Where are the peonies and wisteria here?
Would they feel safe and welcome to grow and heal here?
Would they see themselves reflected in their teachers faces, wall decorations, and food choices?
Would they be attended to and exposed to the same sun as the others?
How can we bloom when others are missing?
Where are the peonies and wystera?
Why don’t they grow here?
Who decided some flowers don’t belong, don’t deserve, don’t access?
Our ecosystem feeds off of the survival of all flowers.
“The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Experts and anti-racism activists hold a debate at the Human Rights Council on the state of racial discrimination worldwide. Among the participants were Ms. Christiane Taubira, French Minister of Justice and Mr. Doudou Diène, chair person of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
The discussion aimed to explore the root causes of racism and racial discrimination. Experts stressed the essential need to learn the lessons from historical tragedies, in order to combat racism and racial discriminations today.
Watch the video: http://sm.ohchr.org/1GDIfue
In the past I’ve always longed for “intimacy”, deep, meaningful conversations, strangers turned friends. Then why do I suddenly find myself hyper-aware of others’ need to disclose their inner-lives so quickly? Before I’m ready or wondering if they’re ready for what I might share.
I used to feel like people needed to know about my life experiences to know me. I wanted them to see my scars right away so I could feel seen and accepted. Now, I’m being trained in a profession that focuses on intentionality and mindfulness. We must ask ourselves: WHY are you sharing, for WHO are you sharing? These questions along with a stronger sense of self have me thinking twice about sharing and how vulnerable I am with people. I feel more patient with the time it takes to build relationships and earn trust. I feel more guarded in a healthy way, protective of myself. We can’t control how people react to our stories, our disclosures, our wounds, but we CAN control who we share them with.
I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. I know what I’ve been through and those experiences may not be written on my face but they live within me and inform everything I do and everything I am. I never thought I’d say this because I’m a big fan of vulnerability and still love connecting with people through sharing meaningful experiences. Yet, I’m noticing how others choose to share and why. I’m wondering if they feel these experiences define who they are or if they too see that they are SO much more than what’s happened to them. We are so much more than what we’ve been through.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
I have so much to tell the younger me so I’m going to just start now and accept that this might end up in a dozen videos or blog posts until I get it all out. Where Do I Begin?
You are amazing and you don’t have the slightest clue. You have a unique style and often wear things that nobody else would dare to wear. Forget about the one girl who comes up to check the name brand on your awesome, unique shirt. Know that you are courageous for daring to be different in middle school!
I hope you will surround yourself with nice girls who make you smile, NOT cry. I know they exist and it might take some patience and bravery to leave the one’s you’ve been hanging with for awhile. You are independent, and have so much to offer a friend, don’t waste another minute on girls who make you feel less than fabulous. The mean and insecure thing is normal at your age AND it’s also a sign that those individuals are struggling themselves. Try not to take it personally. Don’t change. There isn’t a single person who is just like you! Being sensitive is a gift.
You know you are different and that’s hard to deal with in middle school. You want to fit in and be “normal.” You have a LOT going on in your life right now and I want you to know that you are an inspiration to others. You are dealing with some major trauma and an illness and you are becoming a resilient and wise young lady. I’m proud of you and wish I could give you a hug (every day for the rest of middle school). I love you and am so excited for you to get to high school and start to explore activism and leadership-you won’t believe all the cool things you’re going to experience. Think boyfriends. Think Surviving Bullies Charity. Think Girls Leadership Worldwide. Think Gay-Straight Alliance. Think Field Hockey team. Did I mention you are going to go to a whole bunch of proms!?!
P.S One day you will laugh that you cared about where you were sitting on the bus or in the cafeteria. Nobody cares about that when you leave high school!
I’ve been thinking about grieving since a lot of my clinical surrounds loss and grieving different kinds of relationships. Every day I think about healing and naturally, I think about my own life. Ironically, my ex-boyfriend forwarded me this BuzzFeed article about sadness (I think because of my professional interests, but who knows). The article was written by author, Mac McClelland, of Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story and For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question.
It reminded me about a theme from the Girls Empowerment Group I co-lead: how we don’t learn how to end relationships. We also don’t learn how to be okay with sadness. It seems like our society has deemed emotions around break ups (or “friendship divorce”) only acceptable in the form of pop music. I love this line of her article, “Everybody knows that crying girls are silly and weak. Hysterical, and overdramatic.” I remember how pathetic I felt starting graduate school and being torn up about a guy (forget about the fact that we dated for 5.5 years).
This scene in Bridesmaids perfectly illustrates our discomfort with sadness. Melissa McCarthy slaps Kristen Wiig around and tells her to stop being sad, though she has recently lost her job, her savings, her home, and her best friend. Often times the very same loving people trying to shake the sadness away from us and coach us to stay strong are denying our right to feel sadness, and ultimately, grow and learn from it.
We have so much to learn from loss and grief and I’m only beginning to realize that, because for the first time in my life I’m allowing myself to experience my feelings without trying to make them go away as soon as possible. I refuse to make myself so busy and distracted and fill the void with a new boyfriend or project. I appreciate the sentiment and am certainly not wallowing 7 months later in my misery—but even if I was—it’s about however much time I need to heal. There are no stages of grief, and if you do believe i them, know that there is no set amount of time that a person moves through them. Loss and grief are best described as waves as one of my favorite teachers writes:
“But then, all of a sudden, I’ll be going about my business and a wave of grief will roll in from the depths, crash over me, and drag me back out with it into the deep waters. I welcome the grief waves; I want to feel the hole in the universe; I want to cry and miss her. I know that too soon she’ll be a beautiful and funny memory—my wild little sister who brought everyone so much joy. So I think about her a lot; I pray for dreams and visitations from the other side; and I talk often to her kids and her mate and my other sisters, so as to keep her presence vivid for as long as we can.” Elizabeth Lesser
It’s so tempting to numb, distract, deny our feelings of sadness. Who wants to feel sad?! Yet this allowing of myself to be exactly how I am has taught me the meaning of compassion. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself, kind, and generous. I’ve experienced closeness, gratitude, and joy like I’ve never felt before. As Brene Brown writes, there is a deep connection between the amount of sadness and joy we experience-you can’t numb one without numbing the other. It is actually not possible to build walls up for selective feelings, without building defences against all of them. When we build walls up, it protects us out of fully experiencing ANYTHING, and therefore we are no longer able to fully experience life!
I’ve always been a sensitive and emotional person. I used to cry on the soccer field in middle school when my best friend would trip (which was a lot because she was as aggressive as she was tiny!) Still, I think we are taught from a young age that we should smile for the camera and not dwell in the past. My dad’s coaching on the soccer field echoe these sentiments, “No pain, no gain! Take no prisoners!” I was raised to be tough. As we get older we learn that people like to be around happy, bubbly people not the depressed, introvert.
To be clear, there are different types of sadness, as McClelland writes:
If your sadness comes from seemingly no place or even an obvious place but keeps you from participating in life or enjoying anything and refuses to abate no matter how long you go on letting it express itself, you of course can’t keep living like that.
Maybe if we didn’t live in a culture that shames us for feeling sad for too long, I wouldn’t have been so afraid of my sadness. I thought I might never feel like myself again. It was hard to remember feeling happy. Nothing felt normal and yet I was expected to continue on as if nothing had changed. Everyone else seemed to be going about their lives.
Over the years I’ve gotten better and better with “self-care,” but this experience required more attention and time. Going to the gym, meditating, and calling a friend was not going to be enough-or rather, this wasn’t going to be a “tough week” that I had to make it through. Instead of being patient and gentle with myself, I was judging myself and causing myself more suffering by agonizing over whether or not I should stay in my graduate program. Everyday I felt exhausted by the decision to stay or to go. How on Earth would I decide?
My saving grace was that I reached out for support. I knew I wasn’t thinking clearly and needed guidance. I found a therapist, I sought support from a professor, a Dean, some trusted classmates. I spoke to my cousin and friends on the phone. I let myself be loved and held, because “sometimes we are each other’s wings until we find our own. (Rha Goddess)”
I can’t explain in this coherent essay how I finally healed from my loss because I’m still healing everyday. Actually, some days I don’t think about it at all and this is how I know I’m making “progress”. My feelings are constantly changing and I know as time goes on the pangs of loss will be less frequent and eventually, I will get to a place where I can reminisce with my ex-boyfriend and possibly have a healthy friendship. I knew I was healing when I stopped feeling shame about the fact that I was still sad about the break up. A weight had been lifted and I finally was giving myself permission to feel, to be present with where I was at.
“They say it takes a big man to cry, and I think — unfortunately, given our collective feelings about sadness — that’s true. But it takes a bigger woman still, to feel the strength of a sob, without apology or shame. With pride. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been, the way I let my emotions run, sadness included: the way it cleanses me, tears washing my face, resolving me to continue to feel with abandon.” Thank you Mac McClelland, for the reminder that it’s okay to be sad.
This morning my friend reminded me of the wonderful interview between Krista Tippett and Brene Brown. I relistened to it at the gym (embarrassing? It gets my heart rate up!)
Here are some of my favorite take-aways:
- “Most of us are brave and afraid in the exact same moment, all day long.”
- “When i meet you vulnerability is the first thing I try to find in you and the very last thing I try to show you in me. It’s the glue that holds connection together, it’s all about our common humanity. When we own our stories and share them with one another and we see ourselves reflected back in the stories of people in our lives, we know we are not alone. And to me that’s the heart of whole heartedness.”
- “It’s the long walk from what will people think to I am enough. I think it is recognizing if courage is a value that we hold as important, then vulnerability is the only way in and through.”
- “It starts by an openness to see ourselves and how we are protecting ourself from vulnerability.”
- Standing my ground, valuing my time and contributions, in a negotiation
- Asking someone for a second date. Going on a date. Period.
- Reaching out for support.
- Reaching out for a friend to get her more support.
- Going to a community event by myself and going up to the moderator after to thank her for her comments.
- Asking for help with a new machine at the gym and then responding confidently when the person commented on my “sun tan.”
- Setting boundaries with my ex.
Share your stories with yourself, a friend, or below to honor your strength and encourage others in your life to take some emotional risks!
What I took with me on my journey:
I am a good listener. I am committed to listening to what people are telling me and also what they aren’t. I value being present and making sure those around me feel heard and understood.
I am fearless. I don’t let opportunities pass me by. I reach out to family and strangers alike to see what’s out there and go after new experiences.
I am open-minded. I love trying things and learning whether it’s related to health, people or something I’ve never heard of before. My friends admire my drive to step outside my comfort zone.
I am beautiful.
I am beautiful because of the way I carry myself. My presence. My energy is beautiful. And my smile and my eyes. I am beautiful because of my compassion for all different types of people and the blessings they bring into my life.
I am resilient.
I am resilient because I have to be. I am honest about that which challenges me while remaining optimistic that I’m growing and learning everyday. I show up for hard conversations and raw feelings.
I am brilliant.
I can communicate well with people and express and receive others’ feelings in ways that serve me in my relationships and professional interests. I am ambitious and hard working.
I am dependable.
I give of my time and heart to anyone in need. I get energy from doing for others and letting those I love know how much they mean to me and remind them they can count on me.
I am adventurous.
I travel alone. I couch surf in the US for the sake of meeting interesting people. I make an effort not to order the same food or eat at the same restaurant.
I am inquisitive.
I have an insatiable curiosity for who people are. I seek answers, advice, mentorship all the time.
I am inspiring.
I share my experiences and passion for living authentically and in doing so give others permission to do the same.
I am creative.
I prefer handmade gifts and cards whenever possible. I start things from scratch because I have lots of ideas and passion for creating and building.
I am funny.
I laugh at myself. I mispronounce common words. Sometimes call things by unusual names (i.e grocery carriage instead of grocery cart). I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself playing Taboo, Karaoke, or trying an impossible exercise at the gym.
I am amazing.
I am an amazing woman. An amazing daughter, sister, Aunt. An amazing lover and friend. I amaze myself with my own strength and desire to do good in the world.
I am strong, because I know this.
[Thank you to those who contributed to this piece, you know who you are! Thank you to SR Atchley for additional inspiration http://www.rebellesociety.com/2013/01/02/i-am-beautiful-a-healing-mantra-for-an-open-heart/)