Retrograde Review and a Healthy Break

Hello Beautiful People,

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I don’t keep any sort of tab about how many people read this blog. The numbers matter and they do not matter at all.

So: whoever you are, thank you for reading and coming through. There’s a lot of Internet out there and I am deeply and honestly honored you stopped over here. 

I’m going to be taking a blogging break for a bit. I’m not sure for how long but something in my spirit/body/universal whispering is telling me to slow my roll a bit and really birth a new way of writing that isn’t as tied up into external validation. I talk a lot about this, but now it’s time for me to really walk my talk and listen.

As much as I want to override this voice and just continue to do, do, do; I have to stop and take stock. I know this pause will bring so much more for all.

Eventually.

So, as a see-ya-soon gift, I am leaving these 9 blog posts for you to re-read (or to read for the first time). May they digest in a way that brings some joy or understanding or peace in your life. I hope there’s something that works for you:

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  1. The one where I talk about being allergic to the concept of self-love.
  2. The one about being a black woman with emotional eating issues.
  3. A Self-Love Playlist Step-by-Step Guide.
  4. The one about the best book I’ve ever read on trauma.
  5. The one where I realize that happiness is uncomfortable.
  6. 57 Awesome Quotes from Black Women On Loving Life.
  7. The one about following our hearts even when those closest to us are like, WTF?!
  8. The one about loving my body and being called Mutombo in high school.
  9. The one about why self-care is so damn hard.

I’ll be posting my “micro-blogs” on Instagram in the meantime but I fully intend to come back here. I like writing long things :) 

Thanks again for reading and see you soon.

Onward,

Hannah

Chronos and Kairos (or the art of accepting your timezone)

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Hello Beautiful People,

Grab some tea or hot chocolate, this is a long one. In this post, I hold a sorta-conversation with an excerpt of Meggan Watterson’s amazing book, Reveal about embracing the timezone of our lives. Enjoy.

*

I used to love the fuck out of five year plans. On December 31st, there I would be, scribbling all the goals I was definitely going to meet the next year.

I never listened to the sane advice about setting small SMART (Specific/Measurable/Achievable/Results-Focused/Time Bound) goals, or to complete one thing at a time. I’d always have to add more lines to the space allotted for my plans.

I wanted to do it all.

Time was this incessant rushing that surrounded me at all times and I never, ever felt I had enough. I believed in pushing and linear progress and that life did not reward those who sat back and let things come to them.

“Chronos, or chronological time, is linear, sequential, “clock time”: this is where the ego lives and thrives. We often want time to unfold this way, one event following the next and arriving just when we want it to arrive.”

When I got out of Coast Guard, I felt I had to go all out; do all the things I missed out during my active duty years.

And I needed to do them all right now.

At the same time.

I was extremely judgment of all the time I “wasted” beforehand. Why had I waited this long to pursue my art? I should’ve been writing more. I should’ve been doing burlesque. I should’ve been traveling.

“Kairos, on the other hand, is nonlinear, sacred time–the right or opportune moment.”

It wasn’t long before I felt entirely burned out. I was taking trying to be a better writer, exploring burlesque, taking three classes, teaching writing college freshmen at Pitt, doing my Coast Guard reserve duties, trying to balance time with my partner/friends/family, mentoring a student on her manuscript, planning group outings, posting to Instagram almost every day, coordinating photo shoots, working out, starting my entrepreneurial dreams, reading every self-help book that came across my path…..and a lot more.

I developed this weird twitch in my right eye that semester, at least three times a day my right eyelid would flit wildly for minutes on end.

And still, during all this time, I told myself I wasn’t doing enough, that I could do more, that I needed to work harder. I never quit regretting all the time I didn’t pursue these activities earlier on in my life.

“We can pray our butts off for something to happen, say finding a lover, or getting a car or house, or having a long-awaited child. But then the person we meet ends up smothering us with love we weren’t ready for, or the car payments puts us in debt and the house catches on fire, or the baby of our dreams has colic and we don’t sleep for two years straight. Then we realize, that maybe, just maybe, in willfully pursuing our ego’s desire, we tampered with sacred timing. Kairos is aligned with the highest truth of our lives, and being aligned with kairos means not always getting what we want when we want it.”

I was very frustrated during this time. Every writing rejection stung. I was annoyed that I didn’t have the flexibility to performing the standing split of so many burlesque performers. I was frustrated that it didn’t seem like I was attracting new “followers” for my work online. I was frustrated that writing still felt so difficult. I was frustrated that my body, my personal growth, my boss dreams seemed to be moving along at sloth speed.  

In 2009, when I was just a wee Ensign, I wrote Issa Rae a fan-girl letter of appreciation when she released Misadventures of the Awkward Black Girl (she wrote a really nice thank you back :) I would gain inspiration from bloggers on Feministing and looked at Gabi Gregg’s fashion blog on the weekly.

In 2016, many of these women are stars in their industries. Writing books, creating shows for HBO, releasing their own swimsuit collections.

I looked at the magnificent and amazing progress these women had made in the years I spent in the Coast Guard and while I was really excited for them, but a question would reverberate in my brain whenever I saw their amazing progress: what the fuck was I doing during those years?

“Kairos is the sacred time needed for us to meet with not only what fulfills us but also what fulfills a need in the world. Kairos works on our soul’s timing, not the laminated table the ego has set up for our life. Kairos-time allows things to unfold naturally; nothing is forced or contrived into being out of fear.”

Fear. That was my main motivator. I tried to dress it up in a fancy assemble of Ambition and throw some Passionate cuff-links on, but the truth was that all my goals in life were fueled by a persistent feeling of not being enough.  I was scared I was never going to meet the big goals of my life.

And I was extremely dismissive of my actual achievements.

I wanted to bully time into the timeline I wanted. But the thing was, every time I did this, things fucked up. I felt harried. I didn’t get to spend the time I wanted making my writing or art really shine. The work I would often showcase felt cheap and under-cooked. I would get some sort of success and then realize I didn’t even have the time to actually savor it because I was already onto the Next Thing. 

“When we judge where we are in our lives and how much we’ve achieved, we do so from a place of chronos. Our judgments are based on the expectations we set for ourselves: job by 25, married with children by 30, book published by 35, own business by 40, and so on to the grave. Many of us measure ourselves by these milestones without even examining them to see if they’re our own. Meaning some of them are acquired by social osmosis. What shifts the weight of our baggage is simply choosing it. Owning the baggage as the particular story our soul needed to live out allows us to claim it. And oddly enough, claiming it allows us to then let it go.”

When I really sat my ass down, I realized that I had been entertaining this ambition-fueled-by-terror my entire life. Even in the Coast Guard, I was like this. Taking self-improvement class after class. Always questioning how well I was doing as an officer (which was never good enough).

I had to come back to Story. What was the story I am telling myself of how my life should’ve gone? What I should’ve done? Who I should’ve been?

It sounds simplistic and it is not. Getting to know our specific story means we are probably encountering some not-so-shiny parts about ourselves, views, and influences. Things we think we should be past now—or never have assimilated into our belief system in the first place. Like if I see a beautiful woman and instantly feel the first pin-pricks of jealousy, I can decide to ignore these feelings, minimize them or inquire about what story I am telling about her and myself in relation to her. Do I believe in the hierarchy of beauty? Even a little bit? Do I think my life will be easier if I looked like her? What junior high hang-ups are still operating under my skin? What is the Story here? And it’s the same about the timezone of our lives.

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“Once we let go of some of the stories that have been defining and confining us, we can align our identity with a deeper truth—with the soul-story beneath the surface drama of who we are according to ego. We can dive beneath the wreck we fear we’ve made of our lives to hear the story our soul is living out. Listening to our soul-story allows us to release the idea that life is something happening to us. We can claim the power to become the author of our own narrative.”

Owning our story and our timezones isn’t easy. Our parents and friends and social organizations will chime in or hammer away at us about how they want us to live.

If your story is that you don’t want children or you really want to live abroad or you are tired of hanging around with your work friends at functions that cause you to want to stab a pen through your hand, this is YOUR choice. People will probably never shut up about their opinions about what they think you should be doing. The magazines and social media apps won’t stop showing you what other people in your similar fields are succeeding at. It’s up to you (and me) to reinterpret what we see.

“This is how we begin, how we remove a crucial veil: we claim our baggage as the story of our soul. No matter how old you are or what you’ve been through, you can change your perception of what’s possible by claiming what has weighed you down and what you’ve used as an excuse to remain closed and unworthy of love, and accept that your baggage is, in fact, your personal soul-story, which has unfolded in exactly the sacred time required. You may not be where you wanted or expected to be at this point in your life, but you can choose to acknowledge that you are right where you need to be. This does not mean that where you are is not painful or frustrating. But it does mean that you have the power to change your life in an instant, simply by changing your perspective.”

My name is Hannah Eko. I was born in London in the mid-80s. My family is Nigerian and I have one sister and two brothers. I spent some time in foster care. I went to schools in the suburbs of Southern California. After I graduated high school, I spent five years in military school and eight years in the Coast Guard. I had my first kiss and relationship when I was 25. I am jealous, kind, very sensitive, stupid-competitive, creative, often a procrastinator, funny, a little vain, shy with new people, and smart. I am not an influencer, widely published, or a Thirty Under Thirty. I eat out way too much. I love my friends. Sometimes I am still overly self-conscious and tied to people-pleasing. I love corny shit like self-help, astrology, and seminars on Being a Good Person. This list cannot cover the magnitude of who I am, but I must own it. All of it. This is where I am in my life. This is what I have to work with. This is my timezone.

“Take all those stories you’ve used as a reason not to love yourself. It’s time to see them as lessons to challenge, refine, and even polish your soul. You look at those hard-to-let-go-of stories, and you love yourself enough to see that you deserve much more than to dwell on them and punish yourself with regret. You own the stories that have kept you in hiding, knowing that they form the unique narrative of your soul. You also know, however, that they are only a part of your journey, not the whole.”

My story of rushing, of constant comparison and that dogged sense of not-enough that has tailed me for most of my life does not have to be yet another reason to hate myself. It is because of my over-scheduling days, that I truly know the benefit and gift of slowing the fuck down.

My twitch taught me a lot.

The success of Issa Rae and Gabi Gregg has taught me in the power of going after my passion, of consistent effort and action, and what is possible for black women today.

My not-enough has brought me to classes and teachers who have opened my eyes to meditation, attachment therapy, the effects of trauma, and a deeper sense of self-love.

My not-enough wound lends me compassion to others who suffer in this world. My stories aren’t “bad” or the entirety of my existence. They are ways for me to be a more solid human being. I am truly exactly where I need to be. This is advice I’ve heard since I was about 18. It is only now, thirteen years later, that I am beginning to believe it.

“In this way you clean out your inner closets. You dig out the piles stashed behind the couch and under the bed, in the basement, the attic, and the spare room, and you lay the contents of your life at your feet. You sift through everything that makes you who you are and what you will be able to do and become.”

This process takes time. It is constant. I think we hear these sort of pronouncements, these entreaties about day-to-day progress and we add them to some automatic check-list in our mind, got it, check, moving on.

We scarcely rest with the awesome but beautiful task of growing and what it really entails. I have been in the habit of living about two days in advance since I was like, six. Life was all about what I was going to do and become by next week, next month. So yeah, this consciousness is not going to be something I embody in one fell swoop.

“If we didn’t have baggage, if we didn’t have dark, troubling stories in our lives, how would we ever get to practice the power of love? What if every traumatic event we’ve endured, every regretful choice we’ve made, is actually an opportunity for the soul to spread its wings? We lift the weight of what has held us down by choosing to believe that everything in life has happened for our soul’s formation. It has not only happened for a reason but happened exactly when it needed to. And that means births and deaths, marriages and divorces, epic gains and epic losses.”

Honestly, if someone came up to me after a stupendous hurt, a death of a loved one, a catastrophic disaster and told me, “Don’t worry, Hannah, everything happens for a reason,” I would probably slap them across the face. I believe that sort of advice is not anyone’s to formulate expect the person who has gone through the loss. I don’t even think everything in our lives will make sense.

But, some things will. There are some things we can locate in our storylines with the awesome benefit of hindsight and maturity and see them for the wisdom building events they were.  We see that yes, this had to happen to me exactly this way or I would have never learned to stop dating assholes or stand up for myself or go for that audacious goal or leave the only home I’ve known.

Or maybe we still don’t know the lesson. Maybe there never was one. Maybe we didn’t become a “better person” or deeper.

Still—whatever happened is.

We have to say, I know that This Very Happy or Visible or Fit Person is doing ______________ right now, but this  (whatever this is) is my current life.

We are the only ones who can see this. We are the only ones who get to sit down with the complete tapestry of our lives and accept it all.

There are times when I feel like I get this on a level of depth I have never encountered before in my existence.

Then there are other times when I am like, fuck-this-lesson, fuck-soul-formation, just let me get what I want. Now.

I accept this too.

I am not a cyborg programmed permanently to the setting of Zen.

I’ve got my stuff like every other human and part of that stuff is being hella impatient and fearful.

And not always knowing.

I hope that you can find some space this week, this month, this year to sit down and go over your life.

To slow down and accept your own timezone with open arms.

I hope you can find the beauty in what is only yours to see.

I hope you can learn to let go and trust in a way that truly works for you.

I hope you can shed the expectations this culture places on you that don’t actually jive with your own life and heart.

I hope you can learn to love the Kairos.

Onward,

Hannah

How To Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant

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There comes a time in life (actually it comes many times) where we will disappoint those we love simply by choosing to live honestly. We all will have to make choices that leave the people closest to us flabbergasted, worried, perhaps even angry.

Replace “How Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant” with “Leaving My Job With the Awesome Benefits” or “I Will Never Get Married (and don’t want to!)” or “I’m moving to Mexico and writing my novel”.

And yes, while we may know we are not the center of anyone’s universe, it can be difficult to act as if this is true and just live our lives.

YOLO is easier sung than practiced.

I believe the only thing we can do is prepare for these kind of conversations, the talks where we assert or announce who we are in some way.

So. Here are my top five preparations,  touchstones I am coming back to when I want to renege on living out my inner truth, guideposts which remind me to step into the Unknown with more trust:

  1. Prepare to be misunderstood. Your family and friends will most likely not understand or like this new direction. You may erroneously think you can convince them that you are right. You may have strong desire to assemble statistics and an arsenal of information to “prove” that you are Making a Sound Decision. Save your energy my friend. Part of growing up is learning to let go of people pleasing and truly living the life that most aligns with your inner truth. No amount of reportage and numbers will soothe that discomfort of becoming unknown to your close family and friends. We have to learn to accept being illegible to others. We have to learn to live with people cocking their heads in confusion at who we are. Especially those we love. We will find people who get us and the life we wish to lead. But it may not be immediate.
  2. Prepare for backlash. You may be reminded of how So-and-So in your family has already Had the Baby, Gotten Married, Acquired the Right Degree. People may yell at you, complain bitterly, remind you of past missteps, give you the shitty seat at Sunday dinner.  And in some very unfortunate circumstances, people may be estranged from their family and friends. Know you can survive it, even when it sucks. Think of the worst case scenario of what may happen. Write it out if that helps. Be honest about your fear(s). Refuse to waste precious energy obsessing about these fears (easier said than done), still I will say when I’ve had to make a “big” announcement, the outcome wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  What you are afraid of? Not being the Favorite anymore? Setting a reckless example for your baby cousins? Grandma being very, very disappointed? Write out the worst reactions and assure yourself that yes, you will make it. Remind yourself of how you’ve managed well before.
  3. Prepare to listen. They will advise. They will pull out all the boogeyman reasons you should fall in line. They will remind you of your no-good Uncle who also Made The Wrong Choice Once. A majority of this kind of talk isn’t mean-spirited. Most of the time your mother and your aunty and your big cousin just want your happiness. Unfortunately, they may confuse your idea happiness with their own. Listen anyways. What fears do you share? Which fears land hardest because you believe them deeply as well?. Being willing to listen does not mean following or pleasing their litany of directives. Listen as much as you can and make sure to balance this act with heavy doses of support from people who encourage your inner truth.
  4. Prepare to set boundaries. It’s not easy to act in true assertiveness, especially when it’s our close family loudly calling the shots. After listening, we must be willing to assert which is ours and which does not belong to us. Setting boundaries feels like a tough, impossible language in the beginning. Oftentimes it will sound scripted and awkward. But if you are to live according to your inner truth, you must become a master of this language. Accept imperfection (what I’m working on). You may falter, apologize, acquiesce in ways that disappoint you later on. Applaud yourself for getting better with each time you practice. As an immigrant daughter,  I often struggle with how much of my life is mine and  how much is for the greater service/cohesion of my family and community. Boundaries remind me that I am my own person and that I can acknowledge my needs and the needs of others without absorbing them in totality.
  5. Prepare to reset the status quo. I think this is one of the hardest ones for me right now. There are certain stories in our family lines, in our communities at large, that have almost become law, ideas that seem as if they would result in criminal prosecution if we were to violate them. I am an immigrant daughter, a first daughter, a black woman and someone who was far too invested in being The Good Girl. Most of the people pleasing directives fall to women. It is we who are always expected to gladly discard our individual desires for the “greater good” or else be loved a bit less. We must confront our fear of non-conformity.  What are the stories in your family line that you are terrified of breaking? Are women only Women if they are married? Is it okay to be childless over 30? Divorced? What kind of jobs are prized in our family and community circle? We must look at these storylines and do the brave thing of doing what our heart is calling to do. We look for stories which reflect people who went down different paths and produced a new kind of beauty. Maybe you are the Grace Jones of your family, destined to usher in an era of reinvention and daring. Maybe you’ll set a new precendent for all the late millennial babies in your clan who want to live and love differently and they’ll be so grateful for your rebellion. Maybe it’s okay to choose you this time.

Continue reading How To Tell Your Mother You’re Not Pregnant

Sometimes I Make Art For All The Wrong Reasons

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.

-Moliere

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I read a magazine article the other day.

(Though sometimes, I don’t even know why I pick up glossies; since 89% I will look up from their artsy pages thirsting for culottes ((And I don’t even like culottes! but they were in the Spring issue and the model wearing them was striding down some urban landscape looking all mod and confident, so…)) and wanting to try some diet that involves cantaloupe-mango shots.)

It must be the pretty pictures.

(Advertisers are the devil.)

But, my recent perusal netted me this idea for a blog post, so there’s a positive.

I was scanning through the Essence Black Women in Hollywood issue and came across Lupita Nyong’o’s gorgeousness and an accompanying full page quote. I can only paraphrase now (since I was cheap and read the magazine in the store) but it was something about how Nyong’o never worried about being famous or well-paid, she was always just looking to get lost in good, meaty acting roles.

Lupita Nyong’o is a Piscean goddess who was probably birthed from a large seashell as King Poseidon and a host of black mermaids swam by singing in falsetto.

I bet the woman can heal the sick and communicate with cats.

My name is Hannah Eko: And I sometimes make art for all the wrong reasons.

I make art to get noticed. Barely caring that it will do Good or Inspire Others.

Continue reading Sometimes I Make Art For All The Wrong Reasons

The Brownest Eye

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It’s funny because as soon as you’re someone who is not blonde and skinny and you decide to write about beauty, people will usually put you in two categories:

  1. Jealous as fuck.
  2. Self-hating as fuck.

But, whatever. Today I want to write about brown eyes.

I really like brown eyes.

Especially the dark, almost-black brown eyes. 

A couple of years ago, my friend Cathy told me in that her culture, deep dark eyes were seen as absolutely gorgeous, the more the iris of your eyes contrasted with whiteness of your sclera, the more beautiful your eyes were.

If you search “black people” and “eyes” you will immediately be taken to an Images column rife with pictures of blue eyed black people.

I didn’t even specify color when consulting with Mr. Google and this is where he sends me. This is what he thinks I must want to see.

I am not on some black beauty superiority tip.

(That’s reserved for Wednesdays at 2 pm. )

I just really like brown eyes.

And no one really talks about them.

Especially if you are a brown or black person.

Growing up, I remember the only times I heard people lavish a brown or black kid with praise over their eyes was when they were:

grey. or. blue. or. hazel. or green. maybe a light honey.

Never brown.

And never, ever dark, almost-black brown.

In hip hop, the refrain of honey, with the light eyes… is standard musical fare.

I think most of us have been around the block enough to know that white supremacy is to blame for this.

But, I think instead of spending time rifling through that old can of garbage, I’d like to just admire you, my brown eyed people.

Someone once raised the argument with me, when I brought up how annoying it is that brown eyed people don’t get props:

Well, blue eyes are just rare, especially on people who aren’t white.

And I was like, true. It is kinda rare.

But, c’mon, there are a lot of rare traits that are unexpected because of someone’s phenotype, that we don’t laud with ooh-and-ahs and thatoneisgonnabealittleheartbreaker one day. That we don’t dedicate hash-tags for on social media.

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Besides, I recently had a student of mine share something with me that was super interesting: he told me depending on the culture, there are certain colors that are just not seen because the people of that culture have no words for these colors.

So, there are blues and reds and purples that we see here in the USA that others cannot.

And vice versa:

There are greens and yellows and oranges that people in Bolivia or Namibia may see that we cannot.

We just don’t have the words.

(There’s even a study on it.)

So, maybe we don’t even have words really for the degrees and nuances of brown and black.

Maybe we are actually kinda speechless when it comes to those deep, almost-black brown eyes.

What I really want to say is:

Your eyes are beautiful. They deserve compliments and comparisons to night skies, the richness of soil, barely moonlit oceans, and unknown galaxies.

They deserve mention in clever hip hop odes and long descriptions in romance novels and camera close ups on Instagram.

When you hear, “She had such pretty eyes,” you deserve to wonder if the eyes in question are brown.

Just like yours.

You deserve to wax on and on about celebrities with bright, winking, sultry, innocent, ridiculously stunning brown eyes.

(Famous eyes I love:

Diana Ross, Lakeith Stanfield, Tyson Beckford, Regina Hall, Freddie Prinze Jr. Hasan Minhaj, Philomena Kwao…)

There are so many beautiful people we are privy to nowadays in our image saturated world. It used to be that we had to at least wait until we turned on the TV, opened up the magazine.

Now, they appear in our hands, smiling or pouting at us from the rectangular screen in our palms whether you asked them to be there or not.

Thanks Instagram.

Still, there was one day when I was just dumbstruck by this young beauty as I was lazily scrolling through my feed.

I can’t post the photo here, since I don’t like being sued, but you can see it on my IG.

It wasn’t the smooth, dark black skin or the full, wide mouth, the head full of digitally perfected black-girl-curls.

It was her eyes.

Deep, almost-black brown eyes that were piercing and smart and deep. They looked like eyes that have seen some magic or know how to pretend very well they may just find it yet.

They were the kind of eyes I think poetry should be written for.

If no one has told you today (or ever):

I love your brown eyes. 

I’m not saying this in one of those reactive blue-eyes-are-the-devil type ways either.

I just think you have pretty eyes.

And I hope you can remember that too and tell yourself over and over if you don’t believe it.

But, you totally should.

Onward,

Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

Wild

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On a random whim, I went to the zoo. Zoos are already sad but on days with a high of 25 degrees Fahrenheit and snow on the ground, even worse.

The animals seemed slow and tired and most of them were sequestered away indoors.

I spent a lot of time in the elephant barn because it was warm and elephants are graceful and just emit this wisdom from their all watching black eyes. But maybe I am making this up.

They were in a space way too tight for their mammoth frames. Bars cut their bodies in half from my view. One elephant, Tasha was alone because she was rumored to be a bit of a “bully” according to the zookeeper.

And I thought: I’d be pissed as fuck too if I was trapped in a place that toned down my bigness and fed me stupid carrots and kids gawked at me and I really wasn’t into the other elephants I was around.

And then I thought: maybe that’s why I’m pissed in some ways too. Because there is something wild and weird and spontaneous inside that I keep shut up. Maybe we both just want to be free, maybe we just need more space. Maybe we’re not bullies after all.

I left the exhibit with a heavier chest and heart but it helped me to really see something I’ve been dancing around my entire life: the cost of not being free. Of trying to downplay my bigness.

I don’t know my next move. I’m learning right now to just be with this question and to open up to the wild, sometimes illogical impulses that seem to be calling to me.

May you find space to let yourself be as big and wild and messy and you as possible. Especially in a world that rewards Good Girls and Quiet, Non-Complaining Black and Brown People.

For me, I am tired of the inner and outer bars.

I am ready to be inwardly Free.

Onward,

Hannah

 

Why I Quit The Trauma Olympics

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(This post contains some graphic descriptions of bodily injury, so if that’s not for you, stop reading now.)

On the first ship I was assigned to, the Sealand Florida, one of the longshoreman lost a finger. It may have been two. We were arriving into port, I think it was Houston or Beaumont and suddenly there is a frantic call to the bridge via radio.

Some mooring lines, the ropes that tether ships of exceptional tonnage of large container ships like the Sealand Florida to a dock, can become so tense when stretched that if they should snap, they have been known to cut a man’s leg clean off with machete preciseness. They can carry so much strength that if you accidentally get your fingers caught against a bulwark and the line, your fingers will leave a mangled, bloody mess.

They sent me, the lucky deck cadet down to escort the injured man via elevator upstairs to the medical room. I remember that this particular longshoreman was one of the youngest members on board, not much older than my nineteen years, and that the space where his fingers should be looked like squished tomatoes. I remember he was crying.

In my shock and thinking words were useless, I said nothing as we rode up the several flights. I just prayed and wished the elevator would go up faster.

I still regret that. That I said nothing.

But, what do you say to someone in that situation?

Sorry? I hope you feel better? It’s going to be okay?

The Trauma Olympics is when people assert their trauma as a justification for terrible behavior. It’s when people belittle someone else’s pain because it isn’t as large as their own or doesn’t meet their staunch criteria of Things People Should Be Hurt About. 

It’s that friend who when you tell them of a recent heartbreak says Well, you should hear what happened to me, trust me, you don’t know heartbreak…

Or

I mean, she’s over here complaining about her family, but I can tell you my family is much worse…

Continue reading Why I Quit The Trauma Olympics

7 Reasons Self-Care Is So %&$@ Hard

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Self-care, these two monosyllabic words, are very popular these days.

As a feminist and a woman creator in this society, I have often struggled with the practice of self-care. The concept makes sense to me: take good care of yourself lest you be so overspent and miserable you make others (and yourself) suffer.

Got it.

But, sometimes it’s hard. And while I used to think the difficulty was another personal failing, I am now well aware that it is not. So, please, if you are blaming yourself for not doing self-care “right” or “well”, STOP.

You are not broken.

But.

There may be some reasons why self-care is so damn hard for you.

Here are my 7 (by no means exhaustive) reasons why self-care may be tough for you. I speak from experience (as always) and I hope you will find something useful here…

Continue reading 7 Reasons Self-Care Is So %&$@ Hard

In Another Life I Was Nola Darling (Or Why NYC is my Favorite Place to be Black)

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When I was a kid, after the late-night parties my parents hosted, me and my sister would sometimes watch New York Undercover. It was decidedly not a kid’s show but it held such intrigue for me; a black girl in suburbia. We’d watch Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo fight the crime and corruption of New York City. I always got a kick out of the fact that Yoba was in Cool Runnings and DeLorenzo was one of the dancers in the Beat It music video.

I think I felt grown that I noticed this back then.

And I wonder if this was where my love for New York City was born.

Sometimes I joke around that the only reason I ended up going to military school for five years and being in the Coast Guard for eight is all because of how deep in love I was with New York City.

Continue reading In Another Life I Was Nola Darling (Or Why NYC is my Favorite Place to be Black)

Not All Black Black Girls Know How to Eat : A Final Kiss

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Hello Beautiful People,

Thanks for reading this series (Check out Parts One, Two, Three, and Four and the Self-Help That Doesn’t Suck # 9 on Women, Food and God…).

Self-care and self-acceptance are causes I will never shy away from talking earnestly about, especially for black women. We were never meant to survive, let alone thrive and much of the world continues to let us know this in both small and large ways.

Eating is a way for us to love ourselves, one imperfect plate at a time. It is my hope that you can learn to love yourselves through the way you eat. That you can eat in a way that makes you feel energized and at ease and joyful. It is my hope that you don’t let the Weight Watchers and the Dietitians of the world tell you what you deserve.

Keep practicing. See your “failures” for the teaching moments they are. Let your emotional eating and eating disorders guide you toward what you are truly starving for.

A hungry heart is no small matter.

I leave you with an eating meditation by self-love prophetess Abiola Abrams from her best-selling book The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love. Whenever you find yourself eating mindlessly or getting worried about you are eating, her meditation is an excellent way to get back on track with what is happening in the present moment.

Don’t knock those small moments for this is how the big changes happen. One small kiss at a time, we relearn the art of being with ourselves as we are.

(This meditation is reprinted here, but you can purchase the entire book and I highly recommend you do for it is FULL of all kinds of tangible wisdom and tools to loving ourselves as we are.)

Bombshell Tool: Chocolate Meditation

All you need for this self-being exercise is a Hershey’s Kiss and your mind. Mindful and intuitive eating have been a key for me in releasing disordered eating and unhealthy weight and learning to love my body. The feminine energy practices of being mindful and intuitive are empowering for any gender. The Chocolate Meditation Tool is about bringing your awareness to the present. I strive to eat all my meals in this ways. This prevents me from mindlessly bingeing or being caught up in other emotions while numbing myself with food. Here’s how:

  1. Engage all your senses. Observe your breath and the silver, flat-bottomed dewdrop. Behold the tiny Kiss in its festive aluminum wrapping. Contemplate the narrow plume of paper emerging from the thin, twisted metal. Examine the distinctive-looking candy and consider its unique beauty. As you unwrap this mini-present, pay close attention to the crackling sound of the foil opening. Breathe in the rich scent.
  2. Your full attention is on the teardrop-shaped, bite-sized candy. Follow your breath. You are not worrying about yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Your entire existence right now is focused on this rich chocolate. Turn it around in your fingers. Consider the color, shape, texture, and design.
  3. Send positive thoughts to all that conceived of and prepared this magnificent gift just for you! No matter what is going on, be grateful for how wealthy you are to have the means, the time, and the wellbeing to experience this moment. Maybe even kiss the Kiss.
  4. Take a deep breath. Inhale the bold aroma of the chocolate. Take another breath. Feel the texture with your fingers. Does it rub off in your hands or stay solid? What would you call this color? Notice every pore and nick on the cocoa surface.
  5. Are you able to take a bite of the Kiss or can you only eat it whole? Let that first taste roll around on your tongue. Does it taste different with the tip of your tongue than on the back of your tongue? Savor it, nibble by nibble. Close your eyes and feel the chocolate move down your throat and esophagus. If there are melting remains on your fingers, lick them slowly and enjoy the pure pleasure of the experience.
  6. If your mind wanders at any point during this meditation, always come back to the Kiss. Remain aware. Connect with your senses. When you inhale and exhale, notice the gap between your breaths. Everything in this moment is perfectly okay.
  7. How do you feel? You are not in the future or the past–you are with the chocolate. Close with a few deep breaths. You are exactly where you should be.

Here’s to eating in the present moment.

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Onward,

Hannah