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Memory vs. Soul

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While thumbing through my drafts folder, I found this post from 2014. I am not sure if I ever hit the “publish” button or even realized that it this post was saved as a draft versus shared with my followers. I do remember this very class – J-term with Dr. Katie Cannon and the guest lecturer was doctoral student Rev. Melva Sampson. The sentiments still ring true so I am sharing … 

Funny thing is that I sat down to type another post and didn’t realize
until a paragraph or so later what I was typing. Guess this is what I
need to get out.  In class last week the instructor started by reading a
poem as part of our contemplative moment. One – probably the only one –
thing I remember from the poem is this sentence: the memory falters, but
the soul remembers. The poem was followed by a discussion on African
American history and the slave trade. We engaged in very rich dialogue
about the African traditions that remain present in the lives of many
African Americans. One of the commentators from the video talked about
specific traditions and practices of which she was not aware of the
origin, but knew it felt familiar.

Although we were speaking specifically about the transference and
adaptation of African culture into African American culture, I believe
this snippet of the poem – this belief – be related to other human
experiences. The essence of this sentence says – to me – that there are
some things our human mind cannot comprehend or explain: why we are
drawn to certain people, places and things; why certain songs touch our
souls so deeply; why some things feel so familiar. In more
recent/relevant terms, I think of how I cannot place specific memories
from my childhood, but when I eat a specific food or revisit a specific
space I feel a kindred spirit. This one sentence describes the power of
the soul … the essence of the soul: to capture and hold dear those
things our mind consciously or consciously forgets.

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Conversation Pieces, Part III: Her Reflections on Mommyhood

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In honor of 3 recent conversations and my official 3-week countdown to the end of summer break, I am posting a series of reflections on thoughts and sentiments shared by friends and loved ones.  

I have spent A LOT of time in school so I have A LOT of classmates and former classmates. Some are memorable, others are not. Few are people I hope to remain in contact with for years to come. They are personal and/or professional allies that stand out when thinking of my journey. I sat down with one such person last week. She is a new mommy – 7 weeks new! And if she wasn’t more stunning before, motherhood looks well on her! She cares for her daughter with such grace and natural ability … it’s almost as if she has done this before! But then I am reminded that no – like me – she has been in school in pursuit of professional advancement so this is her first rodeo as a mommyJ.

Our conversation stands out for me because it was the first time I have spoken with a 7-week old mommy. Sure, I have tons of friends and family members who have had babies and who I have visited shortly thereafter, but no one has talked to me the way she did about being a mom. She shared her simple pleasures, as well as her overflowing and abundant blessings: seeing her daughter smile; having a positive report from the doctor; and watching and accepting all the ways her own body, as well as her daughter’s body has and continues to change. I listened intently as I watched her face glow – it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced! Of the many conversations I have had over lunches, dinners and teas this summer, ours is definitely one I will never forget.

I won’t forget it because of its rawness and realness, but I also know that I won’t forget it because it caused me to reflect even deeper on my own thoughts in re having children. From time to time – sometimes more often than others – I find myself asking do I want to have children. Would we ever make another attempt to conceive birth a child? Or Is adoption okay? Why do I want to have children? Is it the pressures of the world or a true desire of my heart? What will my thoughts be 5 or 10 years from now? Will I ever experience the endearing moments that my friend so lovingly described? If I don’t will it matter? What other forms of love and affection will life bring?

My answers to these questions shift on a regular basis, so I have given myself permission to continue to ask, continue to answer even as those answers change, continue to reflect and continue to honor my journey. Thankful for all the mothers and the myriad of ways that we all mother.

Conversation Pieces, Part II: The Way the World Sees Me

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In honor of 3 recent conversations and my official 3-week countdown to the end of my summer break, I am posting a series of reflections on thoughts and sentiments shared by friends and loved ones.  

Today I had lunch with someone I call a friend. Our most common interactions are via social media; we never spend much time together for face-to-face encounters; and the last time we had a meal together was when we first met about 18 years ago … BUT I call her a friend. I call her a friend because she made an impression on my heart when I was just a freshman in college and that has never left. Her tenderness and care are just the same as I recall it being almost two decades ago. During times when she could have been cruel, distant or aloof, she remained close, caring and concerned. Through the years she has continued to make her presence and support in my life known, even if her involvement has looked different than what one may imagine. For this I call her a friend.

So today we gathered. As we conversed – like we have never missed a beat – and she reflected, the wheels began churning. Self-reflection and self-critique are beautiful things! What a gift it is to be able to look at ourselves and admit our own imperfections! What if more of us were willing to take long, hard and honest looks at ourselves at various intervals in our lives and offer helpful reflections? But I also wondered what if we saw in ourselves what others see in us? What if we saw ourselves as strikingly beautiful – inside and out? What if we saw ourselves as divinely necessary and essential to someone else’s growth and development? What if we saw ourselves as a rare gift to someone’s journey? What if we saw ourselves as precious? Unique? Extra-ordinary? Accomplished? Inspiring? What if in the midst of all the self-reflection and critique, we also saw the same gifts in ourselves that others often see in us?

Conversation Pieces, Part I: The Art of Letting Go

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In honor of 3 recent conversations and my official 3-week countdown to the end of my summer break, I am posting a series of reflections on thoughts and sentiments shared by friends and loved ones.  

I love intimate time with friends and family – time spent one-on-one, maybe a couple of friends gathered more, but not too many; moments where time is our least worry and open, honest dialogue is flowing freely. I am thankful for these moments, regardless of how infrequently they occur.

On Sunday afternoon as I sat with a friend, I relished in our sister-girl time and quickly realized that one central theme to our conversation was the art of letting go. Yet again on Sunday evening I was chatting with my mother-in-law and there we were once again talking about letting things go. Letting go in the sense of allowing people and things to be free without the constant strains, pressure or longing to hold on to them by any means necessary. Letting go meaning allowing our lives, existence and dreams to be reshaped and reframed as things evolve and people change. Letting go to mean that perhaps things are not as we thought they would be and perhaps our lives have taken unexpected turns, but we will exercise liberty in recreating ourselves, our day-to-day realities and our futures. At the culmination of both conversations, we realized what power there is in letting go. How often times, the very things we are holding on to either come back to us in better shape than when we released it or we find ourselves in a better place than, with a more fruitful outcome that we initially planned.

There is joy in letting go. Rebirth in letting go. Freedom in letting go. Peace in letting go. If it – or they – return, well done. If not, life still goes on and often delivered greater, better, stronger. Let it go.

It’s My Birthday!!! Thank You …

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Of all the holidays and celebrations in the world, I love birthdays the most! Although I share my birthday with many others, including Nelson Mandela – what an honor – it is the one day that I feel is MY day. Each year I spend an extra dose of time reflecting on where I am, where I’d like to be and exactly what I need to do to get me there. I think about the person I am, who I am becoming and if what I see mirrors who I’d like to be.  This year I am overjoyed! This is one of THE most significant birthdays for me for so many reasons. As I look at my life – who I am, where I am and where I am headed – this year reflects the culmination of so much hard work, so many dreams, so many lists, the other side of so many obstacles and I am simply thankful. With this in mind, I have dedicated my birthday blog post to all the reasons I am thankful. Enjoy!

On today I am especially thankful because:

  1. I have been blessed to see another year. These last two years have brought a considerable amount of attention to the ongoing social injustices happening in our world, and the African American community in particular. I recognize that each day that I am alive is a blessing – not because I have always made the right choices or been in the right places, but simply because of God’s grace.
  2. I have a loving and supportive life partner. Like me, my husband is not a fashion savvy front-runner; he can be a little quirky and often laughs at his own jokes ;-); he doesn’t keep up with the latest technological tools or pop news. BUT he gets me! He supports me and shows that support in a multitude of ways. He is patient and kind … loving in all the right ways. He encourages and inspires me. He makes every single day that much more enjoyable and each moment so much more special. I am thankful for our journey and thankful for his presence in my life.
  3. I have an extended network of folks who I call family. I love my family!!! We don’t see each other or talk nearly as often as we should but I know that they are an important part of my life. No matter the occasion – some happier than others – I am grateful for opportunities to gather, celebrate, reminisce and be reminded of the blessing of my mother’s love, my dad’s memories, my brother and our evolving relationship, my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews … my life is so much richer because of them!
  4. My friends are a central part of my life. I wrote about friendships in my last post, but I have to include them here as well. My friends range in ages, experiences, lifestyles, pursuits, beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of them reflect and represent more of me than others, but they are my friends nonetheless. Some have known me for a lifetime – literally – and others are more recent additions to my circle. Regardless of where they fall, I love and appreciate them dearly. I can’t imagine my life without friendships that remind me of what truly matters in life.
  5. I long overcame the fear of shifting gears. There have been times when I was moving in particular direction that I thought was best or in pursuit of an outcome that I thought I wanted, but I thank God that I have and continue to give myself permission to CHANGE MY MIND! At any given time for any reason, I remind myself that I can change my mind. While this may seem minute, it is actually an essential part of living my life authentically. I no longer feel bound by decisions or commitments that don’t serve my best interest. I don’t feel nearly as burdened about changing a course of action after realizing that perhaps I mis-stepped or even when I thought I wanted something only to receive it and realize it is not all that it was cracked up to be.
  6. I no longer feel the need to explain myself. A few years ago I learned a painful lesson in many people doing what serves them by putting themselves first in many, if not all, regards. They asked invasive questions with no sensitivity. They questioned or criticized my choices with no regard to the thought that went into my decisions. They laughed at what appeared to them to be rigidity or my exercising discipline and mocked my focus. It took me a while to see what was happening in many – not all – of their lives – their own unhappiness, insecurities, unfulfilled dreams … things that had NOTHING to do with me. The answer was simple – I stopped explaining myself! I now reserve the right to give as much or as little details about my decisions as I see fit for the situation. I no longer feel the need to justify why I am doing something at all or a particular way. I have given myself to be authentically me without any need for others to understand or affirm.
  7. I have a “reasonable portion” of my health. After being hospitalized multiple times in 2011 and 2012, I now know what a blessing it is to be healthy. I falter on my physical activity and eating habits but never stray too far as I now know how important it is to take care of me – to actively contribute to my health and well-being. While random health outcomes will surely come at no fault of my own, there are still many aspects of my health that I can control. I choose to take an active role in the maintenance of my health.
  8. I love me. This sounds so very simple, but there have been times in my life when I didn’t love me or didn’t love me enough. I made a lot of poor decisions during those seasons. However, learning to love me and love me fully has helped me make life-affirming decisions and to stand by those decisions because they are best for me! Loving me allows me to step away from situations and people who are detrimental to my well-being. Loving me reminds me that self-care is an absolute necessity and must occur on an ongoing basis. Loving me allows me to forgive myself and opens up opportunities to recreate my reality on a daily basis.
  9. My life does not reflect ALL the decisions I have made. I have done some foolish, careless things! I thank God that my life is not a reflection of all the times I have been irresponsible, careless, irrational and immature. I am thankful for God’s grace, love and covering.
  10. I have an intimate relationship with God and engage in spiritual care practices. The location of this item on the list is no indication of its importance in my life. I have spent a great deal of my life in church, but I am so very thankful that I know that the amount of time spent in church – or any physical place – is no indication of the intimacy of a relationship with a higher power. I am thankful for that I know and recognize God’s presence in my life. I am thankful that through all the wrestling, sorting, understanding, misunderstanding, interpreting, falling apart and putting back together again, my life encompasses religious beliefs and practices that reflect all of me and not what or who someone else thinks it or I should be. I am thankful that my understanding of God is ever-evolving and I am now mature enough to welcome that. I am thankful that my belief in God in no way impedes upon or stifles the beliefs of others as they are free to choose what religion, spirituality, God, and faith mean to them. I am thankful that I know that my spirituality is just that – mine; it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s nor does anyone have to understand it. I am thankful that God has chosen to offer favor to me in so many areas of my life and because of this I am forever committed to serving others as I know my gifts and blessings for the uplifting of others. I am thankful for my life.

Birthday Countdown: Day 5, Post #3 – Friends

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Friends

One of my favorite aunts once shared that by the time we are adults, we are lucky to have 2-3 people in our life who we can truly call “friend.” While my definition of what a friend is and the size of my circle have shifted drastically as I have matured, I can also say that I only partially agree with my aunt. Yes, there are only 2-3 people in my life who I truly trust with ANYTHING – we can and often do talk about a myriad of topics with no hesitation; I feel completely comfortable around them and know that they have my back; we have a relationship that’s mutually beneficial and the rewards far exceed any minute moments of tension or disagreement. But when I think about the wide range of people who I share common interests with, who are passionate about even a single topic that I am also passionate about, who I know to call on when there is a specific challenge, issue, accomplishment, defeat, struggle … I am reminded that these people are also my friends.

As I consider the village (literally)  that it has taken and continues to take for me to thrive on a day to day basis, I’d be remiss if I only limited my circle to women and men who I consider close, intimate friends. On the contrary, my village is comprised of current and former professors, classmates, high school associates, people I’ve met through another friend, colleagues, partners and spouses of friends and my peers. Perhaps we don’t talk every week or even every month – I only speak with some of them once a year or so – but I still consider them to be friends and they are just as integral to my ongoing development and livelihood.

Yesterday, I spent the day with the day with someone I met almost 20 years ago. Our friendship epitomizes everything I could ever want and need in a friend. He and I only speak once every few months and we try our best to see each other at least once a year. But there have been times when 3 or 4 years have passed without us seeing each other’s face. Like most friends, we’ve cried together, laughed together, celebrated together … we’ve retained boundaries that kept aspects of our personal lives off limits and then just when we thought there were no surprises, we experienced drastic changes in what and how we discuss matters of the heart. He feeds me in ways that few of my friends do – he fills my soul with such joy and light. We talk for hours without stopping and then wait for our next moment to do it all again. I am my complete self with him and I believe he is with me. He reminds me of how diverse my friends are and how necessary this diversity is.

As I sat with him on yesterday I was reminded that so much of who I am is because of the people I have chosen to surround myself with. I actively choose and I try my best to choose wisely. I love my friends and I pray that I give them just a much – if not more – than they give to me. No matter where they are or how often we speak, my birthday this year and every year is what it is because of the richness that they add to my life. Here is to all of you!!! #bdaycountdown

Birthday Countdown: Day 2 – Worth the Weight

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Weight Struggle

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. In addition to what I consider to be very normal teenage insecurities about my height and weight, I was well-aware that I weighed more than my family physician recommended. I participated in my first fad diet in high school and continued with many others throughout college.  I later discovered calorie counting, tried Weight Watchers and more recently toyed with other specialized plans like Paleo and a similar diet created by a family member who is a personal trainer. I’ve maintained both vegan and vegetarian diets for lengthy periods of time and it has become typical for me to lose around 40 lbs. (that is somehow my magical number) and gain it all back, sometimes more slowly than others.

Let me first say that I realize how unhealthy yo-yo dieting is. As a public health practitioner, one of the most difficult things to do is practice what we preach. But I also realize and acknowledge that my wellness journey 1) encompasses more than weight loss and 2) is a life-long endeavor. With that in mind, I try, try, try and try again. My commitment for the remainder of the summer and the year ahead is to continue to work towards sustainable ways to lose and maintain a self-defined healthy weight.

This is what I know:

  • I am an emotional eater. Celebrations – and stress – incite a deep desire to eat more ;-). Some people lose their appetite during stressful situations; mine is enhanced. Over the last year, I have picked up a solid 15+ plus pounds – mostly associated with my new school and work schedule. I am still searching for alternative ways to relieve stress, but in the meantime I am working on taking longer, deeper breathes.
  • My schedule is insane. This is not an excuse – it just is what it is. While I know many full-time working moms and other professionals that have a much busier life than mine, my decisions over this past year have often been sleep or exercise. I have chosen sleep. My goal moving forward is to incorporate more leisure exercise and balance my days better. This has led to me letting go of a great deal of obligations.
  • I have to enjoy working out. I don’t like boot camps or insane style workouts. I love dancing, walking, spinning/cycling and other group fitness activities that I consider fun. The problem is that these activities often require me to drive somewhere or have an alternate plan when the weather is not conducive to being outside. After commuting to and from work, the last thing I often want to do is drive somewhere else. And after a week or so of inclement weather, I have to start all over again with refocusing on a daily commitment to exercise. I get bored with DVDs so that adds to the struggle. My goal is to start small – simply refocus on doing 30 minutes of something, anything, 3-4 days a week.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point J. One of the many things I do appreciate is that I have never given up. Yes, I’ve lost and gained … but I always get back on track. I’ve never said, “This is just the way it is.” I also find great value in actively caring for my whole body, mind and spirit; with that I know that weight loss and maintenance is but one part – an important part nonetheless – but just one part. That’s what Crazy, Sexy Wellness, LLC is all about! Just as avidly as I have tried and tried again to lose weight, I have committed to life-long learning, finding ways to enjoy my loved ones, engaged in ongoing spiritual practices and worked earnestly to maintain my sanity. It’s a juggling act, but I am dedicated to finding what works and sticking to it. Time and time again. Until I perfect it.

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