You don’t need a man to tell you that you’re beautiful.
When the eyes are puffy, when the roots have grown in and the color is faded, when the clothes fit tight, when the skin parts with wrinkles and stretch marks—you don’t need the makeup company slogans, and the Youtube tutorials, and the feminist manifestos or any other kind of elevated word to tell you that it’s easy breezy to be a girl covered in concealer and that, maybe you’re born with it.
MAYBE YOU’RE BORN WITH IT. . .JUST MAYBE.
. . .
What you need is the same thing that I needed:
a reminder that digs past the sleepless eyes round with bags and dark with circles; a reminder that can’t ever fade or fall out of style.
“A different kind of beautiful?” I asked my husband, the other night as we drove home talking about my stretch marks. As if I’d forgotten that there was a such thing…as if I’d failed to realize that such a thing even existed.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEAUTIFUL.
He was telling me that it doesn’t matter how many marks stretch themselves across my stomach as I carry our first child — he’d said that I was always beautiful to him and that I always would be.
The words hit hard against the cement wall in my brain, the lie that I surround myself more than truth.
These words, the echoes of expectation that we’ve been told we can have, we can be. . .should be.
“You’re carrying our son,” he said to me. “Your belly is doing something that makes it even more beautiful to me,” he said.
“A different kind of beautiful?” I asked.
It dawned on me. . .
Yes. A different kind of beautiful.
A canvas won’t tell a story unless it’s painted over with obvious color.
So, the marks we have. The moles we can’t afford to blast away, the freckles we can’t conceal because they’re splattered all over us, head-to-toe. The burn mark and the scars from the incisions to save our life or the mutilation to take our life.
The dark spots and rough patches, the pale skin and all other things we’ve been told would fade with creams and come with tans. The stretch marks across your carrying belly, even when you put all the shea butter you were supposed to.
The shimmering grays.
The dimpled skin in places that don’t smile.
The ribs peeking through.
The masculine muscles.
The stubby nails.
The crippled hands and feet.
The invisible abnormality.
The amputated limb.
All of it, every crack in the clay of our hand-crafted bodies.
All of it is beautiful.
I stayed there two weeks without a man, without a care, without a worry in the world.
I’m at this exciting…thrilling…unrelenting place in my life where things are changing.
My heart is changing.
My dreams are changing.
Everything, everything is changing.
You ever feel like that?
Home is good for when life changes—wherever home is and however it looked or looks now.
Home reminds you of who you’ve been; it celebrates how far you’ve come.
Home is the root, it’s the depth of you—the place that made you, sprung you low into piles of dirt, only to plant you and grow you into the tall, flowering heart and soul that you are now.
Home is the catching up with old friends. It’s the sitting around familiar tables. It’s the crossing over of acquainted bridges; the driving through memorized streets, those pathways forever etched in the recollections of your mind.
Home is nestling into Mom’s chest, even at the age of twenty-nine.
It’s walking that hidden pathway to your favorite Main Street; it’s nostalgic memories late into the night with your brother who remembers the road trips more than you do.
Home is knowing where the pots and pans are. It’s grandma’s living room stacked with moving boxes; stacked with flashbacks of Christmas trees covered with homemade ornaments and silver tinsel.
Home is the hurt and the mess and the rage and the pain.
But, so much more, it’s the healing and the mending and the memories and the hope.
Home is good for leaving; sometimes it’s good for staying.
But it’s always good for visiting.
Wanted to slam my fist on the table, get up, and leave.
We were at a local coffee shop and we were talking about life.
She’s one of my best friends—a sister, the kind that knows your heart without ever having to hear from it.
And I was telling her about some things that I’ve been working through. Things that, really, I’ve been grieving through. Not praying, not seeking through. But shaking my fist up at God through. That kind of working through.
I told her I didn’t want to hear anyone else’s thoughts on what I believed. Told her, “It won’t change what I think or what I feel.”
Didn’t matter. She still went on to tell me what she thought and what she felt.
She broke it down.
Talked about heaven & hell & death & my brother and all those other things that I’ve been crumbling over on the insides—all the stuff that’s made me feel
CRAZY. LOST. CONFUSED. STUMBLING. Voices in my mind; struggles in my heart.
Then she pointed my wandering back to the Truth, back to the Word, back to the stories of people who were all once in my position and back to the God who saw and saved them all.
I’m still grieving and working through it all. But at least I’m a little less lost.
. . .
So, now I’m feeling like I have to break it down for you, too. I’m feeling like, even though I don’t know what you’re grieving about, don’t know what you’re losing your mind over, don’t know what keeps your brain awake at night, what verisions of yourself you are seeing and hating when you look in the mirror.
WHAT I DO KNOW IS THIS:
The thinking to yourself, the feeling lonely, the hiding, the paranoia, the lies that are speaking louder than the truths that you know and so badly want just to believe.
NONE OF THAT MEANS THAT YOU ARE CRAZY. . .IT JUST MEANS THAT YOU CARE.
It all just means that you are seeking and searching and fighting and trying; you are desperate, you are frantic. And it’s not because you’re crazy. It’s because you care about something, someone, and you’re just trying to understand.
It’s not a good place to stay;
but it is a good place to be.
And all that I or anyone else can do about it is be there for you in the break down. Be there when it all comes slipping and sliding out the mouth. Be there when the tears, the rage, the confusion, the torment, all of it, come crashing down.
1. FIND THAT FRIEND 2. OPEN UP
3. POUR OUT YOUR HEART
4. BE HONEST
5. SLAM YOUR FIST ON THAT TABLE
And if you need a place to confess the craze, a person to talk about the cares with, this space is yours. Like a cafe, warm and dimly lit with the low hum of honest & raw conversations in the background: this space is yours.
I had wanted to write lots of fluffy, funny, filling words for you. . .but every syllable I typed felt forced and forged. So I figured:
WHAT THE HECK
STRAIGHT TO THE PUNCH LINE
SHORT & SWEET
What’s the stop & what’s the wild thing?
For me? Plain & simple: I need to stop avoiding my times of journaling, reading my Bible and praying. Long story short, I’ve avoided doing these intimate things because I’ve been scared to face my own heart.
Jesus Christ has always been my wild thing; has always been the wonder, the adventure, the root that’s kept me grounded and, yet, free. And I miss that. I miss Him. And I WILL stop running away and I WILL do the wild thing of pursuing His untamable mysteries.
And you? I do enough talking & typing around here. It’s you I want to hear—your words I want to see on this screen, these pages.
What is one thing you need to stop doing in order to be able to START doing the wild thing you know your soul is craving?
I WAS THE GIRL IN HIGH SCHOOL WEARING THE HOODIES 3X HER SIZE.
I did the whole, messy-bun-slicked-back-tight thing. Always had a headband on and my hair sprayed hard and still. I had hand-me-down makeup from the boxes of Mary Kay in my mother’s closet—wore Etnies one day and Nike Air Force 1 the next.
I strived to be preppy and perfect, punk rock and straight hood all in the same week, when really, the truth is that I was just a confused mess hiding away beneath the layers.
I WAS A PILE OF SAGGY CLOTHES THAT NEEDED TO BE WASHED, DRIED AND IRONED OUT.
I was insecure & lost. I was every bit of the high school stereotype.
And my life was nothing but one big desperate plea—not to fit in, but to find myself because, there really is a difference between the two.
AND MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING THE GIRL THAT WAS NEVER REALLY JUST WHITE OR BLACK. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH THE CONFUSION THAT SEEPED INTO MY MIND ABOUT HAVING LIGHT SKIN AND POOFY HAIR. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING AFRICAN AMERICAN AND NATIVE AMERICAN AND DUTCH AND IRISH AND GUYANESE, ALL IN THE SAME BREATH. BEING ALL THINGS AT ONCE AND YET FEELING LIKE I WAS NEVER REALLY ANYTHING AT ALL.
The confusion followed, basically paved the way for me in college. Along with the trend of trying to be everything all at once, never really being anyone ever. Never really being me. Just wearing and saying and doing whatever everyone else did. Until…
That is what broke me out of the mold. Real, deep, gut-honest conversations.
With people that looked like me. And people that didn’t.
People that had light skin and poofy hair. And people that didn’t.
People with red hair and people with gray hair.
People colored in shades of ebony and people colored in porcelain hues.
People who listened to Hip Hop and R&B and metal heads who listened to rock.
EVEN NOW, THE CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE. WITH PEOPLE AND FRIENDS I’VE SCOOPED UP ALONG THE WAY.
People from Atlanta and people from Maine.
People from the sticks in North Carolina and people from LA.
My sisters from New York and my sisters from Germany.
People from places I’ve never set foot on—virtual friends that I’ve yet to embrace.
People like my husband, who looks nothing like me. His darkest black hair, those thin Korean eyes.
Conversations that cut right down deep to the heart of me, curing me—beyond the outside layer of cotton, that flesh we call skin.
Conversations posed as questions that ask who are you?
WHO ARE YOU?
Yeah—as in, what makes your heart dance like raindrops on pavemnt?
What makes your gray brain dream in color?
What makes you sing in highest falsettos?
When we can answer those questions, that kind of conversation—that is when we wear the Etnies, not because we’re trying to find out what fits but because they fit what we’ve already found out about ourselves. That is when we embrace the hair that we’ve been given, the skin that we live it. Be it white, black, purple or green. That is when we find the grace to be grunge and rock and boho-chic, all in one breath.
Without the comparison, the competition, the self-hate, the insecurity. Without apology and without hesitation.
That is when we find and embrace and own who we are.
And, yes. Yes it does feel good to finally let my hair down.
Drinking coffee seemed to awaken the deepest dreams that were locked up inside me. I loved the high it gave me—how ready it made me feel; how alive and unstoppable I felt.
I would feel ELATED, ENERGETIC & OPTIMISTIC.
Only to crash + fall, feeling RESTLESS, ANXIOUS & DEPRESSED.
The crashes started getting worse—they got stronger, the depression grew darker and the headaches lasted longer. I’d lay down at night, unable to go to sleep—my mind was like a roller-coaster, soaring through racing thoughts and lofty visions.
SAVE THE WORLD.
FEED THE CHILDREN.
GET THAT JOB.
FIND A MAN.
10 at night turning into 11 at night turning into 12 midnight turning into 3 in the morning and there I’d lay, frustrated, obsessed and broken over the fact that I had so many ideas and dreams and not enough time to accomplish any of them.
THIS IS WHEN I KNEW.
HANDS DOWN, WITHOUT A DOUBT, I KNEW IT WAS THE COFFEE; I KNEW IT WAS THE CAFFEINE.
I used to be a Dunkin Donuts girl—you know, the whole “Iced Caramel Latte with a croissant” kind of girl. And, when I had a homemade cake or pastry, I’d also take my coffee black—no cream, no sugar. Just black. Just to wash down all the goodness of dessert. And to be cool. I secretly think people (like my husband) who drink black coffee are cool.
But, once I knew the caffeine was affecting me, I quit it—cold turkey. Stopped buying the lattes, stop brewing the beans. I talked it through with my mother who, so wise & inspiring, encouraged and led me onto tea.
AND I’VE YET TO LOOK BACK.
My junior year of college was when it all changed for me. I started work at a tea store and began to learn a lot about different teas. White teas, green teas, black teas, oolong teas, puer teas and herbal teas. I fell in love with tea because of its deep & wide variety of origins, flavors and health benefits.
It was at this time when I decided to fully step away from coffee and to drink, and enjoy, teas in its stead.
I’m thankful for the passion I have for tea and how it has helped me throughout the past two years of me struggling with various health issues—from gastrointestinal, to menstrual, to musculoskeletal, to mental and everything in between.
When I got sick in 2015 (and water was the only thing I could eat or drink), even tea was unbearable to me—any and every potent & gentle smell or taste. Though teas can be healing and soothing, my body was just not ready—even with something gentle like peppermint or chamomile, I would get nausea, tremors, abdominal pain, tingling sensations on my head and migraines that lasted for days.
But, as the months passed on, slowly, I was able to bring teas back into my diet—both the old ones that I’d loved and been so accustomed to and new ones that I had learned about and wanted to try.
Lavender Buds – If I really need a good night of sleep, I’ll sprinkle a few buds in my night time cup of tea. The aroma helps to relax me and the lavender itself, being a sedative, puts me into the deepest sleep.
Also, this post is not meant to bash coffee, and here’s the proof: my husband is a barista.
I love coffee—love how it creates community. I love how it grows and how it smells and how it brews and even how it tastes. But, for me, it’s about what you put into your coffee, how much coffee you are drinking and being honest about the reality that you might be making your body sick by drinking coffee.
Not eliminating coffee (or any other caffeinated drink or snack, for that matter) from your diet when you are aware or are inclined to believe that it may be adversely affecting your health in any way, big or small, would be like licking a spoon of peanut butter even though you know that you’re severely allergic.
WHY MAKE YOURSELF SICK?
WHY MAKE YOURSELF SUFFER?
Why continue to spoon-feed yourself the restlessness, the anxiety, the roller-coaster, the headaches?
My closest friends know that, I only have coffee (or caffeinated teas) about five times a year, tops. And, when I do CHOOSE to have that coffee (or tea), I am fully preprared to deal with whatever consequences that might follow.
Not in a guilt-trip or self-shaming way. And not in a blaming way, either.
I cannot blame the barista for my bloated stomach and weeklong headache. I do not get to rant and rage at my husband because I’m overly anxious and restless, two cups deep and straight up drunk with frappuccino breath.
We must take responsibility for the things that we put into our bodies and we must take baby steps towards improving the things we put into our bodies.
Always for the better.
Always for the healthier.
There’s so much more I could say; so much more I’d LOVE to say. But if all this post ever does is teach you one thing, let it be this: drinking teas and infusions (an infusion, simply put, is a steep/brew of tea leaves and/or other natural ingredients, such as: nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs and plants) have been around for centuries and have been told & known to help ease AND relieve ailments such as:
Thought I would bring up my kids in New York—you know? Kind of forever live there.
BUT, NEW YORK IS NO LONGER HOME FOR ME.
It is now only just a place I go when the holidays come. It is a city I visit when those twinkling lights call me. It is the streets and roads that I’ll forever know by heart, forever hold by heart. It is the place that I adore with all the people that I cherish.
And I will forever love it.
Forever celebrate it.
This past weekend, I flew back to New York for a wedding. The husband and I started out in Queens—sat around a big glass table, drinking bottomless cups of Chinese tea and Korean burdock root tea (to be shared in my next detox post!) with our Umma and Appa and little brother.
Then we went up to Mom and Pop’s house, over the bridge and tucked back by the mountains. There, we talked about life and love and every other crazy thing in this mad, mad world.
In my hometown, we snuggled up warm with my Mom and brothers. We woke to a snowy Saturday morning with sleepy eyes and tired bones, so Mom went into town and got us some New York breakfast bagels—poppy seed with bacon, avocado and home potatoes. And then it was New Jersey for the wedding—the wedding of one of my best friends.
She was beautiful.
JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AND AS GRACEFUL AS SHE’S EVER DREAMED TO BE.
And it brought tears to my heart to celebrate her—to celebrate her special day: the closing chapter to her old life and the dawning sunrise to her new life.
I wish her love & dreams, one thousand times over.
The bride was my deliver. The ceremony, seeing old friends, laughing and posing for pictures outside in the bitter and freezing cold. Kissing my husband on the lips and thinking back on our special day. That was all my deliver—that was the filling that my heart & soul needed.
The detox is this: I ate some things I wouldn’t have normally eaten. I ate some portions I know I shouldn’t have eaten. The bagel sandwich, the pizza, the Shabu Shabu…
Yeah—sometimes you live & you let loose, a little.
But, gosh dang it, if it weren’t for someone special keeping me in-check about the donut on my plate at the wedding, I would have eaten the whole thing—I would have scarfed it down without a sober, second thought.
So here’s the thing:
You surround yourself with loved ones. You eat food you don’t normally eat. You LIVE. You celebrate. You JOIN. You commune.
AND IT IS ALWAYS SO WORTH IT:
FORGET THE GUILT, FORGET THE SHAME, FORGET THE REGRETS.
BECAUSE, HERE’S THE THING: YOU CAN ALWAYS START AGAIN.
Doesn’t matter the New York bagels, or the New York pizza, or the donuts or the carbs, or the chocolate or the pancakes or the biscuits, or the soda, or the In-N-Out fries. Whether it’s the day after Thanksgiving, the week before Christmas or the night of New Year’s Eve.
You can start again. You can come back to yourself, your goals, your plan, your rhythm & your routine.
Our journeys will not be perfect. We will eat things we know we shouldn’t.
But oh, how we can start again.
I want to hear your side of the story—your imperfections and the bangs ups you feel you’ve made over the weekend. Sometimes laying it all out there is the first step towards letting go of the guilt and taking hold of the goals.