Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2012 Summer Literary Showcase: Marcia Davis Taylor

Marcia Davis Taylor is a writer who focuses primarily on topics related to the health and well-being of girls and women.  Her love for writing began in high school, and she continued to hone her skills by submitting pieces for essay contests.  During her undergraduate and graduate school years, her essays were published in The Black Collegian and View South magazines.  Marcia’s writing was put on the back burner while she pursued her career as a nonprofit administrator and social worker, but the need to find her voice through the written word has always remained constant.  From 2005 to 2006, she wrote a monthly column, “Self,” for Lifestyle CEO, formerly an online magazine for women entrepreneurs.  Marcia serves as the resident blogger for her nonprofit organization’s website, and continues to write and submit pieces for publication.  This summer, pointe! magazine will feature Marcia’s work in its upcoming edition, and recently published one of her pieces in the spring issue.

Marcia is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Chrysalis Services for Girls and Women.  Founded in 2009, Chrysalis is a nonprofit focusing on physical, mental, spiritual and financial health.  Ms. Taylor resides with her family in South Carolina.

Mothers Shape the World

Today marks the beginning of National Women’s Health Week.  How fitting that we should start this celebration of women’s health on Mother’s Day — mothers are our first caregivers and to a great degree, hold the health of their families and our communities in their hands.  Allow me to share my personal thoughts with you on this special day.

Approximately twenty-three years ago I became a mother for the first time, my thoughts focused almost solely on this wondrous little blessing from God.  Who would he resemble, what kind of temperament would he have, and what kind of man would he grow up to be?  This scenario was repeated two more times with two more blessed baby boys.

What do I think about now?  I think about my legacy to my children.  Not necessarily what you might expect, though.  Among other things, I want to leave my children a legacy of physical and emotional health – for themselves, for their families and for society in general.  Making healthy lifestyle choices is a gift to myself and to my sons at the same time.

First and foremost, I want to live long enough to see them through high school graduations, college graduations, marriages and grandchildren.  I have had to face some personal truths and take responsibility for improving my health.  I have been doing everything possible and within my power to decrease stress and shed excess weight, in order to reach healthy levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.  Time for myself is now a non-negotiable element of my life.  As a family we keep regular appointments with healthcare professionals.  I have a consistent exercise regimen that includes water fitness, Zumba, and weight training.  I am doing this for myself, my family, and my sons’ futures.

Motherhood is extremely rewarding, but it can be an emotional and stressful undertaking, even under the most ideal circumstances; and yes, even when your offspring are 18 and older.  It is critical to take time to rest, de-stress, and renew ourselves on a regular basis.  Stress has been proven to depress the immune system and contribute to premature aging and disease.  Parental stress can negatively impact the social and emotional growth and development of children.

Overweight, unhealthy children lead to overweight, unhealthy adults.  Heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions are directly related to being overweight.  Undiagnosed or untreated conditions such as these lead to a decline in health and a poor quality of life.  Generally speaking, these health challenges can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes and choices.

Children learn what they live and mothers shape their world.  Mother’s Day is the time when we celebrate all that our mother’s have given us.  Will the legacy you leave your children be one of physical and emotional health?  Give yourself (and your children) a special Mother’s Day gift by investing in YOU.  This May, schedule (and keep) appointments with your healthcare professionals.  Take stock of your health and take action to improve your health and quality of life.


Do you long to return to an activity that you gave up when you got married or became a mom?  Do you have a passion for something that others may consider unconventional for a woman, or inappropriate for a woman of your age?  Are you feeling unfulfilled and wanting to grow spiritually or intellectually?

True freedom comes from within.  You can obtain it by listening to your inner voice and acting upon what you hear.  Your authentic self is revealed through self-exploration – exploration that requires inspection of your heart, your soul and your spirit.  What are the desires of your heart?  What are you keeping hidden inside or holding back because you are afraid of what others might think?

Family, friends and co-workers expect us to look and act a certain way.  Much of what determines how others think we should live our lives is influenced by unrealistic media images.  The media bombards us with images of women who are pencil thin, who look flawless 24 hours a day, and who manage all of their myriad responsibilities without ever breaking a sweat!

Do you meet every expectation that others have of you?  Do you try to do and have it all?  What is “it” anyway?  The myth of the superwoman who can do and have it all creates frustration in the lives of women on a daily basis.  As women, we often sacrifice our truest selves because we are trying to live up to the expectations of others.  The expectations placed upon us vary according to our age, our ethnic or cultural heritage, and our socioeconomic status.

The key to having “it all” is defining what “it” means to you. If your expectations are set too high, you may become dissatisfied with your current life situation.  If they are set too low, you may never achieve goals that you have the potential to reach.  So, how do you strike a balance?

Create realistic expectations.  For example, it is not realistic to expect to keep a spotless house when you have children.  Better to have a clean house with some clutter, than a spotless house with no time or energy to spend with your family.  Being a perfectionist can rob you of time and energy to devote to other activities.  And, it is unrealistic to expect that you can do everything on your own, all of the time, without some assistance.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Sometimes it is not important what other people think.  Many times, our efforts to live up to the expectations of others end with disastrous consequences for our mental and physical health.  Focus on creating and prioritizing realistic expectations for yourself – it’s your life – know what you want, create a plan to get there, and work your plan!  Take the cues from your inner self, set her free and watch her soar!

An Astounding Second Act

For most members of my high school graduating class, 2011 marked our 50th birthdays.  For some, 50 is a milestone achievement, while for others it is approached with dread.  My plan is to celebrate myself, my life, my achievements — I plan to have an astounding second act!

There continues to be a healthy debate regarding whether or not women actually have midlife crises.  Is it a midlife crisis, or, is it that when we can finally take a breather from years of raising a family, managing a household, or building a career, we wake up to the fact that our lives are not quite what we expected them to be? Or maybe we are happy and satisfied, but just too tired to enjoy everything that we have worked so hard for?

When we reach our 40s and 50s, we often begin to experience loss firsthand – family, friends, and classmates.  It makes us think about our own mortality and we often begin to take stock of our lives.  If we died today, what would be our epitaph, what would people remember most about us?  Many times we begin to look back over our lives, remembering the dreams we left behind, remembering the things we may have given up to have families or careers.  Sometimes we are left wondering if our life has any meaning.

Do you remember the “Oprah” episodes that sparked the discussions about women who had “lost themselves?”  These women, some of us among them, had that “a-ha” moment when they realized that they had lost touch with themselves, their hopes, and their dreams.  They had allowed themselves to be overtaken and overwhelmed by all that is involved in just making it through each day.

Some studies indicate that midlife crises occur anywhere between the ages of 38 and 55.  But, is it really a crisis, or is it the transition that begins the second half of our lives, perhaps the best half of our lives?  Not to say that building a career or raising a family are endeavors that are not important or fulfilling; they absolutely are.  Maybe the first half is just the dress rehearsal or the first act.

Maybe all of the lessons we have learned are preparing us for an astounding second act, the one that will bring us a standing ovation at the end!  We will have learned all of our lines, smoothed out the rough edges, and gotten rid of any stage fright we may have had.  Perhaps in the second act we are really beginning to relax, enjoy our own show, and take the stage as our own.

Embrace the second act of your life with enthusiasm and wonder.  Explore new ideas, new relationships, and unfulfilled dreams.  Live your life as the woman you know you were meant to be, transformed and free like a beautiful butterfly emerging from its chrysalis!

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