Category Archives: Communication

 

10 Lessons I Learned/Confirmed

About Life in 2015

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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

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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:

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.

Learning to Speak Grow(n)

Like a toddler waddling the room reaching in the air for the right words, I find myself humbled by recent life experiences.  Each growth moment has demanded that I –umm—grow. The expansion has required a fierce commitment to transformation not only of myself but of each and every one of my relationships. This is giving new meaning to the phrase grown and sexyMouth out of service

I am not learning to speak French or Wolof so there is no Rosetta Stone to help me through this phase.  I am not learning to speak in public so a speech coach won’t do.   I have, however, benefited greatly from a circle of spiritual teachers.  Some of them trained practitioners while others are friends who have taken time to listen my story and share an experience or an insight.

Over the past 10 days I’ve had four conversations that in previous years would’ve been categorized as awkward, tense and would have fallen into the column of not happening.  Learning how to speak, to honor what’s most present for me without worrying about the outcome has been liberating.  It’s less like a toddler streaking around the house naked and more like a grown woman standing without clothes on, in front of a mirror appreciating and celebrating her own body with each of its imperfections.

As I vented and processed with two different girlfriends I realized the way these women cosigned my pressing the mute button on my own voice.  It’s what many girls are socialized to do. We’re taught to be quiet, to not rock the boat and that the truth is not nice. It’s also way too easy to succumb to playing the victim. Meanwhile my male friend insisted that I needed to speak up and out and directly to these people in my life who were out of integrity.  I also needed to give voice to new boundaries.  He challenged me to do this as a way to de-clutter and detox my mind.  In two instances I initiated communication by picking up the phone, and in two others divine order created the perfect ‘random’ meetings.

What’s the payoff of my  staying silent? I wouldn’t have to go through the growing pains and I could sit with the familiar, but I’ve found that the reward for walking through the difficulty is that I get the satisfaction that comes with honoring both my voice and my vision.  The uncertainty of how it will unfold is part of the adventure.  Sometimes moments like these are indicators that a relationship has come to an end, but in this case it wasn’t about endings.  I’ve preserved  relationships with people I care about, who love and care for me deeply and who are sharing the journey with me for purposes much greater than ourselves.

Indeed there are definitely times when it’s better to let things work themselves out and not give energy to them, but discernment is key.  Our gut will tell us the difference. I am finding that the more often I exercise these muscles of learning to speak, the more grown I feel.  I’m not sure if sexy is the word to describe my elation, but damn I’m feeling good inside my own skin.

Texting Tips— Because Communication is Everything

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Last night one of my little sisters sent multiple text messages and in one asked, “How ya’ been?”   I responded to other messages but not to that one.  She then texted me again to ask why.  Now, there are two types of messages that I put in my pet peeves category:

1) Hi.  Hey! What’s up? Yo’!

Please don’t just send me a two letter text. If you are thinking about me then say so.  If you miss me and my wonderful presence then share that. If you would like to talk soon then tell me; and

2)How are you?

Asking how I am doing via text unless it’s specifically related to an experience I am going through often feels like we are going through the motions of yet another social ritual that has little to do with expressing authentic care for another person.  Some think of it as a polite courtesy. I think of it as a waste of my energy.  Why not just wish the person well or send them blessings?

Then there’s the pressure of my right-brain, free-spirit condensing my response to fit inside a text messages. On some days that feels like prison to me.  My mom think it’s quirky, my cousin says I’m “special” and my ex- says it’s just plain weird.  Call it whatever you want, but if you want to know how I am doing either call me or send an email and be prepared for an authentic response.

These scenarios got me to thinking about text etiquette, manners and what makes sense nowadays.  I know I am not the typical communicator and one might even say my expectations are too high, but I wanted to share them nonetheless.  I’m sure there are few of you that might be pondering the same things. So here goes a few more text topics when it comes to etiquette:

  • It’s important to know when to text versus when to email or when to call. If you find yourself writing more than a few messages and each one is long, then you should probably go to email.  If the subject matter is dealing with an emotional issue or concern and you really want a reply, put your big girl pants on and call.
  • If you are seeking a response within a certain time frame then you should probably call the other person and if it is urgent, state that in the text and let the person know you will call shortly if you don’t hear back.
  • Do not send a text at 4 in the morning, 5 in the morning or even 6 am. Unless we are meeting each other for an early breakfast meeting and you need to cancel or you were supposed to meet me at the airport 10 minutes ago, it’s just not appropriate. Send an email or wait until calling hours.
  • Don’t initiate a text dialogue if you do not have time to reply.
  • Remember that you don’t know when a person will read or receive your message.  You have no right to be offended if the reply takes a while.  Sometimes messages don’t go through.  Sometimes messages come while a person is driving or walking in 10 degree weather. Sometimes the person you texted is busy-cooking, cleaning, changing a diaper...
  • If I just sent you a text message with facts or to ask a quick question, that text is not a request for you to call me right this moment. Do not assume that the sender is available to talk to you or wants to talk to you and have a full conversation. The exception might be that you are walking or driving and need to relay the info verbally.
  • If we haven’t talked in a while sign your name at the end of your message. People change phones, phones get stolen, phones crash. Don’t make up stories about your number being deleted and your being de-friended. (Yes, this has happened with my grown-up friends. Bless their hearts.)
  • Avoid texting sad news.  I remember being backstage putting on lip gloss and preparing to head to the podium to speak when my mom sent a text about my favorite great aunt’s death.  Bless her heart.  She wanted me to know, but it would have been better to find out after my speech.
  • Unless you are in a long, boring meeting where you cannot talk or on the Quiet Car on Amtrak, please don’t expect a 30 minute text conversation.  I have a friend who has a text limit. He says that if he receives more than 4 text messages you need to call him because ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’. Texting requires attention, time, energy and focus.
  • If we are in person and I am talking to you, please do not text on your phone without acknowledging that I was just talking to you.  Have the courtesy to excuse yourself from the conversation or don’t be surprised if I step away.
  • Oh, and those annoying holiday texts and holiday group messages! Last month an old friend wondered why I had not responded to her Happy Thanksgiving message.  She and I haven’t socialized in so long that she forgot that her friend is a truth-seeking, non-traditionalist who has never gone along with the crowd.     charlie brown thanksgiving

First, I don’t believe that generic “Happy ___________” or “Merry ____________” messages deserve a reply. There’s no effort in that kind of sharing. Tell me what you are thankful for, give me something that I can feel.

Then second, I get a lot of text messages on the big holidays and don’t care to expend energy typing replies. It’s my phone and my time, I can do with it what I please.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but I find the roots of this holiday to be quite disturbing.  I have yet to reconcile the history of feasting to celebrate the shedding of Native American blood. I do however, love that in our culture of individualism that there is a day set aside to focus on gratitude, but I am still seeking peace around this particular holiday.  

I know, I know most people mean well, but kindness and good intention don’t trump basic manners, consideration and common sense. Be mindful, be thoughtful and text with care.