Losing My Religion: Foreword

I’ve been thinking about the future of my page. In the days to come, I’d like to dig deeply into self care and spirituality. But before I move forward, I really feel the need to take a look at what I’m running away from.

I’m going to begin by offering an honest look at my thoughts on religion. And I’ll be frank with you–a part of me is terrified. For one thing, I know that what I have to say is bound to upset people. I can think of certain long-lost friends who will be offended. Once I speak up, I know that I risk ruining some personal connections.

(On the other hand, some of my people will read what I have to say and go, “Uh huh. Uh huh… NEXT!” I salute them in advance.)

Spiritually, right now, I’m in an interesting place. I agree with the idea of God or a Higher Power. But I don’t subscribe to popular religious teachings surrounding man’s universal purpose, or the way that said Higher Power operates within society.

A part of me can’t help but feel bad. I still admire certain people that I’ve known who are traditionally religious. Meanwhile, I’ve been completely put off of others. Either way, folks’ religious leanings are tied to their values. And in our current political climate, I notice that some have used their faith as an excuse to uplift their fellow human beings. Still, others feel content with oppressing them.

It feels weird to give myself this space to share what I think. I feel the weight of the fact that spirituality can be a very personal and controversial thing. But the more I free myself from religion, the more I value myself. Deep down, I know that I have every right to give myself room to breathe.

Now that I’ve had my say, I’m bracing myself. Let the release begin.

This post’s image is from a photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash.

The struggle is real.

A few days ago on my Instagram account, I spoke about facing yourself. Last week I was really moved by Pepper Brooks’ latest blog post.

In case you don’t click to read, in “It’s easier to be a Workaholic” Pepper wrote a bit about one of the masks that she wears. I was struck by how familiar it was to me.

Currently, I’m in a curious space. During the day I’m looking for work. But at night instead of sleeping, I waste time chasing information. To explain exactly what goes on, I’ll give you a slightly edited version of what I shared with her.

Photo by Hernan Sanchez

I’ve struggled with self-care for years. Specifically, with the foundation of it all: Sleep.

I know that if I slept better, I would have the energy that I needed in order to take care of myself properly. But lately, whenever I try to go to bed on time, I don’t.

Over time, I’ve followed a pattern of staying up for hours, satisfying my FOMO by shoving information into my brain. (I live in a small town. By itself that’s not problematic, but I have transportation-related issues. To add to this, I’m an introvert and I love being alone…Yet I’m also pretty lonely.)

I satisfy my need for contact and information by checking up on everyone and everything on social media instead of relaxing and shutting my eyes at night. When I have my laptop in the room, I’m looking up something or other.

But for what?

I’m attempting to satisfy some sort of ache. I know it.

And I also know the truth. I know that “I am enough” isn’t merely a cliche. But a part of me keeps resisting it.

I tend to feel and do better when I give myself a chance. Mediation helps. But really, I need to give myself room. I have to tell myself to ignore distractions.

Needless to say, I’m tired. (In more ways than one.) I’m sharing my thoughts because I know myself. I really need to breathe.

Some people don’t get enough rest because of their obligations. They have to stay up into the wee hours because of a job, or their children. But what’s my excuse?

The quest for a “good night’s sleep” is more than a cliche. So many of our body’s systems get the chance to repair and restore themselves when we go to bed.  When we don’t sleep properly– or specifically, when we run from the chance to do so–I believe we need to think. Take a look at our culture. It’s trendy for people to call themselves information addicts or night owls. But what’s really going on?

For years now, most nights, I’m up way past my bedtime. I have to order myself to put my electronics away. As much as I try not to, I can’t help but feel haunted: Whatever I want is out there. Meanwhile, there’s reality.

Whatever I think is going to satisfy me won’t get come to me any faster by staying up late chasing air.

Given the reasons that we need sleep, I’ve come to a grim conclusion: I think that a part of me has been convinced that I don’t deserve to be whole.

These days I’m trying to work out the details of exactly what I deserve. Some of them are hazy. But I know that I’m worth more.

Sweet dreams.

Mission? In progress.

The air around me is rife with people talking about their purpose. A couple of weeks ago my mentor Krista Foss encouraged me to write down my mission. I left our meeting thinking. As a writer, what am I passionate about? What do I want to achieve?

I, Claire would like…

  • To honestly discuss topics of my choosing
  • To uplift women, people of colour, and especially Black Canadian women
  • To promote spiritual healing

These three points are true to who I am. I look forward to seeing where they lead me.

Photo courtesy of CreateHER Stock Photography.

A taste of HERstory: Reflections on an unforgettable evening

In December, all I knew of HERstory in Black is that it was an idea. Emily Mills, CEO of How She Hustles had decided to step out on faith and share her vision: she wanted to create a digital photo series featuring 150 Canadian Black Women.

Along the way, Emily asked the women of How She Hustles for help. I wasn’t sure of how I could be of service, but I knew one thing: I could write. Currently I live outside of the GTA, and my mobility is somewhat limited. But that little voice inside told me to volunteer anyways. Surely I could do something in spite of my location.

A couple of weeks ago, Emily got in touch with me. Oh, how her project had grown. HERstory in Black now had a home in the form of a microsite on CBC Toronto’s web page. There would be an event in its honour on the 27th of February. Thanks to this new development, she didn’t need me to write about the women included in HERstory. But would I be able to showcase the photographers who made the magic happen?

I nearly fell over.

The Saturday after Emily and I chatted, I spent the afternoon with my girlfriends, Krista and Celeste. I told them all about HERstory in Black, including its celebration.

“You have to go!” Celeste and Krista insisted.

I looked at them as though they were made of cheese. I was already stunned by the thought of writing something about such an important project. I couldn’t imagine showing up at an event in its honour.

In the days after I published my post, Ms. Mills and I messaged each other. She asked if I was sure I couldn’t make it out to the CBC for HERstory in Black. Again, I was taken aback. My brain had been in such a blur since writing about Leilah Dhoré and Ebti Nabag, the idea of actually appearing on Monday seemed like too much of a good thing. Plus, there were logistics. Currently I need a car of my own and a new job. I’m used to not making it out to see people.

How would I get there? The next thing I knew, I was thinking of my friend Celeste. Since I didn’t have wheels, she’d offered to take me. I wondered if she could she be my plus one. Apparently God had the same idea because she won tickets to attend.

She was able to bless her friend Janice with her extra ticket. We got together and along with Marla Brown (one of HERstory’s 150 women) we hit the road.

We arrived at the CBC building around 5:30. The celebration of HERstory in Black was set to begin at 6.

In her latest edition of Facebook Live, Emily Mils mentioned something that I had noticed. On Monday evening, I saw some male musicians and production staff. Yet both behind and in front of the cameras, HERstory in Black was clearly women-driven. How many organizations make a point of hiring us to support an event at every level where we are set to be featured as speakers or performers? Kudos to Emily Mills and the CBC for their vision.

fullsizerender

Our beloved host, Amanda Parris.

Among other special appearances, D’bi Young Anitafrika  performed a poem called “Black Woman”.

🙏🏾 #shesaboss #poetry #howshehustles #herstoryinblack #cbc

A post shared by Nikkita Holder (@brownnstone) on

 

Is it any wonder that in two Instagram posts, I said that she “spoke to my soul”? This clip offers viewers a taste of an incredible piece of art. D’bi is a powerful writer. Her words meant so much to me—to all of us. I can’t even begin to explain their impact.

Jully Black performed various songs, including “Glass Ceiling”. I’d never seen her live before. On Monday, she brought her mother on stage with her.

 

That night, I met people that—until then—I had only seen online. I’m talking about women like Tanya Hayles,  Léonicka Valcius  Nam Kiwanuka  and Jam Gamble  . I reconnected with Bee Quammie  Tashauna Reid, and Chivon John . I even met Eugenia Duodo , the scientist in this segment that appeared on The National:

Now that it’s over, I don’t know if I can capture how deeply HERstory in Black touched me. But I’ll try.

I’ve already written about being one of very few people of colour in my town. I’m currently toying with the idea of moving to a more diverse city. I can only begin to express what HERstory in Black means to me—both the project, and its celebration.

I think of the ladies who came out with me on Monday: Celeste, Janice, and Marla. And I think of Celeste’s 3 daughters. When I was younger, I don’t remember having many home-grown role models to look up to—if any at all. Certainly, the media didn’t seem to want to highlight us.

Emily Mills, centre, along with some of the women who put HERstory together.

When you’re the only one of your background who’s around, or even one of a few, it can be very easy to doubt your own beauty. You may question your power and intelligence. I know Black people who would argue that we need to look for all of those things inside of ourselves. To them, I say yes. I believe in harnessing the spark of self-love, and nurturing it from within. But mirrors matter. The stories and images from HERstory point to possibilities that we otherwise might not have considered.

HERstory in Black has left me determined. I want the feeling that I have from my attending Monday night’s celebration, and writing about its photographers, to never end. I need to find a way to celebrate and share Black Girl Magic, not just during Black History Month, but all year long.

Black women are accomplished. People talk about adding one or two of us to their groups in an attempt to display diversity. Yet I wonder if they understand how truly diverse we are as a whole.

HERstory in Black offers people a glimpse of the wonder of us. And for that I will be forever thankful.

For more information on some of the women involved in this incredible night, check the links below.

Emily Mills – CEO of How She Hustles, Founder of HERstory in Black, Senior Communications Officer at the CBC

Tanya Hayles – Chief Creative Officer, Hayles Creative Elements 

Michelle Berry – Founder, Shelly’s Catering

Amanda Parris – Educator and CBC Personality

Tashauna Reid – CBC News Reporter

Jully Black – Recording Artist & Speaker, Canada’s Queen of R&B  

Stop running.

like-yourself

I remember the day when those words, directed at me, hung in the air. They had been said randomly. If anyone else had uttered them, I think I would have been angry. But the speaker knew me. Not as well as I think they should, but somehow, well enough.

“You don’t like yourself.”

After hearing that sentence, another person might have been mad. But I was curious.

How could this person be so sure? What were they seeing?

Sometime last year when I was thinking about authentic self care, I realized something. There are a ton of things that I can do in order to feel whole. But do I invest in them? How do I feel about honouring my most sacred gift: myself?

While wondering this, something else hit me. I’ve been meaning to delve into this topic for ages, but have only scratched the surface.

Why have I avoided talking about self-care?

Am I afraid to be still in my own skin? It’s hard for me not to think so. It’s even harder for me to admit that. But the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. So here I am.

I’ve been running away from myself for a long time. That needs to change. And slowly but surely, it will.

Solid Saturday: Speak UP!!

Here’s a little something from way back when.

There’s nothing like hearing your old sense of ambition falling from your lips to remind you of who you are.

For the time being I’ve put my podcast aside. (NOTE: No matter what anyone else says, there’s no such thing as FREE podcast hosting. I mean…sure. Some sites offer “free” plans. But they don’t come without limits.) Meanwhile, somehow I still feel compelled to craft content. This notion really got to me this week. That’s when I got curious…

But, Claire,” I said to myself,”where can I get my stuff hosted for free?”

And almost immediately, the answer came:

Looks like I’ll have to start making videos!!”

Oy vey. Cue the anxiety and excuses.

I took a few test shots yesterday. The lighting was almost as hideous as it was in the video above. I kept struggling with where to put my eyes.

Then, earlier this afternoon I took a look at Jam Gamble’s Facebook page. Jam and I know each other a bit through social media, and she’s an amazing woman. Her pinned post on public speaking really struck a chord with me.

If you feel inspired to do something for your own growth or good, pursue it! Fear exists only to get in the way of your greatness.

You’ve earned it.

WaterWomanNot too long ago, I applied for a position as a blogger on another web site. In the application, I had the opportunity to select a subject to write on. Which option did I choose? Self care.

Interestingly enough, soon after I submitted my application, I panicked. How could I write with authority on self-care? I mean, sure, I know it’s important to exercise, but when was the last time I worked out regularly? And my sleep schedule? HA!

I could go on, but in short, I felt like a fraud. How could I possibly proffer myself as a self-care pundit when my own practice was in the toilet?

This question made me take a closer look at my general attitude towards taking care of myself. There’s no denying that I know everything that I should be doing in order to be at my best. So why haven’t I given myself the treatment I deserve? After all, like the slogan says, I’m worth it.

That’s when it hit me. My relationship with self-care came down to one simple thing.

Belief.

Specifically, the belief that I, Claire, can and should be kind to myself. Proper self-care is more than a way that I can show myself a little love. It’s is something I deserve.

In fact, I think that that last point is the one that too many of us struggle with. Not too long ago I saw a sign that said

GOD FIRST

OTHERS SECOND

ME LAST

(emphasis added)

Mind you, this was supposed to be an inspirational sign. Yet its words left me cold. When it comes to the grand hierarchy of priorities, there are times when others have be taken care of first. Yet constantly giving to everyone else without attempting to secure your own stability can be dangerous.

Self-neglect can lead to imbalance and burnout. And once those demons take hold, how can we be expected to find the strength to serve others?

We have the right to care for ourselves. Doing so isn’t selfish. It’s a matter of survival. And it doesn’t have to be hard. A day at the spa is lovely, but how often do we stop to take an extra breath when we’re in a rush?

In order to put our best selves forward every day, I’m convinced of one thing. Proper self-care needs to be a priority. But it can only be valued once we understand it’s not a luxury, but our birthright.

Photo Credit

Prepared.

Lately I’ve felt a push to get myself ready for something.

It’s come on naturally. It’s as though my soul knows I need to fill a space that’s always existed…Yet it’s somewhere that I’ve never been.

These days, in spite of all the times I’ve tried and failed, my talk about self-care has begun to take hold. I’ve been making a greater effort to treat myself well. (Who knew that it was work?)

I need to be ready.

But for what?

My first instinct is to say that I haven’t got a clue what I’m getting ready for, but under my skin, I know.

I’m still a dreamer. Deep down I’m thinking about the days when my heart’s desires turn into reality.

As you think about your future, ask yourself:

Do you know what’s coming your way?

Are you prepared?

Thank God for yoga.

Before I begin, watch this video. I chose it because it presents the main argument(s) I’ve heard against yoga in one concise package.

Now then. Let’s consider reality. I’ve been doing meditation and yoga for a little while. I’m not a pro. Still…A demon has yet to visit me.

Among Christians I notice that objections to yoga are due to ignorance. And fear.

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about why people who are around my age are leaving the church. I don’t believe that they’re leaving merely because they think that it lacks relevance as an institution. Among other reasons, I think that people are fed up with organized religion because certain leaders insist on promoting ideas that are based on lies.

I long for the day when religious folks stop wasting time on imaginary boogeymen.

Hence, for the sake of this conversation, I’ll share a bit with you about why I meditate. (When I say “meditate” at this point, I’m also thinking of “yoga”. I once read that yoga is a form of meditation. I also know that some classes begin or end with it.)

Do you know what it’s like to have something on your mind all the time? I do. I find myself constantly thinking–usually about more than one subject. The sad thing is that this often happens when I’m supposed to be focused on something else. And in all honesty, it’s overwhelming.

In order to counteract all of this noise, I need a break. That’s what meditating offers me. It provides me with a mental detox. Practicing it does not ensure that I will be visited by evil spirits. Rather, it’s a great way to de-stress. When I pray, I’m still expending energy, outputting information. Meditation offers me the opportunity to take time out of my day and simply be still.

Also, contrary to what others would have you believe, there is nothing wrong with focusing inward. Not if doing so allows a person to obtain a bit of balance. The act of practicing meditation does not mean that one is turning his or her back on God. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the opposite takes place.

Have any of you done yoga or meditation?

What’s your favorite pose?