2019 (a year in a poem)

2019. the year of

anxiety & sunshine

& beauty & depression

of drinking good coffee

& soul-nourishing gallery visits

of leaning into therapy & pain

of hours & days lost as buried tears were found sitting on the kitchen floor while Saturn played

2019. the year of

feelings felt & found & held & felt

of grief faced & waves crashing

food uneaten, weight losing

chasms opening

heart cracking & life shaking

of questions asked

& answers found wanting

as festered rage & long-accepted values

were both…released

2019. the year of

pain & striving

for peace

of lost memories found & faced

of emotional breaking & life & self shaking of inner light dimming

& slow sparking match-light reviving

of healing through

the mind-soul-body medicines

of meditation & journalling

of 29minute whatsapp voicenote musings

of beauty & art

& poetry & space

of lush bath-bombs & masturbating

of beautiful smells & netflix binges

& m&s champagne sipped

by fairy light

of radically

abundant

self grace

& the gift of

space

taking

& making

& giving

space to me

to breathe & be

& feel & see

& wonder & wander

Nayyirah Waheed

2019. the year of

taking-up

space

to cry & laugh & rage

the year of breaking

boundaries & beliefs

of (nearly) breaking apart

& being held in the breaking

2019. the year of

losing

& finding

& freeing

of shuddering beauty

& (beautifully) ugly crying

of breath quickening & catching

& deep exhaling

2019. the year of

frustrated containment in white spaces

of colour seeking & power claiming

of being unseen & seen

of being unanchored & held

in grace & love

2019. the year of feeling

& being

more

more

more….

of me

Desiderata-living

My eye caught this beautiful scene of the sunlight through my front window this afternoon & I paused to take it in… the roses & green grass behind and, in the middle, this framed calligraphy of the beautiful, guiding poem Desiderata.

As I take time off following the end of a beautiful, hard job that stretched, broke (in bad & good ways), grew, shaped, blessed, fulfilled & thrived me…

As I take time off to think & feel & plan & be, before starting a new challenge & path ahead…

As I take time to enjoy art & reading & space & friendship,

this poem speaks to me anew & I am enjoying living it’s advice to (poem summary ahead):

Go placidly amidst the noise & haste & remember what peace there may be in silence.

Be on good terms with all persons.

Listen.

Don’t compare.

Enjoy plans & achievements alike.

Be at peace with God. See the beauty amidst the ugly drudgery it the world.

Be yourself.

Yes, be yourself.

Be yourself.

Through this hard year I have learnt the value of being more myself.

Of self-awareness, understanding & acceptance.

Acceptance which leads to better growth – of self & others.

And to the beautiful power & freedom of working, living, relating from a place of ever-more Me-ness as I continue to push on and let go.

As I continue to grow into the stunning living poem I am & write & draw my own story as I go.

Sunflower counselling

Yesterday evening, for a WILD Friday night, I had my first counselling session. It’s been a long time coming. And I found a therapist I related to, who gets my comments about gender and race and keeps up with my flicking between received pronunciation and street language. A therapist who is REAL, in her gold reeboks, natural black-girl hair & statement t-shirt!

So 50minutes of ranting/ mature sharing later and I’m feeling ‘yep, I could work with you’…. and then the price was shared. Pow! The tears which had been building as I’d so freely shared my anger & pain spilled out. Cos it felt like a door that was opening had suddenly slammed shut!

Fast forward five minutes, as I came to the bottom of the stairs of her office I saw that the cosy waiting room was empty (cos y’know, it was FRIDAY NIGHT!)… so I walked to it to sit, cry, pray, & process.

AND THEN I SAW THIS: a Sunflower painting.

And I knew. This is my place. This is my counsellor. This is my God / the wall (delete according to your theistic belief!) confirming it to me. Saying ‘I see you, I’ve led you here, trust and proceed’. To add a little context, my nickname is Sunflower. But it’s more than a nickname. My being is Sunflower. I am Sunflower. So I sat, cried, listened to soothing music & prayed: I will go forward & TRUST the money & timings will work out. As sunflowers move to follow the sun, I’ll keep moving into this space that’s been offered, following the sun & helping to put the shadows behind me.

The regret trinity

I generally think regret gets a bad name.

I regret a lot in life: not persevering with learning a language or instrument; not trying harder in school; saying I Love You back when I didn’t mean it (!!); having cheese and crackers tonight after a day of healthy eating; repeatedly going to bed too late, and lots more!

I think the idea that is oh so popular on inspirational Pinterest posters (ugh), that regrets are bad and we should have none just misses the whole point and deep value of regrets! They can be the best motivator and prod us to grow into the people we aspire to be; to be better friends and lovers etc, to improve at work, to save money, and take better care of our health etcccc.

Regret isn’t shame.

Shame labels us and makes us stuck.

Regret labels behaviour and moves us forward (well, for me it usually takes a few regrets to get the lesson but hey, it counts!).

Anyway, I was mulling on this recently and this short poem came to mind…

Regret:

The gap between

What you do

Who you are,

And what you want to do

And who you want to be.

Shame:

The gulf between

What you do,

Who you are,

And what other people want you to do

And who others want you to be.

Freedom

Neither wallowing in regret,

Nor ignoring its painful lessons,

Rather striving to do and be

What and who you want to be.

And not letting others’ (imagined?) views hinder your quest.

 

NLB 3.1.19

Hair love as self love

It’s taken me *so* many years to LOVE my hair.

Having absorbed our society’s (& thanks to the globalisation of advertising, now ‘the world’s’!) ‘only straight hair is beautiful’ narrative which tells me and others harmful lies…

Lies which say:

It’s not curly, it’s ‘wild’

It’s not thick it’s ‘untameable’

It’s not strong it’s ‘coarse’

And…above all: its ‘frizzy’ and must be ‘fixed’.

Fixed with silicone and paid for at a high cost to both our purses and our self-acceptance and love.

I call Bullshit!

I call my hair what it is & always has been: BEAUTIFUL.

In celebration of nudity

I’m writing from the Lounge at the airport in Switzerland at the end of a greatly enjoyable, beautiful, tiring, snowboarding holiday with my hub and a bunch of mates. Beside the stunning scenery & our friendly, handsome instructor (hee hee) was the Swiss Spa. Cue FULL NUDITY, no British prudish reservedness, just let it all hang out!

Image: Amelia Allen

To be clear, I am quintessentially English in many an area, but when it comes to physical reservation (or speaking loudly or frankly!) my Ghanaian side wins over and I fully welcome the relaxing opportunity to set aside nonsensical British prudishness re nudity. I actually genuinely think more nudity in (safe, consensual, non-sexualised) contexts like this would be beneficial.

Firstly, if adolescents went to the local swimming pool & in a safe, relaxed, respectful setting regularly saw what NORMAL bodies look like-all different, with wobbly bulges, pokey bones & marks etc- it’d help British kids who use porn for ‘sex education’ (a commonly given reason) know that it’s fake, false & thus help their real-life expectations & awareness. Similarly, it could boost body confidence for teenagers and adults alike-esp females who are bombarded with adverts to correct our skin tone/texture/wrinkles/flabbiness etcccc. To see bodies that are normal, in all different shapes & sizes would be a great counterbalance to the deceit & stress of a society where even trim, toned, personally-trained, beautiful celebrities are routinely photoshopped! And as well as the relief gained from comparing oneself to normal, uniquely shaped bodies, one’s own body-confidence would almost certainly increase as nudity at the monthly spa would allow us to accept & relax with our bodies more easily & not to depend on external validation that all our bodies are wonderful, unique, beautiful things!

Image: Everyday Body Confidence

Finally, I think it would be SO helpful as a means to un-sexualising bodies! British culture is so hyper sexualised-again, mainly re women’s bodies but men get it too. Whereas seeing men of all shapes & ages wandering around, chatting to each other stark naked & not perving off me, or other women brave/relaxed enough to leave the towel, was so positive & so safe.

So, in a society where often the first & only body one sees aside from one’s own is in a porn clip or when having sex for the first time, I think it could help us be more aware, more confident, more relaxed, and more safe in our bodies if we were just around them more!

I Don’t Wanna

Just say NO picture

JUST SAY NO is drilled into kids but when does that change to:

‘Never ever say no in case of…causing offence!’? Instead say ‘I can’t’!

I am intrigued by the transformation of invitations into impositions- why can’t I say ‘No thanks’ when invited to do something I don’t wannnnnaaaa do?!  An invitation is a request so why is ‘No thanks’ not a valid response? Hmm.

Is it really more respectful to say ‘Sorry, I can’t come’ when the truth is that I don’t want to? I think not; I think instead our ever-increasing fear of ‘causing offence’ (gasp!) means we worry so much about what others think of us that we often forgo honesty and integrity in the ‘name’ of decorum and politeness.

I remember humorously conversations with a  friend trying to ‘get out of’ going to a party she didn’t want to go to – because, of course, she couldn’t say ‘No’ and instead had to be ‘unable’ to go.

Why is lying more respectful and socially acceptable than politely declining? I don’t think it is.

How about…

‘Sorry hun, it’s not my thing but thanks for the invite’? or

‘Sorry, I really fancy a chilled eve but thanks for the invite’? or

‘Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable coming by myself but thanks for the invite’ etc etc etc?

Yes, there are times when you don’t wanna but *should* go anyway – to show love, or because it’s important, duty, or because it’s good for you. But the second Greatest Commandment isn’t ‘Never cause one’s neighbour offence’; it’s Love Neighbour as You Love Self. And saying ‘No Thanks’ sometimes – openly, honestly and politely – seems to me a good way of doing just that.

So, I’m going to try to give replies like these instead of the ignoring of whatsapps, the standard ‘I’ll try to make it’ or, worse still, the ‘I don’t know what I’m doing yet’ line (liar liar, thong on fire!).  And if ever I invite you to an event you just really don’t fancy – obviously unlikely because my parties are awesome but hypothetically speaking… you have my permission to politely ‘just say no’ : honest! 😉

Oh you look fabulous dahhhling (but I look crap)

I think…many things, but as far as compliments are concerned I think that women have been taught to think that receiving a compliment, or praising ourselves for our talents, is arrogant or vain. Which is n.o.n.s.e.n.s.e. (unless you are being arrogant or vain, otherwise it’s just honesty!)

We are in a culture where giving compliments is a sign of affirmation and respect for our friends’ choices be it their hairstyle or how well-behaved their offspring are at lunch, yet we suck (yes, I am prone to using technical terminology) at receiving them for ourselves.

The paradox, however, is that while we’re so inept at, receiving compliments and instead bat them away before they can hit us, we are as quick to give them as we are to reject them. We feel so often that we *must* compliment a friend’s new haircut, or her outfit that day, or how well her kids sit and eat (ok, that one is an achievement given the fondness all kids under 5 seem to have for treating food as experiential art!). Blah blah blah. Sometimes we are LYING- I’m not going to lecture on why this bad (inauthenticity, lacking integrity, being untrustworthy, being insecure & dishonouring her/him, God, and yourself is the abridged version!), instead I’m just going to ask you to please think about WHY you compliment the way you do?

I am not ‘anti-complementing’: au contraire, I’m extremely generous with my praise and celebrate my friends’ talents and accomplishments of all sizes, often when they do not. What I am anti, is completing for the *sake of* complimenting. I’m saddened by what I see as complimenting without authenticity but from a place of insecurity or fear instead of love. Fear sounds like a strong word but it is not, I believe, an emotion reserved for horror movies but is instead, sadly, a driving force behind so many of our acts and words. Fear that our friend will ‘think’ we are rude if we don’t comment; fear that I we don’t compliment them they won’t compliment us.

So, realising this I now strive to only give authentic, accurate and helpful compliments which are honest: e.g. when I didn’t like my friends new hair colour I didn’t comment but when it came up (because she asked me – as we so often and uncomfortably do in our Facebook ‘LIKE’ this pic tendency) I said they’re not my colours but that I was so pleased she was getting with the colour scene. However, she’s confident enough in her stylistic choices not to cry about my politely and lovingly expressing a different opinion instead of saturating her in vanity-indulging lies! More often though, if I don’t like a friend’s outfit and compliments are being thrown around, I’ll instead compliment something I do like… complimenting a handbag or shoes or even eye-liner application is a) more meaningful and thoughtful b) honest.

I am still working at this-with another, less confident, friend I was too stumped when she asked if I thought she looked pretty (she looked like a street worker!) and I reflexively said a rather surprised and weak ‘yes’-oops! IF we stopped *asking* for compliments, or asked wanting a genuine answer then the compliments we’re given would be *true* and of more value-they’d be freely given not exacted by request and given by laws of politeness!

Well that’s enough about giving praise-as with meaningful sex, compliments are about giving and receiving…

With very few exceptions, the correct way to respond to a compliment is to accept it, as with any other gift, by saying: “Thank You”.

Because…

  1. It’s polite!
  1. It shows the person sharing their opinion that you respect their view (rather than saying ‘oh no I’m not’ or ‘oh no it’s rubbish’ etc. etc. etc.!!).
  1. It also encourages them to respect you and see you well (VERY important when dating! If s/he sees your hair as shiny and beautiful- for example- why oh why would you profess that it’s ‘just greasy’?! Duh!)
  1. Finally, it also encourages our own self-image to grow positively; as we start to RECEIVE the positive things people say of us, we allow them to be absorbed into ourselves and transform us from within so that we see what they see 🙂

And for your viewing pleasure-a hilariously truthful parody on compliments (strong language phobes beware!)… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzlvDV3mpZw&list=FLoVj_9fbkKcWliBbHYnPy_g&index=6

NLB