like the person peeking behind the curtain, wondering, can I do what the performers do? the ones that get the standing ovation? the ones that get the fans? but the only thing I know how to be is myself- not a brand. not a type. not a category. I mean like fuck, I’m exhausted.

Aren’t you tired ?

But it’s all still a contradiction isn’t it?

 I wrote this in the way that I usually write everything – which is out of complete rage, passion, or compulsion. I don’t think there has been much critical writing on the way that social media is shaping our lives and our livelihood. I tried to encompass all of my frustrations into that writing, but I decided I need to elaborate on them with more examination and cogitation.

” Self care is done as a performance…”See the source image

I am ecstatic and excited that women, especially black women are engaging in self care, which I believe is radical, powerful, and uplifting. Self care is something that I’ve never made space for or have even been taught how to do. More often that not, black women aren’t afforded the time or the luxury of  engaging in self care. When I say that self care is done as a performance, I am making reference to the people with photographs of the flowers in a tub on their page, and the exaggerated perpetuation of ‘happiness’ and ‘positivity’ through those photos. I think this excessive expression of ‘self love’ through superficial acts of self-development can be dangerous. Self love/care is a journey that requires healing, introspection, and practice. I think it is falsely represented through social media as something that is easily tangible. A womans’ healing and self-development is nothing that comes easy. It is intense emotional labor and difficult sacrifice. It is the break-downs before the break-throughs, it is morning prayers, it is overdue apologies to ourselves, and to our bodies, it is the agreement to live beyond the comfort of pain, insecurities, and relentless fear,it is bravery, it is discipline, it is a decision to love yourself wholly.

We live in an age where ‘positivity’ is forced down your throat, and the intention is good but the result is not. I think we lose our ability to feel and relate when pain, suffering, and imperfection is looked down upon. It denies us of our realities of mental health struggles, and life’s unpredictable trials; And what I find interesting is that this exists in and outside of social media, because of social media. In other words, whatever lifestyle you are portraying on social media, you have to keep up with it outside of social media, thus it becoming performative and disingenuous.


“Your said ‘knowledge’ is learned through memes so you can participate in the woke nigga Olympics..”

Yeah, I said it. I am drained by the plagiarism and regurgitation of information for the purpose of seeming intelligent. I think that when people ignorantly engage in socio-political debates or conversations in subjects that they are not well-versed in, but do it anyway, they reduce the work that real activists and researchers do; To just participate without any real objective other than to feed your ego and to reinforce that you are ‘smart’, is damaging and counterproductive.Blog Photo-Powerful Women


“…Beauty is shown through an expensive camera, carefully chosen pictures & a filter to show your ‘perfection’..”

The pressure to look a certain way is disheartening. I have felt it. I still do, and I think it’s detrimental to the well being and self-esteem of the young women who are growing up in this age. The teenagers that I see now, look like grown ass women and that scares me for many reasons. I am scared to raise a daughter in a world where she will feel that her self-worth and beauty is defined by the amount of likes she gets on a photo. I want the feeling of inadequacy to escape me fully, so that I never feel the pressure of needing to be more, or less, ever again. I have found flaws I never even knew were there, because of the bombardment of ‘perfection’ images on social media. I never even cared that my teeth weren’t bright white, but now I do, I never cared that my stomach wasn’t board flat, but now I do, I never knew my butt wasn’t big enough, but now I know.

The idea we have of our own appearance has been distorted, at least honestly it has been for me. I rarely look at myself through a camera without a filter- and when I do, I’m like “who the hell is this?” and I put on a filter on it to feel better. Wow, we live in a crazy time.Blog Photo Child Praying


“…followed by (insert Alex Elle quote) a writer that you don’t follow. A book that you’ve never purchased”

I have been ITCHING to write on this. Okay, so boom- you wanna seem deep so you find yourself a deep caption, cool. But what we’re not gon’ do is, take writers’ work without citing/crediting them. As a writer when someone takes my work without permission, and/or doesn’t credit me, it is as though you are passing it off as your own. Being a writer is a struggle already, visibility is important to us. I know people who say they love this poet and this poet, and yet have only read their work on Instagram. Do you really love this writer if you’ve never actually purchased their work? P.S. I always see when y’all steal my shit, and it sucks.

I remember in one day two people who had 20K+ followers stole my poetry and used it as a caption without crediting me. I think the insult is that you felt you really didn’t need to. You can’t love the writing and not value the writer.


“I want to walk out, I do- but I’m like the person peeking behind the curtain, wondering, can I do what the performers do? the ones that get the standing ovation? the ones that get the fans?”

I enjoy social media and not just for the good parts. I like looking on TheShadeRoom, I like looking at the ‘picture perfect’ girls holding tea bags, I don’t know why, I just do, and I find myself wondering like, “how much do she get paid for posting herself in this Fashion Nova fit”, and “wow, her life must be lit, gettin’ all this free shit sent to her”, and “maybe I need to up my followers so I can get some free shit too”, and then I realize I’m never going to be like them, because I’m going to be like me.

This pressure to be a ‘brand’, pulls us further and further away from our spirit, and closer and closer to our ego. This ‘branding’ draws us deep into a superficiality that hurts us by making us believe we are this way, and this thing.

I am constantly reminding myself to stay true to who I am because the alternative is an internal conflict of turmoil and lifelessness.


“I mean like fuck, I’m exhausted. Aren’t you tired?”

Living for your ego, is a lot like constantly trying to prove yourself – to yourself- to others, that you are great, talented, worthy, funny, cool, and your attitude is so “I don’t give a fuck”, that you’re numb to anything worthy of feeling.

I thought that what I wanted was to be this perpetuated image of attraction and *goals*, and when I started thinking that, I started losing me. It is a tiresome thing to live to please others. It is a tiresome thing to stare at pictures for 10 minutes to figure out which one to post. It is a tiresome thing to sit around thinking of a “good caption”. It is a tiresome thing to ask your friends which fucking filter you should use. And I say this angrily, because I have lost so much time and energy trying to be something I’m not, and I still see people trying to be this thing.

I came home to myself…and it is the best thing I have ever done.
PSFix_20170626_102835

Being A Pan-Sexual Woman

JanelleMonae_SocialGraphicsJanelleMonae_1-copy

My inspiration for this piece was Janelle Monáe talking about her discovery of pan-sexuality & I was like yessssssss! So here we go :

As a black bi-sexual woman, I live at the intersection of injustice. I have had to be both elephants in the room.I have had to be a voice of insight, and a modest matter-of-a-fact speaker. My rhetoric always coming out as general knowledge. Always speaking ” the LGBTQ community…”, knowing damn well I was speaking about me, and us. I feel empowered by Monae’s courage and confidence to live in her truth in a world that would rather you be silent.

I remember being 12 or 13 years old and I was interested in what sexuality was. I guess I had googled ‘sexuality’ because I knew that I was attracted to both men and women. I read that there was an array of identities in which people identified with. I remember being so excited because I had found what I most closely related to, and that was pan-sexuality. I remember spinning around in my computer chair to face my mom and I told her that “I’m a pan-sexual!”. I said so with such urgency and excitement, because there it was…this exposition for the feelings that I had. She said “Alright, what’s that?”, and I told her “it’s when you believe that love is love, and it doesn’t matter if its a boy or a girl…”. I don’t remember her response, I just remember being so happy and joyful in that moment. I remember feeling too that, God had given me an even greater capacity to love.

I felt blessed that I could love more people than other people could.

I think now, that wow I was a deep ass 12 year old, but I think that when you’re that age, you are nothing but truth and innocence. I never thought that my sexual identity would be a problem, or be anything to be ashamed about. I hadn’t known that homophobia was a real thing, and I didn’t know that people would reject you just because of who you choose to love. I had just felt extremely blessed that I could love anyone, and especially those who have felt unloved because of their sexuality and/or gender identity.


 

Discovering My Sexuality

I had always known that I was attracted to women in the same way that I knew I was attracted to men. I think I tried to repress my feelings for women because I was scared of what people would think. My earliest memories of ‘coming out’ to my peers, mostly resulted in responses like, “Can I see you guys kiss?”, “You’re too pretty to be gay”, and “Oh, you’re a carpet muncher?”

(The carpet muncher one was my favorites, because I was like, is it really like eating carpet? lmao)

I didn’t really go through too much, in comparison to the people I know, who have struggled a lot with discovering their sexual identity. I was very okay with who I was, what I wasn’t okay with was : other people not being okay with who I was . Most of my struggle has just been from the responses and reactions from other people.

I internalized a lot of the homophobic comments said to me which made me feel ashamed about my sexuality. My relationships with women and men also suffered greatly on behalf of me being uncomfortable with my sexuality. When I was with women, they really wanted me to show them off, ya know, like anyone would want to be shown off, and I never would. I didn’t even want to kiss in public, or hold hands. I didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. I always told myself I wanted to be so sure that this person was who I would spend my life with before posting them on social media or before introducing them to family *because* if it didn’t work out, people would say “yeah it was just a phase” or invalidate the relationship as a whole. I always felt like I needed to prove that my relationship was authentic and real, because of the projections of incredulity from other people.

The most common question I get asked by people who are discovering their sexuality is, “How did you come out?”. Well, I never did ‘come out’. I never felt the need to, I mean sometimes I did (pressure from partners), but I never really cared to do like this whole elaborate weird thing of announcing “hey I like girls”, in the same way that straight people don’t go around saying “hey I’m straight”. I understand why people do ‘come out’, which is usually for acceptance, but I’m now 24, and as long as I can accept me, I’m good.

I think people have this idea that bisexual people like men more, or like women more, and that may be true for some people but for me, I just go with the flow, it doesn’t really make a difference. Some people also think bi-sexuality is just the pathway to becoming a lesbian, or a phase that one grows out of; Both ideas have played a tremendous role in how I thought about myself. I questioned a lot if I was just going to be a lesbian, or maybe I wasn’t bisexual at all, and I just liked *this* person.

I do have this controversial opinion of mine (backed by social science) , that sexuality is really just a social construct, meaning – heterosexuality is the norm because our society says it is, and thus people fall in line. I believe that innately we as human beings, our sexuality is fluid and if we did not have these social constructs, majority of people would fall more fluidly on the sexuality spectrum.

Defining My Sexuality

( Terms I think it’s important to be familiar with )

Cis-gender – a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. (I.e. you were born a boy and you feel like you’re a boy)

Trans-gender – a person who does not identify with their sex assigned at birth.

Gender-fluid– a person whose gender is not fixed. Some days they feel more masculine, some days they feel more feminine.

** big point I want to make here : GENDER AND SEXUALITY ARE DIFFERENT.

I usually identify myself as bisexual when the question arises, just because a lot of people are unfamiliar with what pan-sexuality is, and it averts any following questions. There has been a lot of ambiguity in the community on what the difference between bisexuality and pan-sexuality is. For me I choose to identify with pan-sexuality because it is inclusive to all gender identities whereas with bisexuality their attraction is solely to cis-gender men and cis-gender women.

I know that people get really confused on sexuality and gender identity, and a lot of people don’t understand it, but I think it’s important that we as a people do our research to understand its’ complexities. People will dismiss conversations as soon as they feel like its ‘too much’ or want to invalidate someone’s identity. I started in-depth research a few years ago, as I began to learn about the alarming violence against transgender women- more specifically black trans women. I don’t know where all the hate comes from, but I think the first step is awareness and education, and I think that is everyone’s civil obligation.

My Struggle of Being a Bi/Pan-Sexual Woman

I use the terms bi/pan/and gay interchangeably to describe my sexuality. In safe spaces, and with people that I trust, I don’t mind being specific about my sexuality. In every other space I feel a sense of security by using ambiguous umbrella terms to describe my sexuality. I feel like it serves as a security blanket. I don’t feel like I need to say I’m ‘pansexual’ because I don’t think specificity is needed in order for my sexuality to still be valid. Some days my sexuality is unclear to me (If I’m being honest), and being able to use different terms interchangeably gives me a sense of freedom from feeling boxed in & labeled.

 

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Adoption Story

I wanted to connect with a dear friend of mine, Dana because I knew that she had a story in dire need of being heard. We befriended each other during high school and I remember knowing that she was adopted, but I never knew the full story. I remember going to her house and seeing that her parents were white, and that kind of struck me, because Dana was black, or mixed but definitely not 100% white. She said quickly that she was adopted, and that was the end of the story.

But I couldn’t help but wonder

OPRAH GIF

What was it like being adopted?

What was it like having white parents?

Did she know who her real parents were? Did she want to meet them?

Well, I connected with Dana to find out what it was like being adopted, and how that has shaped her into who she is today. I was honestly shocked at a lot of what she said during our meeting. This blog is going to include her testimonial writing followed by an interview done by me.

It all comes into perspective when someone from a ‘normal’ family says,

“…well she/he is the adopted one of the family”.

An easily cracked joke that bears more weight than people understand.

I have always laughed it off and pretended like it never happened…like it never hurt. I couldn’t blame them for their ignorance. Adoption is something almost as rare as a Ferrari. Seen, but seen far in between. 

People will easily speak of adoption, for exactly what it is, as ignorant as they are. It is different. I can spend days analyzing why people would refer to the child who looks/acts different etc, in the family, as the adopted one’, but its simple. Adopted people are indoctrinated into believing they do not fit in. In our society, most people know just that; the one outcast in the family, could easily be labeled (jokingly) as “the adopted one“.

Throughout my life, I easily understood what it meant to be adopted. At a young age I was confused, but I knew that I was adopted from the earliest of memories. My adoptive parents are fully white, and I am half white and half black. There was a clear distinction between me and my parents to the outside world. People would always ask questions, or take an extended glance at my family make-up. I remember that I would make excuses for my skin coloring by telling people, “oh my grandfather was dark”. I just wanted to avoid the line of questioning that would surely follow if I told the truth, I just wanted to feel normal.

Once I reached adulthood, things changed. I had embraced being adopted in all its entirety. I realized that all my negative emotions surrounding being adopted, were not at all my own, but were the projections of others, on their feelings about adoption. I was okay with being adopted- but others were not. It was the judgments, the opinions, and rejection of others, that caused me to reject myself. I wanted to feel that sense of belongingness, but the world would not afford it to me.

There are heavy and irrefutable emotions that come with being adopted. Your brain is capable of thinking, based on reason, and based on experiences with the outside world. I could technically just speak for myself, but I could imagine other adoptees feeling the same way. We feel everything so deeply. There is this relentless and intense feeling of needing to be accepted, even when we are. There is this fear of being rejected, and this fear that “you are too different”. It is easy for me to put this on paper, but it isn’t as easy to explain, to someone who is not adopted. They will assume you are making excuses, but really you’re the product of society’s natural thoughts on adoption. Different, outlier, not from the same line. It isn’t necessarily always deemed true, but it doesn’t stop us from believing that we are what they think we are-outcasts.

But after all, this is why I am writing this: I need people, who aren’t adopted to understand, that the thoughts and feelings of adoptees, are different. We go through life a bit differently, but it is okay, and it is normal for us. The only thing making things feel ‘abnormal’ is the ignorance of most, and the deep emotions that could plague our mind, due to feeling that at first you were not accepted. You came into this world unwanted, ans unaccepted. Knowing that, could drive an anxiety ridden mind crazy. But it is important for adoptees to know, that they are accepted now. Their adoptive family saved them, as God, has saved all of us. We are all saved, we are all together, we are all equal, and we all deserve the same acceptance whether bound by blood, or by heart.

-Dana 

Do you want to meet your biological mother/father?

Yes I do, but just my mother. My father tried to take me away from my adoptive parents when I was two years old, but he didn’t have the resources or the ability to take care of me. They went to court and my parents won. My birth mother was still just a teenager when she found out she was pregnant with me, and my birth father was in his 30’s. Their ‘relationship’ started when she was 15.

All in all though, I’m not ready to meet her right now. When the time is right, the time is right- and I will make it happen. I have no animosity towards her, she knew that she could give me a better life.

Do you have siblings that you know of? Would you want to meet them?

Yes, I do have siblings that I know of…2.  I found them through Facebook. They are white. My birth mother is now married and she has two kids- so I’ve got two brothers, and they actually kind of look like me.

I eventually want to meet them, Maybe when they’re adults.

OKAY SO WE GOT SIDE TRACKED, AND STARTED JUST TALKING ‘NON INTERVIEW’ STYLE, AND I WAS SHOCKED AT THIS PART OF HER STORY:

So, her adoption was a closed adoption. She wasn’t supposed to know about her birth parents, and her birth parents weren’t supposed to know about her. But one day her adoptive mom just happened to stumble upon her name on Facebook (her birth mother). So now, her birth mother doesn’t know that she knows about her. So Dana knows what she looks like, what she does, everything- and her birth mom knows nothing about her, AND she lives on Long Island, where Dana lives.whaaat.gifIt gets even interesting-er. I just made a word. Anyways, so originally Dana was supposed to be adopted by a different family. Then, the family found out Dana was biracial, and didn’t want her anymore, they wanted an all white baby. Now, get this- the guy was Puerto Rican, and the woman was white- like y’all would’ve had a biracial baby anyway. Anyway, that blew my mind. And they knew that Dana’s *now* parents, were looking to adopt, and they told them about her- Thank God!

Are you fearful of rejection if you decide to meet them?

No.

Why not?

I don’t really feel that that’s something I can beat myself up for. They already rejected me, and I’ve healed from that.

What do you want to know from your birth mother?

I just want to know our family history,medical history, and culture. Those are the really important things. All the other things like “why”, and all of that- I feel like I know already, and I respect it.

What is it like being biracial, and having white parents?

Its weird. Um, it felt normal at first, but like people really do look at you strange- and ya know, you’re gonna feel like you’re not like everyone else, and you can’t hide that you’re adopted. When I was younger it was hard for me to grasp that concept, but when I grew up, I just went with : “it is what it is”, but um, racially and culturally I still get a bit confused.

I’m starting to learn the other side of me now (the black side), from outside sources, really just doing my own research. I just feel like there’s a lot I need to know, but either way, I don’t consider myself white or black. I was raised in an Italian household, and so, I only had my Italian culture.

Do you think that being adopted will have any affect on your parenting when you become a mother?

Yeah because the way I was raised, I wouldn’t want to raise my kids like that. My parents were kinda tough.  I just don’t agree with their way of parenting, and their ideas. It might be difficult when I’m a mother. My parents are excessive, theyre very traditional. Traditional meaning 1950’s type shit. That’s not something I want.

Do you think they’re harder on you because they’ve adopted you?

I feel like they’re going to feel like they failed if I don’t live up to their standards. My parents try to make everything perfect. They’re very careful. I’m not a very careful person.

What affects has being adopted had on your relationships?

Wow that’s a good one. So yeah, I always feel that I need to feel wanted, and coddled. I always need to feel like someone will be there to wipe my tears, and I feel like that’s because I was adopted. When I get into a relationship, I put all my trust in them- I need to know that when I’m not good, you’re going to be good to me. I feel like I rely on people too much–because I’m constantly searching… for someone to accept me. Right now, I’m scared to lose my boyfriend, and he loves me so much, and that’s why I’m scared to lose him.

Do you feel whole?

No, and that’s a very nonchalant ‘no’ though, because I feel like in general, people don’t feel whole. There’s a part of me that  I haven’t understood yet. There’s so much that I have to experience- like meeting her.

 

Thank you so much Dana for telling your story ! Her story has given me new knowledge and insight into adoption, and for that I am thankful. Remember to email subscribe and share 🙂

What to Say When Your Friend is Going Through It

We all have good intentions when it comes to giving advice and trying to console our friends during difficult times. I struggle with finding the right words to say, and the right things to do. I often find myself stuck between what I *think* I should say, and saying nothing at all. What do you say when someone tells you they just found out they have cancer? What do you say when someone lost someone close to them? What do you do when your friends are going through a break-up? In these moments what you say/do matter, and can be powerfully transformative .

PSA: It is important to let go of your ego when someone reaches out to you for support. It is important that you validate their feelings. It is important that you listen to understand, instead of listening to respond. Repeat what they are saying back to them to make sure that you’re receiving what they are saying correctly, and it also helps them to know that you are really listening . Help them explore their feelings about what is happening before you give your own advice.

Side Note: Refer them to my blog! I have a great blog on How to Get Through What You’re Going Through. Sometimes you won’t know what to say or what to do, so guide them to me, I know 🙂

1. Listen– I think often we listen to respond because we are so eager to give people this knowledge that we have on what they’re going through. Or we have been through a similar situation, and so we think we have the solution, and we so badly want to give it to them. Our intentions are good, but they may just want someone to listen. Allow them to feel, and experience all their emotions.

Simple Statements:

  • ” You’re not alone”, it’s you and me against this illness”
  • “It’s not your fault”
  • “This is what I hear you saying…”

*Stay away from cliché sayings like “everything happens for a reason”, and “time heals all wounds” * ( no one really wants to hear that )

2. Encourage Them- Inspire them to shift their perspective on what they’re going through by asking questions, not my intentionally telling them to, but by asking questions that will lean them in the right direction.

Perspective Change

Have you considered looking at this situation differently?

What is holding you back from letting this go?

What do you think is triggering this feeling?

Remind them of what they’ve already been through and how they got through that. Remind them of their strength, their wisdom, and their purpose.

Positive Affirmations : You are strong. You are smart. You are worthy. Remind them of who they are!

3. Let Them Know They Are Not Alone – It is easy to be with friends during the easy times, it is easy to show up to Sunday Brunch; Don’t be the friend that has an ‘errand’ to do or is ‘too busy’ to be there during the difficult times. Value your friendship.

How I check myself on this is, I say to myself:

What would I do if my partner was in this same situation, what is it that I would do for them?”. We have to value our friends the same way. Would you buy them flowers? pick up their favorite food? pay for their massage?

Do the same things for your friends, most likely they have been in your life longer than your partner, and deserve the same empathy and compassion.

4. Be Proactive- Sometimes when you ask your friend “What can I do for you?”, they’ll reply with “nothing”, because they don’t know what they need. That’s where you come in. Bring them a home-cooked meal. Help them clean up. Invite them to church. Create the Go Fund me. Take them out. Just be there for them.

Instead of saying , ” I want to be there for you as much as I can”, say something that shows commitment and integrity, “I am here for you, I am praying for you, and I’m going to be checking in on you to make sure you’re doing okay”

5. Check In- Sometimes people need their alone time, and can become distant. Still, remind them that you are thinking about them, that you are praying for them, and you are there for them. Trust your instinct, you’ll know if they need space or if they need company.

Stay Away From Statements Like:

  • “I know how you feel”
  • “All you have to do is…”
  • “Don’t worry”
  • “You’ll be fine”

All of those statements invalidate how they are feeling.

It is difficult, at least for me it is, to be 100% understanding of what someone is going through- especially if I’m holding judgment. For example, your friend is super-depressed over someone you told her was no good for her from the beginning, and you knowww she’s going to be right back with this person. We’ve all been here with our friends, and sometimes we have been *that* friend – and because I know that I have been that friend, I know that I need the same support and same love from my friends regardless. Be tough when you need to be and be soft when you need to be- and trust that you will know when that is.

5 Inexpensive Gifts to Get Your Friend When They’re Going Through It

  • Epsom Salt & Lavender– Buy a bag, put it in a cute mason jar and tie it with a ribbon with some essential oil . The Epsom salt relieves stress, and flushes out toxins, and lavender is very calming. epsom
  • Candles- Aromatherapy is real. Look out for lavender, eucalyptus, frankincense, chamomile, and rose candles. (I just found out through my own research that rose essential oil is known to help with emotional healing and stress).
  • Adult Coloring Books- I love these for when I just need to zone out, and they’re super cheap, so it doesn’t hurt to try it out!
  • A Good Book- Maybe get one self-help book, and one mystery novel, something that will act as an escape. Thrift storimg_6682-edites usually have some good ones, if you want to save some coins.
  • Journal– Buy them a new journal. It works as good tool for stress management, and its good to track your progress and clarify your thoughts. I love journaling.

You could get all these for probably $30-$40. Be thoughtful. Be intentional about who you say you are as a friend. Be the friend that you would want.

You don’t need a reason to be a good friend, or a good neighbor, or a good co-worker, just do it!

How To Get Through What You’re Going Through

There is a thin line between being a victim, and creating an entire identity centered around victimhood. In one case, you have been harmed or traumatized as a result of a particular event, and in the other case- you’ve allowed this event to become your story and who you are. Post-traumatic stress is complex and easily distorts and disrupts your sense of self/being. In this writing, I hope that what I am saying won’t be received as insensitive or unsympathetic- but as a means to ascend from an unhealthy and detrimental state of being. Through my own testament of healing from trauma and a victimhood mentality, it is my intention that this will not only pacify your wounds but heal them.

You are not what happened to you.

We have all experienced something that changed our lives entirely. Whether it be a singular event, a relationship, or even something said to us. This moment changed our lives, and changed what we thought we knew. I had experienced a collection of events that could be described as ‘traumatic’. I didn’t know that these experiences were a source of my pain- I just knew that I felt hopeless.This event for me was the day that I tried to take my own life.

I know that you probably assumed that something ‘happened’ to me, or that someone did something to me , but I happened to me. I happened to me all of the time. I inflicted pain on myself physically and emotionally as a coping mechanism to depression.

How I Fell Into Victim-Hood

I felt strongly for a long time that my life was nothing but misfortune and inevitable struggle. I was always sink hole deep in depression, or bridging my way back to it from a manic episode. I internalized the diagnosis given to me by the doctor . I allowed Major Depression Disorder to define who I was. I researched the symptoms, and I seen what the doctor seen; There was an undeniable parallel between me, and the illness. I sought out others who were suffering from the illness too. Through the use of social media, I bonded with other people who were suffering from MDD, just like me. I didn’t just have Major Depression Disorder, Major Depression Disorder had me. It had me all of the time. It had me in the music I would listen to, the art that I would make and the poetry that I would write. Everything that I was, was drenched in this illness. I loathed in my thoughts, and took on the identity of someone who was sad all of the time. I made every excuse to never go anywhere. I was always “too tired” and a self-proclaimed “homebody”. There were days that were not as bad as others, but I always told myself to not be excited about it, because the pain would always return, and I would be left disappointed.  I never allowed light to come into my life. I was comfortable with darkness, and I was consumed by it. I didn’t know who I was outside of depression. I didn’t know who I was outside of the trauma, and to me, that was terrifying.

I have learned from this that, the human mind can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy. I was my worst enemy.

How I Came Out of That

What I didn’t know was that, yes I had this illness, but I didn’t have to let it have me. I spent years of my life believing that I would never be able to recover, or have the freedom to feel something new. I can’t recall the specific day when I made the decision to try to be happy, but I remember praying about it, a lot. I would usually pray in my bed with eyes closed, but I remember intently kneeling down at my bed side and praying. I was dedicated to my healing. I allowed myself to be vulnerable by allowing people in. I stopped putting up walls when I realized that I was going to lose the people I loved. I surrendered to my pain, and allowed it to cleanse me, instead of thinking I could defeat it. I allowed it to break me, and mold me, and transform me into a stronger and wiser me.

How do you expect to understand your pain, if you never let it speak?

Support System

My sister was a key component to my healing. Having someone who cares about you, and is patient with you, and understands what you’re going through, is important. She encouraged me to go out, and sometimes really had to force me out of the house, and that was a major part of my healing. I really needed to get out, and she made sure I did. My sister allowed me to experience my emotions, and what I mean by this is, if I was crying she would rub my back, she never told me to “stop crying”. I think it’s important to have a support system of people that don’t ask for you to perform happiness for their comfort. My mother and grandmother put me into art classes, something that I loved doing; This really boosted my self-esteem, and gave me a sense of purpose. I also researched on my own *healthy coping mechanisms*. I used lavender to calm me. I took long baths. I exercised. I did everything I could do to be a positive thinking person. That doesn’t mean that by doing those things it eliminated my depression, but it made it easier to go through. I also created habits that would ensure that I would never let the emotional pain overstay.

You can either be reactive or proactive. You can have comfort or you can have growthbut you can’t have both.

If the voice inside of your head is always talking negatively, if it is always telling you that you are not enough, that you won’t make it, that you are not worthy. Know this. Know that you are in control of that voice. You have the power to change what that voice says, and you have the power to change what you believe about yourself.

How you speak to yourself is important, and one way to check yourself is by saying to yourself, “would I speak to my best friend like this?”. Let your best friend be you.

Small Things To Do For Clarity and Resetting

  • Delete all your text messages (it just feels good)
  • Delete negative people from social networks (follow people that are a reflection of your best you)
  • De-clutter your space (throw things out, reorganize, change your room around)
  • Un-follow people on social media that make you feel less-than perfect (I unfollowed a lot of IG models because I kept comparing myself to them when their job is to look ‘perfect’)
  • Write down who the best version of you is, and put it somewhere where you will see it everyday- for when you wake up, and when you go to sleep.
  • Work out! I’ve found that working out helps clear my mind.
  • Read a book/ Watch a Movie- (live in different reality for a bit)
  • Distract yourself-  sometimes when all you can think about are the problems in your life, and how you can solve them and what you’re going to do, it gets very overwhelming. Take a time out, and watch Netflix all day, until you’ve got enough energy to try again tomorrow.

Expect sadness like you expect rain. Both cleanse you.

—natural.  Nayyirah Waheed

Maintaining Emotional Stability Despite Depression & Anxiety

  • I use an app called “7 Cups” when I’m at my lowest point, and I don’t really want to talk to anyone, but I know that I need to. On this app you can talk to trained volunteers anonymously about what ever is going on. They offer advice, coping skills, and just a listening ear. I find this extremely helpful when I don’t want to burden friends/family with what I’m going through, and when I don’t necessarily want to talk about it with them.
  • I learned that staying far far away from alcohol during emotional instability is really really important.
  • I keep a positive mind. During times of anger, disappointment, grief etc., I ask myself “are you willing to look at this differently?”. This has had a tremendous impact on how I treat my anxiety, how I handle emotional situations, and how I connect with people.
  • I think it’s important to be opened to seeing a psychiatrist/therapist.

One thing I always keep in mind when I feel like ” OMG, it’s been one thing after another”, is that “God is using me”. I have always felt that way since I was younger, a perspective given to me by my mother. She would always say that God is using me, and I see that now in my adult life. Your pain will be useful. God is preparing you. He is strengthening you. I can look back clearly and understand why things had to happen. Whatever it is that you’re going through, know that you’re going to come out of it stronger, smarter, and a better version of you