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Determined To Live Soft

A Black Woman’s Journey of Intentional Living



Photo: Movie Scene Queen



Do not call me soft! I am strong. Do not call me soft. I do not have time to cry. Crying is attached to an emotion that I do not subscribe to.  Do not call me soft! I do not have time to take breaks. I must press through because if I do not, who will? Do not call me soft! I am resilient. I must bounce back. Rest is for the weak.  Do not call me soft! Soft is defined as being easy to mold.


This was my mantra. I prided myself in thinking this way. Unfortunately, many of us who have been thrust into leadership roles, being the head of the household, your family, or your community may struggle with the idea of being molded. We desire to define who we are and mold ourselves. I am not saying this is not a positive trait, but when there is a lack of balance, we tend to do ourselves a disservice by being everything to everyone.


I am challenging us as Black women to be open to allowing ourselves to be molded, to soften a bit. We deserve it. I know for many this may be a foreign conversation. I would venture to say, a conversation that we may be afraid to be open to. I understand there is a level of vulnerability to allowing yourself to be soft. Just to be clear I am not only referring to “other” Black women. I am in this thing too. This thing being the softening of self and the growth process. I understand the process is not easy, but I know it is necessary. We deserve to live softly and see the world through soft eyes. According to Zeiss.com we perceive almost 80% of all impressions through our sight. I’m suggesting that as Black women we choose to see the world from a positive view. Many of us have had struggles that have hardened us early in life. I am not suggesting that we do not reflect on those past circumstances, but it is imperative that we move forward and allow the process of softening to begin.


In 1995 I gave birth to twins, a girl and a boy.  I was in an extremely unhealthy relationship, but I decided to have my children regardless of the outcome of the relationship. I was working a full-time job and various contracted positions.  I was enrolled as a full-time graduate student. One would say, “Of course your mind and emotions were unsettled and you did not have the capacity to live soft.”


There were a lot of responsibilities and people relying on my hardness. Deep down inside, I knew these feelings were not only related to my responsibilities in life. These feelings were associated with not being at peace with my past and present situations. I realized I was holding on to resentments, shame, guilt, trauma, anxiety, and depression. Due to life experiences, I created a hard shell around me, around my heart. As I explored my determination to live soft, I realized the hard shell was created as an unconscious defense mechanism. The hard shell was my protection. The protection I thought I needed from this harsh and cruel world.

 

Who can relate?

I would like to think I am the only Black woman who has experienced the need to protect myself and create this hard exterior. Unfortunately based on many conversations with other Black women I know that I am not alone. The hard exterior has become a phenomenon among Black women. This statement is not to bemoan what we face as Black women in society but it is to bring awareness to what we face day to day. We are not only faced with societal and familial ills but the internal anguish created by some of those societal and familial ills. I am intentional as it relates to conversations and purposes to progressive action with other Black women. I am purpose-driven because I have a heart for us, not only women but specifically Black women. I desire to see us whole, healthy, loved, recognized, successful, understood, evolved, respected, and treated fair and equally. I believe the time is now to not only determine to live soft but to take action. We are not asking for permission we are making the moves.


In October of 2022, the weight of 2020 came crashing down on me. I went through a significant breakup in 2020 and abruptly moved from the home I was living in. I did not give myself time to breathe. I went into survival mode and just moved. The emotions of this situation caught up to me in 2022. I realized I very seldom give myself time to breathe. I pressed through and let the emotions catch me if they could. Well, they caught me. My emotions became overwhelming, I felt defeated and as though I was lacking direction. This vulnerability was new to me. I felt exposed. I found myself tapping into emotions that I strategically avoided at all costs. I avoided these emotions because I did not want to appear soft. I would cry alone, not ask for help when I needed it, avoid rest although I was physically exhausted, and became mentally and spiritually exhausted too. This was the reality I created for myself. I convinced myself that the “struggle” was a badge of honor. I thought if I showed a softer side I would be chewed up and spit out by the wolves of the world. I know that sounds dramatic, but it was my reality. This was not a new reality. This reality was deep-rooted. Like the roots of a tree, although I could not see them, they were being fed by those past negative emotions. I knew a change was needed.

 

 Turning Point

What will be your turning point? When will you not only decide a significant change is needed but make your decisions actionable? When will enough be enough? I understand this is not easy. Some of us have been living hard for so long that we have no idea how to embark on this new journey of soft. Again, I am not speaking as an individual because I know in speaking to other Black women many of us experience this hard life. We also do not desire for life to be this hard. I believe much of it comes down to how we think and process life events. I released my first book in 2019 entitled W.A.S.H (Withstand All Strife To Heal): Time To Do YOUR Laundry. One of the significant terms in W.A.S.H. is life stains. Life stains are those things that have caused damage emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, etc.


Due to my emotional crash in 2022, I committed to enjoying life to the fullest in 2023, my “Year of 50.” There was a small part of me that still felt the need to be hard, but I was ready to soften. A friend of mine told me about an artist named Mumu Fresh. While taking a drive I turned on her song Soft Again. When I tell you that song turned me around. It turned my mindset around. Turned my emotions upside down. The exact line that compelled me to make that change and commit to a softer life was: “When I go home, I want to take the cape off. I want to feel soft.” Now, for context, Mumu is referring to her relationship with a man. But the line in the song referring to taking my cape off spoke volumes to me. Until then I lived a life of being a superwoman.


This song and these lyrics encouraged me to look inside and examine when and why I became hard. I remember living a soft life as a young child. But life stains (reference from W.A.S.H. Time To Do YOUR Laundry) showed up and experiences created this hard woman. After several plays of this song and reflecting on life, I made the decision that I deserve to live softly. I am not referring to living without responsibilities. I am referring to living life with soft eyes and a soft heart.


What will it take for you to turn the corner? When will it be your turn to love yourself enough to say enough?

 

Capacity To Love Yourself

Somewhere on my journey through life, I lost my love for myself. Just as we commit to love others, we must commit to love ourselves. I would say self-love should be our first love. There is a courage needed to love yourself. As women, especially Black women, it can seem as though it is us against the world. There is a saying that the most unprotected person is the Black woman. I would have to say, I agree. This is why you have to evaluate your capacity to love yourself. Capacity is vital to this process. Often, we begin the healing process without evaluating our true capacity to manage the emotions that may arise. If there is past hurt and trauma, unresolved familial issues, or internal issues, we must commit to seeking the necessary support to resolve those things to effectively begin our internal healing process.

 

Commitment To Yourself

Many women make commitments to everyone and everything but themselves. We commit ourselves to relationships (both intimate and friendly). We commit ourselves to our children. We commit ourselves to family. We commit ourselves to our work. We commit ourselves to school.  We commit ourselves to our social and spiritual affiliations. We are the epitome of commitment. I recognize I often overcommit. I have started realizing it is time for me to commit myself. Overly committing is not a sign of living soft. On this journey of soft living, it is important to make room for yourself and demonstrate compassion for yourself, sympathy for yourself, and a warm heart for yourself. This is your time to commit to yourself unapologetically.

 

Final Thoughts

Your journey of soft living will not be easy. It will require commitment and willingness to go through those hard, but worthy things of life. Once those hard things are broken down, I believe soft living can begin. Do not cheat yourself. I know others may have told you differently, but you deserve the best out of life.

 

Be Well,

Maisha


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