Accountability is the Answer When Self-Care is Elusive: 5 Tips

WOTC_SunsetSenegalDec31IMG_1152.jpg

The term self-care is thrown around so much these days that it causes concern. It’s  as if it’s in danger of being put out to pasture in the land of cliches. It’s truly an over-used phrase because it’s talked about much more than it is practiced. It’s almost silly sometimes. We talk about sleeping more. We talk about meditating. We talk about making more time for loved ones. Then we continue to grind.

Grinding feels like the anti-thesis of self-care. I mean, say it out loud. Even the way the word feels in your mouth feels sort of grimy and abrasive. Yet, it resonates with entrepreneurs, artists and activists I know. One who “grinds” is gangsta with his/her commitment to winning at whatever he/she does.

Oh self-care, self-care where art thou? With loads of articles, youtube videos and podcasts about self-care one would think that the self-care movement would have taken a greater foothold by now, but you know that old habits are hard to break. 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014. There are host of reasons as to why this occurs but Forbes magazine said that even Americans with paid vacations don’t take the time off. In 2014 only 25% of Americans used all their paid vacation days.

I have some really talented friends. They’re driven, determined and gifted producers, filmmakers, writers, dancers, singers, techies and creative professionals. My partner will close his eyes and be in la-la land minutes after sitting down. He “rests” his eyes in the most random of places and is clearly sleep deprived like many of my fam. I’ve also seen friends work themselves sick. Oh, and in my inner-circle not eating enough is much more common that over eating. Let’s not even talk about water consumption and hydrating foods.

Everybody knows we should be taking better care of ourselves especially in the current climate. If one has any ties to being actively engaged in the movement in even the smallest of ways, it’s important that people remain vigilant in the fight for peace of mind and optimal health.

If you’ve been trying to cleanse for the past year and haven’t done it make it to yoga class or the gym, and haven’t gone or if you want to drink more water or go to bed earlier at night,  consider enrolling a circle of people to support you as you transform your habits. Engage an accountability team that will help you stay on point. The first step is stop lying to yourself and thinking you can do it on your own. There’s a reason why community exist.

5 Tips to Creating Your Accountability Circle:

1-Be specific and tell people how to challenge you. Tell them what your goals are and where you tend to fall off track.

2-Remember that at the end of the day it’s still your responsibility. You have to show up with the mentality that you are doing to take better care of yourself.

3-Choose people who will tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. Avoid the loved ones who co-sign your crazy. Also, make sure they deliver in a style that speaks to your personality. Avoid those who cannot share without judging. You don’t need judgment, you need support.

4-Don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one or two self-care habits you want to build.  Work on that for a month. Write it down and post it in a few visible places. Put it in reminders on your phone and insert it into your calendar.

5-Find a self-care buddy. It’s sort of like a work-out partner. Identify someone who is working on the same thing and willing to stay in touch with you for a few weeks or a month while you both work on the goal. It may be a friend who wants to drink more water or someone who wants to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Text each other, inbox inspiring messages or videos and exchange information. Team work makes the dream work so get yourself a buddy!

So stop chasing your self-care. Looking within, look at the mirror and resolve to love up on yourself properly. Establishing accountability can be intimidating but commit to making the changes and letting others know how they can support you. The discomfort will melt away. Self-care is the best care and self-care is self-love.

Love yourself.

th

“Self-care is not about self-indulgence. It’s about self-preservation.” – Audre Lorde

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muhammad Ali Inspired the Greatest

Muhammad Ali

When I was a small girl growing up in a small town my big dreams would sometimes cause big conflict. I was shy yet had a big mouth when it came to voicing my opinions on right and wrong. I felt everything very deeply.

My grandpa was my sounding board, my confidante, my closest family friend. He listened. My grandmother loved up on me as well but he had a patience for my sensitivities and quirkiness that I value more and more as the years go by.

I am not sure if I announced it at the time (my mom, cousin and aunts periodically recall things I said so I need to ask them) but I decided my life would be dedicated to changing the world when I was around 8 years old. I was clear about becoming a poet, traveling the world and even though I didn’t have the language for it — fighting injustice. I didn’t have a lot of personal role models for the paths I was choosing but I had Muhammad Ali.

I remember the surge of pride that would come over the elders when Muhammad Ali was on the television screen. Muhammad Ali was important for everyone but especially for Black people. He represented freedom, self-love and success.Muhammad Ali understood oppression, racism and colonization. He was walking courage. Every Ali moment, whether a match, appearance or interview was followed by stories of struggle and overcome. I loved hearing them. He inspired truth telling.

Now, I don’t remember my mother being into sports and the only time she squealed, screamed and jumped over a sporting event was watching Muhammad Ali. He inspired full on self-expression.

I read a lot as a child. I absorbed stories about Paul Robeson, Harriet Tubman and Will Pickett. They resonated with me and shaped my life choices but my living, breathing hero? Muhammad Ali. His fight, his audacity and the power of his word. He wasn’t scared.

By the time I was 11 years old I had mastered the art of day dreaming as a way to cope with my sadness and frustration with the world. Combine that with the impatience of youth, it’s no surprise that I spent the entire 7th grade suicidal and teary eyed. I couldn’t figure out how to kill myself without hurting my grandparents so I decided to stay alive. I would visualize myself having conversations with Muhammad Ali and imagine what he would say to me. My young mind was overly active, my emotions super intense and desires as big as the sky. By eighth grade I was walking lighter and ran for student body president. When I thought of great orators only two came to mind: Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali. I unknowingly began using affirmations at 13 when I told myself I was a great speaker — — over and over again. I would hear Ali’s voice saying: I am the greatest. My speech brought the house down, I won the election and the rest is history.

Muhammad Ali’s ascension sparks a unique kind of mourning within me. He lived a life doing what he loved. He was a boxer but so much more to so many people. As I sit on my bed this morning I can see the Muhammad Ali magnet on my file cabinet and the painting of him on my desk. He was my screen saver during a hard time in recent years. I realize that there has always been a Muhammad Ali picture or quote close to me at all times. Back in the 90s while living in Washington, DC I remember a friend of mine being fascinated by my love for Muhammad Ali. “He’s no Harriet Tubman,” she joked with me because we had a mutual affection for Aunt Harriet. The funny thing is that years later the day after his death I realize he is, he was…as significant to our history.

Raising my glass of green juice to you this morning oh great one. Freedom fighter, liberator of people, humanity at work — you walked an exemplary journey. Thank you for loving us.

Alhamdulillah.

 

10 Lessons I Learned/Confirmed

About Life in 2015

IMG_3213

Some of these are thoughts I have had for some time, but only recently fully accepted. They are reflections of my current beliefs. A year from now, things may be different and certain points might no longer feel true for me, but as of December 31, 2015 this is where I stand.

I have learned some really painful lessons about relationships in the past year. Please note the word relationship is not limited to my love life but applies to all of my relations with other human beings. As I mature, I am growing to believe that we underestimate the impact friendships and platonic relationships have on our lives. We spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about romance but there is so much growth to be found in other areas of life.

If there were a title for 2015, it might be “Innocence Lost”. Idealistic, but no longer naïve, still somewhat innocent but grown as hell and with an eagle eye for fronting and bullshit energy, I am still taking a stand for love as often as possible. It can be a challenge once we begin to acknowledge the depths of human nature and how flawed our species can be. Choosing to stand in love makes the reality pill easier to swallow. It also serves as a reminder to focus on the good in the midst of so-called negative experiences. As I write this list I realize I have about 20 more lessons to share so I may do another post but here goes:

  1. Listen to my gut. My intuition will not lie to me. Details are not always necessary.
  2. I need community. As an extroverted introvert and empath, I enjoy my own company but I am remembering that no woman is an island. Good people give us good energy and good energy nourishes our minds, souls and bodies. Sometimes this means talking myself into going to events.
  1. Energy matters. I am sensitive and pick up on the energy of others. It impacts my peace of mind so I have to use discernment when it comes to the people I hang around and allow into my personal space.
  2. Quiet, seemingly “nice” people can be at the same time manipulative, bitchy drama queens. Stay woke. Once again, trust the gut.
  3. People lie. People will lie. Grown ups will lie. Accept it.
  4. Anxiety looks different on different people. I normalized certain kinds of stress so much so I didn’t know when I was stressed. I have learned how to see myself and pay attention to the signs. Self-awareness rocks.
  5. Stress triggers all kinds of physical health ailments in my body. I feel better when I manage and release stress. I must be vigilant in my efforts to avoid stress, shut it down and accept that sometimes doing this means others will not like me.
  6. Yes, I have good love but I cannot love others into being better people. They have to want that on their own and then they have to do the work to transform themselves and their lives.
  7. There are grown women who simply do not have the capacity to process their emotions, communicate directly and speak up when it is important. They disappoint and hurt others unintentionally. It’s hard but don’t take it personal. Distance from them when you need to do so.
  8. Some people are self-absorbed, selfish, lack thoughtfulness and consideration and you calling them out is futile. They cannot see what they do not want to see. Acceptance and release is the only option.

Sitting here at 5am re-reading this list and it looks like my rose colored glasses are definitely stored in the case these days. I am an optimistic realist now. Objectivity is a useful muscle to build. It allows us to view life without living inside of a story. One of my intentions for 2016 is to become a better leader in my professional life and a better partner in my personal life so I anticipate a major break through in self-understanding. Taking notes on the life lessons is an important part of the process. Being willing to be objective helps us to be accountable for what transpires in our lives and it can also help us in practicing Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements:

four agreements

Honor Your Truth

Honor Your TruthHonor your truth. Honor what is in your heart and on your heart. Honor what is on your mind. Honor what is present for you. Honor your feelings. Honor your boundaries. Honor yourself. For some of us the ability to honor ourselves is a learned practice.

In my life experience, the stereotype of the angry Black woman couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yesterday I chatted with an Afro-Latina friend who says she got the “be a good girl” injections from a few different angles. She also reminded me of the religious guilt and shaming that often influenced our mother/grandmother’s words of “be nice”. Another friend recently pointed out how it is connected to a history of oppression and the the programming of staying in one’s place, but a white friend insists that the tendency for women to withhold their truth is universal. I agree with her and for the purposes of this morning’s post will express myself from that perspective, but must begin from my own. Black people were often taught to suppress their anger and frustration because our parents and grandparents are/were afraid for our safety outside of the home. The women in my family and women I know tend to be so appropriate and so damn “nice” that it often exasperates me.  stop being nice .jpeg

I went through years of smothering my voice, my feelings and my truth. That was followed by years of anger and rage where if someone pushed the wrong buttons it would trigger an explosion. Then the healing began. I met healers, traditional priestesses and priests, shamans and spiritual teachers. I sought out therapists but traditional therapy didn’t work for me. When I do inner-work I want to go in and get it done so my therapist had to be rooted in a myriad of holistic practices. I found that through incorporating various modalities into my healing protocol and being open to different belief systems and spiritual practices that I could expedite the healing process. Once I make a decision to confront an issue I tend to dive deep into the healing waters and now this is the only way for me to live. It impacts both my emotional wellbeing and my physical health.

Well, the other day I sat in my living room as the morning sun blasted through the curtains. It was so bright that it warmed the brightly colored space as I sipped my green juice. I felt liberated. A sense of peace washed over me. I wasn’t carrying any would’ve, could’ve, should’ve said this or that to this or that person. I realized just how much I have been honoring what is present for me. It’s still new. It still feels slightly awkward but damn it feels good.

I’ve accepted the friend who won’t return my calls and acknowledged that my desire to speak with her is about serving my own need for completion. I’ve accepted that the guy I had to block is a narcissist and may never be able to hear me. I shared with my uncle the pastor when I felt like he was being mean and I have set boundaries in a number of friendships. At some point I had to own up and be fully accountable for the kinds of relationships I had in my life. I had to stop blaming anyone but myself. I also had to go through a list of people one by one and as they say in Landmark — get complete.

It’s crazy because the easiest way to keep life simple is to tell the truth but it is not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes it is not about saying anything at all but it’s about walking away and giving a person space to sort things out for themselves. A friend called me recently to talk about things and I was reminded of how often we make up stories. Then I thought about our mutual friends and how easy it is to then share these stories. Before you know it these stories that aren’t rooted in any truth whatsoever take on a life of their own. This happens because we have failed to honor what our truth with the person. Fear Black Woman

There is so much change and transitioning happening right now.  I know so many relationships ending and new ones beginning. There is death and birth. So many loved ones are sharing the details of what my mentor called “going through”. Life is real and adulthood brings with it a never ending journey of growth and discovery. It does not stop until life stops.

In my world, the words honor your truth simply mean to speak up and say what is on your heart and mind. They also mean to respect your boundaries if you expect others to do the same. It means you get to say no when you want to say no and you get to make your own choices regardless of what others think. It’s not really that deep at all. It means you don’t have to be “nice” if you’re in a bad mood, you don’t have to smile if you don’t feel like smiling and you don’t have to accept mediocrity in any of your relationships/friendships. Margie, one of my “Jewish mothers” (I’ve collected “family” along my journey) taught me how to write a complaint letter that gets results. That was 20 years ago and I know she would probably let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that I have finally arrived to the space of giving voice with no apology.

Of course, sometimes the truth is not a popular concept so honoring yours can make you feel a little less popular amongst loved ones. Let them be and love them anyway. Love them in new ways. Love them from afar. Don’t waste energy figuring their feelings out.  Focus on your own. Honor your own. Honor your truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Apologize and Why It’s Important

ApologizingEarlier this year I sent an apology note to someone. He appreciated it but said that he didn’t understand since the hurt he caused had been so much worse. I explained to him that my apology wasn’t really about him. It was a part of my forgiveness process. I promised myself that I would step into 2016 lighter, with a lot less baggage and with a clear heart.

When I was much younger I would write what my big sister, Adrea, and I called cleansing letters. They were long, detailed and dramatic. Each letter, filled with prose and poetry, required time and energy that would’ve been better spent working on material for publication or for the screen. This morning I give thanks for grounding, healing, emotional and spiritual maturity. Don’t get me wrong, I am an entrepreneur so some of those letters still might make the cut for the HBO special in my head, but my priority now is my own well being and truth. I am powerful. I am not a victim. I no longer beg for others to see their wrong doings.

Being accountable for what transpires in our lives is also a critical part of understanding forgiveness and apologies. *Sometimes we play a role in the experiences we attract. Be clear about the other person’s actions but be honest with yourself about how you may have participated.

I’ve been gangsta’ about my inner-work, emotional and energetic healing. This is not by choice.  It is a necessity. Stress and anxiety manifest as immediate physical symptoms in my body. After years of naturopaths and doctors, healing diets, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists, bodywork specialists, herbalists, spiritual counselors, energy healers, traditional priests and priestess, I have the data. My research has proven this to be true time and time again so I started this emotional cleansing. Guess what? As a result, I am also experiencing less illness.

Walking in the light, focusing on the light, practicing random acts of kindness, inhaling love, exhaling gratitude, dancing in forgiveness while honoring your boundaries will attract more goodness and abundance into your world than you can ever imagine. Choosing to love and be love is a daily choice. It is not easy some days especially for a drama addict in recovery but for me it means less pain in my body, fewer symptoms to worry about and good sleep.

When others feel your light it creates a safe space for apologies and authentic communication. (Note: this also creates space for love and gratitude to be shared with you as well!!) I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. I made a few notes from my experience with receiving apologies and wanted to share a few things with the world. Here goes:

  1. Make sure you’re ready to apologize. It’s not effective if you’re not able to fully own up.
  2. Focus on yourself and your stuff. Do not use your apology as a place to point out the other person’s wrong. Let them do that and be prepared for them not to own up to anything. Sometimes sorry is not enough and things will never be the same so focus on you.
  3. Be clear about what you are apologizing for.  You may need to rehearse it in your mind. I wanted to apologize for ___________, _______________ and ____________. I could have handled it differently. I was not being responsible and I did not honor you.
  4. Share what you have learned, new insights about yourself or life and the reasons why you will never do it again.

Being humble, vulnerable and transparent are important parts of the apology. Doing it without an expected outcome is also a healthy part of it because the apology loses its power when we have too many expectations attached to it. Remember it is not about shaming yourself but about empowering yourself through love and truth so you can lighten your load and hopefully contribute to the other person’s healing as well.

December is an auspicious time or at least that is how I have always viewed it. I do “spring cleaning”, set goals for the new year and give voice to my gratitude. My new year momentum starts in November and I ride a wave until it hits. The world may be in chaos and filled with all sorts of tragedy right now, but we control our inner-world and can choose to be filled with peace. Happy Healing Fam.

I thought about posting Ginuwine’s “I Apologize” but Abiah’s “Sorry” seems like a better fit. Check out this incredible musician and his latest release:

How to Write the Truth: I’m Still Learning

Toni_1 - Copy-tifThe little girl in me wanted to write. Sleep in my eyes, teeth unbrushed and pillow imprints still on my face, I wanted to write but I couldn’t bring myself to sit with the word. Sometimes your heart wants to tell stories that are not yet meant to be told. Sometimes your words want to scream and holler in a way that your voice just doesn’t seem to support in this moment. This path of vulnerability that I have chosen and committed to pushes me to the edge of dealing with my stuff on a constant bases. There is no comfort zone except for the reality of knowing some of this self expression will stay safely filed away on my hard drive until I am ready.

I mean, I wanted to dive deep into the waters of friendship and sisterhood. There is the friendship with the woman who scheduled get togethers with me 9 times and 7 of those times didn’t even bother canceling. I released the relationship. Somehow in her mind she is a victim of something but I cannot figure out what. I made a few attempts at the Landmark style completion conversation then surrendered when I realized she wasn’t here for it. Of course, I could’ve, should’ve spoken to it after the third time but was still in a space of providing more compassion for others than for I did for myself. My time is valuable too – – yada, yada, yada. Some call it sucka shit but we all go through things. There is the friend I miss but her envy scared the hell out of me and the friend who was so judgmental that it felt like a toxic boyfriend. So these experiences inspired one of my most frequent chants of the year. It’s the affirmation: I let it go, I let it all go. I take full accountability for all that has transpired and I let it go.

Part of me would also enjoy the release of being completely naked and transparent about love, love relationships and matters of the heart but then we have to deal with how that impacts others, projects, business and image. One of my friends constantly reminds me to be mindful of my brand and intention. As a poet first and as a poet whose first pieces at 8 years old were rooted in calls for justice, fairness and truth, this part of adulthood feels completely wack. Why can’t we all just have an authentic conversation and confront these issues that plague so many of our lives? Oh, if only it was as simple as a conversation.

One of the most challenging issues is the one of a cousin who is bi-sexual and in a same-sex marriage. Some of the responses of family, God fearing, God loving, practicing Christian family members, constantly disappoints me. My heart has been broken more times than I can count. I sit quietly. I pray on it. I try not to lament on the absence of my grandma and grandpa from this earthly plane. I know how different our lives would be if they were still here. Then I remind myself and little Toni that there is no time machine and my dreaming will not bring them back to the physical. So I speak to them while on my knees and while in the shower as the water hides my tears I chant again: I let it go, I let it all go.

In my dreams, I am confident enough to tackle the most personal and painful of experiences with creativity, spiritual maturity and transparency but I’m not where I want to be just yet. This is still just an activity in my mind. Years ago I remember sitting in the African American Resource Center with E. Ethelbert Miller.  He was at his desk handing me a stack of poems marked up with red pen. There were 30 pages of text and at least 25 pieces, but he gave me five that he considered to be good poems. I suddenly realized I was far from the book I planned on publishing that semester. He watched both my ego and heart deflate right before his eyes as I sunk into the old wooden chair. Poet Carolyn M Rodgers Name

He began talking about a list of writers I should read as he set up a seat for me at a table with a stack of books with everything from Carolyn Rogers and early Don L. Lee to Alice Walker’s prose and Larry Neal’s critiques. There were journals from the Black Arts Movement and the Harlem Renaissance. As I stood up I could hear the big clock outside and see students scurrying across the yard below.  I remember many things Ethelbert taught me over the years but that afternoon he talked about the need for courage.  It takes courage to expose oneself.  Exposing your joy and your pain, your most sentimental feelings, your family stories – both the good and the bad, the struggles of life, the weaknesses and the strengths are all a part of the nakedness of being a writer. You may find a formula to become a popular writer but great writers are willing and able to write themselves naked and fully exposed on the page.

I can still inhale and smell the scent of old paper and books in the stacks of Founders library at Howard University. I also clearly remember how heavy my spirt was during those years. Ethelbert was a guardian angel to many of us. I am much lighter now and authentically happy, but I am still struggling to be a great writer. I am still learning how to write the truth, my truth. The blog format is like a gym to work out and build my muscles. Every once in a while I get on the scale to see where I’m at and today is one of those days. Three bomb ass writing prompts came to mind and I punked out on each one. I’m here laughing at myself as a way to not slip into the Virgodom of self-critique and thoughts of I-am-not-good-enough. Pressing publish on this post will serve as this morning’s creative accomplishment and thumbs up to an exercise completed. May your day be equally as blessed.

 

 

 

The Rain Will Fall Like Tears From The Sky…

 

Loss, even when expected, can be a mix of grief, mourning and fear of uncertainty. That not knowing what’s next thing. It’s such a big part of the human experience yet learning to manage our emotions and energy around it can make each loss feel brand new. It’s as if we’ve never been here before when in reality loss has knocked at the door many times before.

Some avoid the pain of loss by living a life of detachment.  They’re detached from dreams, hopes and love. They live from no instead of yes, from ‘maybe one day’ instead of ‘right now’ and with the past ever present as the gift of the present moment blends in with all that once was. It’s an unconscious resistance to ascension and expansion, an avoidance of pleasure and joy. It’s a version of playing small and living life at half-measure all in the name of avoiding pain.

Many of us say the right things, wear the right clothes, wear a face that projects something to the outside world that is in total contradiction to what is in our core. Living life authentically, loving fiercely and dreaming with my eyes wide open brings its share of growing pains, but I just couldn’t imagine stifling myself. I’ve been guilty of playing small and diminishing my own light. I’ve run from love and sabotaged opportunities. That’s why it feels so good to be liberated from those bad habits and be able to honestly say I have reprogrammed my mind and my spirit.

A number of people have told me they’re experiencing an intense transition this fall. This seems to be a common theme so I’m not surprised to find myself in the same space. Last week I had a series of conversations and events that in the past would’ve led me to hiding in my purple sheets, but this time I chose to stay connected to community, to reach out, to choose to focus on the good. I am doing things differently, breaking a few of my rules and finding ease because of it. Once a woman becomes of a certain age she has earned the right to define her own healing path.

My alarm is going off now. I’m sipping ginger root tea, breathing through a little discomfort in my body as the comfort food from the weekend reminds me of my commitment to detoxing today. Grief looks so different for me now. This Stevie-Sting performance made me cry. I haven’t cried in a few days. It was a good cry – like tears from a star as Stevie sings.

It reminds me of this guy friend from my long ago past. We sat there on a beach in Dakar at 4am after a night of freestyling, singing, dancing and beatboxing. A few other artists from the jam were with us. Orchestre Baobab was blaring from a boom box at the stand where we just bought poisson frit avec patates frites from a woman with the darkest skin, the whitest teeth and a smile I remember 15 years later. He says to me in thick French accent, “You know what I discover about you?” He paused for a moment sucking the fish from the bones then looked at me. “You are so strong, yet so fragile. Most would not know how fragile. Delicate may be a better word.”

He didn’t know that I didn’t know. He helped me to know myself better. I was discovering myself right along with him. After that trip I started owning my fragility, embracing those delicate parts of me without shame. I let go of the programming that told me I had to be strong all of the time. Today, I can stand in it without feeling weak or like a punk. There’s nothing left to defend anyway except maybe my dreams and my dignity. The rest? They can have it. I am giving myself permission to cry, to let the rain fall like tears from a star.