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Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat – Part One


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MARTIN: But if there is someone who’s listening to our conversation, who is perhaps of color, who does not recognize herself in the narrative–or even himself let’s say–in the narrative that they typically see about eating disorders, what’s your message to them, to him or her?

Ms. ARMSTRONG: You’re not alone. You know, this disease is already isolating. Don’t allow your skin tone to make you feel more isolated. I have met hundreds of black women who are suffering. I get emails daily from people all over the country, so I know that you can get to the other side of this because I got to the other side of this. You deserve a happy life and you can, you know, learn to have your feelings and not use food.

-From an NPR interview with Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat author Stephanie Covington Armstrong

What is your relationship with food ?

Is it an abusive lover? Do you feel equally torn and tortured, pushed and pulled, loved and discarded?

Is it motherly? Is food one of the only reliable ways you can feel hugged from the inside, comforted, protected by life’s blows?

Is food a sworn enemy? A sometimes friend? A sisterly confidante?

I believe that we can use all aspects of our lives to heal, to connect, to get to know ourselves and the world on a deeper level. Most articles and blog posts that exist about food are all about WHAT we SHOULD be eating. We neglect the how, the emotional, the sensual, the spiritual aspects of eating.

And black women and women of color’s diverse relationships with food are widely ignored and cheapened.

The title of this blog series is taken from Stephanie Covington Armstrong’s memoir, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia.

Covington dispels the notion that eating disorders are a “white girl problem” only to be discussed at elite private schools and Ivy League campuses. She was born to a single mother and raised working-class.

Girls from the hood struggle with eating.

Black girls from suburbia struggle with eating.

Black women who are fierce and all things #blackgirlmagic struggle with eating.

And you don’t have to be diagnosed or have an eating disorder to examine the way you eat or to feel confused or hurt by the way you eat.

Looking at our relationship with food may seem mundane, myopic, another addition to “first world problems”. Whatever. At this point, I am done denying myself valuable insights all because a culture that doles out superficial judgment on anything that has to do with the bodies of women says it’s pathetic.

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I believe what we can learn from our relationship with food can be life changing, spiritual, a way to full engage and meet ourselves in the present moment every day.

As holiday season rolls around, there is a lot of fear-based promulgations about food. We are encouraged to stuff ourselves and to be zealously terrified of weight gain. We are told to stay away from the cookie table and please our Auntie who spent all day cooking. We are called fat by our uncles and told we are showing off when we let people know about our food allergies.

I don’t want to talk about food that way.

There is a real lack of resources and discussions on food that is geared towards women of color. Most books I’ve read about establishing healthy emotional relationships with food and eating are written by white women. And to be sure, I have found many of these books highly useful and illuminating (like Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God).

Often, when I do find books written by black women concerning food and eating, they are usually about recipes or going vegan or marketing some specific diet. Again, useful information, but I want something that is a bit less prescriptive.

Here is my offering. When I write, I write what I want to read.

And I want to read about a black woman engaging with food from both a spiritual and sensual level.

In this blog series, I’ll be interviewing the amazing holistic nutritionist and founder of the Black Girl Healing Project, Jennifer Sterling.

There will be a Self-Help That Doesn’t Suck on Geneen Roth’s, Women, Food, and God.

There will be a guide to using food as a site for meditation inspired by Abiola Abrams.

There will be a blog “conversation” with Stephanie Covington Armstrong’s Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat, Becky Thompson’s A Hunger So Wide and Deep: A Multi-Racial View of Women’s Eating Problems and Roxane Gay’s Hunger.

Through it all, I will be sharing personal pieces of my own history with eating. The highs and the lows. The nasty seventh grade box salads and my long-time affair with Cadbury Eggs.

I am so excited to share.

Not because I am some master on intuitive eating or whatever. I am excited because I hope that these blog posts will bring you some much needed peace and openness around food.

Because I have so much to learn and digest myself around how to eat myself.

Because we deserve to have peaceful relationships with food, eating, and our bodies.

I urge you to gently look at your relationship with food not with an air of judgment, disgust, disappointment or comparison.

You are not a problem to be fixed.

Instead, I ask you to notice. Notice what thoughts arise about what you “should” be eating. How you feel about caloric dense foods. How would you characterize your family and culture’s relationship with food? What does hunger feel like? How about fullness?

Your relationship with food can tell you so much about what you expect from life. What your fears are. What deep seated insecurities are driving you. What you truly need to be happy.

Maybe you have a totally sane and peaceful relationship with food: you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, don’t overworry about nutrition and “perfect eating”, feel energetic and satiated in your body.

Awesome, awesome.

But maybe you are a classic binger. Maybe you have a “sugar addiction”. Maybe you try a new diet every week. Maybe you feel out of control away from your diet plans or whenever you go to a restaurant. Maybe you fear being fat with an alarm you recognize is not healthy. Maybe you count calories like its your job. Maybe you know that the foods you are eating make you feel sluggish and ill but you  can’t seem to stop eating them anyways.

And maybe you are anorexic or bulimic.

Wherever you are, know that you are not alone.  You are not bad. You are not wrong.

Your relationship with food is a mirror to your life.

Please know also, that this blog series or even reading books about food is NOT a substitute for seeking out help. I am not a mental health professional. If you believe you need extra help around eating and are harming yourself, PLEASE seek out the help of a medical professional.

(The National Eating Disorder Helpline)

I look forward to growing with you here.

Onward,

Hannah

Redefining Sexy

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It kinda all started when Blake Shelton was named Sexiest Man Alive 2017 by the authority of authorities on sexiness, People Magazine.

So me and a friend started talking about what has been universally accepted as sexy these days: What images proliferate in our media. Think pieces on how Beyoncé, Kim K, or Rihanna have “changed” the way women experience their sexuality and sensuality. Does personality count? The ways in which strip club culture has altered the conversation on Sexy.

Lately, I have been paying closer attention to my body in the world. When it expands. When it contracts. When I feel that anxious tightening in my chest or clamping down over my ribcage. When butterflies start. And stop.

During our text conversation, I felt my body constrict, like a dozen thin ropes were wrapped around my mid-section. In the past, I would have ignored this tell-tale signal and blustered forward in intellectual conversation. But, yesterday, I stayed with my body.

I started to think about what I had been told was sexy, the images and attitudes that came into sharper focus once I got to junior high. I thought of Beyoncé in the Baby Boy video. I thought about rappers comments about their love for “honeys with the light eyes” and the current hyper-fascination with big asses. I thought about duck faced selfies and hour-glass silhouettes. I thought about how American-made porn dictates much of what the world is supposed to find sexy.

Sometimes, I think about how I should “already know this”.  Shouldn’t I already have accepted that what I believe doesn’t always jive with what the culture sees as sexy? Haven’t I read enough feminist theory, books about sexuality, blog posts by sensuality coaches? Haven’t I browsed Babeland and She-Bop enough in my lifetime? Shouldn’t I already have an expanded view of sex and sexuality and how I fit into it?

Earlier this week, I read this quote from Bethany Webster:

“Cognitive understanding is very important but it isn’t enough to transform us and create lasting, meaningful change…Concepts are like seeds of transformation, that when dropped into the body can take root and begin to transform us on the deepest levels. When we gobble concepts it is a superficial action. What creates lasting transformation is fully digesting the concepts and allowing them to sink deeply into our bodies, where the alchemy takes place.

Transformation has its own organic timeline that is out of our hands. It cannot be rushed. We cannot control or predict it. This truth can be hard to swallow, especially because our culture sends the message that success is equivalent to control and timely “results”.”

I had been “eating” up the truth about what sexy was for a long time, but the deeper understanding of it was not connected in any real way to my body. So while I was espousing a belief that sexy was more than gyrations and “acceptable” hip-to-waist ratios and long hair, etc. etc., the truth was that deeper in my body, I didn’t really believe it.

The truth is that my views are very much aligned with what the culture has declared as Sexy.

Even now.

This can be traced to living in a culture that devalues women and their experiences. If we are taught that men are superior to women, then it follows that male opinion is more important than what women opine. It is therefore imperative to focus on what men, especially the most powerful men, define as desirable and good and oh-so-sexy. Women must take their cues from their desires and fall in line.

And so, if the idea of Sexy is Kim K and women who look similarly and a handful of Victoria Secret Models and the “hot” yogi or what have you, then this is sexy. End of story.

The rest of us are just there.

I do know that sexuality and sensuality and attraction to who we name as the Sexiest People in our society isn’t a neatly drawn line between women and men. I know that “not all men” find the same women sexy.

However, I also know that there is still a very narrow definition of what constitutes sexy: it is young and immaculate and usually white-or-near-white looking. It is often performative. It is frequently divorced from how women actually experience their bodies. It is sterile and open mouthed and always eager to please.

Part of my journey in revising my relationship to my body, untying myself from the patriarchy is really digging deep in the most common assumptions I make about the world. This includes what I have define as Sexy.

Taking a moment to center.
Taking a moment to center.

The largest leap I made when entering the world of burlesque was not physical. It was not the tassel twirling or the hip shimmies, the bump-or-grinds or the standing split (which my ass can’t do without killing myself anyways.)

It was learning to see myself as a sexy woman.

More importantly, it was feeling sexy.

For so long, despite my reading of Audre Lorde’s Uses of the Erotic, I had pretty much accepted that only certain types of bodies and women could be seen as sexy. I was more comfortable being funny and theatrical, because that was where I saw myself. Girls and women like me, weren’t seen as inherently sexy and feminine.

Intellectually, I knew this was bullshit, but I would literally find myself unable to do certain movements or flirtations in burlesque class due to these mental formations. And when I did, I felt stupid and silly. I was afraid people might laugh at me, that they would smell my awkward display of sensuality a mile away.

I felt like some kind of impersonator, that I was behaving like what Sexy “should” be. A kind of sexy that had no real connection to my living, breathing body.

But, I kept going. The first time I took a burlesque class through Brown Girls Burlesque, I stood in awe of these women of varying shapes and shades who so proudly flaunted their erotic personas on stage. I went to a ton of burlesque shows. I let myself feel awkward as I winked and circled my hips and was fully alive on stage. I danced alone in front of mirrors at home. I journaled about the hard truths about how I had defined sexy before. I expanded my media intake. I asked myself tons of questions:

Where did I first learn about what sexy was? How would my views on sexuality be different if I had never seen music videos or porn in my life? Why am I so tied up to mainstream’s definitions of sexy? When do I feel the sexiest? Who’s the sexiest person I know in real life? Which celebrities do I actually find sexy and which ones have I just been told that they are and reluctantly agree?

I’m still asking myself these questions, but the answers are taking on a deeper level of cognition because they are not just located within my grey matter. I realize that I can’t just “gobble” up these redefinitions. They will take time. The journey is not about what everyone else is doing or how others experience me or even their own sensuality, it is about my own truth.

So.

 I am sexy. I know that Perle Noire is my sensual hero. I know that mainstream attitudes about what constitutes sexy will probably not change much in my lifetime. I know that it is my experience and definition of sexy that matters more than People Magazine’s. I think that sexuality can be spiritual. I know that there is true power in the erotic.

I don’t know if Beyoncé or Kim K or Rihanna have really changed the conversation on women and their sexuality. Perhaps for some women, they have. Still, I think our experience of sensuality and sex is still too firmly tied to the most superficial of attributes. I want more.

I would like to see women talking more about their sexual journeys toward wholeness after experiencing trauma, I would like to hear about how women who aren’t the mainstream definition of sexy still experience themselves as very sexual beings, I would like to see a diversity of bodies of varying ages and abilities and sizes full embodied in their erotic power (but not just in a social media campaign), I would like to hear how black women have redefined sexy amidst racist and sexist expectations. I would like to hear how women came to love and enjoy their natural rhythms and love the most disparaged parts of their bodies; their periods, their menopause, their pussies.

These stories ARE happening, don’t get me wrong. I read about them. I listen to podcasts about them. New paradigms are being created. I think the journey towards redefinition starts when just one woman hears a common patriarchal “law”, tilts her head and names her own experience as valid.

Kudos to People Magazine for prodding me along.

Questions for further reflection: What do you define as sexy? When do you feel the sexiest? What struggles have you encountered in defining yourself as an erotic being? Who would you pick to coach you around feeling sexy if you could pick anyone in the world? What gets in the way of redefining your world?

Onward,

Hannah

 

How Being Corny Saved My Life

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It’s funny, but I didn’t really take the deep, deep dive into Self-Help Land until I got to NYC.

Funny only because I had lived the previous three years of my life in Portland, Oregon, Lair of the Happy Hippy.

New York City was where I upped my yoga practice, did shamanic breathwork, visited mediums, went to the Open Center, started going to weekly meditation classes.

The New York City subway system is where I read a plethora of self-help books.

I often hid the titles of these book by the cover of my lap.

Because reading You Can Change Your Life! replete with a smiling white woman and 80s neon colors was the definition of Corny. And this was New. York. City. I couldn’t have the random passerby who could care less that I existed think about my uncoolness!

Amidst my desire to outgrow unhealthy habits and modes of thinking, there was still an ever-present need to be cool.

There was only a certain cadre of my friends who I shared my self-help leanings with. And then I would usually follow up with some random aside about the literary novel I was reading or the nugget of political news I had discovered that week. (Did you hear about the call to restructure the electoral college?)

These asides were not some esemplastic mode of expressing my total truth as a person.

Nah.

I added these asides so I sounded “smart” and “cool” and “deep”. Because: I was really, really embarrassed by the often corny nature of changing one’s life.

There are some people out there who gain emotional and mental wellness via 18th century philosophers, ancient mystics, and deep study of archaic religions. When they talk about their journeys toward depth, they sound intelligent and sharp and use tons of three-syllable words.

But, these weren’t the places that usually worked for me.

What worked for me were things like affirmations and dialoguing with my Inner Child and blindfolded screaming in yoga studios with strangers. What worked for me was reading O Magazine instead of some fashion glossy and books with titles like The Disease to Please. What worked for me was going to Soul Camp where we had an OM off (which group could hold their yoga OM the longest) and a “tug of love” instead of a tug of war. What worked for me was asking W.W.M.D? (What would Maya Do?) and having cumbaya sing-a-longs with Kombucha drinking Wiccans and carrying citrine in my pocket. What worked for me was dancing my anger out to Tubthumping and visualizing the future I wanted via Desire Lists on hot pink paper.

What worked for me was corny as fuck.

There was no way to make this stuff cool.

And I hated that.

Why did all the things that actually worked for changing my life seem so silly?

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There were times when I’d look around at the strangers beaming around me, the people who used phrases like “heart opening” and “shadow work” and talked about their chakras with as much seriousness as people talk about their mortages and I’d be like, how the hell did I get here?

I have been sarcastic and self-deprecating since forever. It runs in my family I think. I did not grow up in a household of hugs and effervescent happiness. I and my siblings often show our love for each other with our ironic teasing and deadpan observations of life. Both me and my sister have been told that we have “dark senses of humor” and that our sarcasm confuses (and scares) some people.

I often laugh at things that are truly not funny.

And yet, I really desired to change my life. I knew that the way I was living: constantly chasing perfection, lingering in self-doubt, being constrained by old stories, vituperating my very existence was NOT going to bring me to the life I desired to live.

But, I also wanted to be cool. I wanted to be known as deep, intellectual, razor sharp, a woman of the mind.

What was a sardonic black woman to do?

*

I will call her Eve. She was the owner of Lucky Lotus, the yoga studio I often went to for meditation and creative art classes in Fort Greene.

She was loud, flamboyantly in love with life, unafraid to dance and laugh with gusto. She was a tall, white lady who once trained to be a Yoruba priestess and now led shamanic breathwork classes where she walked around beating a handheld drum. She was enthusiastic about everything.

She was simultaneously someone I wanted to emulate and also the most intense stereotype of Hippie Seeker I had ever met in real life.

I really liked Eve. Initially I deemed her to be just another client, no way did I expect the owner of this successful, beautiful yoga studio to be so wild and outspoken. We often would talk after yoga and breathwork classes and she listened in a way that is kind of hard to find these days: never discounted my experiences, never lost that childlike joy.

Over time, she revealed more of her story. I won’t go into details here because that is her story and not mine, but this was not a woman who had a simple, la-di-dah existence. She had demons she had faced down—and was still facing. Her entry into this world of spirituality wasn’t some navel gazing pastime. It was her route from a rock bottom and frenzied existence.

She talked about how affirmations had literally saved her from the brink of suicide, that if she wasn’t saying these words of positivity to herself during her more precarious times, she would not be here talking to me.

One day, she and I went to Fort Green Park. We bought a bottle of bubbles from a local bodega and set ourselves atop a grassy hill. We meditated and then spoke aloud of all the things we wanted to let go of and what we wanted to be in life. And then, we blew bubbles. Like kids. And I watched those sensitive balls of light float away into the spring sun. I half wondered what we looked like to the people passing by, two grown women sitting cross-legged and blowing bubbles. Afterwards, I felt lighter and more buoyant than I had in a very long time.

I felt that a life of true joy and happiness was possible. Of course, the feeling did not last forever (it never does….this is another lesson), but I started to approach the corniness of the self-help world with more openness.

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I started to own my corny. And my sarcastic streak. I started to see the ways they could co-exist.

Not long after, I rode my bike over the Manhattan Bridge listening to the Grand Dame of Self-Help Herself Louis Hay (may her soul rest in peace) deliver syrupy affirmations into my ears. It felt good and I felt good. And that was all that mattered.

I started to become more open about my love of goddess culture, didn’t lie about the fist-bumping You’re-Okay-I’m-Okay-We’re-All-Okay! conferences I was going to, blogged more and more honestly about all the sorta-weird self-help things I was doing.

Because as much as I still wanted to be known for my dry wit, I wanted to live a life of love way more.

If that meant that I was going to be corny and do corny things, so be it.

Oftentimes, our assigning certain self-care practices a signifier of corny or silly or stupid is just another clever mode of resistance. It is us clinging to the very behaviors that are harming us. It is our fear of change and being cast out of our friend group. It is our fear of doing something different.

We may have decided that happiness and health are only for certain types of naïve or shallow people. We may even decided it’s only for people who grew up in nice homes or white people or the lucky few. We decide that we are not those people and therefore, happiness and salubrious living is out of the cards for us.

In some ways, our culture is deeply afraid of true joy. We call it immature and stupid, as if wallowing in misery and being incessantly down on life makes someone smarter or more sophisticated, assigns them depth.

No, it usually just makes that someone a boring, bitter jerk.

Cultivating emotional and mental wellness, embracing our joy, being vulnerable with those we love are not easy modes of being. It’s much, much easier to be impenetrable and unkind and closed off and make snarky comments about shiny-happy-people. (Ask me how I know…)

But, we don’t get close to the lives we want this way.

So, if you’re worrying about being too cool for self-help, I hope you reconsider. Everyone has their own flavor of what calls out to their hearts and I hope you can be with how silly and weird it feels and really decide that your happiness is worth the struggle and being uncool.

Let’s be cornballs.

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.

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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

Until the Next Harvey

Gerber Daisy

This post is dedicated to the man who told me the only reason Bill Cosby was being accused was because he was a powerful black man in America.

It is dedicated to the woman who ended a work diversity meeting during Sexual Assault Awareness Month with, “But, what do they expect? Going out dressed like that?”

It is dedicated to all the women who are not famous or white enough to warrant protection. It is dedicated to all of us who have blamed ourselves.

It is dedicated to the women afraid to be sensual, to the women harassed and silenced on social media, to the little girls who fear becoming women.

It is dedicated to the next time.

*

I had a friend who worked for the Weinstein Brothers. In 1986, it was her first job when she moved to NYC from New Mexico when she was 28 years old. I liked to imagined her then—young and vivacious; right in the middle of the artsy, wild New York City I had always admired.

“Was it cool working for them?” I asked.

“No, they were assholes.”

This was uttered with the kind of deadweight that makes it clear that this was all that was going to be said on the matter.

*

The first time I realized I was not a girl anymore was when I was 12. I was walking home from school and the sky was slowly changing into a dusty orange.  A pick-up truck of skater dudes slowed down and one of the guys in the front seat yelled out, “Hey! My friend here wants to pop your cherry!” I could still hear them laugh as they drove over the hill and away from me.

*

The thing about these Weinstein and Cosby stories is that it will happen again. It is a matter of when and not if. My friend says if we all knew half of what these industry heavyweights were doing, we’d probably be disgusted. We texted back and forth about bystander syndrome and why it is that certain men feel so powerful when they sexually harass and assault women. I want to live in a world where women share more in common than our victimization.

*

3 Things I Will Never Forget from 2011 Coast Guard Victim Advocate Training:

  1. Serial rapists and harassers often have a “calling card”. Much like serial killers, they like to leave an accent mark on their crimes. For Cosby it was ‘ludes and “let me help you with your career”. The allegations against Weinstein reveal a man who always wanted a massage and private casting meetings. These men are predators.
  2. Serial rapists and harassers will most likely go after the kind of woman (or man) who no one would ever believe. In the Coast Guard, it was the loudmouth girl who was always late to formation, the skinny guy seen as a quiet loner type, the girl already labelled a slut weeks out of boot camp at her new duty station. These perpetrators know exactly who to pick and use their power strategically.
  3. A victim/survivor doesn’t want advice or plastic sympathy. They just want you to listen. And to believe them.

*

I read an article the other day before the Weinstein story broke. It was from Bill Cosby’s daughters. They were saying what a good, kind-hearted man their father was and that he was being taken advantage of solely based on his race. I think the letter even used the words “public lynching”. They were women using the same one-dimensional logic Clarence Thomas did to recuse himself from responsibility after harassing Anita Hill.

It was sad but predictable.

And I’ve always wondered about Them; the perpetrator’s closest friends and family. I can only imagine how difficult it must be, how world splitting to see another side to this person you always thought you knew.

When I was at military school, a friend of mine was accused of rape and I vehemently defended him, was 100% sure of his innocence. I was 20 and since this was the same guy who made me laugh with his silliness and came to my birthday party–this was “not the sorta guy” who would rape anyone.

Eleven years later, I know better.

*

Most of the time, due to an amalgamation of racism, the masculinization of dark-skinned black women, and being 6’3″, I feel pretty powerful when I walk the streets. I still get weird, sexual, disrespectful shit said to me all the time, but I think there is something to be said about being taller and stronger than a lot of men out there.

Physical presence counts for something.

And yet.

When I was 19, a fellow cadet would say rude sexual stuff about me while I was in formation. I reported it but nothing happened and I decided it wasn’t a big deal, especially since many of my friends had experienced far worse. What was a little crude language?

Months later, this same guy sat next to me on a bench and asked if he could take me out sometime. I nervously declined. He then asked if I was lesbian.

*

What I hope is that more men speak out. That instead of shaking their heads in private or getting into “not all men” arguments, that they open their damn mouths and do something. It’s kinda like white people doing the work of dismantling racism. Men need to do this work, they need to look closely at how these behaviors dehumanize not only women, but themselves. Talk to your brother because this shit is a headache.

Stil.

I am an optimist. I believe we are getting better as a society when it comes to allegations like these:

Donna Karan says something victim blaming and gets called to the carpet for it.

Terry Crews and James Van Der Beek speak out their own stories.

We have a long way to go, but I believe we are moving in the right direction.

*

In 2014, I took a self-defense class via the Center for Anti-Violence Education in Brooklyn. We learned to block attacks from on high, the correct and most hurtful to kick someone, how to interrupt sexual harassment in public. At the end of the course, all the women break a 2X4 block of wood Karate Kid style, with a quick dash of the palm.

I will never forget the look of sheer amazement and delight as each woman cleanly sliced those blocks in two. For the briefest of moments, we were seeing evidence of our power and not just our supposed weakness.

It was beautiful.

*

I am a tall woman who weight-lifts and sometimes I still get scared walking around cities alone. I worry about the little girls I know who are becoming young women. If I give a friend a ride home, I watch them actually enter into their houses before driving away

I know that this is not the end.

But, I also know that there are many out there who are eager to create a world free from this sort of fear.

I think we are on our way.

A reminder: Take care of yourself. These kinda news stories can drum all kinds of traumatic memories. Talk to someone. Don’t feel you have to deal with this on your own.

For those in power, if you see something, say something. What’s the smallest step you can take to combat sexual harassment and misogyny? Find out what that is for you and commit to doing it as regularly as you can.

Onward,

Hannah

Art : Gerber Daisy by Grace Mehan de Vito

It Is Okay To Be Happy

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Today started out in a good, good way.

And I was instantly suspicious.

I have been noticing this tendency in myself over this past year—my commitment to suffering, to melancholy, the deep safety I feel within chaos and misery.

Today, I had a tasty protein heavy breakfast. I and my boyfriend joked before I headed out the door. The air was slightly warm while waiting for the bus. My students laughed at my jokes and we talked about Junot Diaz. I had lunch with a professor who was kind and engaging.

And all throughout the day, I was awaiting for the piano to fall. For the stomachache to start, for the mean person to cut across my path, anything, anything, anything, that would ruin this sweet blessing of a day.

I know today, to pay attention to such feelings. To sit with them, to jot them down on my phone or a nearby notebook.

Why is it that happiness and feeling good simultaneously make me feel so ill at ease? Why does a heavy cloak of foreboding feel ever present, on the edge of my consciousness anytime my life starts to go well? Why do I expect bad shit to happen to me?

Sometimes it feels obscene to be filled with anything resembling joy in a world like ours. Especially in the last week with the horrific (but oh so sadly predictable) shooting in Las Vegas, the devastation in Puerto Rico, the fact that DACA is being phased out…what right do I have to call myself happy?

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I worry it is yet another form of American propaganda, this cult of happiness, and that I am falling into it, that I am another hippy-dippy privileged woman who is unaware of the real pain in this world.

But, I know this is not the complete story. I know that my fear of being happy and well-adjusted are not just social or national concerns. I know that my misery or depression does nothing to alleviate the depression or misery of another person or nation. I know this but…

When I allow myself to dig deeper, I see something else: I see a little girl who was well used to being on edge, tense, anxious, and afraid. I see a little girl who has immigrant parents who work and worked so damn hard and were not always rewarded for their efforts. I see a little girl who was taught that it is not “if” things go wrong, but “when” they go wrong…

I see the way this little girl has a limited understanding of happiness, that she truly believes her happiness and well-being is a betrayal to the people whom she loves. These belief are bone deep, not exactly conscious, but always there.

Last week, I did a vlog about the story of trauma as told by Bessel Van Der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score. One of the main machinations of trauma is a tendency to repeat the painful patterns that keep us stuck in the past. We almost can’t help it. Such behavior is hardwired into our brains and into our bodies.

We want to eat well, but stay feeling shitty on processed foods.

We want to date people who care about us, but find ourselves attracting emotionally unavailable people who ghost or leave us every single time.

We want to go for our entrepreneurial dreams, but we stay stuck in comparison and afraid to take the action to make our dreams a reality.

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We want to be happy but find ourselves self-sabotaging our well-being time and time again.

To be sure, there are things we cannot control. Life is life. We don’t get to call all the shots. We will never be able to control other people’s behavior. Ever.

But, I think we can be curious about our patterns, especially in relation to self-sabotage and being stuck, especially if we notice that feeling good makes us feel uneasy.

Unless you are a sadist, I think it may be useful to know why we tend to distance ourselves from happiness and keep ourselves mired in misery.

I’ll admit it: there is something about chaos and sadness and disappointment and being alone that feels oddly comforting to me. These are feelings and emotional states I have an almost sisterly connection with. I have had many experiences of being let down, of letting my heart open only to have it crushed with severity by those closest to me.

So, it makes perfect sense that when I have good days, when life seems to be handing me lemonade with extra sugar, I start looking upwards at the blazing blue sky waiting for the piano to crash upon my head.

It makes sense that these are the days I am most likely to pick fights with my partner, to eat something I know my digestive system will hate me for, to laze around so that I have to hurry and rush before an appointment even though I had more than enough leisure to be on time.

Part of me is absolutely terrified of being happy.

And I can love that part of me. I can slowly, gently, but always assure her that she deserves good things, that she can open her arms to more than the basics in life. I can let her know again and again and again that she not only deserves to survive, she has full permission to thrive.

It will take time to stop looking for falling pianos, this I know.

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So, if you are a Queen (or King) of self-sabotage, I urge you to take a holy pause to remind yourself that you deserve to feel good. I suggest you sit with those parts of your soul which are used to being left, being sad, being alone, being pulled in seventy directions and let them know that your new normal can be peace and love and ease. It will take time. It will take patience.

I am right there with you, trying to learn that being happy is not sin or a sign of immaturity or selfishness or a betrayal to those I care for. Being well-adjusted is a gift we can all pass on to those who follow us.

And I urge you to remind yourself as much as you need to:

It is okay to be happy. 

It is okay to be happy.

It is okay to be happy.

I will do the same.

Onward,

Hannah

Self-Help That Doesn’t Suck – #8 – The Body Keeps The Score

Hello Beautiful People,

I did a blog (vlog?) post about The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

It’s been one of the most illuminating and life changing books I’ve ever read about trauma, inspiring me to take new direction in my own healing journey and expanding my compassion for others. 

I hope you find something useful here​​​​​​!

Five minutes of self-help…that doesn’t suck. 

Thanks for watching

Onward,

Hannah

Goddess Lessons #2 : Kali : On Dancing With Your Darkness


Kali (Kaa-lee), also known as Kali Ma and the Black Mother, is the powerful Hindu goddess who presides over darkness, death, and regeneration. She is the foremost of the tantric Wisdom goddesses known as the Mahavidyas. Some fear her because she is so fearsome looking, but Hindus love and adore her as their Great Mother Goddess; she manifests power that is fierce, potent, healing, and loving. She is shakti (female energy) incarnate and the manifestation of primordial power. As the darker consort of Lord Shiva (who is also paired with the milder Parvati), she is often pictured dancing wildly with his form beneath her feet. She brings life, death, regeneration and rebirth…”

From The Goddess Pages: A Divine Guide to Finding Love and Happiness by Laurie Sue Brockway

A common misconception about self love and journeys toward deep inner healing is that you can skip over your darkness. 

Or check it off with a handy dandy checklist with a life coaching program that promises Deep Inner Healing in Six Weeks!

Darkness, that point of seeing our shame, our habits that keep us stuck, the people who have hurt and keep hurting us, is not an easy process. 

It is not pretty. It does not follow “logical” or linear patterns.

It is not something that will look good on your Instagram feed or Timeline. 

But exploring our darkness is absolutely necessary to grow into the Women we want to be. 


I’ve been reminded of this lesson very deeply these past couple of weeks. Eclipse season has heralded in many endings and changes within my vocational, relationship and inner life. I’ve had to confront how my daily habits are not bringing me closer to the woman and writer I wish to be. I have to see the ways in which my insecurities and need of external validation keeps me trapped and stifled and unable to connect fully with the good people in my life. I have to face that the way I eat and rest and schedule my time are still mired in my addiction to being in an incessant hurry.

And there have been many times I’ve wanted to ignore the hard shit that these changes have brought up. “Sometimes I just don’t wanna feel those metal clouds…”

But, Kali does not run away from darkness. She does not villify it like our current Western world which has assigned words like “black” and “dark” to all things bad. 

She dances with it. She befriends it. She is It.

Darkness and those times of inner and outer struggle are not evidence that we are being punished or that we are wrong. 

We need these times and spaces of darkness and confusion and truly seeing ALL aspects of ourselves as much as we need the Light.


I have decided to let my “negative” thoughts shout their protestations and their blame. I am journaling a lot more. I sit and do nothing sometimes. I fully face the ways I have deluded myself and reinforce the self-negating aspects of my past. I am doing my best to listen to people. To put my phone down, to slow down and wait.

What is the darkness you are running from dear one? How can you slow down and face it? How can you enlist support so that you are not alone in this endeavor?

Ideas:

12 Step Groups. Journaling. Community yoga classes. Meditating. Naps. Taking a walk. Starting or going back to therapy. Dancing to a curated playlist that takes your feelings into account. Making a list of all the people who’ve hurt you and what they did and speaking it aloud and then burning it (repeat until you don’t want to anymore). 

The biggest recommendation I have is to stop dancing. Take inspiration from the great goddess Kali and face who you are in this moment. It may not be easy. 

But you are worth the time.

Onward,

Hannah 

Chiron in Gemini or How to Express Yourself When No One Gives A F*


“It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”
― Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

I love and geek out on astrology (I’m an Aries, Moon in Gemini, Aquarius Rising). And recently after dinner with some friends, the topic of Chiron came up. For you astrology virgins out there, Chiron is defined as, “…a comet with a unique and erratic orbit. In the natal chart, Chiron is symbolized by the “wounded healer”. It represents our deepest wound, and our efforts to heal the wound. Chiron was named after the centaur in Greek mythology who was a healer and teacher who, ironically, could not heal himself…”

You can find out where your Chiron is placed by doing a free on-line astrology chart. And while Chiron tells you where you may have been hurt, it also shows you where you can offer the most help and aid to others.

My Chiron is in Gemini and also in the 3rd house. A double whammy of Fun since Gemini rules the 3rd House.

Gemini is a sign associated with new ideas, the nervous system, and most especially communication–expressing oneself via writing, speaking, dressing and any other means of saying Hello World, this is who I am and what I believe.

Which is interesting because…

If there was one word people would use to describe me as a kid (besides tall) it would have been quiet. Like super, good-girl, we-didn’t-even-know-you-were-in-the-room quiet.

I was terrified of expressing what I had to say. I would ruthlessly edit my replies to conversation, trying to weigh it for possible approval from who I was speaking to. I was sure that my voice sounded stupid and dull. I was perfectionistic about my artistic expression. Whenever our art teacher Ms. Schulz came to teach us to paint some fourth-grade recreation of Van Gogh or Monet, I would annoy her for I always requested to start over. I was never satisfied with my first creation.

It was frustrating being quiet. I felt like I had so much to say, that despite my tranquil and silent external persona I had “fire shut up inside my bones”.


And yet, I was always that girl who people repeatedly had to ask to speak up. The girl who would go on outings with new friends and not utter a single word.

I’m definitely not as quiet and inhibited as I used to be, but there is still a fragment of me that carefully weighs all that I have to say and write, who scans through any post on social media with an eye for editing. Who still wonders if her voice is stupid and dull.

Now, there’s nothing wrong or weird about being quiet or shy or introverted. We simply live in a space and time which values extroverts above all.

But, I do know how it feels to be trapped by merciless self-criticism and doubt, to feel that you have so much to say but feel boxed in by your past quiet moments and the nagging fear of what People Will Think.

In our noisy day and age, with the advent of Influencers and YouTube personalities and bloggers making millions, it can sometimes seem that our voices don’t matter at all. Why speak up if we’re not being followed by thousands?

Who really gives a fuck what we have to say?

And then there is the rampant criticism and oftentimes manufactured outrage: at times even the most progressive, open-minded, whole-hearted person cannot speak truthfully without offending someone’s personal political philosophy and identity and getting dragged for it.

I don’t know if your Chiron is in Gemini, but I do know that we all have moments when we are terrified to speak our deepest truths or even, hell, afraid to speak period.

We don’t want to hurt anyone. We recognize the difference between action and impact. We know we may still hurt people—even if we really didn’t mean to.

And yet.

We long to express ourselves.

We are not sure if anyone out there is even listening or cares or wants to dig deeper into our work or know more about us, be our friend.

And yet.

We long to express ourselves.

We can shout that we “don’t give a shit what people think” but as Brene Brown so eloquently says, “Pretending you don’t care what people think is its own kind of hustle.”

I think the people most loudly proclaiming they don’t give a fuck actually give lots of fucks. Like they are throwing their fucks out like Oprah. I think that people who are truly centered in their personal truth, just speak and express themselves.

Their not-giving-a-fuck is evident in their actions, not their proclamations.

It may sound banal, but the keys to our more authentic, spontaneous self-expression are already with us. They are inside. We may take courses, read books about public speaking or confidence building. But, we truly don’t have to buy our voice.


We just have to bring it to light.

First, we need to do the hard work of looking at ALL the shit that made us quiet and afraid to speak in the first place. When did we first learn that our voice didn’t matter? Who did not listen to us? When did our words hurt someone—even when we really did not want them to?

This process is not easy, nor is it neat. We will have to look and sit with the pain of these moments over and over again. But, to speak openly and honestly from our hearts, we must look at what made it difficult for us to do this in the first place.

If it was easy for us to believe our voice mattered, to not overly worry about possible backlash, we would be doing it. Those tender parts that learned the opposite are still living in the past.

We need to bring them to the present.

The second thing is to practice. With yourself. Make a secret IG account, Tumblr, blog and post whatever the fuck you want on it every day. Record videos of yourself dancing alone or lip syncing in your room that you do not share with a soul. Practice expressing yourself with you first. As you get comfortable with your own damn self, it will make it sooooo much easier to express yourself around others.

The “final” thing is to just do it. Say what’s on your mind at the next cocktail party. Post that insight everyone is glossing over. Perform karaoke in front of people. Write, Speak, Express Yourself openly and honestly and realize that a) you can do this b) it’s okay if it isn’t perfect c) no one died when you did.

We catastrophize the “what ifs” of expressing ourselves not because we are dumb idiots but because our fears are rooted in very real (albeit usually young and limited) ideas of the times we did speak up and shit hit the fan. This is why I stress really sitting with our initial stories of why we are hesitant to speak. They are powerful and have such a bearing on how we act in the world today.

Now to be sure, this process is not some 1 2 3 BOOM = You are the most confident, loquacious and self-expressed person on the planet. We will wrestle. We may be awkward and receive zero attention for our words. We may get made fun of and be misperceived, disliked, even ostracized.

But, we will know the effervescent freedom of being in line with ourselves no longer laden with a million untold truths.

I am still wrestling with my own Chiron and move between the steps almost every time I choose to speak a truth. I’m doing it as I write this blog post. It is not easy for me to be open about myself and who I am, but I do it anyways because I know how the alternative feels and well, it sucks.

I am choosing to speak and to write and to express myself no matter how many people “like” me.

May you find your voice.

And use it.

Onward,

Hannah

We Need More Black Love


Says the black girl with the white boyfriend.
But, I am serious and I believe it even more now than I ever have: We need more black love.

The primary images under #blacklove are flamboyantly attractive men and women oftentimes intertwined in some erotic embrace. Sometimes they are wearing crowns. Sometimes the man is holding up the earth or a house as his woman and offspring look upwards in stupendous wonder. Sometimes there are two black bodies intertwined so closely that I recall the song Brown Skin by India Arie.

I believe the popularity of these images speaks volumes (On another post I may go into the crazy intense heteronormativity and their traditional gender role affirming nature of these images, but not today…)

Black people are generally subjected to images where they are hurting each other, hurting themselves, or away from each other, all pointing to the real instances of hurtful separation folded overtly and covertly within colonialism and white supremacy.

These days, we may see black people loving on screen but oftentimes these images are interracial in nature. And yes, even I am a little questioning of this.

Why is it so difficult to imagine black people loving each other?

When I saw the graffiti’d mattress leaning forlornly against a house in Pittsburgh, it both made me laugh and broke my heart cleanly down the middle. The way the mattress had been gutted to show its Styrofoam flesh. The word “bitch” lazily scrawled adjacent to it. Was this some sort of cleverly placed art installation? A call to do differently?

What I know is: black people do love each other. Even amidst the craziness of racism and homophobia and sexism and family dysfunction, black people have always been winning in the show some love department. But, sometimes I think we all need reminders.

I think the time has come for white people to take up the majority of the work of in eradicating white supremacy. It’s been that time for quite awhile honestly, but I think the call is even more salient today.

But what about us?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine made a really vulnerable Facebook post where they talked about the nature of their mental health and the ways in which the anti-blackness of the world had factored into it. It intensified my thinking about the nature of self-help and emotional wellness today. How so much of it erases the real lived realties of different marginalized groups to settle on some vague promulgation of resilience.

It’s not just a personal “defect” to be unwell in this society. Many times our individual experience of stress, of anxiety and depression can be obviously tied to systems that tell us we do not matter.

Anti-blackness is not just a faraway political thought that we can sequester to history books and graduate studies discussions. It affects the real lives of black people in deep and pressing ways each day: the bombardment of black death, the anxieties inherent within a workplace that was never built to consider you, the constant barrage of images that suggest you are not enough at the deepest level of your body. Over and over and over and over and over again.

We need more black love.

I say this in a way that does not mean we add yet another checklist to Shit I Need To Do Today. I say this as a thought that hopefully can buoy us. And I do I see black love being practiced every day. I see it in with people checking in with their people. I see it in the loud ways black people claim admiration for body features often seen as less than. I see it in events like Black Girls Rock and social media campaigns like Very Black.

I hope that the next time I search for #blacklove I see these images too. Images of queer black people, fat black people, quirky black people, conservative black people, hood black people loving the fuck out of one another.

I endeavor to look for more black love, to showcase love in a myriad of ways towards blackness besides the romantic. And if I can’t find another real black person to love on in reality, I will look in the mirror at my own black face and love it fiercely for what it is.

I refuse to be sucked into the madness of these times and to start doubting the power of true, revolutionary love. I refuse to constrain my activism to what I see on my social media feeds.

Black love, real black love, in a way that speaks to my own soul, is part of my revolution.

I wish you the same in a way that works for you.

Onward,

Hannah