Growing Through The Changing Seasons of Life

I must admit I didn’t think it would take me this long to adjust to grad school. Since I’ve been wearing different hats and juggling multicolored bowling pins as a micro-business owner for so long, I figured what’s one more hat and one more magical act to add to the performance of, “Look how well I’m keeping it together! So amazing!” Now, let me tell you, I’m a Virgo, and with Meyers Briggs testing, I come up as a P or a J depending on my mood that day. Most of the time, when it comes to careful decision making, I lean towards J. I say that to say I’m a planner. I did some research ya’ll!

I reached out and spoke with current and recent grad seminarians, I did mental exercises on all the reasons I should and shouldn’t, (I drove myself nutter butters in the process) and I casually observed the habits of my bestie who happened to be a mother and a full-time employee with chronic illness, balance all that was her life while getting her doctorate in nursing. She and so many other women gave me all kinds of inspiration and motivation. I even wrote out a schedule of my daily activities after slowing down enough to track and document what I did for a week. I anticipated that I’d need a little more pep in my step beyond my mental health peer support groups and sought out a new therapist. I was ready! And then…life happened. Sound familiar?

COVID, increase in eating, insomnia, navigating restless and uncertainty, and it’s the political version of American Gladiator season too. Living with my more vulnerable dear ones had translated into me taking physical distancing to the 1000th degree. Then, when opportunities to feel like I was contributing to the movement more than I had been, came up, like a good codependent, I jumped in. 

Helping others is a great distraction to keep from dealing with yourself. I’m looking at you; fellow wounded healers. 

Grief builds up in the body, lingering around like residue

struggling to subdue the rising feelings of overwhelm 

and underwhelm at once. What a fragmented world,

for the fragmented souls we’ve become.

And so school, and unprocessed grief, awareness but not much relief. Committee meetings, papers, and colleagues wondering, “Annie, are you okay?”

Thank goodness for the tools of recovery

You know, I get that people want to teach courses about resilience. When you learn something, and you have the heart to reduce suffering in the world, it’s what you do. However, and I could be way off base, resilience is one of those life lessons that truly come from the school of the hard-knock life. It’s one of those degree requirements you don’t want to take but is well earned. And you’re fully aware that you’ll have to take continuing ed refreshers for the rest of your life to maintain it.

There are no shortcuts, not for these kinds of tests. It’s mostly trial by fire, and you learn to get forged in such a way that you’re better equipped for what life will teach you on another rainy day.

As for me? I’m wearing the protective gear of a consistent prayer warrior now. And in the quiet of the night, before the sunbeams tickle my eyelids, when no coach, counselor, friend, strategist, or another well-meaning person can reach me via phone or Zoom, I can breathe again and let the seeds of wisdom take root. I can stop chasing my shine and not feel awful about how unproductive I’m being or how smart I sound when the camera is on. This stillness, this silence, this sacred pause is what is needed. 

It’s what I need. And it has nothing to do with being introverted or an Enneagram 5 or whatever my desperate need to make sense out of the paradox that is life has me tinkering with at the moment. 

And I must confess, it sure does take me a long time to come back home to myself. 

But, I do know the way home.  

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

The Night View for Such a Time As This

“Upon the night view of the world, a day view must follow.” Howard Thurman references this ancient insight in his book, “The Inward Journey”. “For such a time as this” is a reference to the book of Esther.

I’ve been waiting for a strong emotion to wash over me. But so far, I guess I’ve not processed my emotions or I’m still processing. It could be that I’m processing so fast that all that is left is for me to contribute to the movement by being present and doing what I have the capacity to do, or perhaps, maybe I’m just numb. Maybe both strong and numb, at least that was my response to someone’s either/or question. I often imagine freedom fighters and justice advocates who have been doing this work, repeating the same words, marching these streets, taking their knees, asking for things like equity and fair treatment, sometimes for unity and collaboration, other times just to breath easy…see with their own eyes as they get painted as instigators and dividers, and dehumanized in the name of maintaining status quo…I imagine they wake up to see all of this performative allyship (learn new terms everyday) and debate whether the bandaid wins that result from it will actually be the step closer to real policy change they aren’t distracted away from.

On Cookies vs. Going Naked

For my own sanity, as I wait for the cool wave of reality, (and the strong emotion I’m anticipating) to wash over me… no, I’m not giving out participation awards for being decent human beings. I liken it to when a grown man who has finally drained all of the resources of freely given generosity to the point of codependency and enabling behavior that has transformed over time into entitlement leaves his mama’s house, finally gets a job, and pays his bills, then goes on Facebook to ask for everyone to give him a cookie for adulting. Nope, there’ll be no cookies over here. I come from the field of social work and social services, this ain’t new to me. This ain’t new to agents of change at all.  As many people who come from these lines of work know, we have to take the good, bad, and darn right ugly of humanity as it is and not as we would idealize it. We have often done and continue to do thankless work for crap pay/no pay and the deep seated hope that the effort of planting seeds will bear good fruit one day. And still, we do the work anyway! We do it behind the scenes, we do it while the rest of the world sleeps. We do it naked, vulnerable and exposed, with our whole being-ness on the frontlines, backdoors, sidebars, and ad-libs.

On the shoulders of the ones who came before us

We bring our joy, our pain, our anxious thoughts, our worries, our prayers, our dreams, the experience of existing in our flesh with hand-me down labels, and with the labels we claim and the boxes we fight to not get placed in, with trauma trapped in our souls regurgitated to our children and our children’s children all in hopes of a deep healing that crosses dimensions of time.

On being while doing

And what feels like suddenly, (but of course, I recognize and understand the build up of burnout residue) a colleague and fellow mental health advocate shut down their business and started deleting social media accounts and I am worried and feeling completely useless.

And just a short while ago, I celebrated 12 step recovery quietly with some cake from a local bakery. A young lady comes out to the parking lot where there’s a space between each car and puts the cake in the trunk while wearing a mask and plastic gloves. She smiles with her eyes as she sees me in my mask and also wearing plastic gloves (‘cause I’m paranoid and stuff) waving cheerfully at her for doing what she does…ok, yeah I was also excited about the prospect of eating my cake.

And then the other day, in one of my peer support groups, I vented my anxiety about the risk factors involved with getting on a plane coming from Jersey vs maybe renting a car and driving west with all my identity factors on full display to a restless nation just to get to seminary and start my grad school education.

And the day after that, I had a call with my spiritual director. I rambled on and on about my own internal affliction with being called to walk the Path of Love but feeling unworthy and ill-equipped… and it sort of had nothing to do at all with the happenings around the world and yet perhaps it did, but even if it didn’t, I decided that I was allowed to have that moment in this movement too.

 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Donations welcomed and appreciated: This site is ads-free and runs on the sheer power of my love and determination. If what I share brings you fresh perspective, inspiration, new resources, and/or value of any kind, please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a monetary donation.




In Our Rest, We Come Alive

I think it’d be a travesty if I didn’t have somewhere in my archives, a record of a reference to COVID-19. That in the year 2020, a time I once imagined we’d have flying cars, Rosey the Robot, and the full confidence of knowing exactly how to use those blasted three seashells that replaced toilet paper, we instead have a virus pandemic that has put the world as we knew it on a collective pause.

Technology is here to stay

However, there is at least one piece of technology we’ve managed to invent, the video calls! There’s probably more, but this video conferencing software has been made available for mass consumption and we are indeed utilizing this technology like never before. I never would have imagined that video conferencing would be the technological advantage that ensured physical distancing didn’t actually translate into social distancing. I never would have imagined that organizations that have been so insistent on being inaccessible to the most needy of us have made themselves and their services available via these technologies in order to save their existence. It let me know, that “we” of course were right about our proclamations of inequity. And I have a feeling that just as we’ve historically done, for the cooling down and soothing of egos, we’d better be prepared for massive gaslighting and some rug sweeping of history. It is absolutely no coincidence how too many people have conveniently forgot about “Black Wallstreet” and the bombing in Philadelphia…

But here we are, Zoom and HousePartying our way to social connectivity while “sheltering in place”. Because so many organizations and businesses have made these technologies staples to keep afloat, this introvert has been very social. More social than I was when I gladly stayed at home and didn’t need an executive order or recommendation to do so. The extroverts have managed to infiltrate our online paradise and exploit it. There’s pollution all over the online airways now! (Kidding guys!) But seriously, with everything happening amidst this pandemic, my anxiety is doing Grace’s “told ya so” dance. It has transformed from “could happen” and “what if” to “how long does this linger on the mail?” and “The Matrix will have you! The Matrix is Coming!”. My middle name should be Ms.Bleach, and it’s not in reference to the anime series, (which by the way, is AWESOME!). Mr. Clean ain’t got nothing on me!

Our Interior Castle Awaits

Yet, in spite of myself, my lack of control has forced me to really sit with the words of the serenity prayer. Made me contemplate the full depth of asking for serenity to accept what cannot be changed. Made me strum up the courage despite my anxiety to change what could and should be changed, and with great hesitation and a bit of trepidation, surrender to a deeper knowing and wisdom to know the one from the other. I have never prayed for the global healing of the world as much as I have to date. My mental health and healing learning have become more focused, (thanks accessibility!) my determination to slow down and actually understand the wisdom teachings rather than try to meet a goal of reading X amount of books a year just to say I read them, has strengthened as well.

I began to wonder if it was no coincidence that my theme last year was “Rest”. Perhaps we have been given an opportunity to recognize our collective yearning for intentional pause? Perhaps together and individually we are tired, our hearts are weary, our minds are idle, and we’ve been running on “E” for so long that we have become uncomfortable with any kind of break away or cessation from a rat race we complain about, but have convinced ourselves is an impenetrable, immutable fact of life. We’ve been teased with a dangling carrot and it seems that some of us have finally realized that chasing it, whatever “it” is, has been the equivalent of a dog chasing its own tail.

So, where do we go from here? I suppose, only time will tell. But if you ask me, we’ve been given an opportunity to collectively witness, “a kind of love that neither avoids nor invades the soul’s suffering” (Parker Palmer). I’m hoping this tremendous loss engenders a greater respect for everyone’s being rather than just our doing. I believe that tired bodies and dry bones do indeed come alive. And that we are experiencing a call to come alive today.

Here’s some Mental Health Resources to aid in that process:

1)Inclusive Therapists: culturally sensitive tele-therapy available.

2)Find a therapist through Psychology Today.

3)Love Yourself Love Your Business offers virtual peer support centering the challenges of small business  owners and solopreneurs.

4)Trauma Response and Crisis Care (TRACC) is offering free community care services for first responders, organizers, activists, and marginalized community members.

5)If you’re in NJ The Starting Point is now offering virtual 12 step meetings and therapy as well as a free lecture series.

6)In The Rooms offers many 12 Step Meetings and a few addiction recovery related resources.

7)Crisis Text Line is a global not-for-profit organization providing free confidential crisis intervention via SMS message.

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Donations welcomed and appreciated: This site is ads-free and runs on the sheer power of my love and determination. If what I share brings you fresh perspective, inspiration, new resources, and/or value of any kind, please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a monetary donation.




On Mental Wellness, Work, Religion, and Balance w/ Tiffany Jenkins, LCADC, LPC







To celebrate Black History Month while cultivating my commitment to mental wellness and self-love on this blog, I invited colleague and mentor, Tiffany Jenkins,LCADC,LPC to help me share some tips on work/life harmony and mental wellness.

Tiffany breaks down the 8 dimensions of wellness. We also discuss making time for self-care in midst of our busy lives. And finally we talk about how Black faith communities and mental health advocates can meet each other half way to save lives.

Tiffany will be giving a virtual workshop about self-care strategies to help prevent burn out. Sign up on the Love Yourself Love Your Business community list to get first to know updates about this workshop.

You can listen to the recording by clicking here.

About Tiffany

Tiffany Jenkins, LCADC CCS LPC is the Chief Executive Officer and Lead Change Agent of Awakening Change Counseling Services, LLC. With over 20 years of experience in the mental health field, Tiffany has developed a unique approach to coaching and counseling that empowers, motivates, and evokes change. She firmly believes in a collaborative approach to therapy and positions herself as not only a therapist, but a coach urging her clients to achieve their goals with love and support.

As a Doctoral Candidate of Organizational Leadership, Tiffany uses her expertise to also provide professional development and executive coaching to corporate clients, teaching them the art of freely giving to others.

As a founding board member of Love Yourself Love Your Business, Tiffany hopes to use her professional training and passion for helping others to help destigmatize mental illness amongst professionals, and be a positive force for change in her local community.

Learn more about Tiffany here: www.awakeningchange.org

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.







Breathe: Getting a Handle On Your Monday Morning Anxiety

anxious thoughts

In the past, I’ve shared that I actually like Mondays. It’s the start of my work week, so I like the idea of a fresh start; the excitement of the week before me is full of hope, and with it, the chance to do better, learn new things, make progress, and grow. 

I wish that’s where I could finish my thoughts about Monday but there’s a flip side to this. Because I also struggle with anxiety, the proceeding thoughts surrounding the idea of being overwhelmed and incapable, often paralyze me to the point of robotic automation which hinders my creative energy, and therefore deters my more natural productivity flow. What I mean is, unless it’s a default habit or a patterned task, I end up analyzing the mess out of stuff. I want to know how stuff works, where there’s connections, how to do something without making mistakes, picking apart and putting back together… (I may have been an engineer in my previous life.) While there is a time for analyzing, too much of it has gotten me stuck in the muck.  

When I became of aware of my tendency to self-sabotage, I was determined to turn it on its head and find the gifts and strength in my personalty traits.

Ease into the day

So, I start by easing into my day with an intentional habit of a morning practice. Yes, it does mean waking up earlier. But your morning practice is determined by you and what works best for mental health and sanity. I know I need breakfast, and I need to journal my thoughts and dreams. It’s something I’ve learned about myself over the years. As I’ve mentioned, my thoughts are all over the place and if I do my version of morning pages, I tend to calm some of the worries by writing them out. By reviewing previous journal entries, I also have proof that I was able to overcome perceived obstacles that at the time I didn’t think I would be able to. 

Write a brain dump list

I pray to my Higher Power and then proceed to write a list of things I’d like to get done for the week. I reference my Life in a Notebook monthly goals and projects. This helps me focus on what’s before me rather than the possibilities of everything that my imagination conjures that causes me fear and paralyzation. If I’m coming into my day grounded, I have less of a chance freaking out about the bajillion emails in my multiple inboxes, the to-do lists I left off on from last week, the new set of meetings I need to have and schedule and the countless follow ups I need to do for myself and my clients. 

Start with small quick wins

The next thing I do is take advantage of my “robot mode”. I always feel better if something is literally crossed off my list. Meaning, I am an old school notepad and pen person. I need to literally write down my to-do list and have the gratification of checking things off. As I explained, robot mode is about default habits and tasks I can do without a 2nd thought (no over analyzing). So, I start with something that is a quick and easy win. Email is usually not a quick and easy win. So, I don’t start with it. If you know that checking that inbox first and opening that one email  (you know the one) will mess your head up for the entire morning, it’s best you work on a few other things first. I’ve found that a lot of people in Western societies operate as if everything about their life is an emergency, and therefore in a sense of trying to have gain control, they will both intentionally and unintentional pull you into their chaos and call it being results oriented. I call it fanning flames. Beware of the raging fire that comes later on! 

Prioritize your tasks

If you want to get things done and still be in integrity with yourself, prioritizing is something you work towards doing and doing as well as possible. There are plenty of great methods for prioritizing, my training at AssistU introduced me to the Eisenhower method. I sucked at it and concluded that I sucked at prioritizing. It wasn’t until I worked one-on-one with my coach that I discovered I mentally prioritize so quickly and instinctually that I didn’t ever realize I had a method to my madness. Now, I’m trying to train myself to slow down enough so I can actually capture and document how I do what I do, so I can optimize my energy and time. Not for the sake of perfection, but for the sake of my peace of mind. I need to prioritize my mental health recovery work and leisurely reading time just as much as I need to prioritize my work habits.

Mindful Expectations

Finally, I readjust my expectations. Things change. I change. Mindful awareness of my personal standards, values and boundaries helps me honor that. In a practical and tangible way, I add and subtract items from my brain dump for the week. I take away items that I compete as well as the items that I know good and full well that I won’t make any effort to complete…due circumstances such as illness or loss of internet from bad weather conditions for instance. I started the new year with the flu so guess where my plans to go out in-person networking went? Trash! As far as adding things, I end up writing down what I tend to forget which are usually micro-movements; the small things that build on the momentum it takes to get a thing done. For instance a micro-movement could be how you organize and keep track of a task. Say for example I complete a task to “follow up with Maya” now my micro-movement is that I need to write a note in my CRM. If I don’t write said note, I won’t remember our conversation or if it ever happened, I will forget about the next steps we agreed upon, and the point of the follow up will be mute. 

By slowing down to breathe, prioritize, and readjust I stand a better chance at not running in to a burning building expecting to put out fires with my hope and determination. My hope instead, is my motivation, and my determination is outlined in my concerted and judicious efforts that ask me to tap into tools and plans that emphasize what is working for me and what is not. The more I know about myself, the more I know how to be proactive about managing my mental health. 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Donations welcomed and appreciated: This site is ads-free and runs on the sheer power of my love and determination. If what I share brings you fresh perspective, inspiration, new resources, and/or value of any kind, please consider becoming a patron of this blog with a monetary donation.