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,

When does the suffering stop?

Writing #2

Time flies.
Ah, my favorite idiom. And quite accurate considering it seems like only yesterday I was sun worshiping on a beach in Spain.

Today is a different story.
I’m knee deep in paper–all the way from toilet paper destined to be stocked, to receipts that date as far back as the Bush administration.

You’d think it would be easier to toss everything in a Hefty bag and be done with it (something I seriously considered when the pile grew so much, I thought I’d have to name it).

But I’m glad I didn’t. If I had, I would not have come across a little folder titled, “The Son’s Poetry.” Not very eloquent on the outside, I agree, yet what lay inside brought tears to my eyes.

Though truth be told, I think most mothers will agree there’s not much a child can do, create, or perform that won’t bring us to tears. But I digress.

On this occasion, I chanced upon a series of poems written by the Son for one of his high school English classes. One of them, not only left me bawling, but also perfectly captured my sadness after the recent tragedy in Paris.

This piece raises the rhetorical question of when does it end?
When does the slaying of innocent lives stop? When can we stop blaming the thirst for power for our suffering? When do mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and children stop grieving for the loss of a loved one who has died at the hands of murderers?

I’m afraid that like most rhetorical questions, these do not have a definitive reply.

We will continue to seek answers until we realize world peace can never be achieved while there are those willing to kill to obtain power.

Yet in spite of this gloomy outlook, the idealist in me believes there is strength in unity; that together, we have what it takes to spread love. We can start in our homes, with our spouses, our children, our neighbors, our colleagues.

Kindness, respect, and compassion will reign, but only if they are present in our lives.

That said, I want to share the Son’s poem with you. May it incite you to reflect, not only on the recent tragedies, but also on why devastating circumstances such as these are still a reality.

The tragic loss of it all

We sit on the couch my mother and I
Enveloped by warmth we deeply sigh
The TV blaring we both scream out why
The pain, the torment, just makes us cry

Out in the Congo, people are dying
killed by the rebels it’s not a lie
Women and children everyone dying
The pain, the torment, just makes us cry

And in another corner of the planet
A father and neighbor senselessly die
A ten year old boy shamelessly planned it
The pain, the torment, just makes us cry

The waves of terror rise but never fall
The killing the torture at a mighty high
They fight for their lives, the old and the small
The pain, the torment, just makes us cry

And much as they try to put up a fight
The battle will never result in a tie
Victims keep dying night after night
The pain, the torment just makes us cry

Pastors and peacekeepers try to advise
Preach and bring peace as bullets fly by
Deep seeded faith is our only device
The pain, the torment just makes us cry

XOXO,

Note: The Son has allowed me to publish this piece and it has not been modified in any way. It is just as I found it.