Recently I realized I had been working the majority of the year without taking any time off. I’d started the year with stress hanging over me and just plowed through most of the year not taking much time off. So it was with much relief that I was able to get away for a moment and celebrate my birthday last week. Being away from all things familiar was a rejuvenating experience. Encountering a lizard, hunting for seashells and witnessing a powerful storm gave my mind an opportunity to relax. I encourage anyone to take time away to rest your brain cells and allow room for creativity to flourish. You don’t have to get on a plane for a little R & R. Even if it’s an evening with a book at Starbucks or sitting at a park bench with an iPod–take time for yourself. And make it a habit. Tomorrow is certainly not promised and as much as can be accomplished in a day, there is still never enough time to do everything. When I was a caregiver for my mother I periodically needed some “me” time. At one point, I even scheduled it into my calendar. It not only blesses you but the people in your life. You will come back refreshed and more able to deal with whatever challenges you face.
I don’t play with Barbies and I don’t have an Easy Bake Oven anymore, but I still consider myself a kid at heart. I find life more humorous now than I did when I was 10 years old. My life has had its fair share of pain, disappointment and trauma. I had to grow up fast, but that did not douse my joie de vivre. The French phrase means “keen or buoyant enjoyment of life.” I believe I inherited some of this attitude from my mother. She would watch Lady and the Tramp with a smile or savor a bowl of butter pecan ice cream with unfettered joy.
Have you ever watched a child playing with something as inane as a plastic toy, a set of keys or a puppy? The happiness is totally unbridled and the giddiness is almost palpable. But somewhere between all of life’s twists and turns, we lose our enthusiasm for life. If we are here for an unknowable amount of time, shouldn’t we try to deal with the ups and downs with a smile rather than a grimace? I know some people who are so torn up inside people flea from their presence. They bring a dark cloud with them wherever they go and rain on everybody’s day. Their joyless souls suck the life out a room. Does this sound like you? There is hope. Begin to take steps to change your trajectory. Here are some tips that have helped me to stay lighthearted:
1. Locate Your Funny Bone
The other day I saw someone driving a minivan with a Winnie the Pooh Piglet doll hanging from the rear view mirror. It made me chuckle. Who thinks to do that? You could either think “That is so stupid” or “It’s so strange it’s funny.” It’s all in how you think about the situation. If you need a jump-start to release your inner funny, watch a comedy with a friend, go see a comedian, watch silly clips on YouTube. As the Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” — Proverbs 17:22
2. Find Your Sense of Wonder
There is still so much beauty in the world. Take a moment to watch a sunset, take a nature walk, visit an aquarium and pay attention to creation. It’s so alive and has its own majesty. Just pay attention to your surroundings and experience your mind re-calibrating.
3. Count All Your Blessings — Big and Small
It sounds pretty easy and maybe corny, but it truly can be a mood-booster. Make a conscious effort to remember the ways you are blessed. From being able to read this post to having food in your refrigerator. If you receive extra money from a friend or graduate from school, don’t rush past that moment. Take a moment and realize you are blessed. Jot down 5 things you are grateful for each night and watch your thankfulness increase.
4. Filter Out the Negative
From your own thoughts to people in your life, it may be time to do some early spring cleaning. Take out the “stinkin’ thinkin'” and replace it with positive affirmations. And that’s not an overnight action — it’s a process. You will have to redirect your thoughts often and it will allow you to see how poisonously you have been thinking. And finally, some folks don’t need to take space in your life. If you have people in your life who are always negative, angry, selfish or just flat out not supportive, you are more than likely dealing with a toxic person and consequently you are in a toxic relationship. It’s best to cut ties now if you are really trying to improve your quality of life.
So I will leave you with a clip that will start you on your way with a laugh or two and hopefully a brighter perspective:
I have what some people call “virgin” hair. That means in layman’s terms that I have never had a perm to make it chemically altered to become straight. It’s never been in a “relaxed” state unless it’s been through use of a hot comb, flat iron or blow dryer. As a young child I dealt with other girls who hated on my thick, wavy braids. Quite a few of those girls had perms or activator-induced styles (i.e., jheri curls). Sometimes there was obvious damage evident in the uneven, frayed heads of my peers. I was a daughter of a mother who was just trying to make ends meet. She didn’t have money to take me to a hair salon. Every once in a while she would press my hair for a special occasion, but I stayed in neat pigtails most of the time. My mother never had a perm either so it was not abnormal in my home to be natural.
In the early 90s, long before the natural hair trend became popular, I decided to wear my hair curly and see what would happen. I remember picking up a can of mousse at the store and dousing my head with it after it was washed. By my first year of college, I became known as the natural, earthy girl. One day when I was at the mall a guy yelled out “Freddie!” in a nod to my hairstyle reminding him of Cree Summer’s character in A Different World.
Sometimes my family wasn’t always the most supportive of my naturally curly style. Countless times I have had various family members say I should get my hair “done.” And various sisters from church will often say to another as if I am not there: “You should see her when her hair is done. Her hair goes all the way down her back.” I’ve even had someone say to me that I need to learn how to “do” my hair. It’s as if I am wearing a style they do not prefer. Maybe it’s me, but that word “done” gets underneath my skin a little. I like the way the Lord made me and I’ve never considered the waves upon my head to be “unfinished.” I know blacks have a complicated history with our hair based on various factors brought on since our ancestors were brought here. I get it. So often I just smile and walk on. Not everyone will be convinced that natural is a legitimate hair style. But there are so many people (men and women) who I receive much love from about my style. I cannot count how many times I have had another black woman look at me curiously and then ask me what I put in my hair to get it to look like it does. Over the years I have experimented with quite a few products (many were marketed for caucasian hair but worked pretty well for me) and many became my favorite go-to items. Thankfully because of the natural hair movement, I have many more options that are usually relatively inexpensive. So for any folks out there who are curious about my styling products and how I style it, this is the rundown:
1. After washing and conditioning my hair, while it is still very wet I apply Kinky-Curly Curling Custard and I mix it with water (the custard is quite thick) as I apply it through all sections of my hair.
2. I then apply Herbal Essences Totally Twisted Curl Scrunching Gel throughout my hair.
3. I dry my hair with a diffuser attached to the blow dryer. If I were to let it air dry, it will have a fuzzier, less defined curl.
It’s so nice to have so many options of how to wear ethnic hair. From Miss Jessie’s, Carol’s Daughter, Mixed Chicks, etc. there are so many products to experiment with to see what works well with your texture. Just pack your patience because you may have to mix it up to find the right recipe for your own “brand” of hair. Though I love the convenience of wearing my hair natural, especially on rainy or muggy days, I do love to wear my hair straight as well. So don’t be surprised when I pop up with a straightened style. I love the versatility my hair provides and it’s not exclusive to women with a curly texture. I love locs, afros, braids and dreadlocks as well as a cute weave or sleek bob. And I have seen some gorgeous women with no hair at all that can light up a room with their confidence. I encourage all ethnic women to embrace your texture and enjoy the options we have to help us highlight our own beauty.