The Gratitude Journal: April ’19

Copy of I'm thankful, grateful, appreciate

Happy April guys!

A gentle reminder for this month- “we are so focused on surviving that we forget that we have survived” – Chanel James

Remember all those times when you thought you wouldn’t make it through yet you survived? All those days when carrying on felt seemingly impossible?

You made it through the hardest times and you are still here! There’s an unspoken power, resilience and courage within you which you needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.

When we are going through a rough patch it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and not see ourselves beyond the pain. In those moment’s remind yourself of your strength. You are a survivor and any obstacle that has come your way you’ve came out of it triumphantly. You have turned clouds into sunny spells. You never gave up on yourself even when you desperately wanted to. You never needed a hero as the person who came to your rescue was you. Any adversity you encounter going forward, I want you to say to yourself “I can handle it- I have before and I will again”.

As you go through the month, take a moment to reflect (maybe write it down) on the hurdles you’ve overcome. Always remember that you are the light at the end of the tunnel and there’s nothing that life throws at you that you can’t handle.

Sending love and light to you this April!

Questions to you:

What are you grateful for this month?

Much Love Ash, xx

Copyright © AshAlves 2019, All Rights Reserved

The Gratitude Journal: February 2019

I'm thankful, grateful, appreciate

(Photo taken by me, Spain Catalonia 2019)

Isn’t it beautiful knowing that everyday is a new day?

The sun rises each day to reminds us that everyday we have the opportunity to truly shape the course of our life. From the moment we wake up we get to decide how we choose to lead our lives and how we react and respond to circumstances around us. A new day is another chance to start again.

I am grateful that I’ve been able to wake up today and given another chance to start again. A new day should remind us that despite our negative experiences, we get to decide how we choose to live our lives in the present moment. We don’t have to be confined by our past or defined by the choices we’ve made previously. You are not here by coincidence- you woke up to fulfil a purpose. You get to choose how to make the most out of the day that’s available to you!

What are you looking forward to this month?

What are you grateful for today?

I would love to know!

Love Ash, xx

 

Copyright © AshAlves 2019, All Rights Reserved

 

Heyy I’m back from my blogging Hiatus!

Hey guys,

I’m not sure if anyone noticed but last month I took a break from blogging. I’ve spent the past few weeks in South Africa exploring the lovely Johannesburg and Cape Town! I’ll be totally honest, it was an unintentional break. Just as I was about to board my flight, I ended up breaking my phone (just my luck)! I was devastated however it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

There’s been a lot happening in my life lately, transitions I am going through and burdens I have been carrying that I had not giving myself the time to process. Not having my phone allowed me the space to address emotional needs and desires. I began to centre myself and delve into the personal issues that I realized have been weighing down on me for many years.

I learned this holiday how to switch off and truly unwind without the guilt of being unproductive. I realised that I am the most productive and in alignment with my purpose when I carve out time for self-care and prioritise my well being.

Not having my phone made me hyperaware of what I was experiencing, instead of focusing on capturing every moment digitally. I tuned into the different cultures, people, history, stories I was experiencing in South Africa. I connected with nature. I ate some amazing South African and West African food. I watched plenty of action movies. I immersed myself in the experience which is often missed when we are so focused on using our phones all the time.

Anyhoo I am glad to be back! I also want to say that I am so thankful for the support I’ve received since the beginning of the year. It warms my heart that I am able to connect with some amazing people on this platform. You all inspire me and reading your stories has helped me on my own journey. I do have a few new blog posts coming this month which I am excited about so stay tuned.

Do you take Social Media breaks? Do you think they are helpful?

 

Love Ash x

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

Gentrification in Birmingham, UK

Copy of Copy of The ugly truth about self loveOver the last few years, my city has continued to undergo some drastic changes. From luxury apartments, food stores, John Lewis, and a tram system, Birmingham’s city centre is barely recognizable! Having the option to buy vegan hotdogs, or picking up a juice from Jo the Juice bar certainly beats the days of just Nando’s and McDonald’s.

In 2013 they opened up the biggest library in Europe in my city. They are currently in the process of building HSBC’s main headquarters in Birmingham at the end of 2018. The HS2 high speed trains project is predicted to make Birmingham a popular destination to live for professionals over the next few years.

But what people are not talking about is the process of gentrification emerging in Birmingham as a result of these changes. In Ladywood, an area in close proximity to the city centre, housing prices have risen by a whopping 17% in 2017. This is the same area that was ranked as the worst area for child poverty in 2016, according to End Child Poverty Campaign. The irony of this ‘development’ is that many working class, poor communities are forgotten about in the process.

Luxury apartments and hotels are being built everywhere whilst many people struggle to pay their rent. Homelessness is on the rise, as evident simply by walking around the city centre. The amount of people facing the threat of eviction or drowning in rent arrears is a common occurrence. Toppled with a highly competitive job market, cuts to universal credit and low wages,  survival for low-income families is getting harder by the day.

I recently came across a white-owned hipster ‘games shop’ on monument road, a corner that is known for prostitution and drug addicts.  Even though the area is very diverse, I have never seen a local from the community inside the shop- mostly white students and professionals. They stand out like a sore thumb, making no effort to attract or engage with the locals. This is a common example of white gentrifiers exploiting rent prices in poor, working class areas whilst making locals feel like outsiders in their communities. Urban regeneration in Birmingham is starting to mimic the early stages of gentrification that took place in areas like Brixton or Hackney in London.

For the purpose of being nuanced, there are many people who have moved to Birmingham due to the extortionate housing prices in other parts of the country, particularly London. People who have been victims of gentrification themselves have been forced to move to places like Birmingham not out of choice, but as a matter of survival. Essentially this problem is rooted in the class inequalities and government austerity measures that discriminates against the poor.

Whilst I can empathize with those people who have been forced to move for that reason, I cannot support luxury apartments being built within communities that are experiencing high child poverty, lack of job opportunities and high rent prices.

To conclude, it’s time to start looking closely at how this is going to develop in Birmingham and what impact it is going to have on low-income communities over the next few years. Change is a good thing but only when it’s not at the expense of the poor!

References-

https://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/business-news/gentrification-could-spell-death-jewellery-

11673037https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/nov/28/birmingham-area-named-poorest-in-uk-fastest-house-price-rises-

ladywoodhttp://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area-2016/

https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/50028/transport_information/502/high_speed_2_hs2/3

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

A reminder: You are not defined by your mistakes

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You can’t keep holding yourself hostage to your previous wrongdoings. They do not define you but add character to your life’s story. You owe it to yourself to let go and forgive. You can’t beat yourself down about something you know better about now. That version of you no longer exists anymore.

Whilst you have to take responsibility over your previous actions, the only thing you can do is strive to a better version of yourself in the present moment and learn from your mistakes.  Beating yourself up about them will only steal your joy and take up energy that could be used for personal development. Don’t allow guilt to stagnate you or fool you into making the same bad choices over and over again.

Remind yourself that you have full control over your present actions. Use your past mistakes to motivate you to do and be better. Mistakes usually set us up for something more profound if we use them in a constructive way. Maybe one day you can use your experiences to inspire and help others. So let’s be more compassionate and kinder to ourselves mmm kay!

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

You’re too Sensitive!

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If you’re sensitive you’re probably well accustomed to hearing phrases like “it’s not that deep” or “you take everything so personal”. This may be true! However for us sensitive folks it’s much more complex than just simply getting over ourselves. Deciphering between whether our emotional responses are valid verses taking things too seriously is very difficult to figure out (well for me anyways lol).

Hyper-sensitivity feels like being an unwrapped lollipop (weird analogy I know). You feel exposed to everything and easily contaminated. Negative experiences or words just stick to you and you have a hard time convincing yourself that it’s not worth your energy nor concern.

This affects different aspects of your life, especially when it comes to expressing your feelings in relationships (Family/Friends etc). There’s a fear of not being taken seriously or having your feelings undermined. Trying to build and maintain emotionally healthy relationships can often get complicated and draining. This can also have negative effects on your self-esteem. It can make you distrust of your own feelings and intuition, causing you doubt who you are as a person.

But despite the challenges, I believe being a sensitive person makes you extremely empathetic. Within a world that’s callous and unjust, being sensitive can be used as a tool to make a positive impact on the world. Growing up I was constantly told that I had to be ‘tough’ in order to survive and for the longest time felt like my sensitiveness made me a liability. Now I’ve started to see it as a blessing not a curse. When I get told that I’m sensitive, I can confidently admit to it without feeling shame or guilt about who I am. What has helped me get to this point is exploring ways to deal with it especially when I get overwhelmed by emotion.

For my fellow sensitive ones, I’ve thought of a few coping mechanisms that have helped me along the way:

  1. Establishing boundaries in relationships– People who are sensitive often have a hard time creating appropriate boundaries for themselves. There’s so many times that I’ve felt bad for saying what I will and will not accept because I felt like I would be considered “extra” or “too sensitive”. This led to me accepting unfulfilling relationships and caused a lot of distress.  Realize this, you decide what you will and will not accept within your relationships! Your needs are important no matter how trivial someone else may think they are. Don’t be afraid to set appropriate boundaries. It will save you a lot less emotional turmoil and constantly doubting yourself.
  2. Own your sensitiveness- The next time someone calls you sensitive to derail your feelings, turn around and say “yes I am sensitive”. Be proud of it! That way when someone tells your you’re being sensitive it will have minimal affect on your mood because you’ve already accepted that it’s part of who you are. Remember that your sensitiveness is a blessing not a curse.
  3. Find an outlet to express your feelings- I write my feelings down to filter through my thoughts and understand them better. This is really helpful especially when you have to make important decisions or confronted with conflict. Instead of reacting based on our immediate feelings, we get to make more informed and rational responses. If writing isn’t your thing, find a means to express your feelings, whether that’s confiding in someone, making music or painting etc. Do whatever helps you to deal with your feelings in a healthy, productive way.

Are you a sensitive person? How do you cope with your feelings?

Is there anything you would add to this list?  I Would love to know your thoughts..x

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

My Trip to Haiti

Prior to visiting Haiti, I already had my own preconceived notions of the country. I knew about the history of its revolution, I knew about the earthquake. I had a rough idea that western NGO’s in Haiti have done a terrible job on development. However I did not anticipate that my experiences in Haiti would have such a profound impact upon my return to the UK.

Irrespective of the assumptions I held about Haiti, I made a conscious effort to over-stand my position as an outsider and to learn from the experiences/ perspectives I encounter throughout my stay.

I traveled to Haiti on their election day, January the 3rd. This was not premeditated. Coincidentally my holiday coincided with that date.  Given that information on Haiti is relatively scarce, it was hard to figure out whether the election had finished or not prior to my making traveling plans. Whilst on my journey to Haiti I was informed by my host about potential road blockages and violence that may occur because of the election result. I was extremely anxious when I first heard this because I didn’t know whether my safety was at risk, especially as a foreigner. I quickly realized I came at a pivotal time when I saw posters all over the streets and graffiti on the walls in support (or disdain) for various presidential candidates.

Upon arrival I saw the UN base with around 5 UN trucks drive outside of the building. Next to it was the US embassy. The paradox of having a strongly built embassy in the same country where houses were deeply ravished by the earthquake was very perplexing. I was even more dumb-founded by the audacity to have a huge embassy whilst contributing the bare minimum to Haiti’s development (even covertly contributing to its underdevelopment).  I noticed upon arrival that some people were living it abject poverty, in houses that weren’t made strong enough for harsh weather conditions. I was baffled and confused by their savagery.

I spent the first few days familiarizing myself with the area. The streets of Haiti are so vibrant and I was always received warm greetings. I was often confused with being Haitian which wasn’t much of a surprise given the fact that I am Caribbean. My host, partner and I went to a restaurant at the top of a mountain which oversaw the whole country. The view was astonishing and truly captured Haiti in all its beauty. The afternoon was filled with nice conversation although throughout it took a serious tone. I would ask about Haiti, the culture, its politics and the role of NGO’s. The host told me about American actor Sean Penn’s project that allocated hundreds of thousands of Haitian’s that were displaced by the 2008 earthquake into tents in a mountainous area. He pointed to where the tents were placed and told us how it’s now known as one of Haiti most dangerous communities. The lack of accessibility to the main city means basic necessities are scarce and jobs barely exist which have led to third world poverty conditions. We spoke about the Haitian revolution and how it changed the trajectory of international politics in centuries to come. Our host went onto explain how many countries are quick to forget about the price Haiti paid not only for its liberation but for the oppressed worldwide. It will never leave me when he said “if it wasn’t for Haiti, Obama probably wouldn’t have been made president”. At the point I realized the significance of the Haiti’s independence in marking a paradigm shift in the world.

Each day there was paradoxical. I would be fully immersed in the city’s vibrancy, admiring its beauty and then notice large houses in close proximity to excruciating poverty. What really got to me was seeing a highly gated Marriott Hotel surrounded by street stall sellers and young kids asking for money. I couldn’t comprehend how such inequalities are allowed to exist. The Marriott Hotel symbolized the savagery inherent in free-market capitalism and the inequalities needed to exist in order for it to flourish. I could only imagine the millions spent on making such a luxurious hotel when NGO’s (who most likely raised more than its cost) gave tents to Haitians as a response to the earthquake. It just reinforced what a lot of Haitian’s already know; neocolonialism has/is ravishing the country up until the present day.

The highlight of my trip was visiting the National Museum in Haiti (known as Mupanah). I was astonished by its amazing architecture. I could proudly say that it is the most beautifully designed museums I have been to so far. I was thankful to get a tour of the museum just to gain a deeper insight on what I was seeing. I learnt more about the founding fathers. In fact their boldly remains were preserved within the museum.

The tour guide man taught me about the Taino genocide across the Caribbean orchestrated by Christopher Columbus. He spoke about Haiti’s efforts in helping/inspiring other uprisings and revolutionaries, most prominently Simon Bolivar. I didn’t know that the Haitian government under Alexandre Petion (1815-1816) provided funds and aided him with soldiers during his fight for South America’s liberation from colonialism. After being told this I reflected back upon the stigmas projected on Haiti across the world whilst thinking back to what my host mentioned about Obama. Haiti’s revolution paved the way for oppressed people over the world and I began to feel as though many of us are undeserving of the sacrifices that were made. A prime example of this is their neighbour, Dominican Republic. Haiti liberated Dominican Republic from Spanish colonial rule for them to end up showing affinity/admiration for their colonial masters and to end up playing a huge role in marginalizing Haitians. Haiti set the trajectory for black liberation, only for us to turn around and write off the whole country as being “cursed” because of voodoo.

Another thing that touched me was seeing the actual chains used to bring African slaves during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I had never seen them physically before. They were so thick and heavy. I was not prepared for the emotions I felt at that moment. The fact that I was in Haiti, a country that helped liberate my own ancestors and seeing the huge repercussions they have faced for their bravery was too emotionally intense.  I realized fully at that moment that all of us that descended from the transatlantic slave trade owe Haiti for our ancestors liberation.

I learnt that day about the King and Queen of Haiti during the 1900’s. I got to see the King’s crown which they were still able to preserve. It was the most sophisticated thing I’ve ever seen filled with the finest diamonds, crystals and gold. I found out that the Queens crown was stolen which still until this day is “lost” (aka stolen) somewhere in France. I could not help but feel intense rage at the idea of a family comfortably living off of an inheritance made from the riches built in Haiti. Just to think that blacks asking for reparations is “living in the past” is infuriating and disrespectful in every way possible. The museum did end on a lighter note when I was able to appreciate the amazing artwork of Mark Brown, an Antigen born painter. Near the end of the Museum was a mood board was various sticky notes. One notes in particular stayed with me “we have to look to the past to move forward”. It reinforced something that I have been thinking for a long time- there’s a lot of work to be done globally for the liberation of all people, particularly for all black people.

I will never forget the street art, the lovely people, vibrancy, picturesque mountainous views I saw in Haiti. All of this made my time there somewhat exceptional. Despite being from a country that had been unfairly treated by the world, the people I met held dignity and pride for their country. They over-stood the price they paid for liberation and that many have been quick to forget the role Haiti played in their liberation. Haiti has experienced decades of corrupt governance and neo-colonial imperialism which are extremely important factors when understanding why Haiti is in the position it is today.

I spent the last few days in Haiti exploring the area and enjoying my apartment that was situated in the woods. Overall Port Au Prince, Haiti is probably one of the most unforgettable travel experiences so far. It’s hard to capture what I learnt and experienced there in writing but what I learned had a profound affect upon me. It made me question my own intentions within activism and just how much it truly means to me. I hope to travel to Haiti again one day, hopefully knowing french creole, and being able to explore different cities in the country.

Copyright © AshAlves 2017, All Rights Reserved