I’ve felt overwhelmed with privilege this past year, especially after the opulent, magical, stunning experience of my brother’s wedding. So much beauty and love I honestly didn’t feel capable of taking it all in. Did I deserve to experience any of it? Why me, why my family? How can I hold on to everything? What happens if it all disappears…

2015 has been a year of acceptance. It has been a year of seeing things for what they are and navigating the obscure, undeniable terrain of reality. Allowing the very natural inclination to resist and fight but not being beholden to it. Trying to maintain a balance of awareness, presence and healthy detachment; a wonderfully difficult and illuminating year it was for me!

So without further ado, let me share the meaning of a few words I learnt in 2015 with the hope the new meaning will guide you and me as we usher in 2016:

1. Perception

Actually, and unfortunately, perception matters. Wisdom tells us not to care about what other people think, but reality isn’t particularly wise. Perception involves first impressions, stereotypes, circumstances and huge amounts of irrationality. To pretend that what people perceive of you, of the world, of themselves, doesn’t matter can, in my opinion, be dangerous.

Throughout the year, upon finally confronting some ugly truths about how my skin color, womanhood, mannerisms and general being could and is perceived, I realized that I could no longer deny the ‘others’ perspective. I can’t continue to pretend that it doesn’t matter whether or not you see my blackness; whether you’re intimidated by my hair or fear my femininity. And I can’t pretend not to see your pale, luminous skin or not envy your uncontested masculinity.

Forget about all the thoughts, judgments and emotions that come thereafter, what matters is that very first interaction – simply acknowledging that it happens. To acknowledge means to accept that someone or everyone else looks out into the world with different eyes than yours.

Acknowledging perception is about opening up to empathy. Being open to the fact that someone else may see the very same thing you see standing in front of you, very, very differently. For a vast, complex universe of reasons, that will likely be forever unknown to you. So do you fight it, do you ignore it?

You, me, I, can pretend to, but that’s a futile lie. That said, it’s a difficult, invisible line between acknowledging what people may perceive and entrenching oneself in the futile endeavor of trying to decipher what they may, or may not, be thinking. So, you understand that someone may see, believe or think this or that about you, and then what?

Well, the trick, I think, is to then let go.

2. Privilege

‘A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.’ 

While acknowledging perception, I’ve been grappling with this concept. For all intents and purposes, I am privileged. Very. But what does that even mean? Where does it come from and what do I do with it?

There’s privilege in wealth, health, beauty, intellect, family, support, and love. And being alive is simply a great privilege.  How do you go about acknowledging that which clearly exists, feeling and expressing gratitude without the burdens of guilt, using but not abusing what is yours for the taking?

I’ve felt overwhelmed with privilege this past year, especially after the opulent, magical, stunning experience of my brother’s wedding. So much beauty and love I honestly didn’t feel capable of taking it all in. Did I deserve to experience any of it? Why me, why my family? How can I hold on to everything? What happens if it all disappears?

Or reappears all of a sudden. Because life is cyclical, everything comes and goes, round and round, and round again. And again.

I’m living in depths of gratitude for my privilege. I know it’s a blessing and it may not last. I know I must share what I can and fulfill the seeds waiting to be reaped.  I also know that I am simply privileged to be alive. And so are you.

3. There

If only ‘there’ existed. If only there was a tangible finish and actual medals we would all receive. We’re geared towards a ‘there’ – exams, graduation, the job, the marriage, the kids, the kids’ graduation, the grandkids, the retirement, the coffin?

I’ve spent most of my adult life struggling to get there. To this magical world of self-sustaining adulthood. I have never seemed to be able to get it right. Maybe I’ve been reading the map incorrectly, maybe I was handed out the wrong map (um, mum, dad what went wrong there?). It felt like this undecipherable puzzle trying to get to a pot of gold that dissipated each step I took towards it.

Will I ever reach there? Is there really a there, there? Urgh, forget there. I’m just going to focus on now…

4. Can’t

I’ve gone through severe punishments over the past couple of months because of this word. Every time my martial arts teacher hears me cry out ‘I just can’t do one more!’ he unleashes even more physical torment. “What do you mean ‘can’t’?” he yells, “I don’t understand what that word even means! Eliminate it from your vocabulary!”

Oh, I’ve been trying. While I’ve gotten better at biting my tongue when the c-word wants to escape during those grueling workout sessions, that doesn’t stop me from feeling the brick wall of ‘can’t’. The impossible stench of defeat whose arms I inevitably collapse into. And I grimace, grunt or whimper in pain, my body making it abundantly clear what it can’t do until the next morning, where yesterday’s can’ts become today’s okays. Today’s defeated obstacles. That extra push-up you didn’t know you had in you. Minor victories you usually don’t even remember to embrace. Because you’re too busy focusing on all the can’ts that are beating you down to a pulp.

5. No

Yes, yes, yes. Say NO! Scream no! Demand, no! Suggest, no. Honor, no. As a word, as a concept, as an option and as your right.

I used to be scared of saying no. As if expressing the word was a sin. As if those two syllables were some kind of dangerous weapons that only difficult, mean, selfish individuals brandished it. Women certainly aren’t meant to contradict our gentle nature by saying such a word. How dare we oppose or offend!

Well, no. No, I disagree. No, I refuse to do that. No, I choose not to accept that. No, I don’t care. No, I’m doing things differently. No, I do actually care. No, this is me.

It certainly doesn’t have to be hard, or rude, or disruptive or negative in any way. But it does have to be an option, and the more you get used to using it as an option, the more authentic your life can become. Because saying no to the outside can mean saying yes to the inside. Or vice versa. No, I choose not to think that way or act upon those feelings. I’m choosing yes to change, yes to courage, yes to life.

And yes to a phenomenal 2016!

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