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By Maria Fenton
Let’s get this out of the way because I rolled my eyes and laughed my ass off when I first heard it, too. Me. Maria Fenton…The Self-Love Guru? Granted, I have been practicing yoga for years, studying love and enlightenment even longer and writing for what feels like forever, but still.
In fairness to my delicate ego, also known as “what had happened was…”, the idea seeped into my awareness one breath at a time while meditating. Imagine how crazy I must have looked during yoga. I would be minding my zen business, all calm and inspired, transitioning from pigeon pose to child’s pose. Out of no where this pull to be of use for love in some form or fashion would overtake my vibe. It would become the vibe.
Talk about being annoying AF.
I am not Hindu. I am far from a monk nor have I led a perfect life. I am a cigar smoking, shit-talking, divorced creative with three babies and a different daddy for each one. I have written and produced plays, designed clothes and organized a book festival, but I am not a stereotypical capitalist’s idea of success. Let’s just say there is no trust fund, emergency fund or lofty assets to speak of. So, I hear you…shit, I was giving myself the mean side-eye mid meditation on behalf of you. Who died and named me guru? Fair enough. I will address the questions, but first can we talk about my mother’s crystal? Cool.
Coming up it was clear that my mother, the archetypical British Caribbean immigrant, was expecting a special guest whenever she served tea in her Princess House crystal. Those bad boys hardly ever saw the light of day. If there were guests, they were likely to be school faculty or our parish priest or nun. Home visits from either of those places usually meant trouble for my brother and sisters and I. My mum allowed for barely an infinitesimal quotient of nonsense from her children especially, when it came God and education. The ass-whoopings doled out were never worth any fuckery we felt bold enough to contrive let alone execute. We knew better than to test the overly Catholic and very British Mrs. Clarine Fenton from Bathsheeba, Barbados. So, the visits and, consequently, my mother’s crystal were a rarity.
Princess House was a big deal in our small West Indian social circle in Boston: think Tupperware party that is more Good Times and That 70’s Show with an accent but they thought they were giving Dynasty. First of all, my mum wasn’t even invited to the actual ordering party hosted by her “friend”. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my mom always needed a payment plan…like a six or nine month payment plan. They weren’t cheap especially for a disabled single mother of five carving out a dignified life on welfare which made them even more dear to my mum. When the order was finally paid off, it was like her very own long-awaited over-budget Christmas. She would pull one out of the box and present the crystal cup or dessert plate like a museum piece to us kids. We would crowd around as if we were viewing the Holy Grail. Then she’d quickly whisk the precious treasure back to safety in a cupboard packed in a box destined to rot with the other decomposing boxes holding other collected items that my mother sacrificed for but also deemed too good for her (and her children). And that brings me to self-love.
Self-love. Sounds like a blend of new-age ‘me, myself and I’, DIY nerdiness with a little bit of kink. It’s like techno-pop effects on an old school r&b riff. Cool, but still a little suspect. You throw that ‘guru’ on the ‘self-love’ label, and we are ripe for snarky comments and scathing memes, right? Well, kind of. I mean, shit is a little weird. I’ll give you that. But being a direct element of source, love is many things.
They say that when you ask for grace you usually end up with countless “opportunities” to be graceful: rude colleagues, a toilet seat left up, or your last veggie burger eaten by a person who proclaims not to be a vegetarian and leaves the half bitten sandwich on the counter. Being the passionate all in woman that I am, my new-age wannabe ass had the audacity to not just strive for self-love but to declare myself a student and a vessel of self-love for the world. Mercy. So when I embraced this desire to share all I’ve collected along my journey to self-love, plentiful and furious were the opportunities to dig deep within my storehouse and practice loving myself no matter. Mercy. They embraced me back, even though it felt more like a choke-hold at times.
Failed business ventures and #BlackWomenAtWork woes resulted in financial crisis, job insecurity and homelessness with children in tow. To top it off, there is painful discord with family members, and my hair was falling out which, if you ask me, is overkill: edges snatched to high hell and a combover mastered in a pinch. The law of attraction has never been known to half ass, and I would respect its gangster if I could only catch my breath to do so.
The shit storm of challenges that have been placed at my feet testing and fortifying my resolve to love me has been unfathomable. Thankfully, it outshines by the presence of self-love.
Luckily for me, the teachers kept coming in the form of books, experiences, courses, art, meditation, and guides. I was doing the work of habitually loving myself: mind, body and soul. So, when I found myself at the lowest point in a good number of years, I didn’t break. There was something distinctly different this time. And that difference is a major game changer.
I have learned to find solace in meditation and yoga. It took a number of breaths, but I got to a place of quiet within. And then a familiar warmth flooded my body. It was love. Despite the uncomfortable manifestation of past choices that I experience in the here and now, I still love me. Even more, I don’t just like me. I fucks with me. Empowered with the knowledge that I am truly loved as I am, the issues – – the results my distress and, most critically, my grip on judgment I imposed on myself loosened.
No one judges us more than we judge ourselves. The years of studying and practicing multiple disciplines of self-actualizing meditation and spirituality has left me with a wonderful palate and a strong appetite for self-love. There is a lot to share and so much more to learn. I spread the love with other incredible people through workshops, speaking engagements, books, one-on-one coaching, blogs and online courses.
No one judges us more than we judge ourselves. The years of studying and practicing multiple disciplines of self-actualizing meditation and spirituality has left me with a wonderful palate and a strong appetite for self-love. There is a lot to share and so much more to learn.
In this column, I want to share stories and perspectives on how self-love works in real time with real people facing real challenges. Stories of brave souls who now are ancestors and some flesh and blood goddesses and gods disguised as regular human beings. I am choosing to do so as a guide and a student because I believe that we are always both. I do so in hopes of self-love growing to be a prominent goal, modeled and supported particularly among women people of color.
I am ready for us to be able to look at ourselves in the light of day and be able to say,”I got you, love.” and mean it.
Let’s open the curtains and windows and let some air and light in. Self-love is not foreign or new to any of us. You’ve been curled up with fear and all that is not right too long. The power of self-love is not recognized or active because it is often buried deep within us. It’s like my mother’s crystal: sitting in a box waiting for us to deem ourselves worthy of our finest.
Proclaim yourself worthy now. Consider this column our full teapot. Let’s make serving and sipping tea a thing of empowerment and grace, not an excuse to gossip or allow fear to dictate our relationships and how we move about in the world. And for goodness sake, let’s sip from any damned vessel we like and call ourselves anything that resonates bliss. For me, that vessel is writing and the arts, and I call myself Maria Fenton, The Self-Love Guru.
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