In Transition

There are moments in your life in which you’ll feel lost, unfocused, unmotivated, unambitious. It will seem like everything you want and dream of is always just out of reach. You will be filled with indescribable pain – pain that doesn’t radiate from a clear point, but is felt intensely just the same. Your appetite will begin to fail you, and every sunny day will have a permanent cloud floating within it, directly above your head. And in those moments, there will be nothing easier than for you to feel as if you have failed, and in effect, allow yourself to stop living. Not necessarily physically, but spiritually, emotionally, mentally.

Laundry

Every single disappointment that is felt – every failed career move, every failed relationship, every failed diet and health endeavor – every supposed failure will begin to take its toll on your soul. The heaviness will feel immovable, and you will feel immobile and stuck. Almost as if your feet are covered in cement blocks, and you’ve been thrown into a vat of quicksand. When you’re in quicksand, you’re told to refrain from fighting, because you’ll make it worse, and that’s true. But some fights don’t require physical strength. It seems counterintuitive, but in those moments, your focus should turn inward, and you should seek wisdom to help calm you. These are the moments that are most crucial, because those moments are called transition. 

Which Door

So many of us hate the thought and feeling of transition. It is uncomfortable, because it is stretching us, pushing us towards a life that is unfamiliar to the one we currently have. We want desperately to hold on to what we have now, even if it is not serving us well, because the thought of the unknown is far worse. As humans, we are creatures of habit, because habitual behaviors enable us to multitask and get through our everyday life rather seamlessly. Our habits are a gift and a curse, and they can pin us down into situations and experiences that should be changed. We settle for less than what we deserve and what we want, because we put in our minds that something is better than nothing, and something familiar is better than something new. If we continue to hold on to that mindset, we will never experience growth, and lack of growth is akin to death. Would you rather be dead inside than to try, just a little bit?

Strength

Our cycles of growth are cyclical, and we are given the opportunity to evolve every few months or so. If I want to keep it one hundred, I would even argue that those opportunities are provided to us every day, the moment we open our eyes. When you’re going through those transitional growth periods, your biggest tool is to be present, to pay attention to what is occurring within as well as around you. It is when we’re at our lowest points that our biggest seasons of change are revving up. I’m personally experiencing my own growth cycle, and damn, it doesn’t feel good at all. And I’ll be honest; I don’t want it – I don’t want to deal with this battle. But I know that I need it. Some of us walk into the storm, but others hunker down deep in the basement of their minds. If you’re feeling paralyzed, be introspective and figure out why it may be happening. Cut down on the distractions and begin the process of internal de-cluttering, but most importantly, don’t be complacent. There is something so much greater for you, but you have to be willing to go through the changes to get there.

(All photos courtesy of gratisography.com

 

 

 

The Happiness Factor

The other day, I had the most amazing discussion with an older woman, in her early 80s, named Joyce M. I met her at an alteration shop, and she watched as I tried on my bridesmaid dress, waiting to be pinned. She told me how beautiful it was, and we chatted about her wedding, and the colors she made her bridesmaids wear. I joked and told her that I already knew what colors I’d have for mine, and that I couldn’t wait to get married again (this is actually true, even though I currently don’t have a boyfriend nor actual prospects). After I was all changed and ready to go, we stepped outside, and continued to converse by our cars in the sweltering July sun. I told her that, although marriage would be great, I was currently focusing on myself, and how to become more like myself everyday. She indicated that my focus was coincidental, as she had attended a family reunion the previous weekend, and her nephew had given a presentation on the pursuit of happiness.

Pancakes

He discussed a study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which is considered the longest study ever (75 years and counting). The study follows 724 adult men throughout their life, examining their experiences and quality of life, but the crux of the study essentially investigates what happiness is and was for each of those men. What was coincidental on my end is that just a couple of hours prior, I had a great discussion with a friend on this very topic, about what happiness is and what it looked like for us. Many times, people comment on the way you live your life, and interject their feelings of disapproval, because they aren’t in your specific situation. They find it mind-boggling that your version of happiness isn’t reflective of THEIR version of happiness. The thing is…your happiness is your responsibility, and no one else’s. You aren’t responsible for their happiness, their relationships, their careers – that is something they ultimately have control over. What we make of our lives is a direct result of our own decisions, and in those decisions, practicing mindfulness and self-guidance.

Kitty Mail Slot

The discussion was so timely, because although I consider myself fairly content, I’m not sure if I’ve yet attained that goal of ultimate happiness. It was as if the Universe was speaking to me, and causing me to be mindful of my present, instead of focusing too heavily on my past or future. Joyce mentioned that her nephew presented a book during his presentation, by Dr. Seuss, entitled, “Oh The Places You’ll Go!”. How many of us have not even bothered to glance at that book, because it appears to be a children’s book? But oh, it’s definitely not, and it’s filled with a variety of advice on how life’s ups and downs will halt us, spin us around, even bring us to extreme moments of despair, but we have to keep moving. We can’t let past failures cloud our futures and our pursuits.I’m learning to be open to new situations and people, and to be careful to not close myself off because I think I already know better. Sometimes we have to start giving new and different experiences a chance, because we won’t know unless we actually try.

Droopy Flowers.jpg

I would often talk about finding love, and wanting to be in love, but at the first sign of viable interest, I would close my heart’s windows and shut the blinds. After a failed marriage, there was nothing in me that could even consider trusting another human again. If once upon a time I had a love so deep and intense, but one we both could ultimately dispose of so callously, what hope was there for something equal or better? There were days and nights that I could do nothing but cry in emotional and spiritual pain, unable to verbalize the exact cause of my hurt. As a result, I made sure that my walls were reinforced with iron and industrial grade concrete, and every once in a while I would make sure there was a steel gate to slide across that wall too!

Fire Hydrant.jpg

In the past couple of years of self-reflection and self-actualization, I’ve learned that while it’s quite alright to be cautious, sometimes you have to make space in that wall for a door too. I realized I was only going to receive the joy I longed for, the spiritual and mental peace I craved, if I took the risk of being open to change. Of course, the catch-22 is that no one else can determine what those risks will entail, because they can’t define what my happiness looks like. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to search for and create my own contentment. It has been difficult, because it has taken a lot of effort, and extreme soul-searching, but it is possible. I’m now living by the words of the famous Seuss, every day I wake up: “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”

 

 

 

It’s Better to Heal…Than to Hurt

It’s very easy to run away from and avoid the reality of our lives. It’s even easier to harbor hatred and feigned indifference, than it is to examine ourselves and determine the role we’ve played in the demise of something that was once deemed important and beautiful. Hatred is not a clear-cut emotion, but is typically a mask for something deeper, usually deep-seated pain and hurt. When people hate, it is because they are too emotionally immature to deal with the heartache they’re experiencing, the hurt they believe is caused by another person or situation. In actuality, no one can make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. Your emotions are your responsibility, and you ultimately have the control over how they are expressed. But how do we wade through our insecurities and elevate ourselves in a way that causes anger and hatred to be fleeting emotions, that aren’t allowed to take up residence in our souls?

Pinata Murderer

Practice self-love. This sounds so simple, yet so many people don’t know how to accomplish this. I sometimes blame it on our modern society and the new cultural expectations we seem to have. We are so dependent on the acceptance and love of others that when we don’t have it, we feel empty inside. We constantly seek the approval, the love…the admiration of others, and when it’s not reciprocated, we tumble down the rabbit hole of despair. You, and only you, have the power to create and manifest your own happiness. How much you love yourself should not be contingent upon how much someone loves you.

Self Love

Do NOT mirror emotions. This is a difficult one for me, personally, because I am an empath by nature – meaning I sense and feel the emotions of those around me quite easily. If I walk into a room and there are people being jovial and lighthearted, my first inclination is to do the same. On the flip side, if I’m sitting next to you, and you are angry, chances are, I will find myself slowly getting angry as well. My soul tends to be a little emotional sponge that wants to share in the experiences of others, even when those experiences are detrimental to my well-being and alter my mood. You have to be extremely cognizant of this in yourself, which I am still learning to be. It takes a LOT of extra work, but if I’m being attacked with negativity, I actively remind myself that I have control over my feelings and cannot allow infiltration by the hurt party. Count to ten if you have to, but do NOT match their emotional level. Your spirit will thank you.

Twin Horses

Be aware of your feelings. Pain can be a confusing place. Someone says or does something we perceive to be cruel, and the first thought an emotionally immature person has is to “get back” at them. Did you know that the more supposed revenge you seek, the more negative energy you bring on yourself, and the more horrible you feel (Unless of course, you are a completely narcissistic person who is incapable of taking responsibility for your actions and their resulting consequences)? There’s supposedly a very thin line between love and hate, but that’s because the line is a fallacy. Hatred does not exist without love, period. It is just the level that reveals itself when you are unable to cope with the pain that occurred within that love. Instead of dealing with the underlying feeling that is making you lash out, you instead blame any and everything in your life on the person you thought caused it, and you try to hurt them to match what YOU feel inside. Meanwhile, because they’ve matured and actively practice the art of self-love, they’re just deflecting all of your attacks with grace while continuously praying for your peace. Stop attacking and become aware of what you’re really feeling. If necessary, see a therapist.

Bloody Radishes

I realize that a lot of this may seem simpler than it is, because the level of passion behind the emotion you’re feeling may seem larger than life. Unfortunately, the truth is, you can’t run from your feelings, no matter how far you try to escape. Continuing to try to cause hurt to others, instead of focusing on your own healing, tends to hurt you more in the long run. Or, in some cases, you end up causing residual hurt to those around you, and those closes to your targets – and then they begin to build resentment within their hearts. Stop trying to actively breed a home of negativity – if you continue, you may wake up one day and find there’s no one left to lash out to.

 

Life is For Living…

I wish I were one of those people who could get up early in the morning and feel like they can take on the world. You know who I mean. Those people who rise at five, do a little meditation and yoga, sip some coffee, ponder life and the like. The truth is, I’m not one of those people. One of my many faults lies in the fact that I am a dreamer by nature. I would rather sleep in, and hold on to my amazing dreams that give me the pleasure of escaping from the reality of the world. My fantasy seems to be so much better than my reality could ever be. But I suppose that’s the problem. All too often, we allow fear and complacency to make us believe that what we are today, what we have at this moment, is all that will ever be true for us. I’ve realized that it is in those moments that we have to push through and make the conscious decision to NOT give in to mediocrity, that we cannot allow our dreams to become wistful memories.

Lumber Ax Man.jpg

 

What is it that you truly want out of life? What are your dreams made of? How will you make those dreams come to fruition? These are the sorts of questions I ask myself, when I find that I’ve spent too many minutes viewing the falsified lives of others on social media sites. Depictions of grandeur, of steak dinners and golden tickets, when the realism is more ramen noodle and shut off notices. I’ve been smart enough to remove television from my life; so much so that, I probably watch not more than an hour a week, if that. Yet somehow, I have a harder time blocking out the social media chatter. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not a coveter by any means. And social media gives me great ideas about what I need to be doing. The one thing it doesn’t provide me with is the actual motivation to get up and do it. I get sucked in the 30 second video montages, and I find that I am unwittingly wasting my life, one view at a time.

Selfie Cam.jpg

So how do I begin to become one of those people? The early riser, the go getter? At one point, I fit squarely in that category. I was unstoppable, ambitious, creative. And somehow, I’ve let the bullshit take over and turn my mind into the malleable clay that media and society is so desperate to capitalize on. I’ve realized that I need a break. A true break. I need to refocus on living, experiencing, being present. We spend so much time proving to everyone else that we’re living our lives that we forget to prove to ourselves how to actually do so, never realizing that we truly aren’t. What’s important to me right now though? Living in this moment, regaining my creativity and drive, loving myself and those around me, but in an intentional, not half-hearted way. Too many of us are alive, yet refuse to live. I have no desire to be a drone, a clone of everything that is wrong in our shallow world, a person who is incapable of formulating their own opinions and feelings without first checking in on the popular consensus. Today, I choose to wake up; what will be your wake up call?

I'm a Winner.jpg

 

Prepare for Greatness

One of my very best girlfriends sent me a wonderful, inspiring short video this morning. It was a video of Steve Harvey, and in it, he was discussing how important it is for us to decide to step out on faith and take that “jump” towards fulfilling our purpose in life. I loved it so much that I shared it with other friends, who immediately stated that it was just what they needed this morning. For Millenials like myself, life can seem like one endless sequence in “Groundhog Day“. We get up, we slave away at work (usually without taking a lunchbreak or any sort of break), we stay there well past quitting time, we rush home, cook dinner, get some gym time in, shower, fall into bed, and prepare ourselves to do it all again the next day. We comment on how quickly the days, the weeks, the months, the YEARS fly by, and lament on how we don’t feel fulfilled. How if, we just had more time, or more money, or more focus, we would be living the life of our dreams. We stare lifelessly at our work computer screens, we feel our souls dying with each meeting request that pops up on our Outlook to fill our day, and we complain. And we make excuses. And we do nothing. So how do we begin to get out of this sick cycle?

Mini Man

I believe the first key is to start taking just a little bit of time for yourself each day. No, I don’t mean that you should take thirty minutes to scroll aimlessly through your Instagram feed, admiring the false lives of others (that’s called procrastination and distraction). I mean really take that necessary “me” time to get to know yourself. Start by making a list. What is it you would do if money and time weren’t an issue? What makes you sing in the morning? Do you get excited when have time in the kitchen to really put something amazing together? Maybe during all of those meetings, you’re sketching amazing pictorials on your notebook. Or you’re active imagination is creating a telenovela of the fictional lives of your coworkers. Essentially, where does your creativity seem to be sparked?

Open Land

After you’ve taken this time, and made this list (or, if you’re like me, your visual guide), start figuring out how you can begin to fit these things you love into your daily life. Maybe, instead of taking your cell phone in the bathroom with you at home (we all do it, don’t be coy), you bring a notebook to start outlining your plans for your new interior design company. Set real goals for yourself – S.M.A.R.T.E.R. ones – that are attainable. The key here is to get everything down in writing, so, when you feel unmotivated, you can have your own positive words written down to reignite your passion. For me, it was easier to map out my yearly goals on my vision board, and then I could figure out which ones I could expand on and tackle first. Your priority is to be intentional with what you want out of life. The things you want aren’t just going to appear out of thin air, no matter how much wishing and praying you do. Prayer means nothing without action, so you MUST ensure that you aren’t just sitting there hoping for miraculous deliverance.

Live Free

 

And finally – and this is the most important part – share your plan with someone you truly trust. My friends and I are very good about motivating and encouraging each other on a daily basis. Of course, positive reinforcement is great, but what’s most important is that it makes us accountable to the goals and aspirations we have set. One of my friends had a great idea last year to text each other one small goal we had for the day, and at the end of the day, we either checked in to say we completed it, or the other friend would check in to find out if the goal was met. Life kind of got the better of us and we fell off a bit, but it helped us to feel accomplished even when the days weren’t going the way we wanted. It is essential for you to connect and engage with like-minded people, because negativity is a poison that will hinder you from your progress.

Waterfall

It’s so easy to blame others for the lack in our lives, but no one is responsible for you but you. You are the only person who has ultimate control over your progression and your destiny. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to stop the blame game, and to accept responsibility, whether good or bad, for the choices I’ve made in my life. When you begin to see the light in every dark place, you gain power and understanding in reaching your ultimate purpose. Like Steve said, sometimes you’ll make that jump and the parachute won’t deploy immediately, but sometimes trying is better than not trying and never knowing how strong that parachute could have been.

 

The Book Isn’t Finished Yet

What a difference a year can make. For the past couple of months, I have spent considerable time reflecting on the things that have affected me over the last twelve months. I’ve made some bad decisions, I’ve lost people I loved, and I’ve gone from someone relevant to a stranger in the eyes of others. Relationships and friendships I thought would stand the test of time are virtually non-existent, and I’ve willingly welcomed the removal of others whose energy and motives weren’t genuine. I’ve learned so much about myself, and people, and some of this I may have observed and commented on before. My top four takeaways this year were:

It truly is okay to put yourself first.

I am notorious for doing too much, of being unable to say no to others. I’ve agreed to things I didn’t feel like doing, gone to events I know I didn’t want to waste my time on, I’ve even literally made myself sick trying to be everything to everyone. In the end, I realized that all of my concessions and compromises benefited few, and hurt no one but myself. My focus for this coming year is to become more comfortable with that nefarious “n” word – no. We get so guilty with the notion of putting ourselves first, because somehow believe it means that we’re neglecting others. As it’s been said before though: you are useless to others if you’re putting your well-being and sanity last.

Abandoned Shack.jpg

It’s time to stop looking backwards. 

Ah memories. Don’t we all just love them? I feel as if I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time reexamining the past, at the way things were, and trying desperately to revert back, or at least create some semblance of that “comfortable” space (by the way – comfort isn’t necessarily a positive). All of that nostalgia caused me to miss out on the blessings I’m experiencing now. I didn’t allow myself to be fully present. Even when it hurt, I had to come to the realization that things will never be the same. What’s done is done, and the people from my past that have come and gone aren’t supposed to be in my future. While memories are great, I can’t let that wistfulness be a part of where I’m going. My journey is just beginning.

B&W Distance

Judgement and expectation are the first steps to disappointment. 

What do they say when you assume? That you make an a** out of you and me? Old saying, but still true during these times. People will behave in ways that will make you question how well you really knew them, and have you questioning the authenticity of their character. I foolishly placed unrealistic expectations not just on my friends and family, but also on those who didn’t owe me anything in the least. This idea of expectation is truly something that comes from growth – experience that leads to real wisdom. In the end, the only person you can hold liable for expectations is yourself.

Blurry Picture

I am stronger than I ever dreamed. 

I can recall touting my strength, speaking of my tribulations and feeling very proud of how much I’d accomplished in my life, despite a myriad of obstacles over the years. This year did an amazing job of putting those humble brags to the test. My character was tested, my faith was shaken, but I still managed to rely on not just myself, but primarily my God/Spirit to get me through so much. When you are being attacked from what seems like all angles, it is very easy to place the blame on others, to hate, to become bitter, to be angry – to be weak. The simplest thing I could have done this year was to block myself from feeling and giving love. I’ve come to realize that strength isn’t in how vengeful you can be, but in how loving you can continue to be despite every attempt to essentially annihilate your spirit. Only love can drive out hate, and only a strong person can continue to love when met with negativity. I will continue to love those who consider themselves my enemies, and pray that they will elevate themselves and realize the beauty within their own souls.

Magnifying Glass

I love the start of a new year, because it provides us with the idea that we can start over again and be renewed. Our past isn’t erased, but it also doesn’t define who we are today, or who we will be for the rest of our lives. Take a moment this week to truly reflect on your experiences this year, and promise yourself that no matter what, you will give your all to make the coming year your best yet. Above all, send out love, and you’ll not only receive it, but you will gain knowledge and self-awareness. Be a better version of yourself in 2016, because your story is far from over.

 

 

 

Unveiling the Unavailable

I feel as if I haven’t written about relationships in a while, and the inspiration hit when I was having a discussion with a friend on the way home from work today. We were dissecting something I’d read that examined being attracted to and attracting unavailable people (both physically and emotionally), and ultimately, forging faux-lationships with them. Either the person approaches them, expecting them to be receptive to their advances, or, they find themselves drawn to those who are either in relationships, married, or just not ready for committment. This topic can be a little heavy, because people feel judged if they’re currently in them, or have been in them. I truly believe that, for the majority of people, they don’t go out actively seeking unavailable people. If anything, they like to believe that they are doing quite the opposite – avoiding them, ignoring them, or rejecting them. Every once in a while though, one of them finds you and somehow senses your internal unavailability as well, and BAM!, you’re sucked in. Against your better judgement, you engage in behaviors and activities that make you question your moral compass, all the while asking yourself how you allowed yourself to end up in such a situation. Understand that you are not a bad person, and there are a few reasons why this is happening to you (before you read them though, end that toxic relationship!).The convo caused me to do a little bit of further research (cough-cough Google) to find out why this “phenomena” keeps occurring.

Advice

People meet you at your level of broken-ness. This point was brought up in an article I read on Huffington Post, Why Do I Keep Attracting Unavailable People. It discussed how a fear of committment within two different people can somehow draw them to each other, because they recognize attributes, almost subconsciously, in each other. I’ll bring it back to something even more simple: misery indeed loves company. For some strange reason, we tend to believe that others in our dismal situation will somehow give us space to improve on ourselves. In reality, that broken energy is just being pushed back and forth between the two people. Instead of addressing their wounds, they’re feeding off of each other, and as a result, never completely heal themselves.

Pretty Girl

Having someone who’s unavailable gives you space to be unavailable as well. We all probably know of someone who has been/is a side dude or chick, and seems to be comfortable in that space. Sure, they complain about always being alone at night, and not being able to parade their love out in public, but for the most part, they’re happy with the situation they’re in. They claim that it’s easy, that it doesn’t require much from them, that it’s better than a full-fledged relationship. But guess what? It’s NOT. Not easy, and surely not better. If anything, it feeds the painful parts of you with more pain, and keeps you immobile. You get stuck putting enormous amounts of energy and life into something that shouldn’t even have come alive. Sure, you’re busy, and it seems like a quick fix, but we all make time for the things we deem important. When you find an available person that you’re really feeling, best believe you will do everything in your power to make room for them in your life.

Burning Bottle

You have daddy/mommy issues. Okay, hear me out on this one. I’m not suggesting that you need to go see a psychiatrist asap or anything. Many of us, especially if you grew up where I grew up, didn’t have the healthiest of home lives to mimic or learn from. Some of us had absentee parents, and whether we want to admit it or not, that dynamic has shaped our relationships. We’re afraid of getting deeper, of truly entrusting our love with someone else, so being in the faux-lationship is the best possible option. It allows us to relieve ourselves of having to be vulnerable and potentially being hurt, but you know what else it does? It also prevents us from being open to receiving the love we truly crave. Holding on to that which isn’t ours serves as a repellant to what we should be embracing, what we deserve. Yes, it’s great that you can live in a fantasy world that doesn’t require you to struggle in the deep end from time to time, but for how long? At what point do you decide that the shallow end just doesn’t fill your soul?

A Note from the Kanye School of Thought

I just watched a clip of Kanye West on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Yes, of Kanye West. Now, I realize a lot of people may not be a fan of his, because of his cockiness, his rudeness, his oft-occurring a**hole-ish-ness. I too have said, I’m over Kanye, he’s a cancer on society, his time is over, whatever. But after watching the sheer truth in this clip, my respect level for him has increased. Whether you love him or hate him, this man is intelligent, and a true artist and business man. I’m not going to give you a blanket statement – I’ll also give you some of what I saw in there, some points I came away with, that you can utilize for your own life.

Don’t let other people define who you are. 

We tend to start a career, or our education, with one goal in mind. Maybe it’s to be an engineer, or an actor, or we’re chasing a dream in the medical field. And we gain these accolades, these diplomas and degrees, and suddenly, we’re a Bio-Engineer, or Doctor whomever, or an accomplished dramatic performer. Just because that’s one of our hats, doesn’t mean it has to be our only hat. Oftentimes though, we let other people decide for us that this is who we are. We become scared to branch out from that, for fear of what others may think, or perceived dilution of our credibility in which we worked so hard for. Why should what “they” think matter though? It is up to you to decide who you, how multi-faceted you can be.

Tattooed Woman

Never stop learning new things. 

I think it’s great when someone can be whole-heartedly dedicated to a particular craft, and pour themselves into perfecting it. I don’t think it’s great though, when that’s all they do. You know the type – they eat, breathe, and sleep body-building, but have a hard time with conversing about anything not fitness related. By isolating your research and learning to just one interest, you’re actually providing a disservice to yourself. And truth be told, most of the best new ideas come out of the intersection of different careers and hobbies. Imagine: there would be no smartphones if someone didn’t allow themselves to learn about computers, and instead limited themselves to the world of telephony. Be a student of life.

Guitarist

Know who you are – believe in yourself. 

In the video clip, Kanye says that he doesn’t care what others say, because he knows who he is. He said his mother always taught him to believe in himself, and that’s just what he does (much to the chagrin of the public). But you cannot truly hate someone who is that certain about who they are, and if you do, chances are, you aren’t focused enough on who YOU are. Some people are easily swayed through different schools of thinking, or perceiving themselves based on what they encounter with other people. When you don’t know who you are, your personality – hell, your soul! – is always in flux. You’ll find yourself scrambling about, feeling unsure, because you aren’t steadfast in your own being. You have to make a conscious, concerted effort to make sure you are being true to who you are. And if you don’t know where to start, a great book to help you find your purpose is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Ripped Jeans

Kanye West is a lot of things (and many of them include a curse word of some sort), but one thing he is not is someone else. I urge all of you to use some of those lessons from the Kanye School of Thought, and apply them to your own lives. Love yourself as much as Kanye loves Kanye. Who knows – you could uncover some hidden greatness in your own spirit!

If It Isn’t Love…

**cue up the New Edition record**. So many songs about love…what it feels like, what it sounds like, hell, what it tastes like. It isn’t a negative emotion, experience, feeling. The very essence of love is in the fact that it denotes positivity and freedom. Love is freedom. Love makes you feel like anything is possible. It makes you feel as if you need nothing else in the world, that you can meet all of your basic needs with it. You can consume it, breathe it, touch it, cover your body with it like a blanket. I can tell you what it is, but unfortunately, I can also tell you what it isn’t.

New Edition

It probably shouldn’t make you miserable. Have you ever met someone who was “in love”, but they seemed like the most depressed person on earth? Always sad, complaining about what the love of their love isn’t providing for them, how they’re making them feel? And when you try to tell them that they’re probably not in love, but in some sort of passion or lust filled place, they come up with excuses as to why they’re being treated so poorly? Yeah, that’s not a loving relationship. Love is supposed to fill you with joy, not dread. If the unhappy moments outweigh the wonderful ones by a landslide, then you’re more than likely in a toxic relationship. ABORT!

Teddy Bear

It shouldn’t change who you are. So, you finally got the man/woman of your dreams, that person that you’ve been crushing on. And it seems like you’re exactly what they’re looking for. Except, you’re not. You’re constantly tip-toeing around them, walking on eggshells, afraid of being yourself. Maybe you learned they don’t like hip-hop music or something (that’s someone who’s obviously dead inside, but I digress), but it’s your favorite and it speaks to your soul. Or, you love corny knock-knock jokes, but they’ve told you that it’s one of their pet peeves. Or, more seriously, they tell you they want tons of children, and even though you can’t see yourself carrying around another baby, you pretend that it’s cool, in hopes that you can change their mind. They’re not in love with you anymore than you’re in love with them. All you’re doing is stifling your true self, and become more despondent and empty each day. And let me tell you, once that happens, you’ll find yourself in the first “this ain’t love” category above.

Miserable Woman

It should never hurt. Love should never, ever, ever hurt. Physically, psychologically, or emotionally (the only exception to this rule is in the case of Romeo and Juliet, and well, we see how that ultimately turned out anyway). I’m talking more than the miserable love of the first point. I’m talking about someone who is constantly cutting you down, destroying your spirit. I’m talking about the narcissists who lead you to believe that you are worthless, that you don’t deserve love, and that they’re the best you’ll ever find. Those people are severely dangerous, and should be steered clear of. If you’re in a “loving” relationship that is giving you pain in any way, you have to immediately (and safely) abandon that situation.

Box of Chocolates

Love should water your soul, and the best kind sometimes allows you to become more you, with all of your flaws and shortcomings. It should never be conditional or scary or painful. It should cause you to want to be a better person, and should elevate you. Now, don’t confuse this with love making you “whole”. You’re already whole. It just means that it should complement who you are. It holds no expectations of you that you cannot fulfill. When I was in love, it felt as if I could fly. The other person made me feel like I could conquer the world if I just set my mind to it. And once you’ve been in love and lost that, it can make you feel as if you’ll never get that back again. But you know the great thing about love? It’s not some limited edition item, with only a few made. Love is bottomless source within your soul, and as long as you’re open and willing, guess what? It will replenish within you, and somehow, more will find you.

Free Bird

Control Freak

I have an issue with control – I like having it. Wayyyy too much. Or maybe I should say, I had an issue. I needed to have complete and utter ownership and a say in everything that happened in my life, whether it was my decision or not. And when something happened that was ultimately out of my control, I tried to do everything in my power to take back the reins. I’ve discovered though, life doesn’t really work that way. Sometimes, bad things (and good things!) happen, and no amount of willpower and determination will give you the opportunity to bring yourself back to a time when you COULD have changed things. That’s called time travel, and we haven’t been able to master the technology to make that a possibility.

Clock

In my efforts to psycho-analyze myself, I sat down one day and really tried to figure out why I was so hell-bent on controlling all of my life situations. Like most things in our lives, we can track it back to our childhoods. Childhood is such an important belief-shaping time period for us. Our minds are malleable and formative, and if we’re not careful, we can absorb habits that will become a hindrance to us as adults. I can recall moving a lot as a child. By the time I was 18, we had lived in about 13 different apartments. It was all in the same town, but a few times, I had to change schools, depending on what side of town I lived on. There was a lot of lost friendships, as well as cherished items that were left behind because of all of the moving. I can remember feeling so lost and helpless as a little girl, forced to live a life based on the decisions of others. As a result, I started focusing on all of the things I was able to control – my schoolwork, my public image, my talents. I was a great student, and I made sure that everyone knew I was one. I put on the personality of a responsible, conscientious young person, and found myself having to live up to that ideal on a daily basis. Exhausting, really. But at least I could control it.

Young Shonnie

As I got older, some of those controlling habits started to trickle into my interpersonal relationships with others. When I didn’t get my way, I would shut down, or feel hurt, have an “attitude”, or work my magic to manipulate the situation to my advantage. But guess what happened when I did that? I still didn’t get my way. And the end result was a lot of mis-communication, hurt and pain, and the eradication of my relationships/friendships. I was starting to be seen as someone who always needed to have her way, no matter what. That type of mindset erodes trust, and if there is no trust in any relationship, then there is no true relationship at all. I learned that I had to stop blaming my past for my future, and start working on ME. I stopped putting my impossible expectations on others – instead of expecting, I started accepting.

Robot Duck

This isn’t to say that you stop having control of yourself or the decisions you make. That is still important, and you need to do that for your own growth. What I am saying though, is that at some point, you need to evolve and become more emotionally mature. You can only control your actions – people aren’t dolls to play with, or robots to program to do your bidding. You may not control the ultimate outcome, but who cares? As long as you know that you’ve done everything you could to be authentic, and that you didn’t manipulate someone to get your way, then you’re on the right path. Because in reality, “It is our attitude toward events, not events themselves, which we can control.” (Epictetus). Focus on your attitude.

Multi-Racial Misfit

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