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:
How do I define “Thriving?” Do I know what thriving is for myself? Others?
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)?
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?
Who do I trust in my Circle of Support who will tell me these hard truths in order to help me/us move forward?
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?
What are ways I can support the thriving of those dearest to me?
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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):
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.
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:
As epic as this scene is, there is a painful familiarity I have as it is indicative of my experience as a Black woman.
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:
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):
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?
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?
How or in what ways can I understand, value and embrace my anger, while harnessing that angry energy towards constructive work?
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?
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?
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?
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!
This post was originally written on March 21st, International Day for the Elimination of Racism or the UN’s #FightRacism Day. Thank you in advance for your commitment to eradicating the other pandemic that we are working to uproot. There have been so many opportunities to deepen our learning and commitment to fighting for our overall wellbeing in the form of liberation and justice within the last two weeks. I would love to share with you some of my reflections and questions:
A Word About Feedback
What happens when we are working towards being a better version of ourselves and support from those around us feels destructive? Reflecting on this question, I began to think about times when I have received various forms of feedback throughout my life: some of it constructive at the time, while other feedback felt more oppressive in its purpose. There are two experiences in particular that resonate with me: The first came during a time when I was working while emotionally broken and receiving feedback on a workshop. The second time was recently as an educator. Now that I am firmly in a Renewed place, feedback informs me; it does not form me.
The reason why feedback was difficult for me to take when I was navigating brokenness was because macro and micro aggressions were landing on me at the same time. It felt that way because 1) I was concurrently experiencing microaggressions from others personally and professionally during a time when folx in this country were…you already know and 2) I began to internalize those messages and eventually began to tear myself down.
It is very hard to distinguish constructive feedback from well-meaning others, against the “You Suck” pit that has been intentionally dug for many of us by those who mean us harm. Once in said pit, if you are unable to claw yourself out; you are likely to get hit by what others are hurling down at you…even if what they may be hurling in your direction could potentially help you out of the pit. When guilt and shame team up with the scripts of white supremacist misogynistic heteronormative ableist capitalistic patriarchy, then even a simple evaluation of how you are showing up in an environment can turn into a form of damnation.
As I reflected on the significance of what is called the Convoy Model of Social Relations in my own experience, I am reminded of how “…people create convoys to match their personal needs and experiences, but personal and situational characteristics play a role within circumstances that may promote or constrain an individual’s ability to create the convoy that would be maximally beneficial to them (Fuller, Ajrouch and Antonucci, 2020).”
What the hell does that even mean?
Said in a different way, what’s going on inside of us and what’s going on around us play a part in how well we can create circles of support that are best for us.
I became deeply curious about circles of support as Meghan Markle described her treatment during her time with the Royal Family. Additionally, I wondered about the quality of support for the 21-year old white man chose to do by killing women he fetishized in Atlanta, Georgia. Don’t get it confused, the reality of the mental health crisis we have on our hands should not be lost on anyone. And, let’s not denounce the nuanced work that is directly connected to white violence and access to guns and other mechanisms of physical, spiritual and mental assaults (miss me with the whole “guns don’t kill people…” programmed track). An overarching question that comes to my mind is: What are the roles those who are engaged and invested in us have with regard to our wellbeing?
When I think about the word “invested,” I think about those who have benefited from our more toxic behaviors like people pleasing, self-abandonment, need for external validation over internal evaluation, those who take advantage of our vulnerabilities for their socio-political and personal gain…those assholes. We also have to be accountable for our own toxic tendencies. It is incredibly difficult to acknowledge when we have benefited from someone else’s toxicity and have also been that toxic person (In other words, we have also been the asshole in someone’s story). Trust, I know from experience how jarring that realization can be.
You better go ‘head and own it, Sis!
It is sobering to realize that the same destructive and narcissistic ways of engaging that I experienced in personal and professional settings that were detrimental to my mental health and wellbeing, I now embody in some form.
If we use the coronavirus as an example (I’m sure you’re thinking “Please, don’t”) it may paint a more vivid and relatable picture. Here are 2 points to consider:
Say you are reasonably healthy and you engage with someone with the virus. You will become infected with the virus. Whatever is going on with your immune system will determine how well your body is able to fight it and which symptoms you will display (if any).
If your immune system has already been compromised prior to becoming infected, the internal fight back to health is a harder and longer one. For some, the attacks from the virus is more than their system can bear. Others may recover with lingering effects from the impact of the virus, while others still may have little to no impact at all.
The reason why I chose to liken our mental health crisis to our current health crisis is to show the inextricable link of the two:
When we surround ourselves with those who are committed to their wellbeing and we are also committed to our wellbeing, compromising moments may still happen, yet we have more resources towards recovering from those setbacks (Wellbeing Champions).
When we surround ourselves with those who have a lackadaisical relationship with their wellbeing, the level and quality of support will not necessarily be that plentiful or even helpful (Wellbeing Passivists).
When we surround ourselves with sick folx who could care less about our wellbeing or even actively work against it, we are going to get sick or even more sick than we were initially (Wellbeing Obstructionists).
In reality, we engage with all three of these groups without knowing it, sometimes simultaneously. Additionally, somewhere in our lives we have been in each of these three groups in someone else’s life. We have been the mental health and wellbeing Champion, Passivist, and Obstructionist. Our complexities, stories, and lived experiences play out in different ways and given our socialization in this world, we act accordingly. It is only when we engage in critical self-reflection and work with those who can help challenge our assumptions in healthy ways, that we have those glorious aha! moments that foster transformative learning and liberation.
These are the thoughts that are swirling around in my mind as I am trying to make sense of, and learn from Meghan Markle’s experiences (more to come in my next post), while examining what can be known and gleaned from someone’s decision to murder eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Here are my 7 Questions to support us in deepening our learning. Feel free to reframe them so that you may work through them for yourself:
Who was around them and what level of support did they have versus what kind of support did they need?
What were the stories they each were telling themselves about their value, their worthiness, their purpose? What lies were the most salient and what were the sources of those lies?
In their moments of decision, what added support would have helped them make a decision that would have supported their mental health and wellbeing?
If they could rewrite their Liberation stance based on what they know now, what would it be?
Moving forward, what might dismantling the oppressive thoughts, conversations and ways of being in their internal and external lives look like as they continue on their respective paths?
How are in what ways (if at all) will they engage the various wellbeing groups in their lives now? What will they need in order to be able to recognize which groups they are operating in with others (i.e. How will they know when they are being Champions, Passivists and/or Obstructionists)?
How will they break the guilt/shame cycle when they have that realization? What (if anything) will they do differently as a result of breaking that cycle?
These two stories seem so very different. They are different. Yet, they have a common denominator: White violence as a direct byproduct of white supremacy.
Shout out to the adults who are supporting students with math. I know you cringed when you read the words “common denominator.” I pray your response to white supremacy and violence is met with even greater revulsion.
Just as the current vaccine for the coronavirus has elements of the virus itself (respect to Onesimus, the enslaved person who shared his knowledge about inoculation and to whom we should honor for what the U.S. uses as its immunization process), a cure can exist within the contagion. Our intentionality behind what we do, how we do it, and with whom we surround ourselves as we are moving towards our welbeing and liberation, can create a turn of events for the better, if we do not succumb to the damage.
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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Source: Fuller, H. R., Ajrouch, K. J., & Antonucci, T. C. (2020). The Convoy Model and Later-Life Family Relationships. Journal of family theory & review, 12(2), 126–146. https://doi.org/10.1111/jftr.12376.
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.
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 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?).
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.
What happens when death reminds you that tomorrow is not promised?
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.?
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.
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?
What impact, if any, does historical trauma play in your sustaining oppressive structures and ways of engaging in your relationships?
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?
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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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).
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.
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?
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):
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,
This is Neil. He is brilliant.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Not my 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).
Still not my soup.
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!