When Are We Truly ‘At Our Best’

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There was a time when I would have never posted this picture anywhere. There was a time I would have never been caught video chatting without a complete beat face. Even as recently as last year, had FaceTime rang with me still sweaty from the gym, I would have declined the call or strategically placed the camera so that I had a chance to ‘put myself together’ before anyone could see me. But then I have to ask myself would I had even gone to the gym without at least foundation on? I think not.

Now, I know that we all say there is nothing wrong with trying to look ‘our best’. But lately, I have struggled with what that means and all the weight and pressure that comes with that. It’s a mind f*ck really. So tell me, am I not at my best like this? I had a good day, prayed, went to yoga, walked, drank a mean green smoothie for dinner, cleaned my room and approached the day with gratitude. But even after all that, I still need to look outside of myself in order to be my best? It’s really quite confusing and the implications that come along with statements like ‘you’re best’ can be daunting.

I worry sometimes that this blog adds to that confusion because we are in a way a beauty blog. But my hope is that we aren’t your average beauty blog. My hope is that we keep it real enough to keep your minds at ease. My hope is that no claims of perfection are made here. My hope is that Shanti and I document our own personal journeys that folks can relate to it but not strive towards it. My hope is that we inspire.

In summary, I’m at a point in my life that when it comes to beauty, I no longer feel the need to strive towards perfection and I think it is because I have defined for myself what “at my best” is. I think it’s important that we all do that. It’s vital that we have and live by our definitions and refine them when need be.  Otherwise, we are at risk of living up to standards made with a broad brush.

So, I am at my best when…

-I eat healthy

-I exercise

-I’m in love

-I take care of my skin

-I use my favorite sweet smelling shea butter after I shave

-I use lip liner with my lipstick

-I wear my new black leather jacket with a bright red lip, aviator sun glasses and slick my hair back in a tight bun

-I have that black long line bra on

-I get my eyebrows done and handle any random weird hairs on my face/chin/mustache (smh)

-I drink tons of water

-I’m organized

-I get to see him

-I think positive

-I trust the journey

-I smile

-I stretch

-I’m social and not behind this computer

-I watch/listen/love Beyonce

-I’m around kids

-I get a pedicure

-I sing

-I leave my hair alone until it is completely dry.

When are you at your best ladies?

These Are Not Radical Ideas

We have not posted much about Michael Brown. Mainly, because I/we haven’t known what exactly to say. Frankly, I still don’t know how to express my anger, guilt, sorrow and frustration that will ignite any real change. Even now, I fear that some of you are reading this thinking, “Here she goes again” or “She doesn’t even know because her mom’s white” or “Where is the hair post”. But that’s my own stuff. Not yours.

 The following is a Facebook message and it says it all… everything I have ever felt but couldn’t articulate.  My once mentor and now friend posted it. Sadly, I wanted to send it to some family members and friends of mine. I’ve been secretly waiting for someone in my circle to say something stupid to me about Mike Brown. Well, a couple days ago that wait was over and I wish my response was something like the statements below, but instead I eloquently informed them that “they didn’t know shit”. Smh. Please read below.

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“A white friend expressed to me recently that my facebook and twitter timelines seemed more “radical” lately. In response, I told him that it is not radical at all. First, it’s obvious that we are not very close friends if you believe that spreading important information is radical expression for me. In fact, it feels quite passive. Additionally, and maybe even more significant, are my feelings behind the messages and tone of the information that I help to share.

It is not radical for me or anyone else to want to live. It is not radical for me to want to see my brother  live until he is an old man. It is not radical for me to want my nephew and my cousins to not be criminalized because of the color of their skin. It is not radical for me to want my uncle to be able to work, pay taxes, provide for his family, and enjoy his life without the threat of violence and death from the police. These are not radical ideas. They are normal, reasonable ideas. So normal in fact, white US citizens very rarely ever have to think about it. You expect these realities and privilege and take full advantage of them with every breath. If you believe that it is radical for me to express this desire for myself, it is clear that you believe the notion of who we are and what we deserve as humans is fundamentally different from you. Moreover, when I talk about myself, I am talking about ALL of my people. ALL OF THEM. Every utterance of “but what about…”, “but not all…”, “but they should have just…” “but not all white people….” – each of these is an expression of micro-deviations between your level of humanity to mine.

To put it plainly, if you are a so called believer in human rights- you should be fighting harder to defend those who are constantly abused by and used as fodder for the system that you benefit from WITH EVERY SINGLE BREATH. Anything short of that brings me what I covet these days more than any other time in my life, clarity. How you feel about #michaelbrown is how you feel about my son and how you feel about me. When it comes to survival, this liberal rhetoric has muddied the waters for too long. At least I know where the other side stands. How you feel about the people of #ferguson is how you feel about my family. I very rarely quote the bible these days, but when it comes to survival, Revelation 3:15-16 seems extremely appropriate: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot … So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

We are not fools. Here in the United States, Brazil, and many place in between, violence and oppression based on skin color, hair, features, and class are the dogs of war– this brutality is controlled by two leashes. Holding the leash tightest is institutional racism. Hiding behind, is his son white privilege. What a fucking coward. HE has the nerve to ask ME to teach HIM what HE should do to for ME to make HIM more comfortable as a so-called ally. Sadly, many of my liberal friends don’t see the violence inherit in these indignities. I am not comfortable and have never been. I don’t have that privilege. My life is full of the anxiety of being a critical victim. I have worried my entire life about living long enough to start a family and will spend the remainder of my life worrying about losing my children to structural violence. Needless to say, I am busy and have zero time for your lukewarm bullshit.”

#ARRESTDARRENWILSON

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It is not radical to want to live

Sensations

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I remember the first time I got high at fourteen. I laughed until the sound disappeared. I rolled on the concrete. I never wanted to come down. Until one day,  it became too scary and friends became sinister. My heart raced and anxiety would crash on me wave after wave. I eventually stopped smoking.

I remember my first taste of alcohol. I was 21 years old. I had no worries, no guilty conscience. Back then, the future moved towards me slowly. It didn’t loom over me and chase me the way it does now. I drank until my confidence spilled over onto the dance floor, into my conversations, guiding my teetering gait down sidewalks, stairs, lawns and beaches with family, friends, lovers and strangers into wee hours of the night for months which turned into years. Until one day, I woke up. My head ached, my sad, puppy dog eyes looked back at me defeated and red. My face appeared swollen and wrinkled all at once. I eventually stopped drinking.

I remember the first time I fell in love. I was 18, 22 and yesterday. I remember the low, sweet baritone voice on the phone in my ear. I remember holding hands and feeling them be squeezed 3 times. I squeezed back 4. I remember the night my heart beat became one with another’s and I cried. God soothed us to sleep with the morning song of 2 birds. I remember the frustration and anger as a lover’s dream turned into a living nightmare of wanting what I couldn’t have and denying others of what I couldn’t give. I remember falling asleep with dread and waking to loneliness, loss and denial.

I hope I never stop attempting to love.

There comes a time in life when we must all face our attachment to things and people that make us “feel good”. We must seek out real satisfaction, longevity and fulfillment. We must balance the gifts that God has given us to enjoy which bring us release and reward such as food, drink, celebration, recognition, money and relationships with the taunt grip  of restraint and temperance.  When you find your life fueled only by these sensual, temporary pleasures we all eventually run empty and stop.

My prayer to all that have demons (and we all do)  is to come to that defining moment when you can’t do anything else but better.

“If You Think You Are Better Than Your Man, Your Relationship is Done”.

   

      ” I don’t know. I just feel like he isn’t doing anything with himself. He smokes weed, he still works at the same job. He can’t seem to save any money. But he is so smart, and talented and sweet. He is good to me. He is a good man.”

“Do you think you are better than him?”  “Excuse me?”  “Do you think you are better than your  man? Because if you do, your relationship is done”.

Our male friend shrugged his shoulders after dropping this fact and went back to his plate of chicken wings. Antoinette and I looked at each other. She smiled a wide Cheshire cat smile. I looked back at her with furrowed eyebrows. I smiled uneasily. She knew. I knew. I thought that I was better than my man. Underneath the soft sheaths of laughter, intimacy and comfort of our relationship was a bubbling brew of contempt, hope and mistrust.

Will he ever get his act together? Maybe if he sees that I am nervous about our future he will try to do something different. Am I wrong for wanting something more? But he is so sweet. He is so intrinsically good. I can help him. Wait hold up, fuck I got to be the one to help him for?

It had never dawned on me that this sense of superiority was in fact unhealthy and detrimental to my relationship. The illness was not so much that he was unmotivated but that I thought that I was in fact more progressive. Lies. I am far from perfect. I procrastinate, I underachieve and I doubt myself but my boyfriend at that time thought I might as well have been Oprah. He thought I was hot shit. He adored me as an unrealistic projection of myself. I focused on solely his weaknesses and he was blind to mine. We remained timid crabs scurrying left and right after one another yet incapable of moving forward.

I see this same dilemma in many relationships. I know amazingly talented, intelligent women linked to the dead weight of an underachieving man. As a result these women become inflated with a false sense of productivity and they are never really properly fueled, critiqued and pushed off of their plateaus of comfort. No one really helps each other further in life. They remain stagnant in their incompatibility.

Love can be such a desperate thing. Everyone wants it. Everyone NEEDS it. Once we find someone who is nice, not a complete degenerate, makes us laugh, hits it right and at least has a job we ignore the finer details but we should want more than that from our partners, our potential life mates, husbands, wives and co-parents. We should want to be pushed to discomfort, encouraged, directed, critiqued, supported and inspired. We should feel the security of a loved one who always has your back, pushing you forwards whether you like it or not.

Have You Ever Been In A Stagnant Relationship? What Made You Realize It Had To End?

Coming Back to America

A lot of you already suspected my return back to the States but I wanted to officially make it known that I am back in the USA. My time in Guatemala was very short but it was enough time for me to feel confident in my decision to come back to Philly. It took a lot to uproot my life, my daughter and leave a life of comfort and support but I am a typical Sagittarius. The thought of change, travel, independence and challenge made the decision some what easy. I let go and let live. I had lived in Guatemala once before as an even more carefree (is that even possible) 21 year old. I had so much fun drinking, dancing, sleeping, flirting, studying and traveling on my first trip that I thought somehow as a 27 year old mother things would still be as exciting. Chile’ please.

My cousin, her two children and my bunny)

Don’t get me wrong, it is always exciting to go towards the unknown. It was awesome to watch my baby girl walk barefoot on a coffee farm pointing to banana’s hanging 10 feet from her reaching arms. It was awesome to be surrounded by Spanish speaking Guatemalans. I loved seeing my family. The prospect of teaching made me feel capable of anything. The journey of learning Spanish made me feel like my world was slightly cracking open as my understanding developed. I loved the warm, damp mornings, the hot afternoons and the cool, calm of the nights but I was unhappy. I wanted to jump out of my skin with the discomfort and irritation of my intuition. “Go home Shanti”.

(Jo in the garden)

I felt like although that path was beautiful and full of golden opportunities, it was not for me. I am happy I have returned. I am grateful for my experience away but so much more for my home – Philly. It is important for me now to focus on contributing to this city. Onwards and upwards….

(Artwork done by my talented Aunt)

A Father’s Letter To His Daughter That All Of Us Could Stand To Read

Dear Little One, As I write this, I’m sitting in the makeup aisle of our local Target store. A friend recently texted me from a different makeup aisle and told me it felt like one of the most oppressive places in the world. I wanted to find out what he meant. And now that I’m sitting here, I’m beginning to agree with him. Words have power, and the words on display in this aisle have a deep power. Words and phrases like: Affordably gorgeous, Infallible, Flawless finish, Brilliant strength, Liquid power, Go nude, Age defying, Instant age rewind, Choose your dream, Nearly naked, and Natural beauty. When you have a daughter you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house—a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence. But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty. A father’s words aren’t different words, but they are words with a radically different meaning: Brilliant strength. May your strength be not in your fingernails but in your heart. May you discern in your center who you are, and then may you fearfully but tenaciously live it out in the world. Choose your dream. But not from a department store shelf. Find the still-quiet place within you. A real dream has been planted there. Discover what you want to do in the world. And when you have chosen, may you faithfully pursue it, with integrity and with hope. Naked. The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. But take your glovesoff. Pull no punches. Say what is in your heart. Be vulnerable. Embrace risk. Love a world that barely knows what it means to love itself. Do so nakedly. Openly. With abandon. Infallible. May you be constantly, infallibly aware that infallibility doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion created by people interested in your wallet. If you choose to seek perfection, may it be in an infallible grace—for yourself, and for everyone around you. Age defying. Your skin will wrinkle and your youth will fade, but your soul is ageless. It will always know how to play and how to enjoy and how to revel in this one-chance life. May you always defiantly resist the aging of your spirit. Flawless finish. Your finish has nothing to do with how your face looks today and everything to do with how your life looks on your last day. May your years be a preparation for that day. May you be aged by grace, may you grow in wisdom, and may your love become big enough to embrace all people. May your flawless finish be a peaceful embrace of the end and the unknown that follows, and may it thus be a gift to everyone who cherishes you. Little One, you love everything pink and frilly and I will surely understand if someday makeup is important to you. But I pray three words will remain more important to you—the last three words you say every night, when I ask the question: “Where are you the most beautiful?” Three words so bright no concealer can cover them. Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside. From my heart to yours, Daddy Source: DrKellyFlanagan.com / Connect with Dr. Flanagan on Facebook and visit his blog! He has some great advice the world deserves to see.

Once Upon A Time

It’s hard to come to that halting screech of realizing you are indeed an adult. In a world where decisions have to be made, relationships have to be tediously and carefully nurtured, bills must be paid, dreams must be selfishly pursued or hopelessly left to die, babies must be held high like Simba to be put first and always first, bills must be paid, bodies must be maintained or else succumb to flabby, fluffy shadows of their youth and partners must be chosen with intentions of remaining together forever (forever? Fo’ eva? Eva? Fo’eva? Eva?) Did I mention bills must be paid?

We are all being pushed into the future. Ready or not. Pushed while we stand with toes raised to the sky and heels digging into the earth while we turn our heads backwards, sideways, up and down while searching for the guide of happiness which will make our  forward, our pending future seem a little less frightening.  Most of us aren’t ready. “Wait! Wait! This is happening too quickly. Did you read my script? Excuse me? Excuse me? What’s my motivation?

The scripts of our internal fairy tales of “Once upon a time” make living, loving and maturing a bit more confusing and hard.

We tell ourselves “Once I graduate college, I’ll be happy. Once I lose this weight I’ll be happy. Once I find my perfect man, I’ll be happy. Once I get rid of this man, I’ll be happy. Once I quit smoking cigarettes, I’ll be happy. Once I make amends with my father, Ill be happy. Once I buy this house, I’ll be happy.  Once I get this job, I’ll be happy. Once I go on vacation, I’ll be happy. Once, he says he’ll marry me, I’ll be happy. Once I get this divorce, I’ll be happy.  Once everyone sees my talent, my film, my show, my art, my writing, my voice, my face, my body, I’ll be happy.”

I see the rehearsals of the fairy tale “Once I…” in people twice my age and even still in those half my age. I see it everyday in myself. God damn, does anyone attain their happiness? Does the journey of life ever get easier, less scary and desperate?

I suppose those wishes are legitimate.

I suppose those higher desires are indeed ideals that act as our guides to our better selves, right?

Or are we forever living with a carrot before our eyes? Are we missing the point and poignance of our here and now?

Share your thoughts below…

The G Train

I have been enjoying my rides on the New York subways. WIth each visit to Antoinette,  I am becoming more and more confident. A or C train to downtown Brooklyn. Off at Hoyt. Switch to G train to Nostrand. Walk. Now I  have more time to people watch and less time is spent anxious and pretending I know where the fuck I am going. Oh the prestige of being a native New Yorker.  I watched a lesbian couple seated diagonally from me. They were giggling, tickling and squeezing each other fueling loud bursts of laughter. One of the young women, in between busy, fondling hands looked directly at the other with lids half closed, her teeth exposed between full lips pulled into a lazy smile. She was clearly in love, lovely, hot and unabashed. She looked at me as well. I didn’t look away. I wanted to smile and laugh too. I marveled at how long the giggling and teasing continued. Like children they seemed ignorant of that implied time when too much laughter and happiness seem feigned and bordering being obnoxious. I suppose it was tolerable. Their innocent play was hard to look away from and ignore. Two young, black women, shoving, tugging, squeezing, tickling, giggling – it screamed sex. I watched as an older woman bundled up from the cold nodded in her seat. Her head rested in her thick gray scarf. Her sudden nods and lurches were supported. Her sleep nearly uninterrupted. People stared back at me. No one felt cold and detached. All seemed just as inquisitive and needy as I was/am.  Perhaps it was Beyonce’s song “Blue” blasting in my ears that made me believe and actually feel inseparable from these strangers. Maybe my loneliness and desperation for deeper meaning these days camouflaged itself as inspiration but on that train full of people being simultaneously pushed and pulled, rocked and soothed, I felt like it all made sense.

Poem of The Day – “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” by Warsan Shire

“you are a horse running alone and he tries to tame you compares you to an impossible highway to a burning house says you are blinding him that he could never leave you forget you want anything but you you dizzy him, you are unbearable every woman before or after you is doused in your name you fill his mouth his teeth ache with memory of taste his body just a long shadow seeking yours but you are always too intense frightening in the way you want him unashamed and sacrificial he tells you that no man can live up to the one who lives in your head and you tried to change didn’t you? closed your mouth more tried to be softer prettier less volatile, less awake but even when sleeping you could feel him travelling away from you in his dreams so what did you want to do love split his head open? you can’t make homes out of human beings someone should have already told you that and if he wants to leave then let him leave you are terrifying and strange and beautiful something not everyone knows how to love.”

Shanti Leaves The USA – JoJo I Don’t Think We Are in Kansas Anymore!

shanti around the way curls, natural hair, motherhood,

So I have been keeping a HUGE secret from all of you. For the past six months I have been contemplating and planning a trip to leave the country. I have finally taken the leap of faith. I am in Guatemala! My family owns and maintains a beautiful farm in Guatemala. My cousin has lived in Guatemala since she was seventeen (she is originally from the US and is now 26). She teaches here in a bilingual school and has invited me to come to the school and teach in English to students. I rejected the idea for so long but I decided an opportunity like this only comes once in a lifetime so I took it. The coffee farm which I live on is lush and tropical. Banana, orange, avocado and lime trees offer there fruits generously. I just have to go outside and pick it. The life of Guatemalans is by no means easy. There is poverty everywhere juxtaposed against the environmental beauty. Even my daily life can be challenging surrounded by pollution and unpaved roads. My heart misses Philadelphia, my friends and family. This has been exciting yet terrifying. They say you take yourself wherever you go and still I struggle with my fears and dissatisfaction. I am not yet committed to staying here. I am taking it day by day. We will see.

shanti around the way curls
In Between two decisions….
Has anyone ever lived abroad? What were your challenges? Any questions for me?

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