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.




Resting at the end of a Decade: a 2019 Reflection

This last post of the year is a quick review of 2019. Normally, I do a post summarizing each “slice” of my “life’s pie” but I’m switching things up a bit to end this decade.

For the past couple of years since I’ve started sharing my annual reflections, I’ve based them off what I write out in my slighted tweaked version of a planning system I use called the Life in a Notebook annual planning system. I’ve never actually shared what the system looks like, so I’ll do that this time just in case you’d like to try it out versus buying one of those super expensive planners. (Nothing against the planners, they are quite awesome, but just not for me.)

Anyhoo, here’s a bit on how I plan… I usually have a word and/or theme for the year that gives me a focal point for all the desires, intentions, commitments and goals I set. 

How do I come up with the word/theme? Believe it or not they often come to me in a dream state. When they don’t hit me via a dream, they pop up like an image in my mind after I practice some form of contemplative spirituality. The point? Be still, release the mental chatter, and listen to your inner wisdom.

My word for 2019 was “Fulfilled” and my personal theme was “Rest in the Gift of Love” thus it ended the sequence of themes I dreamt up back in 2015 around an overarching theme of Transformative Love. (You can read the archives about that.)

After I have my word/theme, I proceed to write out what I believe is my underlying Desire + the Projects, Goals, and Commitments I believe will help me realize my desire for the year. I center them around 6 slices of life: Spiritual, Personal, Physical, Social, Professional, and Financial. 

Here’s an example:

At the top of the Notebook Page I write the words

“Desire + Projects, Goals, and Commitments” | 2019

Under that, I write the slice (C.J. calls it “category”) and a brief description of that slice.

“Physical Slice” [health, nutrition, work environment around me, personal decor, etc.]

Then I write my desire

“To be optimally healthy”

Then, under that I list project, goals, and commitments following the life in a notebook instructions, (no more than 25 items under each slice). I typically write no more than 10 at a time.

“1. Kendo practice 3-4xs a month”

“2. Be sure to take Vitamin D as prescribed 5x’s a week”

I write different levels of goals. 1) Goals I feel are pretty achievable 2) Goals I feel that stretch me a bit, and 3) Goals that are big and scary that I kinda don’t think I will really achieve in a year, but believe are worth my effort because in my striving for them, I will end up with something great. Looking back, I haven’t been disappointed with those results yet. For instance, for every year that I had set a big scary goal to “drive up to Canada and take fun detours along the way” I didn’t think my detours would be a trip to Chiapas, Mexico or a pilgrimage to Avila, Spain, but that’s where I landed. And I still haven’t made it to Canada yet! (Oh, but those detours were awesome!) 

I can tell you upfront and honestly, I often end up scraping stuff when I really feel they aren’t in alignment with my word/theme for the year. 

For instance, after attempting Kendo for a few months, I eventually had to let it go. The problem of my lack of adequate hydration, arthritis, and frequent knee re-injuries let me know my goals needed to be centered on making a concerted effort to drink more water, (a struggle for me that I still haven’t gotten my act together with) and doing exercise that strengthened my joints. I also felt a lot of internal conflict around sticking with something that gave me more anxiety than it eased it – Kendo/Iaido was a bit too expensive for my allocated budget allowance. So while I liked the idea of being a modern day sword carrying warrior, healthy peace advocate is more my forte. 

I can also tell you upfront and honestly, I often still end up accomplishing exactly what I needed for the year. This year, I needed rest…

I’ve decided to share one of my journal entries with you, perhaps something I wrote resonates-take what you need, leave the rest. 

“And then I look up at my whiteboard and remember my theme -ever present this year. “Rest in the Gift of Love” it reads. I needed to rest because I needed to take a step back and understand what truly fulfills me. I needed to determine if I was already feeling fulfilled…Was I answering the call on my life? Was I working on what Lynette’s ego wanted or was I following the voice of Spirit? I looked at all of my busy-ness, said “umm” at all of the goals I’d written, reviewed old journal entries, reread all of my personality test results and finally…finally just got quiet and still. Something was “off”. I was sidestepping something important, but wasn’t sure what it was.” 

“Then the words hit me, ‘go deeper’.”

“On the surface I can unabashedly say that spirituality is my foundation. But I often interpret my relationship to what we call G-d with the works I must do. Love is an action word after all. And I understand G-d as Love. So, do more acts of love, right? But in our charging forward, without a tug on our heart strings, or a gentle reminder to silence our distractions, we forget why we do what we do. At the core of our struggle for justice is the hope for the peace of simplicity. We’re so busy doing and fighting that we forget that we just want to “be”.”

“In my “being-ness” I sit on the open patio floor, dangle my legs over the edge, look at the forest before me and I breathed. At the alter of stillness, of “is-ness”, I let go of all of my thoughts, worries, and constant questions. I tasted the tears of sweet surrender, touched the richness of the earth for grounding, and listened to the wind and streams sing praises of aliveness. I caressed my face to feel the truth, that I was real and I was whole. I needed nothing because I had everything. And in my heart resided the company of an old friend, sitting with me as we sipped honey flavored tea together. Neither of us saying a word.”

The more I pursued moments like that, the more I realized what fulfilled me, and it wasn’t dressed in accolades. I wanted to love my Higher Power with all of my heart, soul, mind, and might. I wanted to embody the nature, which I have come to understand as Infinite Love. I wanted to become a conduit of the gifts that Love has given me. 

I needed to rest to remember that. Now I can show up and be present to a new decade of life, well-rested and carrying the gift of love and all of the work of transformative love with me. 

May you too carry with you the many lessons you have received, great and small. And may you remember to center down so that you accept the gift of Infinite Love always with you, guiding you, calling you to be free. 

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.




At The Crossroads of Identity

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audrey Lourde

We’re given identity markers from the start. At the time of our birth, our sex is assigned and race is declared. If the nurses thought well of your mother and father, then you are deemed to come from a good home. In school, you’re given more labels, and depending on the biases of the teachers and administration team, those labels either lift you up or begin the dehumanization process of “othering”. 

This is why when I first heard about Minority Mental Health month, I didn’t question the need for it. I didn’t have to look for stats to prove its necessity or relevance. I understood the value of promoting care and healing for the “minority”. I understood the necessary work we’d have to do in order to deprogram all the lies, all the biases, all the projections of fear and hatred brought down upon us and regurgitated back amongst each other. And in the process of rewriting the negative messages playing on repeat in our individual and collective minds is a call to search for subjective truth and meaning in our lives.

As information becomes more and more abundant and widely available, we are exposed to new words and new ways of explaining and expressing who we are, what we think, what we ruminate on, how we feel, where we hope to go, what we see and “vibe” when we interact with each other and the world at large. At times, it’s overwhelming. For some, it’s relieving, for others, confirmation and validation. As we discover more aspects of ourselves and learn yet another expression of our uniqueness and individuality, we yearn to connect with others like us, folk who “get us” and foster a sense of “home” and belonging. 

But what happens when you feel a deep sense of “home” displacement? What happens when you feel alien in your own identity? What happens when your ideals about the self and self-hood come into contact with unwanted and undesired change?

Based off of what I have been witnessing and in my own experience, I’d say the one manifestation of the emptiness felt from lack of fulfillment is a deep fear and desire for someone or something to fill in the gap by giving answers and peace of mind. Even if only a temporary solution to escape the unexpressed and not fully understood feelings of something missing, we want it. We drive almost obsessively on the outside of ourselves for something solid, something genuine, some sort of steady ground. 

Can the horoscope reveal what’s next for me? How about the priest, pastor, rabbi, or guru? Maybe the official representative we’ve given a platform and podium to? We thirst and hunger to quench what’s not easily sated…our need for comfort, familiarity, justification, affirmation, “place” in our own skin, in our vocations, amongst our families, in our society, in the unpredictable and sometimes scary world comprised of people who aren’t like us, people who don’t fit the bill of our comfort zones.

I’ve often wondered why would we, born with free-will (so we’ve been told) continue to demand the captivity of the boxes placed at our feet the moment of our births? Why give someone else of the very same species dominion and even permission to silence the diversity and beauty of our unique expressions of essence and existence? Even as I continue to battle with myself against settling in my own complacency.

And everytime we give up on the courage it takes to take a stand and say, “this is who and what I am” “I define me” “these are my values regardless of the label” we draw nearer to giving away our power and experiencing the slow fade of becoming an embodiment of everything we fear the most. 

*Cues Nina Simone*

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.