My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.
“Everyone has that one person that they call when they need to have an open, honest conversation. These types of conversations inspired the creation of Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria. This podcast highlights the ups & downs of being a young, black woman in today’s society. Join co-hosts Anaston & Alexandria as they discuss everything from friendships to relationships, navigating the professional world as a young millennial, & the importance of both mental & physical wellness. Join them on the journey to adulthood the second Wednesday of each month at 8!”
Here’s our very first episode! We discuss the importance of a quality sister tribe, define what a sister is to us, & discuss what we look for in our female friends! Our other sister bestie, Jazmine Rogers, tunes in with us & shares her perspective!
Why is it that in 2017 it is “trendy” to be a person who doesn’t give a ____ about anything? Our society is obsessed with being numb to everything even remotely related to feelings & emotions. Emotional awareness seems to be this new concept no one has ever heard of, when honestly, it is something that should’ve been prevalent all along. There are books that teach you how not to care about anything, songs that talk about it–it’s like an entire movement. But this is a time, if unrealistically no other time existed, that we need to give a ____ about something.
Honestly, there was a point in time where I tried to be one of these people. I went through a period where I thought I was too emotional, cared too much about people, & needed to turn off the emotional switch that seemed to control my life. So what did I do? I bought a ticket to the “No ____ Given” train & proudly took my seat, ready for the ride. However, before this train even took off, I had to exit quickly. I just couldn’t be a person who doesn’t care about others, myself, & even what is going on in the world. I knew deep down that emotions don’t make people weak (despite what “they” say) & that being aware of my own emotions & the emotions of others, was something I could not continue to avoid.
So once I finally accepted how in-tune I am emotionally, I discovered that I am an empath. But what is an empath? What is empathy? How is it different from sympathy? Here’s what I found:
A person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
The ability to understand and share feelings of one another.
1. Feelings of pity & sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. 2. Understanding between people, common feeling.
Reading those definitions really doesn’t tell you much, but what I have commonly heard is that the difference between empathy & sympathy is that when you sympathize with someone, you only “feel” for the person, but when you empathize with someone, you actually put yourself in that person’s shoes. Empathy is personal. It is genuine. It is strong. It is perception. That’s me all the way, & when I finally accepted this, I became a lot healthier emotionally.
Empathy for me looks like this: I am extremely aware of the vibes & energies of people around me, & I absorb those vibes & energies as my own, whether I want to or not. This means my mood can fluctuate, depending on who I am around, & certain people’s presence can put me in bad mood. Usually this is more common with my loved ones, but it happens with not-so-loved ones too. I can easily pick up on people’s intentions & motives–if you’re hiding something, I’ll know. I often take on the problems of others & often find myself carrying everyone else’s load. It can even happen in a situation as small as me watching an emotional commercial or movie–I will cry or feel some overwhelming sense of emotion rather abruptly. Especially if it involves elderly people or children or something about love, I will fall a part. Sounds silly, I know, but hey, it happens. My empathic traits often leave me emotionally drained, because I get lost in everything (& everyone) around me & forget to take the necessary time for myself. I don’t deal well with areas of confusion or disharmony, & both cause me to feel highly uncomfortable. I also don’t deal well with people who tend to be negative most of the time. It stresses me out, & I tend to get mad at that person. I am working on trying to separate the two, so that I can focus on whatever is troubling the person in a way that does not affect me
Being in-tune with my emotions also means that I express them more than others. With those I am close to, I am okay with having conversations about how I feel. I’m pretty open & honest, & talking things out really allows me to develop the level of understanding that I need. I am okay with telling people I care about them or that I love them. I truly wear my heart on my sleeve. Life is way too short to run around acting like you don’t care about anyone or anything, & I’ve suffered enough loss to know it. So I tend to give my all in my relationships–all or nothing. Sometimes this is hard for other people to accept or understand about me, but the more aware of it I have become, the less disappointed I feel when I’m too much for another person. Not everyone is equipped to handle what comes with being involved with a woman like me, but because I can handle it, it makes it easier to explain or show others this aspect of who I am.
On the other hand, there are times where I create a wall & bottle up my emotions. As much as I like to talk & no matter how open or honest I am, sometimes it takes a lot of effort for me to talk about myself. These are things I am still working on, & journaling really helps me get everything out in a healthy way. I’m a work in progress, & learning how to function in a healthy way, while being emotionally aware, is a journey. (My blog post about self-care practices can be read here. These are a great way to take some time for yourself & not get lost in translation.) Learning how to live as an empath is something I have to work at every day & sometimes I don’t make very much progress.
Are no ____ really given? Or do you give a ____ like I do? 9/10 regardless of how much you want to identify with question one, you really are closer to the latter. Accept it, & let’s figure out how we can get you to live a healthy life being that way. Don’t get me wrong, this post is not a call to care about everything & everyone. That may not be healthy for you, & can definitely be overwhelming. You have to protect your heart & yourself. My advice is to find something to care about. You better! If it is not people, then I suggest finding a cause that resonates with you. Find something that you can willingly, & safely, dedicate your emotions to. If you identify with being an empath as I do, let’s talk! I have some great resources for you.
IF YOU ARE SKEPTICAL OF THIS WORD EMPATH, AS USUAL MY ADVICE IS TO DO YOUR RESEARCH. I AM NOT RELATING THIS TO ANY RELIGIOUS OR SPIRITUAL BELIEF. THIS POST REFLECTS MY PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS & REALIZATIONS ON MY PATH TO SELF-DISCOVERY.
“I care. I care a lot. It’s kinda my thing.” x Leslie Knope
“A caring heart that listens is often more valued than an intelligent mind that talks.”
We are three months into 2017, & I am so glad that both mental wellness and self-care are becoming a constant topic of discussion this year. It’s important, though, that people recognize that mental wellness and self-care are not trends. This is a lifestyle, & is not something to “get into” just because your favorite YouTuber or IG personality is into it too. That can certainly be your inspiration, but remember the goal is to create lifestyle changes, not temporary changes. If you’re committed to being your best self, being in tune with your body, your mind, & your spirit, then it’s time you start your own self-care journey.
As a part of my own personal self-care journey, I started a hashtag on my social media accounts called #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday. It’s often hard for people to take the necessary time to take care of themselves, & honestly, I still struggle sometimes. I’ve talked about the importance of taking care of yourSELF in a previous post, you can read it here. So on Tuesdays I am encouraging my social media friends to be intentional about taking some “self time” & doing something that will make themselves feel good. Once you start with at least one thing, once a week, you’ll look up & be doing something to take care of you every day.
Taking care of yourself is different for everyone, but there are some staple practices that you can implement in your journey. I’m going to share 4 of my favorite self-care practices, in no particular order, as a source of inspiration. They are:
So what is meditation, exactly? There are many myths and misconceptions about meditation, especially in the African-American community. People tend to be skeptical about practicing meditation, & honestly, I’ve experienced some opposition of the practice in my own personal relationships. So the first piece of advice I can share is: do your research. Learn about meditation and the practice before automatically refusing to give it a try. Meditation exists in different forms & fashions for different people, & there isn’t a strict, right way to meditation (despite what some people may tell you). You have to find what practice works for you, at the point you are currently at in your own journey. I also suggest starting in small time increments. When I first began meditating, 10 minutes was way too long for me–I had difficulty getting my mind to be “quiet”, & I struggled sitting still for 10 minutes straight. After doing some reading & research, I decided to start small, & work my way up. I started with 3 minute meditation sessions, & I am currently at 5 minutes in the morning & at night. The goal is to slow down & find peace–your mind should be calm, silent, & rested, but still alert. Meditation gets you to focus on the present, & turn inward, instead of focusing on the external world. The one thing I can tell you meditation is not, is a religion. Though different religions may practice meditation, meditation is something completely different & you don’t have to sacrifice your religious beliefs to practice it. Again, I encourage you to research & find the best practice for you; there are apps like the Calm, Headspace, or Simple Habit that can be helpful as well. Here’s a great article I read, if you are interested in learning more about meditation.
I meditate every morning, night, & sometimes in the middle of day. As mentioned before, I am currently practicing 5 minute sessions & still working my way back up to a larger amount of time. I also meditate with music, using a playlist that I found on Apple Music. I sit with my back straight, legs crossed, with open palms rested on my legs. This is a position that is comfortable for me, but there are other options to choose from, like moving meditation. During a session, I make sure I breathe & try not to get frustrated if my mind tends to wander. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get, so it is important to stay encouraged & keep working at it. I also recently started a 30 day meditation challenge, with Faith Hunter via DoYouYoga. It’s been a great source of inspiration to see a spiritual, African-American woman who practices meditation (& yoga). The sessions are longer than my 5 minute sessions, but it helps having guided videos to help me along the way.
I love to write & create, as you can see…but there is something that is so therapeutic about journaling. I’m not going to bore you with the many ways journaling can be beneficial to you mentally & emotionally, because I’m sure you already know this. For me, it is a great release being able to put my thoughts & feelings on paper. I can be open & honest, without the fear of having to account for what I’m saying to someone else. I usually sit for about thirty minutes at night & write. That’s it. I sit quietly at my desk & pour out whatever I have held within myself for the day. It helps me address issues & feelings head on, process things, & move on. You can find a cute journal almost anywhere, but I purchased mine from TJMaxx. There are also many journal challenges floating around on social media, if you need writing inspiration. So, grab a pen, sit down, get comfortable, & write.
I keep a separate prayer journal & an additional prayer journal for my future husband (yes, I am still single, but I am praying for the spouse I know God has for me. We can chat about that later though.)
I am also a newbie Yogini. There are so many great resources out there if you want to learn more about the practice of yoga itself. Here’sone that I found to be very helpful. I honestly chose to begin practicing yoga because I thought it would be a great pair with my meditation practice. I also had some superficial reasons, like wanting to be to do a split or a complete forward fold. Over time, as I have started researching & reading about yoga, my intentions behind it have shifted & aligned with my mental health efforts. I also enjoy the physical benefits from practicing yoga, since stress & anxiety carry over into the condition of my body. I recently started a 30 day yoga challenge too, also via DoYouYoga, & I also take classes with one of my favorite professors/people. (Shoutout to her if she’s reading!)
My yoga journey has not been perfect. There are times when I am inconsistent, miss a class/day, forget to breathe while in a session, or get distracted by my flexibility (or sometimes lack thereof). But it’s a journey, not a destination, so I am determined to keep at it. I’m excited to see how I feel emotionally & physically once I finish the 30 Day challenge.
It may sound “childish”, but I love to color. I had no idea when I began tending to my mental health, that one of my favorite childhood activities could serve as a huge benefit mentally. Coloring allows the mind to enter into a meditative state (without having to actually practice meditation), giving the brain time to relax. So if you’re skeptical about actual meditation, give coloring a try. As someone whose brain is constantly in motion, I always need time to give my brain a break. Coloring can also potentially lower stress & anxiety levels, while opening your mind to more positive energy. It’s a great way to calm down and relax. When doing research on how I could make coloring a self-care practice, I came across a great Huffington Post article that discussed the ways coloring can help with different mental & emotional health issues. You can read it here. If you experience anxiety like I do, coloring can be a great practice for you.
I purchased my crayons and coloring book from Target, but you can get them almost anywhere. There are even “adult” coloring books, but I just pick books that look great to me. I usually sit at my desk & color for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Depending on my mood, or what I need from my coloring session, I might play music or listen to a podcast. Otherwise, I limit all other distractions. Not only do you feel relaxed, but you get great pictures to look at as well.
Self-care doesn’t always come with a price tag. I enjoy getting pedicures, massages, etc. but those are not the only ways to practice self-care. Meditation is free, all it takes is your body, mind, & some quiet space. Cleaning your home is also free. There are many other practices that you can do right in your own home that cost nothing–take a nap, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, give yourself a hug, etc.
What are you your self-care practices? I’d love for you to share some of them with me! It’s important that you develop your own self-care routine & tailor it to your needs. These practices may work for me, but they may not work for you & that is okay. Try different things out, see what you like, get rid of what you don’t like. Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself or progress. Remember, its a lifestyle journey. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to new possibilities & experiences–you’d be surprised what your mind (& body) are capable of. Take care of yourself & your mental health!
“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve with an empty vessel.” x Eleanor Brown
“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.
I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.
My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.
So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.
My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.
When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.
My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.
Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be.
Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.
My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.
Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised.
What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way.
To my girLS & baby sisters, I’m affectionately known as the Block Queen, lol. But what started out as a joke between sisters, has actually turned into a self-care habit.
Now that we are coming to the end of 2016, it is time that we do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to make sure that we are in the best possible position to have a positive start in 2017. In order to do that, we need to cleanse our minds, our souls, our bodies, etc. & get rid of the baggage we have been holding onto & toting around, both literally & figuratively.
It seems as if 2016 was not the best year for a lot of people–it was tough & full of a lot of life lessons & experiences. I am constantly seeing posts on my FB feed from friends & associates confessing that 2016 is a chapter they are ready to close. I believe a part of the problem is that we are holding onto things that God is trying to pry from our hands. Even if 2016 was a great year for you, you can still do some “End of the Year Cleaning” to open the door for even more blessings in the new year. Let’s get started.
So, how can we get our minds & souls right? The first step is to assess what we are feeding our minds & what we are feeding our souls. What are we choosing to actively place in our life? The easiest thing to do is look at the people you are surrounding yourself with. What does your tribe look like? Are you surrounding yourself with people who are uplifting you, encouraging you, inspiring you? Are your relationships healthy & growing? If you are unhappy with your circle, it is time to make some changes. That’s where the “blocking” comes in.
So, we all know what this concept of “blocking” is. You can now easily block people via an option on your iPhone, on Instagram, Facebook, etc. It’s simple. Start with your phone’s address book & scroll through your contacts. You may not actually have to block anyone, but I’m sure there are contacts that you need to delete. People you can’t remember meeting, people you don’t talk to at all, exes, people you drunk text or “emotional” text, just to name a few. Next, open your messages & scroll through those–delete those text messages from your ex from 2015, delete that argument you had with a virtual thug that was a complete waste of time. Swipe, delete, delete, delete.
The next step is to assess what you are viewing, primarily on social media. Who are you following? What do you spend your time reading? What (or who) are you keeping up with? Ask yourself, “does this serve a purpose in my life?”. You know what is serving a purpose & what isn’t. Be honest with yourself. Sit down, look at the things that are going on in your life–good & bad–decide what you want to keep & what you want to remove. Being in a generation that is completely obsessed & attached to our phones, it is important that we are welcoming positive vibes through those digital sources. If you spend a lot of time on social media, or on your phone period, & find yourself wasting hours keeping up with people or things you have no business being concerned about…then we might have a problem. You know what to do, start unfollowing & unfriending!
Being a Block Queen (or King) is not saying that you should just block people left & right–it is saying that you are strong enough to remove unnecessary people & things from your life without feeling guilty about doing so. For example, if there is a person you just don’t vibe with, & their presence on your TL, in your life, & overall atmosphere just annoys you or creates a cloud of negativity–you need to remove that person. Completely. If there’s a person floating around that you know means you harm & is only around to keep up with you & what you’re doing, block them. That person doesn’t care about you, they only care about what they know about you. The whole “I want you to see this glow up” mentality is honestly not practical. That thought process is more concerned with the other person rather than the person you should be concerned with–you.
There must be a balance to this process, though. I am not suggesting that you treat everyone as if they are disposable–people are not disposable. Don’t be quick to cut people off because they have offended you or posted something you don’t like. You don’t block people just for the fun of it or in a state of temporary anger. I’ve been guilty of unwarranted block sprees, & it is something that I am actively trying to work on. The point is to remove the toxicity, not to temporarily ignore a person & then follow them or contact them 30 minutes later.
Do you have an inner Block Queen (or King)? Get the digital detox process going. You can do this once a month, but if you feel like that is excessive, then start with doing it in December & again in six months. Take the cleansing process even further & go through your material things–your closet, your hair products, your pantry, etc. Get rid of the baggage & make room for the abundance of blessings God has for you in 2017.
“I’ve carried unworthy people on my back for years…Nowadays, I pack light.” x Ebony Cherrelle
I have struggled with my confidence, both physically & internally, for as long as I can remember.
As my readers know, when I was a little girl in elementary school, I was teased because my lips are big. I would be called names & made fun of & cry. The only person who took up for me was my first grade teacher–she told my peers that people paid to get lips like mine, that my lips were sexy, & that they needed to stop talking about me. Because I didn’t feel pretty, I was awkward & self-conscious. Then, over time, the teasing became focused on my weight. I have always been “skinny”, but people never seem to be able to accept that. I’ve been asked if I’m hungry, if I even eat, people offer me food, etc. I’ve even been told that if I turn sideways, I will be invisible. Picture that.
I’ve always been the “odd ball out”. I was never super popular in school (honestly, most people didn’t even like me). I wasn’t class president or one of the people picked for class superlatives, & always felt like I was sitting on the sidelines when it came to other people. I constantly got passed over for things & always felt like I was alone. I was insecure, shy, & reserved. I began to think there was something wrong with me. I began to think that my personality wasn’t “right”…so I put up a wall & changed things about myself to try to fit in with those around me.
My low-self esteem both mentally & physically transpired into all areas of my life. I’m blessed that this battle rarely showed itself to other people, it was mostly something I dealt with on my own. So over time I began to make some changes to be happier with me, & I learned something along the way.
I am fearfully & wonderfully made, & God created me the way He intended me to be. He took his time when He created me, & because of that I am a fan of His work.
In order for me to see a positive change in my confidence, I had to look inwardly at myself first. Although I knew I had some insecurities with my physical appearance, I knew that these insecurities had a lot to do with my mind & the things I thought about myself. I had let what other people said about me change how I felt about Anaston. I worked on things that I knew I needed to work on within myself–mainly my attitude. Once I began to do the work on the inside, it was easier for me to work on the outside.
I had to realize that the only person who has to be okay with my physical appearance is me. I have the features I am supposed to have, & I am the size I am supposed to be. I have always been healthy, & food has never been an issue for me. I’ve realized that people will always have negative or rude comments about my size, but because I am okay with it now their comments do not affect me. I decided that I have a “goal” weight, & I am on the track to achieve that in a healthy way that works for me; however, If I stay this size for the rest of my life, that’s okay as long as I am healthy.
I’ve also decided that in 2018 I will no longer entertain comments about my weight. I am going to start telling people that I do not appreciate their opinion & ask them to keep those comments to themselves. I am even willing to take it a step further & say the opposite of what people say to me. Maybe if I repeat their comments to them, they will see how hurtful it can be. (I doubt I actually do this, but there are times I wish I could._
It is also important to realize that we all have our own personal weight struggles & there is something about us that others desire to have. It is often the things we want to change that another person would be grateful for.
Do you struggle with your confidence? Accept yourself first, exactly as who you are right now in this moment. Look at yourself in the mirror & affirm that you are beautiful. If there are things about your physical appearance that you don’t like, set goals for yourself. What can you change? Is it worth the change? Who are you trying to please? Once you can answer these questions, you can begin the work that you need to do. Be content with the progress, you won’t feel 100% confident every single day, it is a process (one that I am still working on). The important thing is to not let your insecurities take control. Be active in the work that you do, step out of your comfort zone & you will see the positive changes you desire. For example, if you don’t like looking at your reflection, put up mirrors all over your living space. Not only will you have fun decorating, but you’ll learn to be comfortable with yourself. I have mirrors everywhere, not because I am vain or narcissistic, but because I remember a time when I didn’t like who looked back at me. Now that I love her, I want to see her all the time.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
“When you are comfortable in your own skin, you are beautiful…Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing who you are.” x Anonymous
Lately, the concept of forgiveness has been just about everywhere in my atmosphere. I’ve read other blog posts about it, my pastor preached about it, my YouTube faves have recorded videos on it, etc. So I took all of this as a sign that I need to sit down & do some real forgiving in my own personal life.
Well, what does it mean to forgive? According to Google it means:
“To stop feeling angry or resentful towards someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”
I think it was in July when I purchased 21 Days of Forgiveness by Iyanla Vanzant & decided to embark on my “forgiveness journey”. Fast forward to September, & I had only completed 1 day of the 21 days. So at the beginning of the month, I decided to restart the book & begin my journey anew.
My intentions this time are much clearer than they were the first. This time, I’m actually being intentional about forgiving people (& myself), & I’m more willing to put forth the work to do so. I owe that to my growing relationship with God & my desire to be open to all that He has to offer.
So I had to ask myself why is this forgiveness journey important to me.
The first thing I realized was that if I want to be forgiven for my sins & the things I have done to other people, I first need to forgive people myself. I can’t expect God to forgive me if I’m harboring ill feelings & holding grudges toward people around me.
Forgiving people is healthy–when you forgive people, you release a lot of negative energy. Forgiving people heals mental & spiritual wounds & brings peace into your life.
Starting on this forgiveness journey made me realize that I was carrying a lot of baggage around, & I didn’t even realize it. I also didn’t realize how hard it is to truly forgive people. I think sometimes we say we forgive a person but still carry around feelings or resentment. But when you forgive a person you have to let all of that go & move on. It takes time, & for me isn’t something that I could do just in one moment. So I have taken a pause in the 21 Days of Forgiveness to really focus on the areas of forgiving that I assessed in the first few days.
I decided to make a list of people who I felt that I was holding a grudge against. Some of those people I reached out to, to apologize for my part in the demise of our relationship, & some people I had to just work through issues with on my own. It was a huge relief that I was able to rekindle friendships with two women I really cared about. Both of them were very good to me during the time right after my Granny passed, & I was in such a negative place emotionally, that I wasn’t open to receive the love they were giving in their own ways. Thankfully, after the dust settled, I was able to recognize this & make some much needed amends.
Working through these relationships also caused me to learn how to forgive myself. I’m human, & I make mistakes. Sometimes I do or say things that I am not proud of–these things happen…& when they do, I have to be willing to forgive myself so that I can continue to grow and mature. Forgiving myself is not always easy, because it means that I have to admit that I was wrong, which is not always comfortable.
Do you need to start your own forgiveness journey? First start with forgiving yourself. Forgive your mind & your body. Once you have forgiven yourself, you can begin to start to forgive other people. Ask yourself if there are people in your life that you are holding grudges against. Make a list of those people & see if there are any relationships that are worth salvaging, & reach out to those people. This is not an invitation to open a bunch of closed doors, but it is important to make sure you don’t have any negative ties out in the world. Everyone deserves forgiveness even those people who have wronged us in the worst ways. Forgiveness takes time, but you have to make sure that you truly forgive. You can’t half forgive someone, it’s all or nothing. Once you start forgiving yourself & other people, you open up room for so much more positivity in your life.
“Holding onto a grudge doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you bitter. Forgiving doesn’t make you weak, it sets you free.” x Anonymous
So this concept of “star player” came from a Katt Williams stand-up skit from the 2008 It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour (I believe). Basically its like everyone around you (I use “everyone” loosely) is on your team & you are the star player. You should watch the skit, its quite funny. I like the concept, even though how I am using it isn’t 100% the same as what he is talking about.
On sports teams aren’t the star players well taken care of? Of course! The MVPs of the team pretty much get what they want. They get the best treatment & all the perks. So as the star player, you must take care of yourself the same way. Give yourself what you want & the treatment you deserve! Have all the perks! You can’t spend all of your time focusing on the people around you, making sure they are taken care of & happy, etc. If you do, you leave nothing left for yourself.
This summer has been a journey for me to get back to focusing on myself after spending my adult life taking care of/primarily worrying about other people. My main focus, for as long as I can remember, was my Granny. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about her, her health, & how things were at home. A lot of the decisions I made were also made with her in mind. I didn’t ever want to be too far away that I couldn’t go home & see her regularly. In March of this year, my Granny passed away. Her physical absence left me with these feelings of “what do I do now?” & “who do I worry about now”. I was forced to turn my attention back to Anaston.
A part of getting back to focusing on myself was figuring out how to actually take care of myself–physically & emotionally, & spiritually. I had to figure out things I liked/didn’t like, what I liked to do in my spare time, & my goals that weren’t tailored to my family life, etc.
So how do I take care of me? Here’s a list of some of my self-care practices, some of which were mentioned in my previous post about anxiety.
I go to church & pray often.
I walk everyday (or at least try to).
I get (or at least try to get) a massage once a month.
I make sure I am eating enough & drinking enough water.
I take at least thirty minutes a day for just myself everyday, free of outside distractions.
I try to do something fun every week.
I try to go to a new place in Savannah once a month.
I listen to music again.
Honestly, I believe going to church & really paying attention to my relationship with God has made a huge difference in my life. My spirit feels lighter, & I find that I am more at peace than I have been in a while. There’s something about being in a good church home that just makes me feel good.
Mostly I try to pay attention to me more, & I don’t apologize for it. When I make decisions I think about me first & how the decisions will affect my life before I consider how it will affect someone else. I am excited about learning new things about myself, & I am open to all of the growth that I am experiencing. I accept Anaston in the place that she’s in now, & look forward to the woman she will grow to be. I speak positively to myself & of myself. I’m focused on how I feel about me & how God feels about me.
My Granny isn’t here physically, but she’s with me spiritually. Knowing that means she is still a part of everything I do, & because I know she’s in a place where she is more than taken care of, I find peace in taking care of me now too. I even try to enjoy some of the activities or practices that made her happy–it makes me feel like she’s here with me.
Do you treat yourself well? If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to function the way you want to in the other areas of your life. Start figuring out what makes you happy. Make a list of the things that you like to do, & make sure you do at least one of those things a month. Make sure that every day you have time to yourself. If it is challenging for you to find time to be intentional about your self-care, try participating in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement. Every Tuesday, challenge yourself to do at least one thing for you. One thing that will make you happy & feel good. If you don’t take care of your “star player”, your team will inevitably suffer. You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself, first.
“Don’t just be good to others, be good to yourself too.”
In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.
Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.
So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:
“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”
I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.
Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my own mind.
I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life.
Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me.
Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey.
I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot.
Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV