When are we enough?

For the first time in my life, I get to be on this side of the classroom. Honestly, I’m learning more now than I did as a student. There is a lot of truth when they say you learn more when there is no test to be feared. Watching my students lose steam and realize the energy they started the semester with could never last, I have to ask, when are we enough? At what point do we say, hey, this is the best I can evenly put forth in all of my responsibilities, and it is enough?

I see so many students who truly have feelings they need to settle up with before they can even begin to appreciate life. I can’t say that there is a one size fits all for their feelings of insecurity, depression and mediocrity, but when are they going to be enough? When are they going to realize that once they figure out who they are, the rest of the puzzle will still be a mystery, but so much better to put together. I’m just an old head to them, who is seemingly telling them all of the cliche things their parents, grandparents and other educators have told them. How else do we say, get to know yourself and understand yourself, before you work so hard to change yourself. Be defined by who you are, and not who others want you to be. Find your pace, and run that race steadily. Your life is not a race against everyone elses’ just where you were the day before. I know how they all sound. Trust me, I do. But the best epiphanies have come from these cliches. These mantras, mottoes and proverbs saved me from following many a paths that would have looked amazing on the outside, but would have literally destroyed the very essence of who I was created to be.

I get to see the inner workings of my students through exercises like the Johari Window and “Coming of Age” papers… and everything else we do in class. Each class, I’m learning more and more of them. I see behind their Oz-like curtains and keep wondering, when are they going to realize that they are already enough?

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Dear Men

I’m going to do a short after school special broadcast: Men, please stop dating women out of revenge. How many conversations must I endure of men telling me they only date this type of woman because a woman of this race or this size has these traits that he can’t stand for? You telling me you don’t date black women because of this that and the third does not hurt my feelings. I don’t immediately feel the need to gain your approval. You telling me you only date Asian women because us other American groups are this that and the third means nothing to me either. I think you should probably stop dating women out of revenge, and start dating them because of who they are as individuals. I can tell you, none of us enjoy being a fetish. After speaking with a larger group of women than you have actually dated, we’ve all agreed that we want someone to be with us because they like who we are outside of your past experiences. Most of us are dating people on an individual basis. I can’t say all of us. Some of us are dating whatever we can get our hands on, and it’s usually self-hating, insecure, abusive types judging each women on the merits of every other woman they’ve come into contact with.

In summary, quit dating women out of revenge. These beauties deserve to be with someone who sees them as more than a response relationship. They deserve to be loved despite your past experiences or whatever misguided ideas you have about other groups of women. There is no need for any woman to have to carry the weight of your prejudice(s) on her shoulders everytime you explain to someone why y’all are together. Let her be enough.

The Fallout

After what happened in Virginia over the weekend, many people are being pulled away from more of their friends through social media debates, memes and videos. There are a number of people who are being fired from their jobs for protesting, companies are leaving Trump’s manufacturing group… a lot is happening. Let’s look at each ripple one at a time.

Y’all know my views on racism and bigotry. I’m not going to come here and pass out my soapbox material in order to establish my position; view my blogs if you don’t know me personally. With that said, people should be able to protest – in this country – for whatever they believe in without being fired if the protest is done legally. In the same breath, they should not be punished for the actions of those who do not comply with the peaceful protest laws. What they do in their off time shouldn’t dictate their work life, unless it is illegal or in direct contrast with how they are able to perform their job in the workplace. We know racist people work and live next to us. That’s ok. They need to interact with us in neutral places like work. Why? Why should they be able to be racists at home, and then not get called out at work? Because they need to be put in positions where they have the opportunity to be around non- stereotypical archetypes of the groups they are bigoted against. The last thing we need to do is continually drive them underground so they believe the worse about a group. I’ve personally laid witness to people changing their outlook on a group they held unfounded prejudices towards, simply because they finally had the opportunity to meet someone that silently and constantly challenged their ignorance. It was neither malicious nor intentional, just by the person being themselves, they were able to change a perspective. For example, this woman who works with my husband made a comment that she was certain he was a drug dealer on the side. She went on to say that he should be flattered she thought he could switch it up between being a professional and a drug dealer. He assured her that it was not a complement. She vaguely understood the insult. Fast forward to when a new employee mistakenly hears what my husband has said. I can’t remember exactly what she thought he’d said, but it was something along the lines of she thought she heard him say, “What it do?” Again, that is not the exact thing, but along those lines. The first woman and my husband’s boss gasped. The one who’d previously thought calling a black man a drug dealer was a form of flattery shook her head in shock and horror and said, “Jeff doesn’t speak like that.” My husband said they were mortified at the thought of this woman implying he was being unprofessional in the workplace. The woman apologized, but Jeff shook it off. He was more tickled at the response of the other women.

It is only through interactions in neutral places that there are more people speaking against hate rhetoric than joining them. Parents should not be disowning their children, but having those conversations  questioning where this behavior was learned. This is the time to respect each other’s freedom of speech as long as neither side takes it a step further and endangers another life. The ones doing that should be punished. Jail has been proven a very efficient way to terminate employees. To punish people for free thinking is not where we should be headed.

On the other hand, I have a multitude of respect for the business heads that have spoken against and cut ties with Trump’s manufacturing group in order to distance themselves from the boys’ club he runs with. If the head of a white hate group claims that he has Trump in his pocket, and you continue to do business with him, that says a lot about the company and ideals you entertain. It becomes more than just a personal opinion. You are the head of a company; it becomes a brand. When your name is congruent with a company, you no longer have the right to be seen as an individual like an employee of yours. If you stay in cahoots with certain people, the employees under you begin to take on the mindset of the environment you are perpetuating. So, shout out to Merck, Under Armour and Intel. Thank you for initiating the steps to being the change you want to see. Hopefully, you will have more people who will stand with you than against you.

I understand that Virginia is not an all-inclusive story of Trump voters. I’m not going to get into the petty nature of name calling or stereotyping. As I wrote earlier – when Trump was first elected – the environment he has created has proven to be a catalyst for this type of behavior. The original reason for the protest should have also been handled differently. Yes, these statues should be removed, but not destroyed. They should be preserved and placed in museums with their historical significance displayed. They are a piece of our history, not a piece of our present. You can’t tell American’s to forget or get over slavery if there are people who fought against the side who granted slaves freedom – regardless of the reason the civil war occurred, that truth of the south remains unchanged; they fought against the side that ended slavery – being displayed proudly as heroes in our educational institutions and town centers. Do we have statues of the men who hijacked the planes of 9/11 being displayed as heroes? No, the reason why is obvious. Please send prayers of strength to Heather’s family, as well as the others killed and injured over the weekend.

Body Dysmorphia

Since when did it become more accepting to hate your body than to love it? Was it an era in time? Or was it an era in life? I think the first time I looked at myself with disgust was 5 years old. I remember my family laughing over me saying I was going to lose weight for a much older I guy I thought was cute. At 12, I began binge dieting in a way that was completely unhealthy. I would take this vitamin – which is now illegal due to being linked to heart problems – not eat, but drink about six cups of coffee. Then, I would go to competitive cheerleading practice, followed by All-star softball practice. Why? Well, I’ve been my very height since I was 8 years old. I’m five foot three and three quarter inches. At 8 years old, I wore a 32C bra and weighed 142 pounds. Looking back, I looked like a perfectly normal and healthy person. I looked like I was 15, but I was healthy. My friends were 82 pounds. I can vividly recall the horror in their voices when they found out they were even closer to 100 pounds than they were the previous year. So, the summer of age 12, I was able to get back down to 120 pounds. That summer, I also had a record breaking amount of nose bleeds, and my body broke out in some weird black welts as an allergic reaction to my own sweat, and I quit drinking soda for good. All the pictures show was how happy I was. I was hopped up on so much caffeine that I was jittery, and in between double headers, I would crash on the bleachers.

I came from a dieting household. We would Atkins until one of my parents got kidney stones, and then eat low carb ice cream until we all got diarrhea. Despite all of this and playing a school sport along with competitive cheerleading, I still graduated high school a gorgeous 182 pounds of solid muscle and wearing a 36DD. Knowing that my body was prone to weight gain, I went to college and discovered the gym within the first month. I worked out twice a day, but still gained 60 pounds in one year. This made me suicidal. I’m not joking or using the word metaphorically. I wanted to kill myself.  It wasn’t until 4 years later that I found out I had an endocrine disorder. With this disorder, losing weight became a full time job. I did a raw diet which was unrealistic for me. I excelled at being a pescetarian, though. At no point, could I ever get back below 200 pounds. Even while I was on chemo this year, the smallest I could get was 217 pounds for three days, before my weight went back up. After six months of steroids during chemo and another two or three rounds recently, I can honestly say, I look at my body with so much pride. My entire chest is marked with battle scars of survival. My stomach’s lined with stretch marks and the solution to my endocrine disorder – hysterectomy scars. I’m a warrior tiger. God, I’m beautiful.

I watch women put on spanx and girdles, and I can’t help but think of the journey they’ve been through with their bodies. At what stage are they going to say, look, I will feed you quality food and workout at least three times a week, in exchange, I will be proud of you no matter what. My body is my own child. I am proud of what we can do. We can swim three hours a week during a chemo week with minimal aches. We can swim three hours a week and workout with weights and cardio another three hours a week post chemo with minimal aches and pains. Our chest is held together with 2 pins and three clips, yet it still does a mean breast stroke. My hair has been bald, naturally big and curly, relaxed and now a teeny weeny afro, and yet, it’s been breathtaking at every stage. Even when I complain that it does nothing. For the first time since elementary school, I have acne from  Prednisone, and I’m still fine as wine with no makeup. Half of the beauty game is confidence; the other half is hygiene. It’s that simple.

I realized last year that this soul’s journey this time around was body. My mind has always been fully aware, strong and powerful; my soul is the most sane part of me, but my body is as faulty as they come. Despite all of this, it is the most awe inspiring sight to take in every day. I find myself stumbling upon new moles or old scars, burns and even one of the 29 IV marks from my time in the hospital and just smiling at myself. How quickly these companies would go out of business if they could no longer convince us how ugly we are. What if we all just made the conscious effort to eat well and live an active lifestyle in exchange for unconditional love of our temples?

Naturists

If anyone has known me for any period of time, they will know that I am hands down a true naturists. In this situation, naturists is being used as a synonym for what used to be called nudists. Now that that is clear, let’s get into the amazing experience we had this week as naturists.

We started the adventure off by enjoying Apollo Beach. For those of you who don’t know, Apollo Beach is legally a nude beach from lot 5 on down. We had to get there around 10 in order to get a park, but once we did, it was well worth it. My husband was so worry about being arrested, but I was on a mission. As we went further south on the beach, it was clear that everyone was enjoying nature in the nude. Not only was it the most natural experience ever, we also saw dolphins the entire time. If you do this beach, please bring bug spray. The yellow jackets were vicious. Clearly, not enough to make me want to put on clothes. The folks were like any other beach goes – all white and more in the sun than in the water. No one really talks to each other. It was mostly couples. We were out in the water, walked up and down the beach a couple of times, it was amazing!

The next day, we finally took the plunge on something I’ve wanted to do for the last five years. We went to the nudist resort, Cypress Cove. Unfortunately, we decided to go during the busiest event of the year. It was jam packed. During the tour, I felt more out of place with clothes on than I would being naked. Naturally, we hurried up, got naked and got into the pool with the least amount of people. It gave us time to meet some of the residents and get the lay of the land. Plus, there was about 50 people in the other pool, drinking alcohol and not leaving the pool at all. You do the math on the urine to water ratio… Honestly, we can’t wait to go back. I made a believer out of my husband, and as he has said numerous time, I’ve created a monster. Here’s what I learned from my first step into being a social nudists:

Don’t worry about your body. You will see every body shop and size possible. You may not see a lot of people of color, but your body will not be judged, neither will your skin tone. Despite being the only one or one out of a small few, we were welcomed into the fold as if it was a family reunion. I am scarred on my entire front part of my body from cancer scavenger hunt and a hysterectomy, and I’m covered in stretch marks, yet this warrior tiger felt completely at home. There wasn’t an inch of insecurity around other nudists.

It’s not weird being around other people naked. There is this fear that you will feel like a sexual object or become turned on when you around a ton of naked people. Perhaps it was my philosophy that the body is art, but I was never sexually attracted to anyone else. In fact, at the resort, one of the residents said that was why Cypress Cove was so inviting. It wasn’t like some of the other nudist resorts that revolve around swinging and out of control parties. It was more like a giant super bowl party between tailgaters and a retired community. Very tame environment, but loads of fun. The Dj was playing the latest hits, there are two restaurants on site, there are people camping, playing sports, cards, mahjong…the  list goes on. No one is even focusing on the fact that people are naked unless you’re wearing clothes. Then they’ll scream, “You’re wearing too many clothes,” “Get naked!”

There’s nothing but old people there. Majority of the group is old. That is true. There is a growing interest in people in their early 20s and closer to my age as well. Cypress Cove gives you a discount for being under 35. I can go for $5 a day. Old people (36 and up) pay $24. At both the beach and the resort, it was refreshing to see younger people. Even the residents said they were excited the younger generation was coming out to enjoy the lifestyle, and they wish they’d started coming at a younger age. During the 20s and 30s, we tend to be more insecure creatures. We worry about our bodies and what those around us will think if they know we are naturists. It’s not until you are older that you decide to live for yourself. Consider me an old soul.

I understand that this is not something everyone is dying to try. I get it. But, if there is that burning desire in the back of your mind, go for it. If you don’t want to talk to anyone while naked, start off at the beach. If you want to find out what the community is about and meet friends in the lifestyle, Cypress Cove will not disappoint. Of course, I’ll be checking out every naturist event in the state, now.

Black Love

Yes, I can feel the gasp. How can this girl come from a rainbow family and say she understands black love? Oh, trust me, I’ve been questioning the phrase since I realized it was a group I fell into. I have three brothers who are not with women of color, and I’m ok with that. I never thought of myself in terms of black love. As a kid, it wasn’t something I dreamed of. In fact, most of the people who knew me growing up are still shocked I married black. If you find excellence, who cares what color it comes in?

I don’t know if it’s because I’m into the “wokeness” of it all, but it seems like only recently, this was something big. Again, I come from a “love is love” family. My husband is the one who has actually come to me wondering why black women are not being seen as beautiful? I don’t know. I can’t explain why black men aren’t feeling us. I don’t know why my love is so rare it needs to be hashtagged like a unicorn. I honestly don’t care. I was surf fishing with my husband this weekend, and all I could think was that more men need to get themselves a “Danielle.”

My husband is so excited about surf fishing right now. He’s been on Youtube making gadgets and I’m game to it. I’m willing to try anything that doesn’t include drugs. I may not be the richest, the prettiest or the most submissive, but I know how to keep a person purely them. I’ll make you be the person you want to be that you’ve been too afraid to try. I’ll throw you out of your comfort zone everyday of your life. I’ll even cheer for you like I did for other athletes when I was a rah rah princess. Is that the definition of black love or just die hard love? Keeping a relationship honest means it will change… constantly. Love will be high tide one day and low tide the next. I’m a beach bum through and through, so I’ll ride a wave of any size.

There’s this misconception that black women are difficult. No, we are determined. We have high expectations if we are worth keeping. People also say we don’t like to do activities that get our hair wet? If you’re a naturalista, that’s a lie. I go swimming 3-4 times a week. Then, there is this misconception that we want to be a different race or nationality. Ummm… no. More often than not, we are merely enjoying the diversity of woman. We are more than comfortable in our skin if you are with a confident woman. If not, then that’s nothing to do with race. It’s all about her individual insecurity. I can’t stress enough the beauty in my love is only about race 10% of the time. Yes, there are times when my husband will call me chocolate, mocha or something along those lines. Yes, he’ll even comment on my beautiful tan lines. (This black woman tans like crazy when swimming.) He’ll play with my hair and say something pro-natural. There are even times when we will have discussions on race awareness nationally and globally. But do we try to be the epitome of black love everyday we wake up? No. We just want to be the purest version of our love.

Diversity in Demographics

I’ve been away from blogging as I consider where I want my writing to go. Yes, I’ve come up with a million things to write about, from my own body views to updating my cancer called blog….the list goes on. I wanted this year to be the year of no explanations. I don’t want to have to explain why my black is beautiful or why my confidence is stable , or why my childless life is still fulfilling. I wanted this year to be the “just because I freaking am” time of my life. Yet, I find that in the space of me, there are other people who also feel like they aren’t being represented either. For instance:

Race: Why can’t black people be diverse? Why do I have to speak a certain why or have a limited amount of interests in order to be “black” in a space where people are willing to deem acceptable. There are black nerds, and this is our norm. We shouldn’t have to be seen as exception, because there are a ton of us; we just aren’t being represented in an everyday platform. How many black nerds are on shows like “The Big Bang Theory” – which is literally a show of nerds? Where are the young, black professionals who aren’t ghetto, but aren’t so far removed from their heritage that they are only Black-ish? Can I not enjoy sushi and soulfood in the course of a day without it being groundbreaking and oxymoronic? Can my race not be defined by my personality and interests?

Gender: Women get to be diverse. We aren’t just mothers. We don’t just come in one size or two personalities. There isn’t just one brand of beautiful woman. I’m finding beauty in women from all walks of life. I was in a wedding this past weekend, and I was worried about being the only chocolate person. My biggest worry was that everyone would be speaking Spanish, and I wouldn’t fit in. Then, I was like, great, I’ma be the only plus size girl. Then, I met the other women, and they were great. I’m very comfortable in my skin, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not aware when I am the only one of my kind in a room. In truth, the other women were as self aware – as much as (if not more) – than me. While taking pictures, all I could think of was that we nailed it. We hit beauty from almost every spectrum. There were women of a multitude of body types, personalities, shades of color, educational and professional backgrounds. It was phenomenal. The fact that we all came together without issue and our own set of insecurities made it that much more memorable. None of us have kids, but some of us will in the next 5 years. The ones of us who never will won’t be seen as less than. The ones of us who will never marry will not be considered less desirable. We are human enough to stand on our own and be layered as individuals.

Age: I’m a married 30 year old who has survived cancer, had a hysterectomy, attained a B.S. degree in Molecular/Microbiology, a M.A. in English, with no children, no pets, and one of my dream careers. I have scars that age me, with a soul that agrees. It’s almost impossible to find married people my age who don’t have children. It’s very hard to fit in in the suburbs I live in. The common things that link me to this demographic are not part of my makeup. But, where are the people my age who are single and not-not looking, but aren’t desperate. They’re just focused on living?

Health: We are taught that you get out of your body what you put in it. That is the furthest from the truth. Why is it that every cancer person is seen as saintly? Where are the people that hear the news, and send out text messages to their families, and their families call them back crying and cursing? My life almost exactly. Allow us to paint adequate pictures of people who have hormone disorders, yet trying to live a normal life – while attempting to pretend like you are ok with the changes going on in your body until you are. The closest I’ve come to seeing this honesty is “Transparent” “Tiny People” and pregnant women. Where are the Turner Syndrome women, or the Klinefelter males and the millions of other hormone disorders?

Religion: Where are the people of colonialism and imperialism questioning why Christianity? This was the religion used to suppress us, and now we are supposed to be ok with allowing it to run our country and suppress others? Where are the people finding and searching for God in the purest form? Where are people following Omnism or searching for their people’s original religion? That’s not happening anywhere on television? I know I’m not the only person on this journey. Or the people who are finding their way out of their religion because it contradicts everything they have realized they believe in about themselves. Being a strong woman in an Abrahamic religion means you’re failing…so hard. I feel like the only time religion is questioned is when love for another person is involved, but it never seems to include the simple love of self without another’s influence. I want to see that.

I want to explore all of these things in my writing. I recently stumbled upon my screenplays from my screenwriting class, and I thought, “yeah, I really wanna explore this.” I want to quit complaining about the lack of diversity in demographics and start creating them. I can write for days on in, but I know nothing about “the business” or how to get started. Everyone has probably said that line. I would love to hook-up with a young director looking for experience that I can write for. That would be my dream. I’d get to see these realistic and layered people the way they actually are, instead of the way they are ideally portrayed. Are we not tired of the funny, fat women being the best friend and not the lead? Are we never questioning why the nerdy guys always look the same and somehow have zero swag? I’ve met some smooth nerds and fat guys in my day that pulled in women like crazy. I want to see cancer patients not fall apart at the news, and handle it in a way where they can talk about it like it’s not them, but they still address it. I want to see people happily single and situationships turn into love stories, but end up being best friends for life instead of love interests. I want male and female leads with no romantic feelings towards one another – and not just because one of them is gay. I want to see polyamorists couples as normal and not zoo people to be put on display exotically. That’s what I bring to the table.