As I write this post, we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic that has shifted governments, businesses, schools and families in an unprecedented way. And again, our hearts are still heavy from losing Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and 7 others. In addition, we are experiencing loss at the community and personal levels. We have all had a speed dating-like experience with the 7 stages of Grief and Loss as of late. For those who are not familiar with the seven stage model by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, here is a breakdown:
Shock stage*: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
Loss, uncertainty and fear are difficult to navigate, especially for those who are dealing with concurrent stressors (work dynamics, preexisting health concerns, challenging relationships, etc.) and trauma.
So, how can I fix my lips to say that 2020 is an amazing year?
What I am choosing to acknowledge about 2020 is that this year is forcing us to rethink and reset our personal and professional relationships and priorities in ways unimagined.
Picture 2020 as an empowered, resilient and wise grandmother ( or “Big Mama”) who has witnessed the previous decades and has come in to completely rearrange your life so as not to reproduce the same results. She is coming in clearing out cabinets, closets and other places where you have hidden your talents and treasures. She is forcing you to feel fear in order to reinforce and fully activate your faith. Social Distancing is her way of having you acknowledge that your health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to that of others and sometimes, you do not need to be “running around with everybody.”
It is thought provoking that we are being forced to isolate ourselves in order to either heal or to stay healthy, as I have been engaged in selective social distancing throughout my divorce journey. By doing so, I have been able to sever relationships or erect stronger boundaries with those who have (unintentionally or intentionally) enabled unhealthy, destructive behaviors in me and vice versa. I have been able to deepen relationships with those who are actively working to engage in the world in healthy and productive ways, while creating new connections with individuals that were not accessible to me during my time of navigating the world on autopilot through an anxiety and stress-laden emotional fog.
If prior to 2020 and this pandemic you were operating on autopilot and the quality of your relationships with yourself, others, nature, money, etc. were less than optimal (wait for it):
What if you use this time to re-connect or realize your larger purpose?
What if community relationships were more than résumé fillers and you were more actively engaged in the well-being of the community-at-large than ever before?
What if you used this time to purge your surroundings of toxicity of all kinds?
What if, regardless of your station in life, you tapped into your creativity to produce what only your mind, talent, and spirit can create?
What if you use this time of solitude to challenge your thoughts and assumptions about yourself, your faults and your capabilities?
What if you emerge from this moment where fear is an expectation, faith-focused, totally unbothered and filled with “power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)?
2020 is here to rearrange our lives. She is not here to play games. Let’s pause for a moment (or two weeks) to pay attention to what she is teaching us.
P.s. For anyone who is interested in other uplifting resources, check out (with more to come):
I hope you enjoyed your February and are ready to step into March like an HBCU band! Lift those knees, PEOPLE (Loving memories of Mr. Conrad Hutchinson III, Inglewood High School’s Band Director. R.I.P.)!!!
The world is busy being too busy: We stopped for a nanosecond to celebrate the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, the U.S. is preparing for the 2020 election and the pre-insanity that occurs leading up to November, the coronavirus has U.S. government officials doing the “Confused Child Shuffle” (“The virus will not spread to…huh? What? It has?!? NO, what I meant to say was not TODAY.”), and many other issues that are part of Humanity’s Cup (shameless plug – 2nd edition available now). Even with everything that surrounds us, we are alive and we still have the capacity to do remarkable, life-changing things.
Melissa “Missy” Arnette Elliott. Goddess of Creativity.
With a desire to do something constructive, I have been spending time engaging my creativity. With that said, many of you (all three of you) are aware of the online store I launched for gift items that have a positive message. Recently on the site, I wrote a post about my excitement for the items created for the Month of March: Women’s History Month. I started the site during Black History Month. As a Black woman, I love the idea that I have two consecutive months to be reflective and celebrate our many accomplishments (I do it every day, but you get my point). Take a gander at the post below:
The slogan for this month’s collection comes from a poem from my forthcoming book, “Emancipation Papers.” The poem is about a person who takes on the emotions of others and transforms them into something we desperately need: Excellence. Similar to how a tree takes in carbon dioxide and converts it into oxygen, we can recycle toxic energy and turn it into something powerful and life giving (takes a lot of self-awareness work, but it is possible). That is why I thought the statement “I exhale EXCELLENCE” was perfect for our next line.
A word of inspiration to each of you: Continue to take on any challenge. Transform it. Release it as EXCELLENCE!
Do not let what is surrounding you to negatively transform you. We each have the power to take negative energy, transform it and release it!
People are complex and so are the relationships we create. The same person that brings forth thoughts of tenderness and love to one person, may, at the exact same moment, bring about feelings of rage, hatred, and emotional distress to someone else. Given that, the work of forgiveness is just that…work.
TRIGGER WARNING:Please be aware that I use humor in my posts as a way to create a space for healing, not to make light of pain, trauma or death. If your heart is too heavy to receive humor at this time given the recent tragedies, please respect your feelings and pause before reading this post.
I was planning my post about “Love Spaces” in preparation for my weekly-ish blog a couple of weeks ago. However, on January 27th, 41-year old Kobe Bean Bryant, his 13-year old daughter Gianna Bryant; John Altobelli, 56; Keri Altobelli, 46; Alyssa Altobelli,13; Christina Mauser, 38; Ara Zobayan, 50; Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13 died in a helicopter crash. I felt the need to pause and reflect. Instead, and in recognition of the discourse that is taking place around a clip of Gayle King’s interview of Basketball Great Lisa Leslie and Lisa’s memories of her dear friend; I feel the need to write something on canceling the cancellation of forgiveness.
Admittedly, my forgiveness muscle is not well developed. It’s taken me quite some time to forgive family members for the pain they have lived through and passed on to me. Forgiving my ex-husband and myself for the emotional toxicity we created and passed off as a loving, power-couple is taking a lot of work as well. I wrote in a recent social media post that people are complex and so are the relationships we create. The same person that brings forth thoughts of tenderness and love to one person, may, at the exact same moment, bring about feelings of rage, hatred, and emotional distress to someone else.
The complexities of us. These are the realities of Humanity’s Cup.
We can be both destined and destructive within the blink of a false eyelash. We make the best choices we can and make better choices as we learn from our mistakes. We hope and pray that our lifelong-learning will take us well into our 70s, 80s or older. However, the rhythm of Life – Death has not signed off on us having an extended play, so we have to work with the time we have been given. We go about our lives, while those we harm (unintentionally or intentionally) have to make sense of us and the pain we have caused.
One way people are taking back their power from those who have wronged them is by “Calling Out” and “Canceling” or discontinuing to invest, acknowledge or interact with those who have created dis-ease to an individual, a community or communities. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a thought-provoking article in the New York Times about the role power and privilege play based on the voices who are engaged in the canceling process.
Caveat: I want to acknowledge the reality of the role that the jury of public opinion plays, especially given a justice system that is what it is on any given day. There are some crimes against humanity that make forgiveness inconceivable or even irresponsible. Public shaming, or third-party punishment is part of the fabric of this country and has served a purpose to bring a form of justice when justice has not adequately been served.
Personally, I’ve been canceling people for years in my head. You likely have done the same. I still have mini-boycotts of certain stores who have disrespected loved ones, or I will not buy a particular product or watch a certain sport because it has done harm to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQIA + (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual and allies) communities. I have also experienced being canceled and have seen my supporters cancel those who have done emotional harm to me.
Our respective tribe’s natural inclination is to protect those they hold dear. Totally understandable. If you are unsure of what I mean, I DARE you to post something negative on social media about Bey…I won’t even type her name out! They are watching…always watching!
We experience Cancel Culture in our workplaces, in politics, even in families (we are fresh off of the holiday season. You have likely canceled a few family members until November-December). Canceling is about holding people to a higher standard of morality (I like to call it a higher level of humanity). When they are destructive and do not meet our standard of “woke” or humanness we have designed, then we are done, or like the character Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girl says “You’re dead to me!”
Except, there’s one pretty significant problem with canceling… no one will be left uncanceled (is that a word?). The Bible (Yup, I’m bringing it out) says “for ALL [emphasis added] have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23.” For my agnostic and atheist fam, all that means is that all humans have done wrong, caused harm, and have been destructive to themselves and others. That means you (if you have been blameless to this point, hold that thought). That means me. We mess up in private or in public and/or both and have to deal with the consequences sooner or later. Which makes the whole thing about forgiveness so damn complicated.
I cannot ignore the role fear has on whether forgiveness happens. Does forgiveness mean I let you off the hook so you can harm me again? If that is the case, then I’d rather not (this view of forgiveness has been one I have held for years). Or, does forgiveness mean I acknowledge that I have also done wrong, need time and space to get my *$#@ together and then come back to “shine bright like a diamond” ala Rhianna (when that album coming out, RiRi)? Then, I can see your wrong, create boundaries and expectations where you will not harm me again while you go get your *$#@ together? This is what forgiveness means to me now. Let me tell you, even with three concussions under my belt, forgetting harm done to me by others comes hard. However if I can do forgiveness in a way that allows us both to heal, grow and do better, then I can do that with a level of grace and sanity.
Here I come with these “What If’s!” Ask yourself these questions as you think of someone who may have harmed you:
What if I hold divinity and destruction as the realities they are without being surprised when they show up?
What if I can hold you responsible for your actions (or inaction…that is a totally different post) and not hold you in my head, heart, body or spirit causing me to relive the trauma day after day?
What if I could leave people to their own journey without feeling the need to be prosecutor, judge, jury, bailiff, and warden?
What if I could acknowledge my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of others, understanding there are parts of the story I may not ever know or fully understand?
I recognized this way of thinking and acting is easier said than done. Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.
It has been a long time since we’ve connected. We wanted to share what has been put on our hearts about you as you prepare for an amazing new year.
Stop being afraid. If you had any idea of how many people beyond this life had your back, you would walk through this world differently. With that said, hide these truths in your heart:
You are loved.
Success is not a bad thing and failure won’t keep you safe.
Your purpose is bigger than your pain.
See and work beyond your current circumstances.
We can tell you that you are worthy, but only you can live out your worthiness.
One more time…only you can live out your worthiness.
What would you do if you knew everything was going to work out in your favor?
What would your state of health and wellbeing be like?
What would your surroundings look like (people, places and things)?
How hard would you pray?
Yes, how hard would you pray? You know prayer changes everything around you. Why won’t you pray? Because you know it works. And anything that works scares you. Someone loving you back, scares you. Someone investing in you and your dreams, scares you. We have watched you villainize those around you because they love you. You run from those who love you because they see your worth. What about you? Do you love you? If not, what are you waiting for?
You have to decide that this year and every year you exist, is your year. Yes, you have lived through traumatic situations, but look at you! You are still here and stronger than ever, even when you do not feel like you are stronger. Tap into the resources around you to help you move past the trauma so that you can continue to serve, while living a life of joy and purpose. You’ve got this, Dearheart! Even when you feel like your “this” is a sham or totally out of reach, remember your THIS (Tenacious Heart, Irrefutable Spirit) are not to be taken lightly.
Please make healing a priority. Block out the noise. Get prepared and stay prepared. Most important, fall madly in love with yourself and the possibilities that surround you.
We are waiting for you to renew your mind and re-connect to your purpose. We have faith in you and cannot wait to see what you do next!
Your Past, Your Present and Your Future
*I originally wrote this letter to myself as one of my personal healing projects. I hope it inspires you to work towards your goals today! Remember: You’ve got THIS!