Music Mondays: Beyoncé

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Beyoncé released a new album on Friday at midnight. If you aren’t a fan or a music junkie or live under a rock, you probably missed this momentous event. People – both celebrities and normal folk alike – took to social media to express their shock and awe. The internet was all abuzz with a diversity of reactions. Most of the commentary was fun and funny to watch and read. Others were much more thought provoking a la this post over at the Crunk Feminist Collective and this video by the Queen of Nerdland, Melissa Harris Perry, where she hails this visual album as Beyoncé’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’. My favorite track is ***Flawless, which features the words of Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her Ted Talk entitled, “The Danger of a Single Story“. It has me bobbing my head, shaking my hips, puffing out my chest and singing at the top of my lungs, “I WOKE UP LIKE DIS!” As a womanist with feminist leanings, this song speaks to my soul.

I have been listening to the album non-stop since Friday. It was released as a visual album, meaning that she recorded a video for every song. I recommend watching the videos as you listen to the songs to get the best experience and to understand the context.

All the commentary and pop culture hoopla aside, I was particularly excited about this album because I am in the midst of the hardest season of the year. I have written about my struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder and am valiantly trying to be positive and proactive during this time of year. It’s hard. I am facing my third Christmas a divorcée. I thought it would get easier, but its not. I travel all the time. I am a long distance away from my family. And I’m sad.

So as I woke up on Friday and reached for my phone, I couldn’t wait to download, listen to and watch this album. It’s hard for me to get out of bed. Like really hard. I jokingly posted as my Facebook status the following:

“Only Beyoncé can get me out of bed excited. Well, and God. But seriously God is using Beyoncé today. #FLAWLESS #thatisall”

I was only partially joking. I believe that music can be therapeutic and I believe that God uses various mediums to remind us of God’s never-ending love and encouragement. So in this instance, God used Beyoncé to encourage me and remind me of the power of love.

The album is all about love – love of self, love of others, love of home, love of life.

It’s all about love – eros, agape, philia and storge.

It’s all about love – confident and mature love.

It’s all about love, which I am desperately seeking…

I’ve struggled with loving myself. I feel like I am on an ongoing journey of practicing patience and grace towards myself. I really want to grow in love of myself because  I believe that I can only truly love others and experience love in relationship if I love myself. This album has me thinking more about what it means to not only love me, but to happy with me.

The last line of the opening track, Pretty Hurts, ask the question – are you happy with yourself? I feel like the rest of the album goes on to answer this question and it seems that Beyonce is happy – not fleetingly, surface level happy – but truly happy. And I want to experience that. I want to be happy too.

I’m inspired and for that I’m grateful. This album is going to get me through the next few days until I am home and can revel in the love of family and friends. It will get me through this season of being alone. It will get me through the sadness.

Thanks Beyoncé. Your music and vision give me life.

Love,

Me

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Just Be – A Reflection on Yoga and Advent

JustBeEnough-Three-Words-2013I am a person of Christian faith, which I have written about here. This time of year is my favorite time of year because, for Western Christians, it begins the church season of Advent. We follow a church calendar, also known as a liturgical calendar, that marks the seasons of our life of faith. Advent kicks off this calendar and it is marked by a season of waiting – of waiting for the revelation of all that is good, holy, just, and compassionate in the person of Jesus Christ. This time is about waiting for the embodiment of peace. This is my belief and as such, I look forward to this pre-Christmas time because it forces me to slow down, to reflect and to be watchful. The watching and waiting take on different forms each year. I was looking back over posts that I wrote this time last year, and I realized how much can change in a year.

As this Advent begins, I find myself in a place of new beginnings. I recently began the process to become a certified yoga instructor and that began with me making a commitment of how I would engage this journey over the next year. After reflecting on my thoughts, I realized how appropriate it was that I was starting this profoundly spiritual journey at the same time that my faith journey enters into a season of just being. I am sincerely grateful for Divine Power Yoga for giving me the opportunity to begin this journey and I wanted to share my commitment with you.

Be present. Be mindful. Be gracious.

I commit to taking a journey wholeheartedly. I will be vulnerable. I will take risks. I will be patient with myself. I will honor the Divine within me and nurture her continuously.

I commit to growing in knowledge of yoga. I commit to seeking out information and reflecting on is meaning for my life so that I may help others do the same. I intend to be fully present in this learning process – approaching each step with curiosity rather than judgement. I commit to study.

I commit to attending to the matters of my spirit through the daily practice of meditation, prayer and journaling. I commit to make space for my thoughts and feelings and to situate myself in a posture of reception – being mindful, not clinging to thoughts and feelings that are life taking, but fully accepting the good, the positive and the life-giving.

I commit to reclaiming my body as a holy dwelling place, paying attention to the messages it sends me. I commit to takin in food that nourishes and provides energy. I commit to ongoing exercise and practice that strengthens my body and connects me to the fullness that God created. I commit to be gracious to myself as I embark on this journey, keeping in mind that it’s not about perfection and progress, but it is about practice and process.

It’s not about perfection and progress, but it is about practice and process.

This is true for my faith walk as well. 

How are you being called to just be?

Be present. Be mindful. Be gracious.

 

It’s not looking like Christmas…

I drove home in a fog tonight – literally. I left church and drove home through a fog so thick that I missed a turn and ended up on the other side of my neighborhood. It probably didn’t help that I was crying as well as driving through this fog. Today sucked and I hate that it did because I feel like I’ve been doing so well. That’s probably my problem – thinking that a few weeks of positive thinking somehow cures me of the reality that is my depression. I know better but it hit me hard tonight.

I spent the day by myself, trying to tell myself that all was ok. I was aware of my feelings – missing my family and wishing I was home. But being alone during the holidays triggered other thoughts. I sat with the fact that I am now divorced. No more extended family and friends Christmas parties. No more trading off the holidays, deciding which family we would be with for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

I spent the day watching movies and hanging out online, trying valiantly to get in the Christmas spirit. Seriously, thank God for social media. It helped me not feel so alone. I don’t know what I’d do without the virtual connection to my friends and family. I was determined to go to church tonight instead of burrowing under my covers and I am glad that I went. But as everyone bundled up to head home the feelings of loneliness and isolation overwhelmed me. I was going home to nothing, to no one. And I hate that it bothers me so much.

Christmas used to be my favorite time of year. Family, faith, fun and all sorts of traditions were a part of my reality. The past few years, Christmas has been the loneliest time of the year for me and I feel so bad that I seem to be overly focused on the negative. My brother tried to talk me out of my head tonight, but it didn’t work. Just for tonight, I feel sorry for myself. I mourn the loss of a life that I thought I had.

The thought that’s been recurring in my mind has been that I want to go home. All of my life, I’ve been running from home, wanting to put as much space between me and my family as humanly possible. But I can’t do this thing called life without them. When I try, it’s a much more difficult journey, one that is littered with periods of darkness and loneliness and sadness. I think it may be time for me to go home…

I know that this day is really about Jesus and I thank God that he saw fit to come be with us. Lord knows if I ever needed Emmanuel, it is right now…. I’m sorry to be so depressing on this Christmas Eve, but alas, I am depressed. To anyone out there struggling tonight, tomorrow, over the next few weeks, everyday, etc…, please know that you are not alone. Even as the tears fall from my eyes on this evening, I know that I am not the only one who is struggling.

It may not be a merry Christmas, but I pray for peace, comfort, healing and hope for us all…

Love,

Me

Why am I so SAD?

This time of year is always difficult for me. I don’t think I paid much attention to it before the Great Fall of 2001. I love the holiday season – Thanksgiving and Christmas – because I get to spend time with family and friends. I love the smells. I love the food. I love the meaning of the Christmas season. But I hate the cold. I hate the short days. I hate the dark. I am the person who wishes that we could do Christmas in July every year. So you might say that I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.

I start noticing my demeanor shifting after Labor Day. When it starts getting cooler, I spend more time deciding what I am going to wear. It takes me longer to get out of bed. I go into work later. I’ve even been known to call in sick just because I can’t stand the thought of leaving my house. I now know that a major part of my depressive reality is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

When I was talking to a friend who is a mental health advocate and all around know-it-all when it comes to these issues, she said that many people use the SAD label who don’t necessarily suffer from the disorder. It has been found that those most prone to SAD are those who already have mental health issues, especially those with depression. I’m realizing that I have to be more vigilant during this time of year. I have to pay attention to the signs and be proactive in caring for myself.

It’s hard though. I feel like sadness lurks just beneath the surface and there really isn’t any rhyme or reason. I want to cry all the time. I am more aware of my emotions and feeling like I’m alone – even though I logically know I have an amazing support network. My tendency is to hibernate and re-emerge when Spring comes. Except, it’s impossible to live one’s life only two seasons of the year and take off the other two. So I am on the journey of figuring out how to live with my reality without feeling ashamed or guilty. My plan for today is to put one foot in front of the other, to focus on the things I have control over and to let go of those things that I cannot control. Just for today…

Love,

Me