Let it burn…

Image result for Fire represents

Winter solstice! People don’t usually know its significance. But each of us, are astrologically aligned to let things die, burn, and renew ourselves and situations for the better. This period astronomically marks the beginning of shortening nights and lengthening days. People celebrate with friends, families-things slow down, people indulge in good drink and food, lots of music and dancing, and of course, the burning of fire!

“Fire [is but one of our earthly elements, and] represents our passions, compulsion, zeal, creativity, and motivation (as in, “put a fire under it!”). The Element of Fire has great power for forging will and determination. It is our inner light as well as a living symbol of the Divine fire that burns in every soul.” Fire represents our motivations toward being better.

Fire is burned to illuminate and cleanse away bad energy. It is used ritualistically to get rid of anything which didn’t serve us during the year. People perform rituals to burn away bad karma, relationships, lack, disappointments, and make clear intentions towards what they’d like for themselves.

During this winter solstice, regardless of belief or religion, remember to clear your aura, environment, mind, energy, and body of toxins which doesn’t serve us. Let it burn!

The Element of Fire Symbolism and Meaning

To love, self first

I had a conversation with an old friend today, about loving a person. We search for love in the most common places-never truly understanding all which it entails, or how we can really feel fulfilled by the love we seek. For anyone seeking love, know this-self first. It is easy to find “love”.  Later, you may find that that’s not what you had in mind. Some of us don’t know the difference between love and lust. The latter is short term. For deeper connections, you want the verb, that being, action oriented idea that the partner you find wants to build something meaningful with you.

Finding love must be intentional. However, to maintain a healthy balance, it must first be met with a centered starting place. And that is, a place where the love is radiating from self. Self care, appreciation, esteem, and knowing what you will and will not accept. We all have nuances of what we can accept from a partner. And yours and mine may be different, and that is okay. Know what your limits are-remind yourself of what your needs are. And do not compromise upon that. While there will be space to compromise in any relationship, there should be limits upon which you will not negotiate. For if you do, you’ll regret it later. Stay true to yourself, and remain open to learn and understand.

You are lovable, worthy of love and emotional balance. However, expecting another to balance you, or your love is delusional. One must find emotional balance by accepting and loving oneself first. Otherwise, you give what you do not have. What you’ll project, and yearn for, will come from a place of desperation and want. You, lacking in self love, can only give a burdensome version of need. It does not become you. The next time you feel like you need love, practice self love. Attract the love you want.

Self love practice:

  1. Tell yourself how much you love yourself.
  2. Languish in your hygiene and beauty regiments: Take extra care to focus on your bathing, lathering yourself; washing off the dark energy which has got you down; let your hands hold yourself and give gratitude for each part of you. Take time to lotion and oil your entire body afterwards-always in the direction towards your heart. If you wear make-up, take your time. Moisturize your face, stroking upwards. Smile all the while. Continue to tell yourself how beautiful is each inch of you.
  3. Dress in your best, flattering attire, depending on what your next move.
  4. Get a massage, or day at the spa. Get a manicure/pedicure.
  5. Go for a walk with yourself.
  6. Go out to lunch with yourself.
  7. Sit under a tree or sunbathe, or sit by the beach, replaying all your accomplishments. By the way, if you are at this point, you’ve accomplished much!
  8. Stay off social media. Just don’t check it.
  9. Declare to your friends and family that this is your, “Love on ME day”! (When your energy of attraction begins to flow, your phone may begin to go off-you’re doing it, attracting others with all this love energy; but don’t stop your vibe; disregard non-emergency messages and focus on self.)
  10. In between this meditation, repeat to yourself: I am love; I am ready to receive love; I deserve love. I am lovable. I love ME!

Being Yourself

We’ve all heard the adage, be yourself. As if people have an alternate choice than being themselves. What someone really means when they tell another person to be him or herself is, “Whoever you’re reflecting right now is not you.” Usually, this correction comes from adult to child. However, it is also given to friends from friends, to audiences from “experts”, and even to patients from counselors. But what is that? How are we to know when we’re not ourselves? We continue to try to fit ourselves in molds which we believe to be our true selves. It comes from beliefs, morals, our values, and even our upbringing. However, I believe that all the facets we are, in different situations, are our true selves. Embrace your selves. For you are not just what you think. You are ever flowing, growing, learning and evolving. Being yourself, is many things. And that’s okay.

My 8-year-old self healed me last night

I saw the gleam in her eyes first. She was short, but her slender appearance made her seem taller. Her dark chocolate skin shone and the sun’s rays bounced off the glistening fine hairs on her arms. She was me. And I watched her with curiosity. At first, I didn’t realize it. It was the familiarity of her smile, her spirit, that drew me in.

I did not realize I was in a dream, alternate universe-even. And at the moment I recognized the little girl I was staring at, I thought I had surely died, and all my selves were coming together…

She spoke first. “I know you. You used to always visit my dreams. Did you come from New York?”

Then I remembered how I had always believed I would move to New York. Live in Manhattan. Make a lot of money. Live in a high rise with floor to ceiling windows with panoramic views of the city. I’d have three boyfriends. Wow. Had I failed in life? “No-no,” I stuttered, focusing back to the little girl. “You know me?” I looked at her questionably as I cautiously approached her.

“Yes.” She said, decidedly.

I looked around and passersby without faces hurried to their unknown destinations. Traffic ensued busily as normal. But the space between us was incredibly still.

 

As I studied my young subject with a deepening curiosity, it all came back.

 

I don’t remember being so confident at that age. I gasped at her-grief-stricken, and awed at the same time. I studied her smiling face, and tears welled up my eyes. My nostrils burned and flared for air, and my palms sweated.

 

My heart galloped, and my voice lost its musical notes to what seemed like its final sigh of epiphany. Of course! This is precisely the time before I was molested. This is the Me before my innocence was ripped from me-when I was trusting, shining and lovely. This was the brilliant little girl all the teachers loved. This was the one who dreamed of being a mermaid, a TV anchor, and Supreme Court Judge. This was the one who fantasized about feeding all the hungry children in the world, and find some kind of ecological way to end famine and drought.

 

“Ah,” Little Me said with a wisdom that mismatched her size, “I see you remember.” She walked up to me, and gently took my hand. Her gaze and sweet smile never leaving my face. She said, “I’m glad you remember. And I’m just here to remind you to let it go. It’s okay. All that has happened to us, has made you who you are. You are okay.”

Then, she guided me down the street of our familiar neighborhood, and continued talking, “I remember you” she said again. “You were so helpful. You would visit me in my dreams. And tell me to be strong. You told me that I would get through it. That I would be fine. You told me that, He may touch our physical body, but we are spirit. And He couldn’t touch that. Don’t you remember?”

The tears streamed down my face incessantly. I listened to Little Me in silence. We walked.

As she talked, I remembered Me-that Grace Jones-strong-Black-woman-with-the-Mohawk, look-alike, who would come talk with me in my dreams, give me strength each night that I had silently cried myself to sleep.

I stopped and turned to her, “I do remember,” I said quietly. “Wow. I do.” And I hugged myself so tightly.

Then, Oya, Yemeya and Oshun formed a ring around us. Their light was blinding, but I their warmth and love permeated my being. Captured by their pervasive light, we were absorbed by it, transforming into it, and pulsing in the love of light which now blanketed us, fusing us into one, turning us in the fire, that I now recognized as the sun. We had become the sun.

The light of peace. The light of love. The light of the Sun.

And like that, I was peace.

I was love.

I was the Sun.

I was whole again.

 

Real Girlfriends: Is that even possible?

Is it possible to have real girlfriends in 2010’s?

I find that as I grow older, I seek to cultivate and maintain female relationships. I think it is healthy for women to have supportive relationships.

I did not always think this way-that we should trust female relationships. I always thought those to be superficial at best, and spaces of gossip and contention at worst. I blame my not-so-trusting mom for raising my sister and I to not fully trust women.

So, up until about 15 years ago, with this debilitating belief that women could not be trusted , I maintained that I didn’t need female friends-at least not new ones. With the “No new friends” motto firmly tucked under my armpit, I sought to maintain ones of old…old elementary school friends. But even those relationships expired without so much as a bounce of thunder. These friendships melted into a lifeless mold, running and burning its course as if destiny herself guided it forth, without so much of a fuss or effort. We grew apart. We love each other, but we’re no longer the same people. Our beliefs had changed, our priorities had changed. And with each life event, our lifestyles had also changed. Over the course of the years, our once lively, contagious and respectively dependent relationships came to an uneventful end.

I didn’t realize that those relationships were over. Partly because they were over without notice.

I was in the throws of motherhood. I had overcome post-partum depression. I was pouring my energy into teaching my three baby girls all I knew. At the same time, I had this unrelenting thirst for knowledge because I wanted to have something of substance to give them. Their learning became my tasks of learning, and seeking to acquire more to give. An empty vessel has but that to give.

Because I understood what I lacked in my life, what my man could not give me, I had a newfound connection to how women approached life. I understood, firsthand, how inadequate a Black woman could feel due to lack. And “lack” is beyond monetary needs. But lack of support, friendship, confidence, education, resourcefulness, grounding, power, spiritual contentedness. And I wondered where it was, and how I would go about acquiring it. How could I share it with other women, to help stop their tears? The tears which could not be explained, except through the understanding that we women were lacking something.

But what I found, was that through my creative work, I healed. Then, I unintentionally developed relationships. I never saw myself as a gregarious member of the community. But I was suddenly attractive to women. As I became more comfortable in my skin, I inadvertently  acquired friends-no, sisters. I couldn’t control the care I felt for their growth and  well-being. I understood my mom and sister more. I understood my global sisters more. I became a womanist.

A womanist is one who supports other women. She loves women and is there, as a sister, to celebrate and lament victories and disappointments.

Men should encourage this. But some don’t. 

Women who keep friends are healthier. Granted, we should all mind the company we keep. And not all company is good company. However, I remain determined in the belief that there are good people-women, out there. And together, we’re happier; we accomplish great things while we enjoy life. As pillars of society, we can make our world better, not just for our children, but for each other, our people.  As  Audre Lorde says, “Black women sharing close ties with each other, politically or emotionally, are not the enemies of Black men.”

That is the general thought, isn’t it? That Black women congregating means it is to the detriment of Black men?

I believe the contrary. Real Black women support Black men.  The war on Black families can be healed through the cultivation of real girlfriends-sisters, that is. That’s community. That’s our village. Together, we build nations.

A real girlfriend is a mother, a sister, a counselor, a doctor, a spiritual healer, a work-out buddy, a motivator, a cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, a baby-sitter, an advice giver, a critic, and confidant. A real girlfriend is you. Be a real girlfriend! Then, you won’t have to ask if it’s even possible to have real girlfriends in the 2010’s.

Just my thoughts.

Surfing the gains and losses of students

Image result for college studentsAs a professor, I come into contact with different people all the time. I always begin a term or semester with the promise to not become attached to my students. I even tell myself that I don’t like them along the way, to ensure that my initial promise to myself is kept.

I hate students. They’re so full of shit. They look up to professors like we have all the answers. They expect professors’ research to be sound and Intel to be on point and current.

Professors must remain professional at all times. They have to respectfully listen to excuses, whining, and more excuses. They have to encourage students to do their best. They help students overcome shyness. They help students learn to think for themselves. They help students see their lives differently. They help them see that they’re not the only ones having a hard time. Professors must be authentic in order to drive the point that hardships can be overcome. So, even when the professor’s life is upside down, he/she must perform how despite the shit, life is manageable and worth living.

Students fall in love with their professors. Despite the professor’s aloofness and detachment, students crave the attention and approval of their professors just as an abused child does, his/her abusive parent. It’s sad. So, professors are kind enough to not be too blunt, standoff-ish, uncaring…professors give praise and encouragement to keep the students happy-to ensure that they’ll find the confidence to seek learning, complete assignments and become excited about life and education. But then, something very sinister happens in the midst of all this energy professors give…the students win their professors’ love right back.

I hate students. Especially at the end of the term, and they thank me for all this stuff that I deserve no credit for. I had one student say, “Ms. Casseus, thank you for being my professor”. As if I had picked her out of a line-up to be my student. I didn’t adopt you, kid-haul ass! Just get out. All of you, with your thank-you’s. I don’t need it. It’s really annoying and overwhelmingly stupid.

So, my final speech to them should have gone something like this:

Yeah. This is our last class together. Good riddance.  Hope it all works out for you. Don’t call me, because I won’t answer. Peace. 

But it didn’t. As each student completed their final exam, and spoke to me privately before leaving, asking for a hug and begging me to stay in touch, I became sadder and sadder. Then, I was down to the last student testing. She sat there, lingering. And I fought back the tears.

She finished. We talked. She thanked me. She promised to stay in touch. And walked out.

The class was empty. I took a deep breath. My nose stung. My eyes tensed with tears, and I reminded myself…I hate students. Fuck them.

The Journey with Creativity

 

You called me, creativity

I’m here, creatively

You’ve called me

But I’m yours

Yours to mold, creatively

You were never alone

But felt lonely

You were never lacking

But felt cold

What did you seek?

Did you think I was absent?

I’ve watched you grow

I’ve watched you learn

I’ve watched you become

Me.

You are, me.

I am, you.

And together, creatively, our journey will never be,

Lonely.

Sabotaging your future with fear

I have several fears. Fear of success is not one of them-or is it? I have a fear of NOT succeeding. I have a fear of growing old without a husband/partner. I have a fear of being hated. I have a fear of letting my children down.  What I realized is that I live in my head. And the, “What if’s?” keep me from going for what I want. So, instead of relaxing, leaping towards my desires, I sit; I think; I think; I analyze; I rethink; then, I simply do nothing.  When I fail, I move on…I don’t make lemonade from the lemons. I drink tea.

But if you never fail, you don’t know what success looks like. Gurrrrrrl, you better make lemonade when you get lemons! 

This has become a slogan in help books, and to wellness gurus. Remember, I NEVER profess to be a guru, nor do I profess to be well. I do the best I can with whatever I get…I don’t always get lemons-which, by the way, aren’t bad…lemons cleanse, they’re full of antioxidants (I think), Vitamin C, and really keep my belly flat a midst my  round and voluptuous bottom. It also keeps my skin clear, and my insides detoxified (I think); remember, I’m no expert. So, I love lemons. It’s the rotten strawberries and rotten potatoes which I don’t know what to do with.  (Sidebar: You ever let potatoes go bad in your vegetable holder? It emits this slimy substance and stinks to high heaven! Now, try to make…potato juice! Ewww)

The lemon metaphor about making lemonade out of lemon, to signify making the best out of bad situations does not apply all the time. Hence, the potato juice. Sometimes, when life hands you rotten ass strawberries, and rotten ass potatoes, you need just duck.

…Oh, and don’t give up. That’s all. Never, ever, ever give up. That’s what the lemon metaphor is all about. We sabotage ourselves. We let go. We move on to something else. We forget about our dreams. Can you imagine waking up 30 years later still wondering, “What if?” Can you imagine being overwhelmingly disappointed in yourself because you realize: what people think matters not; failing is not a death sentence; having a husband is not the face of success; you WILL let your children down-we are not perfect; and accepting yourself is your only saving grace? 

Live your dream-literally. Today, I told my college students I could fly…that I fly in my dreams all the time. They laughed. And I asked them, if you could live life, as your dream, what then, would you fear?

Gurrrrrrrl! You betta make that lemonade! 

Pac Jam Reunion!

I’m a Miami native. That could mean a lot of things depending on who you’re speaking with. So, let me clarify by disclosing my neighborhood, and associations. I AM AN ORIGINAL WYNWOOD GIRL. I grew up on 34th Street and 2nd Ave, in the hood-which is now a thriving art district. 

I came up during the rockin’ 80’s and roaring 90’s, when Pac Jam was the ultimate Teen Club. 

All the young adults and teens frequented the Pac Jam-if their parents were “cool” enough to let them go…or neglectful enough to not notice or care…either way, it was the place to be on a Friday night! 

Upcoming and current rappers of our emerging, Miami “hip-hop” era were usually the acts which would “rock” the crowd, introduce new dance numbers, break new records, etc. 

Boys and girls would hook up there; teens would show up with their friends to meet up with their prospective or current boyfriends, and/or crushes. It was the ultimate dating scene.

The place was always packed! Hence the name, PAC JAM. It was a jammed packed, musty-smelling, dimmed lighting, sticky flooring, loud-bass-booming, crowd-pushing, no-space to throw your elbows, hardly, or step-back too quickly, place to jam! The DJ was sure to jam! And boy, if you were there, you were “jamming!” 

Nothing mattered. The energy, the sounds, the smell of the place was all wistful because you were just happy to be there. For that moment, you were grown, you were free. The boys wore their hairs in high-top fades, or designed Cesar cuts. They’d save their Adidas track suits or bright colors of Karl Kani fashions, or Cross Colors outfits just to wear it at the Pac Jam. They’d rock their Jordan, Adidas, or Nike sneakers or Jodeci boots. Girls loved their hair weaved-ponytail extensions or their freshly new cuts of a frontal hair-curled-stacking which was freeze dried with spritz, with the bottom back, shaved. With this cut, you’d need to wear your bamboo shaped, golden hoop or square earrings-at least two pairs, nonetheless. Even if she had to change clothes in the car, she would rock a midriffs, and high waist-ed, tight jeans or a tight tube mini skirt. You had to represent. You had to look good. You had to smell good. 

Your stroll into the club was none too simple. You’d be bouncing in the line, as the sound of the music from inside permeated your chests, entering your heart cavity to instruct that organ of its new rhythm. The heavy-bass-beat permeated your entire being. You and your friends were giddy and bouncing one knee before you could even enter.  Once you’re at the door, that familiar but welcoming stench of teenage boys sweating and dancing would hit you, and you’d continue, in step into the club…to find other friends, or secure your spot, where you’ll park, for the night.

And you’re vibin’…the music is hitting number after number, and you are taken by the shear elevation of how it is compelling you to gyrate your hips, and all you wanna do is level your booty-bouncing skills of the “Doo-doo Brown” dance. The feeling of a young man’s strong arm around your waist to assist you in your dance was all the more pleasurable. Hopefully, he spoke first. And if he didn’t, a quick check by looking back is all it took to decide whether he was cute enough to stay. If he was not cute, you’d move quickly to signify the rejection. If all was good, the dance would be the introduction. The second dance, the conversation. The slow dance, the decision to “go together”; and by the end of Pac Jam that night, you’d have a new boyfriend. 

On July 12th, 2014 it was important to recapture those moments of teenage rebellion and freedom. The Mac Center, better known as the Double Tree Hotel in Miami’s Airport district became the venue to recreate that era. The communities of Liberty City and Overtown came together in this most unassuming place, to recapture a piece of history. The place easily held 800-1000 people. It was like a conference, held at night. For in this large and spacious, first-floor conference room of the Double Tree, which is known for supporting the Antiques Road Show when it’s in town, saw masses of Pac Jam folks, loyal to date, and hoping to preserve that positively euphoric moment of childhood nostalgia. It was indeed a momentous occasion.

Patrons were eager to hear Society perform his 1994-hit, “Yes Indeed!” Backed by Mecca aka Grimo (a Rapper/Poet/Actor in his own right) and JT Money’s plethora of local favorites like “Playa Ass Shit” and “Hoe Problems”. Mystikal was thrown into the bill as a seller, even though Miami faithfuls were really there for the former two. And as expected, the show’s opening was electric! Society teased the mass with the 20-year old-hit, which remains relevant, and impacting to this day! The crowd jumped, sang/rapped along, and for that moment, we were all 20-years younger-recalling the first time we heard it. And at that very moment, silently understanding that Society was indeed legendary.

And just when you felt it was okay to go home, JT Money delivered a most endearing passage through his songs, which educed the crowd into that moment where you were trying to decide whether you were a “hoe” or if you’re a man, had one for a girlfriend.  We all sang/rapped along anyway. For regardless of the lyrics, I knew I wasn’t a “hoe”. 🙂

Most would credit Uncle Luke for Pac Jam’s success. However, it was the people. The teens who continued to role through week after week like a cult following. Now that everyone from that era are grown, probably married, divorced, dead, in jail, educated, have moved away, or are still living over there on 15th AVE of Liberty City or 3rd AVE of Overtown, it was important to come together, more like a family reunion, through the vehicle which bound us all together in the first place-the music.

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That pioneering Miami music which is like no where else was a re-visitation of all things familiar. Stemming from Uncle Luke, was Uncle Al, Poison Clan, with JT Money; and then we had New York based artist greats who helped pioneer the fusion of sounds, like Society, Mecca and Buddha. There are plenty others-Zoe Pound, Trina, Trick Daddy, and many others. And from them, came many more others. But hearing those original ones brought it back. It brought the people together in droves. It brought back the smells, vibe, the energy we all remembered.

It was THE PAC JAM!

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Workplace etiquette…easier said than done…

Don’t worry about what your boss tells others about you…

Don’t let the actions of negative people towards you get to you; they’re miserable. It’s not you; it’s them.

Smile in the midst of turmoil and distress, and eventually, your happiness will settle in.

Those who treat you badly will eventually be nice to you if you remain kind.

Do your best at your job, and your recognition is inevitable. Be diligent.

Smile. Smile. Smile. It’ll be better.

Do your best. It’ll be better.

Don’t worry about the defaming, slandering, manipulating, bullying by exclusion-the conniving malice, and ill-intent, and micro-management of a power-hungry witch. Worry not about about the plot, the closed-door meetings, the pretentious grins, and their mini- victories when you’ve shown your distress, and when you’ve had to remain silent to avoid cursing or simply losing it …no…

It’ll get better. Do your best. Smile.

Stay calm and smile.

Just smile. Smile. Smile some more.

abusive boss