In my early twenties, I met a beautiful female actor who doesn’t share her age with anyone. Based on her experiences, I can do the math and know that she is playing roles that are easily ten years younger than her actual age. She was and still is KILLING the game. Her choice to hide her age appeared to be intentional, and I didn’t get it until I ran into another actress (that I highly respect) who does the same thing.
I figured out by observation that there are more opportunities for younger women in the entertainment business. The older you are, the harder it can be to get started and ultimately succeed (depending on the market you’re auditioning in). Men, on the other hand, are sometimes encouraged to age up for better roles. Thankfully for women, this business is based on appearances, not facts. So, if you look younger than you are, you can hack the system by not sharing your age. I signed up for that strategy early in the game.
The only issue is that the longer I did this, the worse I felt about my real age. When I got pregnant at twenty-seven, I freaked out because I was losing valuable acting years trying to have and take care of my baby. When I turned thirty, I was super careful not to post any pictures with the big 3-0 balloons from my birthday party. I ran away from aging because I observed some negativity around it in the industry. I’m already black and a woman. I didn’t want yet another thing to “overcome” in my professional life.
I’m honestly still working out my feelings about this. I’ll be 31 in two weeks. Happy Birthday to me! But I cringe as I type this. I’ve been hiding my age since the beginning of my professional acting career. To see it typed out, ready to be posted in a public space, is a little scary. Tis the season for vulnerability, so I’m owning my age in this season of life.
Here’s why . . .
My mom didn’t make it to fifty. This is the primarily reason I’m looking at my age differently. I watched the end of my mom’s life and became acutely aware of our limited time on this earth. She died young, and I know people who died younger. Every year God gives me on this planet is a blessing that I want to cherish.
Also, I’ve had some unrealistic career expectations connected to my age. I used to feel like not “making it” before thirty meant I didn’t do anything. This is another sneaky little idea I subconsciously got from society that turned out to be a lie. Am I a working actor? Yeah, but I’m not famous, and I’m not swimming in a pool of cash. I haven’t “made it.” Maybe it’s because I’m not ready for a big opportunity yet. Maybe a big opportunity isn’t ready for me. Who knows? But I don’t think this means I haven’t done anything.
Truthfully, I did not squander my teen years or my twenties. When I look closely at those years, I remember that spent most of my life being focused, as a student, leader, employee, family member, etc. Most of the time this focus and hard work wasn’t balanced properly with fun and joy. I thought that was the price you pay for big wins, but that’s not how the game works. I’m not owed a successful career because I’ve worked hard at the expense of my happiness. No one owes me anything. My opportunities come when they come, and the best I can do is be prepared. Stay skilled. Create what I can. Keep a good attitude. Enjoy my life!
When I look back over the last couple decades, I can honestly say I am proud of myself. I didn’t squander my time. I tried things. I took classes. I asked questions. I fell in love. I created a company. I grew a spine. I become a mother. I read. I experienced. I learned. I created. I grew.
I am living. Some things I figured out later than others, so I am a late bloomer by some standards. But I can reflect on my choices and honestly say that I’m fine with that. I dig how my journey is unfolding, and I’m just getting started.
I now embrace my age because I’m done with rejecting parts of myself based on society’s warped standards. I choose to express the truth of who I am without shame. There it is. That’s the new strategy.
As a kid, I used to ask my father this question all the time, and he didn’t quite know how to answer it. As a grown up, I can now say that life experience answered it for me.
Q: “What do you do if you have more than one interest in life? I feel like I could be good at more than one thing, and there’s no way to know for sure. How do I know which path to take?”
A: “Figure out what you must heal in this world. By the grace of God pursue that purpose using everything you have. You will end up exactly where you need to be.”
In this I take great comfort.
Last Friday was in an interesting day. I took acting class. I wasn’t good. I typically bounce back in a matter of minutes. This time it took me hours to shake the feeling of defeat. I went home, did some work, realized I was tired and figured I’d get take out for dinner.
This is probably when the tape of negativity started playing, “What I’m not about to do is cook tonight. I’m tired. Why do I have to be the one that cooks all the time? Why do I have to pick up the kid?” By the time I picked up my toddler, I knew I was in a funk. I smiled at him on the outside, but I harbored an attitude on the inside. I was annoyed with him for the inconvenience of having to pick him up.
In that moment, I really wanted to be alone. I wanted to go to a coffee shop or read a book or go to the movies or get lost in a museum: all the things that were easier to do impulsively before starting a small family.
“What you got in the car mommy?” He was asking for a snack. The tape kept playing, “Oh, so that’s all I’m good for? Giving you snacks?” I handed him a fruit pouch and buckled him in. That’s when I got a mild whiff of urine smell. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. His pants didn’t look went. I assumed it was coming from some dirty clothes in his school bag, so I kept it pushing. Get food. Get home. Throw clothes in wash. Get rest. I needed it. I could feel it.
After buckling myself in, I put on a kids’ podcast that was sure to keep him occupied, so I didn’t have to deal with a bunch of questions. I just wanted to zone out and finish my quest. When we arrived at the restaurant, it took me twenty minutes to find a parking spot. I ordered the food by phone and we waited until it was ready. Over time, I heard a still small voice in my spirit telling me that I needed to take little man to the potty, so I snapped out of my trance to get things going.
I got him out of his car seat, and I was hit with that slight urine smell again. The tape, “I have got to clean out that bag.” I kept it moving. On the walk into the restaurant, he kept asking, “Mommy, what are those?” He was looking at spray-painted marks on the sidewalk, the marks utility companies make whenever someone wants to dig into the ground. I said, “It’s spray paint baby.” Then he pointed out every single spray-paint marking. “That’s one spray paint. There’s another spray paint! And there’s another spray paint.” It is possible for something that cute to be annoying. The tape: “Focus Cyrah. Just get the food and go home.”
The moment I stepped into the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the music, laughter and smiles of all the kidless patrons. I used to BE them. I could just grab a drink in a restaurant because I felt like it, without having to drag a miniature person around with me.
I started walking directly to the bar but then remembered the kid needed to go to the bathroom, so that’s where we went. We stood at the toilet for a while. Then he told me he didn’t need to go. I got him together to leave the stall, slung his bookbag and my purse over my shoulder and picked him up at the sink, so he could wash his hands. Why restaurants don’t put stools near the sinks to make handwashing easier for kids is beyond me.
After all of that, we weaved our way through an army of servers to get to the bar. A guy on my left saw me wearing a PJ Masks bookbag and asked if it was mine. I chuckled and said, “You know better.” He asked where my kid was and I indicated that he was to my right. The man saw him and tried to say something friendly, but my son just buried his head into my leg, his typical response to strangers.
I gave the bartender my name and waited for him to bring out my order. As we waited, the restaurant got louder and more obnoxious. Then I felt a small tug at my pant leg, “Mommy, I wet.” I rolled my eyes with everything in me. The tape: “I JUST TOOK YOU TO THE BATHROOM.”
I looked down at his pants and noticed the wet spot. Before I could do anything, a woman (not the original bartender) came out with my food. She told me that the veggie quesadilla I ordered for my kid now had chicken in it because quesadillas need meat to make everything stick together. I didn’t have time to address that lie because I now had a toddler with a pee-pee stain on his pants. I said, “Fine.” I paid for the food, and I took care of my son.
Once everything settled down, I realized what was happening. Friday’s series of unfortunate events was more about me than my kid. Every couple of weeks, I start feeling annoyed with my life. It’s almost a ritual now. I go to therapy every other week, and the Thursday before my regularly scheduled session, I get frustrated with the status quo. My beautiful family gets annoying. My work doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I get internally hostile. You would only know it if you were really close to me. My sentences get short. I’m quieter than normal. I laugh less often. It’s almost like I see my world through contacts medicated with negativity. I get in a funk, and the people closest to me become my enemies.
The last time this happened, I couldn’t understand why I was in such a funky mood out of nowhere. My therapist asked me, “How have you been doing with your self-care?” I thought about it. Not well. What’s been happening is that I’ll do all of the things that help me stay emotionally healthy, and I forget to do those things after I’m feeling good. Neglecting myself over time makes me feel emotionally deprived, and I get an attitude when I have to do something for someone else. The tape: “It’s YOUR fault I’m unhappy.” But the simple truth is that I’m unhappy when I neglect myself.
This trip to the Mexican restaurant was a fantastic example. I was internally hostile toward my kid because I hadn’t taken care of myself for a few days. I didn’t yell at him. I didn’t hit him. But on the inside, I was a little angry that he was there in the first place. He was inconveniencing me.
If I’d taken care of myself earlier, I would have been mentally present to enjoy our little journey. I would have noticed the extra parking in the lot across the street sooner. I would have realized how amazing it is that my kid notices little abnormalities, like spray-paint marks on a side walk. I would have enjoyed how he gets a kick out of the automatic paper-towel dispenser in the bathroom. I would have made that server remake my kid’s quesadilla because adding chicken to a vegetarian dish is stupid. And I would have noticed that his pants were wet when I got him. He probably had a small accident right before I picked him up, and I couldn’t see it inside of the shaded car.
Sunday was a different day. I’d taken some time for myself. I was well-rested and excited to spend time with my family. We went to a festival in the park, and I genuinely enjoyed my kid’s company. I’d like to have less days like last Friday. No, I’m not expecting everything to go my way, but I’d like to still have a positive outlook on the day regardless of what’s happening. I’d like to still see my family members as allies instead of enemies when everything else is going wrong. So . . . I am reprioritizing my self-care rituals, even when I don’t think I need it. All self-deprivation does is take me down a funky attitude rabbit hole surrounded by my enemies.
Photo Credit: Jason Vail Photography
In my junior year of high school, I was depressed and didn’t know why. Looking back, it’s not that difficult to understand.
My family moved that year to a small, upper-middle class community in Georgia. My parents were excited about the opportunity. The public high school in our neighborhood had rigorous academics, high-test scores and a 90% white student body. That year, my family was struggling financially. I’m black. I felt very other. And I suppressed it.
Fast forward to college. I went to an HBCU, and the experience was the complete opposite. I surrounded myself with myself and could finally breathe. What’s interesting about that period of my life is that the school was a perfect environment for me to ask the difficult questions about race that I probably needed to ask. Why was my high school experience so painful? Why is white acceptance a standard of success in this country? But I didn’t ask those questions. I ignored those questions altogether. I just kept it pushing and used the comfort of my black cocoon to focus on other personal issues I was dealing with like caring for sick parents and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.
Fast forward to my acting career. My mentor taught me to choose what type of black actress I wanted to be. I could be the black girl next door or the black hood girl, and my appearance needed to reflect what I wanted. I chose the girl next door. I leaned into that and avoided braids, twists, curls and locks. You know, all the “ethnic” looks.
All of that changed a couple months ago when I stopped wearing wigs and started wearing my natural hair (see My Hair and I). Since then, I’ve become super aware of my blackness . . . by accident. From the conversations about the types of photos I need for my acting career, to the men in my life throwing their opinions around about natural hair, to the looks I get from the average white citizen in public places . . . I am reminded once again that I am other.
My whole life I’ve been navigating what it means to be other by dancing around it. Oh, being too loud means I’m ghetto? Got it. I’ll keep my voice down. Black hair is nappy. Kinks are unattractive. Got it. Relaxers and weaves. People won’t take me seriously unless I’m dressed up? That’s okay. If I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt in the grocery store, I’ll get good customer service once I open my mouth and the clerk figures out that I’m articulate.
You know what I learned about myself over the past couple months? I have avoided my blackness by figuring out how to be “respectably” black by white standards.
And that makes me ANGRY. For the first time in my black life, I’m angry about how I was taught to navigate the world as a black woman. Why am I not allowed to get excited in a conversation? If I was loud and white, would people make those assumptions? Natural hair is in now, but why in the world was my natural hair texture EVER considered ugly? I see how other people see me now. I walk into a store and see the assumptions on people’s faces. Then I open my mouth and I see the sudden wash of relief when I speak. I see it. “Whew, I’m safe. She’s educated. She’s respectable. She won’t hurt me.” Why do I have to be articulate to be respectable? Why can’t I be respectable simply because I’m human? One day I’m throwing in some Ebonics to throw off my white friends and piss off my elitist black folks.
It would be nice to make choices about style without having to consider what brand of black others will think I am. I would love to just make art without worrying that I’m not making my people look bad. It would be great if I could make mistakes without it being considered a racial defect. Oh, and it would be awesome to be able to get angry without being perceived as threatening.
I was taught that nobody wants to deal with an angry black girl. Now I understand why I was depressed in my junior year of high school. I was angry but wasn’t allowed to be.
I’m working hard on my self-care, but most days I feel like I’m growing at a snail’s pace. When I do notice some growth, I get very excited and try to celebrate the moment. Well, I had a win over the weekend that I want to share with you.
Sunday, The Man surprised me with tickets to Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous at the Alliance Theatre. He gets so many cool points by the way for setting up a VERY Cyrah date. Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed the show, laughing incessantly and soaking up the playwright’s words.
We were leaving on a high when I recognized a stage manager I worked with before. I would’ve normally just walked out, but she was so kind to me on my last play, I wanted to say hello. I walked up to her and said hey. I reminded her of the show we worked on together, and she asked what I was up to. I told her I was currently in a show that runs in June. She asked me what theatre, and my mind went blank.
I looked crazy. In the Atlanta theatre community, this woman is an industry mover and shaker. She knows everyone who’s anyone. She started rattling off the names of theatres, and I said no to the ones she could remember, but my mind gave me nothing. All I kept thinking was “Alliance” because…that’s where we were. Finally, she said, “You don’t know where you’re working?”
For me, ego manifests itself as a need to be acknowledged as amazing and worth loving. It’s an addiction to feeling important. The moment she said that, my ego was challenged. I think this is what happens when people get defensive. We start defending our importance to make us feel better about ourselves. In that moment, I could have let that effect how I felt about myself, but I didn’t.
I told her the name of the show, and that I couldn’t remember the name of the theatre at the moment because I was still basking in the glow of what I’d experienced. This was the truth. I watched four actors do great work, and I was inspired. I was in that post-show high. My mind was on what they’d done, not promoting my thing. So, when she asked me about my thing, my brain had nothing. I told her when the play opened. She assured me that she’d see it, and she left.
Let me tell you why this was a win. I may have looked crazy to her, but I authentically DID NOT CARE. I said hello to her because I enjoyed working with her, not because I wanted her to do something for me. I may have made a fool of myself by not being able to promote my upcoming show, but I wasn’t embarrassed. I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m doing it. I’m good at what I do. I know the play I’m working on, but I had a brain fart. It happened, and I was fine with that in the moment. I didn’t beat myself up. I didn’t try to redeem myself because I didn’t need redeeming. I knew who I was.
Months ago, I would have rehearsed this moment over and over, trying to figure out how to avoid it in the future. I would have immediately contacted her on Facebook the moment I remembered the name of the theatre. I may still do that, so she has accurate information about the show. But I’m impressed with myself because I’m not pressed. After she left, I continued to bask in my post-show high and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
At some point, I probably will get caught up in ego and have to check myself. I’m human. But for now, I’m celebrating this moment. I wasn’t caught up in what someone else thought of me. My self-worth was rooted in something deeper. I didn’t let ego suck the joy out of my beautiful evening. I kept it moving, and I’m proud of myself for doing so.
If you’ve seen me in person within the last four weeks or you’ve seen my audition tapes, you know I am wearing my hair naturally curly. Sometimes it’s in twists. Other times it’s in some variation of a curly fro. Most of my friends still do a double take, even after seeing me like this for weeks. I look different. And I don’t know if I like it…
Sometimes I feel like an adolescent from my hairline up. Sometimes I feel like a rebel. Sometimes I feel strong and confident. Sometimes I want to throw a hat on and hide, but I can’t. I would just look like my hair is trying to escape the hat. Too many kinks and curls.
Just seven months ago, I told a friend I would never wear my hair natural. He laughs at that now.
If I don’t know how I feel about how I look, why am I doing this? Simple. My hair was a business decision. My manager suggested that I give it a try. Apparently, the industry trend for black women is that we wear our hair natural now. I completely missed the memo.
For the last two years, I’ve worn my hair braided up under units (aka wigs). Four years before that, I wore my hair braided up under sew ins (aka weaves). Before that I relaxed (aka permed) my hair off and on for years.
I did the extensions because they were EASY. Purchase hair. Schedule an appointment. Someone else does all the maintenance. If you wear a unit, take that bad boy off at night and sleep like a baby. Sidebar: My mom used to say “bad boy” all the time. That made me smile.
I’ve technically been growing natural hair for six years under extensions, and my man has been begging me to wear my natural hair. I laughed at him. I thought he liked the idea of me wearing my natural hair out but didn’t know for sure if he would like it because he’d never seen it. Also, he doesn’t do hair, so he’s useless if I’m in a bind and need help with my hair. By the way, I know A LOT of black men that have strong opinions about black female hair and know very little about what it takes to take care of it . . . I digress. He got over it.
So here we are now. My kinks and curls are free, and I’m…. Who knows? I’ve been acting for about eight years, and I always thought the industry thought twists, braids, locks, and curls were considered too ethnic. To avoid getting the “hood” black girl character auditions, I went in the opposite direction. I wore my hair in a safe straight bob. To a certain extent I succeeded. I typically get auditions for the non-threatening negro.
Can you blame me? The women I looked up to as a kid got a fresh relaxer before every job interview or big moment. My sister and I got our hair pressed as a part of our Easter Sunday ritual. Hair bone straight. Edges laid. Over time, I think I developed a disconnect with my own hair.
When people compliment my natural hair, I typically question it. When someone says, “I love your hair,” I’m secretly wondering if they’re just saying that because I caught them staring. People do all sorts of things when they’re uncomfortable. Actually, I'll take in a compliment from a black woman. If she's lying, I at least know she understands.
Getting to know my hair and my personal style is going to take some time. If you see me running into the hair store to get 30 inches, this experiment is failing, and I’m relapsing. On the other hand, if I grow a messy mane of curls, I'm getting the hang of this. Either way, pray for your girl.
I started this blog because I’ve struggled with mental health issues for years, and I finally decided to do something about it in 2018. My self-care became a priority for the first time in my life, and I wanted to document the journey. When I started dealing with my mental health, I realized a lot of my black female friends were dealing with anxiety and depression but putting their self-care on the backburner, like a did for years. So, I’m hoping my vulnerability will help folks deal with their issues head on. I’m hoping my journey makes the mental health thing less scary. AND I’m hoping that sharing my failures and triumphs will hold me accountable to what I believe… I am responsible for my self-care and mental health. If something is off, it is my responsibility to take action.
I named this blog, “My Black Can Crack” because African American women have been fed the lie that we have superhero strength. I was taught by example how to push past pain, ignore my needs, and take care of others at the expense of myself. The phrase “Black Don’t Crack” normally means we age well. And we do! We can’t help it. Being fine is in the genes. But I used to believe that statement meant I could handle large amounts of pressure without breaking. Life can suck, but you’ll never see me sweat. I won’t crack.
Well, I’ve learned from experience that I’m not superhuman. I’ve cracked a couple of times under the pressure I’ve put on myself. I cracked privately, but there were seasons when I was so stressed, I started losing my hair. I suffered depression and anxiety in silence, having breakdowns at home. I put on the game face when I walked out of the door and outperformed my peers at work and in school. I was looking good on the outside and miserable on the inside. So… “My Black Can Crack.”
I’ve officially been on my self-care journey for six months now, and we’ve talked about a ton. This week, I want to give you a progress report. What have I been doing over the last six months regarding my self-care?
I play no games with my morning routine. I get up at 5 am, pray, spend some time reading (the Bible and a book on an area I need to grow in.) I work out at 6am for 30 minutes. I don’t drink coffee, so this is the way I wake up my body. No matter how I feel when I start, I always feel refreshed and alert when I’m done. Recently, I’ve made my morning routine non-negotiable. I’m not perfect. There are days that I’m exhausted, and I let myself sleep a little longer. But more often than not, I’m up at 5 am. There’s nothing like having two hours of peace, quiet and self-improvement.
I am still going to therapy. Last October I started going to therapy. I had a one-hour session every week. After a few months, I made progress. We’ve gone from a weekly session to a bi-weekly session. It’s going well. My therapist helped me identify some of my unhealthy thought patterns that led to unhealthy habits, and I’ve successfully made some changes. Overall, I feel more emotionally balanced. At moments, I’m even happy. This is huge improvement from where I was just six months ago.
I attend a small group for young marrieds. My church sponsors small groups to help build community. My husband and I joined one for young married couples. We regularly read books on marriage with the group. We talk out our issues in a safe group setting. We have a small community of couples that we can count on for support, and we are there for them as well. When I started my self-care journey, I really wanted to have a better relationship with myself. My relationship with others is improving too!
Overall, how am I feeling? My emotional health has been stable. I’m not over the moon excited. I’m not down either. Most of the time, I’m good. That’s the best way I can describe it. My soul is quiet. Peaceful. Six months ago, my insides were all over the place, but I’m currently pretty stable. I unknowingly got off the emotional roller coaster.
I have the tools to know when a depressive thought is trying to take root in my mind. I can feel it. I can now talk it through and let it pass. It takes me a matter of hours to work through something that used to take me months. Now that I think about it, I need to take myself out for some ice cream or something. I’ve made some positive progress. I’m proud of myself!
What do I need to work on now? Now that I have the tools to deal with depression and anxiety in a healthy way, I have a new challenge to deal with: boredom. I’m so used to a chaotic emotional life, I don’t always know what to do with peace. So, I’m working on it.
I’m the same way with down time in my schedule. If I’m not working on a project, I get antsy. I have a play coming up, but a couple weeks ago, I almost got a part time job at a smoothie shop because I had some free time. I almost forgot that I would only have the job for a couple weeks before having to quit! I have commitments in the coming months. I just felt like I needed to fill my free time with something. Anything. As long as it was legal and ethical. Your girl needs to work on not always having a million things going on at once.
Over the next six months, hopefully I’ll handle peace better. For now, I’ll just keeping walking it out and sharing my progress with you. Thank you for being here with me and making this experience a rich one.
When I wrote my last post For the Girl With No Game, I had the nagging feeling that I was hiding a part of my identity. I said that sex is a healthy, positive, human experience that should be celebrated. I was essentially saying that there’s no way to have game if you have a negative view of sex. I agree with that wholeheartedly, but what I didn’t say is that I was abstinent before marrying my husband.
In this self-care journey, I’m “Marie Kondoing” my beliefs: figuring out what needs to be chucked and what is worth keeping. I’m a devout follower of Christ. Most of my life, I’ve had a clearly defined world view, but I have to admit that most of my choices growing up were more about church pressure than wisdom. Being abstinent was no exception.
As a grown woman, I’ve evolved. I refuse to blindly follow anyone or anything. I want to have a deep sense of understanding why I do what I do, and I desire the kind of faith that comes from the gut instead of the culture. So, that leaves me here… Sitting in the middle of my thought life, deciding what to make of my pre-marriage abstinence.
Sex has such an icky stigma in church. When I was a teen, the messaging I got was, “Wait until you’re married, or your life will be ruined.” When I got married, the conversation was, “Make sure you have lots of it, or you won’t to keep your husband.” There was so much fear around it that it took a while for me to enjoy it. If nothing else, I just wish the vibe around the conversation was different in church.
On the other hand, I would say that I’m proud of myself for having a counter-culture conviction in America and sticking to it. As a teen, I believed that God wanted me to save sex for marriage. I didn’t know much more than that, but it was enough for me to make a decision about what was important for me at the time. I had friends that were sexually active, and I think I was fine with that. But I didn’t allow anyone to pressure me into doing something I didn’t want to do. At sixteen, I was a person of conviction. That’s boss! I struggled with a lot of other issues, but peer pressure wasn’t really one of them. That has served me well as an adult.
Looking back, I wish I had a stronger “why” at the time. I don’t think “because God said it” is a good enough reason for anyone to choose abstinence. Not that statement alone anyway. Ultimately, that’s why I choose it, but there was so much more value to that particular choice that I didn’t see.
I should have been using that time to make decisions about what I wanted out of my relationships, out of sex and (for me) out of marriage. There were so many questions I could have answered for myself during that time, but I didn’t ask because I didn’t know to ask.
If I could do it all over again, I would have dated to find someone with an aligning purpose in life. And I would only tie my soul to that person after we were clear on our vision as a couple. In retrospect, I think I needed to be abstinent to have that clarity of mind, the time, and the emotional space to define what I wanted. I also needed the ability to make a clean break with someone with a conflicting vision.
Abstinence simplifies things. I have a few friends now that were also abstinent before marriage, and we all had the gift of discovering sex with one dude. I’m not saying that won’t change because… well… life happens. But I think there’s something beautiful about simplicity. One could argue I’ve missed out on some adventures, but if I’m sexually satisfied with what I have at home, is that missing out? Or is that contentment? If I’m happy, I think that’s the point.
Abstinence also helped me learn the value of boundaries. Through my journey, I learned how important it is to state what I’m comfortable with up front. Clearly defined lines. Crossing that line or even trying to see how close one can get to the line tells me a ton about that person’s regard for my desires. There were times when I wasn’t up front about my boundaries (for fear that I’d scare a guy off), and that blew up in my face. I couldn’t be mad that someone tried my boundaries because I never stated what they were in the first place. My personal and professional relationships are now healthier because I know how to communicate my intentions up front. Sidebar: Boundaries by Henry Cloud is an excellent read if you’re struggling with this by the way.
All in all, I wouldn’t change my decision to be abstinent before marriage. Today, I thoroughly enjoy sex and have a life partner with similar life values. If I could, I would change the energy around the conversation about sex in church and empower people who want to be abstinent with the information to maximize their time and energy.
I’m going out on a limb here and talking about yet another thing I’m not an expert on… The art of seduction. As a matter of fact, I had NO game when I was growing up. No game and no resources to help me get game.
I was raised in a strict Christian home, and the only conversation we had about sex was, “Don’t do it.” So, I never really explored flirtation or any of that. The expectation was that I would stay focused on my studies in school, build a career and get married when I was old enough. How I was supposed to magically know how to attract someone when I was old enough to get hitched is beyond me, but my point is that I didn’t know how to engage with men without making it purely platonic.
Funny thing… I ended up getting hitched to my best friend before I figured out how to flirt, so I guess my parents have the last laugh there.
However, I did get over my seduction issues in a surprising way. In all the time I’ve been an actor, I’ve been asked to audition for love interest roles. My initial reaction getting these auditions was to laugh! I thought I was the girl you should call in to play the victim or the criminal or the superhero (sensing a pattern here), but I couldn’t see myself playing someone’s girlfriend without being awkward.
One day I decided to boss up and take on the challenge. Clearly, the industry saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So, I practiced. I worked on scenes about relationships in acting class for at least a year to try to figure this thing out, and something broke when I worked on a scene from a play called Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball. It’s a great read, so if you ever have the time to read it, please do.
I decided to play the smart, provocative character named Trisha. Everything she believed about herself and love was the opposite of what I believed, which was perfect. I needed to explore a completely different way of doing things in order to break my old habits. While working on this scene, I focused on listening to and internalizing Trisha’s lines instead of trying to memorize them. Over time, I understood her point of view and could say the lines without faking it. I figuratively stepped into her shoes and learned a ton about what it means to have game.
Here’s what I learned:
What are your thoughts? Do you feel like you have game? If so, share some of your tips below.
If you read my post on celebrating strengths, you already know I don’t believe we need to focus all of our attention and energy on our weaknesses. BUT all of us at least need to know what they are, and this week my weakness was glaringly apparent...
I am impatient.
I’m working on it, but…
I am impatient.
As I’m writing this, I’m waiting to get the official email that I was hired for a job that I already know I got. The powers that be congratulated me in person for booking the role but told me I couldn’t share it yet. This happens all the time in the business, but your girl is BOTHERED that I can’t share the news with my inner circle.
Can you see how crazy this is? I got the job, a good job, and I can’t even celebrate it with a good attitude because I want to share the news with my people NOW. Pure crazy.
This is the life I live. Atlanta traffic doesn’t bother me. Why? Because I schedule my travel around high traffic times at all costs. I go to restaurants around town that have great food but no hype, so I never wait in line. I structure my life, so things keep moving, and I never have to wait.
But God has a way of teaching me the lessons I don’t want to learn, and I think He finds it funny. Over the last couple years, before booking a job, I’ve had to wait for some reason or other. I’ve been hired for a job then the start date gets pushed back… a MONTH. I’ve been told I’m being seriously considered for a job and had to wait for weeks to just get a yes or no. To be honest, I deal with rejection better than I deal with the wait. Just put me out of my misery already! Did I get it or not? I’m ready to move on.
Obviously, I’m still working out the kinks, but I see a pattern.
I’m told to wait.
I get stressed out.
I get the news or the result.
I move on with my life.
I’m always fine when the wait is over, no matter the result. So, if waiting is a part of life, I think I need to remove the stress associated with waiting and repurpose that energy. Maybe I can make it a game. I can see how long I can wait without complaining! Or if I want to be productive, I can see what I can create between being told to wait and getting the result. Either way, I’m going to at least approach the next wait with a game plan, so I don’t keep falling into the same pattern of behavior.
Okay, now that I’ve told you what I need to work on and my plan of action, what’s your thing? What could you stand to see differently? What’s your weakness, and what’s your plan of action to be better the next time?
A friend of mine had a ground-shaking, nuclear blow up with her husband. This fight was so bad that her immediate community rallied around her to make sure she was okay, being careful not to make her feel like we were all up in her business. Sidebar: Sometimes being all up in your friend’s business is EXACTLY what she needs, but I digress.
Over time, she assured me that things were getting back on track. She had faith, and she was strong. She and her man had even gone to therapy once to work out their issues.
Once is not enough.
This conversation is not about therapy alone. It’s about consistency. I don’t believe it’s possible to make any lasting progress in any area (i.e. faith, relationships, finances, emotional well-being) without consistency. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends say they went to therapy once or a couple times to work out their issues, and it only helped a little. Of course it only helped a little! It’s supposed to be a process.
Going to therapy one time for an issue you’ve had for years is like getting an x-ray for a broken arm and then walking away without any more treatment. That’s foolish and cruel to the soul.
If you have been dealing with a lot of tension in your relationship or your own issues (depression and anxiety) by yourself for years and haven’t seen major improvement, go to counseling. GET HELP. You don’t have to suffer alone for years at a time because it’s familiar. You can be happy, actually happy with yourself and in your relationship if you do the work.
When you go to therapy, you will have to talk about yourself. If you are a young black woman, this might feel crazy because we don’t like to tell people our business. But you will need to talk to someone, if you want to get better. You will feel vulnerable. You will talk about things you’ve avoided talking about for years, but that is a GOOD thing. You think you are protecting yourself by dealing with pain alone but you’re not. Isolating yourself only keeps you in that state of pain longer.
You will need to give yourself TIME to heal. I’ve been in therapy for five months, and I know folks who have been in therapy for years working on deeply rooted issues. I’m not planning on staying in therapy forever, but I’m not rushing through my process. I’m dealing with YEARS of trauma. A few months is nothing if it’s going to help me get better.
If you need to go to counseling and still haven’t taken the first step, stop putting your emotional wellness on the backburner. I deeply believe that if you commit to dealing with your own issues, the better you will be at caring for others. If you’ve gone to one or two sessions but haven’t fully healed, I urge you to keep going. You are worth that investment.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.