Mama, am I beautiful?

Alice through the looking mirror

I never leave the house without my trusted little notebook. No fancy apps for me, thank you very much. I like it old school when it comes to jotting down thoughts, ideas, and lists. I carry the little notebook everywhere because I never know when I’m going to be inspired by something I see, smell, taste, touch, or hear. But I digress.

This morning, whilst standing in a line at the supermarket, I found myself digging through my purse. My fingers swiftly searching for its weathered spine and bent corners. I say swiftly because inspiration is a fickle lady who arrives unexpectedly in the unlikeliest of places and dances out as quickly as she dances in. The scene in front of me continued to unfold.

“Mama, am I beautiful?” asked the girl for the second time. Irritated, the mother replied, “Stop being so vain and hand me the milk.” I swiftly jotted down an idea for a post.

Stop being so vain.
Four words that regress me in time. I am 14 years old and standing in front of a mirror, silently contemplating my reflection.

“Bella, stop being so vain and finish your chores,” I hear my grandmother say.
“Don’t waste your time, mamá,” replies my mother. “Bella will learn soon enough that God punishes vanity.”

“Ma’am, are you ready to pay for your items?” The cashier’s question brings me out of my reverie. Walking home, all I can think about is why the mother thought her daughter’s question was prompted by vanity.

On the one hand, I admit there is such a thing as a narcissistic personality. After all, we’ve all come across individuals so conceited, they believe themselves to be better than others. On the other hand, I wonder if there is anything wrong with thinking one is beautiful.

I am beautiful.
Something I think all women should say to themselves every day.

Are these words spoken in vanity or are they an affirmation of self love?

Had nana been right in thinking I was vain for looking in the mirror, or was it acceptable for me to be mesmerized by the reflection that stared back at me and whispered, “You are perfect just the way you are”?

Does a woman suffer from a Narcissus complex when she chants the words, “I am beautiful,” or do these simply reaffirm her self worth?

Was my mother right in thinking vanity is a sin or am I right in believing pride in one’s appearance is a sign of healthy self esteem?

My mind wanders back to the young girl and her question. Had she asked me, my answer would have been, “Yes, yes you are.”

While vanity may reside in many who are fixated with their physical appearance, I find that in moderation, it can also help us believe in ourselves and our abilities. In other words, vanity can be used as a means for self love and acceptance.

In a world where society, culture, and the media dictate the standards of beauty, I’m under the impression vanity may be the only tool we have left to battle false ideals. After all, who better to tell us we’re beautiful than ourselves?

What’s your take on vanity?

XOXO,

10 Life Lessons, Courtesy of 2016

Happy New Year!

I’ve never been one of those people who ushers in the New Year with a list of resolutions firmly grasped. Nor am I an idealist who believes that when the clock strikes twelve, the slate is wiped clean. Alas, I’ve spent many years thinking the midnight toast paves the way for exciting adventures only to realize it’s simply a continuation of the same.

No, time has taught me that in not having expectations, I decrease the possibility of being disappointed. So does this mean I’m bracing myself for another crappy year? I don’t know.

I do know I’m not leaning one way or the other. Very much akin to being in a state of limbo, I greet each day with the question, “What now?”

Self reflection is one of the tools I use to battle, embrace, or accept any circumstance that is thrown my way. The minute my head hits the pillow, I play the movie of my life. Not all at once, but instead, one hour at a time; one minute at a time.

Thought after thought, I take in what I did.
Didn’t do.
Wish I’d done.
Realize I’ll never do.

I ponder ways that can help me make better decisions.
I justify my actions.
I pray there’s a reason for every choice I make, good or bad.

I’ve spent the first two weeks of 2017 reflecting on 2016. I want to share my conclusions with you.

10 Life Lessons, Courtesy of 2016

1) Nothing is the way it appears to be. We may think our situation is static but in an instant, life gets worse. Or it gets better. Though we may think we’re in control, the reality is we’re not. The faster we allow things to flow their natural course, the faster life will unfold.

2) Trust should not be given away. We’re fools if we believe we can deposit blind trust in everyone who comes into our lives. Trust should be something that is earned and as such, we should be cautious with whom we bring into our inner circle.

3) You can’t make someone love you. Sadly, they either do or they don’t and no amount of bargaining will change another person’s mind if he or she has decided love has left the building.

4) Our word is better than gold. I miss the days when a handshake was the way to sign a deal. Times when a person’s word meant he or she was trustworthy and had integrity. Sadly, those days are gone. It’s up to us to honor our word and when in doubt, not make promises we can’t keep.

5) Internal beauty exists. I used to think being beautiful on the inside was something ugly people said to make themselves feel better. Fast forward decades and I now understand no amount of makeup or fine clothes can mask an ugly interior. Kindness, empathy, and compassion should be beauty’s measuring tools.

6) The words, “I love you” are overrated. You love me? Do you really? Then don’t just tell me. Show me. Let go of selfishness, make sacrifices, think of others before yourself. But whatever you do, don’t think the words, “I love you,” mean anything to me unless they’re backed up with actions.

7) The truth can be ugly. But it can also liberate the spirit. Truth allows for a person to have closure, move on, and more importantly, heal. Honesty should always be exercised. Even when it hurts. Even when it’s ugly. Even when it means someone will be devastated. Because no matter the pain, no matter the heartache, the sun will continue to rise. Its bright light will remind us we’re still alive and while we may be broken, we can get up and start over.

8) Coffee and chocolate are always the answer. No matter how bad life seems, there’s something comforting about cradling a hot cup of coffee in your hands or savoring a piece of chocolate. Their aroma alone are testament good things don’t have to be expensive or hard to find.

9) Counting to ten before going forth can make the difference between a good or bad outcome. Fools rush in. Every single time. They don’t stop to take a breath. They don’t consider other options. They come in hot and get made. As a result, what could have been hardly ever is.

10) We are never alone. God always has our back. No matter the problem, we can trust that we are where we are supposed to be. Every tear, every moment of uncertainty, every doubt, is part of the process. Trusting in a higher power allows us to believe everything happens for a reason. Be content to sit in the copilot’s seat every now and then. Release the need to control everything and everyone. Liberate yourself from the stress that comes from thinking every decision comes down to you. Believe and have faith that while things may not happen when you want them to, eventually you will find joy.

What life lesson did 2016 teach you?

XOXO,

Why do children say the things they say?

Mother and Child

When the Son was four years old, I heard him say the three words every parent dreads to hear: “I hate you.” He didn’t yell or say them in the middle of a tantrum. Instead, in a barely audible fashion, he whispered them. Refusing to believe what I’d heard, I asked, “What did you say?” Furrowing his brow, he repeated the phrase but this time he silently mouthed the words.

Distressed at the thought my little man had stopped loving me, I called my sister, a non-practicing psychologist at the time. She assured me I had nothing to worry about. On the contrary, I should rejoice because it was obvious he felt loved. Confused I asked her to explain. “Bella, only a child who is secure in the knowledge he or she is loved can utter those words.”

Not content with her explanation, I kissed and hugged the Son every time he walked past me. I had worked too hard to create this little human to see him turn on me.

We were living in the Caribbean when the Son turned seven. In the middle of Hurricane George (one of the worst to hit the island of Puerto Rico), he decided it was the perfect time to complain that I never listened to him. Winds, that at 155 miles an hour, had us clinging to each other praying the roof wouldn’t fly off and his only question was, “Yeah, you look like you’re listening but are you REALLY hearing me when I talk about my Pokemon?”

Stifling the sarcastic response of, “It’s hard to to hear when the wind is rendering us deaf and very well might suck us into an infinite vortex,” I reassured him there was nothing more important than Pikachu, Charizard, or Blastoise.

Once again I was compelled to dial my sister who after laughing for ten minutes replied, “Only a child who feels heard says something like that, Bella.” Hearing silence on my end she elaborated, “In other words, he’s playin’ you, sistah.”

My beautiful boy, an expert manipulator at such a young age? For the second time, I refused to believe her and made it a point to both listen and hear my little one. No multitasking while he talked. I made it a point to hang on his every word.

The Son turns 25 in two weeks. This morning, after waking me at six to make him breakfast and pack his lunch, I heard him curse under his breath. “I’m late, mom. I have to hurry or I’m going to miss my train.” A rushed kiss and a half hug and he was out the door.

Two minutes later the phone rang. “Mom, I dropped my beanie on my way to the stop. Can you go out and look for it? It doesn’t have to be right this minute but keep in mind it’s a 32 euro Nike hat.” (Code for go out now)

Not stopping to stretch my muscles, I hobbled down the stairs. Looking left and right, I pondered which way he’d gone. I decided to go right. Alas, two blocks into my journey I realized the beanie was nowhere to be found. I quickly turned around and in doing so, caught my reflection in a parked car’s window. It was 43 degrees but in my rush to retrieve the beanie, I had left the house wearing only a short sleeved nightgown, a pair of black velvet house slippers, and the worst case of bed hair I’d ever had. I looked like I’d escaped from a mental asylum.

Not wanting to dwell on my current state, I tried to focus on the task at hand and continued my search. Ten minutes and two blocks later, I finally found the infamous hat. Holding the wretched article at arms length, I saw a man looking down at me from a second story window. His open mouth and confused stare conveyed what I was thinking. I looked like a lunatic.

Tired and cold, I crawled up the stairs. Stopping midway to catch my breath, I remembered something the Son had said the night before. Discovering I hadn’t yet washed his favorite jeans, he’d commented, “Mom, you never do anything for me.” Entering the house, I threw the beanie on the table and poured myself a cup of coffee.

This time, no call was made to my sister. I already knew what her answer would be. Only a boy who has too much done for him is capable of uttering such words.

What do your children tell you?

XOXO,

Note: This post is not meant to portray the Son as selfish, but instead, to exemplify the silly things children say when they feel secure in their parents’ love.