Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Press Pause?

Whilst at a dinner party, a friend of mine directed a question solely towards the single women in the room.

‘If you met Mr Right today do you think it’d work out? Answer honestly!’

Roughly half of us responded with a no, acknowledging that we weren’t ready for ‘Mr Right’.

Sidebar: I think ‘Mr Right’ is a bit like Santa Claus, a mythical social construct that does more harm than good. But that’s another blog post…

She then turned to the women who felt they were ready and made a compelling case as to why their next relationship probably wouldn’t work out. Pleased that for once I wasn’t the most controversial guest at the table, I decided to sit back and listen, rather than be the voice of dissent.

Sidebar: I’m lying. Me + Free Food = Silence.

Despite the intensity of the debate, miraculously we all left the dinner table with our friendships in tact. And since her theory provoked such a reaction, I thought it was only just I shared it on here…

Press Pause

“Meet a guy, fancy the guy, hook up with guy, guy becomes boyfriend, fall in love with the guy…you and the guy eventually split up”

Give or take a few weeks or months between each stage, that’s cycle most women have been engaged in since they were teenagers. According to my friend this viscous cycle could potentially become a virtuous circle that ends with ‘you and the guy live happily ever after’, if women (and men) radically changed their behaviour.

In the time between the ‘fancy the guy’ and ‘hook up with guy’ stages, she advises that women ‘press pause’ and halt the sequence of events. Instead of allowing things to escalate into a relationship, we must make the seemingly counter-intuitive commitment to stay friends.

Why? Apparently we’re doing it all backwards. We’ve amplified living in the moment and relegated gradually getting to know a person. Consequently we’re using the dating and relationship stage as a method of getting to know a man, instead of the more benign framework of friendship.

We misidentify great sex as a great relationship or a great ‘connection’ as a signifier of a great future. Fast forward a few months or years later and according to her ‘we’re in love with men that we don’t really know’. When the inevitable relationship growing pains emerge, we resent a man for ‘changing’ when in fact he’s simply being himself. We just never took the time to discover who he really was.

After using herself as a guinea pig, she’s come to the conclusion being friends for as long as possible is the better option, as relationships underpinned by sound friendships work best.

As I was being unusually quiet (ingesting carbs has that impact on me), my friend decided to divert the debate away from herself...

‘Christiana what do you think? Do you think you’ll try the 'press pause' method? ”

It’s not that I don’t see the benefits of her approach. Observing before you submerge yourself in a situation is the wiser option. The ‘press pause’ method makes sense. However I couldn’t sit there and advocate something that I lack the capacity to carry out.

Firstly, let’s deal with the elephant in the room touching itself. The whole ‘press pause’ thing is a great theory but in the real world, such theories are discarded. The type of men we want drive us in the opposite direction. They make us jump on the relationship rollercoaster even if we’ve just eaten ten red velvets *guilty face* . When you meet a man and you have an electric connection, being ‘just friends’ ceases to be an option.

Perhaps it’s proof that deep inside me lives a romantic, but I believe when it comes to matter of the heart, when you know you know. It doesn't matter if you were friends for 5 minutes or 5 years. You can ‘press pause’ all you like but when that "thing" in you is triggered and you think, "this is it", you’ll feel compelled to follow that feeling. In hindsight it may have been the ‘wrong’ decision but it'll lead you somewhere and that’s what life’s about. Taking chances and exploring the unknown.

Secondly, I’m usually not a fan of labels but in the realm of relationships for the sake of avoiding complications, we need them. What do we call the type of arrangements we’ve ‘pressed pause’ on? ‘We're just getting to know each other, but we’re exclusive, but we’re not really exclusive because we’re really friends but more than friends’ ? Did that make sense or did you have to read it twice? Exactly. (Shoddy) Proof this ‘press pause’ thing can unnecessarily complicate matters that should be simple.

Finally, the theory is based on the faulty assumption that all women seek long-term relationships. As hard as it is to believe, there are countless women in their twenties who aren’t obsessed with marriage or settling down. Many women desire something casual that fits around their lifestyle. For such women there’s no need to use friendship as a guise for an intensive screening process because the men in her life are temporary.

Are some of us trapped in a dating cycle that’s not working? Yes. Does the ‘press pause’ method ensure that we’ll make better choices and things will change? Of course not. I think a gentler application of the ‘press pause’ method is more practical. Instead of accelerating into a relationship or lying stagnant in a pseudo friendship, we should simply take each day at a time and see what happens.

What’s your opinion? Is ‘press pause’ the way forward? Or is it unfeasible? The floor is yours!

Love & Light



Tuesday, 21 September 2010

How to get over someone

If I had to rank the questions I’m most frequently emailed, ‘How do I get over someone?’ would be in the top 5. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Heartbreak is one of the unavoidable consequences of living. For the women who’ve managed to recover from heartbreak, the memories are enough to make us vow to never love anyone so recklessly again. That’s what we say until we meet someone who’s so intriguing, all those nights spent crying are swept away as we allow ourselves to be swept off our feet. All the while knowing the type of men with the power to break down our walls tend to bring one of two things, indescribable joy or unbearable pain. However it all seems worth the risk at the time.

That’s one of the reasons why trying to overcome heartbreak is such an ordeal. Half of the heartache is caused by the annoying fact it was self-inflicted and we were active participants in causing own pain.

It’s an unspoken rule that we must go through heartbreak silently and privately. Beyond a few friends and family members, no one knows we’re going through it. All this does is compound the misery. Everyone speaks to us like things are normal, we appear normal yet feel like we’ve lost a limb.

So whenever I receive an email with the subject ‘How do I get over someone?’ I immediately respect that woman for being brave enough to come out and discuss a topic many of us shy from sharing publicly. I also wish we lived in a world where women and men were allowed to cry publicly about their heartbreak, without everyone thinking they’re emotionally imbalanced, unhinged or weak. Unfortunately we live in a (western) world, where we may freely show our cleavage and bare our midriffs, but we must hide our emotions in order to make others feel comfortable.

Since pretending you’re fine when you feel like crap is torturous, it’s perfectly normal to seek a quick fix cure for heartbreak. Perhaps if we watch the right films, read the right literature and listen to enough ‘things will get better one day Mary J Bligesque’ ballads, somehow we can catalyse the healing process. Yet the reality is there are no quick fixes when it comes to heartbreak.

Of course there are temporary measures that give the illusion of healing and will momentarily (albeit ineffectively) fill the void. We can feign indifference, party so hard our stilettos need to be reheeled, have sex with someone else, get a new haircut, lose the extra weight or write subliminal yet oh so obvious Facebook updates which allude to us being ‘stronger’. However the accumulative impact of doing all these things will be negligible. It’s a bit like using dental floss to stitch a weave. People may believe it’s real for a while but eventually it’ll all fall apart.

Sidebar: I promise you that’s my last weave analogy of the year (ok maybe the month)

So ‘How’ do you get over someone? Well there is no ‘how’. There is no definitive method. There is no magic formula. There are no 5 easy steps. There is no secret mantra you can whisper to yourself that will alleviate the pain and anyone that attempts to sell you the book with the answer is a charlatan. All we can really do is get on with life. Whatever it is you do, keep doing it. Feign normality until you almost believe things are ‘normal’. Life goes on. One day you’ll stop caring and by the time you stop caring you won’t even care enough to notice you’ve stopped caring. We can’t fight heartbreak, we just live through it.

Sadly in our rush to ‘get over’ people and recover from our heartbreak some of us pour our energy into trying to forget the person that caused our pain. If someone shakes your world so much you need to forget them, surely that’s an experience worth remembering? The experience itself may have been imperfect, but the lessons we could learn are perfect. Perfectly shaped to fit into the fabric of our lives and help us in the future.

Furthermore why must we pretend just because a relationship has ended that person leaves us forever? They’re part of us, whether we like it or not. For good or for bad, they leave an indelible mark on our lives, reshape our characters, change our perspective and help form who we are from that moment on. I don’t think this is something we should reject, rather we should embrace it. They’re always a part of us and as long as they no longer have power over us that’s ok.

As you may have gathered this post was inspired by a young lady asking me how she could get over her first real love. After I sent her an abridged version of this blog her response was…

“Well if there’s no ‘how’, how long should it take to get over someone?”

To which I had to respond with ‘I don’t know’. 7 years? 7 weeks? 7 months? Any number people choose as the appropriate amount of time to spend heartbroken is arbitrary. To condescendingly say someone’s taking ‘too long’ or judgementally state another’s gotten over someone ‘too quickly’, would be projecting our own beliefs and preferences on others. The truth is just like there’s no magic formula for getting over someone, there’s no magic number of days that signify the journey is over. That’s my opinion and for now I’m sticking by it.

What’s your opinion? Have I got the wrong end of the stick? Is there a method for getting over heartbreak? If so, what is it? Or is it simply a question of getting on with life and things eventually getting better? Let me know!

Love & Light


Friday, 17 September 2010

The Problem With Categories

Recently a good friend of mine promised me he’s finally ready to have a real girlfriend and I foolishly volunteered my matchmaking services. After listening to his checklist and reminding him that I don’t know Halle Berry personally, I concluded I probably knew about 2.5 women who’d be able to tolerate him without contemplating hanging themselves by their hair.

After coming up with a few names, my friend suddenly informed me of his non-negotiable requirement. He is adamant that the woman must not have a tattoo on her neck. Now none of the woman I suggested had neck tattoos. However I felt offended on behalf of my (imaginary) neck tattooed friend who was amazing yet being unfairly discriminated against for something so superficial.

It so happened that a few of our other friends were present during my ‘matchmaking consultation’ and unsurprisingly a debate ensued about the ‘neck tattoo test’ . Of course we never found common ground however as the discussion evolved I can say I learnt one thing.

Men place women into categories (too).

Well duuh, you’re probably thinking. The thing is prior to this conversation, I hadn’t given extensive thought to the categories men lump women into or if they categorise us at all. I believe a woman should discover her true identity on her terms, and paying too much attention to what she believes ‘men’ want, will inevitably stifle her self-expression. For that reason I deliberately don’t allow my mind to dwell on the topic too much.

However when I have thought about how men may categorise women, I’ve always they’re more flexible than women in their selection process. The commonly accepted idea is it’s women that have the stringent criteria and are supposedly unwilling to compromise. But I’ve changed my mind. I do think men are equally (if not more) stringent than women are. Even though us women don’t like to admit it, our ‘checklist’ is subject to change and most of us can attest to the fact we’ve fallen for a man who was once in the 'why won't he stop calling me?' category.....

On the other hand the conversation I had with my friends made it apparent to me that even though some men may not know what they want, when they know what they don’t want, they stick to it.

Fascinated by the concept of categories I asked my friends to outline them.

Sidebar: It’s too long to go into and will have to be a completely different blog entry. If we simplified matters and used broad strokes, there are women that are worthy of meeting a man’s mum and those that aren’t.Simple.

What was enlightening (and slightly frightening) was that how a woman is categorised impacts:

1) How much a man invests in a relationship
2) How long the relationship will last.

Which basically means there are millions (well thousands) of women in a relationship that they think has long term potential, completely oblivious to the fact that their men have placed them in a ‘short term’ category. Because apparently (heavy emphasis on the apparently)

‘A woman can work her way down the categories, but rarely can she work her way up’

Now I knew there was no point debating whether men should or shouldn’t categorise women, it would be hypocritical as women categorise men. Furthermore bar the neck tattoo test (which I still think is ludicrous) the traits required to be in different categories weren’t as superficial as I thought they’d be. My objection was the fact I felt my friends had missed something crucial…

‘Just because a woman appears to appropriate doesn't mean she is'

All these ‘categories’ and the various requirements necessary to fulfill them are deceptive. Why? Because people are deceptive.

Smart (well devious) women and men will project what they think will help them attract the type of person they want. In essence they can (and will) create a version of themselves, that isn’t reflective of the ‘true them’. For instance one of my friends insists he’ll only be with a woman who goes to church regularly because he wants to be with a Christian. He seems to have forgotten that that many people are churchgoers and many people call themselves Christians, but few are both. Or my other friend who insisted he likes the type of woman who frequents art galleries because it indicates she’s cultured. What about those people who go to art galleries just because it makes them seem cultured? The type that doesn’t absorb anything they observe and really don’t care about extending their minds. For such people going to art galleries is how they polish their particular brand of pretentiousness.The bottom line is people will pretend to be who they think they need to be. They may be so successful at it they fool everyone, even themselves, into believing that’s who they truly are.

Perhaps I’m playing devil’s advocate, but what if a woman gives the appearance of being "less" than she is? What if she's being placed in the wrong category and just needs someone to work alongside her? And what about the women who seem great on paper but internally there’s a she-devil plotting world domination?I’m not denying the usefulness of categorising, I’m merely highlighting how deceptive such a method can be in the long run. Furthermore by placing such a great emphasis on categories, both men and women are essentially closing themselves off to people who could be great for them.

We may not be able to fling aside our categorisations but let’s all bear in mind the only thing we can really ‘judge’ a person on is merit. Opening our horizons and considering more people than we otherwise would can’t be a bad thing…even if they have neck tattoo’s : )

Love & Light


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

That September Feeling....

I loved September growing up. The anticipation of the impending school year and knowing I’d finally be getting a new school uniform meant I was in a perpetual state of excitement. I relished going to WH Smith with The Duchess to buy new stationery. We’d get to the till and she’d say to me in a menacing whisper ‘if you lose any of these things I will not replace a thing…..’. I’d smirk inwardly knowing full well African pride would prevent her from ever allowing me to be the child with sub-standard stationery.

The only thing I dreaded about September was shoe shopping. As a child I had awkwardly shaped feet, so it was the sartorial equivalent of Chinese water torture. We usually began shoe shopping in mid-August and capitulated the day before I went back to school. It was a clash of wills between my mother and I. I wanted trendy shoes whilst she wanted practical shoes that I would ‘grow into’.

Sidebar: Am I the only person who had parents obsessed with buying their children clothes they could ‘grow’ into?

Shoe shopping always ended in tears. I would dramatically declare I would rather die than wear ugly shoes and my mum would remind me she wouldn’t hesitate to call social services if I didn’t shut up.

Torturous shopping trips aside, I still look back on Septembers past with fondness. Each rung I climbed up the school ladder required a new level of commitment, responsibility and represented a new phase of learning. I’ve always loved change and September meant change was being forced upon me and passivity wasn’t an option. September presented the challenges the pugnacious part of me sought. And as my enthusiasm for education dwindled, September meant I was a step closer to finally getting out of institutions I’d come to loathe.

Today I’m at a stage in life where September no longer bears the same significance nor does it produce the same wave of emotions. There’s no back to school flurry, no pep talks from parents/teachers encouraging me to strive for more and there’s no collective sense of excitement amongst my peers about what the future holds. One of the downsides of adulthood is the only time in the year we get a semblance of that old September feeling is at the beginning of January. When we sit down and write down resolutions we lack the resolve to keep, then tuck them away in a draw where they’re forgotten.

I miss that old September feeling and all the good it evoked within me. It’s been a year since I left university and I miss that rush of determination I gained upon the start of a new academic year. However I’d rather slow dance with a fox whilst wearing Lady GaGa’s meat dress, than spend more time in education.

After spending time wondering how I could recapture that September feeling without being imprisoned sorry enrolling in a university, yesterday it hit me. I’d attached too much significance on the temporal. I’d foolishly associated a frame of mind, with a time frame. The ‘September feeling’ I miss is possible on any day of the year. It’s not about the season, it’s about my mentality during whatever season I’m in. That unshakable belief that in the coming year anything would be possible if I worked hard enough could happen on any day. It shouldn’t have to take the arrival of September 1st or January 1st for me to believe in it.

I still wish every day could be like the first day back at school, when we thought ‘this year is really going to be different’ and we’d work extra hard to impress our new teacher. On the other hand the reality is every day isn’t the first day of school. However I don't think this fact should hinder us from actively seeking to tap into that first day of school feeling......I guess the 'September feeling' I've been harping on about is just my feeble attempt at describing Optimism in poetic terms.

If we manage to recapture that ‘feeling’ it’s our responsibility to maintain it. When we find its source, we must daily go back to it, grab on to it and then run with it. We must run so we maintain the momentum necessary for our goals and dreams to become a reality.And on those days when everything goes really disastrously (let’s be real no mater how many positive thoughts we think awful things will happen) at least we'll know we can return to the source of that ‘September feeling’ when we recover from the blow.

I've discovered our perception of our reality determines our reality as much as reality itself, so I’m on a mission to daily tap into that ‘September’ feeling. It's not a contrived effort to create waves of nostalgia or an attempt to live on the highs of the past. Rather this is about using the positive and determined outlook I'd wrongly associated with a pocket of time (rather than a frame of mind), to create greater moments in the present and empower me in the future.

For those that understand where I’m coming from and crave something similar, you’re more than welcome to join me. I figure if we do it often enough, for long enough, before we know it we’ll have that 'September feeling' all year round.

Love & Light


P.S Thanks for your patience during my blog break. I’ll be resuming with my normal posting schedule (three times a week). Let’s go!!!! : )

Friday, 3 September 2010

Untitled (because I can't think of a title....)

Firstly, I’d like to say I’m sorry for how quiet this blog has been over the last fortnight. It wasn’t my intention to take what seems like a hiatus and I know some may think I’ve been neglecting this space. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Every morning I wake up just after 6am. I pray, mediate, read and then I start writing something to post on here or for the other projects I’m involved in. For the past few weeks it’s been harder than ever to write. It’s not because I have nothing to say (I doubt that will ever happen!), it’s just I can’t seem to construct anything I think is worthy of posting.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t write anything half decent. I know it’s not because of the (anonymous) scathing comment I’ll inevitably receive. I’ve grown accustomed to them. It’s certainly not because I fear I won’t meet whatever standard ‘bloggers’ are supposed to meet.

Sidebar: Let’s be honest the bar for a successful blog is set remarkably low. Exhibit A: Perez Hilton. A man who has made millions through posting pictures of celebs, doodling on these pictures using ‘Paint’ and has a ‘writing’ style that’s the holy grail of all things awful.

The bottom line is my writing isn’t meeting my standards. Currently it’s mediocre at best. I despise mediocrity and I don’t want to torture you all by positing average content.

I know I could post anything on here. There’s no real incentive to maintain a certain standard or strive for a higher standard. I’m not paid to blog and as far as I know there’s no punishment for posting quantifiably crap content.

Sidebar: Some of the rubbish I see posted on the internet makes me wish there was a Bloggers Tax or some way of restricting people’s internet access. Yes I know it would be totalitarian and restrict the individual’s right to freedom of speech. That’s the whole point. There are too many people who have free speech but enslaved minds. (sorry rant over).

I could go down the polemic root, writing controversial posts to generate hits and deliberately spark futile debates that generate more heat than light. I even contemplated making this blog less labour intensive by writing shorter posts (if you think 1,000 + words is a lot to read, try regularly writing it!). I’ve gone through phases when I’ve concluded I would need to dilute the content. They say sex sells, but not as much as dumb does.

But I can’t bring myself to become everything I’m not in order to make this blogging thing easier. Even though going down an easier route would mean I posted more and would probably give this blog a bigger 'buzz', it would be in direct opposition to everything I believe. And I don’t want to exchange my principles for fleeting popularity.

I’m going to plod on through this rough transition and by the end of it I intend to be able to consistently write posts that I'm proud of. To all of you who have sent me emails, tweets and regularly check if I’ve posted something, I do appreciate you. My absence isn’t a sign that I take any of you for granted. The truth is no one beats themselves up more than I do when I don’t post. I know I’ve fallen well below the 3 posts a week standard I set for myself and I’m still yet to film another video blog. My passion for my blog hasn’t waned; I’m just going through a phase where I want to write more than anything but I’m not happy with what I’m creating.

I’ve been accused by some friends and family members of taking this blog too seriously. Over the past few years I’ve poured so much into it. I’ve gained a lot but at this point it feels like I’ve sacrificed a lot more. It’s impacted my relationships, my ability to gain formal employment and the perception people have of me. And even though close friends and family members have asked me to shut this blog down I’ve kept on going.

And I’m going to keep on going.

Even though to many it doesn’t make sense.

Even though I know a lot of people laugh at me behind my back.

Even though it means some automatically assume I’m arrogant or believe I think I’m intellectually and morally superior.

Even though it's cost me friendships.

Even though many think I’m ‘wasting’ my degree.

And even though keeping this blog has been the biggest endurance test of my life thus far.

I’m going to keep going.

Because even though no one else can see it, I know where this will lead.

So please be patient with me. I thought I’d ridded myself of the perfectionist tendencies I picked up somewhere along the road, but I was mistaken. Hopefully by Monday something will have clicked and the words will pour out as easily as they once did.

Until then,

Love & Light

Christiana xxx

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

No More Hype

The chances are you know a few people who perpetually speak about what they’re up to. Every time you connect with them they boast about what they’re about to do and how huge it’s going to be. The next time you run into them you’ll have a variant of the same conversation. Weeks, turn into months and then become years and their hype is yet to translate into anything substantial.

If you don’t know anyone personally take a moment to log onto Twitter or Facebook. I can guarantee you’ll find thousands of people bragging about their ‘hustle’, upcoming ‘huge project’ and how much money they’re going to make. These vapid individuals have glorified the pursuit of affluence and success above all else, yet have little or no concrete achievements to back up their constant hype.

Prematurely hyping about your success is stupidity in motion and people that engage in such behaviour have missed the obvious. Having a brilliant idea is no big deal. Talking about your amazing new idea is even less of a big deal. Most brilliant ideas die in people’s minds or on their lips after being over-talked to death. It’s closing the gap between idea creation and idea execution that matters. People that make things happen don’t spend their time talking about how they’re going to do it or fooling the world with their artificial hype. They just do. Despite this fact, too many people are experts in talking about what they’re going to do.

These individuals are so enamoured with hype and pretending they’re busy, they decide to find things to busy themselves with. In such cases being busy doesn’t necessarily mean being productive or creative. It just means they occupy themselves performing tasks that are inconsequential in order to further delude themselves. And in a society where people type so furiously on their BlackBerry’s they're inflicting premature arthritis upon their thumbs, everyone’s too busy to notice. Consequently a person can engineer their own hype for years without anyone spotting they’re full of crap or calling them out on their folly.

The lines have become so blurred, many confuse their busyness and talking about making things happen, with actually making them happen. Momentum that could be used to fuel a dream is expended talking about the dream. And the tragedy is people with great talent don’t realise that all their talking is distracting them from working.

The gulf between saying you’ll do it and getting it done is a wide as an ocean. Most people spend their time floating on rafts called excuses. However there are a select few who quietly build a boat and concentrate on navigating the waves that seek to set them off course. Part of building that boat (a.k.a ‘working’) involves shutting up and getting things done. Getting things done is boring. It isn’t glamorous or ‘tweet worthy’ and it involves a lot of hard graft, sweat and pain. At times your progress seems so slow you’ll feel like you’re stalling. Except you’re not stalling, you’re simply moving at the pace required to build anything that’s worthwhile.

Sidebar: Nothing worth building is constructed and celebrated overnight. If things come together easily, be wary. It’s probably not going to last.

Getting things done is so mundane you probably won’t want to share it with people, however it’s necessary component of getting anywhere. I know secrecy is underrated and rarely celebrated, but quietly getting things done (as opposed to broadcasting your dream) has many benefits. You get to make your mistakes without an audience. How can you be a failure if no one knew you were even trying?

I’m not knocking ambition, passion or enthusiasm. What I’m knocking is people incessantly speaking about their dreams without a corresponding work ethic. Telling us what you do is useless. Do what you do and it will speak for itself. Quietly and steadily make things happen. Without fanfare or broadcasting it on every social media platform possible. In the words of Nike, Just Do it. Execute. Resist the hype. Be so immersed in your work people forget you exist. There’ll be no need to generate an artificial buzz because if you create something worthwhile it will emit energy so powerful people will have to take note.

Those that broadcast the most often achieve the least and it’s not because they lack talent or skill. It’s because they eventually inhale the highly toxic gas generated by their own hype. So lay low whilst the others keep hyping. By the time they spot you, you’ll be an ‘overnight’ success.

Love & Light