As I write this post, we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic that has shifted governments, businesses, schools and families in an unprecedented way. And again, our hearts are still heavy from losing Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others. In addition, we are experiencing loss at the community and personal levels. We have all had a speed dating-like experience with the 7 stages of Grief and Loss as of late. For those who are not familiar with the seven stage model by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, here is a breakdown:
Shock stage*: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
Loss, uncertainty and fear are difficult to navigate, especially for those who are dealing with concurrent stressors (work dynamics, preexisting health concerns, challenging relationships, etc.) and trauma.
So, how can I fix my lips to say that 2020 is an amazing year?
What I am choosing to acknowledge about 2020 is that this year is forcing us to rethink and reset our personal and professional relationships and priorities in ways unimagined.
Picture 2020 as an empowered, resilient and wise grandmother ( or “Big Mama”) who has witnessed the previous decades and has come in to completely rearrange your life so as not to reproduce the same results. She is coming in clearing out cabinets, closets and other places where you have hidden your talents and treasures. She is forcing you to feel fear in order to reinforce and fully activate your faith. Social Distancing is her way of having you acknowledge that your health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to that of others and sometimes, you do not need to be “running around with everybody.”
It is thought provoking that we are being forced to isolate ourselves in order to either heal or to stay healthy, as I have been engaged in selective social distancing throughout my divorce journey. By doing so, I have been able to sever relationships or erect stronger boundaries with those who have (unintentionally or intentionally) enabled unhealthy, destructive behaviors in me and vice versa. I have been able to deepen relationships with those who are actively working to engage in the world in healthy and productive ways, while creating new connections with individuals that were not accessible to me during my time of navigating the world on autopilot through an anxiety and stress-laden emotional fog.
If prior to 2020 and this pandemic you were operating on autopilot and the quality of your relationships with yourself, others, nature, money, etc. were less than optimal (wait for it):
What if you use this time to re-connect or realize your larger purpose?
What if community relationships were more than résumé fillers and you were more actively engaged in the well-being of the community-at-large than ever before?
What if you used this time to purge your surroundings of toxicity of all kinds?
What if, regardless of your station in life, you tapped into your creativity to produce what only your mind, talent, and spirit can create?
What if you use this time of solitude to challenge your thoughts and assumptions about yourself, your faults and your capabilities?
What if you emerge from this moment where fear is an expectation, faith-focused, totally unbothered and filled with “power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)?
2020 is here to rearrange our lives. She is not here to play games. Let’s pause for a moment (or two weeks) to pay attention to what she is teaching us.
P.s. For anyone who is interested in other uplifting resources, check out (with more to come):
I hope you enjoyed your February and are ready to step into March like an HBCU band! Lift those knees, PEOPLE (Loving memories of Mr. Conrad Hutchinson III, Inglewood High School’s Band Director. R.I.P.)!!!
The world is busy being too busy: We stopped for a nanosecond to celebrate the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the U.S. is preparing for the 2020 election and the pre-insanity that occurs leading up to November, the coronavirus has U.S. government officials doing the “Confused Child Shuffle” (“The virus will not spread to…huh? What? It has?!? NO, what I meant to say was not TODAY.”), and many other issues that are part of Humanity’s Cup (shameless plug – 2nd edition available now). Even with everything that surrounds us, we are alive and we still have the capacity to do remarkable, life-changing things.
Melissa “Missy” Arnette Elliott. Goddess of Creativity.
With a desire to do something constructive, I have been spending time engaging my creativity. With that said, many of you (all three of you) are aware of the online store I launched for gift items that have a positive message. Recently on the site, I wrote a post about my excitement for the items created for the Month of March: Women’s History Month. I started the site during Black History Month. As a Black woman, I love the idea that I have two consecutive months to be reflective and celebrate our many accomplishments (I do it every day, but you get my point). Take a gander at the post below:
The slogan for this month’s collection comes from a poem from my forthcoming book, “Emancipation Papers.” The poem is about a person who takes on the emotions of others and transforms them into something we desperately need: Excellence. Similar to how a tree takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into oxygen, we can recycle toxic energy and turn it into something powerful and life giving (takes a lot of self-awareness work, but it is possible). That is why I thought the statement “I exhale EXCELLENCE” was perfect for our next line.
A word of inspiration to each of you: Continue to take on any challenge. Transform it. Release it as EXCELLENCE!
Do not let what is surrounding you to negatively transform you. We each have the power to take negative energy, transform it and release it!
People are complex and so are the relationships we create. The same person that brings forth thoughts of tenderness and love to one person, may, at the exact same moment, bring about feelings of rage, hatred, and emotional distress to someone else. Given that, the work of forgiveness is just that…work.
TRIGGER WARNING:Please be aware that I use humor in my posts as a way to create a space for healing, not to make light of pain, trauma or death. If your heart is too heavy to receive humor at this time given the recent tragedies, please respect your feelings and pause before reading this post.
I was planning my post about “Love Spaces” in preparation for my weekly-ish blog a couple of weeks ago. However, on January 27th, 41-year old Kobe Bean Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant; John Altobelli, 56; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli,13; Christina Mauser, 38; Ara Zobayan, 50; Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13 died in a helicopter crash. I felt the need to pause and reflect. Instead, and in recognition of the discourse that is taking place around a clip of Gayle King’s interview of Basketball Great Lisa Leslie and Lisa’s memories of her dear friend; I feel the need to write something on canceling the cancellation of forgiveness.
Admittedly, my forgiveness muscle is not well developed. It’s taken me quite some time to forgive family members for the pain they have lived through and passed on to me. Forgiving my ex-husband and myself for the emotional toxicity we created and passed off as a loving, power-couple is taking a lot of work as well. I wrote in a recent social media post that people are complex and so are the relationships we create. The same person that brings forth thoughts of tenderness and love to one person, may, at the exact same moment, bring about feelings of rage, hatred, and emotional distress to someone else.
The complexities of us. These are the realities of Humanity’s Cup.
We can be both destined and destructive within the blink of a false eyelash. We make the best choices we can and make better choices as we learn from our mistakes. We hope and pray that our lifelong-learning will take us well into our 70s, 80s or older. However, the rhythm of Life – Death has not signed off on us having an extended play, so we have to work with the time we have been given. We go about our lives, while those we harm (unintentionally or intentionally) have to make sense of us and the pain we have caused.
One way people are taking back their power from those who have wronged them is by “Calling Out” and “Canceling” or discontinuing to invest, acknowledge or interact with those who have created dis-ease to an individual, a community or communities. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a thought-provoking article in the New York Times about the role power and privilege play based on the voices who are engaged in the canceling process.
Caveat: I want to acknowledge the reality of the role that the jury of public opinion plays, especially given a justice system that is what it is on any given day. There are some crimes against humanity that make forgiveness inconceivable or even irresponsible. Public shaming, or third-party punishment is part of the fabric of this country and has served a purpose to bring a form of justice when justice has not adequately been served.
Personally, I’ve been canceling people for years in my head. You likely have done the same. I still have mini-boycotts of certain stores who have disrespected loved ones, or I will not buy a particular product or watch a certain sport because it has done harm to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQIA + (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual and allies) communities. I have also experienced being canceled and have seen my supporters cancel those who have done emotional harm to me.
Our respective tribe’s natural inclination is to protect those they hold dear. Totally understandable. If you are unsure of what I mean, I DARE you to post something negative on social media about Bey…I won’t even type her name out! They are watching…always watching!
We experience Cancel Culture in our workplaces, in politics, even in families (we are fresh off of the holiday season. You have likely canceled a few family members until November-December). Canceling is about holding people to a higher standard of morality (I like to call it a higher level of humanity). When they are destructive and do not meet our standard of “woke” or humanness we have designed, then we are done, or like the character Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girl says “You’re dead to me!”
Except, there’s one pretty significant problem with canceling… no one will be left uncanceled (is that a word?). The Bible (Yup, I’m bringing it out) says “for ALL [emphasis added] have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.” For my agnostic and atheist fam, all that means is that all humans have done wrong, caused harm, and have been destructive to themselves and others. That means you (if you have been blameless to this point, hold that thought). That means me. We mess up in private or in public and/or both and have to deal with the consequences sooner or later. Which makes the whole thing about forgiveness so damn complicated.
I cannot ignore the role fear has on whether forgiveness happens. Does forgiveness mean I let you off the hook so you can harm me again? If that is the case, then I’d rather not (this view of forgiveness has been one I have held for years). Or, does forgiveness mean I acknowledge that I have also done wrong, need time and space to get my *$#@ together and then come back to “shine bright like a diamond” ala Rhianna (when that album coming out, RiRi)? Then, I can see your wrong, create boundaries and expectations where you will not harm me again while you go get your *$#@ together? This is what forgiveness means to me now. Let me tell you, even with three concussions under my belt, forgetting harm done to me by others comes hard. However if I can do forgiveness in a way that allows us both to heal, grow and do better, then I can do that with a level of grace and sanity.
Here I come with these “What If’s!” Ask yourself these questions as you think of someone who may have harmed you:
What if I hold divinity and destruction as the realities they are without being surprised when they show up?
What if I can hold you responsible for your actions (or inaction…that is a totally different post) and not hold you in my head, heart, body or spirit causing me to relive the trauma day after day?
What if I could leave people to their own journey without feeling the need to be prosecutor, judge, jury, bailiff, and warden?
What if I could acknowledge my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others, understanding there are parts of the story I may not ever know or fully understand?
I recognized this way of thinking and acting is easier said than done. Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.
It has been a long time since we’ve connected. We wanted to share what has been put on our hearts about you as you prepare for an amazing new year.
Stop being afraid. If you had any idea of how many people beyond this life had your back, you would walk through this world differently. With that said, hide these truths in your heart:
You are loved.
Success is not a bad thing and failure won’t keep you safe.
Your purpose is bigger than your pain.
See and work beyond your current circumstances.
We can tell you that you are worthy, but only you can live out your worthiness.
One more time…only you can live out your worthiness.
What would you do if you knew everything was going to work out in your favor?
What would your state of health and wellbeing be like?
What would your surroundings look like (people, places and things)?
How hard would you pray?
Yes, how hard would you pray? You know prayer changes everything around you. Why won’t you pray? Because you know it works. And anything that works scares you. Someone loving you back, scares you. Someone investing in you and your dreams, scares you. We have watched you villainize those around you because they love you. You run from those who love you because they see your worth. What about you? Do you love you? If not, what are you waiting for?
You have to decide that this year and every year you exist, is your year. Yes, you have lived through traumatic situations, but look at you! You are still here and stronger than ever, even when you do not feel like you are stronger. Tap into the resources around you to help you move past the trauma so that you can continue to serve, while living a life of joy and purpose. You’ve got this, Dearheart! Even when you feel like your “this” is a sham or totally out of reach, remember your THIS (Tenacious Heart, Irrefutable Spirit) are not to be taken lightly.
Please make healing a priority. Block out the noise. Get prepared and stay prepared. Most important, fall madly in love with yourself and the possibilities that surround you.
We are waiting for you to renew your mind and re-connect to your purpose. We have faith in you and cannot wait to see what you do next!
Your Past, Your Present and Your Future
*I originally wrote this letter to myself as one of my personal healing projects. I hope it inspires you to work towards your goals today! Remember: You’ve got THIS!
What’s better than giving your Little Ones the gift of love, empowerment, and hope for the holidays? Celebrate a story of love and ancestral wisdom with the children in your life. Order your copies of The Love of 10,000 today!
Excerpt from the book:
Just find your calm and be still
and you’re 10,000 will speak to you.
You will hear them say:
You are mighty.
You are loved.
You are brilliant.
Children’s Book-The Love of 10,000
Inspired by Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers,” The Love of 10,000 is a love letter from a mother to her daughter. This visual poem reminds us all that as we navigate life, we are surrounded by those who love and guide us every day.
Please email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to order copies in Spanish, French, or Portuguese.
This will be the first year in a long while where I get to do the holiday season differently. There was a bit of trepidation and self-judgement while I was typing those words, because it includes the holidays where it was just my smaller family unit. My waking up before daylight while still preparing days before and over concern with whether the food was going to turn out right and if everyone was alright with how the day went (run-on sentence intentional to give you the experience of running out of breath), created stress for me, yet calm and rest for others.
It’s called tradition.
Some traditions are healthy and culture-sustaining. I am referring to those that are emotionally draining and spirit crushing. Check out the 1998 Psychology Today article “Surviving Holiday Hell” if you are not sure what I am talking about.
I already know there will be those who will argue that I have no right to be critical of the ways of being that keep families together. These are the people I am addressing this post to today. The ones who sustain dysfunction because it is the norm.
I’ve thrown out at few terms. Let me define them right quick. Tradition is defined as–well, it has several definitions. The one that is relevant for this post is “the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation,
especially by word of mouth or practice.” Along those same lines, Norms are defined as “a standard, model or pattern.” There is also a mathematical definition that only Neil deGrasse Tyson would understand. That is not the one I am referring to here. Let’s focus on “the standard, model or pattern,” meaning of the word for now.
There are some patterns–routines if you will, that we engage in that are health inducing: general hygiene, moderate exercise, semi-conscious food intake–in order to sustain a more healthy way of being. It is those unhealthy patterns that have been normalized in our families and other areas of our lives that we may want to pay attention to and eventually change. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
What impact does engaging in this pattern have on your health and sense of wellbeing (i.e. is it raising your blood pressure to unhealthy levels, are you in physical pain in this situation, or are you in full on psychological distress)?
Is nurturing a culture of silence part of the tradition, allowing others to be compromised physically, spiritually, emotionally, etc.?
Who actually benefits from upholding the traditions? Do you even know who benefits or is there an assumed “we all benefit from this experience?”
How would you view the traditions and patterns of being if you observed them anywhere other than in your surroundings?
Something that I learned in the wonderful world of therapy (Yes, Black women do therapy too.) is just because it is the norm, doesn’t make it “normal” or healthy. Patterns of dysfunction are real. Sayings that come to mind here are “that’s just the way it is” or “it has always been this way” or my favorite “it is just a part of the fabric of…” are intentional culture sustaining messages to keep unhealthy systems in place (“Mmmm, may I have extra gravy on my oppression please? Thanks!”). Just because these patterns are real and are also a part of our daily routines (alongside the healthier behaviors), does not mean they have to go unchallenged and unchanged.
Hold on there, Sister! Are you calling my family/organization/relationship OPPRESSIVE!?!
It is not about whether I would call any area of your life oppressive. That is not my call to make. The question is: If you were silent, still and willing to tell yourself some hard truths (not the easy ones that support unhealthy behaviors), would you call those areas in your life oppressive? For those who get thrown off by the O-word, how about I use some vernacular that was appropriate during last month’s holiday: Halloween.
Would you say that certain traditions in your family/organization/relationship are blood curdling, soul sucking, fear inducing, brain numbing experiences that if you weren’t so terrified you would run from them?
Please note, I am not referring to a little discomfort, which helps us grow and expand as lifelong learners.
You may know what it feels like, but are too afraid to voice it because…wait for it…it will hurt someone else’s feelings, ostracize you and create imbalance/inconvenience/incontinence for others (Incontinence, Kecia? Really?).
However, what if you changing your course of action sets generations after you on a healthier course of interacting with one another? What if:
by not forcing the children (especially girls) to hug relatives, we teach them they have full control of how they chose to interact with others and have them create ways of greeting that feel comfortable for them (how would your life be different if you had been given that choice)?
instead of all the foods that keep Type II Diabetes running through our families like a track meet, we opt for life sustaining foods (that are still well seasoned, of course)? This one is all me!
instead of accepting invitations for the annual event where packing Rolaids is required for numerous reasons, you choose to give your time interacting with those who may actually appreciate your presence–not just once or twice a year? They are closer than you think.
we changed our standards and modeled new healthier ways of being with ourselves, nature and the people around us?
I would love to hear how you are living out a more Healthy Holiday season. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.
To your wellbeing!
P.s. For anyone dealing with a higher than usual level of stress or depression, please do not suffer in silence! Immediately go to your local hospital if you have serious thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Below are a few additional resources that may be useful:
I told myself “Self, you need to be consistent with the whole blogging thing. You love to write…it’s a part of your healing practice, after all. Plus, you are incredibly funny, insightful (while at times lacking modesty) and you have a great story.”
“Self” got busy re-arranging the furniture of her life. So, here we are posting 5-months later. So it goes.
I have spent my time working on my overall wellness and wellbeing. Not one to toot my own horn, but I realized just how great I was at taking care of everyone else and how terrible I was at making my own self-care a priority. I mean T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.
All the Certificates of Appreciation, letters/emails from students and colleagues could not make up for my overall decline…while others were watching.
This realization came while I was making my amazing chicken noodle soup for some of my sick colleagues.
Record scratch moment: My family has this thing about not having your house or your life be out of sorts “in front of company” or while others are watching. The guilt, shame and exhaustion that comes from having to try and make it seem like everything is okay, when in actually some of the life situations around you are in the “Abyss of Suckedge,” is both heavy and unnecessary.
So yes, life was sucking while others were watching, got it.
However, as is my cultural and genderized training, I kept up the facade and kept a somewhat quivering and chapped stiff upper lip.
Back to the soup.
The organization I was supporting came together for a retreat. Two of my colleagues/clients were full on sick, but had very heavy workshop calendars, so they “had” to keep on pushing. Other members of the team looked worn out as well. And of course there was me: Full on hot mess with a pending divorce, a 3rd concussion walking around like Dory, in overprotective mother mode and trying to act like everything was okay.
I was not okay.
However, I still wanted to do what I could to make sure everyone else was.
Just so you know, my chicken noodle soup has been sanctioned by The Divine Council. Not only can it heal the sick, my soup can end strife of any form, while helping you balance your taxes. Not to mention that anything else I cook is suspect, so this soup being as great as it is, truly is on miracle status.
On to the soup.
Okay, the transformative part of the story really is not about the soup. What was most important about that learning experience for me came from the questions the situation brought up for me:
Where do those who do work helping to better the lives of others (us Helping Profession folk) go to gain the support we need when we get worn down by workplace issues and secondary trauma?
Yes, we may know what to do by way of our training and experiences. But, do we do what we know when it comes to our own self-care and wellbeing?
Many of us have been trained in the importance of therapy, exercise, eating well, taking time off, etc, etc. Facts:Some of us don’t do what we know to do. Many of us do not do what we know to do. I venture to believe that part of the “mental health crisis” we are seeing in our country has something to do with the fact that the people who have been championing the wellbeing of others are worn out, too. Yes, we are supposed to walk the talk while talking the talk of self-care, but that is easier said than done. Especially given the expectations brought on with how “connected” we are in every way.
Reflecting on the two questions, along with me taking the necessary time to re-connect to myself and my new world, has been empowering and purpose driving. Part of my wellness work required me to reconnect to my “why” and “what’s next?” For my “why” I can say I have always been passionate about motivating others to bring their best into their work worlds. I remember when I lived in New York, I was talking to a group of young people on the subway about what they wanted to do in the world and how they planned on doing it (you should have seen the older adults ear hustling in on our conversation).
I spent time thinking about experiences like the young people on the subway, my former students who have gone on to do amazing things, working with career changers who stepped out on faith and preparation to make big changes for themselves and their families…the kind of work that brought me joy and pumped life into me.
As I think about the intersections of my professional and personal experiences (some bitter, some sweet, some savory, some just “eh”), I am ready to stir things up in my very own “career & wellbeing soup pot.” I am excited for this new chapter in my life and my new coaching practice, Keeping Balanced Coaching(yes, another “KB” business). It is thrilling to think about what my coaches and partners for the practice are bringing to add into this brilliant mix of work and wellness. I look forward to our encouraging the overall wellbeing of those who support our children, our families and our communities…and them being well as they do it.
Final note: In case you were wondering, the soup I made my colleagues was absolutely delicious…it always is (no modesty when it comes to my soup game)! I always forget to take pictures of my soup and I don’t think I ever will given it is my signature dish. Here’s a tip: I throw in pinches of everything I have that I deem as soup-worthy. With my soup, my career and my personal life; I have adopted my (non)cousin on my dad’s side, Brené Brown’s two-word mantra, “Nothing wasted.”
Cheers to you on your soup/career/life excursions!
UPDATE AS OF 11-11-19: The Love of 10,000 is available in Portuguese, and Spanish!
Well, it has been a minute since I sat down to write a post for my blog.
It has been a special kind of busy — meetings with military personnel, therapists and hospital administrators discussing orders for the book for the children they serve (and subsequently their own families).
As I am writing this post, I am keenly aware of the lives of peaceful protesters that were taken in senseless acts of violence in the Sudan. In addition, Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, a trans sister died in jail on Rikers Island. Thinking of the pain that is felt around the world every day, it feels even more critical to equip our next generation leaders with messages that counter the current micro and macro messages about humanity, while doing so in as many languages as possible.
That said, we are THRILLED to announced that the first translation of the book is complete and we will be releasing the Spanish version of the book “El Amor de los 10,000” this Friday. Our team will be discussing the next group of translations in the weeks to come and we would love to hear from you! Feel free to DM me on Facebook or Instagram at kecia.writes letting me know your recommendations.
To give you a taste of what the book has to offer, watch this short video created by my “Sister in Creativity,” Shawndra Cox-Diaz Owner and Lead Designer of Out of Proportion Studios:
THE LOVE OF 10,000, A CHILDREN’S BOOK BY DR. KECIA BROWN,
PUBLISHED ON MAY 25, 2019 Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing
San Diego, California (May 25, 2019) – A global publication date of Saturday, May 25, 2019, has been set for the anticipated third book by educator and poet, Dr. Kecia Brown.
THE LOVE OF 10,000 is a self-published work by Dr. Brown and is distributed by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.
Dr. Kecia Brown is an educator, entrepreneur, writer, mother and SisterCircle convener. Growing up in Inglewood, California, she has written poetry and prose for more than three decades. She released her first book, “Humanity’s Cup: Tales From the Inner Circle” in 2006 and “God Don’t Like Ugly…And Is Not Too Fond of Pretty Either” in 2018. Brown called upon the talents of her daughter, Makaila Imani to serve as Editor for her first children’s book, “The Love of 10,000” a book inspired by Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers.”
As the first person to graduate college in her family, Kecia earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from California State University in San Luis Obispo; a Master of Arts degree in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Education degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in the City of New York. Her research interests look at the intersections of career, leadership and spiritual development of women leaders.
Said Dr. Brown, “Writing THE LOVE OF 10,000 began as simply a love letter I wrote to my daughter. It was her encouragement and ‘editorial savvy’ that led me to publish a book for children everywhere to enjoy. What I did not know at the time, was that I actually wrote the book that I needed as a child to help me better navigate the world after losing my father when I was seven years old. Thus, I have found my own healing in this book and hope that other children (and subsequently adults) will do the same.”
The print edition will carry a suggested list price of $16.95 in the U.S. and the digital edition will be priced at $8.99 in the U.S. International prices may vary.
In support of Dr. Brown’s personal and professional mission to support the development of next generation leaders, the author will provide copies of the book in her late sister’s name to children of military families who have lost a loved one in combat.
An English-language edition of THE LOVE OF 10,000 will be published in six territories: The United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan. A Spanish translation of the book will be available in early June 2019.
Well, here it goes! My first post for my 1st children’s book! I have been thrilled and horrified at the same time about publishing it. The side of me that is thrilled looks forward to releasing this gift so that kids all over the world have a reminder of how much they are loved. Not only do I want to send the message that our kids are loved, but also no matter what they may be going through, they will be all right AND they are surrounded by love they may not be able to see. A love that is rooting them on past their challenges. A love that whispers words of encouragement and power in a world that screams out messages of self-hate, shame, and fear. The decision to publish this counter-narrative is part of why I am a bit nervous (yes, I wrote horrified earlier…you will learn I am a bit dramatic).
My original intent was to write a book solely for my daughter and my nephew whose father was killed in August 2018. As I began sharing the poem with friends and colleagues, I noticed how many were moved to tears as they talked about their own experiences with the themes in the book. Once people saw the illustrations that went along with the poem, the floodgates opened up. Soon, I was hearing about stories of bullying, abuse, addiction, mental illness…you know, the stuff that we humans do when we are broken. Dealing with my own issues as a recovering “People Pleaser” and “Fixer,” my automatic reaction is to go into fix-it mode. When I cannot fix a situation (or person…that will be a whole different post), I come down really hard on myself. This feeling of guilt comes from my shame in not being able to help my sister shake her addictions which led to her death in 2002.
As an educator, I have worked with hundreds of women and seen them work their way to healthier ways of being. However, there will always be that one…the main one, who will live on in my heart as the one I let down. Now, fast forward to hearing stories from other people who have lived through unimaginable experiences, and I already feel like I am going to pass out!
As I work on developing greater self-compassion, I am realizing that if I breathe for a second (or four) and listen carefully, what I am actually hearing are not “problems to be fixed” but stories of resilience, power and love. The fact that these folks are alive to tell their stories their way, is a testimony to their strength and should be celebrated.
So, here I go. I will look forward to hearing your stories, now. Just know that I may have a few “Oh, Sweet Black and Brown Jesus!!!” moments privately. No worries, my 10,000 will set me straight!
Peace & Blessings
R.I.P. to my sister, Jacqueline Renee’ Polk (The “Love of 10,000” was written on her birthday July 15, 2018)