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NEW SIGHT

NEW SIGHT

NEW SIGHT June 10, 2020

if there is a grand plan for the movement happening worldwide for justice and equality of black people… I believe we have just entered into the new phase of strategic action.

Personally I feel a palpable shift in from quivering rage and paralyzing grief into ripples of anger and unnerving awareness. The emotion is transmuting into fuel and I am seeking the right avenue to direct it.

As relieved that I am to be somewhat functional again, I miss my rage. Rage yields clarity. But rage is not sustainable for my body and there are plenty of people who actively choose to remain ignorant and hateful.

I am being heard, and loved. My friends have rallied around me and are providing a buffer of solace. I live in a reality where a great contingency of the world has voiced caring about black lives. Its a complete reversal of the reality of my entire life.

I will continue to tell my story. Being heard by my own self is worth it. At the moment I am finding myself mealy-mouthed. One byproduct of speaking up and taking inventory is a depressing awareness of how much I have bought into the system. I recently announced I’m ready to fuck shit up and embrace all my glory… so everything not in alignment w that declaration is coming into focus.

I am deeply saddened by the frequency and ease of which I abandon myself. Get distracted by someone else’s agenda and lower my profile to let another shine. I don’t mean the healthy give and take of relationships, I mean the purposeful dimming of my light and shutting down of my power. Chronic low self esteem that elevates the ideals of people who don’t look like me.

I have been addicted to struggle, trauma, lack, with a deep undercurrent of belief that my role is to suffer but sing through it w a gospel hymn. And I expect the same from other black people. Whenever I have gained traction in the system, I have sabotaged it. I’ve accepted black people’s suffering as natural. I have made other people millions, built their businesses, taken care of their kids while neglecting making a solid plan for my own life.

I’m catching myself and stepping away from always playing a supporting role, part of an entourage. I’m not soothed by trinkets in exchange for my life-force energy. I’m not willing to shuck-n-jive.

Right now it’s tiring to exercise being fully self-possessed, to stay present, advocate for myself and black people, and not feeling defeated by the sheer amount of correction that needs to happen, internally and externally. I trust I will get stronger as I practice staying rooted in my experience. The idea of going back to sleep is not an option.

Grace.

S.T.O.P.

S.T.O.P.

S.T.O.P. – June 9, 2020

Elite athletes (whom I’ve had a fair amount of exposure too) know the value of rest in their formula for performance. Rest may be active, and not look like rest to the average person, but in relation to their training regiment it’s a significant deceleration of momentum for the purpose of getting stronger.

Strategic
Time
Out
Period

I’ve been thinking about this as I still feel my bodily system in fight or flight mode most of the day. Earlier this week I had the worst middle of the night panic attack that I’ve had in years. Terrifying.

Panic Disorder is something I developed during the year I focused on caring for my 42yr old brother battling a surprise diagnosis of stage 4 brain cancer.
Living on opposite coasts presented additional strain to the grief of watching a strong man decline quickly.
Additionally I wanted to prove myself at work. My boss generously did not put pressure on me to be at my desk, all he cared about was work done. So much of my work was done at 5am PST, between doctors appointments for my brother, on flights and weekends. Still, I had spent the first two years at the job being the smiling face girl-Friday and was only now starting to get some traction and visibility that maybe one day someday maybe lead to a better position. I didn’t want to kill my momentum. So I worked around the clock to close deals, open doors, make big moves way above my level. The pressure I put on myself, combined w 42 flights that year, and the untimely death of my big brother… it all made something pop.

Have you ever had a panic attack?

I didn’t know what was happening at first so I spent a lot of money on middle of the night emergency room visits, 911 calls, doctors visits, medication.

However the (irrational) mortal fear of emanate death would send my heart from resting to 150bpm within 10seconds… limbs numb, cool tingles on the side of the head, unable to focus sight, confusion, loud heartbeat thumps in my ears.

The panic attacks started picking up about a month after my brother died, and pop up at least 5-6 times a day. It became difficult to go into work. I stopped socializing.

I did a 21 day Panchakarma which helped balance my adrenals. I grieved… I slept for a year. Then I started teaching yoga full time. It was the only profession where in I could literally breathe through a panic attack while working. I could invite the whole class to take childpose while I counted my heartbeats and we would breathe together as my body calmed down. No one ever knew.

In time my attacks became more manageable but still frequent. Until I met Tim. We got each other. Both struggling w PTSD of vastly different variety but still scary and disorienting. An unspoken understanding of walking softly and unconditional acceptance. His hugs literally healed me. The engulfing nature and his insistence to hold a hug for at least 20 seconds, heart to heart. << Go do that with a friend or loved one >>

The safety and peace I felt in his embrace (physically and spiritually) stopped my panic attacks. Even after losing him, my panic attacks never returned to the veracity of my life prior to his companionship. Likely because I still feel his energy present and I have learned how to make myself feel safe.

The last few weeks have rattled that knowing. The beginning pandemic pulled at the thread, but no panic attacks. I jumped right back into weekly therapy in March and have navigated coronavirus relatively well mentally.

Violence… injustice for sure- those two things w the backdrop of pandemic, a horrible President, and economic uncertainty… of course I had a panic attack.

I’m considering how to S.T.O.P. …. not my activism or creativity or voice but how to give my nervous system a break and make my sense of personal safety the priority even while I actively participate in education and change. A more sustainable pace.

Here are the four pillars of safety that I pay attention too:
Nutrients – Vit D & electrolytes, B12 – supplementation and whole food meals
Circadian rhythm- in bed at a decent hour and up before sunrise (thank you Jessie for creating a whole community of support)
Movement- gentle to moderate movement everyday. For this beginning stage of somatic grief response, nothing too intense (like HIIT etc) Swimming has been amazing for me.
Order- keeping a clean house w order and peace. This is what I struggle hardest w when I feel unsafe. I make little piles of mess to feel safe… discipline to maintain order helps my brain recover.

I hope this is helpful, for anyone feeling tired and burnt out but afraid of withdrawing in anyway (out of guilt or pressure to always fight so we don’t atrophy) Strategic time out is imperative to overall performance.

I will be joining Jen Pastiloff again tomorrow afternoon during my lunch break to talk about the somatic effects of grief, moving pain and emotion through the body w writing and of course a meditation. Follow @jenpastiloff Instagram LIVE at 1pmEST/10amPST

The Smiling Face

The Smiling Face

THE SMILING FACE – June 8, 2020

As I examine my part in this dysfunctional system, some unsettling memories and patterns surface for healing and change within me.

Taking inventory of systemic/institutional racism and the cost of my complacency to white supremacy… how little murders against my worth snowball to shut down potential and retard mobility. Let me share a painful set of memories.

19 years old, new to my first apartment of my very own, in an eclectic 1920’s art deco apartments in Beach Park. The run-down building was in dire need of care but I didn’t realize it. I had my own space to create in. Just a year prior I had moved out my parent’s home with just $100 to my name. The cult community I was raised in threatened complete shunning if I moved out of m father’s house and/or went to college. I had to claim my life, so I left and was terrified but excited to see what was next (kind of like now)

There where 10 apartments in the building just behind Mons Venus. Every neighbor was a stripper by trade. Those girls were sweet and protective of my innocence. Together we worked to create a little sanctuary on North A Street.

With my 4.2 high school GPA, I landed a “legit” job interview within walking distance. A sound and vision communication firm that produced mega conferences for corporate meetings (think Dwight Scrute speech Dunder Mifflin). The advertised job was for a receptionist, $8-10/hr, no benefits.

I walked in to their business, a beautiful 100yr old converted house w wooden floors and a border collie running around. It was like nothing I had ever seen in Tampa; not a stuffy office but a place of creativity and art direction.

During my interview I was complimented on how articulate I am and they were impressed by my computer skill. It was clear my presence could lend a edgy flare to this South Tampa office in 1997. They offered me the position at $8.50 an hour. I asked for $10 as advertised but they said it was for college graduates despite not mentioning that criteria in the ad.They pitched a creative place to be apart of cutting edge production. I’d have time to study for my courses at HCC and no cubilcles! I would be the smiling face of the company.

I accepted because I could see a future for myself if I worked hard; a goal of becoming a production assistant or graphic artist and one day having a creative agency of my own. I threw myself into learning show processes, industry lingo, started teaching myself adobe photoshop, the new software on the market. I’d recreate logos and animations in my spare time to demonstrate my growing skill.

The owner often commented what a genius I am. I can teach myself anything. Still the main focus of my work was making sure the coffee was piping hot, the dog was walked, and the kitchen clean.

About a month in, the head lady was complaining about the cleaning crew. As an innovative eager youngin, I suggested an idea that would prove to tank any meaningful future w the firm… I suggested I clean on the weekends. I had done it before to make money and the extra income would bridge the gap to the $10 an hour I needed to pay for my apartment.

Instead of make my life easier, I solidified my position as the Help. Any initiative I showed to learning the business was resented. My job was to be the smiling face. The little murders started: I wore my natural curly hair to work and the sales guy said “huh! THATs interesting”… he later came by my desk to ask that I brush (straighten) my hair because clients stop by. I was left out of staff meetings about upcoming shows, my only task to cater them w Wright’s deli sandwiches and be sure to clean up after. I of course could eat whatever was left over. The border collie starting coming in w diapers on. I learned she was in heat when I was asked to change her prior to a walk. Humiliated, I refused. Everyday felt like a battle to prove I had worth beyond an eager, ego-boosting smile and a cheerful clean-up.

My work started to suffer. I was late 5, 10 , 15 minutes. I wouldn’t eat all day long, only drinking the piping hot coffee. Getting thinner seemed to ease criticism. I stopped creating and often just stared out into space or snuck a nap when everyone was out at a show. I completely checked out after the hiring of intern. Paid $10 an hour, a young all American from Plant highschool w a 3.4 GPA who was included in all the meetings.

Soon after I came in on Sunday to clean per usual. Somehow I nudged the natural gas dial in the fireplace while dusting. On Monday the head lady came in to a house filled w gas, a ticking time bomb. I was fired immediately.

I should have been more careful. Maybe things would have worked out in my favor had I applied myself harder, in a few years maybe I would have been given an opportunity to use my gifts. After all, I was “given an opportunity” as folks love to say. I was trying to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

What I’m realizing now as I reflect is how much that experience stayed with me. The idea that my way into a fulfilling career projection was to settle for being the smiling face and work my way up. To get my foot in the door doing what I could do in my sleep and volunteer as much as I could to prove myself worthy of getting compensated for my gifts, at a painfully slow rate.

I’ve put myself through private university, generated work opportunities in six countries, have over 20 years management experience, helped over 160 local start ups marketing their business over the course of 25 years, AND STILL, I default to being the smiling face so I don’t offend or come across uppity.

I’m not saying this is entirely due to institutionalized racism constantly eager to put me in my place… but there is an implied comfort level for a fat black woman in the south – the caretaker and smiler. I know folks like Oprah have at a young age said hell no, I’m not taking this I’m forging my own road. I don’t know why I did not have that strength, why I internalized my anger, why I would settle and work 4 jobs so I could create opportunities unavailable in conventional routes accessible to me.
 
I don’t know what gives Oprah, Beyonce, Shonda, courage to blow the lid off limits and own the powerhouses that they are. But I’m running out of characters, I’m 42 turn and it’s time to fuck shit up.
 
Let’s go!
Looting & Rioting

Looting & Rioting

LOOTING & RIOTING – June 6, 2020

I went for a swim this morning. The drizzle and overcast conditions accompanied me in my greatest act of protest in the last week- caring for body.

Like many brown folks, I am emotionally drained. Somatic effects of grief caused pain and listlessness in my body and I sought out comfort by any means necessary. I have no shame or harsh judgment for my choices of copious TV and bread. When faced w the extreme cluster of circumstances presented and the constant onslaught of violence, one does what one must to survive.

By day 7 the effects of my sedation became untenable. water retention, swelling, breathlessness, and headache of excess emotion stuck in my tissues with nowhere to go but out my eyes. My face and eyes so puffy I did not recognize my reflection.

This is a picture of me right before and directly after a swim session to get my heart out of its comfort zone. To pump excess fluid, hormones and adrenaline out of the tissues and lymph and into the blood stream for elimination. It was challenging to do one full lap so I started small with a gentle wading and gliding. Some playful flips and childlike exploring of the pool bottom. Doggie paddle, backstroke. Finally a full lap. It was uncomfortable to finish one breaststroke lap, my heart struggling to wake up from lethargy and grief. Everything in me feels so happy for the felt memory of being alive!

It got me thinking about how self punishing my behavior has been this week. Not judging myself but inquiring into why when I’ve been done wrong I take it out in myself. I’ve feel anger at injustice of consistent murders of people who look like me and pain that it’s taken so long to be acknowledged. The oppression and denigration of black bodies. I didn’t take to the streets to burn, riot and loot. I‘m a good girl. Instead I looted my bank account to go outside my budget and buy comfort foods. I looted my own body of minerals and nutrients. I caused riot w swelling and inflammation. I shut down and boarded up my potential and possibility in silent protest from my bed.

The people who perpetrate injustice don’t care. The get up everyday, work out, eat their museli and justify the pain rippling through the planet as an overreaction to one bad apple. They’re not detoured from their goals or looting their bank accounts to soothe themselves. They bring designer bags to a tear-gassing.

My absolute agenda of the coming months is not to just survive. I’m exploring how I can thrive in the midst of uncertainty and dismantling. That which is coming to the surface for healing in our collective consciousness has only just begun. Looking at systemic racism and injustice has numerous implications for how we live. This battle will lead to the next and the next especially as we draw closer to a potential transfer of power come fall.

Do not burn down where you live in anger.
Start w your body. If your stuck in pain, honor it and write about it, tell your story, let it move through you. Add in one healthy habit, or vitamin, or meditation to honor yourself. Make it little, repeatable and enjoyable.

Resilient

Resilient

RESILIENT – June 5, 2020

this week reframing for growth and gratitude:
– I found my voice y’all! and a few more feet of spine I didn’t know existed. just getting started!
– the amount of allies and friends who have reached out in solidarity and love and who are self educating, posting, protesting, making phone calls. Like wow!!!
– my boss gave me some space this week to take a breath. I was teary in a phonecall today to say thanks and I think he was too in expressing appreciation for my work and dedication. … great now I’m crying again!
– collaboration! amazing opportunities are emerging for me to share my gifts and work together to uplift our communities.

self care commitments:
I’m sharing out loud for accountability and support. I’ve been so lethargic this week but my phone shows over 9hrs a day online ???? some of that is for work but still! I have to step away from the screens. Goals this weekend include:
– write… and write some more! it feels so good!
– receive energy work. I could you some outside assistance in assimilating all the energy that is coursing through me right now and also help w calm my adrenals and shift out of flight or fight mode
– meal prep. all the carb loading is taking a toll. I need some home cooked nutrition
– movement. swim, clean, bike or march ????