I’ve been trying to figure out how to process this all. Over the past year I have learned various lessons that remind me to be present during the tough times. Here’s the most recent and benign example. Yesterday, I set out for a 12 mile run. I had been sick the day before because I tried a new energy drink mix after eating all day that did not sit well with my stomach. I texted my running sister and told her I couldn’t make Saturday’s run. We went back and forth and in the end we were going! I was good up until about mile 9, my previous week’s peak. We continued to run and then started encountering a few rolling hills. My legs felt like tree trunks and did not want to lift themselves. My running sister literally had to hold my hand to make me keep up the pace during these times. People were staring and I know I was making the ugliest “I can’t” face ever, but I kept moving. I wanted to accomplish this goal. She believed in me, I had to believe in me. I started thinking I no longer wanted to be a runner. Screw the half marathon coming up in 2 weeks. Then it kicked in, I hadn’t fully understood the notion that running is mental until this moment. When you THINK your body wants to give out the mind truly has to take control and keep you moving. As my sis pointed out…my breathing was fine so I was fine. Honestly, my lungs felt pretty darn good. By mile 10.5/11 I was good again!
Here’s the real point I’m trying to make though. The run might be over now, but this was a huge accomplishment for me that I deserve to relish in and brag about for however long I want. I couldn’t fully recognize its value if I wasn’t present and in tune with myself, all of the emotions, negative self talk, positive self talk, physical pain in various areas of my body that was happening at that moment. Now, I’m home writing this blog, chatting with a friend, and watching a sermon online and I’m fine. In retrospect, yeah, I can do 12 miles again. It’s done, it’s accomplished, and I can rave about it. The adrenaline rush has worn off, but I sit with so many lessons. If I wasn’t present in that moment, I couldn’t fully appreciate having accomplished it. This helps me better understand the Buddhist notion that struggle and joy need each other. Running has become the analogy for so many other things in life for me now. Below are a few examples of how this idea transfers to additional scenarios.
Family: Without seeing my family ill, struggling through the process of not being the one in control, praying for their improvement and just experiencing overall vulnerability and uncertainty, I would not have this deep appreciation for their present recovery and roles they have played and continue to play in my life. Even when we are not facing tough times with family, we need to be present and not take them for granted.
Relationships: I have been single for a while. There are times I relish in this single-hood and times when I wonder when I’ll meet a companion who just feels right. I know the moment is going to come when I’m in a loving relationship and things are “blissful.” Ha! Well, not always. I also realize that these relationships can easily lose their meaning when it just becomes a routine or a given. Being reflective these years, months, days and counting leading up to this point (to come) can help me engage this relationship (to come) with fervor and value the journey.
Work, School, Finance: Right now I am able to live a decent life. Though I may complain about all of the work and wanting more money for vacations, I’m good. I know there will be a day when I am done with school. I know there will be a day when I may have a bit more financial security and control over my work. Again, being present throughout the process helps me recognize my needs in these areas, why I deserve certain wants, and how to use what I have attained for the benefits of others.
I guess the underlying message that I am struggling with putting into words is that once we have what we want it can often lose its zest. If we remember the process it took to get where we want to be, it allows us to enjoy these moments profoundly and continue to strive for increased joy. Sankofa.
I’m almost at 2 and a half years of being natural. It has been quite a journey of figuring out what works for my hair. I think we all go through this process where we are obsessed with trying out a variety of products. Product junkie, anyone? Many women give up on being natural because they can’t seem to find what works for their hair. Or because they expect a product that works one way for another person’s hair to work for their own. Or they are searching for that magical product to make their hair curly when they don’t naturally have S or Z patterned hair. Just like nutrition and exercise, I have learned that we have to be patient and observe how our hair responds to different products and styling processes. Like nutrition and exercise, we may not find any immediate gratification, but staying in it for the long haul pays off. Below are 5 things I learned that DO NOT work for my hair and 5 things that DO work for my hair and why.
DOES NOT WORK:
1. Coconut oil: So many curlies swear by this and I have tried sooooo many times to make it work for my hair. However, because my hair is protein sensitive, coconut oil simply leaves my hair dry and brittle. So…if you are witnessing dry and brittle hair from coconut oil use, it might be a sign of protein sensitivity.
2. Sulfate AND sulfate free shampoos: I have tried so many different shampoos. While transitioning I used Miss Jessie’s cleansing shampoo that was sulfate free. It seemed fine then, but then I checked the rest of the ingredients and there was too much going on. I’ve also tried Giovanni’s, Wen, Curl Junkie’s Cleansing Conditioner (which my hair loved, but I was allergic to), and Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa. Either I was allergic to these or they were just too drying. See Number 3 on my does work list for my solution.
4. Aloe vera juice solo: Sadly, I’m allergic! My hair loves this stuff though. Aloe vera juice is a great hair moisturizer and leaves the hair soft.
5. Glycerin at the wrong dew points and temperatures: One of my faaaaave products is Curl Junkie’s Smoothing Lotion. However, because of the glycerin I do not always get the same results. During the winter when it is cold outside and the Dew Points are below 40 my hair is rough and brittle after it dries. During the summer it does pretty well, it will swell up and get frizzy because the dew points are higher. However, it stays soft and I like big hair anyways. During the Spring and Fall when dew points are bet. 40-60 degrees, you can’t tell me nothing!
1. Olive oil and grapeseed oil: To die for! Grapeseed oil gives me great shine and just refreshes my dull hair.
2. Shea butter: THIS WAS MY LIFE SAVER. Throughout the beginning of my journey I used to seal with oils and my hair would become dry a lot quicker. Because my hair loses moisture fast (high porosity) I need a thick sealant. I also tried various brands of shea butter. I tried the SheaMoisture line too, which a lot of curlies swear by. It wasn’t doing it for me either! Not all shea butters work the same and you definitely want unrefined. So…after my leave in conditioner (Oyin Hair Dew or Curl Junking Smoothing Lotion depending on the season) I slap on my shea butter mixture, twist this bad boy up, and I have moisturized soft hair for days. I like to put olive oil, grapeseed oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil and Vitamin E in my shea butter mix.
3. Bentonite Clay: THIS IS THE ONLY WAY I CLEANSE MY HAIR. Thanks to a couple of great friends, I decided to give Bentonite Clay a chance. It’s a good thing I did. This was the FIRST time I ever cleansed my hair and it felt soft, moisturized, conditioned, detangled, manageable, and I had poppin curls. Need I say more? This is the shit! So…I mix a whole lot of bentonite clay with Apple Cider Vinegar (great for maintaining the ph of the hair and clarifying) and olive oil in a plastic bowl and with a plastic spoon. Don’t use a metal spoon as it affects its potency. It should look like pancake batter or a bit more liquidy. I like to spray my hair with water so that it’s damp, I find it helps with detangling. Some people just apply it while dry. I do it in about 6 sections, 3 on each side and twist each section after. i wear a plastic cap for about 15 minutes to retain moisture. I hop in the shower, rinse it out, and i’m set. i could end there, but I often condition with Yes to Carrots (my holy grail from day 1) to make sure it’s all out and add extra moisture. SOMETIMES, I’ll also use the CJ banana and hibiscus deep conditioner.
4. Products with aloe vera juice as a top ingredient: While I may be allergic to aloe very juice on its own, this isn’t the case with products with aloe very juice. My hair pretty much requires it in order to stay soft, supple, and moisturized. My products of choice are: Oyin Hair Dew, Curl Junkie Smoothing Lotion, and Kinky Curly Knot Today.
5. henna: So I’ve done henna twice now. I’ll refer you to curlynikki.com for her regimen on hennaing. I use Henna Maiden’s Henna and Indigo mix to maintain a black color. Though drying at first, I do notice an intensified curl pattern and a bit more shine. Most importantly, it’s the best way for me to strengthen my hair as various protein treatments have taken me weeks to undo the dry and brittle feeling. So for strength I like henna or light protein treatments like Curl Junkie’s Repair Me.
There you have it peeps. The “products” I have found that work for my hair. If you really notice, they are all pretty natural and simple. Once I learned to simplify my routine, my hair became healthier and grew longer. I don’t have much urge to try new products now. My holy grails are also cheap and last a while. Hopefully this gave you some clues as to what might work for your hair. The cool part is that it may come either from my Does or Does not work list or neither at all. That’s because everyone’s hair is different! Celebrate it!
So I would say I’ve been more consistently running for the past 1.5 months. I know I know, that hasn’t been that long, but I can feel it…I’m a runner! Every year, I start running and I say “I want to be a runner,” but then I slack off. I’ve struggled with this because I found that when it came to certain things in my life, i.e. fitness, chores, I’m never consistent. That has all changed now and I can officially say, “I’m a runner!” I’ve learned so much about myself in this 1.5 months of running and it’s changed me in some serious ways. Below are 5 ways running has changed my life.
1. My skin is clearing up. I know this is a bit on the superficial side y’all, but it’s serious for me. I’ve been battling adult acne for a while. About 3 months ago I went to a dermatologist and we went through a few rounds of topical medications. One minute I thought it was helping, the next it wasn’t, and so on. I kept getting these cystic pimples. Anywho, I completely eliminated gluten from my diet and that helped a lot. Then I started running. Right around my period I did not get those cystic pimples and my pore size may even be decreasing. I think it’s because the sweating is really purging whatever bacteria’s been sitting up in there, the natural way. I also truly think it’s because of my increased water intake as well, which brings me to number 2.
2. improved nutrition, just because…I remember seeing a post somewhere that said “Athletes Eat and Train, They Don’t Diet and Exercise.” This is so true. I’ve been on a journey towards better nutrition for the last 2-3 years. I started listening to my body and learning about various intolerances. I was so sluggish so something had to change. Once I began consistently training for this half marathon I noticed that my food choices became even more lax and all I had to do was listen to my body. If I wanted a bowl full of gluten free pad thai, I could eat it. I trusted that my body needed this for fuel and haven’t felt crappy after. A lot of foods don’t even appeal to me anymore. i.e. gluten or fried chicken, well, maybe sometimes…The thing about it is I know how certain foods will make me feel sluggish when running so I don’t even want it. The BIGGEST thing is I’m forced to hydrate more so I’m hoping I’m finally getting a sufficient daily water intake.
3. My mental and spiritual strength is going through the roof! Haha, maybe I’m exaggerating, but so much is happening with my mind and soul. I’ve been on this journey, really reflecting, getting to know myself, and what God seeks to manifest through me. Running has seriously taken this to the next level. Over the past year God has truly been showing me my strength. Running is now the icing on the cake. I realize that all of those other years when I tried to become a runner, I just wasn’t ready yet. Another quote I saw somewhere, “your body will only go as far as your mind.” It’s so true. After every milestone I make as a runner, I have renewed faith that my body can go even further. Whereas before, I thought of 3 miles, 6 miles, and 13.1 miles as impossible. I looked around at other runners and thought I could never run like them. Well, yeah, I can never run like them and I’m ok with that. I can only run like me. I now understand “my race, my pace” and I’m ok with that. It actually gets me through those runs when I think I can’t go any further. Seeing how much I can push myself in running has translated into other areas in my life. i.e. the fact that I always dread cleaning. Well, I still do, but I’m a bit more motivated to get it done now. Mentally, I no longer think it will take forever. I just have to start and know that I will FINISH. It’s the same with running. Now if only I can apply that to grading papers and writing this here dissertation.
4. A renewed sense of community. I’ve been feeling a communal void for a few years now. I’ve felt like I lack a sense of truly belonging to any particular community. I’ve known that I need to take steps to become deeply invested in a meaningful community, (outside of the broader education world) and I’m working on it. When I consistently started running though I felt like the community found me or rather I more naturally let my guard down and found the running community. Thank God for Black Girls Run. While I’m not even super active, (working on that), their mere existence has given me a sense of belonging. How people refer to each other as “sis” or “sole sister” is truly endearing. The fact that every running level is embraced and supported, is a beautiful thing. There’s also the broader running community. Moments when I speak with colleagues about running or random people on the train. And let’s not forget the cyber running the community. Thank you for giving me a sense of belonging!
5. Freedom! This is a biggie for me. It makes me think back to a virtual dialogue I had with one of my mentors a couple of weeks back (I don’t think she knows I consider her a mentor), but she framed it quite simply. She prioritizes running for her health and to keep her sane. I’ve really been shifting my perspective over the past year and this truly resonates. When I go out to run I allow myself to spend as much time as it takes and schedule everything around this. I know it’s a privilege, but why shouldn’t I have it for ME. As a Black woman, I’ve been programmed to have this superwoman syndrome, and anything that focuses on my betterment is seen as selfish. Well, I’m over that. I only have one life to live and I’m putting me first…I know my efforts come from a good place. I love my parents and am deeply invested in education. I have nothing to prove to anyone else. Overall, this aligns with the way I approach life more and more. I’m ok with saying “no” when it doesn’t seem right. True friends/colleagues/fam will understand. Running allows me to focus on me. It reminds me that I’m ok being single because there are so many things I can do to invest in myself and when the right partner comes along I’ll be ready to bring MYSELF. Lastly, running has pushed me to take (even) more risks. I’ve done and accomplished a lot in my short time on earth, but I want to do so much more. I found myself in a rut for a while where I was waiting for life to happen, but all I have is now. So I’m getting out there and doing what intrigues me. That means, I’m going on a runcation in Jamaica in December by myself! No, I did not wait for other people to confirm that they can join me. I’m all booked and ready to go! Because I can! I’m counting my blessings!