The Girl Before the Girlfriend

Listen to The Girl Before the Girlfriend

“So you know how on one of your Sister Talks Podcast episodes you said ‘I’m the girl before the marriage’ or whatever? It was in reference to all of your exes getting serious with the next person they found. Well, that is not necessarily a bad thing, sis. That means that you know how to help coach a boy to be a man. But the day will come that you will meet a man that does not need to be coached–I am talking about a man that is already everything you need because God has made him just for you. Do not get discouraged because all things work for the good of those who love the Lord, and sometimes God has to take a little more time on the blessings that are for the believers with favor.”


On an episode of the podcast I formerly co-hosted with my best friend/sister Alexandria, we discussed everything related to relationships. If you are interested in listening to that episode, it is still available for your listening pleasure here. In that episode, we each gave an account of what our dating life was like in the past, and I titled mine “The Girl Before the Girlfriend” or “The One That Got Away”. We recorded this episode at the beginning of 2018, and I honestly had to go back and listen to it again to see what my narrative was then in order to compare it to what it is now.

So what is the “girl before the girlfriend”, exactly? It is literally what it sounds like. Majority of my dating experience has been encounters with men who claimed they were not interested in or ready for a relationship, but shortly after our “situation” concluded (and sometimes during) they ended up in a relationship. Even as far back as high school I have literally been building men for other women. That is not a task I wanted to take on nor is it my responsibility, but it is the role I have allowed myself to play.

I have attracted males who were right on the brink of their next phase of life, males who were broken, and males who were not yet whole. Essentially, males who were lost. I opened myself and my heart and put forth my best effort to add value to them in whatever way was needed at the time. I journeyed with them from “not ready” to “ready”, but unfortunately for me this resulted in someone else reaping the benefits of my effort. They were ready, but not with me. It caused me to believe that there was something wrong with me and that I had to be doing something wrong.

So you must be wondering if this happened to me again? Surprise! Yes beloved, it did. The storyline of what happened is far less important than the lessons I learned this time, so we will focus on that and leave the rest where it is at. So the quote at the beginning of this post came in the version of a text message from my sorority sister and dear friend Shaquila. It came shortly after the situation referred to above, and it was right on time. It honestly gave me the courage to get back out into the dating world and try again.

Moment of transparency: I will admit that this situation shook me to the core. I have had my heart broken twice before, and I definitely coin this as the third. A part of me still cannot believe that here I am, again, singing the same sad song. I have questioned my self-worth over and over again, trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Am I crazy? Am I not attractive? What am I lacking? What do these other women have that I do not? It has taken a lot of emotional work to get back to a healthy, whole place. The journey is not easy, but I owe it to myself to do the work.

The biggest lesson I have learned as a result of this last experience is acceptance. I was faced with two options: either accept what type of lover I am or change who I am. I decided to go with acceptance and this has helped me tremendously. I recognize what role I have played in each relationship. I have an “all-in” approach when it comes to my relationships with other people, and I exhaust every option before I walk away. This is just who I am, and I believe this quality will make me a great partner to someone one day. I have also accepted that this approach can cause me to get hurt. Recognizing this allows me to focus my energy on how to either lessen that hurt or find ways to work through and process it better.

Next lesson: I have let go of all the rules. Society is great at telling you what a relationship should be, look, and feel like. Instagram is full of relationship experts, and you can find at least three love gurus on Twitter. Even celebrity couples will have you creating ideas and idolizing their love stories. I am no longer interested in all of that. When I am blessed with a relationship my partner and I will do whatever works for us. Focusing on what “they” say is stressful and can cause you to miss out on your blessing or deal with things that are less than you deserve.

In closing, I have learned what I want in a partner. I mean, I really know. In the past I have always had a great idea about what I was looking for, I have prayed for the type of man I want, etc. But now there is a certain conviction in my spirit and I know for sure. Refer to 1 Corinthians 13. Read the whole chapter, but verse 4 tells you what love is. I want someone who embodies all of those things. If I cannot read your name in place of the word “love” in those verses, you are not the person for me. It took me a long time to truly figure this out. In the past my therapist asked me what I want in a partner, and I could only tell her what I knew I did not want. I could never exactly verbalize anything positive. I think I was making it more complicated than I needed to. Now it is pretty simple.

Moment of transparency: One of the lowest moments in my dating life was allowing someone to stand in front of me and tell me how they did not want me. Repeatedly. And instead of walking away, I stayed and begged this person to see me. To give me a chance. To love me. I have never felt more vulnerable or small than I did in those moments. I wish I would have recognized then that the person was not my 1 Corinthians 13 and that the conversation was full of everything but love.

So here I am, still “The Girl Before the Girlfriend”, but I know this is not the life God has for me. Like Shaquila said, God has a man created just for me. A man who will see my worth from the very beginning. A man that I may have to teach a few things, but he will be a man on his own. A man that will feel like home. Love was my word for 2017 and is my word for 2018, so I am not giving up.

What is your love story? Take some time to reflect on your relationships. Focus on what they have taught you and how they have made you better. Look at how far you’ve come, regardless of your relationship status. If you are one of those people who feel like they are not “ready” for a relationship, consider this concept I talk about in the podcast episode.

In Wale’s “The Matrimony” featuring Usher, the song starts out with a dialogue about how regardless of the plans you make, you cannot truly be “ready” for marriage because it requires you to grow. As with any growth, you cannot be ready for it, because it is new. You change and become someone new. Marriage is a stage of a relationship right? Right. So the same logic applies, beloved. The right relationships will cause you to grow, whether you think you are ready or not. You cannot say “wait God, no no. I am not ready to grow.” It just happens. You can spend your whole life planning, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go for it. Leave the excuses behind, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

Disclaimer: Do not get into a relationship if you have no intention of doing right by the other person. I do believe there is a necessary mental state to be in before you start dating, so please don’t “be” out here playing games. You know if you are in the right frame of mind to engage with other people. My advice is to those who think they have to have “x, y, and z” in order before they can be open to dating.


“How lit would it be to have someone to do life with?” x Anaston Jeni

S is for Silhouette

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A couple of weekends ago I finally watched Nappily Ever After, & boy did it strike a nerve! It is amazing how a movie can put so many things into perspective that you thought you had dealt with or had forgotten about.

I have been extremely hard on myself lately, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. What’s funny is that I thought I had outgrown this phase—I was sure that I had reached a place where I was confident in the way I look. Now, do not get me wrong, I have been feeling rather “pretty” lately. I have been wearing less makeup, pulling my hair back more, taking the time to dress myself up, etc…but at the core, there are still insecurities there that have been buried under the surface.

So, if you have not seen Nappily Ever After, you should. I will not spend this post telling you about the story line, but I can say that I related to the main character in a plethora ways—mainly her desire to maintain this “ideal” aesthetic. 

I went through the phase with my hair where I wanted nothing but “sleek” looks. If my hair was not flat-ironed or roller-set, I did not feel pretty. Wearing my natural hair just did not “do it” for me, and deep down I knew I had to make a change. I believe I cracked the surface of this issue by deciding to go natural my junior year of high school, but the real work of loving my natural hair has been done over the last few years. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have taken care of my hair well enough to not only restore it to a healthy state, but to also maintain it’s health in the midst of color changes and various styles over the years. I now have an appreciation for the hair that has grown out of my own scalp, hair that has taught me patience and perseverance. I chose to transition as opposed to doing a big chop, because I wanted to “force” myself to appreciate the present and to learn how to deal with things as they are. I decided a big chop/cutting all of my hair off was not necessary for me to love myself. There are so many beautiful women who have been taking this step lately, and I commend them for it; however, I choose to stay true to myself and do what works for me.

Like the main character in Nappily, it actually causes me stress and anxiety when I wear my hair roller-set or flat-ironed. I find myself constantly checking the weather—especially to figure out the humidity levels for the day and week. Wearing my hair natural allows me to be free from worry. It could rain, snow, or be hot and sunny—my hair would be just fine. That is the type of freedom that I long for.

I also went through this phase with my weight. I talk about my weight journey in a previous post—you can read it here. As I have gotten older, (especially within the last year or two) I have realized the importance of being physically strong over trying to look a certain way. Fun fact: I have minimal upper body strength. This lack of strength has contributed to terrible posture in my shoulders and tons of knots, which cause me to feel tense ninety percent of the time. To combat this constant state of uncomfortableness I get massages at least monthly and previously saw a physical therapist. She was the one who informed me that the knots would go away the more I build up the strength in those muscles. So, I recently hired a personal trainer to help me build the strength my body so desperately needs. In the end, I  would rather have a body that is strong than look a certain way and not be healthy. 

After watching the movie, I felt this immense desire of wanting to feel beautiful. So, I did the only thing I could think of—I took off all my clothes, took my hair down and brushed it out. I sat myself down in front of my bedroom mirror until I felt like I had appreciated myself enough, and once I was done I danced all around that bedroom and even in my bathroom mirror. In those moments, I felt more free and beautiful than I had with any particular hair style and any outfit.

It was such a vulnerable thing to do, even if the only person that could see me was me. My instant reaction was to pick apart my appearance and list all of my imperfections, but I forced myself to shift my perspective and bring an end to the negative self-talk. I decided to pick things that I love about my appearance. For example, I love how plump my lips are, and how they sit on my face. I love my tattoos and the story they tell about the things I have experienced in my life. I love the stretch marks I have and how they remind me of how remarkable growth can be. I love the dimples in my back and the length of my legs. In that moment, I just love(d) me.

I have come to the realization that loving yourself is a lifelong process. As you mature and grow in age, so does your appreciation for everything that God created you to be. My perception of beauty constantly evolves as I adapt to this thing called life, and I know that the greatest feat of all is to love myself wholly and fully. As I continue to grow older and as my body changes, I pray that I am always able to recognize how beautiful I truly am. 

What does the word “beautiful” mean to you? I pray that you see yourself as the beautiful creation that you are. Try the same thing I did–get undressed and sit in front of yourself in the mirror. Tell your reflection at least three things that you like about yourself. Love on yourself until you feel confident and can fully appreciate the magnificence of your body. As India Arie says, have a private party! 

 

“I’m gonna take off all my clothes, look at myself in the mirror. We’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna heal the disconnection. I don’t remember where it started, but this is where it’s gonna end. My body is beautiful and sacred, and I’m gonna celebrate it.” x India.Arie 

R is for Rejection

Play “R is for Rejection”

 

 

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re•ject•tion

noun

the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc.

the spurning of a person’s affections

So let’s be honest, as much as people like to say that they accept rejection in stride, no one really likes being rejected. Personally, I have been feeling like rejection has been walking with me attached to my hip for the last few months. There are jobs I have applied for that I did not get—many, many jobs. I’ve been spurned by people, both romantically and platonic, so lately I have been trying to figure out what I am doing wrong or if there is something wrong with me.

It is easy to focus on the negative when you start to reflect on the “no”s you might be receiving; it can be quite discouraging and even overwhelming. It is likely your ego is bruised and you are trying to pick up pieces of your face after having so many doors slammed in it…but Beloved, during these times you have to ask yourself which outweighs the other—the rejections or the blessings? Most likely there are only a few instances where you have been rejected—and even then, if you look closely enough, I am sure God has blessed you with something greater.

So how do I deal with rejection?

Honestly, I am still working on this. I have been incorporating a lot of positive self-talk in those moments where I start to question myself or the things I am doing. I try to focus on how I feel about myself, not how other people feel about me, so that my sense of self-value remains in tact. I also encourage myself to find the blessings in my life and thank God for those gifts. Creating a spirit of gratitude often softens the blow of disappointment and allows me to shift my way of thinking.

I try to combat feelings of regret. There are very few things that I regret in life—I put forth a lot of effort to be okay with all of the decisions I make regardless of the outcome. This process involves looking at situations as a learning experience and using them for further self-discovery and self-mastery. I ask myself what each situation is teaching me, even if the lesson hurts a bit. Growth is not always easy, but it is always necessary.

How do you deal with rejection? Responses to this particular journal question ranged from looking at rejection as “it is their loss, and at least I tried”; to “remembering that rejection does not determine my value. I am still important, and I am still loved”; “you cannot get everything you want, sometimes things will not go your way”; and “the right job, person, situation, etc. is right around the corner”. There is not one set way to dealing with rejection—we all process things differently. Find a healthy coping mechanism for you and be sure to put it into action the next time a “no” comes to visit.

Rejection is the sand in the oyster, the irritant that ultimately produces the pearl. x Burke Wilkinson

Winter? Is That You, Playa?

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We made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas is rapidly approaching, & the weather is changing– it’s obvious that 2017 is coming to an end! The months of November & December tend to be the hardest for people, no matter who you are, & unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into “seasonal depression” & experience anxiety.

As I’ve gotten older these Winter months have previously been more difficult for me, too. The weather & lack of light cause me to want to stay inside, keep to myself, & sleep. Conditions like these make it easy for me to lose motivation, focus on negative things, & experience deep levels of disappointment & sadness. Because my family is spread out, holidays aren’t as big as they used to be, which can also cause some sadness here & there.

So it is my goal for the rest of 2017 to keep my energy high & full of positivity. I want to maintain my happiness, continue loving myself, & be grateful for everything God has blessed me with. I am determined to make Winter the best it can be, & here’s how I am going to do it:

  1. Write a list of everything I accomplished in 2017. It seems like 2017 wasn’t a great year for many people; my Twitter feed is full of tweets with people confessing how rough of a year it was, how they are ready for it to be over, etc. (What’s funny is that I️ wrote these very same sentences in Block Queen in 2016. It’s really disheartening to see that the same things are happening all over again, a year later.) Though we don’t realize it, negativity like this can fuel depression & anxiety. Why not try a different approach & focus on the positive? What were the good things that happened? How did you grow? This idea was inspired by Myleike Teel’s podcast for the end of the year & it was a great suggestion to end 2017 on a positive note.

This is also a great time to practice gratitude. Once you’ve reflected on all of the positive things that 2017 brought you, spend some time being grateful for these things. Look at how different 2017 was from 2016; look at how God blessed you & kept you safe. If you are living, breathing, & healthy, then you have many things to be grateful for. Sometimes it takes being grateful for small things like clean water or air to breathe, your sight, food to eat, etc. that will push you to recognize the big things, too.

2. Set goals & create a plan. We all know it is popular to set resolutions for the New Year, so use this time to plan for 2018. I will publish a post on goal-setting in January, so I won’t go into much detail here. I set many of my goals in August, when my last year of law school started, so I am going to use those as the foundation for 2018’s goals. Write them down, put them some where you can see them often, & make them happen!

3. Stay active. In every sense of the word. This is the time to kick all of your self-care habits into overdrive. Actively practice self-compassionforgiveness, and love. If you need reminders on how to start those practices, I’ve got you covered. (Each “practice” is linked to my previous posts on said topics.) Spend time doing things that make you happy & relaxed. Actively nurture your relationships with loved ones & yourself. Be intentional. Remember to be physically active–summer bodies are built in the winter, right?

I’m going to try a few new self-care practices in December & revamp some “old ones”. It’s always a good time to make improvements to your self-care routine. If something isn’t working for you or if you haven’t really been doing something, then work on it or change it. For example, I really want to delve deeper into my yoga practice, & become more consistent with my workout routines. So I need to create a different approach to both. Since it’s colder outside (sometimes, where I live) I might not take my daily walk, but I need to be diligent & do it anyways.  I’ve also realized that my relationship with God needs some TLC, so I re-created my prayer journal & plan to spend time reading the Bible outside of church.

This is also a great time to clean your living space. I am trying to practice minimalism (we’ll talk about that later) so I have cleaned out my drawers, closets, & got rid of a lot of unnecessary things. My bed linen is usually black in the winter, so I have switched to all white bedding to brighten my room. I keep my curtains open to allow for more light as well. Try rearranging some furniture, adding a few new pieces, & do some good, deep cleaning. This can help improve your mood, allow you to relieve some stress, get some creative juices flowing, & accomplish something new at the same time.

How are you holding up, now that Winter is upon us? Trust me, the Winter & holiday season can be challenging. Don’t let this scare you though, because I am confident you can get through it. The most important thing is to recognize that you need to pay a little more attention to your mental, emotional, & physical health during this time. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even have to go anywhere! It is as simple as doing something intentional to take care of you. This is also a good time to talk to your friends or family. If you are having a hard time & don’t feel comfortable seeking professional help, you can always reach out to a loved one. 

 

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” x Anton Chekhov

Try a Little Tenderness

 

Have you ever heard the saying that you are your toughest critic? For some reason, we tend to be the hardest on ourselves–always critiquing, criticizing, & analyzing who we are & even the things that we do.

In one of my recent posts, So You Had a Bad Day, I discuss some of the ways I recover from feeling down. What I don’t mention is that days like those can also cause me to beat myself up about my progress (or lack thereof). Bad days can create feelings of insecurity & cause me to second guess myself in areas where I previously felt secure. It’s easy to be hard on yourself at times like these, but at some point you have to show yourself a little compassion & realize whatever it is, it is okay. You’re human, & things happen.

As we are winding down into the last few months of 2017, I have started to focus more on having compassion…not just for the people around me, but primarily for myself. As someone who has experienced depression & currently experiences anxiety, it is easy for me to feel like there is something wrong with me. It is easy for me to pick a part the pieces & be hard on myself in those moments where I feel as if I have failed.

In order to start practicing more self-compassion I am trying to find ways to add practices to my self-care routine where I am intentionally building myself up. One of the ways I have achieved this is by writing myself love letters–you can read about this practice here. I have also started utilizing affirmations. I must admit, when I first heard about the concept of affirmations I was skeptical. I really didn’t believe that telling myself different things over & over could affect how I felt & improve my mood…but now that I have actually given affirmations a try, I notice that they make it a lot easier to love on myself. Here are a few tips when it comes to affirmations:

#1: Start with pre-written affirmations. Practicing affirmations can be awkward at first, so using pre-written ones, like those written by Alex Elle, can really inspire you to write your own.

#2: If you can, write them down. Writing down your affirmations allows you to revisit them throughout the day. For me personally, it’s easier to write them on sticky notes & post them on my computer or put them up around my apartment.

#3: Don’t get stuck on the routine. Although I am trying to make affirmations a part of my morning routine, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So instead of getting frustrated with myself, I try again the next day. It also helps to still find a few minutes to be intentional throughout the day or reread previous affirmations.

Listen, life is far from easy. There will be bad days, you will make mistakes, & sometimes you will fall. Those things don’t mean that you have to stop loving yourself along the way. Self-compassion means that you recognize these not-so-great moments & you try to comfort & care for yourself thereafter. Self-compassion means that you operate with a certain level of understanding instead of judging & criticizing yourself.

Be careful not to go overboard, beloved. There are days when I straddled the fence of self-compassion & self-indulgence. You must still do the work & recognize the things that you need to work on. Avoiding them will be counter productive, & self-compassion won’t be able to help you.

If you’re not supposed to pass judgment on other people, why do you pass judgement on yourself? You weren’t created to be perfect–humans are not perfect. Compassion is something we all deserve. Spending some time directing that compassion to yourself will allow you to have clarity, feel good, & it should be comforting to know it’s always there. Try writing some love letters & affirmations, & let me know how it goes.

 

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, & that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” x Budda

L is for Love, Pt. II

 

I wrote L is for Love a little over a year ago when I was heartbroken, disappointed, & at one of the lowest points in my life. Growing through that experience forced me to put the pieces of my heart back together again & fall in love with one of the greatest loves of my life…myself. Going through a break-up or a fizzling out of a relationship is never fun, & it is rarely ever easy. Figuring out how to enjoy your alone time, love yourself, & get back to happy can be hard, ugly, & full of ups & downs…but I did it. I did it before, I did it then, & I keep doing it every day. In a moment of transparency I want to share with you one of my most beloved practices on my journey of falling in love with myself.

I write myself love letters.


Dear Anaston,
I pray you love yourself. I pray you love yourself wholly, fully & as fiercely as the love you pray for & seek in other people.
I pray you love yourself when you are at your worst. When you are down to the bottom, tear-stained, battered, & broken. When your mind is working against you & you are anxious, afraid, & your faith is wavering. I pray you love yourself enough to recognize when you need to pour into you & that you are never too self-conscious to ask for help. 
I pray you are able to look at yourself in the mirror, stripped from everything that society & the world around you wants you to be & that you are happy with the woman who looks back at you. I pray you love yourself when you don’t get invited to that event & get passed over for that opportunity. When everyone is busy & the only person you have to come home to is yourself…and Pablo.
I pray you love yourself when you stumble & fall in this dating life. When he doesn’t answer your text messages or return your phone call. When you think “this could be something”, but it doesn’t work out. I pray you love yourself enough to stay the course & be confident that God has created the partner just for you.
I pray you love yourself when he comes. When he sweeps you off your feet & all your practice & work finally pay off. I pray that you can wrap yourself up & dive into the love that God talks about in the Bible. I pray you love yourself when you find yourself in love & you’ve traded your heart for his. I pray you love yourself when your routines change, when someone else is in your space, & when you have him to come home to…and Pablo.
 I pray that you love yourself enough to know exactly how beautiful you are. That you love every bump, every hair, every pound, & every inch of your skin. I pray that you recognize your worth, your talents, & your intelligence. I pray that you love yourself enough to be neutral & humble, knowing that you are here to just be you, to serve, & to love.
And if no one else ever tells you that they love you, I pray that you love yourself enough to be rooted in just that…the love you have for you.
I love you,
Anaston

 

Why wait for someone to write you a love letter? One of the things I’ve always dreamed is that my husband will write me love letters (I’m old-fashioned like that), but until & hopefully after he comes, I will write them to myself. Both writing & reading the letters that you write can serve as an immense healing tool as you put your pieces back together. You discover things about yourself that you may have forgotten & you give yourself some much needed love. When you’re feeling down or discouraged, read one of your love letters & refill your love tank. I’ll share other practices that I’ve tried throughout this self-love journey in another post, but I wanted to share what really helped me figure out how to love Anaston. 

Have you ever had your heart broken? How did you get through it? Let’s face it, break-ups & the ending of a relationship doesn’t mean that you no longer love that person, but if you spend time redirecting that love back to you, it’ll soften the ache just a little bit more. 

 

“Today I affirm: I am responsible for doing the work in my healing. I am my own validation. I am abundantly full of all that I need.” x Alex Elle

So, You Had a Bad Day?

 

Lately, the anxiety I have been experiencing has been through the roof.

& despite being in a healthier, happier place mentally, I still have been feeling anxious. The anxiety led me to have a few bad, pretty emotional days during the month of July. I started to question if I really made any progress mentally & if my self-care practices were really working. Why, after being able to recognize all of the progress I made, was I starting to feel like I was back in the same place as June 2016? Honestly, I fell off the wagon in some areas & really had to push myself to stay on track.

So what happens during these “bad” days? What do I do? How do I recover?

A bad day for me usually occurs when things aren’t going my way. Let’s be real. If everything went your way the entire day, what would you have to feel bad about? & most of the time, it only takes one thing to start the domino effect of a bad day…People failed to meet my expectations, so I’m disappointed. I made mistakes, so I’m frustrated. Things are happening that I didn’t plan for, so I panic. All the decisions I have to make are looming in the back of my mind, so I procrastinate. Someone said something I didn’t like, so I’m offended. & before I know it, what may have started out as a great day has now become a “bad” day. In encountering a few of these days lately, here’s what I have learned:

I have learned to feel whatever emotions I am feeling at the time. Too often we try to process how we feel before we really even feel it, & this perpetuates a never ending cycle of hurt. In order to move past something, you actually have to deal with it. Otherwise, whatever it is will resurface later. Dealing with it can take time & many different bouts of emotions, but what’s important is that you allow yourself to grow through the healing process. You must tend to yourself mentally & emotionally. So I sit in whatever I am feeling until I am ready to move past it, & I don’t necessarily give myself a hard time limit of when I need to be “okay”.

Even though I don’t give myself a hard time limit on when I need to be okay, I don’t allow myself to sit in those less-than-desirable emotions for too long. It’s okay to be sad, cry, or even be angry, but if you feed too much into those emotions it can be more difficult to bounce back. So experience the feels, but be careful. 

Sometimes, I do nothing. Which may sound counter-productive, but it works for me. If I am having a bad day, sometimes that just means I need to rest. So, I rest, & I rest, & I rest some more. I binge watch a few shows, catch a few movies, & eat my favorite snacks. I lay out by the pool, or at the beach. I sleep. I give my body the time that it needs to rebuild, after subjecting it to so much every day. Allowing my body to rest also gives my mind time to rest. As I mentioned in Ep. 3 of Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria, our generation is known for not resting, which is exactly why so many people are experiencing mental & physical health issues. Part of living a long, healthy life, is knowing when to rest & when to slow down, so take a vacation from #NoDaysOff & relax.

& I like to be left alone. If I am not in the best mood, it is not necessary for me to cast that negative energy on other people. I don’t send out invitations to a pity party–people don’t always want to hear about everything that is going wrong with you today. Do you know someone who always has a “woe is me” story every time you talk to her/him? Don’t be that person. I can also tell the difference in my conversations when my mood is off. I’m usually easily irritated, short, & very nonchalant. That’s not fair to whomever I’m talking to, so it’s best to wait until I can participate in a conversation the right way.

Being left alone also means I take a break from saving everyone else. Sometimes you have to be unaccessible, & if the people around you are really for you, they will understand. Being by myself allows me to give Anaston the attention she usually gives to other people & other things. As I’ve started paying more attention to my mental health, I’ve realized that anxiety can be caused by the people around you. Always worrying about what everyone else is doing, the problems they are having, etc. can cause you to be a big ball of anxiety. 

Have you had a bad day recently? That’s okay. No one said there wouldn’t be bad days, but it’s important to remember that they don’t last always. Develop your own routine for a bad day, so that when those days come you are able to get through them with a little more ease. Don’t be afraid to take some time for yourself, do nothing, & experience what you feel. You’ll be better for it in the end. 

 

“Breathe, it’s just a bad day, not a bad life.” x Anonymous

 

 

Conversations w/ Anaston: #MeTooGirl

 

In honor of my one-year blogiversary, I have revived my YouTube channel & started a new series called “Conversations w/ Anaston”! Here’s the first video! Be sure to like, comment, & subscribe! 

Because I’m Happy!


I started this blog in June of 2016 as a way to share what I was growing through. It was my hope that my blog & what I had to say would touch just one person…& let her/him know that she/he is never alone in whatever difficult situation that gets in the way. I’m grateful that I have accomplished just that, & if my story never touches anyone else, I truly believe I have fulfilled a part of my purpose in life.

 

But I’m sure you’re wondering how I got here. How did I go from not even being able to get out of the bed some days to being fully “functional”? How did I survive the depression I was experiencing? How did I survive the anxiety I was experiencing? How was I able to reach the place I’m at now–a happy, whole place. Well, I’m glad you asked, & here’s how:

First, I reconnected with God. 

I firmly believe that the sole reason I was able to pick myself back up again, is because I had God pushing me back on my feet. Once I started back going to church & bible study, I started to feel this immense sense of hope that I didn’t feel before. I started to believe that I could actually overcome my situation & get back to a happy place again. Prior to last summer, I did have a relationship with God–but it was weak. I was streaming church, & not actually going to a physical place of worship. I wasn’t reading the Bible, & my prayer life was lacking. It’s sad that it took me experiencing all the negativity I did to reconnect with God. However, God may take you through a storm to get your attention, & to let you know that He wants you to come back to Him. That’s exactly what I did. I found a church home where I live & made it a priority to go every week. I purchased a new study Bible & created a prayer journal. Having the comfort of knowing that there is this Person who knows every thought, every action, every flaw, but still loves me so made me feel so selfish for not even trying at times. If He took the time to create me & make me exactly who I am, who was I to not be grateful for life? Who was I to just give up on myself when He never gave up on me? Now this way of thinking may not help everyone, & I don’t encourage beating yourself up about having a bad day or experiencing depression. I simply want you to realize how blessed you are & start to make a change. Reconnect with whatever Higher Being you believe in & see what a difference the relationship can make.

Once I reconnected with God, I started talking about my situation.

For me, this meant going to therapy (& of course, launching this site). Therapy is such a taboo topic in the African-American community, but I am not ashamed that I needed help. Because of therapy, I have now learned that there is strength in asking for help when you need it. I initially looked for someone who could help me through the grieving process after my Granny’s death. I experienced losing a loved one before, but her passing took a toll on me, & I needed someone to help me figure out how to navigate through the grieving process. The first therapist I saw was great in helping me initially, but I realized I needed something different & began looking for another therapist. My current therapist completed an assessment for me to help me determine if I was even experiencing depression at all. (In a previous post, I encouraged readers to at least try therapy once & get an assessment, so that you are able to know what you are actually dealing with mentally. I still encourage this today.) During that assessment, we connected in a way that I usually don’t even connect with people, & I still see her to this day. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean that I’m crazy. Seeing a therapist doesn’t mean I am even “depressed” or that anything is wrong. I continue to see her because she listens to me, with no judgments. She encourages me when I feel like I’m not making any progress. She let’s me be me, & she helps me find the tools I need to keep making progress in this journey. She helps me lay the foundation for processing through what ever life experiences I may be having, & I look forward to going to see her twice a month. If you have a friend that you call & vent to, no holds bar, then you would enjoy seeing a therapist. It’s the same concept. My therapist has become a friend. Try it at least once, just to have the experience, & see how it could benefit you. It can be a little uncomfortable at times, but the feeling you get afterwards is worth the temporary awkward moments. 

If you’re one of those people that just side-eyed me because I see a therapist, my blog is not for you. Don’t be a part of the problem & the reason why people are afraid to talk about their mental health. We are here to break this cycle, not contribute to it.

Then, I started doing the work.

I realized after hitting such a low, low that I never wanted to feel that way again. So I had to figure out what I needed to do to make a change in my life. This is when I developed my self-care routine & started trying out different practices. I started walking every day to get endorphins going & to get some sun/fresh air. I started exercising as well & eventually started my yoga practice. I talk about some of my self-care practices in “Self Care ’17” & “Take Care of Your Star Player“. I also began letting go of some unhealthy relationships, started a forgiveness journey, & made changes to my living space. What’s most important is that I simply started putting forth effort to getting back to a positive mental space. When it got hard, I still kept trying, & didn’t give up on myself or the process. Life takes work, just like everything else. You have to be willing to do the work to live the life you want. Eventually everything will fall into place & it won’t even feel like work anymore. 

Finally, I started accepting being happy.

So here’s a little secret–among other things, I am afraid of being happy. My fear of being happy is decreasing as the days go by, but there are days where I resort to old habits & ways of thinking…honestly, I was so used to living a life that was dysfunctional. I wasn’t always unhappy, that’s not what I’m saying, but I had grown accustomed to having drama in my life. Bad things always happened, eventually, so I anticipated them even when things were going well. I was walking around with this dark cloud over me, & I didn’t even realize it. There were times where I felt like my brain was working against me, tricking me into thinking the worst. (Anxiety.) So I am learning how to get through those moments without letting the anxiety take control. I’m in a really great place now, & I am so grateful for this happiness. I appreciate it a little more because I know what it is like to be unhappy. I appreciate life & am striving to take advantage of each & every day. I’m learning to live in the moment–to not always have to take a picture or rush through eating my food because I’m “starving”. I’ve realized that being so focused on “timing” will have you missing out on a lot of things. Timing is never perfect. Tomorrow is not promised & you just have to go for it (whatever “it” is). Be happy.

What progress have you made in the last year? Looking back on this past year has shown me that God is still in control, & His work is amazing. I never thought I’d be in this place–happy, whole, loving Anaston. There were days where I never imagined I’d be openly sharing my story & giving others advice on their own self-care journey. But look what’s happened in a year! I’m here, doing all of those things! I’m excited for what will happen in this next year & the years to come.

Stay tuned.

 

 

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” x Frederick Keonig

 

 

All _____ Given.

 

Why is it that in 2017 it is “trendy” to be a person who doesn’t give a ____ about anything? Our society is obsessed with being numb to everything even remotely related to feelings & emotions. Emotional awareness seems to be this new concept no one has ever heard of, when honestly, it is something that should’ve been prevalent all along. There are books that teach you how not to care about anything, songs that talk about it–it’s like an entire movement. But this is a time, if unrealistically no other time existed, that we need to give a ____ about something.

Honestly, there was a point in time where I tried to be one of these people. I went through a period where I thought I was too emotional, cared too much about people, & needed to turn off the emotional switch that seemed to control my life. So what did I do? I bought a ticket to the “No ____ Given” train & proudly took my seat, ready for the ride. However, before this train even took off, I had to exit quickly. I just couldn’t be a person who doesn’t care about others, myself, & even what is going on in the world. I knew deep down that emotions don’t make people weak (despite what “they” say) & that being aware of my own emotions & the emotions of others, was something I could not continue to avoid.

So once I finally accepted how in-tune I am emotionally, I discovered that I am an empath. But what is an empath? What is empathy? How is it different from sympathy? Here’s what I found:

em•path

noun

A person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.

em•pa•thy

noun

The ability to understand and share feelings of one another.

sym•pa•thy

noun

1. Feelings of pity & sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. 2. Understanding between people, common feeling.

Reading those definitions really doesn’t tell you much, but what I have commonly heard is that the difference between empathy & sympathy is that when you sympathize with someone, you only “feel” for the person, but when you empathize with someone, you actually put yourself in that person’s shoes. Empathy is personal. It is genuine. It is strong. It is perception. That’s me all the way, & when I finally accepted this, I became a lot healthier emotionally.

Empathy for me looks like this: I am extremely aware of the vibes & energies of people around me, & I absorb those vibes & energies as my own, whether I want to or not. This means my mood can fluctuate, depending on who I am around, & certain people’s presence can put me in bad mood. Usually this is more common with my loved ones, but it happens with not-so-loved ones too. I can easily pick up on people’s intentions & motives–if you’re hiding something, I’ll know. I often take on the problems of others & often find myself carrying everyone else’s load. It can even happen in a situation as small as me watching an emotional commercial or movie–I will cry or feel some overwhelming sense of emotion rather abruptly. Especially if it involves elderly people or children or something about love, I will fall a part. Sounds silly, I know, but hey, it happens. My empathic traits often leave me emotionally drained, because I get lost in everything (& everyone) around me & forget to take the necessary time for myself. I don’t deal well with areas of confusion or disharmony, & both cause me to feel highly uncomfortable. I also don’t deal well with people who tend to be negative most of the time. It stresses me out, & I tend to get mad at that person. I am working on trying to separate the two, so that I can focus on whatever is troubling the person in a way that does not affect me

Being in-tune with my emotions also means that I express them more than others. With those I am close to, I am okay with having conversations about how I feel. I’m pretty open & honest, & talking things out really allows me to develop the level of understanding that I need. I am okay with telling people I care about them or that I love them. I truly wear my heart on my sleeve. Life is way too short to run around acting like you don’t care about anyone or anything, & I’ve suffered enough loss to know it. So I tend to give my all in my relationships–all or nothing. Sometimes this is hard for other people to accept or understand about me, but the more aware of it I have become, the less disappointed I feel when I’m too much for another person. Not everyone is equipped to handle what comes with being involved with a woman like me, but because I can handle it, it makes it easier to explain or show others this aspect of who I am.

On the other hand, there are times where I create a wall & bottle up my emotions. As much as I like to talk & no matter how open or honest I am, sometimes it takes a lot of effort for me to talk about myself. These are things I am still working on, & journaling really helps me get everything out in a healthy way. I’m a work in progress, & learning how to function in a healthy way, while being emotionally aware, is a journey. (My blog post about self-care practices can be read here. These are a great way to take some time for yourself & not get lost in translation.) Learning how to live as an empath is something I have to work at every day & sometimes I don’t make very much progress. 

 

Are no ____ really given? Or do you give a ____ like I do? 9/10 regardless of how much you want to identify with question one, you really are closer to the latter. Accept it, & let’s figure out how we can get you to live a healthy life being that way. Don’t get me wrong, this post is not a call to care about everything & everyone. That may not be healthy for you, & can definitely be overwhelming. You have to protect your heart & yourself. My advice is to find something to care about. You better! If it is not people, then I suggest finding a cause that resonates with you. Find something that you can willingly, & safely, dedicate your emotions to. If you identify with being an empath as I do, let’s talk! I have some great resources for you. 


IF YOU ARE SKEPTICAL OF THIS WORD EMPATH, AS USUAL MY ADVICE IS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I AM NOT RELATING THIS TO ANY RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL BELIEF. THIS POST REFLECTS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS & REALIZATIONS ON MY PATH TO SELF-DISCOVERY.

 

“I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.” x Leslie Knope
“A caring heart that listens is often more valued than an intelligent mind that talks.”