Loving Yourself

I have been sitting with this post for a while. I wasn't sure where I should post it - my old blog from my 20s? This blog, about love and hearts? My personal journal? I decided that right here, right now, is the place to share and hopefully, you'll see why.

In full disclosure, I have to admit that this post is inspired by a lot of images I've seen lately of women, mostly white, detailing their self-dislike under the guise of self-care. I've seen some of my fellow black and other colored women friends follow suite, but I've noticed it a lot in white women. Which, as we know, has a tendency to project itself into the communities of all women. After all, their aspirations are considered beauty standards, so we must chase the same dreams. No one is going to say, "I want my thighs to rub" when in fact, beauty dictates that our "thighs should have a gap." The reality is that across every skin color range different body types and sizes and trends like these are unrealistic.

For example, I've spent most of my entire life wanting to lose 50lbs. Right now, it's like 70. If I lost that much weight, I still would not be dainty because I'm not built that way. My hips and shoulders, for better or worse, are on the wider side. My legs are on the shorter side, as is my torso. My breasts have always been sizable. That doesn't mean I stop trying to lose weight, it just means that in perspective, maybe losing 50lbs is unrealistic. 

The women I come from, the long line of women I come from, have ranged. My Mom has some of the skinniest legs I've seen in my family and my youngest brother has them. And I dislike him when I think about it because how in the hell did he get my Mom's legs?! I inherited the legs of my French grandmother and possibly, my African American great-grandmother. And I love them. I love that my legs have carried me through four marathons and many, many miles to get to those marathons. I also love that those legs help me walk through cities and places unknown and sometimes just up the stairs of my apartment building to my apartment.

And yet, overwhelmingly, I feel this shame to be me. To be my size. To accept that this is where I am right now. Because social media and some of my friends are "clean eating" and denying themselves things for something that may never really be attainable. 

So my questions is, what are you trying to hide? Or rather, what is it that you're so unhappy about with yourself that is making you hurt yourself?

By all means, I am not saying eating healthy is hurting yourself. Nope. I've been a food justice advocate since I joined my first CSA in Long Island City in 2009. I believe healthy and ethically grown food is something for everyone, not just a few with money. I believe in farmers and their jobs. I think they're more heroes in this world than cops and military personnel. I believe our soil and water need to be taken care of so that we can grow these nourishing foods. To eat healthy is to be an advocate not just for you and me and everyone else, but to be an advocate for the planet.

What I am saying is that eating disorders result from the idea of "clean eating." I'm saying this as someone who has an eating disorder of over eating when I'm bored, or unhappy, or upset, or stressed out, or hating my job. Yep. I'm admitting that.

This past holiday weekend, I ate with my family. I probably ate too many heavy, carb loaded foods. And at midnight Monday morning, as I sat in my car still four hours away from home, I felt sick. Literally, like a brick had fallen into my stomach. That day, I ended up even more sick (chills and a slight fever) thanks to running on two hours of sleep. I ended up sleeping 12 hours and when I woke up for good, could only stomach the idea of water and ginger. I wanted to chew on real ginger. 

In the days after my illness, I started adding soups and rice. Lots of bland things. I added sourdough toast and some kombucha. By Thursday night, I cooked a meal for myself, something with some spice, but that had coconut milk and chicken thighs and jalapeno peppers. It was delicious. I noticed that I my body was instructing me on what to eat and how much to eat and felt at peace, if not still completely settled.

This morning, as I showered, I told my body, I love it. I actually said, "I love you body. Thank you for dealing with my emotional torture. I'm working on you, with you. We'll do this together. Not because we want to be strong, or look like we're strong, or look good in those pants. No, because I owe you better than I've been treating you lately. And because I think this partnership will help unlock those fears I've been using you to hide behind."

I've started running again and I'm starting my adult ballet classes on Monday nights mid-May. In both of these, I'm excited for the activity, not the changes they will bring to my body. I'm excited to see my old ladies at ballet class again and be yelled at by Parsla about my form being poor, all the while knowing that it's helping me center myself as I focus on other things in my life. I'm excited for running because running has always been a balm for my brain and because I always find myself in running. I'm not doing these so that I can take pictures of myself and say, "oh, look, I'm getting more fit!"

I'm excited to stick to my commitment to eat meals I mostly cook so I can reduce my plastic consumption and waste production and because it allows me to work on some skills I need to work on for this project I'm working on launching later this year.

I started a vitamin regimen again because I know my gut can use some help.

I'm doing these things because I do truly love myself. And want to love myself. After all, loving myself is the longest relationship I'll ever truly have. 

We are all different and need to do the things that work best for us. But I'd like to gently remind everyone that we should do these things out of love. Not out of fear, or hatred, or even just dislike. We should also never do these things to fit in, or conform. If you're willing to not eat cheese and pasta because you're trying to stop an allergy (which I've done), or fix an autoimmune disease, or because you feel bloated, fine. Good. Do it! If you're doing it because you want to be strong and eat clean and drop body fat, that's fine, too, but don't complain about what you're doing. You are making the decision to not eat these things, as a choice.

For example, I've noticed that dairy in general makes me feel congested and this past week, where I have eaten minimal amounts of dairy, we're talking a few shaves of parmesan on my eggs in the am. I feel clear and good. And I may stick with this, which means goodbye milk, which truly limits me because I don't believe in soy or almond milk personally. (Almond milk is terrible for the planet and soy milk just doesn't do much for me.) And that's fine. But I'm not going to complain about this because I'm doing this with love. And not for attention.

Most importantly, and the reason behind this post, is that I'm no longer buying into the shame. And I'm not buying into the conversation of the shame either. Well, outside of this post. If this is the life you choose to live, great, congrats, happy for you. I'm not judging you, I'm just telling you I don't particularly care and I'm done with this trend and the fitness trend in general to make me feel like shit. Life is meant to be lived and that comes with extra lbs sometimes and sadness. It also includes eating some cake every now and then. And real ice cream. Eat the real ice cream and then enjoy a roasted piece of broccoli, but don't cover up your body and don't feel like you need to join a trend to fix something that is much deeper than five or 50lbs.

It all boils down to love. How much do you love yourself? Are you loving yourself in the right way?  This is what this whole hearteds2 path is about, after all.




Foreign Words that Inspire Love - Ama

Those who know me know that I'm a bit "off." This is probably not the best introduction if you're new to this website and stumbling on my project. Alas, it's better to know when someone is "off" sooner rather than later.

Anyhow, I only say I'm off because I don't do things that are "normal." Never have; probably never will. I'm a woman who strongly believes in her intuition and wild ways. I believe that the wind can tell us all we need to know about our day and that when we inhale the smell of rain, we are more connected to soul of Mother Earth. I believe in rain dances and spiritual energy. I believe that walking on grass shoeless is something we should all do daily.

All of this leads me to my belief in "coincidences." Or rather, that there are no coincidences. I won't tell you why I don't believe that coincidences are simply accidents. That's a rather long and deeply personal story, but during one of my saddest points in life something made me realize that coincidences are not as strange as we think they are. Coincidences are actually what we are meant to see. We are supposed to have that occurrence so we can move forward or take the necessary actions. Sometimes those coincidences are meant to show us faith.

Which is why, over the past two years, I've started to pay attention to the words that appear on license plates on cars driving along my side. It started with noticing a friend's name on a regular basis. Then that gave way to seeing "Eve," who I believe has a deeper meaning than I'll share now. Recently, I've seen three words - "gas," "gut," and "ama."  Today, we're going to talk about Ama. I've yet to figure out the meanings of the other two words and "Eve" is too deep for right now.

"Ama" is what has me writing again after a long period of not writing. "Ama" brings me back to that story about coincidence that shaped my opinion. Ama is a Japanese word. It is a noun. Ama means: a Japanese diver especially for pearls or food.

One could say that love and hearts are nothing more than pearls or food, right? I know this seems like a stretch, but follow me. Pearls are gorgeous and divers from them are often rewarded by their catches. To find a pearl is to find something precious.

Food, can also be seen as a reward. For many, it seems common. To eat is an every day occurrence and in our culture where food is abundant and cheap, well the bad kind, food doesn't seem quite so magical. Yet, I can assure you that I have been on the end of truly magical and rewarding food. And it is my thought, that people who truly seek out food, who dive for it, they are seeking something as precious as a pearl.

Think about a meal, a good one, surrounded by loved ones. Think about whether you prepared anything for that meal. Or maybe someone you loved prepared that meal for you. Think about how precious that moment and experience was. Think about how you felt about that food. Did you feel love? Did you share love?

When I see the word Ama, I know it's meaning. I understand it. I feel that it is a word I am meant to see and know. I love that it's roots are in Japanese, a language I don't know well, but I love in my soul. I know, after writing this post, that this word is a word for my next journey that will be shared with all of you as it launches.  I know that "ama" inspires me to love. May it inspire you as well.



Not All Hearts Need To Be Shared

This past Sunday was Valentine's Day in America.

Valentine's Day is a funny little holiday. There are people, like me, who absolutely love it. There are people who abhor it, sulk, and call it "singles awareness day" or something along those lines. There are people who call it a "Hallmark holiday" and choose to ignore it all together. It's almost like our politics!

Anyhow, I love the holiday and maybe I love it because I like that there is a day to remind us to love. Maybe if the message behind the day wasn't so focused on romantic love + gift giving love, it might feel different; a bit better?

I have for a while now celebrated Valentine's Day with sharing CDs of mixed songs relating to love with my girlfriends. Many of them are now married, some of them are still single, some are even divorced, or engaged, or have become a parent. Some are out in the world traveling. the mixes hit each of them differently. Some of the women who received the very first one nine mixes ago are no longer on the receiving end of this tradition - some never really cared for the mixes to begin with. Some of the women are still receiving them. It's interesting how this little project of mine cycles around. This year's mix is my 9th and I can't even believe in a few months I'll begin to tackle the 10th mix. It's funny to think of the nine years that have gone by - these mixes are a way to track those years.

As I worked on this year's mix and on getting them together to mail out - they still are a tangible item - I've thought a lot about hearts and this project and the concept of love.

Love is one of the most innate parts of us. Love fuels us and drives us and keeps us going even when we have nothing left. Sometimes we feel the love, sometimes we don't. My annual mixes were created out a need to share love - to show my friends "who cares if we don't have men we love romantically, our love for each other is just as inspiring and nurturing!" 

The same can be said about #HeartedS2. When I zeroed in on the hearts I was seeing, almost three years ago, I was lost and shattered and while I knew I was loved, I felt unloved. It took a trip, solo travel around one big City and one small Country, lack of language, and signs from nature to remind me I was loved. Even when I don't feel it, especially toward myself, it is there and around me; my actions and intentions are a reflection of the love that is always inside me.

This past week, I have only taken pictures of a handful of hearts I've seen. At the same time, I've received quite a few hearts from friends who have sent me emails and text messages with photos of hearts that have filled my heart with so much joy.  See, I've seen quite a few hearts, but I haven't bothered to take pictures of them. I haven't bothered to talk about or share those hearts. Sometimes, we need to experience the heart in that moment. We need to smile, acknowledge what we know as truth and reality and move forward.

I remember when I decided to launch this project, a good friend shared with me that Drew Barrymore, yes, the actress, was releasing a book all about hearts. At the time, I didn't know that this heart project was quite the phenomenon. I seriously thought I was being original! Ha! I remember feeling a sense of deflation once I realized how many heart projects like mine there are out there. I remember thinking, "well, who is going to care about the hearts I see?" Yet, I continued and this site exists because of it. It is truly a mark of mine now. It is why friends send me pictures of hearts all the time. But more importantly it is why people have started to notice the hearts and while they give me credit for them noticing the hearts, I give them credit for being open to the magic of this experience.

If you go on Instagram or Facebook or even do a simple search of hearts online, you'll come up with endless photos and blogs of hearts in nature. It's incredible really. It shows how we all are a bit of hopeful romantics. This is encouraging in so many ways, but it also inspires me sometimes to keep my hearts to myself. Sometimes I have to because it's a quick heart that shows up in my kitchen sink as I'm washing dishes. Sometimes it's a sharp shadow that I see on the ground while I'm walking. Sometimes it might be a figment of my imagination, but it doesn't make that heart any less real. In those instances, those hearts are not shared and that's perfectly fine. What matters is the feeling of love you feel in that moment and that is greater than all the heart images on my instagram account or on facebook.

If you come across a heart and you're not certain, keep it to yourself. You probably need that heart more than you know. You are not wrong for keeping it and cherishing it. In fact, I encourage you to do that! Not all hearts need to be shared. Not all hearts need to be documented. Not all hearts are for for show.

Honoring a Heart Today

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day in America and for many, they have the day off. For some, like me, they are working. Then there are those who are sharing quotes by Dr. King and posting images to prove their care to the greater world. It is great that there are so many expressing the importance of the day. It means that his words, his dream is not lost on society.  Yet it is a grab bag of a day, unfortunately. The meaning of the day is lost on so many - instead marking just another day where marketers claw at the black space of human uncertainty.

It is okay, if you don't do anything per se, as long as you reflect on this day. Reflect on an American who gave his life for his beliefs and for the message in his heart. Reflect on what it means to truly be an American, a human, and someone who fights for the causes of everyone, not just their self.

Dr. King's message has never been more necessary than it is now. Not just in America and for Black Americans, but for the World.  His goal of freedom from racism and oppression is a message that speaks to the human heart at a time when American Presidential candidates are pushing intolerance and hate; when the Middle East is eating itself alive; when police injustice and brutality is begging for reformation; when gun sales in America have increased and the topic has divided neighbors, not just political parties; when education is no longer valuable; when there are no jobs for anyone anywhere in the world anymore; and most importantly, when people have no trust in each other.

Many of the issues listed above were occurring in some variation during Dr. King's fight for racial justice and they are still ongoing now. The question really is now are we ready to open our hearts the way he, and so many other powerful and influential leaders, did to bring about change?

Hearted S2 has always been about seeing the love, even at the moments that are the most difficult, when things seem bleak or intolerable. When life seems to be close to ending. There is always a chance if we allow it. If we believe in the magic that is in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.

So today, I'll share this quote from the endless sea of powerful words Dr. King shared with us and left behind:

"When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love."

I am committed to the planning, the building and binding, and the glories of love. I hope you are too!