Advice for When You Feel You Have Nothing to Offer the World

Lately, I’ve felt that I have little to nothing to offer the world. That there is nothing of substantive value that I can give and that I’m more of a burden to the world, friends, and family than anything else.

It is not a fun place to be in. I’m also a ruminator, which means once I get that in my head, I spend hours and sleepless nights coming up with thoughts to support that notion.

Have you ever been there?

I spent last night and the night before engulfed in nightmare after nightmare (some real horror shit too) in which I just failed person after person. I saved no one and in many cases caused their pain or demise. In one, I even ended up becoming one of the monsters after being unable to save them from an inevitable death, because I realized (the monsters reminded me), “you’re just one of us anyway” as they casually played video games.

I was definitely in a bad headspace. I went into work today, to meet 8 college students that will work in the department I direct, thinking I ultimately fail everyone, how can I ever provide them anything? I felt hopeless and empty.

I walked in ready to fake it, and my office manager tells me how much her teen daughter loved meeting me for a brief 15 min this weekend. She told me that she thought I was funny and beautiful and really cool.

And then the 8 pairs of eyes and my two professional staff eagerly awaited my opening remarks this morning. I made them laugh. The staff enjoyed the breakfast I brought in. The students warmed up to me. Slowly, the day became a little brighter and little more hopeful. I laughed. I didn’t fake a single thing. I was in my element even for a few hours today and it felt good.

I am not sure if this is the last time I will like I have no value, but even the thought that I could impact a young woman with a simple interaction or serve as a good leader to my staff helped me to find a little ray of sunshine today. The universe knew I knew I needed to feel valued and loved. The universe delivered. She hadn’t forgotten me. I rejoiced at knowing that.

If you feel sometimes that you have nothing to offer, I challenge you to look for small incidents that can affirm that you absolutely are where you should be. Don’t be afraid to relish in those moments a little longer on days you need it most. Forget what people say about pride or boastful ways – sometimes it is an act of absolute survival to really enjoy every single affirmation of circumstance and belonging, no matter how seemingly small they are. None of this is a coincidence; you are here for a reason, exactly where you are, as you are, as imperfect as you stand.

And maybe that reason is for a 14 year old girl to look up to you and think you’re cool. And as seemingly small as that is, it could be inspiring the next generation after all. You are part of something bigger than yourself and you were no accident. You’re not a burden. You have so much to offer and you offer it all the time. You are time and place imagined today, at this moment. Do not give up.

With love always.

100 First Dates Only to Realize You’re the Problem

I have admitted to being a first date queen, followed by a good second dater, but not really more. I have always thought I wanted a marriage and a good man. But after 100 first dates in my life (exaggeration, I surely have not had 100 first dates), I am not sure that I want nor necessarily deserve that.

I have met a guy a little over a week ago and on paper he seems to be what I want. I’ve been down this rabbit hole before, thinking it should be what I want, but then I’m not sure. And the few times this has happened, they have seemed very sure. And for me, surety after a week is a bit much for me. I know I run.

I easily feel suffocated. I’m learning I can be a selfish person, but recently a friend told me maybe it is ok, maybe I’m just human, and maybe sometimes you have to be. I think she’s right, but I also wonder if that makes me a good person for a relationship. Remember when I wrote that poem about the garden? A substantial piece of that was my need to be free and uncontained. I dont know if that is fair for another human, who has especially been socialized in the context of our society to have deal with. I also come with a lot of baggage too. While the thought of someone helping me to unpack it all is lovely, I have found many men to unknowingly, unintentionally, but still confidently judge the things in my bag. Or try to fix it all. I understand why. I think it is sweet. I do not like it. Yet it’s unfair to come to a place with this and not expect them to have opinions.

Giving up weekends and all my nights has never been appealing to me. I like to choose carefully with whom I spend my time and how. I need days to myself. I need freedom to pick up and go. Men have lots of expectations of children (I get it, babies are prized in our society), women’s place in their lives and behavior… and while I fit bits and pieces, I rarely fit that picture enough for me to feel comfortable in that either they’re settling and will eventually become unhappy as I open up more or that I am minimizing parts of myself to be more appealing. I understand compromise. But I will always be a f bomb dropping, not really wanting children, womanist, with a free spirit. I can improve my character, but these are part of who I am.

Another friend told me that this is just the product of being single too long. You have to learn to share your space and life again. Maybe. Yet I watch others able to navigate this. I fear that the real issue is that deep down I dont really want this or worse, I am not cut out for relationships. I know less than two weeks is too soon to be jumping to conclusions, but if someone else knows, shouldn’t you? I didn’t used to be this person. I used to fall fast and hard. And occasionally, when the chemistry is so strong I do (this has happened once in the past couple years, but I fear he was ambivalent as I am in this post).

So some may say – maybe this guy just isn’t the right match for you. But there is this gnawing fear that if I hang this up, I say no, I step away, that I will be saying to the universe, “please don’t send me anyone else.” That it isn’t that he isn’t right, but it’s me. And that I will be deciding then, I’m not cut out for this. Which may be the answer. But maybe I’m not ready to admit it.

I also think online dating adds this additional pressure. You meet someone and the objective is do we want to date or nah. I miss meeting people in real life and then building a connection and feeling that chemistry just serendipitously.

Lastly, I wonder if my heart has not been fully healed from love past. I wonder if someone is still holding onto my heart and my heart to theirs. I wonder if that is at play. Could be romantic, could be a familial or platonic wound. Trauma period is probably playing a role.

Until I figure it out, maybe just one more date.

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

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

The Initial Descent of A Depressive Episode (Caution: Rough Landing Ahead)

The plane ride was an okay one, but a relatively long one. There had been a few disturbances, of course. The rough air from the bouts of anxiety caused by storms and clouds, the crying child and cursing man, representing the worse parts of my ego trip, troubles with my carry-on almost not fitting in the overhead bins, held for only the right amount of trauma and PTSD, and starved from lack of nutritious meals,  like friends missed and connections lost on this long flight. But there were also hours of smooth sailing, similar to a Mercedes Benz S-Class, expensive to maintain, fueled by mindfulness practices, victories, and self growth. Smiles and nods of affirmation and shared experiences, friendly exchanges shared by strangers on the plane, destined to share this ride with you unbeknownst to you both; strangers who became friends, even for this one trip. And some who will take other trips with you, both purposefully and accidentally in the future.

There was hope. A destination is always hopeful and exciting, even when you’re unsure where this trip may take you.

The initial descent of a depressive episode came without warning. I thought I had more time on this plane, to endure the flight, before this happened. I always knew the plane would eventually have to land. And on those hours of rough air that made me sick to my stomach as I tried to reason with why I even fly, unable to throw up in a barf bag, from fear of looking inexperienced and pitiful, I guessed that the descent may come, but brushed it off. And yet, the initial descent into my unknown destination, came with a familiar pit of stomach feeling as the plane begins to descend into a dark cloud, followed by the turbulence of anxiety, rocking the foundation of this plane.

I quickly remind myself that planes are made for flying, made for turbulence, disruption, worry, sadness, crying, isolation… People like me, I mean planes, strong, steel reinforced, impenetrable, weatherproof (from the wetness of the tears from the storms of course) can handle this landing, this turbulence.

We are only at the initial descent. So we all know that means 30 minutes, 30 more hours, 30 more days – who knows long this descent will take?

I want to trade the strange acquaintances I made, with the familiarity of people on the ground, at my home, that I love and hate. Fear has a way of making us crave the familiar – dysfunction and all. The flight attendants announce that we are closer now, but this descent gets bumpier and bumpier, and I become more afraid and afraid. I fear I’m going to die in this descent. I just close my eyes and wait, pray, beg, for the moment we touch the land, when I’m grounded again.

I think we are closer yet again. I’m not sure though. The storm has made my descent into a foggy hell of depression and sadness, and I can’t make out the destination anymore through my raindrops of tears stained window. I’m even more afraid of the landing now, because well, anxiety mixed with depression is a tornado. And tornadoes make landing dangerous. I am positive that the air masks should have dropped by now and allowed me to breathe more easily. But they never come to my rescue. And I can’t remember how to access the life saving float under my seat as we fly over the wide river heading into the airport, that I’m sure I will drown in – we seem so close to the sorrowful water. I wonder if it’s as cold as I feel? Or as hot as my cheeks flushing?

Who said planes could weather storms anyway? I remember now. My old classmate who was a pilot and lost his life – to himself. I wonder if he once had a rough landing, and it frightened him so much that he wasn’t sure he’d survive his own landing on the other side of the storm?

At some point, we begin the final descent, and I am deep in the clouds and I am not sure whether or not we will make it, and I become numb to it all and tune it all out. I fall back asleep, hoping to not have to move for awhile. I prepare myself for the crash that is inevitable. I don’t talk to anyone and it seems the baby’s cries have completely disappeared, but when I look around his mouth is still open, so clearly, I’ve gone numb, dumb, and deaf to everything. I hope someone remembers my mask after they assist themselves.

The plane jerks. Except, it’s not a jerk. It’s the wheels. We are close to my destination.The sound of wheels is like the sweet, sunrise of a new day. It is the sound of survival and arrival. “You made it,” I whisper silently to myself.

I prepare myself for the abrupt and fast skidding of the wheels across the runway of destination and growth, and brace myself as we brake to take a break, from flying. And I see that the rain has stopped at the destination, the baby is cooing, and the cursing man, eager to make his next connection, has taken to talking excitedly about how he has to get off the plane first.

Arriving to the gate, I wait my turn as those who were fated with me for this ride, take turns in an orderly, yet rushed, fashion to exit the plane. I let the rushed man go by. I can’t help but wonder if that descent was just as awful and crazy for them or if they think I was the crazy one on the trip or was I simply a figure, that set the stage for them in that trip. I will never know, because at that moment I take my carry-on which contains the luggage of my life that I carry with me, exit the plane, and look towards my final destination.

Until the next plane.

 

Reflections of 2017

It’s New Year’s Eve, and for me this is a day of reflection (and later, celebration). I truly believe in the power of reflection as a learning and growth tool, that is necessary for humans to really understand their lives. And so, as I sit on my brother’s couch (who the hell told him he could grow up and have a whole apartment and wife by the way?), I hope to try to make some sense of a pretty rollercoaster of a year and share my learnings with you.

1) I learned that I equate suffering with “goodness” in myself. I am sure this stems from a very conservative religious doctrine that characterized much of my early religious experiences and also from some complex traumatic events. It is unhealthy and damaging no matter how I look at it though. Staying in situations, jobs, etc to prove to people who do not value my well being, that I am worthy or “strong” is damaging. It kills my soul, ups my anxiety, and deepens depression. It also reinforces a faulty idea that I hold that I’m not good enough. It literally kills me. I am still working on how to combat that, but I took some brave steps against that belief this year, and have at the very least, realized that martyrdom won’t make me happy or make others see my worth.

2) Love did not knock on my door this year, but actively dating did teach me a lot about myself. Dating was an integral part of my journey this year. I further refined what I want, who I am in a relationship, realized patterns, and continued to try to understand how to balance doing enough with too much. I learned that no matter how wonderful you are, if a man isn’t on the same wavelength as you, he won’t come around to you. I learned that I bathe in self loathing and blame when rejected, and that destroys my soul. And so I learned to reframe the self loathing a tad more so as to protect my soul from that damage. I learned that I am jealous that I have friends who can easily make men love them, and seem to find beautiful men who are interested, even if short lived or forever. I learned that I hate being jealous, but it is hard. I am not sure if I am anyone’s cup of tea to be perfectly honest, and I also realize my standards are high. I realized that first dates are exhausting and to trust my instincts more, because my intuition is hella good.

3) I learned about loneliness – again. Living in NYC has been one of the most thrilling and loneliest adventures of my life. I’m perfectly comfortable being alone, eating alone, exploring; I actually quite enjoy it! But I’ve missed true and deep human connection, which in all of my travels, I’ve never seemed to lack in. But in NYC, connections seem fleeting, sometimes superficial, and often non existent. I am not used to not having close friends and coworkers around. I have learned or perhaps, deepened, my understanding that introversion has nothing to do with not wanting real relationships and connections, but instead means that in order to effectively reach my full potential and happiness, I must engage in meaningful relationships. I am still really not sure how to do this in a city like NYC, but I’m working on it.

4) I learned a lesson that constantly replays in my head. I am not perfect, can’t be perfect, never been perfect, and shouldn’t be perfect. This lesson is one that I’m always in a constant state of learning. I saw a beautiful quote that said “self care is… learning to forgive yourself for not measuring up to your impossible and damaging standards of perfection.” This is totally something I need to master in 2018. Expecting perfection in work, dealing with my emotions, my body, my health, as a daughter, friend, sister, relationships, and mentor is literally the most insane and hurtful thing I can ask of myself. I am literally asking myself to live in a constant state of shame and depression. I am torturing me. So now that I have learned that, the hard part is learning to extending grace to myself.

5) You get older. The years fly by. You develop aches and pains, your genetic lot of diseases, you have to eat better, move, manage past trauma, parent your parents, pay bills, plan for the future, hangovers get worse, and learn to live with it all. You also get wiser, more confident, develop more fuck it in your system, drink better wine, become more patient, and your sex drive and game gets stronger. Getting older is a blessing and privilege, not extended to all.

6) My siblings are amazing. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m so blessed. I learned to lean on them more. So happy to bring in 2018 with them.

7) I am really, really, really angry. Maybe I’ll write a post about that one day. But I learned I have a lot of pent up rage in my body and mind. I am afraid to express it because it is so strong. I’m hoping 2018 will help me express and manage that.

8) You can be loving your job and career in one second, and the next, be in a state of exploration, trying to figure out what is next? I also learned that my worth is very much tied up in my professional success. I often feel that is all I am good at, and when that part of my life isn’t fulfilled, I feel like a failure. I have spent a lot of 2017 feeling like a failure. But along with that lesson, I learned, you can always make another decision to transform your professional life (or any life). And people will judge you, and that has nothing to do with you.

9) I learned to turn off the news and social media. That there are people who hate me because of my skin and gender, but I cannot indulge in that all the time, as it will kill me. That the world is scary and heartless, but I don’t have to be. And that to be black (woman) and conscious in America is truly being in a constant state of rage, but I have to learn to take care of myself if I want to help others.

10) I only have so much emotional energy to expend. Spend it wisely. Turn off your phone. Spend your time with people who fill your energy account as much as you fill theirs.

11) Despite all my flaws, I’m a badass in my own right. My flaws are not even flaws actually, they are me and what makes me glorious and human.

I plan to to into 2018 with these lessons in mind and do my best to build upon those, while also fully aware that I may have setbacks. But my hope is next year, I can write about a further step I took, a new lesson realized, and a little happier.

May peace and love follow you into 2018.

Happy New Year!!

Boring (A Poem)

No one knows how to be bored anymore

People are constantly looking for thrill and excitement

In the next adventure, the next drink, the next hit, the next person

No one wants to just…be

Especially if that means being bored

When I was little this was my favorite quote

“I’m bored”

And in true Dad fashion I would hear the response

“Hi bored. I’m James. “

My aunt once told me that I would never gain weight because I couldn’t stay still even when I was bored

I wish I could be that kind of bored again.

When I was younger my sister used to make up the most wonderful games to distract us from our boredom

Can’t touch the floor,

Barbie games that took longer to set up than to actually play,

Walking on clouds,

And her favorite

Mushed bananas. Where she convinced her bored little sister to smother her feet in lotion but some how we always ran out of time the moment the roles were to reverse.

I would quickly become un-bored the moment my mother reminded me there was always something that needed cleaning.

Boredom

No one knows how to be bored anymore

Constantly seeking the next great adventure

The next drink

The next hit

The next person

You bore me, swipe

You’re boring, swipe

Oh you don’t want to go out every weekend and get totally wasted

Boring

Swipe

No one knows how to have boring conversations that lead to tears and catharsis

Me and my friends recently spent hours that felt like seconds at a Mexican restaurant showering each other with love and praise

Lifting each other up

Allowing each other to be vulnerable

Allowing each other to…be

In these moments that passed too quickly I was not bored

My hope however is that the next time either of us feels boring

The next time either of us feel less than

The next time someone tells me I won’t find love sitting at home knitting and being boring

The next time one of us looks in the mirror and doesn’t see the fierce goddess that she truly is and just feels boring

The next time one of us considers that life might not be worth living due to loss, or feelings of less than

The next time one of us is bored

My hope is that we remember this night

That it brings a smile to our face

Tears to our eyes

Hope to our hearts

Joy to our soul

Life can be boring

But I…I am not bored