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

Mayhem Monday: What’s in Your Backpack?

In a recent Facebook Live, one of my favorite motivators, Chrystal Evans Hurst describes her struggle while recovering from a bout in the hospital. She tells of her difficulty in maneuvering up and down the stairs on one foot. Still weak from her illness, every step was hard, not only because of her condition, but also because she carried a backpack. A week after struggling daily with a backpack that became increasingly heavy–because she continued adding items to it–she discovered three things: (1) the trek up and down the stairs was still hard (2) she was able to do more this week than she was last week and (3) in the process she had gained some muscles she wasn’t expecting.

Chrystal unpacks the lessons in her “backpack victory,” but I was thinking a little more about the backpack itself. I mean, don’t we all carry a backpack? We call it baggage.

We toss stuff in those bags—both good and bad—and go on. We sling the past over our shoulders, as if doing so will be enough to put it behind us. But, the funny thing about past experiences is they don’t always stay back there. Even if we’ve tossed them, they tend to linger. Even when we don’t realize that we’re toting around hurt, anger or unresolved issues, they inform our actions. We use them as currency: the criticism of our peers that we pocketed, comes into play later when it’s time to trust again. The disapproval of our teachers is logged and we check that account before cashing in on any major academic investments. Our parents’ expectations? It’s like our favorite magazine that comes every month, but we just can’t throw it away! We toss it in the bag and it gets heavier.

Daily we add something to our backpack—experiences get added in—good or bad–and accumulate like the artifacts collecting dust in our basements. They are seen, but forgotten; there, but we’re unaware of the effects they have on our lives. We refuse to get rid of them, yet we don’t actually deal with them. They have meaning, but we don’t fully grasp what it is.

We tend to think of baggage as a bad thing, but is it?

In saying that we should think about the backpack, I don’t mean that we should think negatively about it. I mean we should think about it. The problem with baggage is that we don’t think about it! We drag it around with us and allow it to inform our actions without ever examining it or doing anything intentional with it. Maybe we should look at what’s in our backpack. What is this baggage that you’re carrying around?

It may be that we are burdened by guilt or unresolved issues from the past because we’ve chosen to carry unexamined bags. Anyone who’s ever carried a big purse knows how easy it is to toss items in with the intention of “looking at it later,” but “later” never comes!

Yet, if you did look, you might find that there are some good things in your bag. There might be some things in there that you can use! Have you had some tough times– some pain and some hurt? If you look closely, what else do you find? Perhaps strength gained from the difficulty? Wisdom gained from the foolish choice? Character developed from the hurt?

Part of Chrystal’s “backpack victory” was the unintended muscle she gained from the struggle she had going up and down each step. I don’t know if she ever looked at everything she tossed in her bag, but the extra weight was an unexpected blessing! Likewise, our baggage can either be a burden that weighs us down or a weight that builds our physical and spiritual muscle! It can also be the source from which we draw our greatest inspiration–to write, to create, to dream and to live! It really comes down to perspective and what you see when you look in the bag!

So, go ahead–look. What’s in your backpack?

Happy Monday!

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Special thanks to Andrew Neel on Unsplash for Cover photo art.

FIRST Monday: Give it all You’ve Got!

HAPPY MONDAY!

Can you believe it? We’re half way through 2018 already! As this year flies by, I’m busy building Books & Coffee to provide you with new and improved content. Be sure to stop by each Monday to jump start your week and look for more new features coming soon! Today we’re kicking off a new feature called FIRST MONDAYS.

Starting today, every first Monday of the month you’ll find a POWERPACK for all you CREATIVES out there!

  • Something inspirational– either a quote or essay that will inspire you.
  • Something sensational—for your sense of taste, that is—a healthy recipe! Something delicious and nutritious—brain food!
  • Something professional –a tip or challenge to help you overcome a weakness and/or keep your creative juices flowing!

AND

*Wild Card* Sometimes I will add a physical challenge since I believe that exercise is a powerful tool for enhancing creative flow! So, get ready!

TODAY’S INSPIRATION

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You pull your floral wrap a little tighter around your bust and carefully adjust your Erykah Badu head-wrap and sunglasses as you stroll onto your favorite beach feeling safe, and therefore confident, in the sun although the sun is barely touching any of your bare skin. Your kids sprint past you, carefree and happy, towards the welcoming waters that beckon, but you resist the temptation, settling into your beach chair to catch up on your summer reading. This is great, you say to yourself. So relaxing. But you ignore the puddle of sweat that is making small rivulets in the sand beneath your chair. Apparently, the cool cotton cover-up is not so cool after all! As you adjust to pry apart your thighs which are stubbornly sticking together you hear a man whistle. Looking up you quickly realize who he’s whistling at: a bikini-clad woman is walking straight towards you! She’s about your height, about your weight and, yes, your complexion too, but she has none of your hang-ups. Her varicose veins are in full view, climbing up her dimpled thighs like ivy. Her not-so-trim tummy tips over her bikini bottom and her breasts are all smooshed inside a sports-bra-style bikini top that is working way too hard to keep everything together! Her curly hair is swirled into a bun on top of her head and she’s wearing huge sunglasses that cover half of her face. She has on bright red lip stick, big hoop earrings and high-heeled sandals that make her look 6 feet tall!

Amazing!

Did you just say that out loud? Her shoulders are back and her head is up. She smiles as her eyes meet yours. “Hey girl, you are rockin’ that head scarf! Mind if I sit here?”

“Of course!” She sits and you listen as she tells you where she’s from, where she’s been and where she’s going. Then she stands abruptly and says, “well, it’s been nice chatting with you, honey, but I think I’m going to take a swim, it’s so hot out here!” And off she goes. Kicking her shoes aside she trots, cellulite and all, into the cool blue sea, happy and free, while you sit, sweating and safely covered under a head-wrap and not-so-cool-cover- up…

Fear can hold you captive. It can absolutely confine you to a tight space and convince you that there’s nothing else you can do–so don’t even try! But, if you look, you’ll see that there are people all around you who are doing it. They’re pushing past the fear and going for it–running headlong into their dreams, diving head-first into the ocean of probabilities, not allowing the uncertainties to hinder them. They don’t look back to consider “what if” and don’t worry about what “might be”. They can’t allow the thinking of others to slow them down, they have to accept that the sea holds their destiny and, however imperfectly, if they dive in, the worst that can happen is they’ll come out wet!

If they can do it. Why can’t you?

It’s summer. Shed the wrap and give the beach the body you’ve got!

It’s your life. Stop holding back! Shed your fears and give it all you’ve got!

What have you got to lose?

TODAY’S SENSATION: Try this tangy citrus salad! It’s a guilt-free snack or dessert that’s perfect for summer!

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Next month I’ll have a creative challenge for you. But it’s summer! Head to the beach or community pool with a pad and pen (leave your laptop at home). Jot down whatever comes to mind–without editing–and come back to it later, when you have time. You’ll be surprised by what emerges when you allow yourself the freedom and space to just be!

Happy Summer!

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Cover Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Girl in swimsuit photo–Facebook post.