A Lesson from my Unruly Curls!

Being a writer or artist of any kind is a lot like having curly hair–it’s a struggle!
Anyone who has ever tangled with a mass of wild curls knows the overwhelm of taking on a battle that you’ll never win. Curls are inherently disobedient! They’ll rise to the heavens when you want them down-to-earth. They’ll run away from the neat little bun you try to pin them in, and if you decide to try more extreme alternatives, like transforming them all together–you know, making them something they’re not– you’re in for an extensive and intensive process involving heat and/ or chemicals, which is not only painful, but also temporary. The curls will inevitably re-emerge. Meanwhile, you’re that person in the witness protection program, checking over your shoulder for the menacing rain cloud, humidity or sweat bead that threatens to bring the curls back! And woe to you if you’re caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella! Then you’re Cinderella making a mad dash before midnight when the magic disappears and the real you is revealed!
See… the “real you” is complicated. Like the temperamental curls, you can’t be easily contained. Maybe you don’t fit into any particular box. Your style breaks the rules and falls outside of pre-set categories. But, being different is a good thing, right? Unless your difference isn’t appreciated. So, how then do you find your niche? Your voice? Your place? Are you gonna be the red-headed step child or the favored blonde? It’s not just a problem for writers, but all creatives trying to find their place in an industry that’s fickle; in a field that’s looking for the “next big thing,” but no one knows what that is!
Perhaps we should take a lesson from our unruly curls!

  1. Curls resist change.

Although they can be lengthened and stretched, they defy total transformation. Naturally curly hair is difficult to keep straight without extreme measures that are damaging to the hair. Likewise, while it is necessary to be flexible and relevant, the essence of who you are should be non-negotiable. You do damage to your sense of self when you try to change to fit in or be acceptable to others. You can be acceptable without changing who you are.
2. Curls have their own beauty.
In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown describes her discovery that true belonging is achieved, not through the affirmation of those around us, but from the affirmation we give ourselves. You have to learn, first, she says, how to belong to yourself.
Looking inward rather than outward gives us insight into our purpose and a connection with our Creator that no attachment to an outside source can substitute. By what standard do we measure our value? By what others think or by how well we fulfill God’s purpose for us? It’s easy to get caught up in how many “likes” we have on social media rather than reflecting on the work, the purpose and the inherent value of what we do apart from the attention it gets. If something I write, or something you sing touches one life, was it worth it? Was it pretty enough to matter? I say yes!
3. Curls are free
Long tendrils coil tightly around our fingers and cling stubbornly to each other in a daily tug of war, but we can surrender the fight. The best thing to do with defiant curls is to set them free! Give them a good conditioning, maybe a headband if you must, then let them fly! If you’re not confined to a particular genre or category you can flourish. You are free to explore forms and styles that would otherwise be off limits. You can create new combinations of words and sounds, colors or kinds. Whatever your craft, the possibilities are endless when your free!
So, before manipulating our strands for purposes that aren’t meant to be, why not follow the zig-zag to its natural end and see what’s there? Let go of expectations and be open for exploration! Let’s give up the battle we’re never going to win and embrace the wild and beautiful differences that make us who we are!

Happy week!

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Do you know a curly girl? Get more lessons from the curly world here!

Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz on Unsplash

Why Trump is Not “unprecedented”

The word ironic can mean coincidence or unexpected. The MLK holiday comes in the same week as the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. I would say that’s ironic because it’s a coincidence.

Eight years ago it was Barack Obama.  I would say that was ironic because it was unexpected.  Yet, it was also fitting because it apparently fulfilled the famous dream.  To the amazement of all who had very present memories of racial injustices, segregation and inequality, the first African American president raised his right hand and pledged to “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States…to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” No one missed the poignancy of this ascension to the highest office in the land, this audacity to set up residence in a house built by slaves. It made that inaugural day truly inaugural, both historic and unprecedented…

obamabidenThere’s another word for us wordies to think about, unprecedented.  It has become the buzzword for this current political season as businessman, reality show star, leader of the “birther” movement and Obama nemesis, Donald Trump set his sights on that highest office. (Of course, we remember that he misspelled the word in one of his infamous Twitter posts—“unpresidented”—perhaps he was attempting a pun?)  But, is Trump’s ascendance to that position more astonishing than Obama’s?  What made Obama so “different” was mostly his skin color. People criticized his lack of political experience, but he was president of the Harvard Law Review and senator for four years. He had, at least, been working in the political field.  Trump, on the other hand is “different” because his experience has been in corporate rather than national politics. Yet, this lack of experience was “trumped” by his wealth, race and gender. Being a wealthy white man opens doors that no amount of intelligence or experience can touch.

Let’s face it. If you’re black, poor, or female you have to prove yourself worthy of respect. If you’re white, rich and male you don’t have to prove anything.

Ironic? Not really. Unprecedented? Definitely, no. It’s the way of the world.

So, while many of us called Trump’s meteoric rise shocking, we have merely forgotten where we are. Those very present realities (not just memories) of racial unrest and inequality never went away. The fact that we had an African American president merely soothed us with the appearance of change. But the reality is we never entered that post-racial era that optimists heralded in 2008. Race is as much a divisive presence as it ever was in the past. Thus, with the rise of Donald Trump we merely see the resurgence of what was always there, white power “taking back” what it never lost. There’s the irony.  The real irony is that all the while that we clapped and cheered the rise of Obama, we were merely hailing a dream that is still deferred.

“…with the rise of Donald Trump we merely see the resurgence of what was always there, white power ‘taking back’ what it never lost. There’s the irony.”

This year, in the wake of the 2016 social and political unrest, the MLK holiday leaves me melancholy. The hope and change that I had hoped for hasn’t come and the future seems frighteningly uncertain with the mercurial man who stands next to lead.

Nonetheless, this image reminds me that the path forward must be paved in love.mlk5I am reminded that this is why we honor Martin Luther King every year, because his words are timeless, his vision unhindered by current circumstances, nor by the winds of change–good or bad.  Whether the dream is alive and well or withering like a raisin in the sun, we must keep hope alive! That’s no irony, just straight talk.

Happy MLK Day!

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