Sunday, December 1, 2019

Family Matters

It didn't even need to go there. That's why I hate going to these family get-togethers. Somebody always has to say something stupid, and of course, I have to call them out on it. I just wanted her to know that constantly "joking" with me about my weight, financial status, and life choices, just wasn't okay anymore. Like girl... just cause you're miserable in your own life doesn't give you permission to take it out on me. Then on top of that, when I get annoyed, everyone wants to talk about "Well, you know how your cousin is!", as if that's the get out of jail free card. Instead, that's the exact problem. I DO know how she is, and I'm old enough now to stop accepting it. If people can't be respectful, family or not, I don't want them in my space, period. And although I know that this is my right, I can't act like the severing of a relationship, with someone who I consider more like a sister, doesn't create a whole different level of pain. Steph was there when I learned how to ride a bike, and when I had my first crush. She was there when I won my first award, and when I crossed the stage to graduate. She's seen me grow and evolve from the beginning. To lose that closeness with someone who I feel knows me best, is absolutely devastating. But to suffer in silence, while she begins to strip away at my self-esteem one snide remark at a time, also feels devastating and unbearable. I shouldn't feel the need to have my full emotional armor on when I'm around my "family".

When it comes to our family members, the relationships we have with them are often deeply rooted, and very impactful on who we become as people later on in life. Our relatives can often be our first friends and the first people we are taught to trust. Over the years, memories are built with them which can help to establish longlasting bonds. Many times, we see our family members at our homes, places of worship, or other places where we feel comfortable and safe. As a result, it is common for people to associate their family members with the feeling of safety and security. Although this is not the case in every situation, the idea that family is supposed to be your support team no matter what, and love you unconditionally, can lead to high expectations and repeated disappointments. Unfortunately, it can also lead to us accepting certain treatment that we would not accept from someone who wasn't related to us.


When relatives do not live up to our expectations of providing love, safety, and support, especially from a young age, we may grow to think that this is an acceptable way to behave towards people we say we love. Some of these behaviors may include speaking in an abusive way, disregarding boundaries, or exhibiting negligence. Whatever the behavior, it can inspire confusion within us about what is acceptable and what is not. In the end, when we enter into other relationships, our perspective on healthy vs. unhealthy interactions can be warped. For example, if a parent gives their child the silent treatment when they are upset with them, rather than communicating the issue, the child may grow up thinking that this is the most effective way to handle conflict. Even more so, if a child grows up being forced to give people in their family a hug, even if a family member makes them uncomfortable, the child may grow to believe that they have no autonomy over their bodies. They may also conclude that physical boundaries are okay to be broken by people who claim to love them. All of these misconceptions can lead to problems when trying to establish healthy relationships with friends and lovers, and will more than likely need to be unpacked in a therapeutic setting.

Regardless of the situation, if we feel that being around certain family members does more harm than good to us, loving them from a distance should be viewed as a viable option. We should not feel obligated to engage with, or tolerate, toxic behavior. To this end, instant reconciliation does not always provide the best solution.  However, oftentimes we let people in our family, who value the appearance of peace over the actual presence of it, convince us to look past certain transgressions.  Because of this, negative emotions can be left to fester, only to resurface in areas of our lives that we least expect.

On the other hand, there are certainly times when remedying the situation is possible and healthy. Nevertheless, in order for this to occur, there must be several factors present. These factors include accountability, active listening, agreeing on expectations, changed perspectives, and changed behavior. To fix the issue, everyone involved must be able to take accountability for the role they played in the initial conflict, or the escalation of it. Keep in mind though, there are times when one party IS solely responsible for a conflict, in which case the other person may be considered a victim. In these cases, the victim does not owe the other person a chance at reconciliation, especially if they feel their boundaries have been irreversibly crossed. But in most cases, each person should be able to figure out how they could have acted differently to obtain an alternative outcome. Just as important, all parties need to agree on/ respect any new boundaries put in place in order to move forward in a healthy way. Most importantly, once agreeing upon what the relationship should now consist of, all parties must be determined enough to behave accordingly. If not, the cycle of dissension will only continue. 

Just like with any relationship, the relationship we have with our family should mirror the way we would like to be treated as a human being in general. If it does not, we should not feel guilty about deciding to distance ourselves from it. Additionally, the time for responding "well that's still your family" in the face of toxicity and disrespect, has long passed. As we progress, we must come to terms with the fact that sometimes growth is born out of difficult conversations. By choosing our own wellbeing over the desire to appease our family, we create an opportunity to connect with them on an authentic level. Family wounds can often hurt the most, but with the right balance of love and accountability, it is possible to bring about healing and wisdom for the future. 


All Power And Love To The People,
Shani

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Relationships Should Never Rewind

I felt so unstable. What I wanted and what was within my reach were two different things. We weren’t doing each other any favors by always keeping one foot in the door. But for some reason, we just couldn’t let it go. Not completely… The tone of his voice brought me comfort and made me feel at home, even when I was across the sea. I sent him postcards from Paris, and wrote letters from Laos, hoping to intrigue him enough to come with me one day. But he never quite got around to it. There were other things he felt deserved his attention instead of me, but the moment I began to visualize myself moving on, his sixth sense would kick in, and he’d come searching for me. Part of me wanted to hide, while the other part tried so hard to be found.


At the end of the day, we couldn’t be together for the same reasons every time. When we tried to deny it, and prove how much we had “changed since the last time”, it always turned out the same. We couldn’t coexist in person, and we were only connected from afar because we knew how to ease each other’s minds. This wasn’t healthy though, and we knew it. We were caught in purgatory until eventually, the situation resolved itself. I received a call from him saying that we couldn’t see each other or communicate at all anymore. Unbeknownst to me, he had met a woman and they had fallen in love. I was devastated and enraged. How could he move on so quickly when we had been together only a few weeks prior? How was it possible for him to find her when we talked every other day? As much as it hurt, I had to take some responsibility in the situation. I knew it was time to let go a long time ago, but I kept fighting. I saw all the signs that said STOP, TURN AROUND, DO NOT PROCEED, but I persisted. In the end, I betrayed my own heart by playing the on-again, off-again game. The scores were final, and I had lost. 

Photographer: Karen Alfaro

As difficult as it may be to admit, many of us have found ourselves in an on-again, off-again relationship at some point. Even if we are not truly content within a relationship, we find comfort in the familiarity of it. We crave the predictability and consistency of certain people, even if it's consistently a struggle to get along. In addition, we often shy away from becoming involved in new situations that require vulnerability, and opening up about who we really are. It becomes increasingly difficult for us to trust new people after each “failed” relationship. Then, when loneliness inevitably hits us, we perceive it to mean that we must still want to be with that person, or that we are still in love. Taking it a step further, we begin to consider what it might mean for us if that person were to truly move on, and never look back. We fear that we might be making the wrong decision, and therefore stick around to provide the chance for things to work out in the end. Although these reactions to breakups are common, it is important to recognize that they are most often rooted in fear. When we succumb to the fear of being alone, we end up temporarily mending our relationships, only to break up again in the future due to irreconcilable differences.

At times, this cycle of breaking up and getting back together can seem natural and even harmless. In reality, however, when we fail to take the appropriate space needed to reflect and heal, we end up doing more harm than good to our present psyche, and the chance at future happiness. When we continue to share intimacy, whether physical or not, with people who we do not anticipate being in our future, we end up losing out on the time and energy it takes to prepare ourselves for the next chapter. Although everyone will have a different healing process, it is hard to make any kind of progress when you are constantly being reminded of what could have been. It is difficult to stand in your decision to move on when you continue to get glimpses of things potentially getting better. But beware, oftentimes these “glimpses” are just that, a momentary view of something you desire, but rarely do they reflect a genuine change. In fact, many people go into panic mode after a breakup, even if they know deep down it was for the best. This feeling of internal panic, rooted in the fear of loss, causes people to try their best to prove that they can make the necessary changes for their partner. This can be anything from a change in attitude, change in interests, or even a change in their schedule in order to be more available to their partner. Nevertheless, if these changes are made to avoid loss, when the threat of losing their partner is no longer there, their motivation to maintain these changes will also disappear. This leads both parties back to square one, considering whether or not it is healthy for them to be together. It is also common for resentment to arise when one party senses the other is not genuine in their performance of “self-development”.

In any case, it is important to keep in mind that there is an alternative to this vicious cycle. This alternative may come in the form of taking space, considering what you want in the present moment and future, and setting the appropriate boundaries to reflect that. Without the opportunity to reflect on ways that we could have done better, it’s easy to assume that it was simply the other person’s fault as to why the relationship didn’t work. This perspective then robs us of the opportunity to develop ourselves in the ways we need to in order to have healthier relationships moving forward. On the other hand, when we don’t make space to reflect, it is easy to gloss over the ways in which we have been harmed in a relationship. Consequently, healing an unidentified wound is always more difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, not taking space from an ex can also prevent the chance of us finding someone we are more compatible with because we don’t have the space for them in our hearts. We are then forced to continue settling for a relationship that is not fulfilling to us, affecting our overall happiness and quality of life.

On the contrary, there are certainly times when reconciliation can lead to a deeper understanding, and a healthier relationship. When both parties have done the work to heal, and adjust their perspectives on their own terms, getting back together can actually be a beautiful thing. When both parties feel like the relationship is worth fighting for, and they display their commitment to it through words AND ACTIONS, it can actually lead to a more fulfilling relationship than ever before. When both people feel that they are still in love, regardless of how much time or space has passed, this is also a good indication that the relationship may be worthy of a second chance. Most importantly, when both parties are able to feel happy and complete on their own, the chance that reconciliation will be successful increases. During the time being taken to reflect, heal, and grow, it is imperative that both parties respect the boundaries set by the other. If not, one person’s desire to reconcile can conflict with the other person’s desire to heal, causing an imbalance and disconnect all over again. Therefore, it is necessary to be patient and considerate during this stage in order to experience the desired outcome.

Regardless of whether or not people get back together, breakups can provide the space to reevaluate where you are going, and what kind of person you want to go with you. They allow us to feel pain and use that pain to initiate positive change in various areas of our lives. In this way, breakups may be considered a gift, when viewed from the right perspective. Our ultimate goal should always be to find happiness and love in ways that don’t require us to compromise our fundamental values or identity. When we prioritize this idea, we are more likely to attract the kind of relationships we desire, and avoid the dreaded on-again, off-again “situationship”.

With that said, I’d love to hear from YOU on this one! What are your thoughts on on-again, off-again relationships? Can they ever work in your favor? What do you think should be the ultimate goal after a breakup? Please comment below with your perspective so we can discuss :)

All Power And Love To The People, 
Shani 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Too Much Time In The Mirror

The first thing I do in the morning is to look in the mirror. I’m curious to see how much prep work I’ll have to do today before I can leave the house. Ugh! It feels like these bags under my eyes have a personal vendetta against me. They literally will not let me be great. And that’s not to mention all these dark spots I have all over my face from acne. No matter how much I moisturize and exfoliate, they’re right there every morning like “We ain’t... go-ing no-where! “(P. Diddy voice). But I guess the most frustrating thing about my face in the morning is the peach fuzz I notice above my lip. I mean, a girl can only pluck so much until it’s just time to buy a lawnmower ... So basically, these are things I simply HAVE to attend to. I don’t want people to get so distracted by my scars that instead of focusing on what I’m saying, they stare blankly at my forehead and then ask me to repeat myself. So instead, I spend at least two hours every morning doing ritual after ritual to make myself feel more presentable to the outside world. I feel the need to remain palatable in order to avoid rejection or people talking about me behind my back. Sure I wish I could spend time in the morning doing yoga, or cooking a nice breakfast, but those things won’t make me feel immediately more confident when I go outside. Those things also can’t help me at that time of the day when I begin to wonder if anyone else is noticing my flaws, or if my disguise is actually working. So every morning, I look in the mirror and begin to physically alter what I see, until I realize that I’m running late for work again. But all in the name of beauty... so...it’s fine.

It has long been understood and accepted that the first thing people notice about a person upon meeting them is their physical appearance. We also know that first impressions are everything and that people often make snap judgments about others based on those initial observations. For this reason, we find it important to be conscientious about how we look, and how we are perceived by others. We strive to present ourselves in a way that makes us feel confident yet palatable. In addition, taking care of one's physical appearance may even be classified as an act of self-love. At the same time, internal conflict may arise when the concern for our physical appearance is derived from the desire to meet the perceived expectations of others. This type of concern can often lead to neglect in other areas of our lives such as our mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Photographer: Jenny Desrosiers
As a society, we care a lot about what other people think of us. We buy cars we can't afford to impress people we don't like. We buy memberships to the gym just to say we have one, and we buy all types of products from companies that promise to make us more beautiful and attractive. On the surface, it's easy to view our eagerness to blend in as being a byproduct of socialization. However, when taking a closer look at this matter, one could argue that our ultimate motivation, when it comes to our appearance, is not to "fit in" but rather to avoid the rejection that may come from standing out.

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2017, I remember becoming extremely self-conscious about my skin. Every day, I would be the only woman in my office without makeup on, and over time I began to notice more and more imperfections when I looked in the mirror. Although these "flaws" had been there my whole life and had never bothered me before, I became hypersensitive to them as I began to compare myself to the women who came to work with a fully beat face Monday through Friday. Furthermore, I began to wonder if this whole time people were noticing my imperfections as well and if they were making judgments about me based on them. In order to alleviate these feelings, I decided to start wearing makeup. The first day I wore it, I remember a few people complimenting me on how I looked by asking me where I was going after work and inquiring about "who I was trying to look cute for". This positive reinforcement encouraged me to wear makeup even more often. I felt free. I had finally found a way to camouflage my flaws, and could now focus on other things. And then it happened... I woke up late one day and didn't have time to put on makeup. I remember people coming up to me asking if I was okay, and telling me that I should get some rest because I looked "super tired". I was heartbroken. I hadn't done anything differently that day besides not putting on makeup. To me, this had just confirmed my worst fears. They COULD notice my flaws, and it DID affect the way people interacted with me. At that point, I felt like I would have to wear makeup every single day in order to avoid these unpleasant interactions.

After work, I returned home to cry and reflect on what had happened. That night, I came to some conclusions that would stay with me forever. First, I realized that I wasn't wearing makeup for the "right reasons". I had to accept that I was not in fact "wearing it for myself" like I often told people, because on the days I didn't leave the house, I also didn't apply makeup. I wasn't wearing it because I enjoyed doing it, or because it was an outlet for me to be creative. I was wearing it solely to disguise what I considered to be my flaws. I felt that if I wore makeup, it would make me overall more approachable, and more likely to attract the right people. Second, I realized that the real issue was never about makeup, but more so about my own lack of self-esteem. I was disappointed in myself for getting to a place where I would even consider comparing myself to the people around me. I let my assumptions about what other people wanted me to look like cloud my judgment. Who told me I needed to wear makeup to be beautiful? Who told me that that's what the people around me expected of me? I did. I told myself all of these things, and I paid for these lies with my sanity. What disappointed me the most was realizing that I had begun to neglect the activities that kept me feeling beautiful internally, in exchange for activities centered around my physical appearance. I exchanged prayer time for youtube tutorials on contour, meal prep time for practicing my cat-eye, and journaling time for redoing my eyeshadow over and over again. I knew that the intense sadness I felt, caused by this lack of balance, could only be remedied if I approached things in a different way moving forward. It was time to make some decisions.

From that night on, I decided to prioritize my perception of myself over what I assumed others were thinking about me. I also decided that things in my life didn't have to be one way or the other. It was possible to put effort into my outward appearance without compromising my internal wellbeing. I also decided that, moving forward, I would only wear makeup on special occasions, or for creative projects because that's what made me personally feel most confident. To this day, I feel most fierce when I can walk into a room eyebags saggin', mustache flourishing, pimples gleaming, and STILL captivate the entire space with my beauty, personality, and intellect. And to be clear, this does not mean that people who wear makeup regularly cannot do the same, but instead, it points to the fact that each individual should do whatever makes them feel most confident, safe, and fulfilled. Instead of being preoccupied with hiding my imperfections, I decided to focus on identifying what I found most beautiful about myself. In doing so, I was able to attract an amazing tribe of people who also recognized that beauty, regardless of my perceived flaws.

When we strive to improve ourselves internally as well as externally, we become one step closer to operating as our highest-selves To do this, it is necessary to engage in regular activities geared towards development and balance in each specific area of our lives. It may also prove helpful to conduct frequent self-check-ins in order to ensure that we are experiencing our desired equilibrium within. If we are not, it is important that we have an idea of which thoughts and activities can bring us back to our center when our insecurities arise. If nothing else, remember that you are beautiful. You are capable, and you are loved.

¡Hasta La Victoria Siempre,
Shani

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Stay The Course

The only thing I know for sure is that I want to be a lawyer. There’s nothing I love more than advocating for those in need and sifting through the facts to get to the truth. The only issue is, I don’t really agree with the way our criminal justice system works in this country. I also can’t quite see myself spending hours on end reading through law books for reference. In fact, I’d much rather be in the forest collecting plants that heal different ailments naturally. But that would be kinda hard to explain to my parents who paid for me to attend law school. So I guess I have to go through with it... Right? After all, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for their sacrifices. Or even worse, I don’t want to seem crazy for choosing a path unfamiliar to those around me. I mean, I love the idea of being something as prestigious as a lawyer, but maybe that’s all it is… an idea. My heart beats for something else, something my friends and family wouldn’t understand. So I tuck my passion away and pursue other things. I pursue so many things that everything I touch starts to unravel and fall apart. This isn't what I want. This isn't what I dreamed of. This isn't who I am.   

Choosing a path, and sticking to it until you see it through, is one of the most difficult things to do in life. One reason is that our society makes it easy to become distracted with new information, new offers, and new ways of doing things. In addition, it has become increasingly difficult to resist being swayed one way or another by genius marketing tactics, peer pressure, and the desire to please the people around us. Moreover, when we don’t immediately experience the desired rewards from pursuing a particular path or venture, we begin to doubt whether or not we should have been on this path to begin with. Once this doubt begins to set it, it is easy to conclude that we must change our trajectory in order to avoid failure. However, by dropping out of the race long before the finish line, we do ourselves a disservice by not allowing us to learn and grow from the experience of the race itself. Then, when we do begin the next venture, we are ill-equipped to succeed because we have not mastered the ability to commit, problem solve and persevere in the face of adversity.    


Photographer: Jenny Desrosiers
When it comes to changing your path in life, the most important factor to consider is your true motivation behind making the change. If it is based on your desire to live a life that feels more authentic to you, and therefore genuinely makes you happier, this change should be embraced. For example, if you decide to switch your career because you develop a new interest, and pursuing that interest makes you feel happier and more excited to attend work every day, this can be viewed as a positive shift. This is especially true as opposed to staying in a position you are unhappy with simply to “see it through” until the end. On the other hand, if you decide to switch your career simply because you did not receive a promotion as quickly as you had hoped, this change may not be in alignment with developing the kind of character it takes to be successful in any field. This is because in most cases, people do not become successful overnight. In fact, many of the people we look up to as being great or successful in their endeavors will admit that it took long hours, high-risk decisions, belief without proof, and sticktoitiveness to get them where they are today. All of these characteristics are developed when your long-term motivations outweigh the discomfort caused by temporary challenges. When the immediate follow-up to adversity is completely changing paths, it makes it nearly impossible to progress in any area of your life, leaving you stuck in a position of constant motion, yet no actual progress.   

To combat the distractions and fear of failure, that often cause people to reroute, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of exactly WHY you are on a certain path to begin with. When people are motivated by why they are doing something, rather than how and when their actions will pay off, the chances of success become far greater. Being attached to the idea of helping sick people heal, will serve as a better motivator to finish medical school, than being attached to the idea of making a lot of money. Why? Because there are many things one could do in order to make a large amount of money, and it doesn’t necessarily include mastering a rigorous curriculum about the human body. Therefore, a person who is simply after money is less likely to have the tenacity to complete medical school, and will likely change their path several times as they are introduced to new ways to quickly make money. 

With this in mind, it is essential to remain mindful and intentional about everything we do. Our actions and decisions should bring us closer to the life we have taken the time to imagine for ourselves. By the same token, when we are confronted with challenges, we must remind ourselves of our “WHY”. This gives us the ability to problem solve and persist in order to stay the course, rather than jumping ship mid-journey. Lastly, if we do decide to change paths, we must be careful to consider how this change will bring us closer to our most authentic selves, rather than simply choosing the path of least resistance. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  - Galatians 6:9


All Power And Love To The People,

Shani

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Worth The Wait

Sweeping up the broken glass, I still couldn’t understand what came over me. It started as an overwhelming feeling of fear about my future and ended with me blaming God for my current predicament. For some reason, seeing the mirror explode into 1,000 pieces soothed me. Now I wasn’t the only broken one in the room. The better part of me knew that things would get better, but the other part… The other part told me I might be stuck in this same place forever. It felt like I  was working so hard just to remain in the exact same position, just a little more exhausted. I sat there shaking as the walls of my life caved in on me. The pressure of my responsibilities pushed on me until I felt my lungs nearly collapse. “Just keep going”, they say. But I don’t know where to walk when I can’t see. I wondered where my blessing was. I cried and prayed, and still nothing. What have I done to get myself here? What have I done to be ignored by God? 


There comes a time in everyone’s life where we find ourselves in a position of waiting. Whether you are waiting for a promotion at work, waiting to meet the love of your life, or even waiting to discover your purpose, life is full of instances where gratification must be delayed. This is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is the suffering many people endure while they wait. This suffering may present itself as fear, self-doubt, resentment, and detachment from the present moment. When things don’t go as planned, we begin to let these feelings distract us from our necessary journey preparation, causing a delay in our manifestation. In essence, how we wait plays a major role in how quickly and remarkably our manifestations arrive.  

Photographer: Jenny Desrosiers
When we spend our time being anxious about when and how things will work out, we run the risk of overlooking crucial lessons in our everyday lives that we will need to reference later. This then delays our process because some lessons are necessary prior to the manifestation. For example, if someone prays to become a millionaire, yet they invest no time in learning how to manage their finances, regardless of when or how that money arrives, they can easily lose it all due to mismanagement. This would leave them right back in their original position, with no additional insight, and perhaps even further away from their manifestation than they were before.

Additionally, there is value in acknowledging what is out of your control, and redirecting your attention to the things that are. For example, if someone is waiting to meet the love of their life, instead of going out of their way to “find” them, they can spend time making sure they are happy and whole on their own. In this way, when that special person arrives, there will be less resistance on their path because both parties have done the preparation work in advance. 


Make no mistake, waiting can be extremely difficult. It can cause us to exercise patience beyond what we thought we were capable of. It can also cause us to critically examine our level of faith. Nevertheless, when we breathe life into our suffering as we wait, by doubting, blaming, and complaining, it simultaneously removes precious energy away from what we actually desire. In the end, faith and fear cannot exist harmoniously together. Therefore, it is important to be intentional about how you wait. This can be done by being present in the moment, exercising your faith, and practicing behaviors that help to align your current life with your desired future.

All Power & Love To The People,
Shani
XOXOXO

Sunday, October 13, 2019

She Cries Too Much...

Then suddenly she went cold… The smile fell from her face and her expression became flat. I knew it was something I said, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. All I asked her was why she continued working at a company she hated. “Yo, you good? Should I not have asked that?”. “Naw, it’s all good. I’m fine” she said, as tears began to fill her eyes. Here we go again man… I never know what’s going to trigger her next crying-attack or cold spell. It’s like walking on eggshells, and I don’t know how much longer I can do this, to be honest. I could call her and be like “Good morning babe”, and she’ll just start crying. Talkin’ bout some, “No one’s ever cared enough to call me and say good morning before” -___- Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the point. I love shorty, but ummm… She’s just too emotional sometimes and I just don’t know how to deal. 

It is quite common for people to find themselves in relationships with others who differ in their expression, and intensity, of emotionality. Consequently, many end up feeling lost and confused when their partner expresses their emotions in a way that they themselves would not. To understand this issue, it is important to first examine the underlying factors in the development of one’s emotionality. One major factor is the environment. If a child is brought up in an environment where expressing certain emotions is frowned upon or rejected, the child will learn to suppress those emotions. On the other hand, if a child is brought up in an environment where the expression of certain emotions is encouraged, the child will learn to express those feelings more easily. For example, if a child learns through socialization that showing anger in public is acceptable, but showing sorrow is not, the child may be more likely to exhibit behaviors consistent with the feeling of anger, even when they are sad. This could translate into the stereotypical image of a man breaking things when he is sad, and a woman crying when she is angry.  

Photographer: Karen Alfaro
Nevertheless, if you are the partner who is not used to outwardly expressing emotions like sorrow or fear, you may feel frustrated and helpless when your partner does so. This mismatch of expression can often cause a misunderstanding between people, and leave one person feeling like the other doesn’t care. In reality, however, the other person may care very deeply, yet they are unaware of how to respond to such an expression. As a result, people often conclude that their relationship isn’t meant to be, and render themselves incompatible. This leads to people endlessly searching for someone they “match” with. Although it is possible to find someone who expresses their emotions in an identical manner, it does not necessarily mean that person will be the best fit for you in the long-run. In fact, people who express emotionality in different ways often create balance within a relationship, as long as those expressions remain healthy. The determination of compatibility then, must go beyond the mere similarity of expressions, and extend into the effective communication of those expressions.  

This crucial component of a healthy relationship is not to be overlooked. Knowing how to describe to your partner what you are feeling, and why, is imperative in order to build a deeper understanding and connection. It also provides the space for your partner to ask questions and discover how you would like them to respond, should a similar situation arise in the future. In this same way, both parties must be honest with themselves about how the other person’s behavior makes them feel, and why. To be clear, this is not an easy feat, and usually requires a great deal of self-awareness and an intentional unpacking of the past.  However, after this pointed reflection, if someone concludes that their partner’s behavior does not align with their expectation of a healthy relationship, they have the right to express this. They also have the right to walk away if things do not change. Yet and still, the key factors in all of this remain effective communication and active listening. 

Furthermore, when it comes to emotionality, it is important to remember that context is everything. Although an emotion within itself may not be harmful, when expressed in the wrong context, it may lead to unfavorable results. For example, crying aloud may be considered an acceptable response to the feeling of loss at a funeral. On the other hand, crying during a therapy session, when you are the therapist, can be viewed as inappropriate behavior. For these reasons, we must strive to understand our differing levels of emotionality. We must understand what triggers us to feel certain ways, and then develop a strategy to deal with these emotions in a healthy way, with respect to context. We must also do our best to communicate and understand one another within a relationship. This can only be accomplished by having the difficult but necessary conversations, in the beginning, about how we respond to our feelings. 

All Power & Love To The People, 
Shani 

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Drowning Lifeguard

I know I can't afford it, but he's really hungry again. At this point, it's not even worth mentioning the job he was supposed to be getting. It will only cause us to argue and leave me feeling like perhaps I'm being a little too hard on him. Besides, there needs to be at least one person in his life who won't abandon him like everyone else. I didn't realize it at first, but I had begun fighting to prove to him what unconditional love felt like. I was determined. Even if it meant I had to go without a few things every now and then, I wanted him to know that someone was willing to put him before themselves.  My behavior, however, was not unique to him. I thought like this about everyone. I help people. I heal people.  I save people. It's a beautiful gift to be able to make peoples' burdens lighter. So I break and I bend for people who never even notice, or notice just in time to take advantage. Still, I lean on my crutch that taught me to put others before myself, even at the expense of my own wellbeing. Where they are weak, I must be strong, and where they lack, I must provide. I'll do it, as long as it means I can go on neglecting the work I'm supposed to be doing on myself. After all, I simply don't have the mental capacity, or time, to take care of myself because...well... They need me. Unfortunately, I neglected to consider that the more of other people's luggage I choose to carry, the longer and more difficult my own journey will be.

One of the best feelings in the world is the satisfaction that comes from helping someone. Whether it's your neighbor, your child, or an old lady trying to cross the street, instances where you are able to assist someone can be impactful far beyond the surface. These instances provide space to experience the beauty of human connection, and vulnerability. By being willing to meet someone where they're at, it exercises one's ability to be patient. By being willing to ask for help when necessary, it exercises one's ability to be humble. However, like everything else in life, "helping" must be done in moderation, and in a way that is not detrimental to a person's own wellbeing.

Although this idea may seem quite obvious, many people simply are unable to find the appropriate balance between self-care and self-sacrifice. In fact, for some, being the person that everyone goes to for help and support is the one thing that affords them the validation they seek. With that being the silver lining, there are few positive outcomes for the individual who chooses to pour into the world without ever refilling their own cup. As a woman of color, I grew up watching the women around me rise to the occasion and handle things. Regardless of their needs, personal goals, or ambitions, they handled every obstacle that was thrown their way. Not only did they take care of things for themselves, but these strong women helped everyone around them handle their afflictions as well. All the while praying and believing that one day they would be rewarded for their efforts.

Photographer: Karen Alfaro
From a Christian perspective, I understand that this doctrine stems from the idea that people should strive to be like Christ. Since Jesus is portrayed as providing the ultimate sacrifice, followers of his should also strive to be selfless. As beautiful and romantic as this idea is in theory, in practice, it can actually be extremely harmful if gone unchecked. There is an important distinction between helping someone because you're able to, and helping someone because you feel morally obligated to, and will feel extremely guilty if you do not. The issue is in the latter. The subconscious avoidance of guilt can cause people to overextend themselves in ways contrary to their own best interests. Furthermore, by the time most people realize they have given too much of themselves, and have nothing left to offer at the moment, the time for them to pursue their own dreams and interests has passed them by. Although it is never too late to actualize your dreams, in most cases it's only a matter of time before someone else, that you simply must save, takes you off course again. Often times the hardest battles are within. Therefore, we look to the outside world for distractions, and to deflect the spotlight away from our own challenges.

In this case, the focus must be placed on creating balance in one's life on all fronts. Keep in mind that having a "well-balanced life" will look different for everyone. Nevertheless, a good place to start is by being intentional about which situations you intervene in, and understanding that not every battle is yours to fight. Sometimes balance can mean simply sharing resources with someone, rather than trying to provide what they need on your own. In addition, balance can also look like pouring into others, as you simultaneously pour into yourself. However, the minute that delicate equilibrium is disturbed, the risk that someone will either overburden themselves or act out of selfishness, becomes far greater. Lastly, balance can also be achieved by setting and enforcing clear boundaries with the people in your life. Be aware though, you may encounter some pushback when you begin prioritizing yourself. This is not something to be taken lightly. Pay close attention to the people that become cold when they lose access to you in some way. In most cases, those people were hoping to continue benefiting off of your desire to help, with no intention of offering anything in return.

With this in mind, please take one thing to heart. YOU ARE ENOUGH! You do not need to go around extending yourself to every person or solving every problem. You don't need to go around fighting everyone's battles just to prove that you are a warrior. You are worthy of love and acceptance. So today I challenge you to be more mindful and intentional about who you're giving your effort and energy to in the name of "helping". Take a moment to consider the ways in which you are working to fill your own cup on a regular basis. If after your evaluation you find that you are giving more of yourself than you can afford to, know that no regret is greater than the life you could have lived... If you had only put on your own lifevest before trying to save someone else.

All Power And Love To The People,
Shani