2017 Mantra: Allow the Magic 

I’m not part of Team Burn 2016 To the Ground. I had a great year. While it was full of loss – of lives, loved ones, and trust; and equally full of pain, heartache and betrayal. I was assaulted, attacked, violated, harassed, disrespected, insulted, bullied and berated. I got hurt a lot in 2016.

But here’s the thing: 2016 was also overwhelmingly also full of growth. I grew in areas where I didn’t even know I needed to be challenged. I saw things from other perspectives when I thought I had already examined all options. I saw myself with new eyes. I saw others with new eyes, too. I learned vulnerability and openness. I remembered how to relax and be OK with – and without – being OK. I learned to advocate for myself. I was encouraged, inspired, uplifted, empowered, adored, cherished, complemented and celebrated. I was seen and lovingly embraced a lot in 2016, too.

What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?

Last night, after the various glittery balls around the world dropped and the star in Chicago rose, one of my best friends asked, “So what’s your 2017 Mantra? Every year starts with a mantra!”

 

I hadn’t put much thought into it, but some of my best ideas are my gut’s first urging. My inner voice cried out before she even finished her thought:

 

WHAT YOU ALLOW WILL CONTINUE, it said.

 

I use this phrase a lot when I’m being the wise best friend and my girl had another run-in with the crappy boyfriend. But until the most intimate part of my living energy spurted it out, I had never considered it in all areas of my life.

2017 is my year of boundaries – with myself, with my children, with my friends, family and love interests. What boundaries am I willing to set to make this the most transformational year of my life?

 

  1. What I allow for myself will continue. I have dreams. Goals. Aspirations. I have a vision for my mind, body and spirit. In the last five years, those milestones have been on a revolving scale with timelines extended due to the circumstances. But what if I held myself to a new standard? What if I did whatever it takes to make my dreams come true? What if I allowed myself to never hit snooze on a weekday and actually go to the gym before work? What if I stopped allowing myself to take a pass on packing my lunch and stopped eating at restaurants every day? What if I stopped choosing (anything else) over finishing the laundry?

What I will allow to continue for myself is being bold and radiant. Living into my calling rather than shying away from it. I will allow myself to eat healthy and spend wisely. I will allow myself to be disciplined in study, art, music, dance, and fitness. I will allow myself to enjoy my lifestyle to the fullest.

 

 

  1. What I allow for my children will continue. Tantrums, whining, begging, screaming, arguing, avoiding chores, procrastinating…typical for children, yes, but these aren’t things they outgrow. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of adults this year have adult sized tantrums, and bicker, tease and bully like children. My responsibility as a parent is to raise adults that can think critically and handle adulting without reverting to infantile behaviors on grown-up scales. Discipline, emotional maturity, and calm problem solving starts now.

What I will allow to continue for my children is positive reinforcement, intentional quality time, praise and rewards, boundaries, healthy conversations about emotions, and more responsibility with contributing to our home and housework.

 

  1. What I allow for my friends will continue. I’ve lost friends this year – some to death, yes but in this case, I’m referring to friends lost due to just being slowly squeezed out of the circle; so slowly I wasn’t sure it was happening until it was over. And that’s OK. But I realized that over the years some of those friends have deeply hurt me, whether they knew it or not. I’ve allowed myself to suffer in silence, not fully understanding that I had power within me all along to steer those friendships; I just didn’t use it. I’m also learning that in forever friendships, a silent friend does not equate to a good friend. Just like in marriages, or any lifelong connection, if you’re not challenging each other in growth, what the heck are you doing for each other? Friends cannot allow friends to follow destructive paths, nor can they allow their friends to take the easiest route, avoiding their highest potential.

What I will allow to continue for my friends is the glorious give-and-take of enjoying each other’s’ company. We come bearing gifts for each other – gifts of time, growth, comfort, compassion, acceptance, laughter, presence, love and forgiveness.

 

  1. What I allow for my family will continue. I have a colorful family. I don’t mean ethnicity or lifestyle. I mean psychologically. My entire life I’ve been around destructive patterns that I’ve had to endure – or perhaps that I’ve allowed myself to endure. It’s OK to respectfully decline abusive conversations. It’s OK for me to not allow this cycle to continue.

What I will allow to continue for my family is accepting and loving me for who I am and who I want to be. We will speak to each other with tenderness and empathy, and respect the decisions we’ve made for our individual lives.

 

  1. What I allow for my love interests will continue. Just last week, I had a potential date. Someone I met online on a Monday, began texting on a Wednesday and was about to meet in person on a Friday. But this person was already playing power games – holding something over my head and expecting me to jump for it. He set the foundation for our relationship that he would have all the cards and I would have to take whatever he dealt. I shut it down immediately. He gave me a beautiful apology, which I accepted. I also told him that power games now meant power games in five years and I’m just going to pass. I cancelled our date and we never met. It was deeply fulfilling. And also deeply healing. While I would love to be in a partnership, I am very happy without a significant other, and there is no reason I should make these kinds of exceptions – especially with a stranger – just to not be “single.”

What I will allow to continue for my romantic relationships is serving each other in love, enjoying each other’s company and uplifting each other’s dreams. We will design our own family culture, and have patience, compassion and forgiveness with our flaws. We will accept each other without the intent of changing one another and will grow together, helping each other along the way. We’ll communicate freely, welcome vulnerability and set expectations. We will allow each other to be sad, angry, upset, without letting that shake our unconditional love.

 

There’s no badge of honor in martyring yourself for the comfort of others. If you are unhappy, uncomfortable, unfulfilled, unimpressed, and uncertain, just say no. Don’t allow it to continue. Allow yourself to live into your truest self because denying your inner voice is the biggest crime you could commit against the world. You – and I – are here to be our best and truest selves. You – and I – are our greatest gifts to the world.

 

2017 is my year of boundaries. My #shutitdown year. My #allowthemagic year. I’m a fierce and cosmic goddess, formed in the image of God and the same elements of the cosmos. I am strong and powerful, if I allow myself to be.

Octavia reese cosmic goddess allow the magic  

What’s your 2017 Mantra?

Octavia reese 2017 mantra magic
2017 Mantra

~OR 

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Avoid the Side-Eye: Dos and Don’ts When Working with Black Women

A cartoon I saw yesterday left me with a knot in my throat. It showed First Lady Michelle Obama looking masculine and irritable, when compared to her potential replacement of the Republican-Party-Hopeful persuasion. There are so many things wrong with this image of her that I had to look away. It infuriates me that a strong, educated, strikingly beautiful American woman can be drawn so viciously. I refuse to link to it here and glorify the artist for his disgraceful work.

But then I considered my own identity issues as a Black Woman. I thought about how we’re shamed for not being good enough, pretty enough, educated enough…but then we’re shamed anyway, even when we blow those expectations out of the water. The truth is that we can never be good enough because someone will always find a reason to complain, nag, and diminish our value (enter the first stop on my Road to Relovery: validate yourself first) – even if you’re a double Ivy League graduate and the First Lady of the United States. I thought about how the physical attributes that kept me away from the cool kids table 20 years ago are the same things the cool kids are spending millions to have synthesized today.

beauty goals by octavia reese
Standard of Beauty 1996-2016

I wasn’t allowed to be Black growing up. As I was taught to strive for greatness, the image of greatness was not Black greatness. The image of greatness I saw did not look anything like me. The image of beauty I was shown was 90s heroin-chic; long, cadaverous, pale, curve-less. And the image of success I was shown was…well, any lawyer or doctor (or both) with a giant house, beautiful kids, 90s heroin-chic wife, fancy car, multiple vacation homes…yep, the upper-middle white man of the 90s was my hero.

But before I go too deep on the double standards I’ve watched evolve over the last decades that absolutely turn my stomach (again, the shame and rejection of the Black woman’s figure by mainstream media, “Omigod Becky look at her butt,” to the booming booty boosting industry giving non-Blacks our shape; the cannabis industry turning from Black street crime and thousands of imprisoned business-savvy young brown people to a legal, medical multibillion dollar industry profiting non-Blacks, etc.), I want to offer the following tips to assist in a successful interaction with the Black goddess of today:

  1. Do know my name. Do everything within your power to call us by our own unique name – not to be confused with that other Black woman you met once, talked to, worked with or grew up with. In school, I was The Token for many years and everyone knew me by name. Enter new Black family stage right; suddenly everyone started calling me Nora. Not my name. I realized I was just filed under “The Black Girl” in their minds and when there were two of us, ERROR 404: Black Girl Name Not Found.
  2. Don’t conditionally compliment me. That means, don’t be surprised that I speak a certain way or have a large vocabulary. Don’t say “wow, you speak well …for a Black girl.” And while you’re at it, drop the mom clause too, i.e. “wow, you look great…for a mom…”
  3. Don’t ask if our hair is real or ours. Assume it is, close your mouth and move on.
  4. Don’t compare us. I am not Michelle or Whoopi or Kerry or Serena or Beyoncé or Iman or anyone else that you’ve seen on TV. Unless it is a comparison to compliment, just accept that many of us don’t fit into your boxed definition of Black Woman. Best once again, to just close your mouth and move on.
  5. Do join us. Women are strong, powerful, divine vehicles of life and yes, we can do all of that thing that you’re doing pregnant and in heels. Men, please stop asking us what we can do for you and let us do our thing or maybe even, dare I write it, offer to help us. And to my ladies, women of all colors, cultures and creeds need to stick together. Stop the girl-girl hate, cat fighting and competition. How about we take each other out on friend dates.
  6. Don’t tell stories. We don’t care about that one Black person you know. It’s ok if you don’t know any other Black people. Actually, no it’s not ok, but if it’s your reality, then so be it. You don’t score “OK With Blacks” badges by telling us about someone you met or asking if we saw the last Tyler Perry movie or episode of Scandal or Empire. Just relax and act normal.
  7. Do let us be ourselves. We’re not all comics or athletes. Again, relax. And maybe just keep the lips sealed one more time.

    be yourself
    Do let us be ourselves
  8. Don’t say “I’m not racist.” You are. We all are. It just depends on what you do and say with your initial prejudices.
  9. Do be aware of your prejudices. Name them. And if you’re a forward thinking human-loving being, then you’ll know better which thoughts and reactions to push aside and how to move on without being awkward.
  10. Don’t admit to not understanding #blacklivesmatter. Just don’t. Close your mouth. Google it.
  11. Do understand police tensions. It’s not right that young Black kids dislike or fear the police, but it does make sense. It is sad but true and don’t forget that our Black history with law enforcement is drastically different from your non-Black story.
  12. If you’re going to assume anything, do assume we’re just as American as you are. I’ve been asked so many times where I’m from. Here. I’m from here. Just like you. We sing the same national anthem, cheer for the same teams, and drive on the same side of the road. If you haven’t noticed, America is actually quite colorful. And it is an astoundingly beautiful thing.

~OR