5 steps to sustained happiness

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about pleasure as a motivator and making a practice out of doing the things that make me happy (so long as no one else gets {non-consensually} harmed). Somehow we've convinced ourselves that pleasure is a luxury and that happiness must take a backseat to productivity. There are of course socio-political and economic reasons for this, but I'll spare you my far-left take on the issue :)

I am a fiercely communal person and my ability to be a good lover, friend and citizen is wholly dependent upon my being happy, healthy and whole. Here are a few things I do to make sure all three requirements are fulfilled

  1. Identify the things that make you happy: I'm surprised at the number of people who have difficulty naming concrete actions that lift their spirits. I've shared a few of the things that work for me here and here, but there are a million others: Spending time in the sun or near an open window, getting lost in a blackhole of NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, taking a walk, working up a sweat, eating lemon sorbet, trying my hand at a new creative outlet or revisiting an old one, a warm bath and a glass of wine, etc. etc. Figure out what works for you and write it down...When you're not feeling your best, it can be difficult to remember the things that make you smile, so this list will be helpful.

  2. Set aside time every single day to do one or some of them: This doesn't have to be an extravagant activity and you don't have to do it for long. Take 10 minutes, every day and dedicate it to something that makes you laugh or smile. Keep it consistent if it's something you'd like to incoporate into your life daily, or switch it up if you get bored easily.

  3. Touch someone and allow someone to touch you: Humans need touch. This is a biological truth. The touch doesn't have to be sexual, it absolutely should not be creepy and can be as simple as a handshake, a hug, or a friendly pat on the back where appropriate. Try touching yourself, while you're at it.

  4. Give yourself the credit you deserve: You've worked hard to get where you are and you absolutely deserve some recognition for it. Sometimes our best work happens in the dark, away from the fanfare and the glamour of public acknowledgement. Small successes make big successes happen. Don't forget to celebrate your achievements.

  5. Limit your screen time: That is, after you send me an email, of course :)

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Nia's love list

The following is a (living) list of things that I love. From the mundane to the extravagant, here are some of my favorites:

crisp singles and multiple women to spend them on | omakase | a well written essay | a freshly opened bottle of wine | my name on your lips | 90s RnB | ice water | the number 8 | cheese course | Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies | kink | film photography | cumin | honey | acrylic paints | perfectly ripened mangoes | greying hair | waking up early to write | fresh produce | clever poetry | bacon | silk pillowcases and bed-sheets | nudity | ambition | friction against nipples | secluded beaches | inventive and filling meals | art for art's sake | organized chaos | gorgeous pumps | sun-warmed bodies of water | voyeurism | leather-bound journals | exhibitionism | dive bars | mint tea in the mornings | chamomile in the evenings | lemon sorbet | intelligent women | doting men | fresh air | massages | homemade meals | midday rendezvous | depravity masked by purity | plain yogurt with honey | sharpened knives | film photography | cycling | bathtubs and bubbly | breathtaking vistas | a man who orders for me | a man who allows me to order for him | the fuzzy time between being wide awake and falling asleep | natural light | chipping away at my student loans | honey | gold | 1st edition books | undermining authority | handwritten letters | warm skin | threesomes and moresomes | sociological theory | artistry and passion | Toni Morrison | disagreement and growth | depth and intimacy | the West Indies | coconut oil | a crisp peach on a summer day | big, bold, reds | house plants | used bookstores | gentle, but purposeful lovers | live music | long walks with no destination | new cities | lavender | lazy Sundays | giving and receiving thoughtful gifts | farmer's markets | Heather Headley | Afro-futurism | contrast | chivalry | gin and citrus | your hand at my hip (or on the small of my back) | fluffy pillows | easy smiles and genuine laughter | excellence | spontaneous adventure | rivers, lakes and mountains | a well-equipped kitchen | yoga | James Baldwin | berries | My BFFs Cartier, Celine and Jimmy (Choo) | subversion

A familiar intimacy

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I went in with high expectations for this shoot. There was a series of emotions I hope to elicit, but I struggled to name them in any coherent or cohesive manner. When I decided to reach out to Ramon Jamar, it was with the hope that he would be able to help. Ramon’s Instagram feed was sexy in an honest and un-cluttered way that appealed to my own tendency towards understated sensuality. The kind of sensuality which feels at once familiar and refreshing; which can be felt at exactly the same moment it is seen. After a few months of following him, I was sure that the intimacy between the models and the camera was real. He was capturing something in their eyes and I was curious to see if he could capture it in mine. Unfortunately, bad laws, worse politicians and stigma like you couldn't imagine prevent me from showing you what he managed to find when looking through the viewfinder, but you'll have to take for my word for it when I say that he found something beautiful. Every time I have new photos taken, I'm amazed at the way photographers tell stories. This time, I felt that to be even more true. The precision, intention and stillness required for great analog photos was a challenge I enjoyed meeting. Conveying comfort and fluidity through stillness is no small feat, but working for every shot made seeing the final images that much sweeter. 

I have to admit that I worried that these photos might reveal too much. That they were more beautiful than sexy, more personal than marketing and thus unfit for professional use. But, in the end I decided that these images say a lot about the experience I intend for you and I to have: I want to leave remnants of the memories we've created in the corners of suites from Washington, DC to Mozambique. I want to wake up slowly to your smile and a warm cup of mint tea. I want to feel powerful and comfortable and and divinely feminine whether I'm rolling around in bed or walking the street. I want our love nest to feel like ours even if only for a few hours.

As I gathered my things, said goodbye to Ray and made my way to the door, rain began coming down in heavy sheets. Before I could cross the threshold, I was soaked and so were my bags, but I've always know that rain cleanses, washes and renews.

I've shared a few samples of what we created together here, but others can be viewed in my photo gallery. I hope that you enjoy these images as much as we enjoyed making them for you. 

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