As an artist, the pandemic was a good time for me. When everything slowed down, the practical day-to-day of my life didn’t change much. I was already accustomed to working from home and I’m fortunate that my primary means of income wasn’t negatively impacted. With the removal of distractions, combined with the feeling that the industry rat-race had been temporarily placed on hold, I was able to get lost in myself, diving deep into questions like "Who is Anise? What is her essence? What does she stand for?" I got internal with myself in an entirely new way, and so the isolation served me well. I debuted my music on streaming platforms. I released my first EP. I directed and starred in my first music video. I got my first press write-ups. I coordinated my first photo-shoots. I Curated my first cover art images. 2021 was a great year for me, in this respect. Things I wanted for myself, for what felt like a lifetime, I was finally doing and this brought me great joy. But I also remember, that as we edged out of the pandemic, I felt a good deal of spiritual strain. One season that springs to mind is last September. I was 6 weeks out from my EP release, and feeling so swallowed by the list of items I needed to tick off for a “successful” launch. I felt a lot of responsibility to myself and to the project, and so even when I was out with friends and family, I just wasn't present. One evening out at a restaurant in East Central, my dinner companion secretly filmed me while I was trapped in one of these hazes, glazed-eyes and all. As I sat there, bathed in the pulsing light of a passing emergency vehicle, my anxious energy was palpable.
I’d love to say that the first time this clip was shown to me, I nipped my state of unease right in the bud. But as the months went on, my mental unrest got progressively worse. With the easing of pandemic restrictions, I began happily re-engaging with the world, but no longer protected by my little self-exploration cocoon, suddenly, all my achievements from the past year just seemed so insignificant, especially compared to where I could be in my life. And this "could be" was entirely informed by where I perceived my peers to be in their lives and in their respective careers.
Although I loved turning 30 (the cheap thrills of the 20s never did much for me), by 31 a very real panic set in. Like..."f*ck, is time going to just keep speeding by as I slowly grow this career? Why do I always feel I'm running out of time?" Being in my head like this daily, for months on end, ran me spiritually dry. By the new year, it was clear to me that something had to give. I could NOT live like this. I had no formula for a remedy, but I knew for sure I didn't want to remain that woman in that candid dinner video: Anise not-present, Anise not-at-peace, Anise not-enjoying-her-life.
I'll say it with my full chest: I want a soft life. One where I feel at ease, at peace, fulfilled, abundant. And anyone who says differently is lying. But frankly, this idea of the soft life— as an embodiment of the journey, and not as something to strive towards— is so counter to the ethos we're taught in Western society. We're taught work hard so that you get somewhere and 'do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.' Despite whatever advice Kim Kardashian has for women in business, while hard work may be a prerequisite to sustained success, it surely doesn't guarantee a soft, or even a secure life, certainly not in America. For me, replacing the concept of 'the grind, the hustle and hard work' with 'focused, disciplined, and intentional practice' is a much more attractive and nourishing way of being. But at the same time, while I'm partial to this outlook, it leaves me questioning: if I’m not absolutely killing myself for my dreams, am I even deserving of them coming true?
Lucky Daye had one of the more moving acceptance speeches at this year's Grammy Awards. Jazmine Sullivan too. We all love an underdog story. Triumph in the face of routine adversity and dire circumstance; it moves us like nothing else. Nonetheless, I refuse to believe that the Universe wants such hardship for us. The victorious arc of the starving artist, from Lucky Daye to Lizzo to Anderson .Paak (all artists who found themselves homeless on the journey to stardom)— it's such an easy trope to glamorize and internalize, especially when we hear the narrative over and over again. But not having a place to lay your head at night isn't a struggle I'd wish on anyone, especially not for those in my community, and certainly not for myself.
Did you hear her? Not every good thing has to come with bad situations! Let's delete the struggle life mentality!
I think part of stepping into the soft life requires dismantling this idea that meaningful experiences, or meaningful art, only arise from a void or from a place of lack. If we commit to knowing that abundance is always what's up, it's very possible that beauty beyond anything we've ever imagined awaits us. After all, wealth begets more wealth. Financial wealth is important, but even when our coins don't seem to be stacking up how we think they should, our spiritual mindset can affirm that the surplus really isn't too far off.
Living in your head is exhausting and the notion that a worthwhile life requires struggle is reductive. Just as Jaelyn suggests in the video above, what if we attracted our dream life instead of grafting to build it? Despite how much I cringe at the Anise in that clip from dinner, I'm grateful to have had this glimpse outside of myself. Seeing myself in such a troubled state, during the most mundane and sacred of social activities, a meal, made me realize, if I wish to feel good in this life, I need to learn to be okay with where I am in the present. And I would say it's better to feel grateful (and not just okay) about where you are in the present, but when gratitude is elusive, a simple and honest "I'm not at X, Y, Z positioning in my life, and that is okay" can be just as powerful. And the irony is, it's only once I surrendered to this mindset (and I mean really surrendered), that's when moments I once yearned for began easily finding their way to me.
Like when raising the rate of one of my freelance businesses didn't cause my business to stall as I worried it would, but instead, launched my service into a new high-flying bracket of clientele. Or like when I was accepted with record speed into a members club that for years I felt would never even consider me. I’d be lying if I said these little wins weren't validating, but I'm also aware of how dangerous it is to feed off external validation. So instead, I'm digesting these experiences as a self-teaching moment: that when my insecurities are working overtime to convince me of all the things I'm not, I am always more than enough. And knowing this, embracing this, living this— that's what unlocks the soft life. That's what unlocks flow.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?
- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love
Never again judge your looks, your success, your vision or your plans against what someone else is doing. Don't feel the need to compete and restrict the abundance of ideas, creativity and success that is available to all. There is no shortage. You are operating in a different field than people who think lack exists, and that they have to have it all before someone else does. That must be a tiring experience— to cut yourself off from the overflow of abundance and ideas. It is hard work to compete, because that energy is surrounded by fear and possibility of losing when you were already born a winner!
-Idil Ahmed, Inner Glimpse
When you stop accepting crumbs, the Universe will stop delivering you crumbs. You'll cancel any misconceptions of being someone deserving of crumbs and start seeing yourself as someone deserving the whole cake.
Admittedly, I still have a lot to work on, including not panicking when the good things happen. And this post isn't intended to push any kind of toxically positive agenda. Some days, I hold the mirror to myself and shudder. Other days, I catch a glimpse of my fine ass and do a double take because "DAMN!” We can be both versions of ourselves, guys. We don’t have to choose. Fear and insecurity are part of the human condition and we'll never be entirely rid of them. But they will eat you alive if you let them. So don't let them.
The next time your mind is spewing falsities or trying to convince you that any path worth taking must be a rocky one, remember the power of Flow. You can take the leap. You can raise your fee. You can demand more from yourself and demand more from those around you. You can maneuver all these things with ease because the ability to do so undeniably lies within us. The Universe is constantly sending signals to guide us on the path of the soft life. Are you ready, and willing, to receive?
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Aquarius Rising is an account of what love looks like
when you consciously choose it for yourself.
Find me on instagram: @aniseology