Lifestyle

Tomato Eggplant Sauce in a black cast iron pan.

The Problem With Self-Care

Self-care is an affirmation that my needs are validI am a big proponent of self-care. For me,self-care is an affirmation that my needs are valid. However, self-care is now big business in the consumerist culture that as American as apple pie. The big business of self-care is one that I find both intriguing and appalling. The problem with self-care business is that everyone is not allowed to care for themselves.

This whole thought about self-care as a business came about because the New York Times Magazine published a profile called ” The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow.” As the title implies, the article explores the ascendant of Ms. Paltrow as a purveyor of self-care via her Goop brand. Reading this article made me think about my college days when she first started pushing her newsletter out to the masses. There is a recipe I got from her that is still one of my favorite recipes. It is a plain apple and broccoli soup that is finished with lots of lemon juice. It is very similar to this recipe I found on the Goop blog for broccoli and arugula soup.

Anyway, let get back to the point of I was trying to make. Following the writer’s story about the trajectory of Ms. Paltrow’s brand as well as the rise of the self-care industry was interesting to me. One of the things that I love about the growth of self-care as an acceptable form of self-love is that it has empowered women to demand time for themselves. Time to read. Time to sleep. Time to do yoga. However, the rise of self-care as an industry as also meant that many underprivileged people are left feeling like they are failing at life.

One of the things that Ms. Paltrow talks about in the profile is how crucial it is for her to create an aspirational brand. A brand that is based on utilizing her privileged access to wealth that allows her to be able to create the kind of self-care she wants. While I do not begrudge her her privilege, I find it a bit naive not to have a conversation about how many women are not allowed to care for themselves properly. Forget about money because money is a huge barrier that I can’t possibly talk about all the ways it harms the underprivileged. Even when we do have the funds to create opportunities for ourselves, many women, especially black women are not allowed to care for themselves.

As a black plus size woman, one of my problems with self-care is the feeling of being unheard and unwelcome when I want to care for myself. One of the radical acts of self-care that I have done in the past few months is seeking help with my body. I went to the doctor, and I felt unheard and misunderstood. It was like everything I said boiled down to one thing; weight loss. I feel tired begat a lose the weight response. I am gaining weight at an unprecedented rate begat a eat less comment. Knowing I have a past eating disorder begat a sign up for weight loss clinic from my doctor. Through all of the emotional trauma of feeling as if my doctor intentionally did not want to acknowledge my mental health as a legitimate part of my well-being, I kept caring for myself by demanding a proper diagnosis and appropriate help.

Then I sign up for the gym, and I feel like my plus size body is being judged. One of the most uncomfortable parts of going to the gym for is the judgment. I can’t complain about the quality of service. Since I am fat, I can’t possibly understand how gyms work. I remember one time I went to use a treadmill at the gym and realized that the speed off. I couldn’t complain because it would have turned into “you are out of shape” instead of looking at the machine. This was despite the fact that, at that point, I had consistently been running for years so I knew what my body could or could not do. So fatphobia is another way that I am being denied full access to self-care.

I have found that relaxing experiences can become traumatic experiences because of my status as a black plus size woman.

As a black woman, I am treated with suspicion when I go into self-care service providers like nail salon. One manicurist refused to paint my nails until I had paid her. No one else had to pre-pay before getting nail color applied. One of my favorite things to do is to grocery shop. I love looking at new foods on the shelves and thinking about ways to use them. Even that has gotten ruined because I noticed that I was being followed at grocery stores. Apparently, I am not the right demographics for this particular store chain. Interestingly, I walk into stores, and I am not acknowledged because again not the right demographic. So even when I choose to self-care, the trauma that is inflicted on me in the process compounds the burden I am trying to offload.

I have tried to negate some of the problems with self-care. I now choose to self-care in ways that are centered around my safe space. I still like to explore new foods by reading food blogs and shopping online. My choice to learn how to sew and make my clothes has turned making into a form of meditation for me. I have also started exploring ways that I can bring yoga into my house.  I am a big fan of Yoga With Adriene. This means I am constantly looking for ways to create a yoga space in my apartment for private practice.

While I sometimes wish that I could go into cool spaces and be at ease enough to enjoy the experience, I can’t take chances. Instead of giving up on caring for myself, I am centering my self-care practice in my safe space. I am also excited that more women of colors and plus-size women are creating experiences for my demographic because of the trauma that comes from the general population.

Choosing Sobriety

a : sparing in the use of food and drink : abstemious b : not addicted to intoxicating drink c : not drunkThe word ‘sober’ and I have an interesting relationship. Sobriety, it seems to me, is an after effect of a bout of alcoholism or substance abuse. What then do you call someone who has never drunk alcohol or battled other forms of substance abuse?

I started thinking about this recently because I was reading a thread on Reddit about sobriety.  The thread was from someone who had never drunk alcohol because they felt that they were predisposed to alcoholic through family history. Many commenters challenged this position saying that “How can you know if you have never tried it?” This had me thinking about my own relationship with alcohol.

At 31, I have never had a drink of alcohol. When people ask me why I don’t drink, I often point to my Muslim faith as my reason. However, I feel like for me that is sort of cop-out from telling people my story. The truth is I don’t drink because one of the things I learned really early about eating disorders is the co-relation to substance abuse.

I can trace back my eating disorder to the age of thirteen while living in Lagos. Thinking back now, I truly started recovering from my eating disorder in
my twenties. Of course, in my teens, I had moments when the eating disorder released it grips on me. Then, I would have a relapse. It was both an emotional and physical rollercoaster. It was in my late twenties when I really got to a place mentally that I could break that cycle and really focus on nourishing my body.

During this whole eating disorder battle, I chose not to drink because I realized instinctively that if I drank, I had the pre-conditions in place to become an addict. Why? Part of my deep struggle with my eating disorder included depression. There were times when I felt so low that I would have given anything not to feel that way. I would have turned to alcohol or any other substance to help fill the void of feeling lonely and dejected. Even when I wanted to escape feeling lost, I knew I wanted to do in a way that led me to health. I did not one to trade one struggle for another.

I choose to be sober because I recognize that part of living a healthy life means feeling painI choose to be sober because I recognize that part of living a healthy life means feeling pain. There are days when I feel so low now and I sit with my pain. I name my pain and sit with it. Part of my process includes nurturing my body, my mind, and spirit. By embracing my pain, I embrace my humanity.

Certainly, many people might challenge the choice for me to say I am sober. I can also confirm a level of awkwardness that comes with using the word ‘sober’ to describe myself. However, it is clear to me that I need to stop dismissing my conscious choice not to drink alcohol or abuse substances. While many people can make the decision to imbibe and have a good relationship with alcohol, recognizing the potential pitfall in making such a choice is worthy of acknowledgment on my part.

 

Small Wins

Success is a culmination of small momentsThis weekend was amazing. Last week was a rough week for me. Between so many microaggressions and getting stuck in traffic on Friday, I was ready for the week to be over. Then Saturday happened, and I felt slightly better about the whole week.

A few years ago, when I first moved to Boston, I remember telling someone that I wanted to get to a point where I could have friends over for a meal. I had never had that before. I am sure when I was thinking about this five years ago I meant having my apartment and all.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t live in an apartment by myself. I share an apartment with five other girls. Luckily, our apartment is on two floors with many rooms, so it does not even feel like there are that many people living here on most days. I also appreciate being able to have conversations with people when I am home.

This weekend, I finally got to invite a friend over for lunch/dinner. I cooked a rather simple meal (simple for me), and we parked ourselves on the balcony for a long conversation. Molly is a friend that I used to work with, and it is always good to catch up. Later after she left, I realized that the lunch with her in my apartment was a dream come true moment for me.

it has allowed me to refocus my energy from a place of disappointment to a place of gratitudeMany times I get so caught up in my “failures.” Recently, it has been about not setting my financial life up correctly, not having a career, feeling as if I am getting left behind by others my age. I feel like I am not where I should be at this stage in life. My mother likes to remind me that I am accomplished in my own right. Even when I fail to see that, I remember the words of my parents telling me how proud they are of me and my successes in life.

Being able to see this small win this week is big for me. It has allowed me to refocus my energy from a place of disappointment to a place of gratitude. This shift is special because there so many small things happening at the moment that have the potential to change my big picture. It is only when I take a step back and take them in that I can see the progress I am making in life.

Life is never really about just making it one day. No matter how talented one is, any form of success is usually a culmination of small moments. Hosting a friend for lunch this week was my small moment of success. I am grateful for it. I am glad that I am present enough to see it.

And I am ready for more.

The Quit Queen

 

being courageous is a form of discipline

Friday 6th July 2018

It is 11.07pm. I really should go to bed since I have a full day tomorrow. I have spent the last couple of hours in front of my computer. Between reading my usual roster of gossip magazine online, I have been tinkering with the blog. I love the current look I have. It is intentionally minimalist. I plan to bring the color with the pictures. I have been tinkering because it just did not look right. The photo sizes were not coming up the way they did on the demo.

I go back to the theme documentation. I try to read it again. Try not to skip through anything. I am not really technical, so I have to find the way I am supposed to set up the theme. There is no winging it. Then I realize the page I had ignored because I thought it was related just to static homepage was the key. Very typical. Then I tinker again, and it looks just right. I am happy.

Afraid of SuccessI am happy just for a moment before the self-doubt creeps in again. What if I do all this work and nobody reads it? What if all the time and money investment I am making into building this blog was a waste? What if I can’t keep up with posting pictures on Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook? Why don’t I just quit now? Afterall, I have quit a million times before. Read my about page. I am the queen of starting and abandoning blogs. I have no patience.

Then I quickly read another gossip page to calm my nerve and all the doubts. Then I realize something about me. I am more scared of success than I am of failure. It is really that simple. My greatest fear in life is succeeding. I know how to create ideas. I know how to develop concepts. The art of doing a brainstorm is second nature to me. I know how to write. I don’t know how to follow through.

My post on making Peach Lavender Lemonade scared me. I won’t lie. It really scared me because it showed me what I am capable of doing if I commit to the work. I can create beautiful recipes. Taking pictures is not my greatest strength but if I am patient, the settings would click and I would get something beautiful. So, I know I have the minimum required skills to write a good blog about food and style and all the things my heart wants to create.

I just lack the courage. Courage to know that going would be slow and the road long. The courage to validate my own work even when no one else sees it. Courage to redefine success away from accolades and focus on contentment. I lack the courage to understand that showing up is a form of success. Courage demands doing what needs to be done even when nothing else makes sense.

This form of discipline is what I lack. This is perhaps the most important skill I need to learn if I want to break my cycle of failing. I need to be courageous and keep showing up even when it seems no one sees or hears me.

A flatlay of st.clements drink surrounded by oranges, lime and clementine

Why I Matter

I gave up writing.

If this makes no sense, then let me explain myself.

As a teenager, I wrote a lot. I was into poetry. Then I moved to the US and I started college. My rebellion of choice was to get a BA in Writing. Somewhere between writing the early short draft of an epic novel and graduating, I just stopped writing.

I have been thinking a lot about the craft. The discipline It takes. The dedication to the words. Sometimes I get upset when people use words carelessly. It is the writer within me.

My thoughts about writing have increased since I read an opinion piece in the NYTimes about why young people are bad writers. The author of the piece posits that when we tell young people not to use the word “I” in their work, we tell them that their experiences are not valid. So, young writers start to dissociate themselves from the words they write. Yet, we all know the writing that shakes us the most are the ones where the writer has a strong voice. The presence of the writer in their own work gives it meaning. Reading this post made me consider why I matter? Why does the freedom to use the word ‘I’ matter to the craft of writing?

This struck me because one of the reasons I stopped writing was because I did not feel my experience in life was valid. I guess I was always waiting for real life to begin. Graduating college at 20, I felt like a child. Most of the time, I felt displaced because I was just starting to grapple with what it means to not be at home. What an interesting story that would have been? (By the way, I just discovered this girl, on Twitter as Black Migrant Girl, who is talking about her move from Nigeria to Canada! She is doing something I wish I had done. Follow her here!!) I was told not to use the word “I” and that made me feel like my story did not matter. But, I never felt like I saw, or read or heard, other people talking about my particular experience.

Also, I assumed at the time that in order to be a serious writer, I had to write on serious matters. What value are the thoughts of a 20-year-old migrant who has lived a sheltered life? The parts of my life that were interesting were the parts of my life that filled me with shame. The eating disorder, the anxiety, the depression, the isolation, loss of sexuality and sensuality in my college years were things I dared not speak on. Why bring shame to my family by admitting I was faulty? I chose to be like the random hardware we all get at parties in Lagos. You use the thing, you realize it is faulty and you hide it in a closet. I hid my self, my body and my voice away to be forgotten.

I am almost 32 now and I find myself grappling with the same struggles of my 20-year-old self. What part of my life is valid enough to be shared? In the age of social media and oversharing, I sometimes feel like in order to speak I need to be extraordinary. And yet, I find nothing extraordinary about my life. Okay, I lie. I find the parts of my life that are extraordinary are the very parts of my life that I refuse to make public. I am still struggling with how much of myself to share at the moment.

Another part of this dynamic is that we now live in the age of ‘woke’-ness. Everybody seems to have something intelligent to say about everything. Language is now extremely policed. Thoughts are judged. The mass is judge and jury. You better get it right. The thing is I am not sure I am ‘woke’ enough for the current climate. My language is not always correct. I am not necessarily a smart person when it comes to discussing sociopolitical issues. Saying something wrong scares me enough to silence.

Beyond my privacy, I ask myself constantly, “am I not too old to be playing this blogging game?” Recently, I was looking through a bunch of blogs trying to study the way other bloggers do it. It seems people are hiding their ages. “I am a 30-something blogger” seems to be everybody preferred description. Is this so that they don’t have to edit their profile constantly or is hiding our ages is really a thing? I tell myself that the market is saturated. There are enough experts on the things I want to speak about. Why would anyone read what I write when there is a world filled with so many voices out there?

Then I read posts like the one Valerie Eguavoen of@onacurve wrote the other day about how it is important to harness our perspective. Reading this piece was interesting because I basically took a social media sabbatical. I banned myself from posting original content on Instagram and restricted my activity to commenting. I thought about the work women like are her are doing to create more space for People of Color to be heard by creating movements like You Belong Now.  Then asked myself why I would want to silent myself in a moment like this.

Instead of being afraid to speak, it was time to try again. It is time for me think of all the things I am passionate about and speak on them.