A Break Up Letter to NYC

Dear New York City,

The time has come for us to say our good byes. I think we both knew we were never destined to be long term lovers, but we gave it our best shot, and year is nothing to frown upon. You have taught me so much and I wanted to make sure you understood the value you had in my life. So many times we do not get to properly have closure to the most important relationships in our life. Moving gives us that gift. I want to share it with you .

1) You taught me how to be tough. You taught me how to not give into men and their advances, put on a hard shell when necessary, and be strong. You taught me that nothing is too scary for me. That subways at night are absolutely conquerable, streets are meant for crossing at all times, and gave me a bit of NYC sass and arrogance to go along with it. I like that part of me you’ve helped me develop. I feel tough.

2) You taught me the value of a dollar and resilience. You took me back to my roots and reminded how easily you can lose it all, struggle, and be back at the bottom. This was not a fun lesson, but necessary for humility.

3) You taught me Black and Brown comes in 500 different shades and languages and reinforced my sense of pride of belonging to a diverse group of people across the African diaspora. I desperately needed to see that after many years without that validation. When people ask me about my favorite thing about NYC, Harlem, and the Black and Brown people are always my top answer. I can feel the spirits of my ancestors here and see the seeds of their labor.

4) You reminded me that I can ride a bike. I got on my first bike in years when I moved here and it reminded me to always play and that some things are as easy and simple as remembering. Those were some of my favorite moments.

5) You taught me all that glimmers isn’t gold and isn’t for me. NYC glitters and glimmers; NYC is far from gold. It is a hard place to live and be yourself. You showed me that although I may aspire or think something is wonderful, I must really look carefully and consider all parts. I’m so appreciative of this lesson.

6) You allowed me to live a childhood dream of living in the Big Apple. It felt nice to say I’ve done it. My inner child appreciates the adventure.

7) You tested my patience, which I suppose begets patience. From lines, to delayed trains, to spending hours searching for a parking space, to jobs not for me, and a terrible dating scene, you really tried me. I hope I learned patience and not irritation. 🙂

8) Bodegas make the best sandwiches. There is nothing else to say.

9) You rescued me. I have so many mixed feelings as I leave here. This wasn’t a place of warmth, love, or friendship for me, which was foreign. But I cannot forget that you rescued me from despair and a low place. You were a wonderful oasis at a time that I needed it. I’m sorry that I dont always thank you for it, but I’m grateful.

10) You made me remember what is important to me. That I don’t need a fancy city, expensive apartment, or hectic lifestyle. That family, friendship, passion, and a career that lights me on fire are what I value most. We weren’t good matches because of these things, but thank you for showing me what I really need.

11) That in spite of everything, I can do anything. BUT that doesn’t mean I should. Thank you for that valuable lesson.

I think today, as I walked my last walk home from the one place I could feel comfort, I felt you offering peace as our relationship closes tomorrow. You gave me a gift of a breezy evening, a lovely sunset, children laughing, no slow people in front of me, and the ability to help one last lost tourist find their way to Central Park. This was certainly not a lot of our evenings spent together, but I’m sure you wanted to end this on high note. I wanted that as well, and gave a gift of kindness to a stranger in the subway. I hope you take that as an offering of my gratitude.

I want to thank you. Thank you for making me a tough, bodega loving, fast walking, and incredibly humble woman one year later. I’ll be back as a familiar and indebted visitor, but the depth of our relationship ends here. I’m not sorry to say good bye. It’s the right thing to do. Instead, I’m glad we got the time to influence one another. Thank you for letting me call you home for this short time.

With all the love in my heart,

LeAnna

I have become that person…but how?

I spent a lot of time with friends yesterday. A group of friends for brunch and then another friend stopped by to chat for a bit. That’s what adults do right? Eat brunch and chat? How did I get here?

Those two conversations were filled with lots of catching up and discussion of future plans as most conversations are. I’ve had similar conversations with all of these people multiple times because while I love them all dearly and am super close to them all I don’t see them frequently because of life and adulting. And that’s fine. We all are doing it and no one gets mad about it. I appreciate that about my friends.

At some point during both conversations though I realized, I have become that person. What person you ask? Well if your just a little patient I’ll tell!

In discussing some of my personal goals, the usual, weight loss, saving money, moving out (yep…I’m 30 years old and still live with my parents. That’s a blog for another day) came up. I’ve recently started to pick up on peoples responses to my saying I’m going to do these things. Let’s just say they aren’t good. Sometimes it’s met with laughter (thanks Dad), sometimes it’s met with harsh reminders (I thought you were on a diet) that only really serve to annoy me and trigger my stubbornness (thanks Mom), most times it’s met with slight side eye, sighs of “that’s great” with the undertone of “we’ve had this conversation plenty of times but yet here you still are” and encouragement with a hint of “there’s really no reason why you haven’t already done this you’re just lazy/content and used to this lifestyle” (thanks friends, family, coworkers, strangers). And I admit, since these are areas I am not happy with in my life, I probably read more into people’s slight shifts in tone, side eyes, eye rolls, and comments than they actually mean. And I put some of the stuff I’ve been already thinking into their comments too.

But, the realization that I have become that person, officially hit me after brunch, when my friend Michael stopped by and I told him my plan to move out and then my thoughts about potential life style changes for health purposes and both comments got a sarcastic slow clap with a “we’ll see.” A lot of people would be pissed at Michael for this response. I, however, have known Michael for going on 20 years (how did we get so old) and while he may be a self proclaimed ass hole, his intentions (towards me at least) are never to hurt or harm. We could all use a level headed, blunt, call it what it is friend…even if it bruises our ego a bit because on the flip side, Michael has always celebrated any of my successes with the fierceness of a loving brother.

So, what have my friends responses for several weeks/months/years and at brunch and Michael’s slow clap helped me to realize…I have become that person. Dear God lady what person?!?! I’ve become the person that no one actually takes serious when they set goals. The person that sets these goals and is super excited about them but somewhere down the line, and usually very quickly, falls off. It would not surprise me if my family secretly takes bets on how long I will keep up any dieting or healthy living practices. And I know for certain they do not believe me or even entertain my talks about moving out anymore. It’s as if everyone is just waiting to see if it happens but no one is holding their breath because they know the possibility of them dying in the process is high.

But how did I get here?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been a highly goal oriented person. I’ve always felt like most people have known since they were 6 what they wanted to do with their life. I literally decided I wanted to be a counselor one day while on campus my senior year of undergrad talking to a friend. I had about 3 months to get my application turned in take the necessary tests to apply. Then in grad school I felt everyone knew what population they wanted to work with. I have stumbled through the last five years finally finding a population that I absolutely love but even then had to step away from in order to be effective and not lose my own mind. Once a month, usually right before I start my period when I feel bloated and disgusting I go to bed and say “ok this is it. I’m going to get my life together.” Then I start my period, refuse to do anything that week because life is hard enough when your vagina is dying so I have all intentions of doing something when it’s over. My period ends, the bloating goes away, and while my body is far from perfect I usually catch a glimpse in the mirror before I shower one day and say “you know what, you good Ashley! If someone can’t love all of this then they don’t deserve you” and the cycle begins again. I can justify a lot of things and I ultimately refuse to shame myself for being human and doing things that humans need to do like eat, and rest, and enjoy life so as not to go crazy…but then I can justify doing these to excess which is where the problem begins.

It’s almost as if that slow clap Michael did made me connect all the dots and realize that while he’s the only person who did it outright, everyone else is probably doing it in their mind. My response to him was something along the lines of “don’t doubt me” to which he responded with something far less enlightening but similar too “I don’t doubt you can do it. I’m just waiting for it to happen.”

I know a few things about myself. One of which is that I can be really stubborn and strong willed and there is a certain level and type of negativity that I use as a driving force. It’s what caused me to give birth without an epidural, because everyone said I wouldn’t. It’s what caused me to go to college and grad school and find a career that I love, because I was afraid of becoming a teen mom statistic or being what I knew people were betting I would be…a failure.

But sometimes that backfires. And there is a moment where those negative comments become my way of fighting the system and my stubbornness becomes “oh I’ll show you that I absolutely do not have to do these things.” That’s usually surrounds any negative responses to my weight gain/loss or my still living at home.

So yes, I have become that person. I’m aware. I apologize to the people who are sick of hearing me talk about these things without seeing any action. I thank you for loving me all the same and not giving up. I’ve decided to make no promises and to also stop talking about it. Thank you Michael for that slow clap and gentle chuckle of supportive pessimism.

We shall see what happens!!

The Number

***

The number those asterisks represent that had me almost in tears. The number of failure for me this morning. The number I avoid purposely (I’ve thrown out all scales in my home). The number that brought to this page, to my pen. The number that made me feel defeated. The number that isn’t that much different than it was 3 months ago, but enough different that it feels like a knife shearing through my heart. The number that represents my relationship with gravity. The largest relationship I’ve ever had with gravity. The number that I’m not even sure I can share with you all.

Today is a bad body love day. Today may even be a bad self-love day.

I consider myself a body positive advocate. I no longer post pictures about my workouts, runs, weight loss, before and after pics, or dieting plans. I think this is damaging. It makes women, young, old, accomplished, and everything in between, doubt who they are, think themselves less, and wonder why not me. It is also is quite boring to me. I’m tired of talking about diets, exercises, thighs, fat blasters and all in between. If that is your thing, go ahead! I don’t care what you do. Just don’t do it with me please. I also suffer from a history of disordered eating patterns, distorted body image, and likely undiagnosed body dysmorphia and an exercise addiction in the past (and I can diagnose myself because I’m a licensed counselor J). So, participating in those conversations are triggers for me and bring about serious self-doubt and pain. Like you have no ideas how many hours I can spend dedicated to speaking about that. According to my past therapists and researchers on ACES (adverse childhood experiences survey), it is also all likely a symptom of PTSD. Isn’t that bitch? Haunted by things that are not my fault and yet I still try to find it ways to make it my fault – enter all of the distorted images of self. Well, fuck. Either way, because of my experiences and experiences of my clients, I’ve realized that for some people, these images and talk are highly damaging, or at the very least demoralizing. It’s made me feel like a personal failure many times (me: why can he/she/they lose so much weight, and I can’t? brain: Must be a person defect.) So, I usually don’t any more.

Today is different. I took this picture below of me because I was disgusted and disgusted I was disgusted and needed evidence for this blog. I needed everyone to see an unflattering picture of me. I needed you to see some of the blooper reels. And then I needed to post it because I needed proof that I’m still human and loveable and all those things. And that fat people work out too, to be perfectly honest.

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And after that picture here is a running reel of things going on in my head as I worked out:

  • Your belly, do you see and feel how full it is? That’s probably why he disappeared after making out with you; he was probably disgusted.
  • Your doctor is going to poke at you on Monday and you’re going to feel awful.
  • Speaking of which, no need to bring in the concerns of your digestive system or any other ailments – it’s all your fault anyway.
  • You look awful in that t-shirt. Remember when it was loose?
  • When you go home, everyone will notice your weight and realize what a failure you are.
  • Two months ago, things were fitting looser. You’ve failed.
  • You are not pretty
  • You will never find love.
  • Some people are larger when they are younger, they are allowed to occupy bodies and look amazing in whatever size; You are not allowed that, because this isn’t your body type.
  • Why can everyone else lose weight so much easily? Did you see all those summer bodies online last night? HA, not you.
  • Why are you reading this book on radical self-love? Do you really think you are allowed that?
  • Your walks around the park aren’t enough twice a week. You know better. You know you need multiple days of intense exercise for 2 hours to lose weight. We have been here before.
  • The wine. It’s the wine. Also, the birthday fun. Nope.
  • You’re not worthy.
  • You’re not sexy.
  • You will be alone forever.
  • You should be embarrassed.
  • You are not enough.

As, I listen to India Arie as the soundtrack to this blog post, and reflect on the words and thoughts I had today, I feel even more ashamed but then it moves to sadness. Timely, she is is currently singing “Just let it go. Set yourself free. Healing is in your hands.” If I reflect on the past few months, this has been the first time in maybe 3-4 months that these voices have been this strong. I suppose that’s progress, although they have transformed into other lies about my incompetence (my work, friendship abilities, partnership abilities, and my intelligence). Even so it demonstrates that I have the capability to heal, I just need to create the capacity.

Speaking of capacity, I haven’t had much of that lately. I have been traveling a lot for work for a few months now, spending the majority of most weeks out of town. In fact, I am writing this from a hotel room in Lansing, MI. I can’t say that it has been fun. It’s been difficult to find food that makes me feel nourished and is nutritious. Workouts are hard to come by. I’m exhausted and not sleeping well. And I’m so very bloated all the time or gastritis is flaring up all over the place. I have had little time for reflection, painting my nails, a social life, or just play. I don’t feel like myself. I’m moody, my patience is low, and I miss my “me time.” On top of this, I’m making some major life changes right now and managing feelings of inadequacy and incompetence isn’t easy. But it’s familiar. It’s my limbic system’s way of dealing with threatening or stressful situations. I’ve started drinking more ginger tea (stomach issues) and my favorite is the Yogi teas. The Yogi teas come with inspirational messages on them, and every single one has been about compassion. Reflecting now, I think that this is the universe’s way of telling me that the person who needs my compassion most right now, is myself.

“I am not the voices in my head. I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside. I am light.” –India Arie, I Am Light

Thank You!

Never in my life did I ever think that I would be an inspiration to someone, ANYONE.

Over that past 7 months I’ve written a lot of content here about my life and learning to love who I am and becoming more comfortable with my sexuality.  Basically, I’ve mostly written about how I never really embraced what I’ve felt in my soul for the longest time. At no point did I even think that my stories would encourage others to live their truth and be confident in being who they knew they were for so long.

You’re probably saying “duh” in your head right now, but I’ve never thought of myself to be someone who could encourage this.  I’m not necessarily a great writer or story teller, but over the time since we’ve started this blog, it’s become easier to tell my story.  So, throughout this time, every once in a while after some of my posts, I’ve been approached about what I’ve written; How it was very real; How it was refreshing; How I’ve inspired some people; How they have expressed how they felt after going through the same struggles that I’ve been through; And basically how I am someone who they feel they can talk to about these things.  And I know I’ve said this multiple times to these individuals but…

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

When I first decided to write about my experience with my sexuality, I gave it a lot of thought.  I spoke with my co-bloggers about posting my National Coming Out Day post, and was unsure if that was a burden I was ready to bare.  I wrote it about 3 days prior, because I thought I was ready.  Then I wasn’t.  Then I was.  Then I wasn’t again.  I was nervous, scared, and unsure of myself.  I’ve been living my life as such for years at this point so why now, you know?  But then I realized that this post, on Oct 11, 2017, was not just about me, but about others as well.  About being done not completely living my life.  About how I was finally able to SHOW that I wasn’t scared to be who I was, even though I didn’t feel like I needed to “come out”. And no, you don’t have to.  But I’ve decided to, to let the world know that there’s nothing wrong with being who you are, out loud.  Just know that I’ll always be here to be your friend.  Your support.  Your ally.

So, for those who have; Thank you for feeling so comfortable sharing your stories with me.  Thank you for trusting me.  Thank you for reading and being open to me sharing my stories with you! Even to those who don’t identify as LGBTQ who have shared with me their thoughts, thank you!  You never really realize how much of an impact you have on someone until they tell you and I’m honored, honestly.  I just want to be here as a voice (in text) for the ones who went through the struggle in similar, and maybe even different, ways. Just know, that I am here for you! I will always be here to listen to someone share their feelings, their emotions, and their thoughts about not only sexuality, but racial identity, and whatever else that you want to talk about, because we are in this together.

Again, thank you all for being so comfortable with me and sharing with me your thoughts and feelings and emotions and tears and hugs and everything!  Please know that you will always have an ally in me, both as a member of the LGBTQ community AND as a friend.

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Patience…

Patience

But, sometimes we get tired of waiting.

And the Universe says that patience is a virtue.

So, don’t we all want to be patient? Of course!

And like my image above says, “good things come…”

But when does being patient turn into being dumb?

How long can we be patient before we’ve been patient enough?

To be patient for a significant amount of time, is OK, but after this time has passed it starts to feel like it’s in vain.

You start to feel like your patience is being overlooked.

Almost as if the party you are waiting on knows that you are waiting, but they don’t care.They are inconsiderate of you and your time.

Why do we have to wait, or be patient after we’ve been patient for long enough.

And who’s to say how long is the right time to be patient, but after being patient for a very long time, there’s questions that need to be answered.

Does our time not matter?

Is it that being impatient is synonymous with being “rude” or “uncouth” when we don’t sit down and wait like the little pets you try to treat us like?

So then we sit and wait patiently, because we’re scared of retaliation of some sort?

Why?

Why should we even be worried about that?

Is that why we wait patiently after we’ve been waiting for so long?

Why is it that we don’t realize our own value, strength and worth would cripple these offenders who take advantage of our patience?

Why is that having expectations for you, the one who we ceremoniously wait patiently for, is unheard of?

Why do we listen when we’re told to be patient and wait, while the powers that be sit on their imaginary throne and take their time without considering us, the patient ones.

We can only be patient for so long, until we start to realize that maybe this is something that is not worth being patient for.

Because we know our worth.

So the longer we’re patient, the harder it is to win us over, because our time is valuable and if they don’t know our worth, we definitely should, and they will find out soon enough.

My Gym Bae (in my head)

If you have any type of insecure, homophobic tendencies, this blog post is not for you.
You’ve been warned.


Ok, so y’all know I’m slightly crazy, but I can’t help but to think that there’s someone at my gym that is trying to reach out and connect with me (like THAT),  but just can’t take that step. Why? There are many reasons that I will touch, kind of, below. But being that I’m awkward and anxious as fuck and have slight social anxiety, I just ignore it all and go about my merry way.

All he has to do is say the word and I’ll be like “let’s go” (hand clapping and all).  But I won’t be the one to say it first.  Just trying to avoid any awkward moments that may occur, because you know…not trying to be that gay guy that hits on everyone because he thinks they are gay.  But I’ve been getting some interesting vibes from him.

vibes

The first day I noticed him, we made some awkward eye contact in the locker room.  Then later that week, there was an awkward “I can’t really hear you but I’m done with this so you can have it” moment. Then another day the same week you asked me to spot you rather than the other people who were around (even though there was only like 3 other people around). Maybe it was because I was the closest person. But why me?  I just want to work out and go about my merry way without any social interaction with strangers.  Now I’m forced to stand over you with my junk over your face. Staring down at your toned chest and shoulder skin because god forbid you wear a regular ass shirt to the fucking gym.  Just let me do me, by my lonesome.  That’s how I like to work out.

I had my “Equality” shirt on that day.  Let’s just say it wasn’t not planned. (I told yall I’m crazy).  I tend to evaluate people to see how they react to certain things.  But it’s all passive.  So by wearing that shirt, I evaluate how people react to me and since he asked me to spot him, I feel like he supports equality (I know, crazy).  He doesn’t seem like a hater off the bat, but maybe he was just really focused on getting his reps in and it didn’t matter what I was wearing and he just really needed a spotter.

But see I’m petty, because if I needed a spotter but the closest person to me was wearing a “Trump” shirt, I’d go to the next person

to the left.

Now, I feel like I’m just projecting what I want him to be onto him.  But I can’t help but feel like I’m being stared at in the locker room by him.  Especially when I’m looking out my peripheral and see him facing towards me while I’m getting dressed, rather than facing towards the lockers on the wall. Maybe he’s just weird like that. Who knows?

I know, I know. This all sounds crazy, and yes I’m slightly crazy and yes I know that someone I know who works out at the same gym at the same time as me will most likely see this (no it’s not y’all, so don’t ask me about this haha),  but whatever (actually, I’m going to need y’all to be chill if you do read this, LOL).

But IDK, maybe I’m being irrational and it’s all in my head.  I try to shut the world out when I’m working out so I don’t really know what’s going on.  I just like to do my set, dance a little in the middle, and then do my next set.  But he seemed to be everywhere I was the last two days we were working out at the same time.

I ran…lol

run awa

I went to another part of the gym each time because my anxiety got the best of me, and I kept staring, and then I just didn’t want to be “that guy”.  Gay or not, I hate being “that guy”.  Who knows, he probably isn’t even paying me any attention, but I’ve been working out for so many years and have not had a hunch about another person in the gym like this at all.

If he’s just trying to find a workout partner, I. AM. NOT. THE. ONE. lol

It's a no from me

*shrug*

I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens…

Crossroads

But why not me?

I stand at the crossroad

Of uncertainty and rejection

Far too often

To be asking the road to answer

Such a silly question.

She doesn’t know.

If so, I’m not sure how she could explain away

The aching of feet

Tired of a repetitive journey

That leads nowhere

But back to hours of standing

At this crossroad.

The road thinks I’m hopeless.

But why NOT me?

I wonder aloud to the crow

Always circling this crossroad

Waiting for me

To rip my heart out and leave it

For death and his dinner.

He thinks I’m foolish

To carry it around,

Alive

Beating

Hungry.

But WHY not me?

I ask the couple in the

Old beat up Chevy.

Always passing by to their home –

On the other side of the cross road

Of course.

They flash me looks of endearing pity

They could not know.

They wonder how I got here

Get here

Every time.

They think me broken

And never stop to wonder,

As to not be

Cursed in my presence.

But why not ME?

The sun hears me

And my pain is the only thing

Strong enough

To shy her away.

She will not know,

Disappears and sends

Rain.

But even rain isn’t enough to wash away

The dirty traces of shame.

BUT WHY NOT ME?

Thunder roars

He can keep up.

But he cannot settle down

To answer me.

He thinks I’m weak.

but why not me?

This time barely a whisper.

And she stirs within me.

Because.

You are the universe

That cannot be contained.

It will always be you

And yet, never you.

She thinks I’m strong.

I choose my road.