I Switched to Natural Deodorant!

Bold, right? I thought the same thing.

Since the beginning of the year, I promised myself to make a transition towards products and brands that don’t just decorate me but nourish me, while reducing my output. This month, I began shifting towards a natural deodorant that wasn’t an antiperspirant. I did all my homework. I read article after article about detoxing pits, the best natural brands, and the overall physical changes that came with natural deodorants. I wanted to wear something that worked but also had ingredients I could pronounce. Finally, I settled on a brand and happily coughed up my $11 to my local Walgreens clerk.

The first couple of hours of my new adventure, I didn’t feel any different. I smelled delightful but no difference. About noonish, I felt it. SWEAT. Instantly, I was ashamed. I didn’t care to test my new lifestyle while I was out, let alone at work. So, I did what any sane person would do. I rushed to the bathroom, and used my lovely antiperspirant. My safety blanket. During my article skimming, I knew there would be sweating. One woman wrote how she had to get used to the wetness for a few weeks. (Her words, not mine.) I also read about how antiperspirant works. I hate to say it, but I was so conditioned to use antiperspirant, I never stopped to think about what it actually was or what it did to my body. When you’ve been trained to use something since you were a child, you hardly think about it. I put on the thing that doesn’t make me sweat. I put on the thing that keeps my body from doing what it naturally should do.

Deodorant advertisements are working. They have you believing that something is wrong with how your body works, instead of gearing a product towards how your body reacts to the environment. Guilt contributed to my antiperspirant sales, not necessity. I don’t know about you, but when I’m scrubbing away my 48 hour chemical-laced antiperspirant, there’s no shame. There’s just gunk from a lot of chemicals that probably shouldn’t be lasting 48 hours anywhere on my body. Ultimately, I was ashamed of what came natural to my body but not what was left behind from what hinders it. That thinking seems a bit backwards.

I could go on, but I think you get the gist. My point here is this: Don’t beat yourself up for something that comes natural to you. That gunk you may find yourself scrubbing off, will need to be addressed eventually. Most importantly, don’t keep flowering yourself with things that don’t help you grow.

My Bumblebee Being

My greatest woe was that I would let You down. That I would have rejected the person I was supposed to be so much that I became ordinary. Then, I quit the one thing I thought was sure to make me extraordinary. I left seminary and the hopes of a PhD. None of that makes any sense to me right now, but it feels so good. I don’t know much about anything like why birds sing at dawn, why the world wakes up right before the Sun, or how this world can continue to exist as it is. But, I do think I know one thing. We, if we choose, can be bumblebees.

Bees do not have to think about going from flower to flower, they just do it. They are who they are. In their creation, they know innately how to be and that’s what moves them from flower to flower. I am a bee. In my spirit, I know exactly how to be. It is in that being that everything else flows from. The beauty of being is that I never had to work at being extraordinary. Being who I am, what is innately natural to my spirit, that is what makes me extraordinary. No degree can do that. No church title can do that. No position can do that.

Metamorphosis III

July 21, 2019

They lied to me. They said I would sprout and I would be aware of it. That didn’t happen. I felt a coldness under my shoulder blade. I felt a scratch from the inside out that I couldn’t reach, and I knew: It was time to fly. I did everything that came to mind consciously, continuously, and passionately. Every little detail I held dearly. Every decision I made rested well into my soul. Night after night I tossed and turned. Flying should never be this restless. It was worse than restlessness. It was falling knowing you were able to keep yourself up. It was Icarus. What is wrong? What is wrong? I asked myself. And what poured out were dreams deferred. Dreams that I had buried and held wonderful ceremonies for. With every decision being made firmly and no new whims, I was able to refocus on the reasons I began my shift in the first place. I recollected all the reasons why I wanted to be where I was at, and I remembered the goodness of those dreams. How me then thought that I wouldn’t get to where I’m at now, but knew I had to get there. I’m here now, and it was hard, but it was worth it. I’m doing internal and external work—spiritual and supernatural work—to be made whole in the image God has promised me. With each resurface of a dream, I cry. I cry for stagnation, frustration, uncertainty, unplanned resets, and children I wish I had. I wail for children I wish I were prepared for. Then I rest, and the scratching in my back has left. Wings don’t grow at the same length. They’re like wisdom teeth. One finally broke the skin, and I am able to get off the ground, but not for very long, and it cannot carry me. So, now I wait. I wait to see under what circumstances and when the other will break the skin. But they lied, they said I’d know my wings when I got them. I won’t, and you won’t either. I can’t be sure, but I do believe that no one’s wings grow in symmetrically perfect and full and lush. It takes determination and faith for them to sprout, and honesty and consistency to water them.

Tell me Papa, tell me that it’s not wings.

Someone recently told me that I am one of few people she knows who she believes thinks things thoroughly through. Because she associates that with a connection with the Spirit. The Spirit of God that pulls these wings out of me. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever told me. She may not know it, but her wings are growing in quite nicely too.

We don’t know it because we don’t remember, but we are angels entertaining one another. We are magically divine because the Source of the Spirit that we come from is the most of all magically divine creatures to exist. The Spirit without creation, without birth, birthed us into forgetfulness to encourage one another to believe that we are all divine.

My, Sundays are always whimsical.

“Would you still love me if I wasn’t a surgeon?”

I’m rewatching Grey’s Anatomy, and that is the question that has surfaced out of two different surgeons. Derek Shepherd asked Meredith after he botched a brain surgery that killed a new mother. Cristina Yang asked Owen after she repaired Derek’s heart when he was shot. Both asked after periods of trauma if it would be okay to be someone other than who they are.

My stint in seminary seems to only get longer. The papers are growing more in length and depth, but I cannot bring any motivation to care. The beginning of this semester has brought discomfort. I want so badly to say trauma, but I won’t. My mom has cancer. Her cancer has been out of remission until this year. I spent the weekend before school began in the hospital with her. She was getting her second surgery of the year. I could kill her doctor because when he came out, he said, “What we removed wasn’t malignant.” We’re just slicing folks up for fun these days, I guess. Weeks later, my mom told me that her cancer is in her voice box. I can’t imagine a world without my mom. I especially cannot imagine a world without her and her laugh.

The beginning of the semester was about mourning. It was about me processing this level of grief and comprehending my mom’s desire for treatment, which is not to have anymore surgery. I can’t do anything but respect that, so I grieve very privately while still finding the willpower to go to work and do homework and practice yoga.

Now, I’m at the end of the semester, and I am asking, “Would you still love me if I didn’t go to school? Would you still love me if I didn’t teach? Would you still love me if I took a break from becoming who I am supposed to be?” I’ve tried having this conversation with my therapist and close friends, but honestly, I’m not desiring their opinion. I’m desiring God’s.

Even in my grief and growth, I feel a drop of disappointment within my spirit. That drop is rippling out into frustration, which has led me to where I am now. Will the paper I’m writing about matter in three weeks? Three months? Three years? Is this academia for academia’s sake? Because if it is, I cannot exist like this any longer. So, I’m asking God, but I’m also asking me: “Would you still love me if I didn’t teach?”

Metamorphosis Part I

June 9, 2019

With every admission of guilt, fear, or regret a new seedling finds itself blooming inside my chest. I can feel them sway and hit the inside of my rib cage, begging to be let out through my back. But what they tell me, and what I know, is that they are not the little green seedlings of new plant life but baby feathers. They are accompanied with many mature ones that live inside my chest cavity. I feel them balled up and waiting to explode out of my back so that one day I may be able to fly. All of this energy that is stored up, all of the goodness, all of the praise, and all of the recognition, all of the talks with the Mystery that has no name has created a release of growth inside my chest. I cross the threshold now, of this world and the next, hoping and begging for God to cut my back open so that they may have the room they need to grow, and I might have the tool to fly. I wait as all of the Spirit welcomes me in my home and greets me into time with the Mystery.

“Tell me I’m lying. Tell me that everything I feel is wrong. Tell me we aren’t the angels entertaining one another. Tell me that it is not us circling your head marveling at every glimpse of You that is revealed. Please, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that I can’t fly. Tell me that they aren’t wings. Tell me that this energy coursing through my veins can be released under my control. Tell me that when it does explode, everything else around me will still be intact. Tell me that I am wrong.”

Silence. Overwhelming silence and that surge of power of the Spirit that cannot be explained. It is like wrapping your arms around a lover—being both familial and erotic without ever being sexual. It is a feeling that is pure and raw and forever guarded and untouched.

“Tell me it is not God I embrace. Tell me it is not You that I will one day see. Tell me I haven’t crossed over. Tell me that it is impossible to live the way I live in here out there where they cannot see.”

“Because I feel You hovering over my day. I feel You always. It is Genesis every single day. I don’t care if You’re God the Mother or God the Father. You are this intangible existence that I lay no claim to. You are what You are, and You are perfect. You are what is and what was and what is to come, and I lay no claim to You now or otherwise.”

“You are an experience I am never ready for, and I am terrified to even ask. But, I want to experience more than holes in my hands. I want to experience the explosion being stored in my body and the curls of feathers tempted to rupture my chest. I want to be let out. I want to fly.”

“I’d carve my chest open and the only things they’d see are a heart and lungs and possibly a loose kidney. They wouldn’t see it, and they’d think of me crazy for believing it. So, tell me, God. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this fire is wrong and the energy pounding in my chest is nonexistent. Tell me You’re tame. Tell me I’m all crazy for being equal parts excited to live and to die…just to see if I was right. Tell me You fit perfectly in the Holy book I pedaled around. Tell me that You’re neat and exactly as they see You.”

“Why would you, though? I still wouldn’t believe You. There is more than what we can see. There is more than what we believe. There is more than what I was prepared to give credit to. But, in order to know there is more, I must believe I am more too. So, I’m starting there. I won’t order, but I will ask. God the God that is, will You teach me how to fly?”

Friday’s Thoughts

My mom has one way, or another gotten me to bend to her will. And in one way or another, I don’t think I really wanted what it was I thought I wanted. Regardless of how I feel about my relationship with my mother in our tough years, there is something innately positive that she knows. She knows me better than I know myself. I’m starting to believe that the knowledge she has is what makes for a great mother.

Recently, I clued her into the woes of my (non-existent) dating life. I introduced her to my online dating profile. I showed her how it worked. She asked, “What are you looking for in a man?” I said generic things: kindness, a sense of humor, independent, someone I didn’t have to raise. You know, the bare minimum. My mom has a superpower of being able to look at a picture of someone and completely nail down who they are right then as a person. It’s magical. It’s divine, and honestly, it’s one of the most celestial, spiritual practices I have ever seen. I scrolled through photos and one by one she said yay or nay. It was interesting inviting her into that part of my hope of dating. She chose people I wouldn’t and with each yes, said “Oh, he’s kind. He looks goofy.” She was looking for someone who could know me, protect me, but mostly, someone who would honor me. The joy of motherhood, I believe, is knowing the worth of your children and helping them meet that worth in every aspect of their lives. Sometimes, they can’t see why their moms demand more of them, but those mamas, they have a secret that those kiddos, particularly, those daughters, aren’t hip to yet.

My mom swiped right on a man named V. V has sat in my inbox for months on unread. Mainly because we were only an 82 or 83 percent match. It was either 90 percent or higher for me. I didn’t even read his profile until my mom decided he looked like a good one. My interest was piqued once I actually started reading his profile. He could read and write the English language. For the most part, he knew when to use a comma. He was passionate, knowledgeable about current political events, an avid reader, and a nature goer. Of course, I liked his words. My mom, though, liked his eyes. So, I swiped right and we began a conversation, which led to texting, which led to a Q + A phone call, which led to an awkward FaceTime encounter. But, I stuck it out.

V is honest. He told me a great deal about himself. He did mansplain a dog gate to me, though. I figure men gotta do it in at least one conversation. That annoyance, I gave to him for free. He has a dog. He did something that I’ll see if it holds any weight later. He asked me if I had been to the Georgia Aquarium. I’ve been many times. He was so excited and said that should be our first date.

I laughed, “Sure.”

He said, “What are you doing Sunday?”

I hesitated. Was he for real? All the excuses roaming through my head never came out my mouth. “Nothing. I’m not doing anything.”

“Great, we can go on Sunday and grab a bite to eat before or after. It doesn’t matter.” We talked about how he could purchase tickets. That was that.

Now, it’s Friday, so I’ll see if that talk has any legs. But at the end of the conversation he said, “I like you. You’re sweet, kind, beautiful, smart.” Things I know. For once, my head didn’t grow. I remember what my mom said: “It’s not hard for anyone to see you and fall in love with you. All these people aren’t worth your time, though, so don’t give it to them.”

For a moment after the phone call, I was discouraged. Is this what my life has amounted to? Letting my mother make my decisions for me? I ran through everything. I went to college because my mom said I would either go to school or move out. I wasn’t ready to move out, so I chose a community college four hours away out of spite. I chose my transfer school because a friend went there and had so many wonderful things to say about the school and the community. I majored in English, not solely because of Dr. Perkins, my favorite English professor, but because English opened a world that I only experienced individually. When I joined this community of English lovers, I discovered that they created space to experience many literary worlds. I was apart of something in a community. Sadly, after undergrad, I spent a great deal of time regretting never majoring in Psychology. With those regrets, I transitioned into my first “real adult job.” Nepotism, and only nepotism, was the reason I got this job. I had a terrible attitude and it was no secret, yet I couldn’t be fired. Fast forward a lot to my house. My mom said no. My house in her eyes was a hard no. She said it needed too much work. It took her a while, six months or more, to finally see in it what I saw. Aisha: 1, Mom: 15. At least I had one.

The job I work now, I saw and decided for myself that there was no way they would hire me. One of my mom’s biggest sayings is, “Apply. Let them tell you no.” That way, I couldn’t say that I didn’t get it because I didn’t apply. I did my part by putting myself out there. My current position has allowed me to grow into a version of myself that is truer and more whole than when I began the year. I love this job so much that I dread someday outgrowing it. In this situation, my mom saw what I couldn’t.

So, should I feel some kind of way that my life has been led by suggestion or recommendation? Absolutely not. In some respect, I think a great majority of people live their lives like that. I’m sitting in my room, watching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and I’m a little less worried about my future than I was before. I can’t see all that my future holds, but I’m almost certain my mom can, and if she can then that means that other people can too. Life takes more patience than I was born with, but I am learning.

My pre-seminary theology was God had a plan. No matter what happened, God had a plan and every ebb and flow, heartache and brokenness was a part of that plan. I no longer ascribe to that theology. It does not factor in the suffering and evil of the world. It does not factor in the sudden traumas and unnecessary violence of the world.  I’ll be damned before I think of my suffering or anyone else’s as a divine plan of betterment. Now, how do I fit in the divine knowledge of  black mamas everywhere? Not sure. Maybe, it’s the hope for their children that helps them see things a bit clearer than their children can. Hope is a theology I can ascribe to. Things may not always look how I want them to look, but I can and will believe they can look better.

Remember Why You Began

I think it’s appropriate that it’s almost been a year since I’ve made a post on here. I stopped for so many reasons. I was transitioning out of a bad situation into a good one. I was nervous about life. I didn’t think what I had to say mattered too much anymore. I felt weird about where I was in life and who I knew, that I removed myself from anything that provided any amount of comfort. I removed myself from my daily reminder that the little things matter.

So, let me give some updates, in bullet point fashion.

  • Last August I started attending seminary, and incidentally, stopped going to church. Seminary has been a collection of experiences, some of which remind me how celestial we truly are, while others scream, “We are dangerously human!” The fragile state of human existence is rather beautiful, intricate, and complicated.
  • This year I started working steadily in a courthouse. It’s humbling and high-stress work, but I’d be lying if  I said I hate it. It brings me some odd satisfaction.
  • I started going to therapy in December. I’m sure I’ll write so many more posts about how therapy is a sacred space, and everyone should have a therapist. Right now, I will say that it is amazing what I can do when I feel understood.
  • I was honest about my job hopping, but I’m not sure if I was honest about my home. Last year, I almost lost my home to foreclosure. I’m absolutely grateful I didn’t. To be very honest, I’m not sure how it is possible that I’m still in my home. In the twelve months, I think I made four or five payments. Any other time, I would’ve said God wanted me to have my house. However, since beginning seminary, I’ve learned that it’s important what I’m saying and what I’m not saying. If I said God wanted me to have my home, then what am I saying to those who have lost their homes? Working in a court system, I meet hundreds of people who have been evicted due to nonpayment, and it’s humbling every time. Never would I stand before them and say, “Well, God just wanted you out.” I’ve learned not to speak for God. I’ve learned that there are no tiny graces. I hurt for those people who have lost their homes. I mourn for them picking up the broken pieces. I don’t have the words for what I feel, but I am grateful that I was able to stay in my house.
  • I stopped going to my heavily Pentecostal non-denominational church (that I love and miss) and floated around in my seminary education. Sometime in November I read about Pauli Murray. In the book, All Out of Faith, I read her essay “Full Circle.” I still am unable to describe what it is I felt after reading. The closest thing that comes to mind is overwhelmed. I took in a glimpse of her story and fell in love with her, with God, with how our lives unapologetically come full circle into reconciliation. That reconciliation with ourselves, our families, and our current societal positions looks so different than what we could have ever expected. Rev. Murray was the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. Her story inspired me to visit an Episcopal church. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know the hymns, when to stand or kneel, but I did know the Nicene Creed (courtesy of my Church History professor), and I knew how to receive communion. There was something completely different about communion at that church than anywhere else. The experience was golden. It was fulfilling. There is something passionately intimate about being in silence, kneeling at the altar, and receiving the blood and the body of Christ. It was holy.

There’s so much more I could list, but that would take the fun out of all future posts.

Over the course of a month or so, I received notifications that multiple someones had liked a post from over a year ago. I would read what they liked, and remembered how I believed. How and who I believed God to be a year ago is drastically different from where I am now.  I began this blog because I wanted to further the idea that we are so much more than what we believe ourselves to be. We are magical and celestial and greatly heard. Since those notifications started popping up, those are things that I felt like the Spirit is trying to remind me of. All week, I have heard a whisper, “Remember why you began, Aisha. Remember why you began.” Those notifications and the feeling of freedom I have typing this is why I began. I believed this to be a space of transparency and freedom for myself and for others. So, I am beginning again on the same blog (instead of cutting and running like I would’ve before) and hoping that my life encourages someone else’s.

Be More Like Jesus

I have a notecard with four quotes pinned on my Jesus board. It’s one of the few cards on it that deal directly with Jesus‘ character.

Matthew 3:17: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

How sweet, right? God loves Jesus. Replace Son with your name. Here, I’ll try. Your name is Sarah? “This is my Sarah, whom I love; with her I am well pleased.” How do you feel? That’s how God feels about you all the time.

Mark 4:39: He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Do you know what it means to rebuke something? It means to condemn it. What great authority He has to condemn THE WIND. Please know it is 100% acceptable and encouraged to rebuke the problems you have. (I didn’t say people. Please don’t roll up on anyone condemning them cause they’ve caused you heartache.)

Luke 2:52: And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Now Luke is slowly creeping to the top of one my favorite books for the sole fact that it describes Jesus as a child. We see Him before He was in ministry. We see Him like us. And how awesome is it that even though Jesus is the Messiah, He still had to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and people? Gives me hope that I can still grow in the right direction.

John 11:35: Jesus wept.

Do you know how many articles are written on just those two words? Too many. I remember these two words when life gets hard and annoying and the little things start stacking up against me. Jesus wept over the unbelief of many, so He weeps over the unbelief of just one too. Don’t deny the power within.

So yeah, be more like Jesus. Please God with your obedience. Rebuke the wind. Grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and people. Weep for those who are lost in their unbelief. Go all in for Jesus because He went all in for us.

The Fall

I bought my first house last May. I prayed intensely hard for my house every day for almost a year. Every moment my future abode came across my mind, I made a mental note of things to update Papa on. My requests extended past the personal into the impossible. I was specific in tree type, layout, color. Everything. Give or take a year, and God gave me more than my prayers demanded. He blessed me not with the pool I jokingly wanted, but the dragonfly wind chime, the Camellia japonica trees, the basketball hoop. He gave me the ability to run through all the rooms on the first floor without ever going back into the same room, the windows… I could go on for days. He heard every prayer. He had me wait, and then there was my house. I knew it was mine the moment I drove up the driveway.

I always knew my house wasn’t going to make me happy. It was never supposed to because that wasn’t its intended use. I moved in and still had the same issues I had at my apartment, but I stopped talking to God about them. I spoke with Papa only about surface things. It was as if He moved Heaven and earth to give me more than I could’ve ever asked for, so I couldn’t bring myself to lament to my Lord who blessed me something so big. You know what I did instead? I went out and tried to satisfy my loneliness, my depression, my dissatisfaction with work with worldly things. These things would eventually cause me to compromise my integrity over and over again.

I read a book by Lysa TerKeurst called Uninvited. It’s about rejection. Man oh man. This woman, God bless her. She is radiantly transparent, which makes almost every situation she mentions in her book relatable. At one point she writes about these tiny compromises she started making with her then boyfriend. She writes about how what started as her boyfriend sleeping over on the couch, turned into her justifying her desires, until it snowballed into something larger than she expected: an abortion. Her tiny compromises rolled into a giant.

My giant wasn’t an abortion. It was quitting. Don’t like them? Drop them. Don’t like working there? Quit. That man is unreliable? Leave him. Do what makes you happy. Never once did I stop to A) inquire of the Lord and B) fight—push past the negative. Not once did I think, “This rough patch is where I am supposed to be. Maybe me being uncomfortable is what grows me.” Instead, I manipulated everything in my power to create a pretty picture for myself. Truthfully, all I did was make myself more lonely and depressed and broke.

I Kings 19:4 says, “‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” That’s exactly how I was feeling. I was ready for the rapture. Beam me up, Scottie! However, a few weeks ago, I heard that same question that God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” Honestly, I couldn’t answer until last week. I must go back the way I came. I have to walk through every last thing I attempted to run away from, and that truth stings.

I thought who and where I am now would eventually circle back to pre-fall. I did. I’m just not where I expected. Who I was pre-fall was someone who was steadfast for God, but she didn’t want to bother her Father. The woman before the fall was someone who tried to people please God. I won’t be there again because I fell. I hurt myself on the way down, but I’m wiser for it. I’m going to push a little bit harder now because I know my footing is supposed to be in Christ, and if He’s willed it, then so it will be.

I’ve been watching Sing a lot lately, and one of my favorite lines is, “Do you know the beauty about hitting rock bottom, Eddie? The only way to go is up!” That’s so true. I might fall again. Actually, I will most likely fall again, but not in the same way and not with the same force and not as far down. Even now, there is great beauty in this breakdown.

During this almost year detour I learned I will never be satisfied until I live on God’s terms. That means loving God with all my heart and all my might, and everything else will flow from the relationship I have with Him. He has a plan to prosper me and not harm me. So, my goal in life should be to run towards Him and not away from Him. I could let my inadequacies build up against me, but I shouldn’t. Where I fall short is where God picks up. That truth alone makes the journey of life worth it.