7 Questions: Thriving

It’s May! Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

So, this is the first post (I believe) where I start off with the 7 Questions. Given EVERYTHING that is going on around us, the idea of healing and thriving have been center-stage for me. I asked Yolanda the “thriving” question during our conversation (Timestamp 7:26 – 11:03) and now I am digging deeper. I would love for you to dig deep with me and ask yourself these questions:

  1. How do I define “Thriving?” Do I know what thriving is for myself? Others? 
  2. Have I ever seen people thriving, i.e. do I recognize what thriving looks like (No, not InstaThriving/social media-esque thriving, the real thing)? 
  3. As I continue to interrogate myself (Cornel West via A. Rafik Mohamed Ep. 12 timestamp 31:22 – 32:11) and exorcize the internalized messages of oppression – stereotype threat, impostor syndrome, etc.), what hard truths do I need to hear in order to embrace what it means to thrive? 
  4. Who do I trust in my Circle of Support who will tell me these hard truths in order to help me/us move forward?
  5. If thriving is new to me, what can I do to not self-sabotage out of fear of experiencing something outside of the toxic, trauma-filled norm?
  6. What are ways I can support the thriving of those dearest to me? 
  7. How am I celebrating with those who are thriving and not letting my Inner Critic dampen the moment out of fear or questioning my worthiness to thrive?

Last week, my clients and students reminded me what thriving in spite and despite the oppressive conditions surrounding us looks like. My students found a way to enjoy each others joy and brilliance in a socially distant way and reflected on what it means to be Scholars of Color. My clients are confidently redefining what success and wealth building look like to them, and my daughter is finding great joy in making her racist teacher more upset as she is progressing in her schoolwork (Hey, motivation is motivation).

However you define your “win,” let it empower you to dream bigger and dream in honor of those who are thriving through you: 

Ma’Khia Bryant, Jacqueline Polk, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Andrew Brown, Jr., Daunte Wright, George Floyd, Adam Toledo, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and way too many/too painful to list.

As Beyoncé said in her beautiful song Bigger “life is your birthright they hid that in the fine print.”

Because it’s Beyoncé

Not only is living your birthright, but so is the audacity to radically love, thrive and liberate while being liberated. 

 Hold fast to your Birthright.

In Solidarity,

P.s. For anyone in the mood for a little poetry, take a look at one of my latest pieces for my 4th book “Emancipation Papers.” The poem is titled “The Road Home.”

Poem: The Road Home

I feel your heavy heart.
I see you are trying.
You are not casco.
You matter.
You will find joy again.

I welcome you home.

You have tried to be
what others have wanted you to be.
You are still discovering who you are, truly.
Let their construction of you crumble.

We welcome you home.

Your heart and spirit know you fully
and are aching for you to be what you are destined to be.
Let the lies disintegrate into fine particles of dust
and stand fully in your truth.
Your Ancestors applaud your courage
and dance to celebrate your deliverance.

You are home
and home has always existed in you.

Reflections from Episode 13: Love and Liberation Beyond the Vortex

I hope my post finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

Last week had many emotional moving parts for us to feel and learn from as we move forward on our love, liberation and thriving journey. Here are my reflections along with my beloved 7 Questions (and by “beloved” I mean loved by me). Please be aware that all of the headings today are a nod to songs by the late great artist Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016):


Colonized Mind

I believe it was Prince who supposedly said that “Hate is an upset love.” If that is true, we are surely seeing an inordinate amount of “upset love” being displayed around us. As I contemplate what is going on nationally and internationally; I am reflecting on how acts of hate and abuse hit closer to home. While using this time of hyper-awareness of State violence against my community and other oppressed communities, I am also actively interrogating the abuser within. I know I/we did not start out this way. Neither did the people I love, both past and presently. 

Abuse is about power, especially for those who have felt powerless in some area(s) of their life. Whether we are talking about family and community members who are causing harm, or power craving colleagues in the workplace. When we are taught/indoctrinated in the rhetoric of exclusion and dehumanization (via white supremacy) and told the only way to have power is to steal, destroy, and exact harm on those we feel hold less power and “matter less” than we do; we end up with a growing list of dead Black people under the age of 50. If we step out of the convenience of othering, the growing list of murdered Black Women, Femmes, Men, Children, Gender Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming and Trans Folx at the hands of police officers would have us all screaming in horror and fighting for change, not just a subset of us.

Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)

As I have been engaged in selfwork related to Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz’s work Archaeology of the Self, I have been actively interrogating the abused and abuser in me. Whether unpacking some of the generational messages from well-intentioned, loving, disenfranchised, oppressed loved ones in my family (see the coexistence of love and destruction?) or “Know your place messages” within the workplace. Along the same lines as the previous messages are degrading messages in the form of emotional abuse from lovers who see themselves as powerless in a world that hate them for any of the identities they hold/claim. I am in a place of heightened awareness that those messages and behaviors have been well-recorded and live in my mind and body. My work, and I choose to accept it, is to examine and exorcize these ways of thinking and acting to disrupt the systems of white violence in my life and in the lives of those I love.

Fury

Those who know me well, know that I am a big fan of DC/Marvel movies. However, what those same folx don’t know is that I spend the entire movie identifying with both the heroes and villains (that’s what happens when you have a degree in Psychology). One of my favorite characters in The Avenger films is the Hulk (She-Hulk is supposed to be coming out on Disney+! Wait for it!). 

One of my favorite scenes that I identified with right away was in The Avengers when Captain America turned to Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk out of desperation for help in order to fight off the ugliness that surrounded them and quickly coming towards them. You hear Captain say “Dr. Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”  To which Dr. Banner replies, “That’s my secret Captain, I’m always angry.” Then, in cinematic brilliance, he transforms instantaneously into the Hulk:

TRIGGER WARNING: VIOLENT CONTENT. View Timestamp 1:10-2:03 only.

As epic as this scene is, there is a painful familiarity I have as it is indicative of my experience as a Black woman. 

Black Sweat

As a Black woman existing in a number of intersecting identities I, like my green friend the Hulk, am always angry. What is even more infuriating is when people who do not share my identities try to rob me of the very natural emotion of anger by calling me angry, as if to question the legitimacy of my anger (or my mental wellbeing or both). Because of my past propensity for people-pleasing, I would lie (knowing good and well I was lying) and say I was not angry to put them at ease. Meanwhile, my inner Hulk was serving me internal body blows.

So, here it is. I am angry. I am pissed off to the highest levels of pisstivity. 

I am enraged by social injustice we have collectively experienced, as well as those intimate experiences that have caused and taught me to harm. I am particularly aware of this latter point as I am transforming my relationship with my daughter. Since my ex-husband and I have not quite learned how to be “People” to one another, becoming “Co-Parents” is taking a bit more time. It’s almost like we are operating in similar forms of destruction, but in different franchises: He is Lex Luthor and I am operating more like Erik Killmonger. We have realized once again that the anger, resentment, and toxicity we exact on each other is having a direct effect on the one person that matters the most to us: Our daughter. This realization has forced us to stop everything in the midst of all the anger we both feel about the world around us and the world we created together.

I Feel For You 

As I reflect on the world I am creating for myself and my daughter, I am having to be compassionately honest versus brutally honest (there’s enough brutality in this world) about ways my “Harm Training” has/is showing up. While listening to my sisterfriend, Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz talk in our upcoming More Than Metaphors episode “Love & Liberation Beyond the Vortex,” I recall what she says about how to liberate ourselves from the ways of pain and trauma we have been taught:

Clip from the upcoming More Than Metaphors Ep. 13: “Love & Liberation Beyond the Vortex” with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz

The Question of You

As I continue my critical self-reflection and engaging in new practices towards being a more conscious and compassionate parent to a Black/Biracial Girl, while dislodging all of the destructive messages and behaviors hurled at us Black/Brown Women and Girls, AND simultaneously embracing my rage around the murder of a Black Girl: Ma’Khia Bryant, 16 #sayhername; my selfwork consists of these 7 Questions (and many more):

7 QUESTIONS

  1. What historic and/or personal traumas am I carrying and/or find myself passing on to my daughter or other Black Women/ Women of Color in my life?
  2. In addition to therapy, what nurturing practices can I engage in to interrupt the passing on of historic and/or personal trauma to my daughter or other Black Women/ Women of Color in my life?
  3. How or in what ways can I understand, value and embrace my anger, while harnessing that angry energy towards constructive work?
  4. How will I disrupt and dismantle internalized white supremacist notions in myself and in those I care about, with a focus on addressing misogynoir in the Men of Color I love in my life?
  5. What are some of the cultural scripts I need to revise and act out differently that better fit with the Love and Liberation I crave to embody for myself, my daughter, and my work?
  6. How will I go about developing boundaries that are compassion-centered vs. boundaries rooted from a “This is what you’re not gonna do” stance, which is born from a place of self-preservation stemming from fear of a loss of self?
  7. How will I utilize the collective wisdom, imagination, power and spirituality of my ancestors to focus my gaze and actions towards what Robin D.G. Kelley writes about in Freedom Dreams into my home, work, community, and in the world (both the external and my internal world)?

While we are fighting for substantive change in the world, we cannot forget what I am constantly saying to myself and people around me: Justice starts at home. Let’s continue creating/re-creating environments where we feel loved, liberated and where we can continue to thrive. Looking forward to continuing to walk this road together!

In Solidarity,

P.s. #justiceforMakhiaBryant #sayhername #untiljusticejustis

Cherish the Days: My Reflections From “A Poetic Love After the Snap” and More

Welcome back, Everyone!

I pray you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. As we begin to re-engage into our pre-pandemic ways of being; I hope that each of you are continuing to be vigilante about your health as well as the health of those around you.

My plan is for this post to be brief given what I really want to share with you lives in this week’s episode of More Than Metaphors. So, let’s jump right into it:

As we move closer to the middle of April, I find myself in as space of contemplative gratitude. You see, for some, April 15th may be filled with dread. Others are excitedly preparing for their tax refund. I have a very different view of this time of year because I happen to be born on April 15th. There was a time when I would treat my birthday as if it were a national holiday. However, given the events of the last two years (and well beyond), I am viewing another year of life differently.

As I prepare to turn 48 years old (how in the hell did that happen so quickly?), it has become more important for me to think about how, or in what ways I am honoring those who I have lost with the life I have been given. Kind of a heavy question, but one that sits with me as we mourn the death of yet another artist, Earl Simmons known by his stage name, DMX.

Rest in Love, Mr. Simmons.

How are celebrating birthdays, the death of DMX and an episode of this week’s podcast entitled “A Poetic Love After the Snap” connected? I look to the words of Mr. Simmons’ family for the answer “He loved his family with all of his heart, and we cherish the times we spent with him.”

Love and cherish. Because it could all change in a snap.

Sade Adu said it best: Cherish the Day.

Who are the people, places, things and circumstances that make you feel loved and cherished and you, in kind, love and cherish them back? This was one of the questions that was answered by my first podcast guests, Kian and ReShockie Furnace: Two divorcees that decided to give love a chance and have created a union based on friendship, love, mutual respect and a deep faith in their Creator.

Are you sharing your gifts out loud in the world where our next generation leaders can build, borrow and best-up what you have created? DMX did. If you have too, hats off to you! If you have not, what are you waiting for?

And as for the gift of another year, day, or moment of life; how are you honoring those you have loved and who continue to love you beyond this world? That is the question that I am reflecting and acting out in a far more intentional way.

I hope that you are continuing to learn how  to love and cherish your days a bit differently, while continuing to learn, thrive and move towards liberation.

In Solidarity,

F*ck Your Bad Day

I am still sickened from the the news of the murders of 6 Asian women and 2 men by a 21-year old, disenfranchised white man this past Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia. Someone (who was taken alive by police) who claimed his murders were not based on race, but because he had a sex addiction. A spokesperson for the police department (also a white man) when describing the murderer indicated the the murderer “had a bad day.”

As a Black woman, I have known a few bad days in my time. Yet, I never went out and killed anyone to express my pain or as a cry for help. This kind of pass for white violence stems from the white supremacist heteronormative misogynistic capitalistic patriarchy that allows for such an asinine excuse (spoken by an ass) to permeate in our society.

Yes, keep working towards liberation AND know that the fight for liberation belongs to us all.

Here’s a piece I wrote to help me fully feel my rage about this heinous crime and others it represents:

Your excuses are so dependable 

As you show the world how expendable

Women of Color are.

So far 

you have had the wrong door

wrong day

wrong person 

wrong name. 

Yet, you have no restriction 

of blaming us for your 

privileged position:

He had a porn addiction.

He had a bad day.

They had the wrong apartment.

At least he stayed and prayed

…before he sprayed.

It has gotten way more than old 

as body after body after body grows cold

while families have to piece together

a Gofundme page for those you have slain

while your delusion, once again

earns you more pity than the lives taken

families forsaken 

while the news “circus” has your story 

on instant replay.

BIPOC Folx are beyond tired of the bullshit you relay.

Keep your manifestos.

Keep your watered down apologies.

And very much, fuck your bad day.

How Dare You, Will Smith!

Welcome back! I pray you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. I also hope that you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day week! Some of you read my impromptu gift I sent out to everyone on Valentine’s Day. Like Love itself, that inspiring post is still available to you whenever you need it (I have read it a few times myself to get a little additional motivation). 

Speaking of love, we are sending love and resources to those in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and other states that have been hit by winter storm Uri. There are a number of mutual aid fund platforms collecting donations to support the hardest hit communities in these areas. Personally, I have donated to Feed The People DFW, led by Black & LatinX women. If you feel compelled to help out in some way, make sure you learn as much as you can before making a donation of any kind.


Now, I would like to share with you my latest learnings which involve me ending my “entanglement” with Will Smith…in my imagination.

Good Will

How it started (in my dreams)…

I had a dream about Will Smith. I have to be honest, me and Will have had a love thing going on in my dreams for decades. Not consistently. He only shows up when I am utterly disenchanted with my current, or in this case, future prospects. In this dream though, something had changed. He was not the usual fun-loving, daring, and sensual character he had always been in my dreams. Will had been through some things: Enter Jada. No actual shade to Mrs. Pinkett Smith (only nocturnal disrespect), but she never showed up in my dreams with Will.

Regardless, in this dream she and I were talking about what they had lived through in recent years. At some point, Will walked in looking worn and gave me the weakest ass hug: A hug that no one wants and only the jankiest of humans deserve. You have seen it before; The hug where the person thrusts their hip forward to serve as a block to their full being (maybe I am the only one that does it)? Yes, that hug. Plus, he gave me the pat-pat…patted me lightly on my shoulders to communicate to me, “There, there, Little Mama. You will get over us eventually. You have to move on because I’m not the same anymore.” 

…how it’s going (not so dreamy)

How dare you Will Smith! 

I have finally realized that Will is the surrogate for an actual person in my life. That person had essentially given me that weak send off virtually. He is both my forever and never at the same time. At some point, I have to let him go in my head. He is not available to me now. What is available and sustaining to me is my daughter’s love, our dog’s love, my family’s love and my love for myself. There is enough love around me to sustain and teach me how to love in healthy and restorative ways.

I am learning more each day to embrace that love and how best to turn it towards those who mean the most to me. So yes, I have to say goodbye to the Will in my life and that’s okay. I wish that person all the joy and laughter and sensual experiences that his dreams and real life can hold. It’s time for me to embrace what is really real. No more fantasies about what I wish and imposing those dreams on what is in order to make my actual relationships seem better than they actually are. That was one of the many dynamics that showed up in my relationship with my ex even before we were married. 

No Good Will

The man in my head and the man in our home were two very different people. There was always the possibility (and expectation) for change with the person in my head. The person in our home never got the memo and because I outwardly acted like the person in our home was in fact the person in my head (or some would say the person of my dreams), then he reaped some of those benefits…along with the frustrations when reality would set in. “These actions of yours are not inline with who you are in my head!” I would think, loudly. And so, I would act accordingly. I’ll just give this sage advice: Do not ever give someone you are dating your login credentials for your email account, then ask them to check your email for you. It is a really, really, REALLY bad idea (what were you thinking, 2Ex?). 

I sure did, Erykah Badu! I sure did!

It became very clear that I was in an unhealthy relationship, I finally had the courage to move on in the summer of 2008. I literally called Tyrone and moved all my stuff into my dearest little brother/friend’s home and lived with him in New Jersey as I worked on my plans. I began to plan how I would move back to California, acknowledging that I gave my long-distance relationship a shot, but it did not work out. Just as I was preparing to move back home, my ex-boyfriend/now ex-husband’s father died.

My ex’s father was very dear to me: A gruff working class older man of Irish ancestry, who valued hard work and hard working people more than anything in the world. Contrary to popular belief, I was closer to him than I was his son! He was the one that told 2Ex (my new name for my ex-husband) that “if you don’t marry her, you’re an idiot.” Yes, that was what fatherly advice from his generation sounded like. whenever 2Ex would upset me and I would question my better judgment, I would call and chat with his father to regain a glimmer of hope.

That glimmer of hope died in September of 2008. 

This man became like a father figure to me and having lost my own father at the age of 7 to stomach cancer, 2Ex’s father’s untimely passing was hard to take in. Even though 2Ex and I were in the process of going our separate ways, we had this weird dynamic (still do) of if the other person was in need, the other would always be there to help in some way, while still filled with all of the anger, disgust, distrust and jealousy of any normal high functioning toxic relationship. 

He told me he needed me, so I went back. 

We got married in 2009. We worked on getting a whole house built from 2008-2012, gave birth to a whole amazing child in 2010, made sure we got his mother in her dream home by 2012, the place where she died in January 2019. Earned a doctorate in 2012, built two businesses in 2013…all of it on the shoulders of two brokenhearted people who kept it all together when they should have been apart. And, we did it all with a smile on our faces and moments of laughter to conceal what we felt every waking morning. I am telling this story now because this is the hidden truth, not my having an emotional relationship with someone as my marriage was ending. No, I am telling this story because many people are having to create entire lives built on a foundation of pain, destructive tendencies, emotional abuse, self-deception, and self-abandonment, especially if kids or dependent others are involved.

And…

  1. What happens when death reminds you that tomorrow is not promised?
  2. Who have you shared your love with and why? Was it love or was it a love imposter: Toxic bond, obligation, dependency, fear of being alone, etc.?
  3. What unresolved resentments choke out any goodwill in your relationships faster than Deebo in the movie Friday (R.I.P. Thomas Duane “Tiny” Lister)? Name them.
  4. What self-crafted lies are you committed to upholding in order to save face in front of people who seem more invested in your unhappiness than your wellbeing?
  5. What impact, if any, does historical trauma play in your sustaining oppressive structures and ways of engaging in your relationships?
  6. If you were able to love fully (and we are all capable of doing so), how would that love be demonstrated to yourself and others around you?
  7. Who do you need to let go of in your mind and heart in order to make room for a healthy relationship with yourself and others?

Even during these times of distress, uncertainty, trauma, pain and loss, we can still uphold love in our lives. 

Sis, those incense fumes and all that lemon ginger tea has you all the way messed up! We are losing our minds out here*!?@#!

Whether personal or professional, whether long-distance via Zoom, in our physical living spaces, or even during disasters–Love fuels Liberation. And those two together can help fuel our possibilities. 

And to my very dear Fresh Prince I say: It is well. Go in good health, Will Smith.

I look forward to checking in with you again in 2 weeks! In the meantime, keep learning, keep thriving and keep moving towards liberation!

Peace & Blessings,


Find my posts amusing, the 7 Questions thought-provoking, or just want to help someone close to you read something new? Feel free to forward this post (or any of my posts) to anyone who may find it/them useful. 

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When Regret Teaches, Take Notes

Aside

The last two weeks, I have been meditating on the lessons that regret can provide. Like some of you, I have been engaged in a form of functional grief during this time of racial and political division paired with a pandemic that is generating more variants than the roles played by Eddie Murphy in any of his films (Coming Soon: Coming to America 2).

Part of my reflections on regret stem from the death of legendary actor and trailblazer, Ms. Cicely Tyson. I, like so many others have long admired the majestic ways of Ms. Tyson and her awareness of her power as a Black woman in an industry that is known for misogynoir both in front of and behind the camera.

The sadness I felt upon her passing was compounded by the fact that I missed an opportunity to work with Ms. Tyson due to my own self-doubt.

FEAR OF SUCCESS & FEAR OF FAILURE AT PLAY

In the early months of 2020, I spoke with an old friend about wanting to broaden the impact of my children’s book, The Love of 10,000. I remember telling him how powerful it would be to have THE Cicely Tyson narrate the poem with her divine precision. My friend, who happens to be in the entertainment industry not only gave me advice on how best to approach Ms. Tyson’s manager, he also gave me her manager’s email address. I had the golden egg right there in my WhatsApp account! That was in March. Two months later, my friend emailed me to follow up on my progress:

Receipts can be a painful reminder of self-sabotage.

I choked. Fear of Success and Fear of Failure came for me and I relented. Who was I to approach a woman of Ms. Tyson’s caliber? Even worse, what if she agreed to my project? Am I prepared for that kind of success given all of the transition I am just now settling into? I needed time to get my stuff together before I could approach Ms. Tyson. 

Sis, Ms. Cicely was well into her 90’s. How much time were you banking on here?!? 

Even Tami Roman couldn’t make sense of me dragging my feet. Image Source: VH1

What made my reflections on the situation even harder to stomach was listening to the interview she did with Gayle King. When Ms. Tyson mentioned that she felt like she still had work to do and that is why she was still here, I placed my hands over my face. 

Ms. Cicely Tyson’s final interview with Gayle King. Rest well, Queen. Source: Gayle King/CBS.

REGRET: A FORMIDABLE TEACHER

Please understand, I am not delusional in my thinking that this remarkable woman was tied to this plain because of my children’s book. I am sure Tyler Perry had at least five more projects slated for her. However, what if I had stepped forward into the dream I allowed myself to speak to someone who just happened to have a key to unlock a door?

Do you have any stories of regret versus risk and what have you learned from them? For me, I can recount situations where I truly regretted the outcomes (clearly not reaching out to Ms. Tyson is pretty high on my list). I also can relive those times I have taken a risk and was better for it. What I am going to encourage myself to do moving forward (and would love for you to try it out with me), is to use regret in a more concrete way in order to actualize my liberation and further embrace my purpose. Here are a few questions I would like for us to play with (you know you missed my 7 Questions!): 


  1. What are the stories I am telling myself about stepping into this opportunity? Are they my stories or stories passed on to me for safety’s sake (physical, psychological or both)? 
  2. Who do I have in my circle of support that can talk me off the Fear of Failure/Success ledge in the moments where my Inner Critic seems to be most convincing?
  3. What role, if any, does my spirituality play in me stepping into and preparing for opportunities outside of my comfort zone?
  4. Speaking of preparation, what role, if any, does perfectionism have in the emotional paralysis that occurs when I am preparing for a large-scaled opportunity?
  5. What have I learned, embodied and enabled in myself and those around me about taking risks and what needs to change/be dismantled (if anything) to accommodate opportunities that align with what I see as my purpose?
  6.  What are examples of living a life of regret that I can visualize in those moments of making the commitment to follow through on my goals that will shake me out of complacency?
  7. How can I use my story of regret to inspire others to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones (while relinquishing the shame associated with the experience)? 

In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of Ms. Cicely Tyson as she talks about the journey to writing her autobiography, Just As I Am:

Thank you Ms. Cicely for your lessons, spoken and unspoken.

Thank you Ms. Cicely for your lessons on Love, Peace and Liberation!

The Poem I Will Never Write

Periodically, I will post poetry and prose in order to process what is on my mind or heavy on my heart. You have been forewarned.

You will forever be that forbidden poem that I will never write, 

but whose words will dance and sing in my heart. 

I will go on to write many pieces, 

for that is what makes me feel connected to humanity. 

But that poem is sacred. 

That poem remembers me. 

That poem’s stanzas enliven me 

and causes blood to circulate faster, 

with more force and greater purpose. 

Yes, that poem reminds me of the purpose 

coursing through my veins! 

That poem acknowledges my personhood. 

That poem sees my mind, heart and spirit 

through tear-filled eyes and holds them with precision

between its smile and its laughter. 

The cadence of that poem I will never write 

will always inspire me to do my best, 

even when my best is shadowed by what will never be. 

That poem will always bring me butterflies of anticipation. 

Yes. Butterflies as if MJ and Marsha did a duet in Paradise. 

That intricate, serene flutter during a Jill-inspired Long Walk

on a crisp, clear Southern California winter day. 

The poem I will never write will always keep me grounded. 

That poem will always give me the strength to take risks, 

because no risk can match the weight of daring to write that poem. 

That poem with matchless intellect. 

That poem that exudes resilience in the face of destruction. 

There are those who may experience bits and pieces of that poem, 

but not one of them will ever recite that poem in its entirety. No. 

Only I have the full poem engraved on my heart.

That poem will always remain an inspirational piece 

for I will never release its passion into a world that aims to destroy it. 

And so, to the poem I will never write, 

in the spirit of Syd’s toast to your cousin, hip hop 

in the experience of Brown Sugar I say to you:

To the greatest poem I will never write, 

I will never regret not experiencing you in this life 

for it is you who will continue to hearten me.

To you, that poem I will never write 

I loved you then. 

I love you now. 

I will love you always. 

Permission Granted

The past couple of weeks have been filled with moments of permission granting for me, which led up to a virtual event that I attended yesterday that  provided new insights on liberation. The event was called “The Permission to Reimagine Radical Love and Pleasure.” This was not a conversation that centered white supremacy, racism or the other forms of hate and destruction structured against those communities that have been marginalized. No. This conversation was focused on what it means to love ourselves and to re-imagine joy in all of its forms.  

At this time of doomscrolling (which happened to be the word of the day on Dictionary.com last Thursday), our minds aren’t allowed to venture off into places where we can imagine anything lifegiving–where we can laugh, where we can create. However, it is critical to our wellbeing and for the wellbeing of those around us to engage in those things that remind us of our humanity. I did exactly that the past few weeks:

Thanksgiving Makeover 2.0

For Thanksgiving, I broke from the traditional turkey dinner again this year and cooked the foods that reminded me of my heritage, childhood or times in my life when I experienced great joy. So instead of an oppression adjacent turkey (shout out to my Black Indigenous fam), I baked chicken and slow cooked gumbo and oxtail stew, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, baked cornbread and fresh sweet potatoes. 

I enjoyed that meal with my daughter. I found such pleasure watching her enjoy bowls of gumbo, her new favorite. 

I took great pleasure in prepping the food the day before. I played some of my favorite songs nice and loud while I chopped, danced and sang. It was fun watching my daughter and her friends bake cookies that Wednesday (Don’t worry. Each child had their own baking kit and all the other COVID regulations were in play. Plus, I had the kids take their germ filled cookies to their own home to be enjoyed by their respective families).

One of the statement tees from my online store. Reads: Your Misogynoir Will Not Destroy Me.”

Hearing Me, Learning Me

Something else that I gave myself permission to do was to tell my story. One of my clients asked to do an informational interview with me and I agreed. It was cathartic to share my journey as I am still making sense of it: The good, the bad, the ugly twists and turns into how I have come to do the work I am currently. I also provided a few words of advice based on reflections from my past.  

Making Space for Friends

Allowing myself ample time to have a conversation with a college friend over the phone was another form of pleasure I allowed space for last week. For those who know me, I’m not a huge fan of phone calls. I try to make them as quick as possible. because it always seems like when I am on the phone, I am discussing business, so I’m just trying to get to the facts. It has been a while since I just enjoyed a leisurely conversation with a friend just to catch up. This surprise call was definitely a Liberation call. A dear friend of mine came out to me after we’ve been friends for almost 30 years. I could sense this person’s relief in knowing that who they love did not change the foundation of our friendship at all. We continued to talk as if we were sitting in the lounge of our res hall, eating take-out food while watching the show “A Different World.” 

Makkie’s Liberation Day

Another place where liberation showed up was with my daughter and her schedule. For those of you who have children who are experiencing distance learning given this pandemic, you know that right now our kids are navigating schedules that are rigid and fluid at the same time. And while there is a lot of content being covered, it is a challenge to support our Young Learners in a sustained understanding of the content given the added stressors.  That said, my daughter was over it. Her entire week is scheduled from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. And because of this she asked if she could have a day where she had full control. 

Sis, did you ACTUALLY say yes?!? Girl, how long was it before the fire department showed up?

No, Makkie did not set the apartment on fire. From start to finish, Saturday (and a portion of today) have been Liberation Day. I paused to think about what she was asking and it was such an innocent but profound request. So yesterday she enjoyed a virtual sleepover with her sisterfriends and ate junk food (can’t blame her…I already had it in the pantry). She did not make her bed, but she danced, sang, played her video games until the wee hours of the night. She was free to do and be whatever she wanted. She escaped the matrix for the entire day. 

Freedom. Liberation. The freedom to not have to play a part in what we did not create and the liberation to create what is uniquely ours: love, joy, peace, pleasure, hope.

If you are interested in engaging in this re-imagining process, here are a few guiding questions for us to contemplate this week and beyond:

  • When was the last time I experienced extreme joy? Who was present and who was not present?
  • What brings me pleasure? What foods, songs, smells, sensations, etc. re-ignite a sense of aliveness in me? 
  • Some of us have stories of doing the ugly cry a few times during this pandemic. Yet, when was the last time I ugly laughed: Where I snorted, coughed, drooled, fell over, gasped for breath, with tears rolling down my face because I couldn’t control myself? 
  • When was the last time I felt loved? What does love feel like, sound like, look like to me now given what I have experienced during this pandemic? 
  • What are some of the ways that I am now re-imagining how love is displayed amongst my friends, significant others, members of my family? 
  • Given my responses to the questions above, what do I want to re-assemble this week and the weeks to come that will center the beautiful parts of myself and support the same reassembly in those around me? 

This week, give yourself permission to re-imagine wellness and wellbeing. For some of us, that means giving ourselves and the people around us space to say “No.” For others, that may mean giving ourselves and those around us space to say “Yes.” Whatever your situation may be, know that your Creator, your ancestors, and those of us who love and support you encourage you to give yourself permission to do and be All. That. You. Are.  

Love, Justice and Liberation!

Onions And Resentment

I have been trying to stay away from consuming too much news post-election (are we “post-election” yet) and I am just proud that I know which day of the week it is!

Thursday, right?

CELEBRATION TIME

This past week I celebrated a major milestone as an author. My children’s book, “The Love of 10,000” is gaining sales outside of the U.S.! I was thrilled and so grateful to receive a message from a new friend and colleague informing me that she received a copy of the book in Brazil. We now have readers in the UK as well. In addition to the book being well received in other countries, we just published the 2nd edition of both the Spanish and English versions.

TIME FOR A MAKEOVER

Revamping one of the pages of the ancestors from my daughter’s lineage was important for this second edition.

At the time of our first publication, it was early in my separation from my estranged husband and my mind was all over the place. It had not registered that the image that our wonderful illustrator designed could be viewed as…let’s say “colonizer-esque” when the intention was to show my ancestry depicted by women and her father’s ancestry represented by men. Of course, intent versus impact being what it is, I wanted to make sure that the second edition sends an empowering message to young girls. I am including the new page here simply because I love it:

That’s nice, Sis. But what does any of this have to do with onions and resentment???

Nothing and that’s the beauty of my entire rant. Resentment cannot gain a foothold when you are living in your purpose, not abandoning yourself to please others, or racked with anxiety, anger, disgust and constant low grade fear.

So I suppose this is where I will pontificate about knowing a little something about the layers of resentment.

Scene from the animated film “Shrek.” Donkey is right…who doesn’t like parfait?!?

RESENTMENT HAS LAYERS, TOO

In Dan Mager’s article 8 Strategies to Work Through Anger and Resentment, Resentment is defined as “negative feelings, basically ill will, toward someone or something that emanates from the past. Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices — real or perceived — and the old feelings of anger connected to them.” We can feel resentment towards our partners, family members, coworkers/supervisors/organizations, institutions and their representatives, other racial/cultural groups…and ourselves. The latter is what I feel complicates resentment because it is the dirty little secret that we do not discuss. It is easy to focus on the other people and the unfair treatment they are subjecting us to or have subjected us to in the past. What I see as a hurdle (at least it has been for me) is acknowledging my part in the unfair experiences in the first place.

MY STORY

My marriage was built on a foundation of resentment that we never healed. We tried to address it as best as two traumatized social justice activists could given the tools, emotional bandwidth and destructive tendencies we both carried/carry. Our resentment also brought company: familial obligations, financial woes, competing societal gender norms & responsibilities and yes…race. And all of this was before we even got married!

The layers were intricately wound around us and strangled any compassion, vulnerability and love out of our relationship. My “cousin” on my dad’s side (hey, history is complicated), Brené Brown talks about another phenomenon that was very common to us, foreboding joy:

Oprah interviewing Brené on Super Soul Sunday back in 2013.

In relationships where resentment is a constant, destruction is commonplace. You may be familiar with the song It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (there was an 80’s song too that I can’t remember the artist…)? Well, I know for certain that it takes two parties to keep resentment in tact.

IT’S THE HEALING FOR ME

As I am actively making sense of and working through the layers of resentment that kept me from living my truth and acknowledging that of my ex, I have been reflecting and journaling on the following questions (hopefully these questions will be useful to you if you are dealing with resentment in your relationships or your organizations):

  • What was the injustice/s or the grievance/s that occurred and to whom?
  • When did the resentment/s begin? Who started it…and who really started it?
  • What insecurities helped keep the resentment alive in me and the other party?
  • Would I still see the issue the same way if the roles were reverse? Why or why not?
  • If I could go back to the very first offense, what would I say now knowing all that I know from my experiences?
  • Moving forward, how do I plan on addressing issues of distrust (a lack of trust based upon experience) so that resentment cannot take root?
  • How and what am I putting into practice so that I communicate anger or injustice in a way that I hear myself first, then can be heard by others?
  • What lessons would I want my daughter to learn in order for her to live a life free of resentment?

Whew Lord! Folx, this is a BIG one for me!

I would love to hear from you. Feel free to add your comments below or email me your thoughts/comments/questions. Also, please feel free to share this post with anyone who may find it useful.

Love, Justice and Liberation!