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

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

 

 

Self Care ’17

 

We are three months into 2017, & I am so glad that both mental wellness and self-care  are becoming a constant topic of discussion this year. It’s important, though, that people recognize that mental wellness and self-care are not trends. This is a lifestyle, & is not something to “get into” just because your favorite YouTuber or IG personality is into it too. That can certainly be your inspiration, but remember the goal is to create lifestyle changes, not temporary changes. If you’re committed to being your best self, being in tune with your body, your mind, & your spirit, then it’s time you start your own self-care journey. 

As a part of my own personal self-care journey, I started a hashtag on my social media accounts called #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday. It’s often hard for people to take the necessary time to take care of themselves, & honestly, I still struggle sometimes. I’ve talked about the importance of taking care of yourSELF in a previous post, you can read it hereSo on Tuesdays I am encouraging my social media friends to be intentional about taking some “self time” & doing something that will make themselves feel good. Once you start with at least one thing, once a week, you’ll look up & be doing something to take care of you every day. 

Taking care of yourself is different for everyone, but there are some staple practices that you can implement in your journey. I’m going to share 4 of my favorite self-care practices, in no particular order, as a source of inspiration. They are:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Coloring 

So what is meditation, exactly? There are many myths and misconceptions about meditation, especially in the African-American community. People tend to be skeptical about practicing meditation, & honestly, I’ve experienced some opposition of the practice in my own personal relationships. So the first piece of advice I can share is: do your research. Learn about meditation and the practice before automatically refusing to give it a try. Meditation exists in different forms & fashions for different people, & there isn’t a strict, right way to meditation (despite what some people may tell you). You have to find what practice works for you, at the point you are currently at in your own journey. I also suggest starting in small time increments. When I first began meditating, 10 minutes was way too long for me–I had difficulty getting my mind to be “quiet”, & I struggled sitting still for 10 minutes straight. After doing some reading & research, I decided to start small, & work my way up. I started with 3 minute meditation sessions, & I am currently at 5 minutes in the morning & at night.  The goal is to slow down & find peace–your mind should be calm, silent, & rested, but still alert. Meditation gets you to focus on the present, & turn inward, instead of focusing on the external world. The one thing I can tell you meditation is not, is a religion. Though different religions may practice meditation, meditation is something completely different & you don’t have to sacrifice your religious beliefs to practice it. Again, I encourage you to research & find the best practice for you; there are apps like the Calm, Headspace, or Simple Habit that can be helpful as well. Here’s a great article I read, if you are interested in learning more about meditation.

I meditate every morning, night, & sometimes in the middle of day. As mentioned before, I am currently practicing 5 minute sessions & still working my way back up to a larger amount of time. I also meditate with music, using a playlist that I found on Apple Music. I sit with my back straight, legs crossed, with open palms rested on my legs. This is a position that is comfortable for me, but there are other options to choose from, like moving meditation. During a session, I make sure I breathe & try not to get frustrated if my mind tends to wander. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get, so it is important to stay encouraged & keep working at it. I also recently started a 30 day meditation challenge, with Faith Hunter via DoYouYoga. It’s been a great source of inspiration to see a spiritual, African-American woman who practices meditation (& yoga). The sessions are longer than my 5 minute sessions, but it helps having guided videos to help me along the way. 

 

 I love to write & create, as you can see…but there is something that is so therapeutic about journaling. I’m not going to bore you with the many ways journaling can be beneficial to you mentally & emotionally, because I’m sure you already know this. For me, it is a great release being able to put my thoughts & feelings on paper. I can be open & honest, without the fear of having to account for what I’m saying to someone else. I usually sit for about thirty minutes at night & write. That’s it. I sit quietly at my desk & pour out whatever I have held within myself for the day. It helps me address issues & feelings head on, process things, & move on. You can find a cute journal almost anywhere, but I purchased mine from TJMaxx. There are also many journal challenges floating around on social media, if you need writing inspiration. So, grab a pen, sit down, get comfortable, & write. 

I keep a separate prayer journal & an additional prayer journal for my future husband (yes, I am still single, but I am praying for the spouse I know God has for me. We can chat about that later though.)

 

I am also a newbie Yogini. There are so many great resources out there if you want to learn more about the practice of yoga itself.  Here’s one that I found to be very helpful. I honestly chose to begin practicing yoga because I thought it would be a great pair with my meditation practice. I also had some superficial reasons, like wanting to be to do a split or a complete forward fold. Over time, as I have started researching & reading about yoga, my intentions behind it have shifted & aligned with my mental health efforts. I also enjoy the physical benefits from practicing yoga, since stress & anxiety carry over into the condition of my body. I recently started a 30 day yoga challenge too, also via DoYouYoga, & I also take classes with one of my favorite professors/people. (Shoutout to her if she’s reading!)

My yoga journey has not been perfect. There are times when I am inconsistent, miss a class/day, forget to breathe while in a session, or get distracted by my flexibility (or sometimes lack thereof). But it’s a journey, not a destination, so I am determined to keep at it. I’m excited to see how I feel emotionally & physically once I finish the 30 Day challenge. 

It may sound “childish”, but I love to color. I had no idea when I began tending to my mental health, that one of my favorite childhood activities could serve as a huge benefit mentally. Coloring allows the mind to enter into a meditative state (without having to actually practice meditation), giving the brain time to relax.  So if you’re skeptical about actual meditation, give coloring a try. As someone whose brain is constantly in motion, I always need time to give my brain a break. Coloring can also potentially lower stress & anxiety levels, while opening your mind to more positive energy. It’s a great way to calm down and relax. When doing research on how I could make coloring a self-care practice, I came across a great Huffington Post article that discussed the ways coloring can help with different mental & emotional health issues. You can read it here. If you experience anxiety like I do, coloring can be a great practice for you.

I purchased my crayons and coloring book from Target, but you can get them almost anywhere. There are even “adult” coloring books, but I just pick books that look great to me. I usually sit at my desk & color for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on my mood, or what I need from my coloring session, I might play music or listen to a podcast. Otherwise, I limit all other distractions. Not only do you feel relaxed, but you get great pictures to look at as well. 

Self-care doesn’t always come with a price tag. I enjoy getting pedicures, massages, etc. but those are not the only ways to practice self-care. Meditation is free, all it takes is your body, mind, & some quiet space. Cleaning your home is also free. There are many other practices that you can do right in your own home that cost nothing–take a nap, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, give yourself a hug, etc. 

What are you your self-care practices? I’d love for you to share some of them with me! It’s important that you develop your own self-care routine & tailor it to your needs. These practices may work for me, but they may not work for you & that is okay.  Try different things out, see what you like, get rid of what you don’t like. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself or progress. Remember, its a lifestyle journey. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to new possibilities & experiences–you’d be surprised what your mind (& body) are capable of. Take care of yourself & your mental health!

“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve with an empty vessel.” x Eleanor Brown

Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

Authentically, Anaston.

Over the last few years, I have been taking steps to live an authentic life.

Looking back on my childhood/middle school experience (& probably even some high school & college years) I tried to hide parts of myself out of fear of what others would think of me. In elementary school, I was teased because I have big lips. My head was big, I was small, and here I was with big lips to top it off. I remember my first grade teacher sat my entire class down & told them how they would all regret not having lips like mine & how people got surgery to get them (we see how that trend has progressed, right?). Even though I was young, I think that was my first introduction to the lesson: it is important to be proud of everything that relates to who you are.

So what does it mean to be authentic, exactly? Well, according to Merriam Webster, it means:

  • Real or genuine : not copied or false
  • True and accurate

Hiding parts of myself to make others feel comfortable cost me a lot, & it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college where I first began my battle with depression (I didn’t recognize that I was experiencing depression at that time, but years later I believe some of my experiences that year triggered it) that I realized just how much. The trade-off for trying to make others comfortable was that I was uncomfortable. I was insecure, anxious, & I often felt alone & misunderstood. 

Once I realized what I was doing to myself, I began taking small steps to ensure that first, I was comfortable with me; & second, that I was able to just be myself, no matter who I was around.

So here we are today–I’m 23 years old, & I am still on my “authentic journey”. I’m still figuring out the ins & outs of Anaston & still learning that its okay to be transparent about who I am. This blog is a way for me to be transparent. Those who cannot accept me or handle the things that come with me will lose out on me, & that is something that is out of my control.

As I am progressing on this authentic-self journey, I try to remind myself to focus only on me & the talents God gave me. I stay in my own lane. In a society that is full of IG models, lifestyle bloggers, & fashionistas, it’s easy to want to change things about yourself to fit in with other people. It’s also easy to get discouraged when you see other people doing things you are doing or want to do. The reality is, there will always be someone better. There will always be someone doing something similar. But what sets you apart, is you. God made one you, & anything you do will be special because of who you are. 

I’ve also learned to not let people convince me that I need to change things about myself. Although I am a flawed person, I try to not let negative opinions about my personality sway me. If there is something that I really need to work on, I know exactly Who to turn to & how to do the work. For example, most people suggest that I am too outspoken. I tend to be the person that talks about things others are too afraid to, & over time, I have realized that I have to own it. I remember sitting in chapter meetings in undergrad., being the person who would say the things no one else wanted to, & feeling like sometimes I said too much…but I later realized that I actually gained respect from my sisters because I spoke up. As long as I am respectful & cognizant of the things I say, I see being outspoken as a huge asset. If everyone is too reserved to say the things that need to be said, do you know how many people’s stories will never be told? 

So what can you do to start living your life as your authentic self? I think the first step is to “have a little talk with Jesus”. God created you to be exactly who you are & He makes no mistakes. Whatever & whoever you are came from Him, so why not turn to him first when it comes to you? Are there things about yourself that confuse you? Ask God about them. Are there things you want to change? Tell God about those, too. Once you’ve consulted Him, it will become much easier, but it takes practice every day. The next thing you can do is be honest with yourself. If you can’t be honest with your star player, then it will definitely be hard to be honest with other people. Once you’re honest, just accept who you are & be open to growing as a human being. Before you know it, you’ll be living your life as your true, authentic self.

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” -Nelson Mandela