Monday Notes: The Relationship I Have with My Body

“When is the last time you felt good about your body?” the naturopath asked me.

I thought about it for a few seconds, then I said, “I think I’m going to cry.”

“That’s okay,” she and my husband affirmed.

I knew it was okay to cry. But I was taken off guard by own emotions. When I really stopped to think about it, I didn’t know.

It wasn’t in the past year, when out of the blue, I developed a rash that took up my entire forearm. It’s healed now, but it looks like a faint trail of bacteria.

Last year is also when perimenopause seemed to have ramped up and took a hold of my physical being. It’s also when I decided to get a crown on my front tooth, instead of a cap. Since December, I’ve worried everyday about my crown falling off when I eat or when I sleep and grind my teeth, leaving a gaping hole in my mouth.

So, no. I didn’t feel good about my body last year.

What about ten years ago? Nope. That’s when I started gaining a pound a year, even though I worked out four times a week and ate mostly healthy foods. My primary care physician didn’t seem too worried about it, so I figured I didn’t need to be either. Still, I didn’t feel good about my body. I felt fat.

What about twenty years ago? Definitely not. That’s when I had to deliver my second child as a C-section. I wrote about this experience recently, but I want to reiterate that there’s no way anyone can prepare you for your body being sliced open and sewed back together in what seems to be a lackadaisical way.

What about twenty-six years ago? Almost. I almost thought I was okay. It was a year before my wedding. I was talking to my grandmother, and she mentioned that I was fat.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids before you get fat,” were her exact words.

I was 125 pounds.

The next week, I began eating 1200 calorie meals and doing aerobics five times a week. By the time I stood at the altar, I was 100 pounds and a size one, something I’ve never been in my life before or after that date.

What about thirty years ago? YES! The last time I felt good about my body was thirty flipping years ago when I was an eighteen-year-old high school senior. I was petite. I was cute. Curves were curving in all the right spaces. Skin was tight and bright. All of the things were where they were supposed to be.


It’s amazing what can be revealed by just one question.

I’ve never thought of myself as having issues with body image, not really. But as I sit here and reflect on how long it took me to come up with a real answer (30 minutes) and what it took for me to figure out an answer (blog), I admit I have. If I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question much quicker or at least three weeks ago, while I was actually at the doctor’s office.

So, today, I have questions, instead of answers:

  • When is the last time you felt good about your body?
  • If you already feel good about your body, how do you maintain that feeling?

Until then, I’ll be offline, staring in the mirror, saying some affirmations or something.

Monday Notes: BOTH/AND

I’ve been living in a space of both/and since 2020. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been living in this space for a while, but I decided to be more blatant about the message December 2020.

I started with a photoshoot.

When I planned to take photos, I knew I wanted to wear something a little edgy to represent my personality. A friend and I saw these faux leather leggings at a Jacksonville boutique.

“These are perfect!” she screamed.

“I don’t know,” I said. “What about my belly?”

You see, ever since I gave birth via C-section in 2001, I’ve been leery about showing my midsection. For some reason, the obstetrician didn’t have the good sense to sew my lower abdomen back how he found it. No amount of Crossfit or crunches can mend it.

“If I had your belly, I’d buy five of these,” friend said.

Perspective. It didn’t matter. I can be both sexy and show my fupa…in public.

The next thing I wanted to convey was professionalism on my terms. The last time I took photos, I was entering my writing persona. I wanted to convey confidence and a personal identity. You see, my mother’s side of the family retells a story about how decades ago, one could tell women who were ladies of the evening by the color shoes they wore—red. The problem in my mind was that I’ve always been fond of red. But who wants to be associated with prostitution? In 2016, I decided a white suit, red blouse, and red heels were symbolic. I could be both educated and stylish…in red shoes.

This time around, I was truly exhausted by all of the rules we put on ourselves and others. I mean, you don’t have to wear a business suit to mean business. Do you? A black, denim jacket with puffy sleeves seemed ideal. I could be both business minded and unconventional.

Finally, I wanted to convey my love for reading and writing. I also wanted to show that you don’t have to look a certain way to be a reader or a writer. I know this is common sense, but for some reason, it seems society views readers and writers in a stereotyped way. Maybe it’s because in reality only 5% of traditional publishing includes Black people, or maybe it’s because of media portrayals. I mean can you name three characters in a series or movie who are depicted as loving reading or writing who are not white?

Apologies for that major digression. My point is I wanted to be photographed among the stacks (of a bookstore) on purpose. I know librarians and people who work at bookstores have been stereotyped as having top buns and looking over readers, but again, I wanted to shatter that myth—for myself. I don’t have to fit a mold to be an avid reader or a successful writer. I just have to love books and write.

So, yeah. Both/And.

I can be both sexy and a certain age with childbirth scars.

I can be both professional and wear a puffy, black denim jacket.

I can be both an avid reader and writer and be my regular Black self, two-and-a-half-inch patent leather heels and all.

What are your both/ands? And if you have a few movies or television shows that depict Black characters who love to read or write, drop them in the comments, so we can all be more aware 😉



Mental Health Matters: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Worth

As promised, I’m shifting the focus of Mental Health Matters to discuss ways I’ve learned to be a less codependent version of myself. This week, I’ll discuss one of the characteristics of being codependent: having low self-esteem.

Self-esteem is defined as the manner in which we evaluate ourselves. For example, I’ve always believed myself to be a pretty and intelligent person, thus creating high self-esteem.

However, self-worth is the belief that you are loveable and valuable regardless of how you evaluate your traits. Your self-worth is directly related to your childhood. For example, because I was abandoned as a baby and then later as an adolescent, I believed I was literally worthless. Underneath my highly rated self-esteem was a very low self-worth. I truly believed I didn’t deserve love.

But over time, I’ve developed a higher sense of self-worth with these three practices:

Remove Personal Value from Abandonment. As a person who was abandoned by her birth and adoptive parents, I constantly wondered why? Why was I left? What was wrong with me? Because I’m analytical, the conclusion that made sense was…I guess they didn’t love me. To establish a higher self-worth, I had to separate my parents’ actions with how much they valued or loved me. Like all adults, each of my parents had their own reasons for how they lived life. And although their actions negatively impacted me in some ways, it had nothing to do with my worthiness but, rather, everything to do with their own issues and rationales. There is no reason for me to take any of my parent’s choices personally and there is definitely no reason to assign my value to their decisions.

Enact Self-Love. The other day, I was listening to Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Loosely paraphrased, she suggested that if four basic needs weren’t met by aged two, then you’re not going to receive them unless you give them to yourself. My experience tells me she’s right. Once I realized I had low self-worth, I knew one thing I had to do was love my own self. So, six years ago, I visualized myself as a five-month-old abandoned baby. Being a mother, I knew a baby needed physical contact, food, and security. In my imagination, I picked up baby kg, hugged myself, and told myself: I love you. You matter. Just last month, I learned that you can also give yourself a hug as a way to show yourself love. This month, I’ve continued my self-love work practice by reading and enacting Louise Hay’s mirror work. Self-love, for someone who hasn’t had it, can be ongoing work. But it’s worth it. I mean, who else is better equipped to remind myself that I’m worthy of love than me?

I AM Statements. A therapist once pointed out that I used the phrase I’m not important a lot. Whenever a family member or friend didn’t do something I’d asked, then I concluded it was because I wasn’t important. The therapist suggested a homework assignment: Write I am important, repeatedly. I’d already been keeping a gratitude journal, so I began writing it there. After I realized I had to love myself, I added I am love to the list. I also write I am adequate as a way to remind myself that I am fine just the way I am…today…in this moment. Whether I have achievements, people, or neither…I am adequate being who I am. I’ve written these statements at least four times a week for almost ten years.

So, what does this have to do with codependence? Although Beattie only mentions self-esteem, I firmly believe that low self-worth can also lead to unhealthy, codependent attachments. For me, each relationship, including my marriage, served to prove that I was lovable and worthy of love, that I mattered.

These three strategies have helped me to know my worth, and consequently, have made me less likely to develop relationships to prove my value. 

If necessary, I hope what I’ve shared works for you, too. And if you have more suggestions to add, please feel free to do so in the comments.

***

Here is more information about the difference between self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self-knowledge.

How to Establish 4 Types of Boundaries

No More People Pleasing!

Monday Notes: 14 Days of Non-Communication

From June 18th to July 1st, I decided not to communicate with people I know (and love). With the exception of my husband, two daughters, and a siSTAR video I’d committed to, I was silent. This included my not responding to text messages, DMs, phone calls, emails, and social media.

24034dc7-4131-431d-8cb2-6db42fc5d233First, I alerted everyone I could through social media so that people didn’t think I was ignoring them. In this social media age, people’s feelings are hurt quite quickly if they don’t hear instantly from you. This worked for the most part. For family, like Grannie, who are not on these platforms, I simply left a message on her answering machine asking her to please wait until July 1st to speak with me, unless of course, there is an emergency. For others like my father, who sent photos of his grandson’s kindergarten graduation, I replied with the photo you see here. And for my cousin who called with news of their newborn baby, I begged Dwight to call him back so I could listen, but not respond.

Why, you might be thinking?

I needed time, space, and silence to disengage so I could hear my inner thoughts.

Recently, my sister gifted me with a numerology reading. In our conversation, the reader said, “Everyone isn’t worthy of your time.” That is one of the most poignant statements I’ve heard in 2019, and it really made me pause. Aside from thoughts about friendships, I decided to use my fourteen days of silence to assess the many collaborations and projects with which I’m involved. Will I continue with Project A, B, and C? Are these projects aligned with my personal mission? Even if they are aligned, are they worth the time/energy investment to continue? To make these decisions, I needed time, space, and silence.

Also, I wanted to focus on how I would generate extra money for the remainder of the year. Contrary to public belief, many professors do not make a huge salary. Like other professions, it is contingent on lots of factors: discipline, rank, and institution. Being quiet allowed me to think deeply about how to attract money and from where.

wooden_plankAlong with these fourteen silent days, I also decreased my sugar intake. This isn’t new to me. About four years ago, I did a 21-day detox that excluded all sugars. This time, I followed the recommendation that women have no more than 25 grams per day. Initially it was challenging, and I hovered around 24-50. But overall, it was a success. When I remove sugar, my brain becomes clearer; subsequently, my thoughts and dreams are also lucid. And combined with silence, it’s like a veil was removed, revealing the direction in which I needed to travel.

Although I wanted badly to celebrate the birth of my cousin’s baby, and although it took everything out of me not to respond to email plans for our DC reading or to text Bree to find out how she did at the Daughters’ Lives Matter event, or to comment on blog posts, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be at everyone’s beck and call in each moment. It’s okay to tell people you need a minute…away, just for yourself. In this instant communication society we’ve created, it’s okay to say, hold on wait a minute while I get myself together.

Trust me…their good and bad news will still be there for you to praise or lament. Their worlds will not crumble. And, you my friend, may feel more healthy and whole.

Monday Notes: “Mr. F*ckin’ Rogers”

About fifteen years ago, two women had befriended me. One of them had a child the same age as my oldest daughter. At the time, she’d given birth to another, by a man, whom she was no longer with. During our friendship, she’d started dating and married another person altogether. The other had five children by one man, to whom she was divorced. Having remarried, she and the last one of her children lived with her new husband, who she’d eventually divorce.

We would usually convene over one of their houses, sip alcoholic drinks, and discuss women things: sex, periods, men.

On one occasion, we sat around a dining room table, red cups in hand. They both complained about their relationships. I don’t recall the details, but I do remember chiming in with whatever was bothering me about my husband.

“You don’t get to say nothing,” friend two interjected, “not when you’re married to Mr. f*ckin’ Rogers.”

They both howled with laughter. I gulped what was left of my drink and sat speechless for the remainder of the night.

Long before I’d met these women, my grandmother had taught me to sit in silence, to ignore how I felt about my experiences. Nothing I said was important enough to add to any grown-folks’ conversation. And because I was always surrounded by adults, I’d discovered that nothing I had to say about living life was ever of value, even if it was my own.

That one moment exemplified why I was rarely vulnerable with specific people. When I was twelve, there was one best friend with whom I stifled feelings about my parents. Her mother had moved thousands of miles away from her ghetto Chicago neighborhood to be a hairstylist for celebrities in California. My friend was left to be raised by her grandmother. To her, the image of my life was perfect. What could I have to complain about with two loving parents, adopted or not?

Years later, after we’d both had children of our own, that same friend confessed, “We’ve known each other for a long time, but I don’t feel like I really know you at all.”

mask2It’s no wonder. I’d become a master at masking my true emotions about a thing, while hurt festered in the fiber of my being and manifested as inappropriate adult behavior.

This is what can happen when we devalue the voices of those around us. This is what can occur when we lack the ability to empathize. Those we claim to care about and to love may learn to either shrink their existence to make way for the largest voice in the room, or they may seek to be seen and heard in unhealthy ways.

I’d learned to do both, depending on the situation.

Today, however, I function in healthier ways with people whom I choose to interact.

With my children, I give them the space to give words to their emotions. If you talk to either one of them, you’ll notice they begin with the phrase “I feel like…” quite a bit. I believe it’s because I’ve always encouraged them to reflect and feel, whether I want to hear it or not.

With my friends and family, I listen to what people have to say. I never compare pain. If you’re upset by something I don’t understand or that isn’t of value to me, then okay. I’m not the emotion police. All feelings are important and have the right to be heard, no matter their size or subject.

With myself, I refuse to be silenced simply because my life is different than those around me. I know that different doesn’t mean less important. I don’t allow friends or family to guilt me for having things they do not. For example, just because you cannot find a happy healthy relationship, doesn’t mean I cannot discuss how being married has affected me.

Finally, I’m more discerning about the people with whom I’m aligned. This act alone has helped to create relationships that are more satisfying and symbiotic. In this way, I know that I’m participating in partnerships that are both valuable and valued, and by extension, so am I and what I have to say.

On My 46th Birthday

I am acutely aware of the fact that I could not have been born. My origin story is not sprinkled with baby showers and welcome home rituals wrapped in pink receiving blankets. It does not elude me that I was born from irrepressible lust to a mother who contemplated the newly legislated Roe v Wade* decision.

Should I? Should I not? I’ve imagined her mulling repeatedly, until finally it was too late, and I was born at 9:42 A.M. on May 23rd.

With this awareness comes an understanding that existing is a gift. And because this is true for me, I live knowing that life is for the living. So, I live differently.

I do as I please in most situations. I do not ask others for permission to take time for myself, to pursue education, or to make money as I see fit for me. This is not a feminist statement. It’s my life’s practice. I’m responsible for the direction of my life and I trust my intuition to guide me where I should go, be, and do in each moment.

Inherently, I’ve always sensed that social norms are made-up rules to control populations of people. Learning about the theory of social construction solidified this thought. This philosophy has not only framed how I view life, but also how I live it. I have abandoned many of these faux guidelines and replaced them with rituals that make sense for me. This ranges from how I practice so-called holidays to how I interact with family and friends.

I was not born to be treated like a 21st century paid slave. Therefore, I’ve found ways to perform work duties that suit me yet still benefit the institution. I show up and give 100% in each situation, regardless of how I feel about co-workers and students. My value for what I do and why I do it stems from a personal work ethic, not something external. While it has taken time, I know the difference between a job’s requirements and someone else’s desires. I do not bend to the latter.

I suspect I’m here for a reason: to live a human life. For me, this means dreaming and manifesting dreams that, in my limited knowledge, only human beings can do. There is nothing I can think of that I cannot do. Don’t confuse this statement with I can do anything. I cannot, for example, become the best WNBA player, mainly because I haven’t considered it. But I do believe firmly that whatever I conceive with my thoughts and imagination can be achieved by me.

So, I write and maintain this blog as a way to globally inspire and connect with others. I write books to purposefully spark conversation and shift hearts and perspectives. I converse with my siSTARS, record and share videos with the public to add as much authenticity to this human experience as I can. I take photos intended to move you and others. And I own and operate a successful editing service business to help writers and scholars attain their goals in an affordable way. There is nothing that I cannot do.

Life is a gift. What better way is there to show appreciation than to wake up each morning and live it in ways you value?

On my 46th birthday, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for purpose. And I’m grateful for each of you who intentionally participate in it with me in some way.

 

*Please note. This is not a pro-life message; this is a pro-LIVE your life message 😉

Monday Notes: New Mantra

I was raised by a celebratory family. My mother’s side was known to praise any and everything that I did. No matter what I accomplished – piano recitals, school functions, dance programs – my grandmother, grandfather, and great aunts and uncle would proclaim, “you were the best one!” On top of that, my mother was known for creating parties. Some planned and some instant.

“Punch in a glass is just punch,” she’d say, “but when you pour it in a punch bowl, with sliced oranges, well that’s a party!”

We partied often. And it was something I grew used to.

Similarly, my father’s side of the family is known for arriving from out of town to celebrate accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen or talked to the person in months or years, if they’re invited to a graduation party, birthday event, or funeral repast, they will find a way to join in and turn up.

My childhood was wonderful in this way. But then my mother died, and so did her parties.

Eight months later, I threw my own seventeenth birthday party. It was the first time since the funeral that family members were all in one space. It was the first time since we’d buried my mother that things felt normal.

When I graduated high school, I asked Grannie if she was going to have a party afterwards. Some call it an open house.

“You want a party?” she asked.

“Yes,” I beamed.

“Well, you’re gonna have to pay for it yourself.”

biggest_fan_2So, I did. I bought royal blue streamers, royal blue tablecloths and napkins, and ordered myself a white sheet cake, with royal blue icing that read, Congratulations Kathy! After graduation, family and friends celebrated the occasion with me in Grannie’s basement.

Throughout the years, this pattern continued. If I wanted to celebrate me, then I created an event to do so. Sometimes these were joint, out-of-town birthday parties with friends. Other times, like my doctoral graduation or 40th birthday party, I planned a celebration independently to physically say congrats.

Over the past few years, I’ve grown weary of planning festivities for myself, yet I’ve continued to achieve. To maintain a commemorative spirit, I’ve begun taking myself out. If I do something that I believe is extraordinary, then I splurge on a meal.

I also share great news on social media, because even though sites like Facebook can be annoying, the reality is that Internet communities love to uplift you when you’ve done something positive. To be honest, it’s like dipping a glass ladle into that fancy bowl and scooping out the bright red punch my mother used to make. It tastes sweet. It feels special.

But as I approach 46, I realize those things are all outside of myself. And because I seek growth in everything I do, I’ve developed a new mantra. What I’m doing is important, even if no one else acknowledges it.

Don’t get me wrong. I still celebrate myself in explicit ways, but this phrase reminds me to also turn inward. It reminds me that my self-worth is not tied to my success or anyone’s validation of it. And it liberates me from expecting external gratification in the form of celebratory acts. This is a new practice. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, tell me if you’ve ever had to re-frame how you function in the world because of your upbringing? Are you a celebratory person?