Why Do I Feel So NAKED?

Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone that you dreaded having? I bet you wished you could skip the whole process, or that they could read your mind, thus taking the pressure off of you. Unfortunately, things don’t happen that way. People may be perceptive enough to sense when something is wrong with you, but chances are high that your friends aren’t mind readers, so how could they possibly know what’s bothering you if you don’t communicate that to them clearly?

Most people are terrified by the mere idea of being vulnerable with someone. More so emotionally than physically. From a very young age, we begin to develop emotional defense patterns, also known as “5 Personality Patterns” according to Steven Kessler. We can either shut down, become flighty, neglect/project our own needs onto others, or become quite aggressive when feeling threatened emotionally. These patterns can come into play when we are given critiques we were unprepared for, as well as moments where we are the ones giving the criticism. Generations predating Generation Z, did not grow up with TED Talks and other resources that we have today. We coped as best we could and communicated with as much emotional maturity as we had available and adapted as more information was provided via life research or life experience.

One thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that there are some self assessing moments where we have to have conversations with ourselves that cause us to self correct and self soothe and there are others where we take the resolutions of those internal conversations and share those findings with those who are directly impacted by the issue at hand. Just the other day, I had to have a conversation that I felt in no way prepared for.

For about a week I had been feeling at ill ease with the state of a situation, but didn’t fully understand why. The more I sat with myself, quieted my mind, and let the thoughts and emotions flow, the clearer the root of the issue became in my minds eye; I was being triggered in the present by somethings I hadn’t dealt with from the past. It took me having a moment of clarity on the couch to see what my subconscious was trying to communicate to me. The kicker is that the communication couldn’t end there. This situation called for me to identify the issue for myself and share that information with someone else. Thankfully, the person that I had to communicate my feelings to hadn’t seen me in my distraught state of mind until I myself had identified the problem first. I gathered every bit of courage that I could muster, hid my face under the readily available blanket, and began to spill the contents of my heart. It was by far the most naked I’ve ever felt in my life. Vulnerability is like sitting that dream where you’re nude in a classroom of your peers, but they see all your emotional flaws. I don’t mention this to scare you, but to prepare you because the results were beyond worth it. I got a strengthened bond, they got a deeper understanding of me, and my fears were quelled.

The key thing in moments of vulnerability is that the person you are communicating with validates your emotions and respects you, because you respect this person enough to share your thoughts and fears with them. Surround yourself with people who value your emotions and respect you and your boundaries. Moments of vulnerability are few and far in between, but they produce gems that should be shared with loved ones and cherished forever.

Love the Way You Look (Youth Speak Out Series)

Society has always had an altered view on a woman’s body. From the large chest size, to the tiny waist and flat stomach, hips that flare out, the perfect height; not too tall, not too short, these expectations are often times unrealistic to expect of a woman’s body. 

My weight has always been has always been one of my biggest triggers. I’ve only ever been thin once in my life, and I’m pretty sure I’m never getting back to that place. Most people aren’t explicit with their disgust for my body, but my immediate family made it very clear I was too fat. 

In December of 2019, I was 210 pounds. In September of 2020, I am 140 pounds. I know for a fact that I gained weight between December 2019 and March 2020. But as of now, I am 140 pounds and while I now love the way I look, I also hate it.

Photo by Viajero at Pexels

I lost 70 pounds between March 2020 and September 2020. I know that there is no way I did that in a healthy way. I starved myself, point blank. I would deprive my body of nutrition so that I could feel beautiful; and while I do feel beautiful and look great on the outside, I feel awful on the inside. 

There were times where I wouldn’t eat. I would lay in bed, feel my stomach ask for food and refuse to give my body energy. if I did eat, I would over eat on purpose to make myself vomit, because in my mind, if I throw this up, all of this food won’t go to my stomach, my thighs. 

It’s been hard to accept the way I look. I get more compliments now that i’m thinner, now that my waist is smaller. I get more male attention now that my body reflects the body of a woman whom they desire; large breasts, a smaller waist, a more profound behind. All I’ve been given is positive feedback; but how can I accept these compliments knowing that I achieved this look in an unhealthy way? 

I am writing this post to encourage women to love the way they look. There is no such thing as the perfect woman, and male attention is not the end all be all.

Colette J is a Bay Area high school senior and youth writer who wants every woman to remember that she is beautiful.

Coming Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Introducing Karma Compass’s newest partner, Shelter in Place, a podcast about coming together in a world that pulls us apart.

Yesterday my husband Nate and I spent the better part of the day in the Emergency Room. Our 3-year-old Mattéa had gotten into my father-in-law’s blood pressure medication, and so after a call to poison control, we headed to the hospital. 

Thankfully, Mattéa was fine. Actually, she was better than fine. As we walked out of the ER several hours later, she looked up at us and said, “that was fun!” We tried not to glare at her. Apparently our efforts to make her understand how serious the situation was had been a total failure. The ER doc had already warned us that the bill would be several thousand dollars. After a long day of taking turns wrestling our daughter down so she wouldn’t pull off the sticky pads that connected wires to her chest and index finger, we were exhausted. Neither of us had slept well for weeks, and for days, our interactions had become increasingly ragged and terse. This visit to the windowless underworld of the ER was just our latest stop on a pandemic Odyssey that we hadn’t gone looking for. I’ll say more about that in a minute.

But first, I have to say that maybe Mattéa has the right idea. Sure, she’d spent hours hooked up to monitors, and had to sit still and miss her nap. But she’d also made a bunch of new friends who all told her how great she was doing, people committed to making sure that she was okay. The Goldfish crackers and orange juice they gave her didn’t hurt either. For Mattéa, it was all one big adventure.

“Ultimately Shelter in Place isn’t just about where you find safety.

It’s about where you belong.”

It’s easy for me to lose sight of the adventure in my own life–to get shipwrecked by the hospital bills, the bedtime battles, the daily griefs and injustices in the newsreel that no longer surprise me. I forget that even in the hard times, there are all kinds of people–friends and strangers–who are willing and ready to make sure we’re okay, to help steer us in the right direction, to tell us that we’re doing great. I forget that even on the worst days, there’s an adventure to be found if I’m willing to look for it.

And that’s why I’m so excited to partner with Karma Compass, to come together in this effort to have authentic conversations that can make a difference.

That’s what season 2 of Shelter in Place is all about: embracing the adventure we didn’t want, but that we’re on anyway–an adventure that we’re not meant to do alone. It’s about finding people who will offer you safety, shelter, and encouragement when you’re lost and ready to give up. It’s about learning to ignore the siren calls of depression and despair and instead find our way home–even if that home looks a lot different than the one we left behind.

Think of it as a pandemic Odyssey, a long and winding journey that shows us what we’re made of, and beckons us toward hope even when the world feels hopeless. A story that doesn’t ignore the dead ends or detours, but instead celebrates our need to rely on others to help us stay on course. Because ultimately Shelter in Place isn’t just about where you find safety. It’s about where you belong.

Listen to the full story here!

Minimalism: Less Is Indeed More

This may sound like a humble brag, but I was a minimalist /essentialist before it was cool, which was long before I even knew what it meant to be a minimalist. To me, being a minimalist is a lifestyle. It means living with things you really need and minimizing what distracts us from living with intentionality and freedom. The process usually entails placing all of ones items into one place categorically (clothing, paperwork, knick knacks, etc) and making decisions about what you need and what goes. My introduction to the lifestyle didn’t come from word of mouth, or the internet, but from sheer necessity.

I needed to travel to California for grad school on a tight budget, means means I flew on Spirit airlines, and there was no room for luggage in that budget. I also felt it was time for a fresh start and clean break from the east coast. Hence my need to minimize my belongings and pack the necessities. I also felt that it was time for a fresh start and clean break from the east coast. The majority of my belongings were already in storage bins, so the hardest part was deciding what would make the trip and how to say goodbye to the rest. After much debating with myself, I settled on what to pack:

  • Chambray top
  • Printed shorts
  • Navy blue short sleeve
  • Denim jacket
  • Coral crop
  • Printed maxi
  • Striped jumper
  • Cream tie neck blouse
  • Cardigan
  • Sandals

What I wore on the plane was a white tee, blue flared jeans, a kimono, slip ons, a black hat, and slip on shoes. I had unwittingly created a capsule wardrobe. However, I still didn’t feel prepared for this journey, and the truth is I wasn’t. I didn’t have warm enough layers for the cool desert nights heading into the fall. I felt unprepared in so many ways, but little did I know that my clothing was the least of my concerns. Most people still believe that they are being judged by those in their immediate circle of influence, and if you are, maybe you need to make some changes there. I was of the mindset, like so many others, that it takes having a plethora of options in my closet to feel ready for the day and I discovered very quickly that this isn’t true. In reality, all these options can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

I was rotating the same fourteen items of clothing in my closet for twenty-one days of grad school until my FAFSA kicked in, and no one was the least concerned with how my pieces were being rotated from day to day. Sometimes I wore the same shirt or bottoms twice in the same week, and I wasn’t given a second glance. I was so pleased to learn that people aren’t as shallow as I once thought they were. I was also surprised by the ease I had when creating outfits for the week. I didn’t really spot the difference until my FAFSA cleared, I bought way more clothes than I needed, and getting dressed became overwhelming once again.

I look back over the years and I see how the experience impacted my purchase habits, wearing habits, and style. I learned to purchase items with intention, and actually stick to my guns about what I want, instead of settling for something because, it’s cute, it’s there, and it’s cheap. Cheaper isn’t always better. I may have started this journey because of necessity, but it is maintained by a desire for sustainability. It’s taken much trial and error with purchasing and styling, but my belongings reflect my life accurately now. I’m a remote-working homebody who runs a lot of errands, so my wardrobe is about 55% loungewear, 30% errand worthy, 10% athletic, and 5% going out. I have so much more peace of mind now because the items I have were purchased or traded with intentionality and they reflect who I am. My experience is by no means an overnight success story, but these little pieces have contributed to who I am today, and it is an honor to share that with you all.

WHO ARE YOU?

I love how life imitates art and vice versa. Leave it to a TV series to ask the deep questions. The question of “Who are you?” has become prevalent in my life lately. It’s shown up in “The Gift” on Netflix, which is a series about an artist who sets out on a journey of self discovery and how her work ties into her ancestry. Many times in the first episode alone she was asked, “Who are you?” and as simple as the question was, it required her to question all she knew about herself and where she placed her self value. She began to pull at loose threads in the stories her parents would tell her about herself and her ancestry until her vision of herself began to crumble, and she had to find out who she was in the midst of chaos, much like this new generation of high school and college students today. They are forced to face themselves in self isolation and quarantine in the midst of a pandemic in one of the most crucial election years.

COVID-19 (C-19) has presented the ultimate Tower moment, where life as we have known it has been flipped on its head. Prior to the virus, many had plans to go to college or take a gap year and essentially live their best lives. They were probably looking forward to taking the road most traveled by: higher education, which leads to good job with benefits, meeting and marrying the love of their life, and retiring well off. Financial stability, love, and good emotional and mental health, this is the American dream. It’s also the misconception about adulting; that at some point we will have everything together. I think we’ve almost accepted that we’re not perfect and that things can fall through the cracks. If only we could extend this grace and wisdom to the youth…

I look back on most of my life, and I see that I equated who I was with what I did and was only happy when I was excelling at it, whether it be in academics or athletics. I defined myself by a summary of my accomplishments and goals not knowing who I truly was. I was a track and field athlete in pursuit of the olympics from the age of sixteen. My need to run was so engrained in me from the age of eight that I didn’t know who I was without it. I didn’t want to know who I was without it, but there came a day when I had no choice but to walk away from that piece of my identity. I was twenty two with no identity and even after acquiring a Masters degree in Film and Media, I took on the identity of “grad student filmmaker”. I was still seeing myself through the lens of my actions and valued myself according to what I was doing. It’s a common trap to fall into, and it wasn’t until everything was stripped from me that I truly saw who I was and what I brought to the table. It is my hope that the youth don’t have to lose pieces of themselves to find themselves the way I did. I hope they find themselves through joy and that they excel at everything they put their minds and hands to with support from their parents and guardians, so adults, please put yourselves in remembrance of a few things:

  • You are their first teacher. They learn how to respond to success and failures through you.
  • Tell them you love them, even when they’ve done nothing but sit on the couch watching Naruto all day. It shows that you see them, even when they haven’t necessarily done anything.
  • Validate their emotions, even when you feel they are in the wrong. Everyone is entitled to their emotions. It is our responsibility as adults to facilitate and aid them in navigating them.
  • Affirm who they are in the home before the world gets a chance to.

One of my favorite quotes is, “we are our ancestors wildest dreams”. It comforts me to know they are out there supporting my journey. How much more of an impact will your words have on your children with you present being a present force in their lives? They may or may not know who they are, but when you facilitate the journey with love, you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make together.

Vote By Mail November 3rd! (A Photo Essay with Instructions)

Making your voice heard this year is critical. There are active attempts to limit access to safe voting and to suppress voting by Black and Brown voters, in particular, as is common in our great nation. Not one of us is going to get the $100,000 treatment that the outgoing president received to fight COVID-19, so make a plan to vote by mail in our General Election, this November 3, 2020. Here’s how:

The United States Postal Service has been operational since 1775, when Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster General.
Reform society with your votes for Measures and Propositions. Learn about your choices from a trusted news source. I’m in Los Angeles, so I used Elections 2020 Voter Game Plan from LAist and recommendations for electing judges from the LA Times.
Your local city, county and district elections are printed on separate pages. Simply mark your choice clearly to avoid a misread of your ballot.
Sometimes, there is no good choice. It is acceptable for a voter to abstain. When votes are counted, there will be a discrepancy between the number of votes in the district and that particular race. Everyone will understand that some voters were unhappy with the choices.
The Presidential Ballot is the last sheet and clearly identifies all the official candidates, but allows write-in candidates. Once you decide on your vote for president, you’re ready for preparing your Official Return Envelope.
The Official Election Mail is clearly marked, and does not require postage.
Clear instructions are provided on both sides of the Official Return Envelope, a very recognizable and large article.
Signed, sealed and soon to be delivered by the trusted and proven USPS.
The pride of our nation, our historic USPS has delivered election ballots, Christmas gifts and stimulus checks have been sent and received with little-to-no incident for hundreds of years. USPS is as American as it gets!

Educator and activist Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman works to ensure democracy and has voted by mail since she lived overseas two decades ago. She’s safe at home, social distancing and exercising her right to vote.

Social Justice and the Mindfulness Bell Go Together

Please support the Plum Village Community with a purchase of The Mindfulness Bell Autumn 2020/Issue 85 and read the Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s guidance for cultivating “Peace, Love and Happiness” during these challenging days. Plus, you can read my contribution, “Peaceful Warrior,” about how I’ve coped with COVID-19 in my new city.

The Spaces in Our Togetherness

risk everything.

And nothing.

I found you whole, a perfect imperfection.

Saucy and hot!

Stay close, hug up on me, bump me–again, worry, smile, cry, mansplain, masseur, get provisions, pay the bills, pick up G, wake up too early, laugh, grade papers, water the garden, teach, teach right after, teach some more, learn two or three things from your wife, get takeout, walk up the hill, put out the bins, close up the house, deliver my bud, check your email, call your siblings–

all kind as love!

And, just this morning.

Edissa mentors artists and writers of all ages in alignment with her conviction for working in radical solidarity to achieve social justice.

Featured photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project.

Watch Your Mouth! Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

We have made it to the fourth quarter of 2020! With only three months of this year to go, many are feeling emotionally and existentially tired. With things running together on what seems like a continuous feedback loop, many may have fallen off their usual self-care routines. The fourth quarter is where games are won and lost but, in the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill, “how you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Practicing self-care in your usual ways, traveling, going to the gym, attending family events, may not be practical right now. In a climate rife with complaints and murmuring, the easiest way to maintain self-care, and remain in balance, is through the practice of affirmations.

What Is Self-Affirmation?

Self-Affirmation is the process of speaking life into yourself. It is using your own ashe (divine energy) to shape your circumstances and reality around you. It’s not just positive thinking, thought that is part of it. To affirm yourself means to speak life over yourself from a standpoint of truly wanting to see those things come to pass. Affirmations also aren’t wishful thinking either. The affirmation needs to have actionable intention behind it. For example, if you are affirming that you are a top scholar, you have to do more than just declare that over yourself, you have to do the work and study. Words are the starting point, consistency brings it home.

What If I Don’t Believe the Affirmation?

Of course, believing the affirmation makes it all the more powerful, but as Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers remind listeners, sometimes you just have to encourage yourself. You don’t always have to feel in the mood to affirm yourself though generally, it’s when you’re feeling down that you may need it the most. If you are having trouble speaking positively over yourself, there are a few ways to go about shifting that paradigm.

  1. Therapy. For numerous reasons, within the Black community going to therapy is seen as weak or ineffective. There was a meme on social media that stated essentially that many are exhausted from trying to pray their way through things they needed to seek help for. Self-affirmation can be placed in this context as well. Sometimes, you need a licensed professional to help you understand the root causes of self-esteem issues and other troublesome patterns of behavior. Once you’ve dealt with the root, you can then begin to plant a new harvest.
  2. Enlist the Help of Friends/Family. If you don’t feel that you are able to encourage yourself, try and see if you have family or friends who would be willing to offer you words of affirmation on a fairly consistent basis. Some people need to have things externalized before they internalize them. If that is you, get an affirmation buddy and make it reciprocal. You affirm them, they affirm you, and you build one another and by extension communities.
  3. Meditate. Sometimes it may not be that you have an issue believing the affirmations. Your mind may just be too cluttered with the minutiae of life. Take a moment, or several, to ground yourself and align yourself to receive positivity. For more information on meditation and mindfulness, check back in November!

How to Begin Self-Care Through Self-Affirmation

There is no wrong or right way to affirm and care for yourself. But if you are looking for some starting points, here are some suggestions.

  1. Scriptures, Proverbs, and Parables. Regardless of what spiritual system you subscribe to, if you subscribe to one at all, proverbs and parables abound. They also are prevalent outside of a spiritual context. Though many may find organized religion problematic, there are some gems contained in the Bible, Torah, Koran, Odu Ifa, the teachings of Ptahhotep, et al. that can start as the basis of your affirmation list.
  2. Music. Music is powerful with a specific energy. If you need affirmations on the go, try looking for it in music. Some personal recommendations are any album by India.Arie.
  3. What needs to change? Another starting point is by looking at what things need to change, or what things have died in your life. Once you are able to identify these items, you can move forward to speak life into them and build yourself up.
  4. Social Media. Social media is usually seen as harmful to one’s sense of self. However, there are a few accounts that are great at providing affirmations. Two accounts to follow on Instagram are: @thenapministry and @blackselfcaretalk.

Whichever method you choose to begin, the important part is to get started. Start setting your foundation for 2021 now. Happy affirming!

Burning: Inside and Out

Experiencing personal racism is exhausting. It’s on the news. It’s in my mail. At work when I get some. It’s even in my family.

As I navigate this heat,–let’s call it Traumatic Racial Stress Syndrome, because that’s what it is–it’s as if the land around me is burning. The air is choked with its gritty scent. My home and possessions are threatened by active danger.

My retreat is to a place within where I have learned to cool my embers with the balms of healing. Even so the heat, smoke and flames are always at the door. They wait at the supermarket. Lurking in the woods is commonplace. Don’t even think of getting your brows done.

This is what it’s like to be a Black-Skinned Woman in 2020 America. It’s hot all the time–fires burn on every TV show. Every dinner party is laced with it. My actions are never good enough. I must learn my place or pay the price. I wear my papers on my skin: I do not belong.

Edissa completed production of a short documentary September 2020 and submitted it to several film festivals. She’s working on her next film and hiring a new Contributing Writer for Karma Compass.