Ahhhh, restoration – it’s what spring is all about. We see the signs of season-change and act accordingly – trading boots for ballet flats, cleaning out our closets, and re-evaluating our winter regimen. We open the widows and let the fresh air in to do its job. Spring cleaning – that’s what we call it. Clearing our living spaces; purging the old in favor of the new.
What if we treated our bodies and minds with the same care –without thought, automatically?
This season, take the time to spring clean your life, clearing the clutter to make room for a healthier you! Here a few things to toss so you can make room for new growth in your life.
Old habits: We’re adults. “That’s just how I am”, may have worked in the past, but a grown woman does grown woman things. That means evaluating our attitudes and habits. If you’re stuck in a pattern of bad behavior – stop, evaluate, and make a new decision. Yessss, old habits die hard – but they do die. If you notice a pattern that creates chaos in your life, work through those issues, seeking advice from a licensed professional if necessary. Never let the shame of asking for help keep you from being at your best.
Old hurts: Just because we neglect pain – bury it, cover it – doesn’t mean it’s gone. It’s hidden. And at some point, like a seed in the spring – it will sprout. Those things that hurt us the most, will continue to cause pain if we don’t clean the wound. Old aches, left to fester, lead to resentment, bitterness, and even rage. When we give them permission to take up residence in our bodies – the brilliance of all we possess is paled. It can be scary to admit the things you hate are those things that have shaped you. Give up the hurt. It spreads. It infects all the wonderful parts of your life, and it robs you of joy.
Old relationships: Years ago, I read about this very simple method for measuring the health of relationships. It went something like this: If it doesn’t add value to your life, then it subtracts; and if it doesn’t multiply, it divides. I weigh nearly all relationships in this way today. When a relationship has run its course, and you’ll know, because it bears ZERO fruit in your life, don’t be afraid to free yourself from it. Whether a friendship, a romantic partnership, or familial bond, maintaining a relationship that causes constant anxiety, hurt and frustration isn’t self-care, and it shouldn’t be encouraged. Here’s a rule to remember, if the relationship isn’t reciprocal – end it.
Nothing ever stays the same, much as we may want it to. We should aspire to be like winter, spring, summer and fall; growing, the old self dying, and nourishing us for the coming season. Check your inventory, seeing what you’ve stored up and what you should toss out. That’s maturing. That’s being healthy. That’s real spring cleaning.
Writing haiku is a fun (and challenging) way to work at your writing. The rules are simple: Write a poem, (rhyming optional) using exactly 17 syllables. Your haiku should consist of three lines, with five syllables on the first line; seven syllables on the second line; and another five syllables on the last line. Learn more about the history of haiku here.
Become a vegan – then, eat a burger every-damn-day
Switch your major
Set out on a new career path
End that friendship
Do whatever you need to do in order to be at your best. You have the right to change your mind. Don’t apologize for that.
What served me at age 29, does little for me at 39. And that’s fine. I can be a flake sometimes. I make plans, then decide last-minute I’d rather stay home. I grab a bunch of new lip shades to try, only to tell the cashier at CVS, “I don’t think I want these after all – sorry”. I spend 45 minutes writing a piece, then backspace over the entire thing. Whatever. I’m consistent where it counts.
Indecisive? Maybe. But I sleep well. I’m happy. My relationships are solid. I’m less anxious than I used to be. It’s all because I understand I have choices. And once you exercise your right to change your mind, no matter the situation, you might find you’re less anxious too. Obviously, the choice isn’t always ours to make. We’ll deal. That’s what adults do.
Don’t hold on to anything – beliefs, relationships, clothes (seriously) – that don’t fit who you are today. Take inventory, then, if you need to make a new choice, if you want to change your mind – do that!
Finally! We’re emerging from the Stone Age and beginning to acknowledge all the behaviors and trauma we’ve tucked away for so long. Maybe you were raised to believe seeking therapy was weak; seeing a shrink was the real “crazy”. Not today – we know better. As some of our favorite celebs disclose their very personal battles with mental illness, everyday folks are starting to address their own. Here, four really good reasons to see a therapist.
“Anxious” is your everyday mood: We all get twisted up sometimes. But when you experience uncontrollable anxiety on a regular basis, it may be time to seek help. There are a number of anxiety disorders. A licensed mental health professional can help determine if your level of anxiety is typical or something more serious, and recommend treatment options accordingly.
You’re contemplating major change: Making life-changing decisions, like moving across the country, ending a relationship, or considering a career change, can be stressful. These kinds of decisions require more than an emotional response. If you find your pros and cons list isn’t cutting it, and your mother’s advice seems self-serving, sort it all out with the help of an unbiased, licensed counselor. Not only will you have support as you make your next move, you’ll learn tools to use in the future.
You’re living with a chronic health condition: If you are living with a chronic health condition, like diabetes, epilepsy or HIV, the chances you’ll experience depression increase. Persistent pain, anxiety and loneliness can wreak havoc on both the body and the mind. It’s understandable why people experiencing chronic illness may avoid social situations, but talking to someone you trust, and who’s qualified and committed to supporting you through hard times, may help make life a little easier. And remember, depression can also be a chronic health condition.
When everything is going right: So, everything’s going exactly the way you’d hoped it would. You followed your heart, you made the move, you’re living your best life – yet, you can’t enjoy any of it, because you’re waiting for the whole thing to implode. Stop it! Obsessing over negative, future outcomes, especially WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL, is unhealthy. If you struggle with daily negative thoughts, and you can’t seem to shake these sad scenarios, enlist the help of a therapist who can provide you with some tools to use when negative thoughts threaten to steal your joy.
Listen, seeking help in an effort to live a happy, full life, isn’t weak. It actually takes a really strong person to admit life can be hard, and sometimes, having a little help while navigating through the tough stuff would be nice. If you struggle with anxiety, if you’re sad more than you’re happy, today could be the day you do something about that. Contact your healthcare provider, or try Talkspace, an online approach to traditional therapy, and start living your best life!
It may only be February, but I think it’s safe to say black women are WINNING in 2018. Whispers of California Senator Kamala Harris’ run for the White House in 2020 are already being met with hallelujahs, black actresses, writers, directors and producers are forcing Hollywood to confront its role in the degradation of black women in film; and let’s not forget about how black women swooped in and saved Alabama from Roy Moore. Like I said – winning. But here’s the thing – black women have been winning for a LONG time. Before Shirley Chisolm, Rosa Parks, Hattie McDaniel, Oprah, and so many other black (s)heroes, there was Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the most influential African American women in U.S. history.
Bethune was born in Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875 . She was the fifteenth of 17 children. Imagine that. Her parents had been enslaved and Bethune’s father, in order to marry her mother, had to PURCHASE her from a nearby plantation. Bethune was the first in her family to be born free; she was also the first in her family to attend school at seven years old. Don’t let that statement miss you. You have to remember the times Mary and her family were living in. This was on the heels of the Reconstruction period (1865-1877) and although black folks had technically been emancipated, they certainly weren’t free. In fact, both Bethune’s mother and father continued to work for their former owners after the Civil War ended. Many white southerners were bitter about having to forfeit their property, (i.e., living, breathing, human beings) and weren’t eager to see black folks educated. The vast majority of slaves were illiterate. See, many slave owners forbid the enslaved to read, and learning in secret could easily cost them their lives. So, when a mission school was established in Mayesville by a black educator, Emma Wilson, in 1882, it was a big deal Mary’s parents had allowed her to attend.
Even as a little girl, Mary was smart and determined. She made the five-mile trek to the mission school for four years, bringing everything she’d learned back to her parents and siblings. Bethune excelled academically, and eventually went on to attend Moody Theological Institute, in Chicago. After graduation, she’d had high hopes of travelling to Africa as a missionary, but black women couldn’t just be missionaries in the 1900’s – not in America. She was disappointed, and no doubt angry, but she reasoned Americans needed Jesus just as badly as Africans did. So, in 1904 with a $1.50 and a whole lot of faith, Bethune opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, a parochial, nondenominational boarding school, which would later become Bethune-Cookman University, in Daytona Beach Florida. Bethune’s was the only school for black girls in the area and It quickly became apparent she’d need to expand if she was to continue to educate her people. She was a resourceful business woman and although her coins were scarce, she had friends with money, power and influence. Among her supporters were James Gamble (Proctor & Gamble Family), John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Madam CJ Walker. Of course, not everyone was excited about black folks being educated, advancing in society and teaching their youth about the many accomplishments of black people world-wide. Of course not. But when the Ku Klux Klan began making threats on her life, Mary was not deterred. In fact, she seemed more determined than ever to fight for equality.
Bethune wasn’t only an educator, she was also a social activist, bent on disrupting a prevailing system of inequality and blatant disregard for black lives. Understand, the fight for equality, for dignity and respect, had been going on long before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 – true story. Mary was tired, like many black folks in the South, of being treated like she was still on the plantation, bound by laws which kept her people subservient, while at the same time providing protection for whites, who routinely harassed, beat, maimed and even killed black men, women and children over any number of offenses. Hadn’t she been born free? Hadn’t her parents purchased all fourteen of her older siblings? In 1920, after women had just won the right to vote, Bethune organized a voter registration campaign, a “Rock the Vote” of her era, if you will, which helped Daytona Beach open its first public high school for black students. She didn’t stop there. Bethune went on to lobby for antilynching laws, prison reform and equal rights under the constitution. She was marching for civil rights more than a quarter century before the bus boycotts of Alabama.
Bethune was a natural leader. She’d been the founder and president of a number of organizations, aimed at uplifting and educating black women, and established the National Council of Negro Women, still in existence, in 1935. The council’s goal was to unify various groups and ensure their opinions, values and ideals were consistent . That same year, she was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to oversee the National Youth Administration, an agency established under Roosevelt’s New Deal, designed to help young people in the black community find employment through relief work and job-training programs. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the first black woman to oversee a federal agency.
We hear a lot about “influencers” these days and we usually associate them with social media. You know them by their pages; they usually have tons of followers, and A MILLION comments on even the most mundane posts. But in the early 1900’s, who would have dreamed we’d have the ability to reach people around the globe, sharing our thoughts while impacting theirs. Yet, that’s exactly what Mary did over the span of her lifetime. She mastered the art of persuasion and changed the course of history for generations of black folks in the process. In 1927, Pope Pius XI hosted her at the Vatican; in 1949, the people of Haiti awarded Bethune the Medal of Honor and Merit, Haiti’s highest distinction; she was given unprecedented access to the White House, advising on race relations under Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover; and she wrote for the Washington Post. That’s influence. We can also thank Bethune for the work she did with Planned Parenthood, the American Red Cross, the N.A.A.C.P, and Tuskegee Institute, where she was instrumental in establishing the famed aviation program for black pilots during WWII. Her effect spread far and wide. After Bethune’s death, May 18, 1955, there were so many people who came to pay their respects, Daytona Beach officials, for the first time, ignored laws banning blacks and whites from lodging in the same location, and integrated hotels for out-of-towners in attendance.
February is Black History Month. But let’s not limit our learning about African American achievements to the shortest month of the year. Instead, let’s honor Bethune’s legacy by educating ourselves and others, remembering nearly every modern accomplishment made by African-Americans can be linked to the work she did on our behalf. You many not learn these lessons in the classroom – be encouraged to seek them out anyhow. Dr. Bethune’s faith, and her many contributions to society, have made America better.
Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, for some, the perfect time to shower your favorite officer with accolades for their bravery. For others, a time to revisit all the times the life of a POC was cut short, courtesy Mr. Officer. Too many times.
On this day, I challenge you to think higher. We don’t have to choose a side – F#@! THE POLICE or BLUE LIVES MATTER – we can think of officers as individuals, and not as the inherently biased and sometimes racist group they’re often perceived to be.
Cops are everyday people too. Some are garbage; others are gold, taking their pledge to protect and serve very seriously. When you hear about the rubbish, remember for every dirty, filthy, trifling pig, there’s an upstanding officer of the law out there who swore the oath because he/she wanted to make a positive impact on our society. Let’s stop punishing the good officers for what the awful get away with. When you read about an officer in a standoff, and it ends peacefully, resist the urge, no matter how valid, to scream about past injustices. At the end of the day, an officer who exercises restraint, especially in a life-threatening situation, should be commended for a job well done.
It’s a sad day in America when black and brown children are suspicious of the folks who are supposed to help keep their neighborhoods safe. Yeeeeees, precincts, PLEASE hire more officers of color, require sensitivity training, and for God’s sake do your due diligence and make sure you’re not hiring someone who sees the badge as an opportunity to literally get away with murder. But do more than that – hold police officers accountable at the first instance of misconduct. Shouldn’t protecting individuals be more important than protecting a tarnished shield? I digress.
Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. For the men and women who put their lives on the line, who protect and serve, who use a gentle word over a baton, who understand the power they have, yet refuse to abuse it – thank you. For the vermin who infiltrate, using the badge as a means to carry out corruption – may you reap what you sow down to the fourth generation.
‘Tis the season for setting your yearly goals – this year, stick with the plan and make these five real life resolutions part of your routine in 2018.
Drink more water: Nobody wants to look like a prune – so don’t. Keep your skin and hair looking fab by staying properly hydrated. Aim for half your weight in ounces each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water each day. Our bodies crave water, and when we don’t properly hydrate, we’re unable to function at our best. Commit to increasing your H2O, and reap all the benefits of nature’s life source.
Weekly blood pressure checks: Did you know hypertension is known as the “silent killer” and is the leading cause of stroke? Sadly, many women are unaware their blood pressure is dangerously high until it’s too late. Be proactive, know the risk factors and make regular blood pressure checks part of your weekly routine. Personal blood pressure monitors are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and very convenient. Not sure an at-home monitor is necessary? Take advantage of complimentary or low- cost checks during visits to your local retail pharmacy, where most insurance plans are accepted.
Kill the (inner) noise: In 2018, discover the power in positive affirmations and self-talk. Dwelling can be destructive – learn a new, gentler, kinder way of speaking to yourself internally, and about yourself externally and notice how differently you begin to feel after putting some positive self-talk into practice.
Travel: A quick getaway doesn’t have to break the bank. Keep an eye out for deals on commercial flights and make domestic travel part of your plan for 2018.
Pray: It doesn’t need to be poetic – prose will do. Give thanks daily, inhale whatever goodness you can find, let humility take up residence, and be good to others.