Stop Trying to Get Your Sexy Back

regain sexy-3

We could blame this post on authors like Terry McMillan and Vicki Iovine, who made millions of dollars writing about the loss of grooves and sexiness in women. But we shouldn’t. We could blame this post on the men we’ve loved with wandering eyes and philandering ways. But we shouldn’t. We could, as with all the ills of the world, blame this post on the media, because they sensationalize everything. After all, it really is CNN’s fault if I don’t feel sexy, right?

Wrong. I’ve got a newsflash for women everywhere today. If you feel that you are no longer sexy, if you feel that your sexiness is gone, it’s not. You don’t need to get your sexy back because you never lost it.

Every woman is sexy. Every woman has a goddess within. Every woman is drop-dead gorgeous. It doesn’t matter her age, her size, or her hair color. What matters is that she knows it.

There is a unique and powerful shift that happens in the minds of women as life happens. For some of us it’s just the idea of getting older. For others, it’s giving birth. And for many more women it’s a life-changing career event or momentous occasion. Somehow along the way, we have connected life’s pitfalls to the demise of our sexy.

About ten years ago, I had one goal – to get my sexy back. I had given birth three times, with two of those times being a c-section. My body had ugly scars, the sleep deprivation of parenting toddlers was visible in my eyes, and I had a thyroid that was totally out of control. The last thing I felt was that I was sexy. But the funny thing I’ve discovered is that even though I didn’t feel it, that sexiness still existed within me. And that’s a lesson that took me almost 10 years to learn.

Sexiness is not a temporary state of being, it is an acceptance of your personal power to create, share, and enhance your beauty from within. Sexiness, true sexiness, begins within and manifests itself as a power like no other.

Somehow along the way, we have connected life's pitfalls to the demise of our sexy.

Like many women I know, when I turned 40, I celebrated big. When I look back now on pictures from that celebration, I am pleased with my physical appearance that day.  I’m pretty sure that I was sexy. It  was a great day and I looked and felt beautiful. Not because of the makeup on my face, not because of the cute cowboy hat on my head, but because of the way I felt about myself. It was the way the jeans I wore hugged my body. It was the perfect combination of peach and pink in the shirt I wore. It was the fun and thrill of being surrounded with by some of my closest friends.

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Turning 40 taught me that I never lost my sexy.

To say I’ve felt sexy every, single day since I turned 40 though would be a lie. I can say that in the past three and a half years, I have felt sexy more than I did then the entire decade of my 30s. Here are some tips to help you remember your sexy,  no matter what:

  1. Perform one act of pleasure for yourself every day. I mean this in a totally non-creepy way, y’all. (Unless that’s how you roll, and if it is, you do you.) For everyone else, savor 30 minutes to watch the sun rise. Make yourself a cup of hot tea. Light a candle. Do something at least once a day that brings you pleasure. Just for you.
  2. Admire a photo from a time when you were living your best life and take on the energy of that picture. An old friend shared a photo of us on Facebook from the summer after we graduated from high school. That picture represents everything I love about myself. I was young, carefree, I had my whole future ahead of myself, I was hugging one of my best friends in the world, and it was a really good hair day. This photo can be from any era in your life. Put it in a place where you will see it often, and believe the energy from that picture surrounds you now. Check out this example from my life:
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This is a photo from the summer of 1990 that represents the energy I love about myself. I channel this photo every, single day.

 

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This is a selfie I took earlier this year while waiting in the carpool line to pick up my kids one day. I love it because 25 years later, I still feel the energy (and good hair) from the first photo.

3. Be vulnerable to the process of the universe. Trust me when I tell you, being vulnerable is hard, but it is worth it. I personally believe that there are certain laws of the universe and vulnerability is one of them. I’m not even sure of the why, but I know when I opened myself up to both love and loss, I gained more love and peace and joy that I ever had before. Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t spend all of my time mourning for my hardened heart when I talked about my job or my marriage or my health issues and instead I used that energy to focus on the good in the world.

If you’re interested in exploring the concept of vulnerability more and how it it can work better in your life? Click here to join my free vulnerability challenge starting April 1.

4. Do the work from the inside. Explore your fears, understand why they are your fears, and develop a plan for overcoming those fears. This is an ongoing process, and I’m okay with that. Have I ever told you about my fear of birds? Specifically live chickens? That’s a blog post for another day. Actually, I have written about it and if you’d like to know about that madness in my life, click here. You can also  do some soul searching to ensure you walking in  your purpose every day and manifesting everything your heart desires. (If you’re a reader and you’d like some suggestions on books that can help you do the work, click here.)

5. Pray for the happiness of others. When you tell those in your circle that you are praying for them, what exactly are you praying for? Usually, I’ve said those words when the people I love are faced with a health issue or some type of emotional distress. That night or early the next morning, I pray to God that they are delivered from whatever the problem in their lives was. And if I can be totally honest, that’s it. I don’t typically pray for those in my circle beyond that. Think of how amazing it is to pray for the happiness of others, even if they are already happy. Trust me, they can be happier, and even experience more joy and growth and love. That’s the way the universe works if we just pray for happiness.

The bottom line is this my friends, you are sexy if you know you are, period. Today I challenge you to own that sexy and no matter what happens, maintain it. Will you do it?

 

 

Do You Know What You Need? Are You Willing to Tell Others?

WHAT DO YOU NEED-

A close friend of mine was dealing with complications from  a chronic illness and one of the first things that came out of my mouth when I heard the news was, “What do you need?” Depending on the day, his answers would vary from a slice of gourmet pizza to fresh vegetables to a simple six pack of tomato juice.

He is amazing. And not because he loves gourmet pizza (well, maybe a little because he loves gourmet pizza), but moreso because he can identify and communicate what he needs so easily.

And just like anytime someone we know can do something better than we can, we get a little bummed. That is until we start the self-help rituals or therapy, whichever comes first.

As I think about it, I’m not sure where this particular personality trait came from, but I know it is frustrating to my friends and family.  A first years ago though, I discovered that if I couldn’t tell people what I needed, they would decide it for me, and the only child in me did NOT like being told what I need.

Enter 2016, my love of TED talks,  and the word vulnerable. After reading two of Brene Brown’s books and studying the concept of vulnerability more, I found that I had some work to do — on myself. I used what I studied and learned to admit some things to myself and others.

My name is Toni. For the past 25 years of my life, I have never been able to tell someone what I need from a relationship. Not my friends. Not my boyfriends. Not my ex-husband. No one.

I have never communicated my needs in a relationship to anyone.

My name is Toni. If you are going to be my friend, I need your support and kindness. I’d like to know that you really want the world to be a better place. I need you to understand that yes I am an extrovert, but when tempered with my only-child nature and LOUD three children, sometimes I absolutely need solace. I need you to know that between essential oils, Google, Shonda Rhimes, channeling my friends who are doctors, and all the medical advice I have ever received for every illness I’ve had, I am the expert on most medical conditions.

To know me, to really know me and love me means you know that the only thing I think I have done right in this world is parent those kids to absolute best of my ability. I need your reinforcement and smiles and hugs for fuel.

Don’t ask me not to be connected to technology. Don’t tell me I’m addicted to my phone. My phone, my computer, and yes, even my tv are important to when, how, and what I write. Yes, writing is how I eat, but it is also how I express my best self. Next to prayer and meditation, it soothes my soul.

this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

To Jay. (Not his real name. Most definitely NOT his real name.) You are probably one of the few people in the world that I know is smarter than me. While I live for information gathering, politics, and the news. I need to feel that our love thrives on mutual respect, admiration, and affection for one another. I need you to tell me what I mean to you in clear terms. If you can’t do that, or won’t do that – then we can’t be anything more than two people who’ve known each other for a really long time.

To Carl. (He’d sue me if I used his name.) When you told me you loved me, I needed you to honor that sentence. I needed you to stop being passive aggressive and doing one action, that was really a reaction, because you don’t like the way I did whatever. Just tell me, or better yet? Do it so I can see what you are talking about.

To David. (You guessed it. Not his real name). Fidelity is important to me. I needed to know that our lives are shared with each other only. I know that in some cultures polygamy and sister-relationships are the norm. Not with me. 

To Kyle: (Nope. It’s safe to say that I’m not using real names here at all). I needed you to stop trying to fix things for me and use all of that energy to find solutions to the problems in your life.

To Me. I need you to stop being so critical with every mistake I make. I need you to eat at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I need you not to feel guilty when you do something nice for yourself. And Toni, this is the time when you must tell people what you need. Anything less than that is unacceptable.

Looking For Your Unwritten Letter

write that unwritten letter

Last week I published a blog post that was actually a letter to my ex-husband. When I wrote the letter, I had no idea it would get the response that it did. By the end of the week, I had numerous PageViews and emails about it. Many of you said that you also have a letter that needs to be written  so you can move on to bigger and better things.

Even though I wrote that letter to my ex-husband,  I have plenty more letters  in me that have yet to be written. I need to write to a friend regarding a stressful time we went through a few years ago that changed our relationship forever. I need to write to a few former bosses that I parted with on less-than-favorable terms. I need to write to my doctors about all the health crap I’ve gone through, even though they said, “everything is fine.”

Since I’ve gotten those emails and text messages from readers and friends, I’m pretty sure that you have a letter in you that needs to be written. And once that letter is written, it needs to be published in my new book.

I want you to write that letter and send it to me. I am working on a compilation of letters (that will become a book) to share with the world. Here’s how it will work:

  1. You write the letter and email it to me. In the heading of your letter you write Dear plus a description of what role they played in your life. For example, “Dear First Love” or “Dear Real Estate Agent.”
  2. Write what you want to say. Tell your story to that person in that letter.
  3. Don’t sign it. You don’t need a closing.
  4. Email it to me at toni [at] twillimedia [dot] com. In the subject of the email  type: MY LETTER.
  5. I will follow up with you when I receive the letter and may ask you a couple of questions about formatting, etc.

It’s just that simple!

I also understand that as badly as you may want to write that letter, you don’t know where to begin. All you have to do is send me an email telling me that. I will email you back some questions and we can go from there. Yes, my friend, I can even help you write the letter if you have difficulty putting your feelings on paper.

Writing the unwritten letter can be a harrowing experience. It takes some vulnerability on your part, but in the end, it is a very freeing experience. Even if the recipient never sees it. See what some commenters said on the original blog post:

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So friend, what do you think? Are you willing to write that unwritten letter?

At My Lowest Point, LeBron James Was There

LEBRON

I hear the news and I see the reports. I know that LeBron James is not liked by many because of his arrogance. I know that words have offended many. But not me. Almost a year after my ex-husband and I separated,  when I was facing accusations about my parenting from my kids’ school,  when I had a very limited income, and when I was still trying to move through divorce proceedings with some pride and dignity, LeBron and his mother Gloria had an impact on my kids and me like no other.

Gloria James was 16 years old in 1984 when she gave birth to the man we now know as “King James.” As a teen mom, she was forced to raise him alone as his father was not in the picture and her only other support, her mother, died when LeBron was three.

And while you know the rest of the story as LeBron’s NBA career skyrocketed, our family is living proof of the positive effects of his life. About 8 years ago, Gloria James came to Dallas and hosted an event for single parents through their charitable organization, the LeBron James Family Foundation. One Sunday afternoon, we were treated to a VIP and full access afternoon at the Dallas Zoo. The event did not feature pretentious workshops about how we needed to read to our kids more, it didn’t talk about the importance of nutrition,  and definitely didn’t tell us what we needed to do to be a better single parent (as if we lost all of that knowledge when the relationship with our co-parents ended.)

Instead, the James family celebrated the good that we do through a day of fun. No lectures, no “what you should have dones,”  and no arrogance.

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In 2008, LeBron James and his foundation hosted an event in Dallas that we are still talking about today. My kids were so little then!

That pretentious stuff against single parents is real y’all. It is an unfortunate truth that far too many of us have had to unnecessarily endure. And even today, 8 years later, I still get the side eye, snubbed, and spoken to in tones not becoming to me or my family. All because I am a single mother.

The LeBron James Family Foundation’s mission is to positively affect the lives of children and young adults through education and co-curricular educational initiatives. You can read on the organization’s website that it promotes the belief  that an education and living an active, healthy lifestyle is pivotal to the development of children and young adults. Through a variety of outreach initiatives, the foundation hosts events like the one we attended all over the country, and in particular to the youth of James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio.

Our day with Gloria James ended with an incredible meal served family-style for each family. While LeBron wasn’t there in person (it was during basketball season), he did record a video offering his appreciation to the attending families with a  Walmart gift card valued at $100 for each family.

That gift card filled a gap in my almost-empty  pantry and bought the groceries that would feed us for the next week. As a mom, the feeling of pride that I got from being able to walk into Walmart and buy groceries without counting every single penny of the items in my basket was inexplicable.

Here’s the deal, y’all. When you are a celebrity, and in particular, a celebrity athlete, you are going to be under fire. You are constantly being handled and shuffled around adhering to a schedule that is not your own. Please understand me when I say that I am not defending rudeness and arrogance in any circumstance. What I am saying is that unlike our personal relationships where we are able to talk to our loved ones when rudeness occurs, we don’t have that opportunity with celebrities. We don’t get to talk to LeBron about his statements and his actions. If you think about it, his job is to play basketball, and I think he’s proven that he does that quite well. So because we don’t get to talk to him, we don’t know about the other stuff going on in his day to day life, and we can’t judge.

When he misses a lay up or a free throw, or if his defensive moves are crappy, then we can talk. Liking LeBron the basketball player has nothing to do with liking LeBron the humanitarian.  I just happen to like and appreciate both.

Here’s another fact that is a cause for consideration. Celebrities can’t be vulnerable with us. For safety reasons alone, they just  can’t. And just because we feel like we know them, we relate to their history,  and they are in our living rooms at least once a week, they know absolutely nothing about us. If I have a hard time managing my life as a mom and writer, and all of my friends have a hard time managing their lives, what makes celebrities any different? Trust me, they experience heartache, exhaustion, family strife, and illness. Because all of that is part of the human experience, and we are all human.

With that I say to LeBron James and all the other humanitarian celebrity athletes in the world, thank you.

2016: One Word

vulnerable

My word for 2016 is vulnerable. If I can be perfectly honest in a nonjudgmental way, this is hard. When I first heard that being vulnerable was actually “in,” I was confused. Brene Brown has written books and been on tv talking about it, and I just couldn’t get it. Why would anyone think that being vulnerable is ok?

In 2007, my ex-husband and I separated after seven years of marriage. With all of the many other things that make divorce hard, there was one thing that I didn’t realize happened in the early part of 2008.

I became guarded. I started to limit the number of people I trusted. No man had a fair chance at having anything that remotely resembled a decent, romantic relationship with me.

My heart had hardened. It would stay that way for the next seven years.

There have been a few times in the not too distant past that I have been challenged to be vulnerable and I have just flat out refused. Well, as much as I could anyway. Let me tell you right now though, I learned that you really can’t refuse to be vulnerable, and trying to do so will just make you feel worse. Let’s look at the instances I tried…and y’all, I tried hard.

1. The divorce. No matter how you slice and dice it, divorce is hard. Even when it’s for the best, even when your not the one at fault, even when you should be rejoicing instead of crying. My divorce was no different. It made me vulnerable and raw to my core. Because the pain cut so deep, I thought that people could see just how hard I was taking the demise of my marriage. To avoid being vulnerable, I kept our separation secret until after we moved. Then, I sent an email to all my friends explaining our current relationship status and made myself really busy when they would call so no one would hear the crack of heartbreak in my voice.

2. The cancer. Let’s take a brief look at my cancer event of 2013. It was exactly two years ago this week that I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. For a couple of weeks, though, we didn’t have the exact diagnosis, we just knew it was cancer and somewhat related to the thyroid. The diagnosis went from thymoma to lymphoma to thyroid lymphoma to finally thyroid cancer. In case you don’t know this, hearing a doctor say, “We need to talk and I need to shoot straight with you” brings nothings but vulnerability to the situation. Except for me, the girl who is anti-vulnerable. So in true Toni fashion,  even though I was scared, sick and sad, I did what I always have done and put on a brave face covered in strength to hide my vulnerability. Now, let me tell you this. I truly believe that two important parts of any health crisis are 1. positive thinking, and 2. eating healthy. However, I can now honestly say that I used my “positive thinking” rule to cover up the vulnerability.

This time, though, my coping plan didn’t work so well. The fact that I physically felt bad and fatigued a lot ensured the fact that I couldn’t cover up a lot of the truth, meant I needed to be vulnerable. Well, at least a little bit.

3. When the seizures came back. When my sweet first born was two years old, we were playing at home one afternoon and he fell over in convulsions . After a lot a medical tests and hospital stays, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. After three years, the seizures subsided and we didn’t see any activity until he turned 13. But six months after I was deemed cancer free, the seizures came back. And this time, I felt since I had just been vulnerable earlier that year, I didn’t need to be vulnerable again.

I’ve learned that vulnerability doesn’t operate on a calendar. You cannot decide how many times a year you should be vulnerable. If you are hurt, you are vulnerable. If you were taken advantage of, you are vulnerable, and if you are in love, you are vulnerable. If you are alive, you are vulnerable. And that’s okay.

While I mentioned three of the big hints in my life to embrace vulnerability, I need to tell you that there were several more smaller hints that I just didn’t catch. Looking back, there were moments almost every day where I choose to hide my vulnerability.

Enter the need for one word.

be vulnerable

 

At the end of each year, I reflect on the word from that year and the  important events that shaped my life during the previous 12 months. I then enter a place of prayer and meditation where I ask God to send me more word or phrase for the coming year. And as He knows my struggles, that phrase was be vulnerable.  Fyi, if you have a good relationship with God, it’s okay to fuss and fight with him over something he’s charged you to do. The key is that you must submit to His will and decide to do it. So after I fussed and cried and fussed some more. I decided to embrace the concept.

Since I’ve opened myself up to the idea and started exploring the concept more, incredible things have happened in my life. Hmmmm…we’ve only been in 2016 for 11 days and I’m already seeing results. And you know what else? Brene Brown has a new fan in me.

I truly believe that this wouldn’t be my word if I wasn’t meant to help others, so I’ve created  a free blog challenge using the hashtag #bevulnerable. I’d really like you to join!

If you want to work through the process of accepting vulnerability and experiencing the shift in the universe that occurs when you are vulnerable, then this challenge is for you.

Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.

And even if you don’t join the challenge, I’ve got a little gift for you. Click here to access a free printable with a quote on the importance of vulnerability. If you do join the challenge, I’ll send our daily tasks and items for exploration via email. I’m also creating a secret Facebook group for us to work in and there will even be videos and other fun items I am sharing. To sign up for the challenge, click here.

The biggest fear I faced when I decided to allow myself to #bevulnerable was that I would be judged by others. That was really hard for me (and frankly it still is) because I try so hard not to judge other that when I feel judged, I feel attacked personally. So needless to say, this challenge is a judgement-free zone. We are going to do the work and see what manifests as a result of it.

Tell me in the comments below, what impact does the phrase “be vulnerable” have on your life?

If you’re a little unsure about this whole vulnerability thing, I would suggest you start with researching the work of Brene Brown. I started by watching this Ted Talk and eventually reading this book. Good luck!