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 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!
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.
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!
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.
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 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:
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.