Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Art of Adversity

We all have a story. I'm always inspired by positive, confident women who exude the kind of wisdom that can only come from authentic living. As a woman who has struggled with self-loathing and depression, I'm particularly inspired by women who have overcome personal hardships and are candid about their experiences. I remember the first time I heard Janet Jackson say that she'd struggled with depression throughout her life, I felt a tug at my heart. I remember wondering what she could possibly have to be depressed about.

This was the beginning of my awareness that all of us are dealing with something - no matter how successful, glamorous, or carefree we appear to be. What is it that gives some of us that drive to keep pushing when every fiber within us wants to give up? Sometimes it's the simple awareness that our pain has a purpose. Our struggles can blossom into the most beautiful creations, but it's up to us to develop a constructive eye that can discern the possibilities from the pain.

The following women have inspired me to write and to connect with people using the power of words to free myself from isolation and self-pity.

In her new book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through, Iyanla Vanzant opens up about the death of her daughter, her unexpected divorce, the loss of her home and her tumultuous financial troubles. She's even brutally honest about her contemplation of suicide.

"Vanzant displays the scars of her life with an authoritative honesty, in the hopes of helping someone who might travel a path similar to hers, hurting unceasingly and hoping for help seemingly never on its way." Morris W. O'Kelly, Huffington Post

Vanzant's books have been key in my journey of self-discovery.  It amazes me that even before the more recent series of unfortunate events that have befallen her, she was an abandoned child who was sexually abused, a teen mother, and an abused wife. 
"Facing the truth was one of the bravest things I have ever done. I was addicted. Not to drugs. Not to alcohol. But to unconsciously creating situations from which I needed to be rescued, situations that would allow me to feel bad for myself, that I could wallow in, that I could whine about, that gave me juicy stories to tell. Looking that square in the eye was awful." - Iyanla Vanzant
I continue to wish her well and be inspired by her story.  We cannot be sure of how many times we will fall down, but as long as we keep looking up - we can always get back up.

How many of us grew up with Mary J. Blige? There's something about her voice and her words that always resonates in my soul.

Despite her success, for many years Mary's life was rife with drugs, alcohol and abusive relationships. When she sang "All I really want is to be happy...", I felt her torment; that knowledge that exists just beneath the surface that somehow I was denying my own happiness but not understanding how to stop doing it. When she sang "I like what I see when I'm looking at me when I'm walking past the mirror...", I felt her joy and self-love that she worked so hard to find.

Throughout the ups and downs of her career, music has been there as her outlet. Personally, her music helped me connect with my own emotions time and time again. On September 20, 2011, she'll be releasing her 11th album My Life II, The Story Continues. I can't wait!

Years ago, I saw a documentary about Waris Dirie, a Somalian model who had endured and survived the trauma of female circumcision as a child. Her story stuck with me, for I'd admired her as a model for a long time before I became aware of her story. At the time I couldn't fathom how someone could go through such an appalling thing and get past it.  I was a teenager at the time and an aspiring model.  I viewed the models I admired as "perfect" and their lives as charmed.  As I mentioned earlier, I began to realize that physical appearance, wealth and status were hardly indicators of the content of a person's life.

She wrote an autobiography, Desert Flower, that was recently adapted into a film with the same name with supermodel Liya Kibede playing her. Waris left the modeling world in the late nineties to increase awareness of female circumcision. She's written several books and established the Desert Flower Foundation as well as other projects to raise awareness of female circumcision and to raise money for schools and clinics in Somalia.

Each of these women have made an impact on how I view and deal with my own struggles. I know that both beauty and pain are realities of life. My intention is to give purpose to my pain and these women are ideal examples of how to do so.

Who has inspired you with their testimony or creative expression?


Tiffany said...

great post! i'm going to have to check out Iyanla's book.

Kimberly said...

Wonderful post. Most of us are drawn to women who are not afraid to discuss their adversity because we've all been through something. It's nice to see sisters who've made it out of the darkness. I still need to pick up Iyanla's book.

♥ CG ♥ said...

I hadn't planned to read Iyanla's newest, but perhaps it's what I need.

Sounds like we have some things in common, GG. I've been planning a post because I realize some folks just don't understand that sometimes it's not easy to just "snap out of it".

GG said...

@Melzie - I know right? It's not that easy to just snap out of it and matter of fact, we all have something that we have to work on everyday to stay in the light, you know? All of the things that used to cause me anxiety and sadness still exist, but I've chosen to focus my attention on other things. It really does take effort though and sometimes are defenses are weaker than others. That's why having an outlet is so important.

Alexis said...

Beautiful post! I read Iyanla's book with my book club. It was VERY powerful. It opened my eyes to a lot of things and made me reevaluate my own past to better understand it. It's a great book to ignite healing and understand of whatever past you may have gone through. GG and Kim, you guys should join my book club! We read personal and spiritual development books, I think you would enjoy our book picks and discussions. Here is the link:

Also, I absolutely LOVE Mary J. Blige and her story. She is a huge inspiration to me. It just blesses me so to have watched her blossom. I am inspired for the same reasons you are by Iyanla and Mary. They both are true examples of resilience, strength and true beauty.

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