What did you believe?

What were the beliefs you shaped, as you celebrated birthdays inching closer and closer to forty? Are you still on that journey, dreading those four decades of candles? Does that dread stem from reasons you possibly don’t really understand?

Growing up in America, I experienced the message of 40’s wickedness coming at me from many angles. Media, film, print, and the women I knew who crossed that threshold before me. At some point, around 32, I began to hear women whispering revolt to these society driven ideas, sharing about how their lives began at 40, or were simply better at 40. I allowed a fragment of hope, but also, I noticed these thoughts came after the dreaded age, and perhaps this was spoken within the context of “those lies we tell ourselves”.

My truth is that this past March I turned 43.

Three years ago, when I turned 40, I had- HANDS DOWN- the very worst birthday imaginable. (for anyone keeping score, it’s true- I’m prone to “bad” birthdays) This years celebratory event reminded me that life’s circumstances, as well as the actions of other people, aren’t really the things which should be defining our lives. The past few years have absolutely been among the most hurtful and challenging that I have known. That the fact though, life happens… Yours, mine, bad seasons, beautiful seasons and a whole gaggle of mediocre in-betweens. I’ve been frank, but the question remains: Is life better in my 40s?

It is.

Obviously there is no magical age which stops all of the out-of-our-control elements. It isn’t that I’m “living my best life” now, but it is true that I AM DIFFERENT. I care more, (and more intentionally) about the important things. I don’t care about the toxicity, the drama or the elements that simply aren’t worth my energy any longer…

Stemming from a brief social media exchange about this very topic, I invited my new friend Ritu to be a guest on The Collective Podcast. You guys, this lady is PURE light- and not because, now that she’s 40, she has it all figured out… She’s just lovely, and her life of experience (good and bad, just exactly like the rest of us!) has led her to this beautiful point in life. She’s working on a novel, that I personally can’t wait for, but her poetry book Poetic RITUals is available now! Come listen to Episode 40, and if you haven’t already, please subscribe!

Are you heading to 40, and worried? Are you past that point, and different?

Sisterwives and weeds…

One evening last week I found myself sitting in a cluster of tables with several other women. They were all new to me, and I was not alone in that. We sat nibbling on cookies, chewing on Starbursts and getting to know each other. It was really nice. We chatted about babies, and real life stuff, our jobs, some dreams (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) and eventually the conversation gravitated to the message (from the Sunday before) that some of us had heard at church.

The story had been about faith, and had centered around Hannah’s story, in the book of 1st Samuel. (If you aren’t familiar, it’s ok. This isn’t actually a post about anything church or Christianity related, so sit tight…) Hannah wanted desperately to have a baby with her husband, but despite her prayers (spanning years) she hadn’t been able to get pregnant. Reading this, as we do with most character stories, one can get swept up in Hannah’s ache, especially if you’ve shared in that same ache in any way. Hannah’s husband had two wives, and his other wife Peninnah, does not share this problem. (of course she doesn’t, because anyone who has struggled with infertility knows- the infertile bring imaginary fertility luck to those women around them!) side note- having lived the life of miscarriage and infertility, I can only imagine how painful Peninnah’s pregnancies and childbirths were for Hannah…

The book is clear to point out that, not only was Peninnah continually giving their husband children, but she was also an absolute nightmare to Hannah. She treated her like absolute garbage. We humans love a good villain story, and so with the tale of Peninnah and Hannah, we cast Peninnah as the villian.

Which sets the foundation for the path that will lead us to my actual point: I have been thinking a lot about Peninnah. This woman from thousands of years ago has been heavy on my heart. At some point in our lives, every woman has been her own version of Hannah- desperately aching for something. What we are less likely to admit to ourselves, or talk about is the seasons of life where we’ve been our own versions of Peninnah. We LOVE to talk about how society or culture have made women catty, petty and manipulative. While these contributing factors haven’t helped, they merely magnify issues women struggle with anyway. At the root of Peininnah’s complete and utter bitchiness towards her sister wife, we have a woman. Period.

Peninnah was someone’s baby, she was a young girl playing with siblings and friends. She had a giggle unique to her, and had cried her fair share of guttural sobs over her own aching life hole. This woman had painful menstrual cramps, likely suffered headaches, seasonal allergies and took pride in the special way she did something. She probably spent many a night watching the stars, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She may have spent monotonous chores imagining her life differently. This assumed villain is merely an insecure and (at least partly) broken woman. She probably woke up in the mornings feeling like shed never be enough…

She is us. Every single one of us.

Circumstances (being a husband, culture, security and comparison) created division between these two women. When a deep sisterhood and kinship could have been a beautiful thing, that is not what happened. We each have lived that story as well. Sometimes it’s about a man, a friend, a job, an ex, a law, a religion, a life choice- we still allow reasons to divide us from other women. Rather than allow ourselves to be splayed raw, and vulnerable simply for the purpose of comforting and lifting another woman from a dark and shattered place, we stay “safe” behind our walls. This may look like ignoring her, or it may look like tearing her down even more. We fear our vulnerability being wounded so deeply, sometimes, that we wound instead.

In a podcast episode I listened to, last week, with Melinda Gates, she talked quite a bit about how- when you want to bring change to an underprivileged area, you reach out to the women. We women are capable of being beautiful, unending sources of nurture and empowerment to those around us… This is nature, it is how we are designed. When we fail to embrace this, we instead fill that drive within us with negative emotions and comparisons towards other women. Peninnah and Hannah deserved better, they needed better. While the support of their husband, and his sensitivity towards Hannah’s infertility were likely comforting- had Hannah had Peninnah there to grieve with her, every single woman reading this KNOWS that would have been significantly more impactful.

Weeds and flowers are capable of residing in the same garden, but we all know that weeds are far more aggressive and will eventually choke out the healthy growth if they are allowed to remain. We are responsible for what we allow to grow in our hearts, in our minds, and what we allow to consume our thoughts…

This is kind of a jumbled mess of thoughts, but I hope, if you’ve stuck it out this long, you’re with me. Let’s make the world of womanhood be the one these two women deserved, a world we each deserve. None of us are exempt from a deep soul ache, just as not one of us is without a smudge of bad behavior towards another woman. Imagine the incredible that lives just beyond those walls of self protection, if we’d just allow ourselves exposure to soul-connect with other women.

THIS, this is what would change the world…

the b word…

There are fewer, (non-vulgar) words that cause such angst and division among women like the “B word”.

Not THAT one… Bikini.

Half of women love them and can’t wait for sunshine and waves to don theirs. Some women, (fictitious, maybe?) solidify their bathing suit/bikini shopping as a true summer milestone adventure. The other half of us, don’t. Trying bathing suits on can be super depressing, but when you add in the idea of a bikini…

And it is an even harder thing because, though sometimes we women really feed our insecurities by the negative and mean things we are so certain the world around us is saying- when it comes to swimwear people do have opinions. Strong opinions…

Have you ever encountered one of those overly concerned types, who are so worried about your health/heart/lifespan/__________ that they just feel they must discuss your weight (or someone else’s) ? Maybe you are one of those people, feeling validated in your certainty that a person is overweight because they make terrible choices, are lazy, and you magically have just the right words to turn this all around for them? If this feels familiar, please enunciate the following words as you read them:

You do not know what you are talking about and need to zip it. Period. (if you’re like me, and you aren’t one of those “joy spreaders”, then soak in those words too, except replace YOU with THEY.) Why should you do this? Because it is true.

I’m not going to dive into statistics because we are all capable of googling and finding our own fact based research, but a few fun facts:

  • a seemingly fit, size four woman is absolutely capable of having raging cholesterol issues and developing type 2 diabetes.
  • If being overweight, (let’s all stop referring to people as FAT. no one IS fat, they have fat. We all HAVE FAT, and if you don’t, then rush to the doctor immediately because something is seriously wrong with you. Also, if you are a woman, read the book Why Women Need Fat, because it is both scientific and enlightening…) were an immediate death sentence, there wouldn’t be so many people who are overweight. Why? There would be a lot more funerals.
  • There are genetics, environmental conditions, hormones, stresses, economic issues and several other factors that play into what a person weighs.
  • It is ignorant to assume someone sits around watching soap operas and eating twinkies.

Ok, I’m stepping off of my soapbox, because none of that is the point. What is the point? you may ask.

Let’s stop looking at other people through the lens of what we imagine (or know) their BMI is. Let’s stop looking at other people through the lens of our discomfort over their skin color, size, disabilities, sexuality, gender, etc.

Behind all of those things that we allow to cloud our vision exists a person. A lung breathing, heart beating human being with their own stories, their own triumphs and their overwhelming struggles. Let’s start seeing the people. Size does not matter, color does not matter.

Let’s just love. Let’s act in love. Let’s move, and think and see love.

Love.

In this weeks episode (39) of the Collective Podcast, Myself, Maggie, Jennie and Marion are chatting about why the Disney Princesses may not be so bad, we’re talking bikinis, self love, accepting things about ourselves that we don’t love and what exactly Body Positivity is… It’s a great chat and we hope you’ll join us!

A Mermaid Princess…

Little girls dream and act out their fantasies of being mermaids and princesses. I know many of my fond childhood memories involved splashing around in my neighbors pool with my friends Melanie and Monique. We’d act out movies we’d seen, dance horribly to music on the radio and pretend we were mermaids almost constantly.

This was raw mermaid imagination at play, well before Ariel or the mermaid trend of these days took center stage. When I look back, the only Mermaid pop-culture references I can think of were in the cartoon of Peter Pan and the Tom Hank’s movie Splash… The mermaids we became were nothing at all like those adaptations so I’m not sure what inspired us- other than the water.

I don’t recall ever pretending to be a princess, but my youngest daughter definitely did. Her imagination was princess rich, and I loved every second of it. Up until recently, society has loudly delivered the message that such aspirations belong in childhood daydreams and deserve no place in grown-up lives. This is a truly sad thing, don’t you think? I’ll admit, as a parent, I too fell into the whole dream crushing mentality of frankly selling “reality”, responsibility and that most dreams simply don’t pay the bills… And, I mean, it’s true- most dreams don’t pay the bills. That doesn’t mean we have to stop dreaming them though. (lesson learned unideally late.)

This week’s podcast guest, Jessica is all grown up. She’s a single mom. She is a first generation daughter, whose father came from the Dominican Republic. She has grown up learning to work hard and pursue relentlessly. She has responsibilities, hardships and the many  other things we all have. What sets Jessica apart is that she also has dreams, and she fully embraces them. Jessica dreams of owning her own Pastalito food truck. Jessica also dreams of being a mermaid princess. Full of so much energy, life, light and motivation Jessica is pursuing both dreams equally, in her own ways. Check out  episode {37} by following this link to our various listening platforms. As you hear her incredible story, I hope you can find a glimmer of courage to go after your own dreams too…

What’s in a name…

It has been a hot minute since I’ve participated in a FMF writing prompt, but when the mind finds itself wide awake at 2:30 a.m. on a Friday, I have to guess it really wants to… (You can join in and link up here, or just check out the other writers who are participating!)

There are relationships in our lives where, to the other person, we often become less of an individual and more merely a title of how they feel to call us. No longer do our identities belong to those pieces of life which make us. Instead we grow, within their heads, to the villainous character they desperately need for us to be, validating their own inadequacies.

We all have the possibility of such construction, no one is except from the label creations or the being created non-consensually. Suddenly, beyond a beating heart, a mind and a flawed human being, we simply become the whatever.

This insult.

The bitch.

The whore.

The parent.

The wife.

The bad guy.

the liar.

The one.

The blame.

The name…

Often we fail to comprehend the damage we can cause by giving name to a negative thought regarding someone. To anyone really, including ourselves. Negative thoughts happen, we’re human- it’s life… But once we allow ourselves to give birth to reducing an entire person into a neatly labeled, ugly little box, things change. Toxicity sets in and decay is inevitable. Perceptions change, our ability to dwell in reality changes. We change…

Sometimes life is hard. (most times, actually) There are days we wake up ready to run the race, face the music, suit up for the fight of it- other times we don’t. These are the moments we are most at risk of ourselves, these are the times when we need to embrace the courage to process through a moment, through a thought, through a feeling and then be completely honest with ourselves. Avoid the naming, avoid the box. While it’s easy to embrace the name-game today because it balms our spirit for a moment- the grave reality is far darker, later on.

It is so much harder to undo something that never had to be done.