Life Without Regrets


“Each of us is merely a small instrument; all of us, after accomplishing our mission, will disappear.” 

–Mother Teresa, humanitarian

 

This has been an extremely trying week.

On Wednesday, April 20, Joan Marie Laurer—also known the legendary female wrestler Chyna—has been found dead in her home. When a friend of mine announces her death on Facebook, I don’t even believe him initially.  In fact, we argue online until TMZ.com release a report confirming her death.

If that hasn’t been tragic enough, the iconic musician Prince has passed away in his studio in Minnesota the very next day.  According to the media, he has canceled two concerts due to being ill and is hospitalized for a medication over dose.  Those who spoke with him prior to his death state that he seems fine, so the news shocks his neighbors and depressed the entire world.

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Unlike many of the celebrities who have left us earlier this year, Chyna and Prince are considered relatively young by today’s standards (the former was 45 while the latter was 57). Both seemed somewhat healthy despite taking medication and have been active up to their last days.  On the flipside, both have been struggling with substance abuse issues that may have contributed to their deaths.

Regardless of how they occurred, these recent deaths now have me ruminating on mortality and my own life in general.  Due to my beliefs in past lives and reincarnation, I do not believe that we simply disappear after we leave the Earth plane. I believe that our spirits move on to either become our spirit guides or to live another life to learn additional lessons.  But our physical bodies and people’s memories of us will remain here on Earth as well as our contributions to the world—whatever that may be.

I will be lying if I told you that I don’t wonder whether my last days are approaching sooner than I hope.  Like any person, I could never view myself as a person who would die, putting myself in situations that make absolutely no fucking sense because I somehow knew that I have been destined to make it out in piece. I would even go so far as to believe that if I were to die, I would do so by my own hands (these thoughts would come at the height of my depression, which I haven’t felt these days).

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But I will thirty-five this year and, though I don’t fear death for the most part, I also understand that I (or someone I know) can die at any moment.  With this in mind, I ask myself this question:  if I am to leave this world today, what type of life do I wish to leave behind?  Or what type of woman do I wish to become while I’m living and breathing?  What will be my legacy in the here and now and what can I do to make the best of the life I have now?

I’m not referring to being remembered in terms of fame and fortune (though that would be awesome).  But what can I do to make a life so epic in my own eyes that on my deathbed I can look back, smile, and think “Now that was dope ass shit right there.”

To tell you the truth, Reader, I’m halfway there:  I have published my own political sci-fi novel, The One Taken from the Sea of Stars, host a radio show called The Bonfire Talks every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. on WAYO 104.3 FM, write two blogs, and I’m now starting to see the fruits of my labor as far as getting my name out there. These are causes I could not even see myself making due to my lack of confidence. However, I know I’m not done yet and have so much to do as far as my personal and spiritual work.  This is one of the reasons why I’m seeing a therapist and stepping up my Nichiren Buddhist practice.

Since I’ve begun doing The Work, I am able to look at why I am the way I am thus far.  Why I have been struggling with mental illness for as long as I have.  There have been various reasons, but for as long as I can remember, I have either shied away from my true power or have hidden it away so that others could bask in the glow of theirs. I’ve wasted time and energy trying to save others, doing for others while running on empty mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I’ve given people my body and allowed them to chip away parts of my spirit.

And there have been times that I have harmed someone in order to get the validation that I am enough.  In other words, I have depleted uber amounts of time—most of the time unnecessarily.

So when I read about the deaths of both Chyna and Prince, I not only think about their contributions to this world, but the energy and time they’ve spent being themselves.  Which is something I’ve always wanted to do just so I can experience life beyond trauma and mental illness. Therefore, I’m making a personal pact with myself:  from this day forward, I will work to step into the glow of my own power and do everything I can to create and live the quality of life I envision for myself.  I will no longer hide my talents but mold and shape them for the sake of being better.

Regardless of my spiritual beliefs, I will make certain that this life is not a wasted one.  I know in my spirit that I am not meant to live a life full of regrets or mourning over my past or erroneous decisions.  I am meant to be happy and to experience the life I imagine myself having.

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The Politics Behind #Icanbeboth


 

“Pride…If you haven’t got it, you can’t show it.  If you got, you can’t hide it.”

–Zora Neale Hurston, Author

 

Recently, I’ve been noticing the hashtag #icanbeboth popping up in my newfeed.

For those who don’t know, #icanbeboth refers to the fact that women of color can be sexual, sexy and fun loving one day and professional in every way, shape and form the next.  Those who participate in the online campaign post comparison photos: one of themselves in the club, at a party or wearing a cocktail dress with heels and the other of them in casual or professional attire while on the job.

Hence “I can be both.”

I’m going to tell y’all right now that I love every minute of this campaign, Dear Readers.  For one, women are coming together to celebrate everything about their individual personalities and interests without throwing shade.  This can’t make me any prouder because we know how much the media loves featuring Black women slapping the shit out of each other or feuding on Instagram.  Major networks and social media sites stay making us look outrageous in the negative fashion, so I stan for anything that show us celebrating our magic.

But I also immediately recognize the politics behind the hashtag and how it can encourage us to have a much needed conversation about why #Icanbeboth exists to begin with.  There’s so much I can touch on so much here, but I’m going to focus on three main issues that:  White supremacy, respectability politics, and Black male privilege.

White supremacy is the idea that people of European descent are superior to people of color—Black people especially.  It’s the reason why all the negative “isms” exist: racism, sexism, ableism, lookism, ageism and so forth. It is also created the male privilege and systematic oppression that Black women endure in the labor force, the education system, the religious community and other environments that shape the individualism of Black women.  Furthermore, White supremacy perpetuates their ideologies pertaining to European standards of beauty and social etiquette.  So while White women are deemed beautiful and pure (even to this day), Black women are seen as ugly, classless, uneducated and promiscuous.

Now keep that in mind as we move on to respectability politics. There’s this notion that Black people are to present themselves a certain way in order to be accepted by mainstream society.  In many cases, it is the Black woman who is spoon fed this message by both the media and her community.  Unlike our White female counterparts, Black women are not given the liberty to disclose their entire self without the risk of criticism or losing a necessary resource such as employment.

But the main focus is often the sexuality and sexual expression of the Black woman. Even in 2016, women are placed in the position to explain themselves when they promote and profit from their sexuality or sex positivity in general.  Celebrities like Amber Rose is a prime example.  Though she’s known for her Instagram presence and relationship with rapper Kanye West, Amber Rose is known for her sex politics (In 2015, she has organized Slut Walk LA and campaigns for sexual consent).  But she begins to pique my attention when bluntly explains consent to entertainers Rev Run and Tyrese Gibson on their show It’s Not You, It’s Men.  Yes, ladies and gentlecats.  Amber Rose has to explain to these two grown ass men that not only is it ok for us to be sexually provocative, but that we have the right to say “No.”  This is the same woman who is criticized by both the media and members of the Black community for being comfortable in her own body.   And like many Black women, I notice that our biggest detractors are Black men.  Case in point: Louis Farrakhan.

Which brings me to my last point about the politics of #icanbeboth:  the hashtag and the women who take part are pushing back against Black male patriarchy—and rightfully so.  Most Black men tend to erroneously assume that Black women should somehow fit into some vision of what we should be—whatever that may be.  And when we don’t meet their standard of whatever the hell, then they claim that that’s the MAIN reason why they started dating White women (no shade towards interracial relationships, but there are so many Black men who have only date outside their race because they’ve internalized the negative Black woman stereotypes). But what these men don’t realize is that this type of nonsense feeds into the very negativity that #icanbeboth is rallying against.

Why am I writing about this, Readers?  Because as a Black Pansexual woman, I am growing very tired of women of color having their intelligence, integrity and very existence questioned and their whole entire selves compartmentalized just so someone else can be comfortable. It’s this type of pigeon holing that contributes to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  It can furthermore play into the Impostor Syndrome, the belief that they don’t belong in an academic and/or professional setting.

But most of all, it’s a full-on attack on the human spirit.  When society and members of the very community that supposedly promotes unity and safety criticizes the Black woman’s individuality, it is she who feels every word piercing through her.  And when we can’t find refuge within our own environment or negatively affected by the people in it, it can lead to issues such PTSD or Complex PTSD as well as this sense of disappointment.  And due to the current political climate, feeling displaced due to simply celebrating every part of ourselves is the last issue we need.

So, yes!  I’m extremely stoked about the very existence of #icandbeboth because 1) it brings together a tribe of women who embrace (or wish to embrace) their individuality and 2) it challenges and claps back at respectability politics and patriarchy by showing that women of all ethnicities and ages can be both ratchet and classy.  At the same time, I do hope that the hashtag generates a discussion about White supremacy and how it’s being used against women of color in the forms of respectability politics and Black male privilege and how we can all work together to cut the monster off at the head.