To know sometimes your everything isn’t going to be enough
To cry for the lives lost
To smile for the lives saved
For a sacrifice of time and energy so great your reservoir is often empty
To relive every second of what could be done differently
To in spite of everything thank God for the skill he’s blessed you with
To know that with the tank on E you’d still get up and do it all over again
For the love:
Whatever idea people have of being a doctor in their minds, I promise you that unless you’ve laid your heart on the floor in this exact fashion you have no idea how it feels.
I love what I do
I’ve always tried to live an authentic life in service to others and God knows that’s why I’m a doctor, but within my first year of my profession I knew instinctively my life would never be mine again
I’ve relied on my friends, family and significant other to all understand that though I love them, one of my first loves is completely unforgiving in leaving room for anything or anyone else
But sometimes I mourn not being normal
Sometimes I wonder about life on the other side
How would it feel to work 8-4 daily
The expectation of what Friday brings
Having set gym times
Being able to take up a dance class
To have the room to find a greater love
To just exist as Lynn
I did know the sacrifice of time, of energy…sacrifices family and friends would have to make for me
I just didn’t realize that part of me would die too
There’s never a minute I don’t think of a case I’ve seen, a patient I’ve helped, the ones that slipped away
I have become medicine but …I don’t want that
I want it to exist as a function of who I am. Like any other body part to find its place and its function, and I guess that’s what has brought me here…to leaving my job
It took me a while to realize my destiny isn’t tied to my first job or the hospital I work at. I used to live my life in so much fear until I realize that wasn’t living at all
That was a real, raw, exhausted, burnt out me back then in 2018. A lot happened since that time but we’re going to make a major fast forward…
Just like that the first quarter of 2021 is done. It’s been a quarter spent in pandemic and self-imposed isolation apart from work. At this point I don’t have to tell you how it is. I feel like we all are singing in the same choir, in the same simulation even if we’re singing different parts.
Last year was more of a ‘when COVID-19 ends’ for me. With this particular tsunami this year I was determined to protect my mental well-being from feeling like I was losing chunks of my life.
Introspection….elevation …equanimity…intention…those have been the guiding words of this period.
I started doing a class on Mindful Self-Discipline by Giovanni Dienstmann and in one session he spoke about balancing virtues. Every virtue we seek he said, is a psychological asset, but has to be tempered otherwise they can cast shadows on your life.
The most profound example I can give is the one that brought me here, back to old scribblings, back to this blog. (Well y’all reading know I never actually came back in April, it’s August 22nd now and it’s anyone’s guess if I’ll actually post this) Compassion and empathy, some of the best virtues. It’s how we relate to each other, feel, learn, stretch, grow but even the best of virtues can cast…shadows.
What shadows can compassion and empathy ever cast?
And that’s where I’m at.
Burnout particularly among emergency physicians was the basis of my post-graduate thesis. I know what it is, how to prevent it, the measures that work but I’m not immune in anyway. No one really is. The empathetic switch needed from patient to patient , the repeated exposure to traumatic events..those are just two reasons why healthcare workers particularly in emergency rooms are most at risk for burnout.
To say I’ve had a rough week is an understatement. I’ve cried with patients, family members, colleagues, and this is apart from anything COVID related. I’ve felt low, I’ve felt defeated. It took me back to a time where I was driving home from work in 2018, pulled my car over on a lonely cart road and started writing on a loose piece of paper. Crying and writing, writing and crying after a resuscitation filled shift. That’s the shadow.
I’ve always toyed with if to share what I wrote then here but in everything, we all need to know we’re not alone.
To the doctors, nurses, paramedics , EMTs, ERTs, orderlies…just know that past all the frills, you are actually seen.
You are seen for your light, you are seen for your shadows, and I am eternally grateful every day to call you colleagues.
Seems strange right? Not to me. From the age of 11 it was always my reality that when I reached age 30 it was something I had to do. I just remember sitting in a doctor’s room as a pre-teen and being told that since my mother that got diagnosed at 40, that my testing had to start 10 years before.
Fast forward to turning 30, life happened and my ‘get a mammogram’ mantra got pushed in the shadows. Funny story, it was actually on a date recapping anecdotes of my life that it hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember just feeling fear. Calling various …
I’ve been trying my hardest to write about my experience getting my first mammogram since 2018. Writing it for me…writing it for you…writing it to share…writing it to pass on knowledge…writing it to bring awareness; but after two years I can’t and I’m starting to realise that’s ok.
The reason why? Grief
I think of my mother and I mourn, I think of breast cancer and I mourn; I’ve been mourning for 22 years and I still feel as if I’ve lost a part of myself that I can’t get back. This truth is that’s exactly what it is.
I think of my mother daily but October hits different. Not only is it the anniversary of her death but ironically it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Now for some people it means the world. Some get to celebrate survivors, for others it’s an opportunity to bring awareness and being honest, I feel like some see it as something to monetize. For me though, it feels like a tunnel that I can’t escape. I’m so hypersensitised that as people talk about those who are brave enough to beat it, I wonder if they ever consider that those who died didn’t lack courage or faith or hope, it just wasn’t to be.
I was introduced to a podcast by Brene Brown featuring Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and completing the Stress Cycle. One of the things they mentioned was that sometimes when you’re going through a stressor, you may think that once the inciting factor is gone then you’re fine…’but have you actually completed the cycle and worked through your stress?’
This podcast came to me in the middle of October and within minutes I realised that this was something I’ve failed to do. I wait until October has passed, wait until I no longer have to see the signs and all the pink, wait until the nightmares stop and then I think I’m ok.
Another October survived and I’m still intact. Yay me!
But I never have been, I still feel broken.
I’d say this year has been the worse it has been in a while. I felt my grief in the realest of ways. It felt like my body was cracking, like a deep ache; a heaviness; I cried myself into a panic attack until I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t hide. I couldn’t fake my way out the tunnel this time and just wait for it to pass. I needed help and I couldn’t be too proud to ask for it.
When I think of my losses, I also think of my blessings, and I’m blessed enough to have a friend that I could pick up the phone, not say a word and through my tears she knew that I needed her to pray for me.
That wasn’t the end though. I cried day and night for a week, everyday deeper into a hole of despair.
With my sense of community for everything I turn to the internet to google some very specific things. That particular night was:
‘What do you do when it’s 22 years since the death of a parent and you aren’t coping well’.
I was reading other people’s experiences and one lady described it as feeling as if she’s ‘lost [her] cheerleader and now there’s no one in the stands to clap’. And again part of now trying to cope with grief is realizing that its ok to feel this way and at the same time still be grateful for a dad and extended family who do cheer me on.
But I miss my mum.
I feel jealous sometimes to see other women with their mums and wonder if they know how fortunate they are. I wonder if she would be proud, I wonder what life lessons she would have wanted to pass down, I wonder if I’ve turned out to be everything that she envisioned I would be, and to be honest I wonder about my ability to be a good mother without my own.
People can’t even imagine sometimes how words can water what feels like desolate soil, but every time someone says I look like her or have her character, something deep inside blooms. There’s not a bigger compliment I can imagine for the kindest soul I’ve known.
I’d be lying if I said I listened to the end of the podcast. As useful as the information was, I wasn’t in a full place of readiness and willingness to hear; perhaps I will be by the time I publish this.
The bit I’ve listened to, I’ve tried to put into practice. Instead of hiding from my feelings and emotions, I’m trying to find ways to work through them. I’ve started asking my family more specific questions on her, not only in her youth but what she expressed as her feelings and fears during the time of her diagnosis and treatment, I’ve stopped hiding from pictures and allow myself to look, cry and most importantly feel. I’m not trying to hide from my grief anymore, I’ve already failed to outrun it, but I am trying to get myself from one end to the tunnel to the other.
Me putting this into words is an act of bravery for me. This by far isn’t going to be my most cohesive writing, but it isn’t meant to be. I’m just being vulnerable and trying my best to articulate something that feels almost impossible to.
This is for someone like me who may be searching to believe, who may be up goggling in the middle of the night looking for someone who understands, for someone with that missing piece, for someone missing their cheerleader.
This post offers no advice, no tips or tools, but it’s a word to let you know you know that you are seen and I hope you see me too.
Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday
PS: I’ve posted links below to the podcast I mentioned before in case anyone wants to listen and also an article on grief as published in Psychology Today
‘If I wanna shave it close or if I wanna rock locks…that don’t take a bit away from the soul that I got’…India.Arie
So from the last post (which was a decade ago), I’m sure y’all got the gist…I wasn’t in love with my new hair. I kinda smiled with myself for my bravery and stepping out my comfort zone, sure that with every step out of the salon I’d feel better…Embrace it…Walk into my melanin magic. A few ‘texture shots’ and I left the salon but every progressive step felt like dread.
Now I don’t know about you guys but my go to for feeling better is a chat with my best friend. Nothing like a little gas up and reassurance for the soul..except when it backfires. I called my best friend telling her about my big chop yadda yadda and of course her next request was to switch to FaceTime Video. No matter how I felt I switched to video ready for some validation; what I heard next was laughter, not like a chuckle, a full-bodied laugh. Now between us we make our jabs and legit there are never hard feelings involved but I was already feeling super sensitive and self conscious and there I got off the phone dejected.
I immediately ran to the mirror and took a full look at my ‘new’ hair. For the first time in forever I felt ugly…just not beautiful at all. Now what had changed since I left home that morning? I was wearing the same outfit that I thought was cute, my smile was the same, except for a little food baby my body was the same and surely my character hadn’t changed; more importantly when I left home that morning I felt beautiful. So…if with one hair ‘change’ I was feeling unattractive, the only conclusion was that I attached my beauty to my hair. Could that be right?
Now I’ve always believed that you’re never fully dressed until your hair is done but this was different. What was my definition of hair being ‘done’? What did I classify as beauty in hair? How did I classify my own beauty? I’ve kept using quotations in when saying ‘new hair’ and ‘hair change’ because in a way, it wasn’t. This was my hair, my natural curls, my birthright and it was the version of myself that I felt most uncomfortable and unrecognizable.
I also had to confront if I was a hypocrite. I’ve had several friends who had gone on the natural hair journey and I was supportive, I loved their curls, I loved their representation but now that I had now started on this journey, that ‘ugly’ word creeped in. The irony that I wanted Mr.Man to ‘accept me in all my black girl magic glory’ (see Part I of this post), when apparently the biggest struggle was going to be for me to do the same.
Man I cried and in between tears rotated which friend had to hear about my hair and revelations about myself. My friends really are some VIPs. They know that once I’m on a topic there is no way I’m going to shut up about it, yet they not only tolerate me but are there for me in meaningful ways (in both the big and small matters) and for that I’m so appreciative.
One of my rocks reminded me of what my natural hair was. After I expressed that it was bringing me to an understanding of my prejudices against my own hair and concerns that everyone would ask why I did it, he said to me:
And I felt ok. Those words gave me the courage to not make a weave appointment or the next day and to try to navigate my spaces confidently. Fake it til you make it and all that good stuff.
I made a promise to myself that until I felt just as beautiful with my natural hair as I did with all other variations, natural hair was going to be here to stay.
Hold up, I haven’t shown you guys pics yet!
First on my road to acceptance, finding my angles. 💁🏾♀️
So remember I did this before travelling. Big mistake. I washed my hair five times in the space of three days. I’m still learning but there are a few lessons this particular journey is teaching me.
My first lesson:Do some research
My best friend will tell you that I’m one of the most methodical people. I live on pro/con lists and risk/benefit ratio. Did I ever reseach natural hair or caring for it though? Nooooooo. Now for anyone thinking about big chopping or transitioning…don’t be like me. I legit thought wash and go meant wash annnddddd go! The lie detector determined that was a lie. I got on a flight with a small jar of Eco Styler Gel after using it the night before. 10/10 would not recommend. My saving grace was that I was in a foreign country and that allowed me a sliver of anonymity.
Lack of preparation aside, I still rocked it though!
Just want to reiterate, finding out what LOC, LCO, moisturizing and sealing are after a whole week of being natural…life doesn’t have to be that hard.
Lesson #2: Have an open mind
To be honest, I went in with expectations of what my hair would look like. These expectations were based on what I saw natural hair looking like in popular and social media (you can see why I was wrong about the wash and go) and also based on what my hair was like in childhood. Curl dysphoria is a real thing. (Like for real, by definition, but I digress). I wanted my hair to look a certain way, behave a certain, fall into place. I certainly didn’t account for whatever shrinkage was. And that’s not what it was meant to do because remember, ‘it’s the only hair that defies gravity’.
I’ve allowed myself to embrace whatever my hair does on any given days, the different textures, how it responds to different products, how it loves water and shrinkage is my favorite game to play.
(I know i look like 12 in this pic)
I still haven’t given up the hope of finding my hair twin, my person on YouTube or on social media with my exact curl pattern, porosity (genetic makeup). It may seem a tad bit impossible but I just want to know exactly what products that person uses so I can try to replicate and take the trial and error out my life. But again, that’s half the fun.
Lesson #3: People who need people are the luckiest people in the world
Barbra Streisand said it in 1963.
I think everything in life, no matter how simple or complex puts us in the path of others and presents an opportunity for us to grow a community among each other. From the friends who started the hair journey with me with the first meltdown to the ones who immediately when I made it social media official, gave me hair care and product advice, encouragement, and shared their anecdotes on their individual experiences…I’m grateful. A really special shout-out to the customer attendants in the hairstores. When I landed back in Barbados I went straight from the airport to the store armed with the knowledge from my DMs and then gained a larger community of support there.
You’re really never alone in anything and there’s always someone who can relate and is willing to share.
So this is now month 10 and guess what? I’m still natural!
…And I Love it!
I’ve gained an appreciation for the beauty and versatility of my hair. To be honest, life in lockdown and restriction time would have been a struggle for me if I wasn’t natural. Instead of relying on my hairdresser, I started to rely on myself…and KH. I experiment, I try new things, I get frustrated when styles don’t work out and I give myself two snaps in the mirror when they do. I’ve even done a cut to reshape it.
The questions I asked every morning before work in those first few weeks ‘Does my hair look untidy, unprofessional? What will patients think? What will my bosses think?’ are a far way from me. This is MY hair and anything that grows from my scalp could never be wrong.
And now I’m in a mental space where the natural hair doesn’t need to stay anymore. But I want it to….for now. It’s not a need because I know I’m beautiful whether I’m dressed up, dressed down, with straight hair, a fro or my go to high puff. This is honestly the healthiest my hair has been in over a decade and I’m excited to see how much it can flourish.
Don’t be alarmed if you see me out and about with a little something something I have on special order *cough* a weave. I can do it because….just like ‘dah beach is mine’, this head is mine to adorn with whatever crown I wish; no validation or permission needed to just be.
Feel free to drop a comment on whatever lesson you picked up from your own hair journey.
‘Lynn in 2020, freefall. 2020, iridescence. 2020, a higher love in and of all things‘
That was one of the last things I wrote to you and my goodness has 2020 been a freefall year in everyway. There’s literally been nothing to do but trust that this too shall pass.
Even though I’ve been MIA I’ve thought of you often. This website was the birth of a hope and a dream and this year was supposed to be the time where I really nurtured it so that it could grow into everything I conceived it to be…didn’t work out that way.
You see, one minute I was in D.C living my best life and I feel like in a split second the world spun on its axis.
I’ve been immersing myself in my work and one of the biggest reiterations is that self-care is really not just a ‘one and done’ thing but has to be a constant and a way of life.
I failed in that within the first few weeks. I don’t know that I’ve outright mentioned it in this medium before but I’m an Emergency Physician. Funny enough, the follow up to ‘The Rest Is Still Unwritten’ was actually a piece detailing the feelings that led me to make changes re work/life balance. Ironic. Truly.
Initially at the start of this pandemic I just didn’t do that properly. I worked 7-day weeks and stopped taking off days. When I wasn’t actively on the floor it was Zoom Meetings and protocols developments; nights filled with leisure reading were completely decimated and instead it was just COVID-19 reading. I made the decision to as much as I could separate myself from my family because to be honest, my biggest fear wasn’t and hasn’t been for myself but in keeping those I love safe.
But guess what? I crashed and burned. I became mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. The concept of this blog also crashed and burned. How could I inspire when I didn’t feel inspired outside of my work. I don’t even think I wanted to be inspired.
I admit that every little motivational page I started to scroll pass (I’d even venture to say I got irritated). Suddenly deep breathing and meditation weren’t important, exercise wasn’t important. The only thing that mattered was survival, work and sleep.
As we all navigate in whatever normal is for us in this time, I seek to find balance. Writing is my love, my passion…I have so much written from before, so many thoughts, so many ramblings, still to share with you…
…It’s time for me to resume this particular journey.
Be forewarned, the pace may be even slower than it was before, but at least I’m taking my foot off the brakes.
‘Feel the rain on your skin’ … you know you started humming the song when you saw the title. And I really wish I was tech-savvy enough to know how to insert audio..but alas, I’m not…so you’re going to have to settle for my writing as the trade off.
If you were looking closely, the timestamp of my previous writing pieces was circa 2018 reflecting on the 2016-2017 time in my life. For this blog there are so many things I want to discuss but since everyone has been asking about a Part III, maybe I can jump into Lynn in 2020.
Looking back on what I wrote back in 2018 at times felt quite out of body. It’s so hard for me sometimes to reconcile that girl steeped in insecurities, uncertainty and brokenness with the woman I am now – but I remain grateful.
I was tempted when I was posting those pieces to delete some paragraphs and phrases because the level of vulnerability cocooned between my words was making even me uncomfortable. I didn’t though; I kept it in the rawest form because who would I be and what would this journey represent for both myself and others, if I couldn’t just lay it on the line and be authentic.
2020: Unapologetically myself
I’ve always used the word ‘resilient’ to describe myself and literally had some of my best and most note-worthy accomplishments through adversity but somewhere along the line I started to think that that was the only way I could truly flourish. Through adversity.
There have been so many opportunities over the past few years that I could not have even imagined and at one point I started to get scared. I still get scared to be honest. Good things don’t happen just like that right? You have to fight, and battle and make it through the storm to then see the rainbow..right? I think?…I thought.
That thinking has gotten me in a mental pickle and something that I have had to consciously stop myself from doing is waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. It’s almost like I’ve gone through these bursts of feeling like an imposter in my own life waiting for this ‘good luck’ to run out. Self-sabotage.
Billy Chapata said ‘one of the easiest ways to betray yourself is to second-guess the same blessings you’ve been asking for. Just because it seems too good to be true, it doesn’t mean that it is’.
I had to reframe my mind; maybe these things aren’t happening by chance but by the thousand tiny mental steps we take daily or the hard work that you’ve put in for years thinking it has gone unnoticed, or in the dream you planted in your heart and clasped between your hands until it floated to God’s ears through your prayers.
Instead of opting for this self-betrayal, I continually chant that a grateful heart is a magnet for miracles and allow God and the universe to meet me in my place of gratitude. I think we all struggle at some point of feeling undeserving but we have to remember to not be enemies to our own destiny.
One of my biggest adventures was one I almost let imposter syndrome get ahold of. I spent three weeks between Abu Dhabi and Dubai working at the World Special Olympics. A literally life changing experience. It was an opportunity I originally said no to because I didn’t think I could accommodate it with the other life changes I’d made. Eventually I came to my senses and the job was still open and waiting for me. The takeaway: what is for you is yours and everything aligns to make that happen, even when you try to self-sabotage.
Peeling back the layers of yourself isn’t easy and anyone who tells you it is must have some kind of superpower. I’m in constant competition with the woman I was the day before, I long to out-run her, out-smart her, be kinder, be more brilliant…everything. But truthfully, the only way I’m able to do that is to really examine her, and that’s where the stripping my soul down bare comes from. Confronting the ugly truths about yourself isn’t easy but its necessary. For example, I think I’d started to become started to become selfish in being mindful of only my feelings. It’s been a weird juxtaposition of the softness that allows me to flutter the wings of metamorphosis and a hard shell that says ‘come this close and no more’ to avoid past hurts. Forever a work in progress.
But still we grow.
The thing is that when you achieve mental and emotional freedom, it becomes hard to settle for less in any area of your life and due to that I made both personal and professional adjustments. I’ve consistently tried to live my life outside of my comfort zone to stretch and grow and even though I wouldn’t say I had destination addiction before, I do think that in my subliminal, I was waiting on something, some optimal condition where I could fully follow all my non-professional passions and dreams. To be honest, that something was the person to share it with. Once I was really able to sit with myself in that ‘flaws and all’ way, all bets were off.
With all the stretching and growing and travelling and hobbies, the one big thing (of many) that I haven’t mastered is how to rest. I’m writing this on vacation after a session of journaling and pray where I was lamenting that I’m not doing enough. In a way, I started to get addicted to just always ‘doing’- Starting some new challenge, taking some new chance, defying some odd in my mind. That‘s all well and good but I’m trying to focus myself on honouring where I am and resetting to propel me forward to where I need to be. We make so much progess without realizing it; we become attached to the valley and the climb that we don’t see that we reached the mountaintop.
But still we press on, we stay on the journey knowing that it’s never a straight line but the story still continues. The rest is still unwritten and it’s yours to write.
Lynn in 2020, freefall. 2020, iridescence. 2020, a higher love in and of all things.
P.S One more thing I want to mention, I don’t think besides my career I’ve ever felt something so aligned with my purpose than sharing my writing in an effort to inspire others. Of all the amazing things, the existence of JourneyWithL brings me so much joy. This would all have been a vacuum if not for you, yes you, giving me this chance to share myself and accepting me. It’s not a blessing that I take lightly or for granted so from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Writing has always been the way I express myself. In times when I’ve been unable to articulate what I want to say with my voice, I could always count on my pen to do the talking for me. I had been journaling before journaling was a thing, expressing my innermost thoughts on blank pages, capturing my soul between book covers.
My dad still has the poems I wrote in primary school, some of them framed. Back then I was obsessed with flowers and Brian Lara. Come to think of it, the more things change, the more they remain the same. I’m still in awe of gardens and Brian Lara is forever the prince for me.
I would later graduate to a Barbie diary with a flimsy lock then to this beautiful brown felt book, a book that would take me through secondary school and university, to now several different types of journals: one for personal thoughts, one for professional goals, one for fitness…you get the picture.
I’ve always loved reading. My imagination would come alive with my interpretation of what was on the page and in turn writing became my way of letting my mind explore all the avenues it wanted.
The avenues have all amounted to what Solange said best- I am no singular expression of myself. There’s so much going on in my mind at any given time and so much I want to share and say, hence how ‘Love.L’ was born.
I had gone through a series of personal experiences that I felt I needed to share; the lessons were just too invaluable for me to keep to myself. Suddenly my words had a voice, I knew I could be a lion and if only one woman heard my roar and could relate that was ok. I jotted my thoughts down and called that particular piece of writing ‘A Journey to Self’. At that point they had no real home besides my book and then my laptop, but I knew I had found a new sense of purpose. As fate would have it, my friend would tell me about a website her sister was launching ‘Moon+Mettle’ and the rest became history.
As for my roar, it was louder than I could have ever imagined. People were messaging and sending DMs to tell me how my writing helped them, offered perspectives on their own journeys…I knew I had tapped into a special talent and wanted to do more, needed to do more…and now we’re here.
The journey to self hasn’t ended, it never will but I’m hoping that a few of you will choose to come on the journey with me while on your on paths to self-discovery. The list of things I want to talk about feels endless- vulnerability, love, friendships, music, therapy, career choices…it goes on and on.
So come, read all about it. I hope that on the way no matter how similar or different we are, we can inspire and encourage each other and build a community of fearless individuals.
PS. In case curiosity was getting the best of you at what I could possibly write about a flower as a child, I present to you…
Consider yourselves lucky (or unlucky🤷🏾♀️) that I have no idea how to embed audio. Although, if I do figure out by the time I’m ready to publish this, it’s over for y’all! Consider yourself warned.
By now though, I hope you’re all humming the song and channeling your inner India.Arie.
Certainly my hair has always been a source of pride for me. My first love affair with hair altogether started with my grand-mother’s and mother’s. I remember at primary school and all the other children freaking out whenever my Gran would come and pick me up. She had these long gray-white strands that she would insistently only wear in three plaits and on the off chance that one of her plaits would drop revealing her waist length hair, we would all squeal. It was like I had a real-life doll.
Then there was my mother, who could cut her hair ad nauseam and then it would still grow back. Even when chemotherapy would take ultimately take her gorgeous hair away, I can still remember her exclamation one afternoon after school ‘Look Lynn, my hair is growing back!’, pointing to some tufts that were determined to win the chemo fight. My mother had the silkiest hair I have ever seen in my life. What it took me relaxer to try to achieve, she did with a pressing comb.
Now, you may think with this fascination that I have some boss hair skills right? No. My plaits are below average at best, I can’t cornrow, and up until a couple months ago I hadn’t washed my hair myself in years.
It was the afore-mentioned lack of skills plus an unwillingness to have to rely on others to do my hair that made me get a relaxer at age 15. Somehow though, my hair didn’t flourish relaxed the way it did natural. It was so much work to get it past a certain length, it was so coarse and looking back despite two weekly hairdressing appointments and treatments, it probably wasn’t that healthy either. But that was ok!
I went from being the girl in school never having my hair together to always having my hairstyles switched up, from my first bob-cut in Jamaica to my spiral sets and then a real love story of me and weaves. I was set.
Circa 2017, (think life changes), I went back to a signature bob but I have bomb hairdresser, (I love you, Michelle!) who would make my weaves look like God himself laid His hands on my head.
It’s from wearing weaves and the wigcaps that I was able to grow some natural hair length.
Now…. there was never any intent on my part to everrrrrrrrrrr go back natural but every time I’d go to the hairdresser I’d see the new growth and think ‘what if?’.
It was reading ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ by Nicola Yoon that convinced me to actually stop relaxing my leave out and to head in the transition zone. She had written an entire chapter about ‘Hair: An African-American History’. That chapter started from what hair meant to Black women as ‘markers of identity’ from the time of fifteenth-century civilisations, to the present era. What I liked most about it was at the end, the assertion was made that the main protagonist didn’t wear her hair as a political statement but that she was able to wear her hair both natural and relaxed because she longed to try new things and because it was beautiful.
Now my little summary of that chapter has in no way done it justice…but copyright laws, etc, etc; let’s just say it was a moment for me. My hair was dynamic; why couldn’t I wear my curls and if I didn’t like it just cover it or relax it. I also longed to try all these amazing products designed just for natural hair which for sure weren’t around when I was natural. I was very much in the Dax and B&B SuperGro way of life but now with transitioning to natural hair I was going to get to see my curls in all their amazing glory.
I didn’t have a timeline when I started, but at the turn of 2020 I decided that that February I was finally going to big chop for my birthday. It was one thing to wear wigs and weaves just because I could, but now having to? I hated it. Hated trying to make my leave out blend, hated braids, hated everything.
Now you’d would think that that would be the reason on January 14th at an appointment for a normal treat and wig cap installation that I would tell my hairdresser to cut it all off. But noooooo, my decision was about a guy. Now just in case he ever reads this I won’t go into details (plausible denialibility and all) but let’s just say I had a moment where I was like ‘He’s gonna have to accept me in all my black girl magic glory’. In short, I wanted to make sure that he found me beautiful in every fluid form and not the dressed up, packaged, photo-ready way he’d become to associate
Sidenote: You may choose to dissect my last statement as if I thought my hair in its natural state didn’t count as ‘dressed up, packaged, photo-ready’ but don’t fear, in the subsequent paragraphs I’ll dissect that that little sub-conscious thought myself. Back to the story we go…
‘Just cut it Michelle, whatever happens, happens. I’m not my hair’
You know that big awakening that women talk about when they big chop? That freedom, That confidence, That badass-ness, That ‘I am woman, hear me roar?’ That…
No please. Not me. I hated it!
Just in case, you missed those two lines above. I.Hated.It.
But you know, we’re always evolving, journeying and unlocking something new within us and this was the start of some new part of me to unlock.
I chose to start this intimate writing piece by intentionally letting you know where I’m at now. I let you know in Part I that ‘it took me a series of wrong turns and valleys to point me to the most beautiful place I’ve ever been’. I did that because that’s what we all really want, and it’s what I want you to know if you’re going through a hard time; despite and in spite of everything, it’s going to be ok; you’re going to be ok. Unfortunately, real time can’t be retrospective. We all just do the best we can, when we can, and hope that we will be fine.
Going through my storms, that’s what I hoped for, that I would be fine. Some days were easier than others to believe it.
As I type there is so much I want to say, but whether or not we like it, our lives are shared with others, and some of the things I’d love to tell you about, out of respect for prior and present relationships, I won’t. Take my word for it though when I say, my life became a lifetime movie. Like a really bad one. Actually, you don’t even have to take my word; I’ve had enough people walk up to me and say it. A spectacle. The whole situation was one of those train wrecks people couldn’t look away from. And really not of my own making but as I said, our lives are shared with other people, that’s what makes a world; unfortunately, just because you see an end to your particular starring role in someone’s life, everyone else doesn’t follow suit. That meant that in the process of closing a five year long chapter and trying to start a new one, I was being captured in the tide an epilogue I wanted no parts of. It actually threatened to drown my existence…but God!
We all see age 30 as this kind of new dawn. I distinctly remember sitting at lunch in secondary school with friends and talking about the age we wanted to be married at, have children at. For most people that age was 30. Has never been for me. All I knew was that at 30 I wanted to be in love and to complete some major career goals. I wanted to be married to, and have children with, the ‘right’ person, at the ‘right’ time, whenever that was. Two months after my break-up was my 30th birthday, I wasn’t in love but I was on the way career wise.
I’m not going to sit here and act as if that relationship coming apart didn’t move me or better yet shake me to my core. I think anytime you part ways with someone, romantic or otherwise, it is important to mourn and to evaluate. And mourn I did, for what had passed and the revelations that came in the aftermath. But even in mourning, I knew there was better on the horizon, a different kind of happiness, which made me excited to turn 30. This is a direct quote from an Instagram post I made on my birthday.
‘I enter my 30s proud of the woman I am…my experiences, my strengths, triumphs and ‘defeats’, blessings in storms, laughter, tears…today I celebrate life’
But truthfully, shortly before my 30thbirthday, something else happened. I lost a friend. No, no one died, but our friendship did. If it has never happened to you, well let me tell you…first of all, good for you, and second of all, it’s the worst pain. Maybe if our friendship had come to an end because it had run it’s natural course it wouldn’t have been so painful, but it ended because someone’s lies at the time overpowered the truth, which then left me facing heartbreak #2 in the space of just over two months.
Now I know that may seem like a ramble and by now you’re asking yourself, ‘how does this tie into self-love?’…well, because a big part of not loving ourselves is allowing people to validate us and tell us who we are. Sadly, I did it without even realising.
I started to doubt myself, the two months of strides I had made fell back. If friends who I knew and loved could believe lies so easily and in some cases help propagate them, wouldn’t everyone? Did everyone secretly think I was ‘playing pretend at perfection’? And I cried and cried and cried. Celebrated my birthday, and then cried some more. This had now become bigger than losing a relationship, I had now become ostracized from a group of people I loved for lies, lies that were totally contradictory to everything I am.
While I prayed that my character would speak louder than words (which it ended up doing, thank God!), the first instinct was defend my self with the truth, but how? The high road was the only road I knew how to travel. I was so intensely private and maintained that throughout the maelstrom and circus that was building around me. Did I now go against my principles? I couldn’t. It wasn’t me and I just couldn’t. I sought the counsel of the like-minded people in my life. One person sent me this passage:
So I stood still for my salvation and the energy it would have taken to engage people, I turned it to myself.
I was on vacation and can distinctly recall sitting on the floor of Barnes and Nobles immersing myself in self-help books. You know the ones I mean, the ‘how–to-turn-the-worst-experiences-of-your-life-into-the-best-experiences-of-your-life’ sort of books. I started journaling from the flight back home, I immersed myself in positive self-talk, I kept a list of affirmations in my car, I cut my hair, continued on the fitness journey I had already started and was smashing, found hobbies, travelled to new countries…in the space of a few months, I got to really know the woman I was. There are three other things I did that stood out the most.
#1 I reconnected with my family and friends.
Sometimes we can focus so much on what we’ve lost that we neglect to see what has been there all along. Now I’ve always loved my family, but the way I got to know them last year was different. And everything can’t be explained but it was different. It was beautiful. They were my ultimate squad. And let’s talk about friends. I never wanted to experience the seasons of change in friendship. Gosh! I still think about the friendships that I lost or that changed because of one situation. To be honest, it hurt me more than anything else that happened that year, and that says a lot, but…they are some people that showed up with my family, I call them Helium, (taken from a Sia song). Those friends were there all hours of the day, they just wouldn’t let me carry my burdens alone. Some of them were newer friends, but some of them were friends I had all along, friends that were waiting for me to return ‘home’ so to speak, like a prodigal daughter, and as I type this I hope I have let all these people know what they mean to me.
#2 I realized that people need boundaries, so I got some.
What I mentioned before about putting others before yourself is all good and well BUT, you can’t pour from an empty vessel fam. That kind of intensity and fierceness you devote to others, give it to yourself! And that includes letting people know what is and what is not acceptable. I’ll say it, some things that happened in past relationships, romantic and otherwise, I am partially accountable for. Why? Because I allowed it, even if sub-consciously so. By allowing people to do what they wish and then covering it with a cloud of forgiveness or suppressing the way things make you feel, sometimes gives people a license to think that it will always be that way. It never crosses their mind that they can lose you, but forgiveness doesn’t equal acceptance. Likewise, being nice and being assertive aren’t mutually exclusive and somewhere along the line I thought so without realizing. Being assertive, isn’t being a bitch. I repeat, being assertive is NOT being a bitch. I had to learn that. And sometimes I do trip, I overdo on the too nice and forget to set boundaries; I sometimes even cry over that thinking that all of a sudden I’ll revert to the old person I was and get hurt in the same ways, but I’m a far way from the girl I used to be and forever a work in progress.
#3 I smashed every career goal I set for 30! *happy dance* #twirlonthat
Life is unpredictable, this we know, but in spite of any setbacks, hurdles, never forget your purpose and what you want to accomplish. I knew what I wanted and nothing was stopping that grind. The career opportunities that flowed immediately since then, icing on a nice, decadent chocolate cake.
It’s 2018 now and I’m happy and healthy. The kind of happy that when I’m sitting alone at home on my sofa I smile, just because. Ask me again…do I love myself? ‘Yes! Duh! Can’t you tell?’ I love the parts of me I even thought were unlovable, because we all have to love ourselves for where we are, while we do the work that it takes to evolve into who we want to be. About those fickle little insecurities I mentioned before: I love my size, acne where bish?, my nose is cute and to describe my complexion…well see, take some dark chocolate and pour some honey in…keep pouring…keep pouring and don’t forget stir…does it look like perfection? Ok, then…you’ve got it.
Flaws and all…let me get my crown! This is who I am. My never-ending journey to self love. My never-ending journey to me. Hope this inspires you on your own journey.
Author’s Note:Soundtrack to the 2017 and forever ‘Long Live the Angels (Deluxe version)’ Emelie Sande.
Keep breathing underwater. ❤
I believe in miracles Cause it’s a miracle I’m here Guess you could call me spiritual Cause physical is fear
And it’s safe to say the storms gone away And I’m dancing on the morning after Yes I’d love to stay, but my home is the other way And I miss the love and laughter
Something like flying Hard to describe it My God, I’m breathing underwater Something like freedom, freedom My God, I’m breathing underwater
Just over year ago, if anyone had asked me if I loved myself, my answer would have been ‘Yes, of course’…’right?’…
That yes wasn’t a way to placate, to stop any further questions of ‘why not?’; it wasn’t born of pretense, it was how I felt. I mean, of course there were things I didn’t like. My mid-twenties was full of either feeling like I could stand to gain or lose a few pounds (more the latter than the former the older I got). I didn’t like the dark marks my acne left behind from when I was a teenager, maybe my nose could have been a tad bit not so broad and really, in the interest of full disclosure over here, I think somewhere in my deep sub-conscious I didn’t appreciate the blessing that it was to be a chocolate girl.
But everyone has things that they don’t like, insecurities… but the big picture? I loved myself…right? Wrong.
It took me a series of wrong turns and valleys to point me to the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. To me. A journey to self.
Is it possible that the best year of your life be the one that you weren’t the happiest? I’m proof that it is. For in those dark moments, the one where everything seems to be going wrong that God shows Himself in a major way.
I was happy (mostly). I was just a year away from completing a major career goal, with an awesome opportunity to work overseas. I had awesome groups of friends (see that plural…not group, groups), I had a family I adored and a fiancée I loved utterly in that ‘unconditional-sacrifice so he could have even if I had to go without-his goal and dreams meant even more to me than mine’ kinda way. I was born to love. Not only him, but everyone. That was my gift, an ability to see past the worst parts of people and to their best and the ability to put everyone else before me. I was raised to think that was what living truly was altruism. I got it from my mama and the Bible told me so which meant I clung to it
I had everything (on paper) but deep inside I knew something was wrong, something was missing. My faith in God was, has been and will continue to be my glue. I felt somewhere along the line we (me and God) got a little disconnected, all on me. Maybe that was it. But I knew crying at home alone at night while listening to every sad Emelie Sande song (cue River) wasn’t the definition of happiness.
Shortly after these feelings popped up, I left to go overseas to work. That isolation of work and going home to an empty apartment where the people I loved were an ocean away gave me my revelation; it wasn’t nerves, it wasn’t being so close to my dreams it scared me, I was unhappy plain and simple.
The root of my unhappiness wasn’t a surprise- my relationship with my fiancée was draining me. Easy fix. Find out what was wrong and just fix it. Until I realized some things couldn’t be fixed and some things weren’t worth fixing and I broke off my engagement just after a month of returning back home. I could easily segue way here into a soliloquy on my lessons in love but I’ll save that for another time.
For a year that was going so great, the end of 2016 left me broken, absolutely broken, shattered. The groups of friends I had dissolved into a handful I felt like I could trust but then with that, there was no one I felt understood how I felt. I had the made the biggest decision of my life with no damn real reason why and I felt utterly alone. But God. I knew He and I were back on the same track and that was all I had to hang onto. Later on I would hear about a song called ‘Gracefully Broken’ which helped me to piece together what I didn’t know then.
Love is blind. Yes ☐ No ☐ Maybe so ☐
Answer must be yes. That could be the only thing that makes us stay in relationships or situations that no longer enrich our souls, the reason why we accept less that we deserve, the reason why we even allow people who don’t even deserve to seat at our table to eat a five-star meals. There are some things that we can only understand or see through the experiences have shaped us and that’s what makes the world beautiful, we all have our own stories.
My story, my journey has taught me that love can be blind but not all love is.
That true self-love can never be blind. I mean in its purest sense, not the narcissistic pathological deal. I mean that love for your self that transcends you to another universe, the one that allows you to know you are unbreakable, the one that makes you smile from your soul, for yourself.
I saw this quote and loved it before I truly understood it. Until I experienced the love that resembled my broken fragments – the love I gave to myself.
The story of my journey to self is not a fairy tale. Truthfully, many roads were slippery, slicked with the wetness of tears, shed and unshed, diversions brought about from closed doors where friends used to reside, exploring avenues prior un-ventured both in myself and from people who turned on the lights in their heart to show me the way. To sum it up- Rough to all! But so worth the beautiful destination.