A Moment of Reflection in Antigua

IMG_0555Antigua is my happy place. The imposing and picturesque volcanoes are alluring. They allow me to appreciate the power of nature, de la tierra. The climate is always moderate, so much so that they call it the land of eternal spring. The people are warm and accepting, always willing to help each other, and you, if you need it. The streets are cobbled and ruins are scattered hauntingly everywhere. People come from all over the world so it feels like an international hub where a café chat can take you on a journey towards deeper understanding. It’s a place of connection. It feels like me – worn, wise, charming, bright, and always open to the possibilities.

And although I only make it here every 6-7 years, it calls out to me at unexpected times almost as if it’s calling me home. This time, I hadn’t planned to come. My fingers just started clicking on the keyboard and before I knew it, less than an hour later, I had booked a flight. I hadn’t even told my family. I hadn’t checked to see if my host family that I typically stay with had space for me (they didn’t). And I didn’t have much money to splurge because my summer classes got dropped. No me importa. As soon as I booked the ticket, there was a settling in my soul. I felt at peace and was ecstatic about the possibility of getting there again, in mere days.

Truly, I just wanted a space to be. That’s it. No big agenda to write the next great American novel. No itinerary to do yoga in San Marcos. I just wanted no-thing. No responsibilities. No distractions. No mierda. I just felt the need to be. Still. To live simply and off the grid. I’m a firm believer in manifesting what I want. I don’t believe in complaining about anything unless I’m willing to change it and I’m well aware that the only one who can bring me back to myself is me, so I did what I needed to do in order to recalibrate. See, I’d had a long, grueling academic year and was exhausted – mind, body, and spirit. The year had been filled with new developments, big and small challenges, relentless grading, several successes, and a little growth. It was a good year, but an emotionally challenging one that often brought me home feeling haggard and disjointed. I was ready to recharge and do for me and me alone, guided by nothing but the moment.

So that night, I packed a tiny overnight suitcase and less than two weeks later, I boarded a plane to paradise. I was greeted at the airport by a handsome and familiar face that had grown up way too soon and he whisked me away to Antigua. The first day, I settled into an AirBnB that I intentionally chose outside of central Antigua because my spirit needed silence. I was running away from noise, the clamor of constant movement, the squeaks of external expectations and the grunts of over-stimulation. And I had finally reached nirvana. The home was a lovely two-floor hideaway complete with a meditation room, garden, koi pond, Guatemalan sauna, mini library, and rooftop deck with unobstructed views of Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. As luck would have it, I even got the entire home to myself for a mere $315 for 14 days. Yes, I had hit the jackpot and I couldn’t wait to bask in the lujo of it all.

The next day, I decided to walk to town (40 minutes away) to re-acclimate myself and grab some groceries. I’d taken a few snapshots and had a few “oh, I remember this street” moments before I decided to go to one of my favorite little spots, Café Condesa. While taking in a modest breakfast of an over easy egg, black beans and a single panqueque in the patio area, I was asked to move inside because it was about to rain. I happily obliged and settled for watching the flitting hummingbirds from a distance. It’s the rainy season (with a forecast of rain each day I was scheduled to be there), so I just figured my luck for the day had run out. I finished eating and stepped outside where there were dozens of people standing under the terrace. As I was stepping into the street, I saw the same sweet face, Leo, who had picked me up from the airport and he told me to stay put because of the “rain.” He told me, “Tinita, look closely.”

I noticed that it was raining something that looked like mud drops. It quickly covered cars as those driving in it tried fruitlessly to clear the sludge from their windshields. He told me it was ash from Fuego. I was in amazement at what I was witnessing and my friend told me that it happens occasionally and that we just needed to wait it out. We were none the wiser. None of us in central Antigua had any idea of the destruction that was occurring at that very moment, as there is no alert system in place for these types of catastrophes. We thought it would be like the other minor eruptions that blew ceniza, arena or polvo all over the place. See, Volcán de Fuego is an active volcano and is one of the beautiful attractions of Antigua. There are 37 volcanoes in Guatemala and three are active at this time (Pacaya which I climbed in 2004 and Santiaguito). I chose a home with a rooftop deck just so that I could see that mesmerizing lava snaking down the side of Fuego in the evenings when all is calm and dark. That wasn’t the scene this time.

News reports later revealed that this was pyroclastic lava spewing hundreds of feet in the air and careening downwards between 30 and 90 miles per hour, demolishing everything in its path. Unwittingly, I’d found myself bearing witness to a catastrophic natural and national disaster that would take many lives and disrupt the lives of many others. What I saw was citizens and tourists taking immediate action once they realized the tragedy at hand. The grocery stores and streets of Antigua were filled with people buying and donating goods to support those in urgent need. Firefighters stood in roadways soliciting donations in between saving lives. Rusted pick-up trucks carried volunteers and supplies to and from the sites of tragedy.

Fortunately, the eruption didn’t have the same tragic impact where I was staying. Outside of lots of clean up, as there was ash everywhere, and the fear of breathing in ash or it getting into our eyes (most wore masks), we were quite safe in Antigua which is about 9-10 miles away from Fuego. Those living in places near the base of Fuego such as Alotenango, El Rodeo, and San Miguel los Lotes were heavily impacted and that’s where the majority of the casualties were. The news reported that Antigua was the place of the destruction because as one of the biggest tourist hubs, it has name recognition. That’s why I got dozens of frantic calls and texts from concerned family and friends asking if I was safe. I was. I still am. I’m not a martyr nor an adrenaline junkie, so if I felt unsafe, I’d leave. And so I remain.

There’s a saying about how life is what happens when you have other plans. My plan was to have an uneventful, insulated time in Antigua, but this event has taught me some valuable lessons.

  • I can’t run away from external stressors. They will find me anyway. So instead of running to an imaginary sanctuary, my focus has to be on developing better emotional responses to my stressors. I feel things and people deeply and this has always been my gift and my curse. I need to work to care while simultaneously detaching, putting down baggage that isn’t mine and managing the baggage that is. And thank you to my dear friend Tory and sage Pema Chödrön who helped me to arrive at this revelation. My sanctuary has to be internal, starting with my mind and spirit, then my fantastic support system of family and friends. I am blessed to have the type of top to bottom support that I do.
  • No matter where I am on God’s green earth, I am connected to community and with that comes responsibility. People checked on me and I them. We worked together to do our part in making things better on the ground. There were no heroes, there was no centering of the self involved. It was about prayer, direct action and service to others, to our global family. We are one.
  • Being sola is still really, really good for me. I’m a loud ass introvert, though most of y’all still don’t believe it and I need time to myself, my thoughts. I love going days without having to talk or exchange energy or explain or silence myself due to the fragility of others or share my space. The quiet time, this alone time, is restorative in a way that cleanses me and makes me feel very much alive and free.
  • Destruction and profound beauty can co-exist. I wanted to get away from the U.S. for awhile. The energy of the nation had me sad, anxious, angry, and spent often. Well, I hopped from one type of destructive setting (under Trump obviously) to a natural disaster. And through it, there was still tremendous beauty, love, light, and joy to be found. This holds true as well in my own home of America, if I allow it. While I fight for justice or fight battles at work, I can take all the time I need to revel in the beauty of life, shifting the energy to be one of love and light simply because I exist. I must tap into my power much more frequently.
  • No place is perfect. Paradise is an illusion. Life is what you make it, no matter where you are or who you are, so make that shit count. Every day. Live.

If you’d like to donate funds to support those impacted by the eruption of Volcán de Fuego, a trusted friend’s partner is coordinating efforts in Antigua. Click the link:

https://www.gofundme.com/guatemalan-relief

A la buena vida, Tina

Dancing the Summer Away

dance
Dancing is my little magic place. Not just any dancing. I mean sista girl, African-rooted, fierce gyration. I gave birth to my female essence prior to Shakira’s shake and Beyonce’s booty bounce. I wind my hips so well that I make Jamaican girls jealous. They used to call me belly dancing Tina and as I popped and swirled in my orbit, they’d all crowd around. I felt powerful. I felt sensual. I was free.

As house music went to Paris, hip-hop moved in and I went from jacking it up to dropping it like it was hot, it being my ass. It was a different feel, a little harder, with an 808 drumbeat. The baseline made me do things like cabbage patch, wop it, and lean back for Fat Joe. I wore hip-hop well; my former househead grooves fitting it like a glove.

Admittedly, I fell in love with hip-hop and our relationship grew. The music made me think about revolution, about fighting for the right to be me, all the while, still dancing. Hip-Hop made me think about being in charge, Ms. Latifah, telling me that ladies came first. Rakim, Poor Righteous Teachers and KRS-1 told me over and over and over again, that I was a queen. They sang it, they rapped it, and I loved it. My hips rocked even harder, this time, with fists in the air.

Then something went wrong. The balance was broken. In the eyes of hip-hop’s second generation, around the way girls became gold diggers and yesterday’s queens became bitches and hoes. I found it hard to gyrate or to breathe in the toxic air. I left the clubs and in the process, left my main man, hip-hop. I convinced myself that I didn’t need him anyway. I didn’t need to dance.

I went home, brokenhearted with loss of sound and rhythm. My body wouldn’t move like it used to. I felt dirty. I felt like a hypocrite. I was ashamed. Once you become a queen, you can’t revert back to hoodrat status. My hips wouldn’t lie. They refused my ex-lover, refusing to accept any more abuse.

I moved forward without hip-hop. I moved to England and sampled a new lover. One, two, three. On your feet. Plié, relevé, pas de bourrée! For the first time in my life, my butt was too big to dance, or so the teacher told me. My body rejected that notion and the form. My soul turned up its nose. There was no space for my hips to sway. Therefore, no love for me. Ballet was dead in my mind. I could no longer kick, ball, chain in order to erase the old me. Me was all that I had.

So here I dance, into my own sphere. It’s a space where I am not defined by music, form or words, but by my own experiences and rhythms, from hip-hop to salsa, from kukere to bop. I can snake my pelvis upwards and hear the drum of my heart. I can dip, twirl, grip my hips, grasping my power, my freedom to be a woman. I am ferocious. I know it. I am love. Ummmhmm. Once again, moving to the dance of my life. Yes, I am a dancing queen, dizzy with possibility, strength and light.

How to Keep the One You Love

1.) Make sure he/she loves you back. Love needs to be reciprocal and just because you love someone doesn’t mean they are obligated to love you in return. Be honest with yourself and determine whether this person is really deserving of your love or even wants your love. Sometimes we want love so much, that we accept anything shiny that comes into view. Stop chasing those who don’t want you and stop engaging those who aren’t worthy of your precious love. Choose your mate wisely and be sure that the feelings and level of commitment are mutually strong.

2.) Know that he/she doesn’t belong to you like a pet or a toy. If God has ordained it, then it’s meant to be. You can’t control whether someone goes or stays. Don’t be jealous, overbearing and overly concerned about his/her whereabouts and his/her need to be alone at times. Both of you deserve a certain level of independence where you can have guiltless time away from each other. This means you need to trust him/her and his/her intentions. If you don’t, maybe you shouldn’t be in the relationship because distrust causes unnecessary tress and drama.

It’s healthy to have your own lives and interests as well as mutual interests and quality time together. Sometimes we avoid being alone because we aren’t our own best friends first. You have to know, love and enjoy you before you can know, love and enjoy someone else because if you don’t have the former, you will find yourself lost when your partner tries to have his/her own life. A relationship isn’t a melting pot where both people need to lose who they are in order to be together. Positive alone time can help you grow together and appreciate the time that you do have.

3.) Be happy in your own right. An unhappy person will eventually make his or her partner unhappy and the relationship will fail. Happiness in self is a prerequisite for happiness in a relationship. Do you know how much of a gift you are to this earth? Are you manifesting your destiny? Are you love personified? Do you know that happiness is your birthright and that only you can claim it for yourself? We have choices and some of us choose to be miserable, to complain incessantly, to feel we aren’t worthy of true love, to believe that we can’t have the things we desire most, and to believe that we can’t be genuinely happy. Well, that’s poppycock.

It’s all about saying yes to the best outcomes of our lives and about how we positively deal with the many challenges that will come our way. Circumstances can be crummy at times and we can still make a choice to be happy and thankful for the things we do have. Being happy by any means necessary literally changes your whole vibration. Happy people attract good energy and everyone wants to be around one with positive energy – including the one you love. That actually makes you more attractive. The more you work on yourself and fulfilling your passions, the more powerful, loving energy emanates from you. If you have someone who is secure and is on the same path, this is a huge turn-on and will make him or her love you even more – the beauty they see in you being your best, most fulfilled and loving self.

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you dedicated individuals that raise and uplift children (and adults) to their best selves with each unconditional breath. We honor you and know that parenting has always been more about love than gender. On this day, we celebrate what you do every day, sans flowers. I’ve written a small tribute to my fabulous mother at TheRoot.com. Enjoy!

The Safe Stud: Can gender-bending be a safety issue for women?

I was having a conversation with a friend about her baby sister who recently came out as lesbian. Although she was supportive of her sister being lesbian, she was concerned and frustrated that her sister was privately dressing and posturing “like a boy”. We discussed the pervasiveness of this trend amongst young women, especially young African-American women in urban areas. I went into bootleg LGTBQ educator mode and told her about transphobia and how this can be more isolating and vicious than homophobia at times, even within the LGBTQ community. Then I suggested that my friend research the terms “boi” and transgender and follow-up by asking her sister how she identifies. She then shared that her sister used the term “stud” to identify herself. After discussing the gender binary and how fluid and non-conforming it can be in the LGBTQ community, I began to look beyond personal preference/identity and into the possibility of the need to feel safe for young girls in urban communities.

Could dressing like a stud or boi, regardless of sexual orientation or being transgender, possibly be a radical feminist decision to feel safer in a male-dominated, hypersexualized society? Women are highly sexualized and consistently harassed on a daily basis upon leaving their homes. We are often seen as expendable sex objects who exist only for male consumption and are frequently expected to submit to unwanted advances for fear of being perceived as a bitch or snob. Whether we don tight jeans, a professional business suit or a dress, we are equally solicited, fawned and pawed upon like strippers in the club. Being a female, it’s hard to escape the constant advances and most females (once they reach puberty) can attest to this. This is especially the case for teenaged girls who seem exceedingly susceptible. Grown men honk or gawk at the asses of underage girls like the pedophiles they are and many boys seem on hormonal overload with their pitiful attempts to talk to and grab just about every girl they see.

The Young Women’s Action Team in Chicago does community activism around stopping street harassment from boys and men towards girls and women. This is because of the pervasiveness of young girls and women being repeatedly advanced upon and harassed by males when walking down the street or taking public transportation. It usually begins with “Hey baby” or “yo shorty” and escalates to groping, threatening, intimidating, or worse when advances are ignored or dismissed. 86% of the respondents surveyed reported that they had been catcalled (i.e. “Hey cutie” or “Come here!”) and 53% felt like they could not do anything to stop street harassment. I personally have been called foul names from cars filled with guys, had bottles thrown at me for not responding in kind to advances, and have been stalked and fondled on public transportation by adult men old enough to be my father and grandfather, respectively.

So how have young women adapted to or rejected this sick reality? Some carry weapons and rape whistles. Some comply and feign interest or quietly continue to be harassed until they can make an exit. Some girls provide plenty of attitude and sass, despite the names they may be called. And more radically, I suspect that some have gone stud and transformed into bois before our very eyes. Yes, some females are studs as part of their gender and or sexual identity, but I think there is more to the story that is seldom discussed or considered. Women and girls often do not feel safe or respected in public. This worsens at night and in isolated areas or walking through throngs of guys. So can dressing in “masculine” attire create a sense of power, control and intentional obscurity for young girls and women? It’s possible. There is a keen power in not having to worry about anyone following you home or harassing you for your phone number when you look similar to the male perpetrator. Since homophobia and the “no-homo” mantra is so rampant, many young men won’t publicly advance upon someone with their masculine likeness, whether male or female. Young urban girls, both straight and queer, are more frequently wearing masculine clothing and a rugged persona more than ever before. It can be said that this is in direct retaliation to harassment and becoming a stud shouts, “I am powerful. I am not afraid. I will not be a target. I will not play your games. I am your equal. Do not talk to, look at or touch me or you will meet your match.” Now some would say that this is an extreme possibility, but I would argue that extreme circumstances demand extreme measures and that we subconsciously cope and adapt to the environment as a means of our very survival.

My mother, a non-gender conforming lesbian, called me on the shift in my dress code while I was attending undergrad. She made me aware that I no longer dressed “femme” and had gone through a dramatic metamorphosis by cutting off my hair into a short, uncomplicated fro, and wearing tattered, baggy jeans, Timberland or combat boots, fatigues, and huge t-shirts under an array of faded thrift store flannels. My excuse was that it was just who I was (at that moment) and that I was probably influenced by hip-hop culture to be naturally rugged. She saw something more, something more insidious. She reminded me of all of the negative and jarring incidents I’d had with strange men and annoying boys through the years and suggested that I had gone into a sort of hiding, a camouflage of whom I really was, burying the feminine deep inside.

Initially, I rejected her accusation because I was strong and publicly feared no one. Everyone knew this. Tina was no punk. Tina was a fighter in every sense of the word and had taken out many men to accentuate this fact. But after processing my mother’s statements later, I realized that there was some truth to her words which added to the complexity of whom I had become. I was tired of being assaulted and had grown fearful of being me – a sultry, eccentric, risk-taking young diva – because it brought me unwanted attention and didn’t allow boys or men to take me seriously or see me as a human being. That reality saddened me. The problem is that it wasn’t and isn’t just my reality. We have a nation of young girls and women donning the urban burka of saggy pants, bound breasts, and oversized tees and shirts – trying to just fit in without being sexualized as soon as eyes are laid upon us. Some of these girls are willing to sacrifice or cut off their femininity to protect their existence and to preserve their spirits.

So whether a small percentage of girls and women are drastically covering up and shifting the paradigm as a political act or an act of survival isn’t worth arguing over. What I’m trying to cast light on is that although we should have the flexibility to dress and project the images that we wish, we should not feel pressured to go outside of who we are as a response to sexual harassment. We need to address the issue directly. Men and boys must take responsibility for their actions and begin policing themselves and each other. Girls and women must use their voices to say “Stop! This is unacceptable.” Women and men must teach their sons how to appropriately address, relate to, and respect girls and women. Girls and women must learn to respect themselves and demand it from others. If our youth do not know better, we have failed them. We need to begin to see each other as human, not conquests and perps. We can’t see women as merely sex objects, just as we can’t only view men as potential victimizers and purveyors of sexism. There is responsibility and blame all around.

This has to be a collaborative effort and we have to be honest about how we see each other and how we interact with one another. There is an unhealthy relationship that can’t be rectified if we don’t acknowledge that there is a problem. I’m here to say it. “There is a problem.” Our young girls and women have been under attack and the individuals responsible don’t even know that they are playing part of the vicious cycle of disrespect, subjugation and victimization of the very women that they proclaim to want to protect and connect with. It doesn’t end with your daughter or mine. We have to protect all of society’s daughters, whether feminine, old, young, or stud.

P.S. Someone commented on another site that I did not address violence towards female-to-male trans persons. I apologize for the omission, as I was trying to make another point. The trans community is indeed under attack and are often the victims of violence and being a “stud” will not automatically protect one from this sad reality.

Weary Bones and New Ways

New Hair for New Ways

Okay, another year has gone by with a few steps back and several leaps forward for me. Once again, I met Mr. December feeling tired, strained, lethargic, and stressed from the inside out. I had weird pimples, boils, dry hair, a sore throat, back pain, a funky attitude, and a runny nose to accompany how I felt. Was it a bad year? No. It was probably one of the most exciting, productive, and eventful of my life, but even good stress can be stressful and problematic on the body, mind and spirit, if we’re not careful. My spirit has been low lately and I know it has more to do with what I’m not doing than what I’m doing. Let’s recap.

This year, I completed my fourth year of teaching high school (after a big career change) which I continue and love, though it is much more difficult with the budget cuts and high demands. I spent the summer learning Spanish in Central America with my family and it was fantastic and a dream come true. I published my first book, Let’s Get This Straight, with COLAGE. (Yes, I still need you to buy a copy. Then gift another.) I started putting money aside for me FIRST from each check before paying bills. It’s starting to look something like a real savings account. What a concept. (Suze Orman told me this about five years ago and I still didn’t listen.) I cut the perm off of my hair and am all “naptural” for the third time since college. It feels awesome and liberating. I’ve run/walked two 5ks since October. And for the first time in about ten years, I did not gain my usual 10-20 winter pounds. I can proudly say that I’m still at my summer weight due to keeping up some semblance of a workout regimen and gulping down only two measly slices of sweet potato pie this entire holiday season! THAT took more dedication than all of the rest combined. Now those are all of the wonderful things accomplished, but here’s what I didn’t do – I didn’t stop to breathe. Literally. I didn’t listen when my body begged for rest. I kept working. I kept writing. I kept parenting. I kept hustling. I kept it moving. I kept it moving without pause because that’s what mothers do. That’s what worker bees do. That’s what wives do. That’s what high achievers do. That’s what hard-headed people do. That’s what successful, driven people do. Right? Yes, and then they crash and burn. And I did.

By Dec 1st, I felt lifeless, aimless, moody, and selfish for not wanting to do a thing. Nothing. I wanted to sleep. I felt lazy because I had no desire to cook for my family or write a sentence. A sane person would have taken a sick day back in October, but like all insane people, I saved them for when my child got sick and when I had a media obligation for the book – leaving me sick as SOON as my winter break hit on December 17th. Great. That pissed me off because I was wasting good rest time on being sick. I was feeling so down in the dumps that I actually Googled signs of depression (my first step before calling the therapist) and took three on-line depression quizzes and they all said, “No, you’re not depressed, asshole. You’re tired.” Since I like it when computers talk dirty to me, I smiled and then took my ass to sleep.

I slept for 12 hours straight. The past few days, I have gone to bed early, awaken late, taken my vitamins, drank water (which I forgot existed), called family to shoot the breeze, ran to the library and stocked up on book about my latest passion – astronomy/moon cycles & it’s relationship to the feminine, and watched some Netflix movies from my cue. Then, as if on cue, my best friend a.k.a my hubby gave me TWO spa gift certificates and has been cooking consistently or ordering out since our winter break began. He even taught our 8yr old to cook a couple more meals outside of PB&J and cold turkey. I’m going walking today right after my midday nap. Then I’ll cook an ultra light dinner and rest some more. Am I feeling better and more energized? Definitely. Am I cured? Hell nawl. If I’m not careful, I will repeat the same tomfoolery next year. It boils down to self-care. Haven’t we heard this term for years? Women don’t take care of themselves. And we clearly know how because we take care of everyone else. We know all of the reasons we don’t take care of ourselves from excuses and martyrdom to lack of self love and downright stupidity. Regardless of your reason, join me in my de-stressing and self-care crusade. It’s time to unhinge the nails and jump off the cross. Here’s my New Year’s gift to you:

Top 10 Ways to De-Stress and Be Healthy (and not be a dope in 2011)

1. Take Care of Yourself – You don’t have to put yourself first every time, but every fourth time wouldn’t be so bad. Write a list of things you absolutely love to do (or would like to do if you had a chance) – both simple and great. Make sure that it’s not all material because that isn’t true happiness anyway. Once a week (or more if you’re daring), do something on this list, without fail. One of the first things on that list that should occur over and over again better be TIME, young lady. Time to paint your toenails. Time to read. Time to nap. Time to pray and meditate. Time to exercise. Time to dance. Time to sit down in comfort and with remote in hand. Time to make pralines. Time to call a friend. Time to give thanks and take it all in.

2. Say Good-Bye to Stressful People – Drop the negative friends and family members like you drop that butt in your Flirty Girls Fitness class. If you feel drained, stressed or like a negative ball of light after talking to that certain person, stop picking up the phone so much. Adopted stress is a silly, but real source of stress. We allow others to share their stress and make it our stress. One should share flowers, tomatoes, good sex tips, and money, not baggage and eternally bad times. I’m an honest, cold turkey sort of girl, so telling them what the challenge is in the relationship, setting boundaries and agreeing to part if we can’t agree to those boundaries is my way. It’s turned out both bad and good, so beware with this method. If you’re an Elvis, “don’t be cruel” sort of gal, then reframe negative conversations and be the positive charge. That every fifth Sunday when you do answer the call, text or email, don’t be the “uh huh, uh huh” person who only listens to the drama. Speak. Say what you want them to know and string in positive messages and then get the hell out of the conversation before it turns stressful. “Girl, it’s been great talking to you, bye!”

3. Don’t Struggle for the Struggle – Many of us bleeding hearts, non-profiteer types, love the idea of healing the world. We fight, shout and kick hard. We don’t admit it, but we love the martyrdom of the struggle. We think it’s kickass. We know we’re fierce and doing the real work. We work passionately for those issues we care about and we advocate fearlessly on behalf of the voiceless and powerless. However, we render ourselves powerless when we allow the perpetual struggle to wash over our lives. You can be part of the struggle without the constant mental and physical struggle you put yourself through. You need boundaries. You need safe, comforting, me-time space or you will burn out and have nothing left to give to those you are so passionate about. My father in law, Baba Koleoso, told me that you will end up bitter because you will realize that even with your life’s work and tireless commitment, the struggle will still be there. His life is a testament to that statement. Take time to refresh, recharge and live the fun life you’re also meant to have. Fight the struggle without becoming the struggle.

4. Keep it Simple, Sista – We have become much too complicated. Too cerebral. Too highfalutin. Bring it down a zillion watts and chill the hell out. One of the nicest days I had in this dizzying fall/winter season was taking a five mile walk in the drizzling snow along the lake. It was quiet and peaceful. It was walking meditation and too beautiful an experience for me to be cold. Don’t worry about the small stuff or the stuff that didn’t get done today. The work will always be there. Don’t put on any make-up and barely comb your hair. Just be you in your simple splendor. If you throw a party, let it be about the people, not the pomp. If you’re thinking of an outing with your child, go cheap and meaningful – like a walk downtown looking at architecture or winter stargazing or sketching pictures of each other for that barren hallway of yours. Even if hysterically ugly, it’ll make you smile every time you glance at it.

5. Stop When You Need To – We do not listen to ourselves – to our minds, our bodies, nor our spirits. We know when to stop, but we keep going. For what? Tell me. Wait, I don’t want to hear your excuses. I have my own. Life is not a race. Life is not meant to be torture. And don’t get too big-headed. Life will go on without you. (No, not as good, but it will.) So stop and just be. There’s something powerful and restorative in just being, just taking a step away from everything. I don’t care if you stop once each morning or ten minutes during lunch or an hour on the weekends, but you need to stop and rest. Stop and breathe. Stop and smile. We burn out because we take too long to realize that we are on fire. Start listening to yourself or that lovely person in your life who reminds you to be kind to YOU. It is fine to be passionate and goal-oriented, but the smart person knows that it’s not about how fast it’s done, but that it’s done well. There is an Ashanti proverb that reads, “The moon moves slowly, but it crosses the town.” We are the moon, going through life’s cycles, complete and willing to shine our light, but within our time. Know when to stop, keep it simple, release the struggle, and take care of yourself. We need the moon like the universe needs you – give it to them, but on your own terms and in your own time. Remain brilliant, but slow it down. Love and caress your spirit like you love the world. Rest and replenish so that you can carry on with your critically important work. This post is dedicated to a lovely word: BALANCE. We can do it, just like we do everything else. Ashe!

And I thought there would be ten things, but I’m learning when to stop, so we will leave it at five and the world will go on and I will go take my afternoon nap and you will do something just as self-nurturing and wonderful for yourself. Happy Holidays!