I hope you and those you love are healthy and safe as we prepare to part ways with August and welcome the month of September.
Before I get into today’s message, I would like to send prayers of love and protection to everyone impacted by the events in Afghanistan. Whether you are a member of the U.S. military or an Afghan citizen wanting to find refuge for you and your loved ones, may “…the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7)” fall upon you as you seek safety.
With everything going on right now, including the focus on returning to “business as usual” during these highly unusual times, I am focusing my email today on creating a different kind of safety, a spiritual and emotional place of respite that we all have the power to create. So let’s get into it…
Love and Change
This past week, I was blessed to talk to four very different groups that are gearing up to lead in their respective areas of influence. In all four discussions, I talked about Love and/or Spirituality as strategy for navigating all of the destruction that surrounds us. What I was saying wasn’t new or groundbreaking. My memory immediately pulls up files of the Civil Rights Movement and images of strategy sessions. Loving fellowship was always at the core of those meetings. No, not a group of “perfect people” trying to one-up each other. Regular people who wanted to see love in the form of justice lived out in the world. But, before they could love on the world, they had to love on each other and that required sharing love and space.
What is a”Love Space?”
A Love Space is an emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, space of rejuvenation. In this space, one’s personhood is welcomed and continuously validated. It is a place to restore one’s sense of purpose, gain perspective, and revive courage in order for the person(s) to move forward with the work of countering hegemonic, demonic, and pathologic forms of social dis-ease.
I developed this definition while designing a program for adult learners in Boston back in 2013. The term “Love Space” was being used to describe what the learning environment should “feel like.” Creating this nurturing environment was in addition to providing content to support the community members in being successful as classroom teaching assistants. There was no formal definition or description provided, but what was said about a Love Space was simply “You know it when you feel it.”
What does this definition have to do with dealing with the experiment of going back into the office, sending young children back to school, and leading life in a time where everything that is anything is a boiling hot mess?
Do You Have A “Love Space?”
Oppressive systems must be dismantled. Periodt (For those who may be unfamiliar with that hard ass “t” added to the word “Period” is to denote an added layer of emphasis per Tyler Perry’s beloved “Madea”). And our righteous indignation (which is fueled by love) has us look at oppression with an expression that says “Is that the best you’ve got?!?”
When we embody and are surrounded by Love, we create solutions that seem unfathomable. When we are overtaken by the Spirit of Love, we never give up on the idea that change is possible. When we know that Love is the only answer, we don’t get tripped up by the world’s questions. When you are in a Love Space, you know it and you feel it, because it fuels you.
A Love Space situates you right back into your divine essence over and over and over again.
Look, I’m not totally naive here. Sharing in a Love Space with other people is not going to be perfect. Sometimes it is clunky as hell and can be downright hard to watch. Oh, but the benefits are soooooooooooooo worth it!
As you go about your week, please make time to be nurtured by those in your Love Space. If you do not have a Love Space just yet, give yourself permission to develop one made up of those you love (and who love you back) and who will provide sound counsel. Consider adding the spiritual guidance of the Ancestors to your Love Space as well! Some of their written and spoken words are just a Google search away!
I hope you have a wonderful week! Sending you love from afar and wishing you continued health and safety as you work towards love, justice and liberation!
Can you believe that July is almost over! Before you know it, it will be 2022 (hopefully it won’t take any notes from 2020 & 2021)!
So before there are any more surprises, let me jump into my reflections for this week:
I have been thinking about what I learned from my three-part conversation with educator, entrepreneur, and “space curator,” Alisa France. During her interview, Alisa reflected not only on the professional decision made by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones; she also talked about a workplace trauma that showed up in how she engaged and performed in future roles (career trauma) and how she has made peace with it.
It has been a few weeks since we recorded Episode 19 and I am still reflecting on what Alisa’s story has inspired in me on a personal level. Something that immediately comes to mind is that we can (and often do) continue to make great strides while still making sense of painful situations that happened in our past.
As functioning adults with families and other responsibilities, we don’t always get the opportunity to sit, reflect, process, gain support, question our thoughts and destructive patterns, etc. We just keep on going like the Energizer Bunny (even that rabbit ran out of energy at some point).
Processing past traumas takes time. Whether we are talking about personal trauma, professional trauma or both. Here is a personal example of how better understanding our experiences can provide an opportunity for us to become better advocates for ourselves (and others).
I recently had a great session with a therapist that afforded me an opportunity to pause as I move forward in this next phase of my personal development journey. The therapist asked me about my earliest recollection of a particular trauma I want to dismantle in my family (and for the generations to come). I could not recall the origin of the trauma at that moment, so I interrogated myself as I drove home from my session. Not only did thinking back to the first time I experienced that specific trauma help me see the patterns created from that experience; it also helped me uncover an aversion and consequently, my reaction when people have something difficult to tell me (or even an otherwise pleasant surprise) and are working out how to say it to me while I am in front of them (I am sure most people feel weirded out in those moments, but I digress). To this day, I cannot stand when someone has something difficult to share with me and they do that awful pregnant pause as they gather their words.
“Oh dear God! Spit it out, will you? Rip the damn bandage off already!”
I realized that my reaction stems from my childhood and the day I was told my father had died. Understandably, my mother was searching for the right words to explain to a seven-year-old child that her father had died. However, while she searched her head and her heart for the right words to say, I was just standing there for what felt like hours. Finally, my mother’s best friend broke the news to me.
Had I not been asked about and had the willingness to think back to my earliest memory, I would not have 1) learned the source of an area of emotional discomfort that shows up for me now and how I respond to others; thus 2) allowing me to communicate with others what I need in order to respond best to them in similar situations (self-advocacy).
I share this story as an example of challenging our taken for granted assumptions and ways of engaging in order to have you think about an area of your life (personal, professional or both) where you may hold additional angst or anxiety (be reminded of what Anthony Parham explained during our episode about anxiety triggers being a part of society long before we were born). Here is a selfwork exercise that I often use with my clients that may be a useful tool for you:
Think back to a time when a personal or professional trauma took place and the stories that you created about the experience.
Write down the various meanings/stories created from the experience and their impact (if any) on you now.
After reviewing the list of stories you have created to keep yourself safe (physically, psychologically, spiritually, etc.), consider any healthy/helpful lessons that can be derived from the incident (even if it is simply learning how to spot red flags).
Last, write a letter of gratitude to your past self (the one that experienced the traumatic incident) from the space of where you are now (who you became post-incident), then switch and have your past self write a letter of gratitude to who you are now.
Disclaimer: For some people, reviewing these origin stories may cause additional distress or trauma. I strongly encourage you to seek out a licensed counselor / therapist who can support you in this process.
I hope this exercise is useful and helps you as you continue to move towards love, justice and liberation in your life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this entry. I look forward to hearing from you regarding any Aha’s that come to you after watching/listening to this 3-part episode with Alisa France entitled: The Nikole Hannah-Jones Effect: The Black Woman’s Artistry in Flipping Scripts and Tables. Feel free to listen on your favorite podcasting platform or watch all three parts on YouTube.
In closing, to anyone who needs to have a difficult conversation with me OR if you have a surprise you want to share with me, please do so expeditiously. I’d greatly appreciate it! 🙂
Sending you all love and blessings.
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I am more than my feelings.
I am more than resentment and bitterness.
My timeless smile and unreserved laughter reminds me of that fact.
I am every “No” my Mother Ancestors were robbed of uttering.
I am an electric spirit.
I am love and courage.
I am passion and joy.
I am the force behind the waves of the deepest oceans.
I am contradictions and compliments.
I am impenetrable and porous.
I am the creator of Daughters of the Moon
and Sons of the Sun.
I am distantly present and
present in my aloofness.
I am the bittersweetness that lies
at the very moment of impact
between Agony and Ecstasy.
I am the quintessence of creating more with less.
Before I begin, I would like to say Happy Pride Month to all of the LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving readers/listeners in the 30+ countries my blog/podcast has reached thus far! I am deeply grateful and appreciate you for letting me encourage and amuse you with my reflections during my healing journey.
Now that we are filled with so much gratitude, let’s dive into the reflections for this week:
ENDINGS & BEGINNINGS
The past two weeks have been filled with lessons on Endings and Beginnings. So much so that one of the videos that is now in heavy rotation with my colleagues and clients is one entitled A Meditation on Endings. Check it out if you are in the midst of a transition of any kind.
Whether we are talking about endings/beginnings related to a job/project, health or relationships; endings and beginnings require our attention. However with the constant distractions, we may not give the proper time to acknowledge, celebrate, or mourn situations that end, begin or that we expect to happen but do not (Nancy Schlossberg calls this a “nonevent”). Examples of a nonevent are the job offers we expect, but do not occur; the child that was expected to be born, but is not; or waiting to be asked out on a date, but they ask Marcia instead (Brady Bunch reference).
What I am also reflecting on is the very human response to harden from these experiences. We can become guarded, if you will: Protecting our mind, heart and resources.
Can you relate?
Yes! The situation ended! Whether it was an unhealthy relationship, moving from one state to another, or the end of cancer treatment. However, there is always a tiny voice in our heads that asks:
What if this move was a bad idea?
What if this relationship is like the one before it or worse?
What if the cancer returns?
I don’t know about you, but even as I give praise for all of the blessings I have experienced, there’s a part of me that says, “I don’t care what happens, I am not going through THAT again!”
And it is in those moments when I begin my job as a bricklayer and begin building walls around my heart, my health, my family and my business.
Whether we are talking about endings/beginnings related to a job/project, health or relationships; endings and beginnings require our attention. However with the constant distractions, we may not give the proper time to acknowledge, celebrate, or mourn situations that end, begin or that we expect to happen but do not.
Taking refuge behind walls has become commonplace during this pandemic. Clearly, there are times when it is wise to have healthy boundaries (BTW, I am still giving folks air hugs…stay away from me!). In addition to healthy boundaries that could be developed, sometimes our hearts harden a bit and we lose our ability to be gentle with ourselves and others. I would like to share a recent experience of my (re)learning to connect to my gentleness for your consideration:
TRY A LITTLE GENTLENESS
During our family therapy session, my daughter and I re-learned how important gentleness is to us in our ability to end difficult conversations and begin to transition to a point of psychological safety. After a difficult conversation, our therapist gave me a small tube of lotion and asked me to lotion my daughter’s hands.
Sounds easy enough right?
So I, being a Black mother who has navigated personal and historical trauma; having been raised by a Black mother who navigated personal and historical trauma (and so on), went about my task. I proceeded to apply the lotion to my daughter’s hands with such vigor and purpose that the top two layers of her skin were likely being rubbed off. Our therapist, seeing me go into exfoliating mode, said one word to redirect me: “Gently.”
At that moment I thought “What? This is how I’ve always…ohhh. Got it.”
My daughter of course looked at me in that moment to telepathically communicate “See, this is EXACTLY why we need to be here!”
My eyes softened and so did my grasp. I focused on rubbing my daughter’s hands gently and communicating, without words, that everything was ok. The hard part was over and healing begins with acts of gentleness.
I am sharing this experience with you because we live in a world that is constantly training us away from our gentleness. Think about the last time you heard one of these (or similar) sayings:
“You need to develop a thicker skin!”
“You have to be ruthless in this field/role!”
“We go for the jugular in this family! You better get used to it if you want to be successful in life!”
“Mama said knock you out!”
Ok, so the reference to LL Cool J’s 1990 album was a bit much, but you get the point.
As you reflect on the previous messages, how many times have you been told to be gentle with yourself or with others? Have you ever been told to be gentle in relation to ending/beginning experiences in your life?
Whether you are a graduate who is transitioning from one learning environment to another; someone with a new work opportunity (even if you are newly “liberated” to explore other endeavors); or a shift in a relationship with a family member or intimate partner, how might you be able to add gentleness to your ways of engaging in the world?
No matter what we have heard or what we have experienced, let’s not let anyone or anything rob us of our ability to be humane to one another. AND, even if we have hardened our hearts or ways of engaging with others in order to navigate our circumstances, we can find our way back to being intentionally gentle to those who matter to us while creating rest for our souls.
I thank God for your healing, thriving, loving and liberation! Looking forward to continuing on this journey with you!
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!
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.
For those who celebrate Christmas, I hope you found a creative and safe way to celebrate the holiday with your loved ones! Although this year required some strategy, we have amazing ways of figuring out how to make celebrations happen no matter the circumstances. Yes, we can make the miraculous happen when we set our minds to it.
Speaking of “the miraculous,” there are times I am led to write about issues and ideas that may not immediately resonate with me. Last week’s post was one of those times. Writing aboutMiracles during a dual pandemic and when my daughter is 3,000 miles away on holiday with her father, doth not make for a miraculous morn. Quite frankly, my mood and what I was inspired to write last week were at odds. However what I learned in real time is that when it comes to our spiritual responsibilities, our feelings have little bearing on what already exists (regardless of whether we can see it with our physical eyes or not). Shortly after I finished writing last week’s post, I received two testimonies of actual miracles in the lives of people I know. One was a friend whose entire family came down with COVID, with her husband battling for his life due to underlying health conditions.
Her story of being told that her husband “had a 50% chance of surviving” then being informed that she should do her best to take care of him at home due to the volume of patients at the hospital, was unbearable. However, she did it and not only fought for his life with some cultural remedies from her family, she fought with all of the love she had in her. You see, both their wedding anniversary and his birthday were quickly approaching and even though her feelings questioned whether he would see either of those significant dates, her spirit focused beyond the virus. With oxygen levels once down in the low 50’s, he now has oxygen levels in the low to mid 90’s (out of 100). This is not a story to shame any person or family that lost their loved one(s) by saying all they needed to do in order to save them from this horrible virus was to get their “Care Bear Stare” on. Not hardly. I am sharing this story as a reminder that even in the face of oppressive circumstances, miracles still happen and that love and miracles go hand-in-hand.
The other story came from a friend who unexpectedly dropped by to leave Christmas gifts for me and my daughter. She came by only moments after I finished ugly crying with my friend who told me about her husband’s health. I apologized for looking like a boiling hot mess and shared with her how my pity party was interrupted by a love story. She told me she completely understood and went on to share with me about how her elderly father, who had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, finally had the life-saving surgery. She spoke about the impact the wait and the uncertainty had on their family’s wellbeing and how she is thankful that his body is accepting the new organ with no complications.
So instead of a toast, we cried to that.
Kecia, these stories are moving AND at the same time are kind of depressing. We know folks have had a helluva year. Sis, 2020 has royally sucked! BTW, I still can’t stand you for that post fromearlier this yeartalking about 2020 “is an amazing year” and it is here to teach us and bring out the best in us! GTFOHWTS! You better have something good on the inspiration tip to make up for it…you know the whole peace, love, Soul Train vibe!
Redefine. Reclaim. Resist.
What I am talking about is, yes, we need to dismantle oppression. Period (or “Periodt” depending on your spelling/pronunciation preference). If we take a critical eye to the stories I shared, we can have a whole discussion focused on oppression’s ugly hold given the disproportionate impact coronavirus is having in the Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, disparate care based on race and socioeconomic status, our overworked essential workers, the superwoman complex that calls for Women of Color to take care of sick loved ones as they are attempting to navigate their own wellness and wellbeing (oft times neglecting themselves in the process), etc. Oh yes, we can problematize everything I shared here today. We can also examine and learn from the good. Let me take that back…not just examine it, relish in it, just for a moment.
No matter what hell was unleashed or elucidated in our lives this year (some of us were navigating some hefty life lessons prior to 2020), we can still reclaim what is innately ours…our humanity through love.
As we prepare/brace ourselves for 2021, I encourage you to explore reclamation resistance. I borrow this way of being from my Black and Indigenous family. Reclamation resistanceis a way to regain ‘“psychic equilibrium’ created by invisibility and misrepresentation,” as academician A. Rafik Mohamed states in his bookBlack Men on the Blacktop: Basketball & the Politics of Race. Oppression and chaos diminishes us. However, what happens when we reclaim our full personhood through love? Personally, I have been engaging in my own reclamation by way of my 3-years (and counting) celibacy journey.
Sis, T.M.I.! T. M.I.! Your readers don’t need to know your business like that!!! Oh Lord! Thank God your mother doesn’t have internet access!
Look, I am an almost 50-years old divorcee, who had a child some 10 years ago…and it was NOT the Immaculate Conception. My ex-husband was not named Joseph and the closest I get to “Mary” is my mother’s middle name “Marie.” Plus, I am a poet and a die-hard Prince fan. Uh duh.
In a time when young Women of Color are asserting and fully embracing their sexuality (W.A.P. anyone?), I honor myself by also reclaiming my being through love. Loving ourselves, seeing ourselves, defining ourselves, and relishing in the power of our own being (and ownership of our “Yeses’ and “No’s”) are forms of resistance, freedom, and self-love that we can declare in a world that is actively trying to silence and erase us.
Since this will be my last post for a few weeks, I want to leave you with 7 questions as you consider the possibilities to come in 2021:
Whose definition of me do I hold as true and why?
What ways of being have I adopted in order to make others feel comfortable and why?
How, or in what ways have I used silence to dishonor myself or those I love, if at all?
Outside of society’s definition of who they think I am, who am I, really?
What do I love about myself? Like, really, REALLY love?
Which parts of myself/my humanity do I need to reclaim?
Given everything I have witnessed in 2020, how will I re-member (put together again) and recommit to loving myself, loved ones, and communities I hold dear?
Thank you all for being a part of my learning experience this past year! Please feel free to email me or visit my blog and post your comments. In addition, feel free to forward this post to anyone who may find it useful.
“The enormity of it all hit me as I watched Bishop Jakes’ sermon. Then, it happened. I cried. The real “I” cried, meaning I cried from my soul. I cried for myself, my family and the whole damn world. Once I was done, I felt ready. That release and that emotional/spiritual support was what I needed so I could re-engage and get back to work. Thank you, Bishop.”
Happy Resurrection Sunday to All!
The excerpt above comes from my journal entry from last Sunday. As you may have [not] noticed, I did not post anything last week. Admittedly, I needed to sit with what was going on around me. Normally a Dispositional Optimist (respect to Dr. Jacqueline Mattis), I usually have a tendency towards feeling that no matter what is going on around me, when it is all said and done, everything is going to work out.
Yeah, my Dispositional Optimism was on vacation week before last. So, my need for some spiritual nourishment was real.
Segue to the sermon.
In my opinion, Bishop Jakes is an amazing adult educator, biblical scholar and entrepreneur. And, he can preach. As a preacher’s kid, you learn that a real preacher can preach to 1 with the same conviction, fire and purpose they can 100,000. His sermon “The Shock of Suffering” is an example of that.
Please know that I am not here to convert anyone to a particular religious orientation. See this information the same way you used to see those little receptacles in stores where you could leave a penny or take a penny (now in the time of COVID-19, leave that penny alone).
The reason why I needed to hear a positive word was because I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by what loved ones were dealing with financially, emotionally and physically. I was overwhelmed hearing stories from friends in New York as they received calls about loved ones who were dying. I was overwhelmed (yet grateful) for the daily briefings from California Governor Newsom.
Over it (COVID-19) and overwhelmed.
Have you ever been overwhelmed to the point of inaction? Or, in my case, to the point of “Processing-by-Pantry” (#COVIDcalories #COVIDCrunchies)?
It seemed like my advice was muted. The resources I offered were meaningless. My empathic ear was not enough. I could not shoulder the enormity of this moment by myself. And that is when I was reminded of the benefit of being overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is like an alert system. It tells us that the current situation requires self awareness, curiosity, additional support/guidance and strategy to navigate.
As an example, I think about the times I have moved and it was time to move a hulky piece of furniture or an appliance. Regardless of how many times I lift the 10 and 15 lb weights, I am not capable of moving a refrigerator by myself (rumor has it though that my father once put a large refrigerator on his back and moved it by himself #daddybrag). Overwhelmed by the size of the task, I have had the wherewithal to know that I am not able and do not have the necessary equipment to move a refrigerator. I had no problem looking for the right people to do the job safely.
Moving a refrigerator does not equate to the level of current crisis we see globally, but it serves as a decent metaphor. Even if we can handle life’s heaviest challenges on our own, it does not mean there is not a more fruitful and saner way to manage the situations we are experiencing.
On this Resurrection Sunday, I encourage you to think about the various changes you and those around you are navigating, the various support systems available (people, places and things) and how best to develop plans to help move “the refrigerators” around you. For some, the situations around you may be the size of a mini refrigerator while others are dealing with “Double Wides” that are more complex. Whatever the situations may be, take some time to be still and honestly assess the needs around you, then seek support accordingly (Social Distancing ≄ Emotional/Spiritual Disconnection).
For those who need a tool to help you think through how to manage the changes you are experiencing, feel free to visit the Keeping Balanced Instagram page (keeping.balanced). Learn more about a framework that I have used to support those who have felt overwhelmed by career changes, job loss, family challenges and other life transitions.
No questions to ponder this week. I figure you have enough on your mind.
Continued health and safety to you and your loved ones.
You have likely heard about the increase in domestic violence in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantine. I posted about this on several social media outlets and want to add it here for this community.
There are many forms of domestic violence that are thriving under the current COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing environment:
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!