Posts filed under Self Care

Guess for the Best

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It really is amazing what happens when we focus on what we want instead of what we do not want.  I explained this concept poorly one time to a friend that has held a grudge about this endlessly.  I was on my way to a tour in Europe.  I was anxious about remembering everything.  I was anxious about making the flight because I kept having to look for things I didn't remember to pack.  I was told "Don’t forget your phone."  Then I could not find my phone anywhere.  I live in a studio.  How far could it have gone? 

 

While I’m frantically trying to find my phone, which will be my sole source of communicating while overseas, I think about the “what you focus on expands” concept.  I wish I had been told to remember my phone vs. being told not to FORGET it.  Because I surely did just that, forget that I had rested it in the top dresser drawer while getting out something that I didn't remember to pack.  All of that extra time to get to the airport had been eaten away by my memory lapse.  I run to the car and say filled with anxiety & mad at myself for killing all that time, “I really wish you would have told me to remember my phone instead of not to forget it.”  I have been being told about how mean & ridiculous that it was that I’d said that ever sense.  I’ve apologized for the delivery and poor explanation of what I meant.  However, I stand by the concept.  Somehow, this person can’t understand that rushing is not something that I handle well.  I typically plan so that rushing doesn’t happen.  This time I failed.

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The thing is my entire life I’ve been kept afloat (and in some cases flying) by focusing on what it is I do want.  If not in the clutches of depression’s darkness, I expect the things that I focus on to manifest.  Does this mean that it is full proof and happens all the time?  No not in every instance.  Trust me, there are many areas of my life right now that seems to have lost the manifestation boomerang.  But in many of the instances that make my life fun & fulfilling, yes.  It happens much of the time.  It doesn’t prevent uncertainty from feeling scary as hell but after all these years, I know that worry is just going to attract more unwanted negative blows to my life.  Some days, all I can do is walk around listing to myself all of the things that I am grateful for.  I do this to block out the voices in my head that want to tell me that I’m a failure & should just go apply to a proverbial McDonald’s for steady work.  A regular customer once said to me sometimes things get so rough all you can do is put your head down and just keep working until they’re better.  I always remember that when things get tough.  As a creative person, life is often uncertain & tough.

This both made me giggle & seemed the perfect image.  

This both made me giggle & seemed the perfect image.  

Then it happens.  By focusing on what it is that I desire and/or need the signal is shot out into the universe and boomerangs back in to my life as serendipity.   I put my head down and take as many actions as I can.  I pray that the universe guides me to take the next right action.  Then the something that I need shows up.  I can only explain it as massive action creating magic.  When I was younger, I would spend so much time focusing on the worry and the trying to figure my way out of things.  If the future is just our best guess anyway, why not guess for the best? Why not be careful and deliberate about how we phrase thoughts and the things we utter both out loud but especially to ourselves.  I may not ever get this person to understand that this concept is what I meant.  If people want to cling to perceived transgressions, they will, often for years.  Besides, that’s not my work to do for them.  I wish we would do more guessing the best about each other as a whole.  What IS my work is to focus everyday on experiencing the universal magic of life as much as possible.

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Mourning Loss

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    Mourning loss is something that many people I know are doing now.  It may be a job, a relationship, a life partner, a parent, a dream, a goal or former selves.  I never know what to say to myself even to make it better because time seems the only salve.  Sometimes there seem no right words.

Mourning loss is something that many people I know are doing now.  It may be a job, a relationship, a life partner, a parent, a dream, a goal or former selves.  I never know what to say to myself even to make it better because time seems the only salve.  Sometimes there seem no right words.

LOVE ləv/ noun 1. an intense feeling of deep affection. 2. a person or thing that one loves.

TRUST trəst/ noun1. firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

DESIRE dəˈzī(ə)r/ noun1. a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.

PROMISE ˈpräməs/noun1. a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.  

Verb 1. assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.

JOY joi/ noun1. a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

SUSPICION səˈspiSHən/noun1. a feeling or thought that something is possible, likely, or true.

BETRAY bəˈtrā/ verb1. expose (one's country, a group, or a person) to danger by treacherously giving information to an enemy.

LOSS lôs,läs/noun1.the fact or process of losing something or someone. 2. the state or feeling of grief when deprived of someone or something of value.

DISAPPOINTMENT disəˈpointmənt/noun1.the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations. 2. a person, event, or thing that causes disappointment. 

plural noun: disappointments

PAIN pān/ noun 1. physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.

SADNESS ˈsadnəs/noun the condition or quality of being sad.

SICKNESS ˈsiknəs/ noun 1. the state of being ill. 2. the feeling or fact of being affected with nausea or vomiting.

7 STAGES OF GRIEF:

1. SHOCK & DENIAL

2. PAIN & GUILT

3.  ANGER & BARGAINING

4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS

5.  THE UPWARD TURN

6.  RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH

7.  ACCEPTANCE & HOPE

Medical Definition of SUPPORT SYSTEM. : a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support.

SELF-CARE  self-kair/ noun 1. care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.

FORGIVENESS ˌfərˈɡivnəs/ noun the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.

CLOSURE ˈklōZHər/ noun 1. the act or process of closing something, especially an institution, thoroughfare, or frontier, or of being closed.

ACCEPTANCE əkˈseptəns/ noun 1. the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.

FEELINGS ˈfēliNG/ noun plural noun: feelings 1. an emotional state or reaction.

CLEANSE klenz/ verb 1. make (something, especially the skin) thoroughly clean 2. rid (a person, place, or thing) of something seen as unpleasant, unwanted, or defiling. 3. free (someone) from sin or guilt. 

HEALING ˈhēliNG/ noun the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.

RENEWAL rəˈn(y)o͞oəl/ noun 1. an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption.

HOPE hōp/ noun 1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

FAITH fāTH/ noun 1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

LOVE /ləv/ noun 1. an intense feeling of deep affection 2. a person or thing that one loves

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you can learn to love yourself and all the flaws, you can love other people so much better. And that makes you so happy.” - Kristin Chenoweth

 

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Self Loathing in Conservative Clothing

I’ve seen a plethora of pieces passing me on the information super highway bashing sexual women, especially women of color - specifically Black women.  Often it’s in the attempt to pump up or encourage the existence of the “good women” who cook, clean and dress conservatively, etc.  You know, because only That is respectable behavior for a woman.  Others mask it in claiming these are the ingredients of a Queen self actualization and autonomy be damned.  I wish I had a nickel for every meme I see shouting down a woman’s choice to twerk.  I mean, we know how detrimental dance styles can be on a woman’s entire complex life (sarcasm intended).  Never have a seen a dance style kick up so much hatred towards Black women while simultaneously popping off a fun, trendy dance craze for white women.

These types of things represent the heights of hypocrisy that make me shake my head at society.   There is a breed of outwardly appearing “respectable” woman that is so desperate for a man; she’ll even knowingly date someone else’s man (and we all know what stellar examples of mates these men turn out to be).  I know, she thinks she'll be the one to change him.  I’ve seen it up close and personal.  There are super successful career women earning multiple six figures who don’t care if a man says he’s in a relationship.  She’ll over look that fact just to have a man appear to be by her side even if it’s just for one night at a big event.  I’ve heard stories of women willing to essentially trick off their children just so she can pretend on social media to be gratified at finding “the one”.  We will act as if a woman with a young child pretending that dating a man that doesn’t want children isn’t borderline child abuse.  Your child and you are a packaged deal.  Perhaps, she deludes herself into believing he'll just fall right on in love with her little one.  I myself work in the realm of sexuality and am naked on worldwide stages, so people assume that I have all types of loose behavior going on.  I don’t.  Clearly these women are reveling in slackness more than I am.  Another difference between women who openly embrace sexuality vs. these women is women who embrace all facets of themselves tend to choose self-respect, self-definition and refuse to settle.  These settling women are not to be hated.  I believe them to be deeply pitiable.  Their up bringing and societal pressures to have a man, any man have done them a great disservice. 

Yet, there is no shortage of beating down Nikki Minaj for her sexual marketing genius (yes borrowed straight from the book of Little Kim whether Nikki wants to admit it or not).  It’s a marketing ploy that sells and Nikki does it well.  I’ve seen Beyoncé berated by men and women alike for being sexual with her own husband who she’s building an empire along side and raising a child with.  Even married women get no pass when it comes to embracing the sexual parts of our beings.  I’ve seen Will Smith and Jada Pinkett given side eye for granting each other the freedom to be authentic and openly be who they are with each other.  It’s as if society wants more couples lying to each other for fear of being judged by one another.  It’s fine for some male hip-hop artists to use being a gangster and illegal activities as a marketing ploy.  Last I checked it was completely legal for a woman to choose to be happy about the sexual aspects of her being.  It is also legal for a woman to have agency over how she displays said sexual aspects of her being.  Yet, we keep persecuting women in the court of public opinion for it.  Stop worrying about what women outside of your household are teaching children and pay closer attention to what the women in the house are teaching the children in their very charge.

Can we talk about the fact that if a successful woman decides to be a sugar mama, the man is praised or left alone for his “come up”?  Yet, if a successful man decides to be a sugar daddy, it is the woman that is beat down for being a gold digger.  If a woman is sexually conservative, she’s bashed for being uptight, stiff and boring.  If she embraces the fact that sexuality is one aspect of her and it’s being worthy of celebration just as is her intellectual, financial, spiritual, familial self she’s degraded at every turn.  It’s as if a woman can’t win for loosing when it comes to being a proud sexual being. 

It’s cool if a woman makes self-loathing decisions as long as she dons a business suit or some other conservative garb.  Extra points will be given if she goes to church many Sundays.  So what if she sits in the pew hand in hand with the man who molested her daughter.  No one will make mention of these types of things.  No memes made, no poems written only silent, blind eyes turned.  I’m really going to need the interwebs to miss me with all this tomfoolery.  There need to be more messages directed towards women desperate to claim any man that comes along.  They need encouragement towards self-love, self-respect and self worth.  They seem to have no grasp of these concepts at all and no one calling them on it to boot.  I know more sexually liberated women with a higher sense of self valuation than many of the church going, conservative appearing, low self-esteem having chicks can ever hope to muster.  No, not all women who are conservative or church going or successful are self-loathing.  I don't think in absolutes.  However, I need to see more of the calling out of the truly self-deprecating women in "proper woman" hiding who are and less of the “if you twerk you hate yourself” crap.  Forget the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  There are self-loathing women in conservative clothing someone needs to write a poem for or make a meme about.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

There does come a point as an adult where one has to make decisions for oneself despite lessons learned in youth about your value being tied to marriage or a man.  Whether one is monogamous or open to an alternative model for relationships, self-love has got to remain job one.  What can a child learn from a mother willing to expose them to a man uninterested in taking part in helping to raise them?  Let's remember children learn by what parents DO not by what they say.  What fulfillment comes from pretending online to be in a whole relationship when one isn’t?  If a committed life partner is the goal, what message to the universe does sneaking around with a cheater actually send?  There are women in hiding willing to debase themselves.  Meanwhile, women who live out loud with all their true colors boldly showing are insulted, mocked and disrespected.  Let’s get it together, world.  Let’s get it together.  We are all beautifully flawed beings trying to do our best to get through life without a playbook.  We all make it up as we go along.  We get blessings, we get lessons, we adjust and we keep it moving.  Stop acting like one kind of journey is more deplorable than another.  It insults my intelligence.  I can’t.

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"Sexuality poorly repressed unsettles some families; well repressed, it unsettles the whole world." - Karl Kraus

 

Hug a Weirdo


I’m a weirdo.  It started at an early age.  There are many aspects that make up my weirdo status.  It’s not so much weird as it is the acceptance that I am a proud walking set of contradictions, perfect imperfections and complexities.  So many of us try to hide from our complexities or shield them from those around us so that they are more comfortable.  One would think after a certain age we become too grown to play “societal charades”.  It is very much not so

I recently found out that, once again, my weirdo status caused someone to make assumptions about me (and even make decisions for me based on the assumptions).  I think about how I came to be the me that I have become.  I suppose it’s been caused by any number of my life experiences.  We all are a product of our particular life files, right?  I started off life by never wanting to get in trouble.  I never wanted my parents to be angry at me.  I never wanted to do the wrong thing.  I never wanted to make mistakes. This then extended to the world.  I only wanted people to like me.  I only wanted to be understood as a good person with a great heart.  It bothered me if I thought that people were interpreting who I was in a way that was different than how I perceived myself.   I had a case of giving too many F%$&s about what other people would think.  I like helping others.  This remains to be true.  However, with maturity comes a self-awareness that shifts the way in which I go about things.  I stopped trying to “get straight A’s” from every single person I met.  I was fresh outta f%$&s to give.  Fresh out!

I had a best friend once that was very forceful when it came to getting her own way.  Me being a person who always wanted things to stay on a happy vibe, I would often just go with her flow.  This worked out amazingly excellent for her.  There were peaceful and fun times had among us.  However, sometimes in the midst of our fun times, I’d be miserable.  There were times where I went along with things that I didn’t feel like going with.   It took quite a bit of work on myself to get to the point of saying no if I wasn’t into doing something.  I spent way too many years doing what would make other people happy.  I spent years and years doing what would keep me likable.  I see myself as a likable human and I wanted other people to see me this way also.  I hid who I really was in favor of favorable facades for the public.  Eventually, what happened though was that I found myself holding in resentments for allowing myself to ignore my own truth.  It was with this best friend that I got my first practice at defending strange little ole me.  I learned through my interactions with her how to push through the uncomfortable feelings I had about causing conflict.  I started speaking honestly and directly to other people as well.  Like anything, it started getting easier the more I did it.

 

At present, it is very easy for me to say in a very clear and direct way what is on my mind.  It drives me a little crazy inside listening to people talk around a topic or hem and haw while they try to get a point across.  It drives me even crazier having to deal with someone who flat out tries to avoid conversations that may be difficult but necessary.  Being a fairly direct person is something that people both appreciate and can’t stand about me.  This depends on the person and the circumstances of the exchange, of course.  Often, I choose silence for the sake of my own peace of mind.  There are times where it serves me better to stand off to the side and observe quietly.  At all times, whether silent or direct, it is a choice coming from inside myself.  We all have to navigate the world that we are in.  Many of us have to navigate numerous worlds.   The joy of working to get to a place where I am able to make choices for myself is that I get to keep feeling peaceful inside either way.   The discomfort that my directness or my silence may cause others is not my work to do. 

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I recently went to a church service that I absolutely under normal circumstances would not choose to be at.  However, my niece wanted me to see her perform as part of the youth day.  I went to church.  Sat quietly and was polite to everyone that I encountered.  I got to see my niece perform.  She saw that I was there like I said I would be.  I was peace filled in my heart, despite my disdain for this place and the people who run it.  I sat in the service sending love vibes out to everyone in the building.  Damn my opinions, ultimately, people come here so they can make it through the week or their lives.  Hey, life is hard, whatever gets you through…  While I make it my business to make choices that are right for myself, I also understand that life isn’t ALL about me.  At that moment, the love I have for my niece outweighed the negative feelings I have about church and the Bible, in general, and this church in particular.  This is the joy of being a thinking human being.  Nothing is black and white.  Communication reveals way more than assumptions ever can.  If only this person had the courage to have honest conversations with me they would understand this and so much more about me.  Honestly, it just felt like a scapegoat, a cowardly way of dealing with the situation.  If someone feels ill will towards me, it will be because of the truth not a lie.  Happiness is being mature enough to pick your battles. 

I am blessed to have found a place as a weirdo among weirdos (I am surrounded by the most talented, quirky and driven creative people ever).  However, we still have to navigate in the world at large.  I end up in different worlds socially and professionally.  I get invited back often, so I must be doing something right.  As frustrating as it gets to be constantly judged and misinterpreted, it’s even greater joy to have enough self love to wave my weirdo flag proudly despite it.  If you’re out there looking for the perfect mate, maybe look outside your self imposed box.  Weirdos can be pretty loveable!  If you’re a weirdo and you know It clap your hands *clap, clap*, if you’re a…  Wait.  Is that weird? Never mind…

Alone is Good

Self Care, Self Love, Sweet Self Talk as much as possible...

Self Care, Self Love, Sweet Self Talk as much as possible...

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” - Dalai Lama

I haven’t blogged much over the past six months.  My personal life has been going through many shifts.  Upheaval sounds like a good descriptor.  The result is not only a lag in blogging.  There are lags in other areas of productivity in my life as well.  I have felt extremely vigilant in preserving my time alone.  Sometimes, the time alone has been for brooding.  Most of the time has been for thinking, nothingness and planning.  Transitions are not very comfortable ever.  Some comfort zones can be breeding grounds for stunted growth.  I like growth unstunted.  I have come to the understanding that self care has always got to be job one.  Believing that I am somehow too busy to take self care moments to stop lead to the devastation of my soul.  I hit one of the darkest times ever in my life.  I’m not trying to sound dramatic.  It was traumatic.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou

What I’ve learned about myself is that I like to hear many different takes on a situation first.  After that I like to go off alone to deliberate and come to my own conclusions.  My close circle is the jury but ultimately it is my courtroom.  I make all the final decisions.  I am very much a loner at heart.  I enjoy keeping company with myself very much.  It is really important for me right now to hunker down and take that time to recharge.  It’s a challenge, especially being a performer.  Also, I’m a worker bee.  I don’t like feeling as if I am not moving forward, closer to goals or simply putting in the full effort it takes to be an independent performer.  However, the universe always takes care of me.  Unexpected helping hands extend toward me in unexpected ways.  It could be friends making sure that I eat (even if it means coming to my door to get me).  It can be long time friends sending me texts just to make sure I’m ok in here by myself.  It can be a residual check from a past gig.  I get sign after sign that I am supported.  I get the message loud and clear that it is OK to be in a space of not knowing.  It is totally acceptable sometimes to just stop.

“Let your heart guide you.  It whispers, so listen carefully.”  ~ Littlefoot’s mother, Land Before Time

I’m enjoying the slower pace.  I’m enjoying getting eight hours of sleep whenever possible.  I’m happy that I have been working out several times a week.  I feel much better making healthier food choices more days than not.  I even gave up sugar for 30 days.  I chose not to beat myself up for the times I slipped.  I’m letting myself have the space to cry it all out.  I have been very careful about who I share what with.  I’ve been accepting of the support I get offered from friends.  It’s been an interesting space to exist in.  I’m slowly becoming comfortable with it.  It’s not an easy space for me to feel comfortable in.  Despite the discomfort, I know that it’s the best place for me to be in at this moment.

“[G]rowing into your future with health and grace and beauty doesn’t have to take all your time. It rather requires a dedication to caring for yourself as if you were rare and precious, which you are, and regarding all life around you as equally so, which it is.” 
― Victoria Moran, Younger by the Day: 365 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Body and Revitalize Your Spirit

Black Female Bodies on the Street

I’m standing at the Goddess Walk (anti street harassment rally) next to its creator, Sweet Lorraine.  There were several Black female bodies on the street.  Actually, we were standing in a park at first.  An eight year old boy walked up and read the sign she was holding.  “I try to tell my Dad not to say those things to women.  You have to be a gentleman.  I told him if he keeps doing it, I’m writing him off my list!”  Moments later, his father walked up without knowing we had that conversation with his son.  He was bemoaning the plight of men “like him” who only say polite things as compliments to women on the street.  He refused to hear what the women at the walk were saying (as women who deal with it).  He cut us off and he wasn't listening.  Finally, I said, “You know what?  You’re a pretty man, I’d like to put you in a dress and wig and have you walk once around the block like that.”  He stormed off, arms in the air, exasperated that I’d even suggest such a thing.  “Come on, brother!  I’m just giving you a compliment.  Look at your face, it’s precious!”  He came back later and said with a serious face, “You turned the tables on me.  It hit like a boomerang.  I didn't like that.”  Yeah? Well, neither do we.  Point went to team woman.

Unfortunately, this was one of the few points earned.  On most days, I’m just trying to get to all of my appointments on time.  I’m really good at being over scheduled so it’s not personal if I don’t stop to engage everyone that makes a comment to me on the street.  Oh, and by the way, I don’t owe you any engagement.  This summer has been off the charts with street harassment.  Honestly, I feel a bit lucky, as if I have a remote control on street harassment.  For me, when I dress down, I don’t get harassed much.  However, I hear many women say that this makes no difference.  I am around two such women very often.  I’ve heard stories from these two women that are beyond anything that I have ever had to personally encounter on the streets.  Then just last week I bore witness to a similar such horrible incident of harassment.

Sweet Lorraine is another burlesque performer and also one of my closest friends.  She tends to dress up often.  I tend to dress down when not on stage.  It’s safe to say that I've watched many a human loose it in her presence.  I've watched people struggle to keep their eyes off her breasts as they speak to her.  I've also experienced walking with her when she is dressed down.  Clearly we don’t have the same remote control.  The comments and reactions from people on the street can be non-stop.  In fact, I believe she was dressed down on the day that her being harassed on the street ending with her being pushed by the cat callers.  These and experiences like these led her to create The Goddess Walk.

 

 

 

After watching her video promo for the walk, I had to admit to myself that dressing down is mostly about my being comfortable.  However, a big part of my dressing down is also to take a break from crazy comments like, “I’d bend that over and be all up in it,” while I’m trying to get where I’m going.  The walk has already happened but the conversation continues.

Toy!!! is my laptop buddy.  A fellow entrepreneur and primarily a vocalist, she uses her voice for many of her life’s passions.  She is one of the most passionate people I know.  In addition to using her voice for work and creative expression, she also does a great deal of charity work for the homeless and children.  She’s also a voluptuous red head.  When I say red head, I mean Crayola crayon, currently cut into a fly faux hawk, red.  When I walk down the street with her, I often hear people compliment her for how funky her whole style is.  If I hadn't actually had conversations with her, I’d never know about all the insults and street harassment that also come with that same packaging.  From a very young age, she’s had to deal with extra attention because of having full breasts.  For example, she’s long been given unsolicited advice as to what she should and should not wear.  She’s been coached strongly around how she should and should not act.  Often, it can be a challenge to grow into who we authentically are when others have taught us to believe how they think we should be.

She recently made her voice very heard in this Ladies Remix of the Robin Thicke & Pharell's Blurred Lines.

 

Just last week, I was headed back to Brooklyn with Perle Noire, who had just performed in a benefit show honoring the memory of burlesque legend, Dixie Evans.  We decided to grab a slice before getting into a cab home.  Many people in the pizza shop stopped her to compliment her performance.  There was a drunken white couple who stopped her as she passed their table.  The woman hugged Perle while she sang the praises of her performance.  The woman then decided to take a nibble of Perle’s nipple.  I was shocked and disgusted.  Perle handled it with way more grace than I could have mustered.  Clearly upset by it when she came back to where we were sitting she said, “I don’t know what it is.  My whole life, people just feel like they can just touch my breasts.”  I imagine that one reaction to this would be to try to hide her breasts at all costs.  However, just the inverse, she has won awards like Most Dazzling Dancer at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend Miss Exotic World Festival.  For many performers, the pasties are a reveal at the very end of an act.  Not for the Black Perle of Burlesque.  See her here performing a piece that is a tribute to the Nigerian Goddess of sensuality, intelligence and abundance - Oshun.

Soon after witnessing that incident with Perle Noire, I read When Your Brown Body is A White Wonderland by Tressie McMillan Cottom.  Please read it.  The three women I mention are beautiful by anyone's standards, so that element of the article didn't resonate.  It was the lack of reverence and value of her body that did.  It (and the comments of those who are trying to invalidate her particular experience) made me think about the ways in which women’s bodies are often removed from their humanity as a whole.  No, this is not limited to Black bodies but these are the bodies that I am speaking about in this post.  I, myself, have dealt with people in dressing rooms of strip clubs and burlesque shows grabbing at my behind.  It’s usually followed by a giggle and an “I just can’t help it…”  These are, however, women that I have a working relationship with (a working relationship that involves us being nude or near nude in dressing rooms together while enjoying the break from societies demands on how we should use our own bodies), not strangers on the street.

I am grateful that I have not experienced strangers on the street feeling at liberty to touch me.  So many people are asking why a white woman can’t do a particular dance. Beyond the historical African roots of our dances being ignored by many, it isn't just about that.  Google mapouka, soukous, soca and reggae dances. As a proud stripper, I’m here to tell you that no strippers or New Orleans didn't invent the moves.  What's really troublesome is that "Miley Gate’s" message is that my brown body is OK to be smacked and used as a prop devoid of full human value, yet again, for the sake of pop culture's gain and amusement.  Miley Gate be damned... Goddess bless the fool that now thinks they can grab my ass as if it's their own.

It just is not OK, period.

 

 

Hair Bump Chicken Skin Part 2

I have a dream that one day my legs will look this smooth...

I have a dream that one day my legs will look this smooth...

Technology ate my homework…  I wrote a few weeks ago about Hair Bump Chicken Skin on My Legs & Butt.  The scientific term for the bumps caused on legs, butt and back of arms from the body producing too much Keratin is Keratosis Pilaris (or KP for short).   I promised to report back on the results of the method I chose with before and after pictures.  Then, ALL the pictures I had on my phone disappeared (including the ones from my trip to the Milan Burlesque Festival) into the great cyber beyond, never to be found again.  It took me a few moments of silence, followed by a few cursing sessions (sorry Mummy) to get to a space of acceptance and move on.  I’m better now.  I am ready to report my results thus far, sadly sans pictorial.

My choice for the past few weeks has been option #5 from my first blog – 2% Salicylic Acid face wash (used on affected areas) & Amlactin Lotion.  I’ve been using it twice a day with an exfoliating scrubbing cloth.  From what I read, it would take about two weeks before any results would be seen.  It’s been just over a month and I can say that I do see some results.  The bad news is that the dark marks from the bumps are still visible.  However, the good news is that the feeling of the bumpiness is gone.  My legs and arms feel smoother than they have in years!  Also, there doesn't appear to be any new bumps forming.

 

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I have almond Dr. Bonner’s liquid soap on deck.  I’ve also been giving the coconut oil an apologetic side eye.  Everything I read about it is touting its antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties.  I’m debating between keeping the current regimen going for a few more weeks vs. going for the Dr. Bonners with gentle exfoliating and coconut oil route.  In my imagination the coconut oil would fade the spots.  The added moisture from the Dr. Bonners would keep the skin from hardening around the hair follicles.  Speaking of moisture, I recently was gifted a box of goodies from Soakology in Maine.  My favorite item is the balancing bath-melt and body oil.  It is a bar that you can either pinch a bit off and drop into the bathtub or rub in hands to apply to the skin directly as an oil.  Holy moisture heaven Batman!  I want to go to Maine now just to visit Soakology.  Special thanks to my fairy Soakology angel ;-). 

 Has anyone out there tried any methods out on their KP with favorable results?  Share!

I wanna know about it so write and let me know either in the comments or email me if ya the shy type. :-)

 

Sweet Lorraine Talks Goddess Walk

I got to sit down with Sweet Lorraine, Shades of burlesque producer and Brown Girls Burlesque troupe sister to talk about her up-coming event The Goddess Walk.  The Goddess Walk is an anti-street harassment rally happening Aug 24th in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn.  It is another part of her project called The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns.

I've been to a few events done under the umbrella of The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns.  What was your favorite one/why? What is the inspiration behind the festival?

This is hard to narrow down!  All of the events pushed me to a level of growth creatively, spiritually, personally that I am grateful for.  They are all my favorites in that regard.

But I’ll tell you 2 favorites J

1) Oshun Returns sessions are gatherings for women that incorporate yoga, discussion, meditation & creative activities that encouraged women to make time to appreciate themselves.  Topics range from how to enjoy pleasure to releasing painful memories from street harassment.  It was a space where women could be open with each other, share our experiences & celebrate ourselves.  At the end of the session I have the women walk around the space envisioning themselves as Goddesses, confident and loved.  During this, I drop rose petals at their feet.  This is something I think every person should experience!  This is where the Goddess Walk was born.  It’s a reminder that we are all worthy of the goodness life has to offer simply because we exist.  We should be treated as such!

I started this as a practice to be more caring to myself vs. being overly judgmental.  As women we’re taught that everyone else’s needs take precedent over our own.  I had to unlearn that way of being.  These sessions gave me and other women a space to do so.

2) Shades of Burlesque shows are also a favorite.  These shows feature Black burlesque performers in NYC.  There are a great variety in the performances presented, proving that there is no one “black woman experience.”  This show allows us all to define our sexuality while expressing it freely.  I even decorated the space with images of Black Pin-Ups.   Seeing yourself reflected in different mediums whether on stage or in the media in relation to beauty is important to me.  I wanted folks to know that Black women were there during the golden age of burlesque & pin-ups even though our images are rarely shown in historic documentation. 

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When was the first time you experienced street harassment?  What went through your mind?

The first time I was harassed as an openly queer adult was a few years ago when I was walking with my partner at the time.  A man threatened to rape me.  Another man threatened to kill me.  I had never experienced threats of violence associated with street harassment until after coming out.  The incident that prompted me to organize the Goddess walk was when I was harassed by a group of guys & eventually pushed.  I was on my way to the city and hadn’t even made it off of my own Block when a guy says “hey baby…”  I turned & said “My name is not ‘baby’ if you want to speak to me just say hello Miss.”  Then he and the rest of his group cursed me out.  I wasn’t afraid even though there were about 6 guys yelling at me, threatening to steal my phone. Probably because they were teenagers, I have a teenage nephew & 2 younger brothers so that’s why I wasn’t too concerned until one of them decided to push me. It was the first time I was physically assaulted in relation to street harassment.

So many things went through my head: Did someone really just push me, I’m going to call the cops, the cops won’t do anything because I’m dressed non gender specific today, would these young black men treat the white women who moved onto my block like this, Don’t cry, Don’t curse at them, I’ve been meditating twice a day for months, but I have zero compassion to show these kids right now, regroup you still have an engagement in the city… 

I was angry but more saddened than anything.  They were so young and had no respect for me as another human being, especially not me as a black woman.  This experience of lack of respect seemed to be a common experience in my community for Black women & queer folk.

Wow.  That’s pretty horrible.  I’ve had plenty said to me but I’ve not had anyone on the street touch me.  So, the Goddess Walk is approaching.  What do you hope to achieve?

The Goddess walk is an anti-street harassment rally specifically for black women, LGBTQ folk and our allies.  I make the distinction because, in my experience, negative stereotypes associated with Black women in terms of our sexuality influence how we are harassed on the street as well as one’s sexual orientation. 

I feel compelled to organize this event because I don’t want to be afraid in my own neighborhood.  I don’t want to hide who I am. I don’t deserve to be harassed because I am Black, a woman or queer.  I want to be the change. 

 

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Is there anything that you've ever wanted to say to men on the street as they comment when you walk past them?  

YES!  I usually say, “Respect me and respect yourself,” if they say something inappropriate.  I would also like to add please stop assuming things about me as to why I refuse to respond.  I don’t have to respond. Period dot, end of story.

And if I had their attention for 5 minutes I would say this & listen to their response: 

Are you familiar with Stop & Frisk?  Have you ever been stopped & frisked by the cops when you were on your way to work, or the gym, or a night out with your friends?  Did you feel angry that they imposed themselves on you with no explanation simply because they had a badge and a gun?  Can you recall how your body tenses up when you see a cop & you just hope they’ll pass by, but you know they won’t because you fit the description for those who they are supposed to stop & frisk?  Do you think this is unacceptable behavior?

Well that’s how I feel when you harass me on the street.  I hope you think about this before you catcall.

Huh, never thought about it that way, but you’re right about the parallel of imposition.  What advice would you give to "the good peeps" who may want to approach a woman but doesn't want to be thought of as just another cat caller?  I feel like the good folks end up quiet for fear of being disrespectful.  And the disrespectful people shout out loud. 

I think being respectful is always the way to go.  If you say hello and you want to continue the conversation, ask her if she’s willing to do the same if not let it go & move on. 

What are you up to when you're not helping women be able to move freely about the streets? Where can we find out what you're up to?

Performing burlesque, go-go dancing, making pasties, revamping a wig, styling a shoot, writing my solo show, ya know the usualJ  You can check out my comings & goings at sweetlorraineburlesque.weebly.com or find me on www.faceook.com/Lorraine.sweetlorraine 

  Speaking of Facebook here is the Goddess Walk Facebook Event Invite.  Are there future plans for The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns? 

Yes, besides the solo show, my goal is to make Shades of Burlesque a regular monthly show here in NYC.  Consistent visibility for Black women freely expressing their sexuality in their terms, from their many different perspectives is one of my greatest passions.  I can fulfill this desire & my love of performing simultaneously by producing this show :-)!

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Hair Bump Chicken Skin on My Legs and Butt!

There was a lively discussion going on recently in an online forum that I'm part of.  Sharing began to happen around how to get rid of hair bumps also called "chicken skin".  As many of us that have to deal with this harmless yet unsightly skin issue chimed in, others joined.  Many had no idea it even had a name.  They didn't know that there were things that could be done about it.  It's official name is Keratosis Pilaris (KP).  It is caused when the body creates an excess of Keratin.  The excess keratin hardens and closes around hair follicles which stops them from leaving the pore.  It occurs on the legs, thighs, butt and outer arms mainly.  It sometimes can appear on the face and can be mistaken for acne.

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The good news is, it's not harmful to health in any way!  The bad news is that it causes people feel not so confident about the appearance of their skin.  It affects 50 - 80% of teens and 40 - 50% of adults.  Many adults who are affected by it will see it go away in their 30's.  I had no idea that the numbers were so high.  It typically is inhereted from parents.  It's one of the things I got from my father.  We are alike in more ways than have anyhting to do with this blog.  Perhaps, that's one of the reasons that I never really felt inclined enough to try to get rid of them.  It's just yet another a trait that me and my Daddy share :-)

Just last week, I decided that I actually want to try to get rid of them.  I went off to the interwebs to do some research.  I found many different ways that people used to work on reducing/ridding themselves of the appearance of these little bumps.  I decided on a method for myself and began only a few days ago.  I took before pictures, so I will share after about two weeks what kind of progress my skin has made.  I decided to share the other information that I found with readers here too. 

1) Laser Treatment  One of the first ways of dealing with it I came across was laser treatments.  I had read somewhere that someone dealing with KP had it go away after tanning.  I would not recommend tanning for obvious cancer causing health reasons.  However, I'm guessing that much in the same way as tanning, laser treatments probably burn the follicles away.  No hair follicle, no hair to get encased by skin.  This person said that it took about 10 - 12 laser treatments to see the skin smoothing results she wanted.  She also did mention that this method was painful.  This is also a the pricest way to go.  Even though with Groupon and Living Social type deals the price of laser treatments can be reduced, I decided not go this route.  I still thought that it was worth mentioning.

2) Organic Virgin  Coconut Oil  I saw this tip mentioned often.  As a child, my mother used coconut oil on my skin, hair and scalp.  I have used coconut oil to heal acid reflux caused my a torn esophogus once (I took a teaspoon 3x a day).  I did not want to take the drugs the doctors suggested.  It worked.  Coconut oil naturally has many healing properties (reduces redness, sanitizes) and it's an excellent moisturizer.  Keeping the skin moisturized is one of the best things a person with KP can do to stop the skin from hardeninge over the hair follicle.  I imagine this is why it worked for these people.  I decided not to try this personally because, well, if as a kid it didn't make it go away, I was not willing to put in the time as an adult.  However, I have read about many people swearing by this as a solution.  Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.  It's organic and inexspensive so I would encourage anyone giving it a try.  

3) Castille Soap  Many people know of the popular Dr. Bonners brand.  It is inexpensive and can be found easliy in many drug stores, health food stores or supermarkets.  The soap is made using pure vegetable oils and not animal fat.  So in conjunction with a loofah, it can help get rid of those pesky little bumps.  I intend to make this method part of my maintenance program. 

4) Exfoiliating Scrubs  I found so many great recipes online for natural scrubs.  A quick google search will yield you many options.  The basic ingredients are to use sea salt or course sugar as the scrub factor.  Then couple it with natural oils such as virgin olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil.  Then add something like a little tea tree oil that is anti-bacterial.  Use it in the shower.  Then follow up with a non-drying cleanser like Dove soap.  Of course, moisturize as soon as you leave the bath.

5) 2% Salicylic Acid Face Wash & Amlactin Lotion  Although, I've read that for some people the use of agents such as salicylic acid can make the problem worse if it dries out the skin too much, I still decided to give it a go.  My plan is to moisturize well before getting out of the shower to lock in as much moisture as possible.  I got a generic brand acne wash from the drug store and then splurged on Amlactin (which I got on sale at Costco for less than what is costs at drug stores.  Perhaps deals can be found online as well but I wanted it in hand as fast as possible.  It contains 12% lactic acid, is PH balanced for the skin and gently exfoiliates with moisture retention. With a scrubbing cloth or glove, I'll use the face wash on the affected areas 2x a day.  Then I will moisturize with Amlactin 2x a day as well.  

Clearly this is NOT the most organic or natural method.  From what I've read I should start to see results in about two weeks.  The risk I am taking is that the face wash may prove to be too drying and worsen the issue.  I don't have sensitive skin, so I'm taking that risk.  Look back in about 2 weeks for the before and after pictures.  I'll gladly accept prayers and well wishes lol...

As you can see, altough there is no "cure" for KP.  The keys to reduction are anti-bactarial cleansing, exfoiliating and moisturizing.  Let me know what you've tried and had success with in your own KP reduction quests. 

 ESSENCE REVEALED - Essence Revealed is first generation Bajan born & raised in Boston.  She got her BFA at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and MA at NYU's Steinhardt School of Education.  Her writing has appeared places such as $pread Magazine, Corset Magazine, BurlesqueBible.com and 21st Century Burlesque.  She's been published in three anthologies: Pros(e), Prose and Lore &  Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chicken Hawks.  She now performs & teaches nationally and internationally both solo and as a member of Brown Girls Burlesque.  Her favorite thing to do besides reading is to lay on the beach in Barbados to rest up for a night of calypso dancing.

 

 

Call Your Mom!

Boston I found out about the bomb at the marathon because a friend posted a link about it on my Facebook page.  My parents are visiting the states from Barbados.  They're in Boston right now where I was born and raised.  One of my best friends lives in Boston and does the kind of work that could bring him to the marathon. Another high-school friend from there is a photog and could be there covering the event.  I still have friends that could potentially be at work near Copley also.  Heck, I'd just been there for a gig on News Years Eve and walked around at a parade before heading to perform at the party (a now eerie memory).

An enlargeable relief map of Barbados

All of these people flashed into my head at once.  I called my parents first even though I was pretty sure they wouldn't be anywhere near there. "Oh, we just got back from BJ's," my Mom's voice assured me.  I sent a double text to two close friends, put a post on fb & then clicked around to check on some people.  Thanks to the power of social media, I knew all my people were alright in just a few short minutes.

It got me thinking though, were they not alright, I would have been a hot mess.  I don't really like talking on the phone.  I'm a text-er. So, my Mom was recently giving me a hard time about calling so seldom.  I haven't spoken to/visited one of those friends in a long time.  In New York, life is moving so fast.  I am moving so fast.  I am in love with almost everything I'm working on right now so I can get in the zone and stay there 12, 16 hours without pausing.

But yesterday served as a good reminder to me that I have to do better about connecting with my real life friends and family.  My heart goes out to everyone who was down there.  To even bear witness to something as awful as that has got to be painful.

Boston Skyline

Why does it so often take some senseless tragedy for me to remember these things?

The moral of the blog (a note to self) is: Forget all the criticism about how the story is covered.  Who did what right and/or wrong, etc. etc. etc. and Call your Mom and everyone close to you as often as you can while you can!

ESSENCE REVEALED - Essence Revealed is first generation Bajan born & raised in Boston.  She got her BFA at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and MA at NYU's Steinhardt School of Education.  Her writing has appeared places such as $pread Magazine, Corset Magazine, BurlesqueBible.com and 21st Century Burlesque.  She's been published in two anthologies: Pros(e) &  Johns, Marks, Tricks & Chicken Hawks.  She now performs & teaches nationally and internationally both solo and as a member of Brown Girls Burlesque.  Her favorite thing to do besides reading is to lay on the beach in Barbados to rest up for a night of calypso dancing.  Help Essence get to the Milan Burlesque Awards!