“Work is Love Made Visible” a 2017 Year-end Reflection

This last post of the year is a quick review of the ups and downs and “meh” moments from 2017. It’s a personal reflection, a public display of vulnerability, and most definitely not a “how to review your year and plan for the next” type of post. If you’re looking for that kind of post, check out Rosetta Thurman of HappyBlackWoman.com she has a great guide on it. Personally, I’ve started to use a tweaked version of the Life in a Notebook planning system that my friend C.J. Hayden developed.  I typically do better with a brain-dump of desires for the year, and then writing intentions and goals in 90 day increments.

If you’re still here with me though, my hope is that through my personal experiences and the resources I’ve personally used and will share with you, you gain some clarity, confirmation, new insight and fresh perspective.

As I’ve shared before in previous reviews, I center most of my intentions for the year around 6 areas or slices of life: Spiritual, Personal, Social, Physical, Professional, and Financial. Though I have come to believe that spirituality is the foundation of the pie and “personal religion” is the slice.

This year I didn’t do a notebook system. Instead, I simply wrote a list of desires and intentions and crafted a vision board, (image you see above). I did the vision board with my family because they were new to the concept and wanted to try something different, and quite frankly I wanted to try something different for this year. I’m typically not big on vision boards, but I wanted my board to be of use to me so I hung it on the wall right next to my desk so that it wouldn’t collect dust. I purposely found words and images that were in alignment with the intentions I had already written down for the year and added intentions to my list that came up as I let my imagination run free gluing images to my board. I also 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 for the year.

My word for 2017 was “Work”. It probably doesn’t seem like it’s the most motivating word but when coupled with my personal theme: “Work is Love Made Visible” (Kahlil Gibran) it made great sense.

I have actually had my themes for 2016, 2017, and 2018 since the end of 2015 when I heard a message deep in my heart, “The Work of Transformative Love”. And so this year was about making what I’ve learned about living love out loud visible through my work.

Because my focus was on putting my head down and “making it do what it do” as Ray Charles said, I did not set big lofty goals for too many things. I wanted to be the best of who I already was, I wanted to do better at what I already had the capacity and grit to level up on. I understood that mastery of your gifts and talents requires prioritizing and focus.

So for my Professional slice, I focused on finishing and publishing my book about mental health and entrepreneurship. I focused on rebranding my business beyond the aesthetics of a new website. I prioritized building a practice filled with clients that I would love. The kind of clients who would inspire me to want to be the best I could be so that they in turn could develop as leaders and serve more people. I’ve been challenged all year to try to think of ways in which I could get things done as efficiently as possible, while also being able to help them iron out ideas and develop new ways to do things. It’s nerve wrecking and exhilarating at the same time. I’ve been challenged to improve my own systems and continue to develop and honor my boundaries, to develop my communication style, to increase my skills and efficiency, and to step up as mental health advocate and event organizer to leaders and would be leaders. Because I’m team #alwaysbelearning I’m super excited to be a new student at AssistU come January.

In my Finance slice I was determined to earn the kind of money that sustained my business and gave me room to create, save and giveback. I discovered that I had to give myself permission to earn money that helps me sustain my life. I had to give myself permission to believe I was worthy of earning more than just survival mode money. I realized that many of us who come from social work backgrounds tend to be the self-sacrificing kind. We are so used to giving with our hearts and not receiving much in return that making money comes with some guilt and feeling uncomfortable. I have to work transform that line of thinking even more that I thought I did. I have to work on a new set of beliefs that tell me making money will help me be in a better position to help more people and to give back on a larger scale. This year I wrote out affirmations and repeated mantras such as “I am worthy of taking action toward a better future that brings me wealth in every area of my life” (hey I don’t knock the power of a placebo effect). I started to pay attention to the wealth of resources I’d been introduced to via my clients who are in the personal finance space. I read, actually liked, and began applying what I read in my friend, Emily’s book, End Financial Stress Now: Immediate Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook I shared one of my client’s new personal finance book for single moms with a special single mom in my life (my lil sis) because why not pass the resources on if they help?

With a better grasp on my professional and financial realities I was able to set aside what I needed in order to create a Physical slice that honed in on what was ailing me. I finally made some long overdue doctor appointments, I had to handle the personal crisis of medical shake ups and make new commitments to my health and wellbeing. As I shared in my last post I began to focus on the connection between gut health and mental health, and became more committed to addressing wellness holistically and with compassion.

It is also with compassion that I forgave myself for letting my social slice narrow down to the bare minimum. I didn’t get out much this year. I recognized that I’m the type to isolate and be perfectly happy alone so I made it a priority to attend gatherings to uplift my spirit, and give me shelter from the storms that brew when I sit inside my mind too long. I made sure to attend support groups, as well as help facilitate support groups. I hung with my few good friends and said yes to new experiences as long as they did not distract me from my work of love. But I didn’t do too much outside of my comfort zone. However, I embraced my quirks and fought hard to remain true to my truths and my values even if it felt uncomfortable, even if others couldn’t receive and accept me for me. I learned to love again and I didn’t rely on anything or any one person to give me that kind of power, I held the courage to grow within myself all along.

I realized that foundationally, spiritually, I had my work cut out for me. It’s hard to choose love when there’s so much hate and fear and animosity all around you. This year I’ve seen many friends become enemies, I’ve seen overt calamity and chaos at levels I hadn’t wanted to fully acknowledge before. It left me very disheartened and fighting feelings of hopelessness. However, I am the type that when I really feel resistance I eventually let myself feel it and all of the fear, worry, and angst right along with it. I confront my negative emotions, I make a decision to do what I feel is life-giving even though it’s hard, even though I get angry, discouraged, and disappointed sometimes. Even as I have to acknowledge that I may not be around to see the seeds planted take root and grow. It seems to me that as society swings from one side of the pendulum to another I have to hold fast to my great commission. I have to remain true to who I am and what I’m here for until I can’t anymore. So while I’d acknowledged the many different set of belief systems that weren’t necessarily in alignment with mine as best I could, I fought to transcend anyone’s box or side of the fence they think I should be on. This year has been tons of learning, collaborating, acting and then finding time for restoration and readying myself for activation time again.

When I reflect back about what I’ve written about purpose, these words come to mind: awareness, acknowledgment and experimentation, courage, mastery, and embodiment. There’s more but I’ll leave it here for now.

As I head into 2018, I hope to take with me the many lessons I’ve learned about taking a concerted effort for love in action and continue to apply it in practice and policy. I hope to take what I’ve learned about exertion rather than apathy and explore creative ways to live awake as much as possible, to be a part of helping others live awake as much as possible, and always staying focused on the message, mission, and ongoing work of love.

Until Next Time…Peace, Love, and Wellness!

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Live Love Out Loud: A 2016 Year in Review Post

This last post of the year is a quick review of the ups and downs and “meh” moments from 2016. It’s a personal reflection, a public display of vulnerability, and most definitely not a “how to review your year and plan for the next” type of post. My hope is that through my personal experiences you gain some new insight and perspective.

glasess and hearts

As I’ve shared before in previous reviews, I center most of my intentions for the year around 6 areas or slices of life: Spiritual, Personal, Social, Physical, Professional, and Financial. Though I have come to believe that spirituality is the foundation of the pie and personal religion is the slice. It’s easier to keep it as is for now.

I also 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 for the year.

My word for 2016 was…actually I had 2 words this year Produce and Manifest

“Manifesting is practically translating your purpose, (purpose being loosely defined as your unique expression of love in the world) into an actionable blueprint for the next phase of life’s work which you are uniquely designed for”.

( I honestly cannot remember how I came up with that definition but I know it’s not my original wording; it simply coincided with my thinking, so I put quotes around it. )

My personal theme was: Live Love Out Loud

At the start of the year I identified that my theme was about my personal experience with love,  and the “out loud” part was about getting my thoughts on paper so to speak.

Throughout the year and by the end of the year I had documented out several guidelines and principles (instead of a “How-to” manual or set agenda)  to express what I was recollecting about love, and living with love as my foundation and personal religious practice.  The guidelines became clear to me as I looked to my intentions for each slice of life.

For instance, in my Social Slice (and as I reflect it touches into personal and spiritual as well)  I focused on relationships with men. One way I addressed this focus was through romantic type relationships. I had set out to get back into the dating scene after a much needed hiatus. I thought I’d find myself in a loving committed relationship, but instead I found great disappointment and yet another learning experience.

While I wanted to blame that disappointment on something (someone) outside of myself, I can only reflect on where shadow resided within myself that still needed to heal.  A major shadow area I had  to take a deeper look at was how I wanted to show up to relationships and most importantly, my perception of who was loveable and by whom.  My ACA/ACOA background planted a lot of negative messages in my head that I hadn’t realized still played on repeat. Choosing to be alone; to avoid relationships would not, and did not address those tapes.  Continuing to devour media that I know is purposely meant to make you feel “not enough” so you can buy something to “fix it” also did not help the situation. While I said I was looking to date, I realized later I was looking to confirm my perception of the dating landscape and how men perceived me as a black woman in an era of “black girl magic” coupled with protests about racial and social injustice.  *hint* It wasn’t a very positive outlook.

Let’s just say the whole dating experience triggered the mess out of me.

However, when I wanted to give up completely on the notion of being loved and shutting down that piece of my heart forever, I found that I couldn’t, because I wasn’t bitter and I also didn’t fully believe my negative perception anymore. The love I’d been researching, practicing, and blogging about actually became graspable by how fast I was able to bounce back from let down after let down.  I began to understand that love was always there for me and all I needed to do was reach within so I could perceive it better when I looked out.

I knew I had a right to be mad, (thanks for the reminder Solange) but still, I found compassion, and forgiveness. I sought to heal specific areas of my psyche that I hadn’t thought to analyze and build up coping skills for. And when I wanted to embrace my deepest fears and stay stuck, I chose love that extended beyond myself for true growth; love that sets healthy boundaries and not because a professional told me to have them but because I believed I was worthy of someone who would respect them and that having healthy boundaries would position me for joyful living. I chose love with standards that were no longer based on learned survival mechanisms from the helplessness of childhood, but the kind you discover when you’re realize the hidden power inside.

And when you are no longer concerned with the uncomfortable you feel about putting yourself and your needs 1st you understand that there is no one on this planet that is worth sacrificing your self-esteem over. I re-learned that people who honored their own boundaries, could honor mines. That people who are loving could act loving because they had it to give in the 1st place. And as I remembered what it felt like to be genuinely loved, and cared for (not simply tolerated, or grudgingly accepted) I began to encounter more and more people who showed me love, care, and respect for my boundaries.

I saw how these concepts translated into my professional slice. And knew I needed to let some things go this year that I could no longer carry with me into the new. One of those things was A & D Media. After “A” left the business to me, I hadn’t felt right about continuing it the way I did. Still I pressed on and did the best I could do to stick to the original plan and mission. We had set out to be a social media marketing firm, but as time went by I felt that a firm or even a small agency was not what I really wanted to run, especially when I had to do it without my business partner. After subcontracting with both an agency and a firm, that feeling was confirmed. So I felt a bit stuck for awhile and stopped actively marketing my business.I hid behind client work, I focused on side projects and ignored what helped make those side projects even possible and in turn I made me miserable.

I could not preach out loving yourself loving your business if I was not loving my own. I knew I’d be making changes and I knew I needed help doing so. I began working with the amazing Anastacia Brice of AssistU. I had met quite a few virtual service providers who had worked with her and I admired their confidence, realness, skills, and fire so I was excited to work with an industry pioneer but most importantly someone who claimed that, “Loving is my calling, my honor, my absolute joy, and at the center of everything I do professionally and personally.”

Throughout the year we worked together on a lot of my mindset issues and began developing and documenting business standards and modes of operating that represented how I could make love visible through my work; through a business that represented my strengths, my personality, my aptitude to learn and grow, and my ready and willingness to embrace and embody my authentic self, it would reflect more in how I showed up in my work practices for my clients.  I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve learned a lot of important foundational things along the way. For one, even though I can and do delegate and even partner up from time to time on special projects, (like mental wellness web series, and mental health healing circles) I’m a solopreneurial type of “preneur” and will be rebranding my business to reflect that in 2017.

Between working with my coach and helping one of my clients set up her amazing free make money your honey makeover challenge,(starting January 9th) I had the courage to take a good hard look at my numbers, not estimates, but the true costs of running a business that is sustainable and profitable. It was a wakeup call that if I wanted to remain in business, a mutually beneficial business, I had to stop allowing others to define the worth of my profession and my role in it.

As I look back over the last 12 months, all of this year felt like a set up and preparation for what was to come next. And there was a lot of learning about how I wanted to show up to my personal practice of love along the way. I encountered many circumstances that called for me to step out of my comfort zone, from traveling for work conferences and retreats, to saving a friendship even if that meant sacrificing income, to figuring out how to be an empathetic big sis towards my younger siblings who lost a great deal this year, to learning what it takes to build true community by learning what NOT to do. And I documented as much as possible to reference along the way. Some of these documentations were gathered for the book I’ve been working on about mental health and entrepreneurship which I’m planning to publish in 2017 (This is more concrete now that I have finished my 1st draft) while some of these documentations were meant just for my eyes… for now.

At the start of this post you might have noticed that I underlined actionable blueprint and work. I did this because I noticed one led to the other, so while this year it was about producing this actionable blueprint, next year is most definitely about the work and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it.

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.

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Unfinished Works I

drop-ofwater

The Things that Get in the Way

When working on your self-love practice be aware of the things that get in the way.
A blockage to building up your own self-esteem, and the confidence to be the best of who you really are, is the way you handle other people’s success. Truly our reactions are an indicator of our own maturity and belief in ourselves.
If you’re struggling with being happy for others when they celebrate even the smallest of wins amongst the many struggles we all face in life, I encourage you to take a deeper Look Inside yourself. What’s the underlying reason behind you feeling threatened, jealous, or even conflicted?

On the otherhand…Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you don’t feel worthy? Or as worthy as the person or people you deem more worthy than yourself? I think some us of are born into a conscious effort to make us feel beneath others. The best and brightest of us understand it 1st. So because I think what I think and am convinced my thoughts are legit since the proof is in the pudding… I want to know what is the true return on investment for thoughts, feelings, and conclusions of unworthiness, and who is most benefiting from the suffering, the constant inner tug of wars of elevated self-esteem and demoralizing character assassinations based on nothing other than the fabricated truths of an outward appearance? And also Who is most benefiting from your silence?

Testing the Waters

And here I stand
Facing the certainty of an uncertain mind
Facing the shadow of a soul
Too ashamed of its reflection in the mirror
Too rejected by the standards of a power supply ever flowing
Through the fire and unmoving in the wilderness
Through a love story where retribution takes its revenge
Tales of love once had and taken for granted
Tales of unforgiving lives and dreams washed away
And here I lie
Facing a darkness inside that never dies
Facing it would mean a hopeless eternity.
Too afraid to ask for substance
Too dejected to be anyone other than a convenient past time awaiting a death sentence
Through their eyes no other worthy
Through this life bitterness resides
Tales of magic users trying to convince otherwise
Tales are only legit by the winner of wars
And here I am on the battlefield
wondering if I have what it takes to be on the outside, the truth of who I am within.
And if it is worth it in the end.

You Don’t Even Know

There was an article floating around about living because you never know how much of an impact you are being to someone else. It’s true indeed sometimes you will never know how much your smile to a stranger made them feel that someone for once saw them just for that moment and just for that moment life was ok and they would fight for the next moment and another day. I wondered how often we talk ourselves out of doing things that seemingly restart our heart beats but somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that that endeavor wasn’t worthy of our time or talents or even that we ourselves we’re enough for it. I wondered how many times our choice NOT to show up for better or worse ripple effected into missed opportunities to be someone’s shero for the moment. I say even for worse because despite our shaming culture there is ALWAYS someone keeping quiet about what they’ve done, what they’ve been through who hopes they aren’t the only one who prays they aren’t alone that they can somehow find redemption just like someone who came before them.

Everyday heroism may not be as glamorous or as fabulous or lifestyles of the rich and famous worthy. But to someone somewhere unbeknownst to yourself your existence encouraged them to save themselves with whatever bit a courage they could muster up to see themselves through a dark night that could have led to a dark thought, and a dark deed with even darker consequences. You do that by just being you.

Honest moment…I was all over the place this month! I just couldn’t seem to pull my thoughts together in one place and so this was a small collection of the many thoughts floating around in my mind.

Until Next Time…Peace!

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A Breakthrough-2015 A Year At A Glance

I guess I’ll start with a heads up. This last post of the year is a quick review and recap of the ups and downs and “meh” moments from 2015. It’s a personal reflection, a public display of vulnerability, and most definitely not a “how to review your year and plan for the next” type of post. My hope is that through my personal experiences you gain some new insight and perspective. Enjoy lovely people!

one way

Image via http://madcrisimages.com/

As I’ve shared before in previous reviews, I center most of my intentions for the year around 6 areas or slices of life: Personal, Social, Spiritual, Physical, Professional, and Financial. I also 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 for the year.

My word for 2015 was: Breakthrough and My personal theme was: Go Get It

It took me awhile to see the gifts I’ve possessed all along but, I got it. I really embraced pieces of myself I’d been denying for so long, because I personally did not see the value in what I brought to the table in comparison to what I believed the world valued. That was an “Aha!” moment that opened me to receive what life would soon reveal…a gift is only a gift if you choose to accept it.

My breakthrough (a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.) this year led me to make the decision to step into my Purpose in the role as a mental health and wellness advocate. To become a voice for women entrepreneurs with a history of mental health disorders.  We may feel “other” because we feel inadequate or flawed or quirky or complicated. We may feel alone even when surrounded by support systems. We may be afraid because we do not want to be stigmatize for being who we are despite our ability to totally rock our careers. I want to be there, I want to run this race, I want to carry the torch and find new paths or more effective ways to run the paths we’ve already chosen.

Deciding to do a non-academic based investigation on the possible correlation between mental illness or mental health disorders and entrepreneurship led me to begin working on my 1st book on the subject, which then triggered an interest in pursuing advanced studies over the course of the next few years. In essence, I’ve decided to put into motion what I started when I 1st went to Rutgers and received my BA in Sociology. 10 years later I came back home to my original love for social work. I realize this time around, that I have a passion for the administrative and research side of social work, and most importantly I discovered a strong passion to expose research-inspired and evidence-based psychological resilience principles and practices for business owners and entrepreneurs…without sounding like the dry-eyes commercial guy.

What this will all look like… well, I’m still piecing that together to be honest. But as a starting point this year I co-launched my heart-work project Love Yourself Love Your Business, a virtual summit for entrepreneurs to learn more about the importance of a commitment to self-love when building a passion for profit or heart-work business. Self-sabotage, stress, not charging what you’re worth because you are unsure of your value, not having the confidence to market yourself and tell the world about your business are some of the reasons why I knew that this summit was needed and I’m proud to say we had a great response and will be expanding our outreach and taking it to a new level in 2016. I also did my 1st Speaking engagement as a mental wellness advocate and I didn’t freak out although I did manage to knock everything inside the podium on to the floor (just making sure everyone was awake of course haha!). Next year I intend to team up with my long-term marketing assistance client Dr. Angela Clack a Coach and Psychotherapist to present a web show all about mental wellness. And I joined my local branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI  to be a part of something much larger than myself.

In the midst of all this I struggled with physical health issues which woke me up to finally tend to the much neglected self-care branch of my self-love tree. I went gluten-free for a month and committed to a strict low-acidity diet trying out recipes from this cookbook for people who have acid reflex issues and sensitive tummy issues. I lost about 20 pounds in that time just by changing up my diet and doing a lot of walking at the park with occasional yoga stretches and gym visits on a guest pass.  Honestly, I hated not being able to eat at restaurants like I used to, I hated the taste of gluten-free pancakes and got so fed up with not being able to eat things I love like onions, peppers, tomatoes, and drinking coffee that I pigged out on Thanksgiving giving myself a horrible gut attack in the process. Lesson learned. Making my signature lasagna dish for Christmas and not being able to eat it this year kind of sucked. But sleeping peacefully at night after enjoying small portions of some of my favorites was well worth it. I plan on incorporating much of the diet into my lifestyle going forward with subtle “cheat days” now that I’ve learned what keeps me from having attacks and what foods agree/disagree with me the most.

This diet led me to seek new connections because I needed to reach out to others who experienced similar issues to better understand how to cope with the changes in body and in seeking new connections I found myself exposed to new communities. Somehow I stumbled into an American Sign Language meetup group by accident and despite my lack of knowledge received a warm welcome from those in the deaf community. I found that having to learn a new language and being corrected when I goofed up or unintentionally committed a cultural ‘no-no’ out of sheer ignorance was quite humbling and gave me new perspective on the words empathy and compassion.

And while I realized that I needed to show others compassion, especially those closest to me, I realized yet again that I simply could not give what I didn’t have for myself. That by accepting myself for being perfectly imperfect I in turn was able to accept, forgive, and show compassion to others for the same. I’ll be taking these “gifts of imperfection” with me into 2016 and in the pursuit of living love out loud I wish you all a fulfilling and rewarding New Year!

Until Next Time…Peace!

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If You Want to Express Gratitude Go Right Ahead

heart-art

I love this time of the year! I’ve expressed that probably every year around this time of the year, and yet it never really gets old for me. Even during my “dark years” when I literally couldn’t afford to make it back home to my blood relatives I found out that love was a verb when I reached out to people within my network who accepted me into their home so I wouldn’t be alone during the holidays.

But I am also very aware that this time of the year for many people are lonely, depressed, and even suicidal. There are plenty of useful tips for coping with holiday anxiety and depression dedicated for such a time. So, me, knowing the power of words and expression began trying to build a habit of finding things great and small to be thankful for. Some people have gratitude journals, some people have gratitude prayers they recite on a daily basis. I wasn’t at that point in my life where I had such a habit and ritual. I just knew that sometimes the best defense against feeling of loneliness, and bitterness, and the makings of depression is to go on the offense. Expressing Gratitude during the month we designated as Thanksgiving felt like a good place to start…and so start I did.

Everyone has Permission to start somewhere when it comes to developing a practice towards a more mindful life. You never know where one small act can take them…

I saw a meme on Facebook a few weeks back. It mocked anyone who rode the 30 days of Thankfulness truck after spending the other 335 days posting about anything but.

I got it. I really did. Somehow it reminded me about an ongoing joke in the church from my childhood memories where folks would talk about the flighty members of the CME church. Naturally I wanted to know about this group of people so I asked and I was told it meant people who only came to church on Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Easter. I got that too. I really did…But what I couldn’t wrap my mind around was why were people concerned about people who decided to do something different from what they normally did driven by the notion that what they were doing was something “good” and “right” and “positive”  if even for a moment or temporarily.  One small act of kindness or gesture by someone who is normally Scrooge McScrooge can save a life if done to the right person at the right time of their miserable day. Does it offset the damage done to those who were acquainted with Mr. McScrooge, of course not! But as long as there is an embodiment of hate and fear, there is need for someone to be love.

No, we don’t have to give out cookies and other rewards because someone decided to look at their day and find something in it to express gratitude about for a month. It’s true that Gratitude is more than just an attitude. It’s more than a quick post on Facebook  amongst obscenities and such.  It’s a practice; it’s a conscious choice to make every day of your life. But perhaps we can appreciate a whole month and even holiday season where some people actually try to send out good vibes; this being a direct result of seeking something positive in your daily routine.

Until Next Time…Peace!

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