There are years the ask questions, and years that answer
Chile... this first week of 2021 has been packed. You have Kim and Kanye divorcing. That mess in Puerto Vallarta. The messy MESS at Capitol Hill. It might be too soon too soon to say, but so far it looks like we're in the midst of 2020 part.2 . Just like 2020, but with more twists and turns. Who knows, maybe an unsavory cast member from the original will make a surprise return (my bets are on Terry Crews.) To the dismay of those living in blind hope, everything didn’t suddenly become alright on New Year’s Day. 2021 is without a doubt going to have its own problems. Just as years have before 2020. Just as years will after 2021.
So how do we cope? Did we gain any tools in the past year that could guide us through this New Year? For me personally, yes. Every New Year’s Eve I think back to Zora Neale Hurston’s quote “ There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
When thinking back on this quote last week, I, without second thought, said “A year of questions! I don't think anybody got any answers this year.” But when I meditated on it, When I applied it to the events of my 2020, I realized questions I’d been asking for years had been answered. I had the classic post-grad questions.
“Am I ready to go out into the world alone?”
“Can I really trust myself to make the right decision?”
I had mental health questions.
” When do I start to feel the healing?”
“When do things get better?”
“When do I become emotionally strong?”
And some deep existential questions.
“Would I have enough fight in me to make it through the worst possible situations and not give up hope?”
The universe picks some odd times to give you the answers. So, let's get into it. This will be a time for me to reflect and enact gratitude, and, hopefully, a time for you to find a new tool to make this New Year easier. Despite what craziness may arise by next week.
Tool #1: Stop Betraying Yourself.
This should be a no brainer, but so much we learn in adolescence about being a well-rounded person is self-betrayal. Before COVID-19 hit I found myself emotionally drained often. School would take a percentage of me. Work would take another large chunk. And although I love my friends and family deeply, they would be yet another chunk that was taken out of me. I was giving so much of myself to other people. Any free time I had I would spend locked in my room listening to music or watching YouTube videos, but always lying in bed. I had no energy to do anything for myself. I was really hard on myself during this time too. I would call myself lazy or even stupid because I would delay or neglect completing homework. It was never forgetting the work either. It was just thinking about it so deeply. Thinking about every way I could do it wrong or how much energy I would need to complete it. Energy I was searching for but never had. It held me back from getting anything done. Even my own personal projects, which I was passionate about.
It took everything stopping for me to realize that my time around other was dedicated to filling a role for them. I never felt safe just being myself. When school switched online and my coffee shop closed, I had this feeling. This cool rush stormed through my veins. I often felt this way when there was a snow day or walking out of my last class before summer. The best depiction of it is the “Brand New Day” scene from The Wiz. Evillene has just died. The cool water that has killed her is cleansing her slaves. The munchkins strip out of their vile, weighty clothing and what is revealed under is the most beautiful, fit, black bodies you’ve ever seen. They are free. Weightless, they float into high kicks, and jumps. It’s ethereal. It’s exactly how I feel when I don't have to be something someone.
That ugly costume that I wore into the world was the Frankenstein collage of everyone's expectations of me. That girl inside was the real me. The beautiful me. The ethereal me, but after so much time locked away she was suffocating. She was losing her luster and was desperate for air.
I had this realization when I went through my breakdown. I think most breakdowns are caused by self betrayal. When your soul has been at lack for air for so long, it resorts to tearing down the exterior so that it can get itself some fresh air. My exterior was torn to shreds by my soul. I was forced to care for that girl inside, but I don't believe I bunkered down and gave my healing the focus it needed until quarantine. Immediately post-breakdown I had to learn what I liked and disliked. What I wanted and needed. I was wishy washy before. I wanted to appeal to everyone so I truly didn’t know certain aspects of who I was. However, as I was trying to lean more into my interests I was still trying to live the life I led before. I had commitments to school, work, friends, and family and it would have been too hard to betray them. The time I wanted to spend reading, dancing, and writing had to be limited. Priorities are imperative and I was still prioritizing my ugly costuming, my community's expectations of me, over my soul. Thank goodness everything stopped. I had nothing but time to solely work on myself. Which brings me to…
Tool #2: Do nothing without intention. Do nothing without intention.
Those glorious words that prelude “Almeda” by Solange. It’s a marvel the amount of things we do without intention. Social media companies make millions out of us scrolling without intention. TJ Maxx makes hella money out of me when I walk in there without intention. Especially once I get to the maze of goodie before the cash register. Stagnancy festers in a life without intention. That became glaringly apparent to me in 2020. My negative patterns creeped out throughout the months and loudly announced themselves. As if they were singing Beyoncé’s “Ring the Alarm”.
Even as I write this it becomes clear to me root to my pattern of procrastination. It starts with an intense emotion for me. Like getting overwhelmed trying to get my words right. Then that leads to my breath becoming shallow. Which leads to fatigue that I try to eradicate in any way possible. Scratching my head. Getting quicker with my movements. Taking a sip of water. Then comes distracting myself with anything else. Maybe I have dirty dishes in the sink.
“ lemme wash those before I continue.”
Or a really good song comes on .
“Well I can’t focus on writing when my booty shaking song is on! Let me dance this one out real quick.”
Or a text I never responded to.
“Well I should respond to this person quick before they think I’m ignoring them.”
The patterns stem letting my body cruise in auto-pilot. No focus, no intention, just muscle memory. You have to take the time to stop and say
“Wait, let's examine this further. Why am I doing this right now?”
This is especially important for ineffective habits. Scrolling on social media should be something you do with intention. What is the content you're looking for? Is it essential for you to be absorbing this? Does it bring you joy? How much time is too much time to spend on the app? Maybe if unintentionally checking your phone is a habit of yours, have another object around that you can pick up instead. It could literally be anything: a pencil, a rubber band, some play doh. Honestly the odder the better. It’ll make you more cognizant of how often you mindlessly check your phone. It’ll clue you into the negative patterns roots and give you the attention needed to be in control of it. of mindlessly checking the phone, opening the phone. Intention is everything for living a more fulfilled life. Since we're on the topic of social media, let me say…
Tool #3: Mind your business!
Comparing yourself to others is ineffective. I get we do it because we think we are bettering ourselves. If that person is doing well in a way that you wanna do well then of course you're gonna focus on what they’re doing, but I’m sure the people you are idolizing are either really wonderful at making an illusion or are just focusing on themselves. Comparison and inspiration are not the same thing. As I leaned into the activities that brought me joy in quarantine (roller skating, dancing, painting, and writing) I found that these were the things that brought people closer to me.
In the height of BLM protests sparked by the murders of Ahmaud Arbury, George Flloyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other black people at the hands of police I made a post on what true allyship looks like. I remember feeling so angry and frustrated. I couldn’t protest because I was taking care of my family members who had contracted COVID. I lied in bed not knowing what to do with everything inside me. Feeling powerless watching some of my white counterparts take to the streets, but still not know what they were fighting for. Especially, after footage of white people like Jake Paul found them using this moment as their excuse to be assholes.
So I went to my notes section of my phone and just typed. I typed as if I was talking to one of the kids I nanny. I put them in timeout when they are having a temper tantrum (usually over having to share a toy with a sibling or not getting to have a cookie before lunch.) But to leave timeout they have to tell me what they did wrong. I don't want them to misinterpret why they got punished. We have to talk about how they can deal with their frustrations in the future. We take a few deep breaths and then we can go back to having fun.
I spoke from the heart and that post brought so many people to me. It’s the most liked thing I have on my page and I hope it stays that way. Nothing brought me more joy than the post having the effect I was looking for. I had people I’ve never met reaching out to me thanking me for either giving them something they could send to their friends who’s allyship was less than savory or people thanking me for a realization they had to where their allyship was lacking.
I don't say this to bask in my own glory but to say minding your business liberates you to find your own gifts. As someone who is pretty socially anxious I would have never thought my words would be something people found value in. I would have never made this blog if I never followed my heart and shared my words. I had so munch messaging growing up to think otherwise. A father who had more interest in little girls being seen not heard, and resorted to a belt when a child spoke out of line. PWIs where black voices were not valued. Strangely, I wouldn’t change my past. I would not have this writing voice if I didn’t have so many opinions I had to work through under the surface. If I wasn’t forced to be insightful. I encourage you to spend more time focusing on yourself. Look at those things that others told you you don't have any talent in. It might be where your gifts truly lie.
Getting these three gifts answered the questions that had been burning inside me. I was able to go out into the world on my own. I was able to trust my decisions. When I’m not betraying myself I can free up space to trust my intuition. I started to feel my healing when you made it a priority. I know not all of us weren’t as fortunate as I was to have a secure place to stay in this quarantine. I would be a fool to say that making self-care a priority is something easy for everyone. For those who don't have these luxuries I urge you to find the joy wherever you can and savor it. Find joy in little moments like feeling the sun on your skin, the taste of something sweet, washing your face with warm water. Whatever it is, find it and fill that moment. Indulge in it. This situation is just a season. It may not be predictable like the weather's alignment with the months of the year but it will transition. It will balance. No life is all bad, just as no life is all good. It's about finding your tools to make it through the hard times. From a Colored Girl Who Has Considered Suicide/ When The Rainbow Was Enuf, I promise you when you make it past this moment you live to see the most beautiful days. My existential question was answered by the combination of all these gifts. Hope is not naïve, caring for yourself is not selfish, leaving people who make you feel bad, no matter how they cared for you in the past, is not rude, careless, mean or whatever nasty words they throw at you. In fact, Its healthy for both parties.
I still have a lot of learning to do in 2021. I need to learn to not be stubborn and stay in a situation that doesn’t work for me too long. I need to learn to let go of the timeline and trust the process. I can always get better at building my self esteem.
I need to bring balance to the things I eradicated in 2020. Over correcting definitely happened. I really went in and cut out people who weren’t making me happy. I was not interested in having my self care disrupted by anybody. I don't regret it. I built my self esteem and learned a lot. However, 2021 will be a practice in vocalizing my problems and giving my loved ones the opportunity to respond. I need to have more faith that I am someone they would still want in their lives even after an argument.
I’ve been practicing cord cutting meditations, and would highly recommend for those of you who have relationships that have frayed throughout quarantine. I will link below the guided meditation I’ve been listening to. Cutting cords is not necessarily to banish that person. It's to cut the cords in the connection that are toxic. If its in your highest good to still be with this person, you will now have the strength to rebuild those bonds in a healthy manner. Just like pruning a plant or cutting off split ends. 2021 is about strong healthy bonds.
I encourage you to let me know if these helped. I would love it if you shared what gifts carried you through 2020. As an additional gift I made a playlist of those songs that got e through 2020 and some new songs that will most likely guide me through 2021. You can find it on the "Blog" page of my website or just search "Missed Ed. Class #2" on Spotify. We’re gonna need all the tools we can get to make it through this next year, but if we made it through 2020, there's not much left for 2021 to faze us with.