Ode to the FIERCE Woman

Ink

There are those who will try and break you
shatter spirits shrouded in their own insecurities
Inflict wounds with splintered tongues
They will call you every name except your own
make you doubt your greatness.

They will compare you to Nina, Jessica, and Marie.
Make you question your beauty, as if your glory
could ever be contained in mere flesh and bone.

Why do you entertain such vernacular?

When yours is the back where aspirations are born
the roadmap to creativity and ambition
the house of the holy and divine.

Your hips will give life to the future.
Your lips will inspire revolution.

You are Hera, Athena, and Isis.
Goddess is your birthright.

Make them kneel to you in prayer.
Plant roots on soil coveted by Gods.
Establish your foundation in this life and the next.

Remind them that you were born from star dust
so the next time they forget your name
tell them you are royalty
and make them bow their heads
in respect.

©2014 Nancy Arroyo Ruffin
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Breakup to Makeup: When Should You Stay, When Should You Go?

I’ve gone through this many, many times. I’ve been with my husband since I was 20 and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we broke up. Break ups can sometimes be positive because it allows both parties to take a step back and really look at the relationship with open eyes. It allows you to see if your life would be better if the two of you parted or it can make you realize how much you really want to be together.

However, I don’t think that most of us really take the time to look at the relationship with a clear head. We are blinded by factors such as missing the other person, reflecting only on the good times while forgetting all the bad times and making excuses for all of the things that caused the breakup. If we learned to really look at the relationship for what it is there wouldn’t be the constant break up and making up.

As I got older and really learned about myself and what it takes to make a relationship work I started analyzing my relationship. Not only analyzing his faults, but  looking at myself too.  Being able to be objective and clear about who we are and who we aren’t  can really help us decide what we want. Two questions that need to be considered are:

  1. Is the relationship really worth fighting for?
  2. Are we constantly progressing or are we steadily digressing? 

The answers to these questions can really help you in deciding whether you should fight for the relationship or if you should let it go. If you’re not sure where the relationship is going and you want to know if your life would improve if you were apart then a break up may be the answer.

Break ups are never easy especially when time, love, hopes, and dreams have been invested. There comes a point in most of our lives (usually around our mid to late 20’s) where we are unsure of what we want. We’re still trying to figure out what’s best for us. If we’re in a relationship we wonder if we want to progress to the next level with our partner and really commit to the relationship or do we want to move on because maybe there’s something better for us.

I’ve learned that for any relationship to work we have to first look at ourselves and improve those things within ourselves that may be a hindrance in our personal growth. You need to work on the things that prevent you from having successful romantic relationships. We all have faults, but let’s not let our baggage from our past relationships affect our future relationships. Look at yourself in the mirror. If you break up with your partner without really looking at yourself in the mirror, you could be on your way to duplicating your love problems in your future relationships.

Remember: You are the common denominator in all your relationship problems. Wherever you go, your pesky repeated issues go until you shed a blazing light of insight upon them.

I recently read an article on cnn.com that  made some very valid points. It said that a healthy relationship can become an individual’s greatest asset when it comes to succeeding in almost all aspects of life. It can provide security, trust, support and many other positive things that are needed for maturity on a mental, emotional even physical scale. However, when we’re in unhealthy relationships it can also negatively effect on our lives. We can’t eat, focus, work, or do any of our normal day to day activities because we’re either sad, depressed or both. Many people find themselves lost in a world of utter confusion and chaos when they remain in unproductive relationships.

Do you find yourself asking if your relationship is going to survive because of all the arguing and fighting that never seems to improve? Or are you constantly in pain when your partner hurts you and neglects you even though you’ve spoken to them about your past insecurities?

People stay in bad relationships longer than they should because fear of the pain of dating seems scarier than the pain of a bad relationship. People prefer to cling to the familiar even when it’s painful rather than stretching themselves with the hope of expanding their happiness.

Here are some insights to having a healthy relationship:

Communicate. Communication is the most important factor in any successful relationship. Your partner isn’t a mind reader and can’t tell what’s bothering you unless you talk about it. If something is bothering you, speak up! Your love life is only as strong as your open communication.

Give each other room to breathe. It is perfectly healthy to have time apart. Give each other enough space. The best relationship is one that does not foster too much independence or too much dependence, but exists in the healthy interdependence zone.

Are there deal breakers you’re just realizing you have? Are these true deal breakers, like: “He’s a cheater,” “He’s a liar,” “He hits me,” “He’s a gambler,” “He’s a jobless mooch,” “He doesn’t want to have children and I do” or “He has an addiction he’s not dealing with.” If your partner has a real deal breaker, that is a good reason to leave the relationship. Understand that no matter how much love you put into a person until they are able to love themselves enough to stop these self-destructive behaviors they will never be able to love you the way you deserve to be loved. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t put energy into arguing or complaining about things that really have no significance. This causes unnecessary conflict. Remember nobody is perfect.

Lastly, Aristotle believed there are 3 kinds of relationships and only one brings true happiness.  There’s a relationship of pleasure quickly summed up as sex-mates not fulfilling in the long run. Then, the relationship of utility where partners use one another for beauty, money or status, which are also not fulfilling for the long haul. The final type is the relationship of shared virtue. You understood each other and you want to help each other grow into your best possible selves. Aristotle deemed these partners soul mates or “soul-nurturing mates.” He believed being with someone who helped you grow into your best possible self was not only what long-term happily-ever-after love was all about, but also what a long-term happily-ever-after life was all about.

For this reason, you must recognize that it’s appropriate for a love relationship to have some challenges within it to help you to grow.  American Author Leo Buscaglia once said “A great deterrent to love is found in anyone who fears change, for growing, learning, experiencing is change. Change is inevitable.” Are you and your partner in a relationship of shared virtue where the challenges can be wonderful growth opportunities? Not every challenge or obstacle is a bad one. They may be roadblocks put in your path to help you learn a lesson. The task is making sure you heed the lesson it is designed to teach you so that you can hopefully grow from the experience and come out tougher and stronger.

What are your thoughts on breaking up and making up?

Revolutionary Women: We are not our mother’s daughters

women_against_veil

As many of you may know I am a writer. For those of you that don’t know I have written 3 books all of which are heavily influenced by my experiences as a Puerto Rican woman born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Last night I had the opportunity to talk to a phenomenal woman who read my book Letters to My Daughter and one of her favorite lines is “You preferred me voiceless” from a piece I wrote entitled Skin. That particular line comes from what I saw as child growing up in a traditional Puerto Rican family.

I grew up in a family where the men made all the decisions. Generational conditioning had acclimatized the women in my family to do as their husbands, fathers, brothers said and to never question them about anything. To me, these women were voiceless; powerless. They were nothing more than trophies, porcelain dolls, or expensive pieces of art to be hung on display. They were to be seen and not heard.

My paternal grandmother played her role well, always mindful of my grandfather’s needs and desires. If she was the trophy he was the conquistador equipped with charm that comes only from experience. A big spender, he knew exactly how to court a woman. His wandering eye often impelled him to send over a round of drinks to any woman who happened to gain his attention at the night club. Other times, if he was feeling particularly cocky he’d invite the woman over to his table to join him. If she agreed, she’d be on one side of him and my grandmother would be sitting on the other. For a poor man who migrated to the US from Puerto Rico without much, he knew that as long as he had money there was nothing he could not attain.

My father was like him in that sense. He also knew that with money came respect, status, and power, though not always in that order. And while my father was the younger version of my grandfather mirroring everything about him from his name, to his flashiness, to how he pursued and treated women they both wanted more for their own daughters. They never wanted their daughters to be one of those women.

My mother admits that it was my father’s nice car and flashy style that she was initially attracted to and although my father wasn’t as brazen as my grandfather with his infidelity there were always rumors. As I got older and started to get a better understanding of gender roles (both traditional and non-traditional) I began to wonder why both my mother and grandmother allowed themselves to be disrespected and in a sense de-valued. For a very long time it affected how I viewed relationships and marriage. By the time I was 17 I’d decided that I didn’t want any of it. I didn’t want a relationship nor did I want to get married. My fear was that I’d lose myself in a relationship; I equated being in a relationship and more specifically being married with loss of freedom and power.

For years I had seen my mother ask my father for permission for everything as if she were a child. If she wanted to go out with her friends or sisters she needed permission. When she wanted to go back to school (an endeavor that my father supported) she needed permission. When she finally started working (after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years) she’d hand her paycheck over to my father and then have to ask him for money when she needed it. To this day she has never paid a bill, lived on her own, or made any major decisions on her own. If my sister and I wanted to do something or go anywhere it was my father who we needed to get permission from. My mom had no power as a woman, wife, even mother.

After years of successfully avoiding a serious relationship I eventually met and fell in love with the man who would become my husband. When I got married I started doing the very things that I’d sworn I would never do or put up with. Little by little I saw myself metamorphosing into my mother and while my husband didn’t cheat (not that I’m aware of) there were other similarities. I found myself asking for permission to do basic things like go out with my sister and girlfriends. As a married woman I thought it was what I was supposed to do. That was due in part to my naiveté as a young bride and what I saw between my parents growing up. Subconsciously it had been embedded in my psyche.

My desire to be a good wife (whatever that meant) as well as be an independent and progressive woman, clashed. I did not know how to reconcile the two, resulting in my husband and me separating many times. I was continuing the cycle. I was repeating everything I had witnessed in my parents’ and grandparents’ marriages. My grandmother eventually divorced my grandfather and although she re-married a couple of times she died alone with no spouse or partner.

My parents since then have come a long way. They now have a healthy and loving marriage where they each are equal partners. Still, it did not come without hard work and sacrifice from both of them. They realized that in order to make it work they would both have to give up some of the things they had conditioned themselves to do. This was true for my marriage too. After many separations my husband and I realized that if we wanted our marriage to survive and thrive we had to be willing to break free of the cultural conditioning we had been taught –either directly, or indirectly on gender roles. We needed to decide if our marriage was worth it or if we were going our separate ways. In the end we decided it was worth it.

A while ago in a writing workshop I was asked what my origin story is. Initially, I didn’t have an answer. After giving it some thought, I realized everything I witnessed as a child has influenced who I am, but more specifically my writing. I realized that my desire to write comes from the things I wished my grandmother, my mother, even I would have said all those times we conceded to our husbands. I realized that I write so that I never lose my voice or power. I write so that my daughter does not repeat the cycle. I write so that I can tell the stories of women who are not brave enough to tell their own. I write because I refuse to be anyone’s trophy, porcelain doll, or piece of art. Am I a feminist? Maybe. All I know is that I want my voice to be the voice of the voiceless. My writing is my revolution. I write so that we can be heard. I write because I refuse to be voiceless.

On love and finding the person who completes you

“i found god in myself and i loved her. i loved her fiercely.”  – Ntozake Shange

Most of us spend a great deal of our lives looking for love, chasing love, recuperating from love or complaining about love. Never realizing that in our quest for love we are neglecting the person that matters most.  Ourselves.

I believe that as women we often disregard our own needs as a result of always taking care of other people. We spend so much time seeking out and working on developing external relationships that often times we forget to work on the relationship within.  We give so much of ourselves emotionally, physically, and spiritually that  eventually we end up depleted seeking fulfillment from someone else.

However, we can not look to another to fulfill us, “to complete us”, as eloquently stated in Jerry Maguire. We can only seek to fulfill ourselves, to give to ourselves that which we freely give to others; others, who often times don’t deserve it and that is LOVE.  Learn to fall in love with YOU!

Love yourself! Deeply and profoundly! Know that the most important relationship that you could ever have is the relationship that you have with yourself. When that relationship is strong you will see that you will be happier, healthier, and that you will no longer put up with or accept mediocrity from anyone.

Walk in your divine self. You are love, made from love and made to be loved. By loving yourself you teach others how to love you.  Love is not something that comes from someone else; it is an extension of our own minds, reverberating back to us in what seems to be another person’s smile (Williamson, 1993).

When you learn to truly fall in love with you, your entire life begins to change. It changes because when you are in love your main priority is making the person you’re in love with happy. Imagine applying that concept to yourself. Imagine putting your own happiness first. Only you have the power to do this. When you take back your power you take back control of your happiness because you now realize that happiness comes from within. Any happiness that you find with someone else is in addition to the happiness that you already have.

There is no other person on the Universe that can complete you. You were born a “whole” individual, you were not born in pieces. Movies and music will have you believe that in order to be completely happy you need someone else. This is a fallacy. When you allow yourself to believe this you are saying to the other person “I can only be happy if I am with you”…This sort of thinking is the thinking that allows many to stay in hurtful, dysfunctional, abusive relationships because the individual believes that they can only be happy with this abuser. Here’s a reality check if it hurts chances are you aren’t happy. Therefore, why stay in a hurtful situation? Love isn’t supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to encourage, uplift, inspire, motivate, empower. Love is supposed to feel good. When you love yourself you don’t hurt yourself. Therefore, you should never allow someone who says they love you to hurt you either. If they do then it’s time to kick them to curb.

I am aware that until we get to the point where  we’ve had enough of things that hurt and long more than anything for a peaceful love, we are bound to take painful roads. We are destined to play out frivolous disasters until we declare ourselves finished and done with them (Williamson, 1993). This is the nature of life, but when you truly love yourself you will put up with far less nonsense and get out of that unhealthy relationship much sooner.

The following passage I read somewhere and post here for all of you. It reminds me of the power that I have when I choose to take control of my thoughts and feelings.

You can completely transform any relationship, no matter what it’s like right now.  Every single relationship you have is a reflection of how you feel inside about you. You are a magnet attracting to you all things, via the signal you are emitting through your thoughts and feelings. Every relationship you have and every interaction with every person, is a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings in that very moment. To transform every single relationship you have in your life:

Fall in love with YOU!

Make lists of the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful things about you. Keep adding to it every day. Know that you are perfect. Do not think any negative thoughts about you. Know that you are worthy and deserving of anything and everything you could possibly want in your life. Focus on the wonderful things in every person. Look for only those things. Do not blame or criticize anybody, ever. Set an intention that you are going to see the best in everything and everyone. Make your happiness the number one thing in your life. Happiness is an inside job. Free yourself of the responsibility of trying to make other people happy. Respect and love them enough to allow them to take care of their own happiness. Get your attention off those things in others that don’t make you feel good. Appreciate and love yourself in every moment you can. Do not expect others to behave in a way you want, so you will be happy. Release yourself forevermore and know that you alone control your happiness and it is a choice, no matter what anyone else is doing. Love and respect yourself completely. Know that you are perfect right now.- Unknown

Because you are.

The FIERCE Woman™

On gratitude: Setting our minds for success and victory

Today I am reflecting on all of the new connections that I have made the past couple of years. Building relationships with encouraging and supportive women is so important. It’s one of the reasons I started The FIERCE Woman™. I have been blessed with an amazing network of sisters that ranges from my fellow FIERCE Women to my childhood friends to those who share my love for creativity and the written word. In short, today I am feeling grateful. Grateful for all of the women in my life and for all of the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. Sometimes we get so caught up in life and in our daily routines that we forget to step back and just appreciate ourselves, our lives, and the people in it. We often lose focus on what we have because we are too busy worrying about what we don’t have. We have to quit looking at what’s wrong in our lives and start being grateful for what’s right without losing sight of self-improvement. I would like to share the following passage with you:

Everything may not be perfect in your life, but if you don’t learn to be happy where you are, you will never get to where you want to be. Do you get up every morning passionate about your dreams? Are you grateful for the home in which you live? We must learn to be happy right where we are. Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm because we let what was once a miracle become too common for us. We get used to it and it becomes routine. We need to go back and remember how God, spirit, and our higher being have brought us to where we are. We need to fan our flame. We need to set our minds and keep it set to higher things. -Joel Osteen

I believe the higher things are the positive things, so first thing every day, we must set our minds in the right direction. Set our minds for success and victory. Set in our minds that we are going to enjoy this day. Then rise higher and just do it. Remember, that you have seeds of greatness in you. You weren’t made to be stagnant; rise out of complacency; keep growing, keep reaching for new heights. Your best days are still out in front of you. As you keep stretching to the next level, improving your life, and reaching for your highest potential, you will not only give birth to your dreams, but you will become a better you, better than you ever dreamed possible.