Arlene is a Vincentian Canadian writer and registered nurse. She writes for women who are ready to make big leaps in life. She writes about emotional wellness and self discovery and healing.

Photo by Marlon Schmeiski on Pexels.com

You never thought life would’ve taken you in this direction.

You always thought you were a smart girl with a head on your shoulder.

Sure, you love to have fun. Dance a little, shake your hips. Even get wild, but you’ve mostly been a responsible, multifaceted woman.

You were naive. Maybe you got into a relationship that you thought was love. Maybe you derailed your whole life in pursuit of it. Now it’s left you battered, broken, and just a shell of a person you once were.

Maybe you were blindsided by sickness or disability that’s left you much more than physically limited. It’s left you with the tauntings of depression and the incessant chatter of anxiety. You’ve become socially awkward, obsessive, and on the brink of a mental breakdown.

You got in too deep. You started looking to love, sex, food, sugar, cutting, attention, likes- anything to make you feel alive.

It’s brought you to a place where you feel stuck. You didn’t plan on being here. You wish life would fast forward so you could see your future self.

But, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Everything good and bad that’s happened has created the person you are in this moment.

Yes, it might have been the difficult way.

Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but have also gained blessings along the way.

Everything you’ve been through wasn’t fair. You’re still here because you’re a fighter. You have resilience, a skill that’s needed in the world.

The thing is, you want everything to fall into place right now.

You’re stuck in a defeated mindset. You’re thinking about the things that could have happened. You think you’re too broken, too sick, too damaged, and too far gone to achieve your version of success.

The problem is, you’re stuck in the past. You’re thinking about what could have happened instead of focusing on little changes you can make right now to create the life you want.

How to play catch-up.

To change everything, to get exactly where you want to be in life, to make up for lost time…

You first need to decide.

Your brain believes what you repeatedly tell it. It will look for opportunities to accept or challenge your core thoughts.

Take control of the narrative by sticking to the script. No matter what happens, no matter how temporarily defeated you might feel, tell your brain the same story. You need to decide what kind of life you want and don’t look back.

The only way out is through- Robert Frost

The truth is, you can’t be trusted. Not your old thoughts, anyway. You will self-sabotage.

Create rules.

Creating rules will help you get ahead, maybe even further than you’d ever imagined. Take the guesswork out of how to recreate your life.

If you want financial freedom, your rule might be that you don’t spend more than you make.

If you want more self-esteem, your rule might be, that you surround yourself with people who uplift you, not make you feel defeated-including friends and family.

If you know you easily get attached to men, your rule might be, that you won’t sleep with them or put yourself in a position to do so until you explore their character.

If you want to get ahead in your creative art, your rule might be that you remain consistent in producing your work. It can be once a month to several times a week.

I know, it sounds simple in theory, you’re prone to old habits, and may slip up on a rule or two, heck maybe even three. The key is not to beat yourself up. The key is training yourself to get back up, to keep moving ahead. With time, this becomes easier.

You may not have the skills and support to get where you want to be, but skills can be learned. You need an unwavering mindset with your vision constantly in mind.

Somebody has already created your vision board.

How do you keep your vision in mind? Of course, there are the conventional ways like journaling, vision boards, and affirming words.

Though, to have a cutting edge, ideally, you need a mentor. You need reminders of someone who has already been there, done it, and made it through on top. You’re not trying to be that person but it’s a reminder that your dreams aren’t delusional or far-fetched. Find someone who is compassionate, not who leaves you triggered, and explore their story. Keep moving forward to your new start.

A new start

You feel like you’re behind when in fact, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. You’ve learned lessons, you’ve become the person you are today. You continue to embody your future self by making small decisions towards it. Don’t expect to get it right immediately. If you stumble, take notes and get back up, but the first step in catching-up in life when you feel behind is to decide to.

What do you need to decide? I’d love to hear from you.

Arlene

Originally published on Medium

Click, a video from the Dave Ramsey show popped up on my YouTube recommendations, My family is shaming me for not giving them money. Okkuurrrr.

Dave Ramsey is a controversial financial advisor that believes in living debt-free, period.

He helps people reach financial freedom through 7 baby steps.

This caller had reached baby step 2- she and her husband were finally debt-free. They had initially told their family about their financial freedom journey but now that they were debt-free her family was shaming her for not giving them money.

The agony in her voice was heart-wrenching.

The situation left her in a sense of perpetual turmoil.She sobbed, “I feel bad because, you know, they’re my parents. I don’t want to let them down”.

How many of us can relate to this? No matter how old we are there’s something in us that never wants to let our parents down.

There’s a desire to please them with your identity, relationships, career, and other aspects of your life. This can even extend to an overwhelming desire to please other people.

Dave told her straight up.

No, you don’t need to give them money. That’s adult child abuse.

She paused, then started bawling, accepting the validation.

I know, adult child abuse seems a bit of an extreme word to some of us, but it’s a form of financial abuse and manipulation.

He advised that as we become financially secure we can gift, never lend money to family. If we get any money returned it’s a bonus. His reasoning? They are capable adults.

We’re not talking about a family member who is mentally ill, or physically unable. We’re talking about healthy adults.

Your family shaming you for not giving them money is wrong.

What exactly is shame?

Brene Browne, a shame, vulnerability, and empathy researcher defines shame as the intensely painful emotion or experience of believing that we’re flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

Other definitions go further to say that shame is self-hate, feeling distressed for doing something wrong.

Why shame is unproductive.

She says that shame isn’t helpful or productive. It doesn’t advance your cause.

Our fear of being disconnected or undervalued by people can lead to destructive behaviours.

Shame holds you back because it creates self-sabotaging behaviour- actions and thoughts that hold you back from doing the things you want to do. Behaviours like giving away money that you don’t have when your goal is financial freedom.

When you continually give your family money ahead of yourself you’ll never end your family cycle of poverty. You’ll never reach a state of abundance to create a new legacy.

This a reason to reject feelings of shame and keep firm on your boundaries.

Yes, you’re going to feel uncomfortable emotions. That’s normal. More importantly what’s your goal?

Your goal is financial freedom.

Your goal is to be in a position where you’re able to give without feeling financially strained. Your goal is abundance. Your goal is gratitude by giving back.

You have to help yourself out of poverty first. You have to be your own backup plan. Otherwise, who’s going to do it?

If I have $100, am I still broke?

If you have debt you’re broke.

If you don’t have at least 6 months of living expenses saved up, you’re broke.

If you don’t have a retirement or health plan, you’re broke.

You want to help so badly, but helping yourself is the first step.

Navigate shame by dragging it kicking and screaming from under the rug.

1. Shining a light on shame.

Dr. Brown comments, “the less we talk about shame, the more power it has over our lives.” She goes on to say that we need to raise enough awareness about shame, to call it out for what it is, to put a voice to it. Only then, can we cut it down.

The key to sharing your shame is doing it with a person who can hold empathy for you and your circumstances. People’s empathy keeps shame in perspective and helps find practical solutions to minimize it.

Minimizing feelings about shame by exposing it will keep you on track with your financial goals.

2. Separate what you do from who you are.

When asked, who are you? We often babble off our accolades. Our job, where we live, and what we represent. We base our self worth on these achievements and what people think of them.

What happens when we lose these accomplishments or when people just don’t like us?

Our self-esteem plummets.

The best thing you can do is cultivate compassion for yourself. You have to be your own cheerleader. Marisa Peer, world-renown speaker, and Transformational Therapy trainers says,

the most effective ways to boost self-esteem is to praise yourself.”

Building your self-esteem is another way to reduce feelings of shame and focus on your financial goals.

3. Decode what you’re feeling.

People shame because they were taught to. They never questioned the logic in it.

However, there are other, less destructive emotions that are similar to shame.

Guilt is more logical than shame.

Shame paralyzes and focuses on itself. In shame we feel that we deserve to be yelled at, criticized, and all the other bad things that result from our action.

Guilt is recognizing that our actions have harmed someone else.

Guilt is constructive and focuses on behaviour.

It’s important to differentiate what you’re feeling because shame has no use in making you a better person or helping you achieve your goals. It’s self-deprecating.

It attacks your self-esteem and eats away at your self-worth. Guilt can be used to create new behaviours if you’ve knowingly done something wrong.

Refusing to give a capable family member money when you’re broke is not wrong.

Staying focused on your financial goal and calling shame out is the best way to help your family.

Take away

The best way to help your family is to shed a light on shame and stay on track with your financial goals, despite how they might feel.

  • It’s okay to help family members who are incapable of helping themselves like if they’re physically or mentally ill. If they are otherwise capable it’s not your responsibility. They must take responsibility for their life, you must take responsibility for yours.
  • You can end the shame by,
  • Recognizing that’s it’s an emotion. You ultimately choose whether or not to internalize it.
  • Exposing it for what it is. Saying, “this is an attempt to shame me and I’m not having it.”
  • Separating who you are from the shame you feel by being your biggest cheerleader and saying things like, “silly me,” when you’ve made a mistake instead of beating yourself up about it.
  • Differentiating between shame and guilt. Shame is an attack on your esteem-not useful. It says you believe that you can never change or get better. Guilt acknowledges that you have done an action that is wrong therefore you can learn from it and improve.
  • Reject shame and keep on working on your financial goals.

Arlene

Originally published on Swaay media

Stressful events inspire you to change your appearance

Photo by Waldir u00c9vora on Pexels.com

Leave Britney alone.


In 2007, Britney Spears walked into a salon and shaved her head. It’s said that she suffered a mental breakdown after being denied access to her children.


This was her outcry.


Rebecca Newman, a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist says, “When we’re going through a period of transition that is particularly painful we tend to make decisions that provide immediate relief”. We want to free ourselves from intense emotions. Newman says that changing our physical appearance can feel like shedding a layer of skin which makes us feel better.
It’s normal to go through physical change after stressful experiences. It’s “an effort to construct a particular kind of self,” explains researcher Kiecolt. This may include changing your image to match who you’d like- or need- to be.


Hair is often seen as a symbol of beauty for women. Deciding whether or not to cut your hair, therefore, is an act of vulnerability. It’s the risk of being exposed.


I cut my hair in quarantine, in the summer of 2020. I’d been thinking about it for months. A roller coaster of changes was happening. I’d decided to mentally undo childhood programming. I’d lost relationships with friends and family.
Almost everyone told me not to.

My brother said, “Don’t do it. Guys like girls with long hair.”


A close friend said, “Don’t do it. Black people’s hair doesn’t grow like that.” She was battling with her own hair growth at the time.


My parents were over it at this point.


Despite all of the concerned comments, those dead ends needed to go. So often we hang on them out of fear. They keep us broken and stunt growth. I needed to reclaim my self-worth and create a more powerful version of myself.


Cutting your hair requires confidence. It’s knowing that, even if you absolutely hate it, you’ll be okay. It doesn’t change your worth.



Before cutting my hair, I researched my Kibbie style. Kibbie uses the natural lines and angles of your body along with balancing your masculine and feminine features to pinpoint the hairstyle, clothing, and makeup that suits you best- not what the next trend says you should wear.


After finding my Kibbie style (which referenced Halle Berry, heyyyy!), I showed my hairdresser the hairstyles I liked. She cut my tresses into a short, sultry ‘do.
Guess what? Everybody loved it. My brother, my friend, strangers, and most importantly me.
I had faced my fears and it had given me a renewed sense of bravery, confidence, and attitude.

If you feel the urge to cut your hair but are still absolutely terrified, test it out. There can be so much taboo around natural vs. fake hair, but we forget that hair is also a form of expression. Don’t be afraid to rock a wig or get a weave to see how you’ll look.

You can also release this emotional weight in other ways, such as:

  • Changing your wardrobe
  • Getting rid of clutter
  • Changing your makeup style
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Going skinny dipping

Whatever you decide, change is coming.

Final thoughts

You’re at a turbulent emotional and mental period of your life. Surround yourself with the support you need. Whether it’s therapy, friends, prayer or writing, recognize the signs of emotional overwhelm and change your environment. Reach out to someone who is responsive and compassionate to your needs and rock that hair!

Thanks for reading,

Originally published on Medium

~Arlene~

Hello, climb into my sketchy white van.

Manipulation isn’t always in your face. Manipulative people aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’re probably highly skilled in manipulation. Empaths, codependents and love addicts manipulate. 

I’m good at manipulation. As an empath, I’m sensitive to what people want and I’ve use that to please them in order to keep myself safe. 

Robin Norwood in her book, Women Who Love Too Much, brought me to this sobering reality. This allowed me to become aware and take responsibility for this defense mechanism.

Some manipulation is done innocently while others are deliberate. Some manipulators flat out don’t care and want to hurt, use, and control you.

Their tactics aren’t blatant but subtle. They leave you second guessing yourself.

It’s important to recognize because it can prevent you from getting caught up with the wrong people and bearing your soul to those who wish you harm. It’s okay to take your time, to step more cautiously. It will also help you recognize the areas where you might doing the same.

Anytime someone says anything that makes you shrink a little inside, stop dead in your tracks. 

Ask yourself if they’re exhibiting any of these behaviours.

1. Giving you no or little time to decide.

Manipulators invoke a false sense of urgency. They’ll make it seem like you have to decide, ‘right now’ when there’s no emergency. They’re trying to force you into a decision- usually their decision.

This is how I got duped into my second car. The pressure was heavy to decide now, get the deal right away, and hurry before it’s gone. It was urgent- but no emergency, (eye roll).

2. Being intimidating.

A manipulator knows how to make you feel uncomfortable. You might picture intimidation as someone dominating over you, but this can be more subtle. It can look like standing too close, taking up physical space, raising their voice or constantly questioning your opinions.

If you’ve ever had anyone invade your personal space you know how creepy this is. Stand back Frank, I know what you‘ve had for lunch.

3. Giving compliments and praise.

The ‘butter me up’ is a classic. Be weary of compliments and praise that are over the top, or come right before a request.

Another way manipulators use compliments is by comparing you with someone else. “Wow, you’re amazing, my ex girlfriend couldn’t even cook.” While it may seem innocent it can be a way to lull you into passivity. 

I’ve been hooked by this one. “You’re so happy and easy going, so many girls are mean and bitchy”. Be cautious here. 

4. Frequently saying they’re “just joking” after a rude comment.

People mask what they truly want to say behind humour all the time. Laugh out loud (lol) is the quickest way to soften a blow. People will also use just joking after they’ve dissed you and your mamma to hell and back. “You dress atrociously all the time- just jokingggg.

To make matters worse they’ll say you can’t take a joke or you’re too sensitive. Don’t let them fool you into feeling inferior. 

5. They refuse to take accountability. 

Manipulators and emotional abusers don’t take responsibility for their behaviour.

They’ll try every possible way to make it about you, not them. They’ll guilt trip you, make you feel insane, and diminish your feelings. The next thing you know you’re apologizing when they’re the ones who’re wrong. 

“If you didn’t want me to be late you should have reminded me.” (The nerve right?)

6. They’re inconsistent. 

They may come on strong at first, listening to you, taking you out, texting and calling you. Then they drop off the face of the planet. When you address your concerns they say they’re just busy, or accuse you of being needy. They may even go into a monologue about how nobody understanding them or the things they go through. Here, hold my green smoothie and watch me fiddle. 

7. They use the “you’ve changed” line. 


People will use your growth against you. They’re happy to see you in a place of stagnation. They might even get upset when you try to improve yourself. They don’t want to be left behind, lose a friend, or be forced to look at their issues.

They use, “you’ve changed” to guilt trip you or refuse to accept the person you’ve become.

How to defend yourself against manipulators and abusers.

When you’re in a situation that has you questioning whether or not you’re being manipulated you’re not going to remember a list of points.

I’d like to leave you with one thought, how do you feel? If you feel like shit that’s a enough of a sign. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt something wasn’t right or that someone wasn’t treating me with respect and I let it happen anyway. Even in the midst of poor boundaries and being timid I still felt like something was wrong. 

You might be sensitive, but I’m not taking about feeling wounded because your feelings were hurt, this is more of a danger signal. 

To defend yourself against manipulators, controllers and emotional abusers pay attention to any discomfort you feel. Your first step is to identify the tactics so you can address them.

Train yourself to feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t act on them. I’m 34 and I’ve been working at this since I was 20. Don’t take that as discouragement but be encouraged because I’m learning and getting better. You will too. 

Has this been true for you? Let me know. Until next time luvs,

~Arlene~

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Obsessing about the outcome is our attempt to control and ease anticipated pain.

We fear being happy. What we fear even more is having our happiness taken away.

We live in constant terror of what if, never allowing ourselves to immerse in what is.

We’ve heard the answer to ‘living in the present’ is letting go of attachment, but that sounds like a mystical far-off task. It’s a little easier to let go of our attachment to material possessions, but it’s harder to let go of attachment to people.

Impactful people become part of our energetic makeup. They circulate through our bodies and cycle through our hearts and mind until we let them go. They conflict with, and compliment parts of ourselves. That’s why it feels so gut-wrenching when they’re gone. We feel like a part of us is missing.

Instead of trying vehemently to “live in the present” and “let go”, have the mindset that,

You’re resilient enough to withstand whatever happens to you in the end.

You’re equipped enough to soothe yourself through the circumstances.

And you’re resourceful enough to get more. So live your life.

You’ve felt emotions you thought would kill you. You’ve felt chest pain and little rips in your heart.

You’ve felt the physical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headaches, and sudden illness.

You’ve been stuck in bed for days, unable to shower, eat, or move.

These are uncomfortable experiences that will pass as you gain the strength to navigate.

Not all happy experiences end in pain, though you may feel painful emotion if you’re attached to it, simply because it has meaning to you.

Our bodies and minds care for us. Everything they do is an attempt to protect us. It’s our job to sort out the real danger from unwarranted fear. Pain gets our attention.

I remember when my brother unknowingly ruptured his kidney during a football game. He kept on playing, but the pain intensified.

He eventually went to the hospital where he had emergency surgery and was admitted, which saved his life.

His soreness warned him that something was wrong.

What’s your pain trying to tell you?

Maybe it’s bringing awareness to something you want. Maybe it’s telling you that you strongly care for a person. Maybe it’s telling you to look deeper at yourself.

Regardless of what lessons our afflictions are trying to teach us, we don’t have to turn it into fear.

We can allow ourselves to step unnerved and fully present in our experiences. This isn’t because we’re naïve to the fact that circumstances may change, but because we can never live if we’re petrified of the outcome.

This is what anxiety looks like. We don’t need more deep breathing and grounding. We know what to do.

We need to believe that we’re not going to die from embarrassment or anxiety, that we’re capable enough to survive the results. We embrace new experiences when we recognize that pain isn’t the enemy and we have tools of combat.

Tools to help your ease pain

It’s easy to list off mindful habits-pray, ground yourself, exercise, get sunshine, eat your veggies, but it always comes down to your perspective, resilience, and mindset.

Our individual processes for achieving this look different, but the theory is the same.

You’re not searching for new information, you’re searching for reminders. You’re searching for stories that are relevant to you.

This is how humans work. We need the same lessons, in different ways, by different people, in different formats, until something clicks.

The tools that help you overcome your pain are habits that aren’t self-destructive (ex. excessive drinking, binge eating), yet motivate you to grow and make you feel good.

I can’t tell you what that looks like for you. I can only direct you toward how to find it. Pay attention to what you’re doing when you feel good, who you’re around, what you’re reading and watching. Do more of those things. It takes stillness, awareness, and conscious effort.

A safe place to start is a hobby that awakens your creativity.

Remember, overcoming discomfort takes time, weeks, months, even years. It’s not linear. You may regress before moving forward. You may stagnate, you’ll take the slowest steps, even drag yourself, but you’ll progress if you’re determined to.

I’d love to know the tools you use to transition through pain.

Start opening your eyes to those that do.

Originally published on Medium- Assemblage

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Practicing self-care, spoiling myself, and adventure isn’t a white branded experience.

“You’re such a white girl”, he said.

This was coming from a date I was on with a black guy, who later confessed that he only dated white girls- but I was different, a different kind of black girl. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends that he was actually dating a black girl

Huh? Well, this was a new one. I was stunned, not mad. Even curious. I went on a few more dates with him. I wanted to understand his perspective of this-situation.

Shouldn’t I be outraged for all the black women out there? 

At the end of the day, maybe I’m jaded, but my hate is too high of a price to spare. People are allowed to love whoever they want, regardless of their race.

I think the outrage comes not from dating another race, but from simultaneously trash-talking and hating your own. Men and women are guilty of this. 

He was open and honest with me. His confusion, preferences, and identity issues weren’t my problem. Technically on a bigger scale, I’m sure they were, but I’d been down that road too many times before. Miss save-a-man-at-your-own-expense. Nope.  

During our dinner conversation, I got down to the root of his hesitancy about dating black women and my whiteness. His summary was that, 

  1. He was bored of seeing black women. Only to find out that he was 25-leaving me whitewashed and a cougar.
  2. My look and mannerism, associated with feminity, gave him white vibes. 

After some time our dates dwindled for various reasons. I became anxious wondering if I was going to be added to his- see, this is why I don’t date black women hit list. Who knew?

What Does Being Called White Washed Mean?

Is being called whitewashed a derogatory term or a backhanded compliment?

Perhaps first, we should look at what it means to be black. An Afrometrics research study questioned participants on their self-definition of being black. Six themes emerged.

  1. Struggle and resilience– Twenty-five percent of participants identified being black with the struggle for equality, justice, fighting against racism, and other forms of oppression.
  2.  Ancestry– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having and honouring their African ancestors.
  3. Pride– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having a sense of empowerment, rich culture, and dignity.
  4. History and Legacy– Fifteen percent of participants associated being black with a past story, roots, and continuation of the lineage. 
  5. African Descent Community– Thirteen percent of participants associated being black with having a like-minded community, embracing cultural traditions and values. 

Why Do We Call Each Other White-Washed?

We call each other white-washed when we assume that a person cannot adopt aspects of another culture while maintaining their own.

Does adopting aspects of another culture contribute to a loss of our identity?

We’ve felt rejected in so many areas of life that we can’t bear the thought of being rejected by our own people.

I too have been guilty of calling people whitewashed. Subconsciously I was scared, scared that I’d be contrastingly black around them, that I’d have to keep my defenses up, that we couldn’t relate. Wasn’t that the same mentality that caused hate crimes and slavery? Just saying.

We, as black people, need to start taking more chances on each other. 

We are the ones who put expectations on our blackness. We judge each other’s blackness or lack thereof the most. 

We’re not blind or delusional to the racism and limitations society has tried to place on us. In light of our protests, there have been increasing opportunities for advancement. Now is the time. Now, there are platforms to challenge the stereotypes of what it means to be black.

People say that slaves were taken from Africa. This is not true: People were taken from Africa, among them healers and priests, and were made into slaves.- Abdullah Ibrahim

Why We Should Say Goodbye To Calling Each Other Whitewashed.

Being called whitewashed is a barrier to healing, self-esteem, and acceptance. We should say goodbye to the term, as it undermines the multifaceted nature of who we are. We’re more than rap music, WAP, drama, and thugs. We’re tech nerds, punk rockers, outdoor adventurers, and classical music connoisseurs. Renaissance people.

Assumptions That Being Called White Washed Creates,

  • That it’s not possible for black women to enjoy or try something outside of their culture or environment.
  • That black woman can’t be associated with femininity, travel, adventure, or sophistication. It’s normal to be seen as ratchet, but you’re fake when you act otherwise. 
  • That white women are rich, prim, proper, and have never experienced struggle. 
  • That it’s not safe for black women to be vulnerable, ask for help, or seek protection because we’re used to the struggle. It opens us to abuse.

Closing Thoughts

 In calling each other whitewashed we put limitations on ourselves.

The story started with a date centered around expectations of what black should be like. It continued with curiosity about what it means to be whitewashed, or not black enough.

We are the ones who judge each other the most. We put expectations on our blackness, although in part, fueled on the backs of media and society.

Twenty-five percent, (the majority) of people identified being black with struggle and resilience. They also honour pride, history, ancestry, and legacy.

While it’s important to acknowledge and honour the struggle of our ancestors it’s also important to acknowledge that black is multifaceted. We clutch on to struggle for dear life, feed it to our children, and sing it’s praise when we can create black identities through our individual stories.

Being called whitewashed creates barriers to esteem and acceptance. 

Being called whitewashed says that it’s not okay for black women to be vulnerable, feminine, and protected. 

Being called whitewashed says you can’t explore another culture without hating or abandoning your own.

Let’s change the narrative on what it means to be black. 

Black is expansive. Black can’t be boxed. 

Stop calling me whitewashed.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium in an Injustice.

Please share 🙂

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

The people that see, know your worth

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Maybe you’re still waiting because not all eyes have been trained to see you.

God has hidden you behind the cleft of the rock with his hand.

You weren’t abandoned, you weren’t forgotten. You aren’t unworthy, you aren’t rejected.

Even with eyes closed, they could feel your light beneath darkened eyelids. They hated you, and wanted to be with you at the same time.

You were a heat they never felt before, you harassed their demons, made them uncomfortable. In your presence, they had to look at themselves and they hated what they saw. You were a reminder of what they wanted but couldn’t be.

They said you were too happy, they smirked secretly at your challenges. It was never about having you. It was always about keeping you from everyone else, in case someone should recognize you, know your worth, and question what you were doing there. In case they tried to set you free.

But only you can set yourself free.

So here you are caged, with everyone on the outside clamouring to see you, but you don’t realize it. You can’t see yourself.

Maybe you’re still waiting because you’re not ready for joy. It seems silly to say. Of course, I’m ready, but maybe pain has become so familiar that happiness scares you.

Maybe you don’t yet realize your rarity, your infinite value.

Maybe you’ll accept the lowest bidder. Maybe you’ll rob yourself of all that you are, of all that you can be.

Maybe you still believe all the ugly things they’ve told you. Maybe you’re still healing, but in your healing, you’re still worthy.

Maybe you’re still waiting because not everyone has eyes to see you.

I know it feels like a lifetime. It feels like you’re floating in the abyss of despair. I know you keep crying out, when will it be my time? Haven’t I gone through enough?

I know you’re tired of hearing that you need to hold on. I know you’re tired of being patient.

So I’m not going to ask any more of that from you.

You see, not everyone has eyes to see you.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium-Assemblage

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Dance Dancing by Julie Winegard

Ever get into a bad mood for no reason? Yeah, me too. 

I used to beat myself up about it. My life is great! I don’t have much to complain about, so what’s the problem? Anyone who knows what bad moods are like knows how this story ends: instead of psyching myself out of the bad mood, I’d just end up feeling guilty for not being able to power through it.

Then something happened. I first noticed it because I realized that after some time of going through a low mood I’d feel perfectly fine. This made me think that maybe it was normal to have these swings in moods. Maybe some subconscious stuff was going on behind the scenes, to help me snap out of it.

So, I started paying attention to the little details of what went on during my mood swings. Here’s what I tracked, and here’s what helped.

Since I could feel the events leading up to my low mood. I started tracking the main triggers that exacerbated them. A few basic categories emerged:

  • Not getting enough time alone to recharge
  • Persistently stressful situations, including people, environments and a loop of negative thinking
  • Doing too much/being too hard on myself

These are what I called my triggers. Everyone has to deal with these things to some extent, so getting rid of them isn’t really an option. Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge when they get out of hand because you feel fine, then the next thing you know you’re laying in bed in your panties all day- which is kind of fun though. Knowing that these are the things to look out for meant that I was able to emotionally intervene a little earlier with myself.

Identify Mood Triggers

Identifying triggers can be difficult because you might not be aware of what’s going on in your body. This is where you need to take time to notice subtle things that cause a change for you. Each one of us is different. So how are you going to know your triggers? 

You can identify mood triggers by paying attention to your body as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual state.

  • Take notice of where you feel tense in your body
  • The thoughts that are running through your head in a particular situation. Where do you get caught into looping thoughts?
  • Certain people that you don’t want to be around. If you’re like me, you may identify as an empath, sometimes you don’t even want to be around people that you like because you’re feeling too much of their emotions, even if they are just telling you a story.
  • Notice when you overreact or become volatile in certain situations.
  • Physical environments that shift your mood (lack of sunlight, clutter, dust, lights, sound)
  • Some people identify as highly sensitive people (HSP). Do you easily get overstimulated by noise, movies, or touch more so than other people? 
  • You can no longer pray, or perform your spiritual practice.

Here’s what it looks like for me.  

  • When I feel low moods coming on I spiral into negative thinking and self-accusations.
  • My back becomes very tense.
  • My period becomes more painful, heavy, and irregular times of the month.
  • In severe cases, I sometimes have inflammatory responses. I break out, my face and body get swollen, and it’s more difficult to breathe.
  • I get low moods due to lack of sunlight, cluttered/messy space

See how this works? Although the first step was for me to identify situational triggers, the things I mention above are internal indicators that I am entering bad-mood territory. Triggers often have certain results even before you get into your full-blown depressed mood.

Identify Results of Mood Triggers

Some of us are programmed into certain behaviors that we don’t realize are really coping mechanisms for us. These may show up in things like:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Binge eating (reaching for the pizza, candy, sugar)
  • Love addiction
  • Thrill Seeking

My drug of poison is usually always sugar.  When I’m stressed, my best friend is a bag of M&M’s and licorice (or chocolate-covered licorice-yum). Once, I was on a remote nursing assignment in Northern Manitoba, where I was on call virtually every night. It was a very stressful situation and a new experience for me. Although I tried to eat healthily, I caved and ate M&M’s multiple nights before going to bed, lying there and waiting for the on-call phone to ring.

What’s interesting is that the results of your triggers, or a form of addiction, are usually not singular. They come in pairs, triples, or even more. That’s why people who drink and smoke actually find it easier to quit both than to quit just one: if they force themselves to find healthier coping mechanisms altogether, then they’re more likely to be successful than if they lighten up on one crutch and allow the other one to take over (quitting smoking, for example, but drinking more).

If you know how to identify your bad mood—or maybe even preemptively see it coming—based on behaviors you’ve learned are associated with bad moods, then that gives you that much more of an advantage when it comes to reacting to it.

Track The Amount of Time Spent In Your Low Mood

Is there an amount of time that you “typically” spend in a bad mood? Like I mentioned earlier, I often snap out of a bad mood without really realizing it, and for what seems to be no good reason at all. If you’re able to identify how long it typically takes you to feel better, you can “emotionally quarantine” until you feel better, just like staying home from work or school on a day when you feel sick.

Track The Things That Make You Feel Better

I admit: “munching on candy, in bed, in my underwear all day is not a sustainable  way to deal with my problems.” But, if doing this has been your coping mechanism, then maybe don’t beat yourself up about it.

While these behaviours aren’t sustainable or healthy in the long run, it’s even worse to stress about it. Learning healthy ways to deal with stress is just as important to help us maintain good mental health, but that’s a topic for another day. What you do on a timescale of weeks is more important than what you do on a timescale of hours or days.

Here’s an example of what this looks like for me. You know those movies where you see the girl dealing with the bad breakup, surrounded by cheap snacks and binge-watching low-grade romances? YUP. The time in bed is my recharge. I just have to make sure I don’t stay there, maybe replace the snack with healthier choices, but it works for me. 

Add To The Things That Make You Feel Better

I’ve helped to run some workshops on managing depression and anxiety. In doing so, I’ve learned some pretty valuable techniques for taking care of myself when I’m feeling like crap.

  • Hide in my car. This is my favorite. I’m introverted by nature. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t like people! It means that I like being with people, but that social situations wear me down, and being alone recharges me. The “car” part isn’t the important part; the “hide” part is. Get away from everyone and everything. Listen to music, pray, read a book. Some of my favorite times are just driving to scenic places, opening the door, and sitting in the sun.
  • Hot and cold showers. It’s a no caffeine kick. Caffeine makes depression and anxiety worse, but it’s a hard habit to kick. The equivalent to a slap in the face in the morning is having a hot and cold shower. I do 3 minutes hot and 30 seconds cold for a minimum of 3 cycles, always ending on cold—you can pick whatever time intervals work for you. The hot water opens the blood vessels and gets them pumping, the cold water constricts them slowing the blood down, thus the end result acts as a pump, which actually helps pumps stagnant blood.

This alternation between very hot and very cold water is also a miracle method for headaches. I have used this method to get instant relief. Take two basins, fill one with ice water, and the other with water as hot as you can stand. Submerge your feet into the basic, same thing 3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, alternate for three cycles and end on cold. Of course beware if you have PVD, or any other circulatory issues.

Adjust and Repeat

I’ve almost got my depression routine down to a science… almost.

Without using any of the steps listed above—identifying triggers, seeing signs, taking preventative measures, and giving myself some self-care therapy—I can go into a funk that lasts for a couple of weeks. If I’m on top of it, I can shorten those bouts to 2-3 days. Of course, the toughest part of any mental health challenge is that if you’re in a dip in mental health, that tends to mean you also have decreased resources to stave it off. But think about it. Isn’t some extra effort worth the payoff of getting those couple of weeks back? In my mind, the answer is clear.

Tracking your moods can help you identify, and decrease your triggers. This lessens the time you feel down and lets you know that it’s normal to have ups and downs in life- the key is not staying there.

Arlene

Originally published on Swaay media

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

You’re not alone if you feel a spell-binding desire to return to the comforting yield of the soil.

You’re not alone if you feel called out of the city and into the country.

You’re not alone if you want to nourish your body with the fruit of your hands.

The call is bigger than you. There’s a shift in the world, you can feel it. It’s a healing of the nation.

This matters because women are nature and nurture. You’re wired to know the decisions you need to make to thrive. It’s no coincidence that you feel the need to breathe cleaner air, eat nourishing foods and find peace of mind.

You feel the shift, but don’t know where to start or know how to get there.

I promise you that if you’re a woman of faith, you’ll know.

It will bring you the people you need to connect with. It will deter you from places that aren’t meant for you, guide you where you need to go, and show you where you need to wait.

How do I know?

I am a woman of faith and I’ve seen it time and time again.

Three years ago I went casual at my nursing job and started travel nursing.

I felt the need to explore the scenic parts of Canada in hopes of finding a new home. Traveling for work allowed me to do so.

It was a scary decision, I didn’t know where it would take me, but do we ever? Our steady job, home, and access to services give us a false sense of security.

Security is the responsible plan but once it’s gone we can spiral into hopelessness. Faith is the ever-resilient plan.

I traveled and worked in the Northern parts of Canada, on Native reserves, in mountainous areas and I’ve found black women with similar stories.

Why it’s important to see like-minded women.

I started traveling to remote locations for work, not expecting to see many women like myself. I was having adventures like:

driving past 12 bears in the mountains

taking part in an Heiltsuk Indigenous potlatch ceremony

getting to work via helicopter

and bathing in a hot spring surrounded by trees in winter.

I saw black women in many of the locations I went with similar stories. It was important to see like-minded people because it affirmed that I wasn’t alone. No matter how hard people try to stereotype us, you can’t take away our uniqueness and adaptability.

We encouraged each other along the way. We exchanged similar phrases like:

“It’s no coincidence that we met”.

“You’re not alone”.

“I needed this reminder”.

“You’re on the right track, we’ll figure it out”.

Bring back community.

Growing and operating a farm is laborious. I was reminded of this when speaking to a woman who said, ‘I’ve lived on a farm before and it’s hard work, at this point in my life I won’t be able to do it alone’.

As someone who cherishes my quiet time, I low-key dread having too many people around, but the truth is, we can’t survive without community. We are interdependent on each other.

The country is right around the corner.

Some people imagine living in the middle of a secluded mountain without a neighbour around for kilometers- that doesn’t have to be the case. You can live in an area as close to half an hour to an hour outside of the city that feels secluded.

I see this frequently living in Alberta. There’s so much land around that you don’t have to go very far to escape.

Start where you are.

You may not be in the position to move right now, but start taking the necessary steps towards the life you want.

This can look like:

getting your finances together

buying seeds

learning about gardening

or changing your diet

Doors will open and help will come.

Takeaway

Feeling the desire to move closer to the country and grow your own food isn’t a coincidence. It can be as small as moving to the suburbs and having a home garden or moving to large acreage. Start preparing for the life you want even if you can’t see the way yet. Find balance in community.

And remember, you’re not alone.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium-Assemblage

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Give yourself time

Photo by Marlon Schmeiski on Pexels.com

We barely got over one hurt before they gave us another, sometimes dropping them off at the same time. We would run back and forth between them, soothing one while flaming the other.

We gave them names like “never again” and “only this once”. Some stayed many years while others were fleeting.

Some returned to visit although we kissed them goodbye. We treated some like lovers listening to their incantations,

why me?, why me?, why me ?

We handled them gently as they etched their way into our hearts.

We couldn’t let them go. We studied every detail of their memory, we remembered every drench of sweat they made us work for.

We hated them, and we loved them. We loved hating them, though it was fleeting.

Those hurts came in flavours. Some bitter in the same instant, while others a steady sweetness that faded away, but most came in rancid, simply stinkin’ rancid.

So we worked. We worked until we knew them well. We worked until they did not sting, until they did not burn. We worked until they did not scratch.

We worked until we were strong.


Originally published on Medium

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.