First, giving honor to God and all of the Ancestors of years past and those who have recently made the journey home (Civil Rights Activist and U.S. Representative John Robert Lewis and Minister C. T. Vivian).
I am going to keep this post nice and short (ha!) because today’s post is actually a visual poem. The piece chronicles my experience with Impostor Syndrome after the death of my sister in 2002, which had me gravitate to toxic environments and relationships (both personal and professional).
For those who are unfamiliar with Impostor Syndrome, it is a psychological phenomenon where you feel like you are a fraud and that anything that you have accomplished is due to luck. I personally view Impostor Syndrome as a form of internalized oppression that is a direct byproduct of the systems of oppression that exist in society.
Since I had the nerve to be speaking on the topic of “Living a Limitless Life During a Time of Extreme Limitations” during a virtual group meeting last week, I thought it was important (Read: Critical) for me to talk about my internal limiting thoughts and ways of being. I also have 6 Tips that are helping me rally back from almost 20 years of living a life that was damaging me mentally, spiritually and physically:
6 PERSONAL LESSONS ON LIVING OUT MY LIBERATION/LIVING A LIMITLESS LIFE
We have a complicated relationship with the truth. Whether it is speaking our truth, believing the truth, or telling the truth, something that should be the norm just is not. It has been force fed to us for centuries that it is more advantageous for us to lie and uphold lies that destroy us than to fight against them. We’re not buying the bs anymore. Tear down the lies because they have choked the life out of us for far too damn long! Rest in Power: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. ~KCB journal entry
I have been putting off writing this post for weeks now. Technically, I began writing this post before my Mother’s Day post. However, like so many other people, my heart has been beyond heavy with all of the racial injustice, murders/lynchings of Black Women and Men and the stoking of hatred we are seeing politically (Please vote on November 3rd).
In two words: I’m angry. In four words: I’m afraid and angry. Psychologically, I am using my anger as fuel in order to function beyond my fear.
I had a whole set up for this post on Lies. There’s this cute vignette I had about my daughter, Christmas, and the Elf on the Shelf. A quick aside: Our elf is still here freeloading…and it’s June. One day there will be a proper time to talk about the cycle of lying -> telling the truth -> lying -> final truth. That story will be told at another time.
No, today I simply implore you to look at the lies told, the lies we uphold, and examine the ways that we have intentionally and unintentionally caused harm. I will serve as a model for the work I’m recommending:
I want to acknowledge the pain I have caused within my own community as I dwelt in the Sunken Place of the Most Toxic. Being married to a white man, no matter how “aware” and freedom fighting his views, still sent a message of self-loathing and cultural betrayal. In addition, I made major missteps when trying to fight for us because I was unable to fight for myself (and was “crazier than a Betsy Bug” as we say in my family). Now that I am free (Honey, I’m free), I am very clear about who I am and what the Creator is requiring of me during this time of Revival.
First Nations People/Muscogee Community
You are family, too. I see my great-great grandmother’s BIA number and wonder what she would say about everything we are seeing now. I believe she would say that Black Lives Mattered before we were brought here in chains.
I thank you for seeing and speaking out against the injustices perpetrated against Black and Brown bodies, especially given the historical scars of White Supremacy on Indigenous Peoples. The lies you endured that set the stage for the genocide of the First Keepers of this land need to be addressed in a more substantial way than a few casinos here and there. Hopefully, many of you will live to see that change come.
People of Color
You have been lied to as well. That is the calculation of systemic racism, its sleight of hand moves quickly and it can be hard to recognize when People of Color use the lenses of the oppressor on one another. We uphold the lies without even questioning them (Colorism being one of the lies we have been told and continue to uphold). We need each other. Our kids need a better world. We have to work together in dismantling the lies AND building new structures for the generations to come.
[Deep sigh] I have insider knowledge that White Supremacy is spread by small lies that uphold the larger structural lie: White skin makes you better than everyone on this planet. Which is simply not true and you know it. You needn’t go any further than your own families to see that some of your own family members did not get the memo about being supreme beings. Part of the issue is the Culture of Silence that exists. “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” has been a part of white family systems long before the military revamped the meaning to address (not address?) sexual orientation within their ranks.
Look. Tell the truth. Tell the whole truth and ask God to help you, not your Black colleagues or that one kinda-sorta Black friend that seems to be brought up when racism is mentioned. If you can figure out how to use ever-changing technology, I want to assume your commitment to lifelong learning as an adult has not completely disappeared.
In essence, I’m telling you that you cannot call Tyrone to ask him how to dismantle racism. He has turned off his phone and so have I.
. . .
I could go on, but I will not. I want to encourage each of us to do whatever is necessary to dismantle what is killing all of us, figuratively and literally. Let’s continue to ask ourselves:
What are the lies I tell (inadvertently or as the current system mandates) and who do they benefit? Who do they harm/destroy?
How or in what ways am I upholding the lies that reinforce White Supremacy, White Privilege and Anti-Blackness?
What does being an “Anti-Racist” mean in my world and…what will it cost me to become an anti-racist?
What resources will I need to engage and who will hold me accountable during my anti-racist skill development?
What will I do to sustain myself when I meet opposition?
In recognition of Mother’s Day, I yield this week’s post to my mother. I previously mentioned that my mom was a writer for the Herald Dispatch in the 70’s. Here is one of her articles (Yes, this is my awkward Black Girl way of saying, “My mama said…!”).
GROWTH AND CHANGE
There can be no growth in repetition of an experience, unless at the same time we are making some provisions for broadening the base of the experience. To grow we must gain a new vision, and a wider outlook, a better way of doing things that will increase our usefulness.
Forget The Past…(Cremate it) and forge ahead.
Think: I know that I have a right place and right activity in the Divine scheme of Life and that I am God-guided to the right place now. God’s presence is with me and I have no fear.
We are continuously living a new life and when the old, being no longer able to contain the new, should be discarded. God’s limitless bounty is yours to receive, you need only to ask, give thanks and believe.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. James 2:26
The fact always has been that, although the reach of faith is boundless, without works [it] is meaningless. They are the two parts of a whole life. “Works” include the willingness to do something about our own problems as well as consideration of others. We commune with the Almighty for solace, protection, guidance and to search our motives before undertaking a course of action. But to follow such Holy Communion with inaction or indecision can bring forth no accomplishment or satisfaction. In the arena of human affairs, the deed must enact the thought. Merely to be good is not enough. We must DO GOOD. We cannot withdraw from the worldly activity hoping to find in seclusion life’s purpose in the answer to our problems. Prayerful contemplation should be entered into regularly for real inspiration, but not as a retreat from daily life.
I have both the ability to understand and do that which is right for all concerned. My faith in God is embodied in my acts today; that they may reveal the Divine benefits which flow from the use of right ideas.
Man’s actions should swing from inspiration to action, from contemplation to accomplishment, from prayer to performance!!!
We shall endeavor to bring new thoughts of enlightenment each week to our readers. As I leave you this week, remember the GOLDEN SILENCE: CONTEMPLATE ON THIS
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD Psalms 46:10
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms and like-moms out there! Blessings, safety and health to you & yours.
“The enormity of it all hit me as I watched Bishop Jakes’ sermon. Then, it happened. I cried. The real “I” cried, meaning I cried from my soul. I cried for myself, my family and the whole damn world. Once I was done, I felt ready. That release and that emotional/spiritual support was what I needed so I could re-engage and get back to work. Thank you, Bishop.”
Happy Resurrection Sunday to All!
The excerpt above comes from my journal entry from last Sunday. As you may have [not] noticed, I did not post anything last week. Admittedly, I needed to sit with what was going on around me. Normally a Dispositional Optimist (respect to Dr. Jacqueline Mattis), I usually have a tendency towards feeling that no matter what is going on around me, when it is all said and done, everything is going to work out.
Yeah, my Dispositional Optimism was on vacation week before last. So, my need for some spiritual nourishment was real.
Segue to the sermon.
In my opinion, Bishop Jakes is an amazing adult educator, biblical scholar and entrepreneur. And, he can preach. As a preacher’s kid, you learn that a real preacher can preach to 1 with the same conviction, fire and purpose they can 100,000. His sermon “The Shock of Suffering” is an example of that.
Please know that I am not here to convert anyone to a particular religious orientation. See this information the same way you used to see those little receptacles in stores where you could leave a penny or take a penny (now in the time of COVID-19, leave that penny alone).
The reason why I needed to hear a positive word was because I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by what loved ones were dealing with financially, emotionally and physically. I was overwhelmed hearing stories from friends in New York as they received calls about loved ones who were dying. I was overwhelmed (yet grateful) for the daily briefings from California Governor Newsom.
Over it (COVID-19) and overwhelmed.
Have you ever been overwhelmed to the point of inaction? Or, in my case, to the point of “Processing-by-Pantry” (#COVIDcalories #COVIDCrunchies)?
It seemed like my advice was muted. The resources I offered were meaningless. My empathic ear was not enough. I could not shoulder the enormity of this moment by myself. And that is when I was reminded of the benefit of being overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is like an alert system. It tells us that the current situation requires self awareness, curiosity, additional support/guidance and strategy to navigate.
As an example, I think about the times I have moved and it was time to move a hulky piece of furniture or an appliance. Regardless of how many times I lift the 10 and 15 lb weights, I am not capable of moving a refrigerator by myself (rumor has it though that my father once put a large refrigerator on his back and moved it by himself #daddybrag). Overwhelmed by the size of the task, I have had the wherewithal to know that I am not able and do not have the necessary equipment to move a refrigerator. I had no problem looking for the right people to do the job safely.
Moving a refrigerator does not equate to the level of current crisis we see globally, but it serves as a decent metaphor. Even if we can handle life’s heaviest challenges on our own, it does not mean there is not a more fruitful and saner way to manage the situations we are experiencing.
On this Resurrection Sunday, I encourage you to think about the various changes you and those around you are navigating, the various support systems available (people, places and things) and how best to develop plans to help move “the refrigerators” around you. For some, the situations around you may be the size of a mini refrigerator while others are dealing with “Double Wides” that are more complex. Whatever the situations may be, take some time to be still and honestly assess the needs around you, then seek support accordingly (Social Distancing ≄ Emotional/Spiritual Disconnection).
For those who need a tool to help you think through how to manage the changes you are experiencing, feel free to visit the Keeping Balanced Instagram page (keeping.balanced). Learn more about a framework that I have used to support those who have felt overwhelmed by career changes, job loss, family challenges and other life transitions.
No questions to ponder this week. I figure you have enough on your mind.
Continued health and safety to you and your loved ones.
You have likely heard about the increase in domestic violence in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantine. I posted about this on several social media outlets and want to add it here for this community.
There are many forms of domestic violence that are thriving under the current COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing environment:
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: