On New Horizons: Shaping a Life of Goodness in 2021

What do you do when someone treats you kindly? How do you react to the “nice” person in the room? How do you treat your closest neighbors? These questions have been on my mind since October 2020. I’ve noticed how sometimes my acts of kindness, my greetings and my cheerful smile are met with suspicion; I’ve experienced how my joy hangs in the air like an unwanted odor instead of being met with generous reciprocity. When this happens, I retreat to the safety of long-time friends and marvel: What will a person get when they rebuff kindness, goodness and friendship? It’s akin to inviting a nightmare.

Sadly, it’s human nature to repeat patterns and expect a new outcome. This is partially attributable to mindset and habituation. When we do something long enough, it becomes comfortable, familiar and we form an attachment, possibly even perceiving a behavior or habit as an extension of ourselves. So we must first break out of these mental formations. We do this by recognizing that all of us, from the oldest person to the youngest, has something to learn. Embracing learning from a growth mindset will facilitate working and moving toward change. I taught myself to hang about the so-called nice people in the room and to avoid the dreaded pinch faces who populate every sector of society. It turns out that nice people really are kind. Like many of you, these lessons were so slow to come–a great fog obscuring my vision. Fortunately, the more I practice reciprocating kindness, the more I attract good and kind people into my life and let the others go their own way.

Over the years I’ve observed how my husband and i approach so many basic activities differently. As an observer of human nature, I’m fascinated by how often I judge (Okay, I’m an INTJ) these diverging behaviors as right or wrong. Some years into our healthy relationship, I’ve learned to drop that judgment and move toward a value system that recognizes contribution over process. The end result is itself the goal, not how we get there. On the other hand, my husband is cool as a cucumber most of the time. He smiles and waves at everyone. Sometimes I imitate him, because I fell in love with that quality. I do this when it matters, with the people I see regularly at work, school in my neighborhood. These shifts in behavior allow me to focus on what I need to change in and for myself rather than on external elements of my life, which brings me to 2021 and all that I want to leave behind, and a few things I wish to pick and cultivate along the way.

My 2021 Resolutions:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption (I’m human.)
  • Proactive stress reduction (Avoid chaos and toxic people.)
  • Increase eustress: Go back to school for my PhD (Embrace challenge.)
  • Adding a few good friends to my inner circle (Good people are good.)
  • Take care of the children in my life–all them, even yours.
  • Earning a living wage.
  • Create jobs for people in my community.

Make 2021 the year you smile back. Take a moment to return the salutation of a stranger or casual acquaintance. There really is enough time for this. In times of crisis, your neighbors–like it or not–will be the people upon whom you may have to rely. Don’t wait until there is a need. Cultivate a community of people who will nod back at you, give you ride in a pinch or leave a gift when you need one. People look for quick external fixes to their problems; someone to blame for their unhappiness; an excuse for why they keep doing that thing, whatever it is. This year try getting uncomfortable and extend your kindness everywhere you go. Your smile won’t open every door, but you will gain a few more friends and be welcome where they do.

Edissa keeps a mask handy at all times to answer the door and protect neighbors, friends, family and herself from COVID19.

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Slow Burn

Relationships are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get. According to Hallmark, they’re like cheesy late-blooming romances with a stranger from a small town that you never knew you needed. The stories are wholesome where most plotlines are cheesy and follow the same formula of a person falling in love after coming from a big city to a small town for business or family matters. It’s almost a fairy tale ending with the inevitable miscommunication and the hurt making up with the misunderstood, but they make falling in love look quick and easy. Relationships on social media, however, are a mish-mosh of everything from couples who only post their happiness to others who post everything from the conception of the relationship to its death. It’s so easy to get lost in the muck of it because even when the happiness you see is authentic, chances are you’re still sitting there trying to figure out why you’re still single or how to bring the spark back to your once vibrant relationship. There is also the chance that you’re like me in a new relationship trying not to self-sabotage due to unrealistic relationships you saw on TV.

A lot of us are subconsciously programmed to look for our relationships to start with the emotions of happiness and warmth we feel while watching a heartwarming film, TV show, or youtube couple. This warmth is something to desire, but it shouldn’t be everything we seek. In the Black culture, I’ve observed an emphasis on emotional intensity in association with the idea of falling in love. There’s a push in the media to look for immediate magnetism when connecting with a potential partner. Also, there’s almost an urgency to hurry up and find a love that is all-consuming in what I believe to be the worst of ways. Songs like Let it Burn by Jazmine Sullivan and Heat by Chris Brown ft. Gunna speaks of the heat one feels while falling for someone. Whether it is in love or lust is yet to be determined. Alternatively, songs like Burn by Usher describe the pain one feels at the end of a relationship. The common thread of intense emotion seems to be the desired symptom of falling for someone. It is what I call a red flame relationship where everyone can see the heat, the chemistry, and obvious attraction. With these relationships, as easy as it is to see the flame is how easy it is to extinguish it. This misconception that relationships need to start with an intensity of emotion and longing to be with another individual overshadows the truth that most sustainable relationships are built slowly on a foundation of fondness and a desire to get to know someone deeply. It is what I call a blue flame relationship or the slow burn. These relationships are not devoid of emotion, but they have balanced the logistics (the mind) of building a sustainable partnership with the emotion (the heart) required to nurture a relationship. All in all, they’ve counted the cost. If only I had had some of this wisdom in my early twenties.

My early twenties and even my late teens were full of what most would call “chance meetings” which led to short spurts of infatuation. I now call those chance meetings purposeful. They were introductions to key players in my journey to emotional maturity. Every lie I was told and every false hope I held onto in belief thinking “oh, he’ll change” were building blocks because I chose to change my perspective. When he didn’t want to choose me, I chose myself, and when my emotional needs weren’t being met, I voiced them. These choices led to the end of those relationships and I thank God they did! I chose to look at each individual as a teacher and I was determined to learn each lesson so I could move on because my cut off game is quick! But it was through those quick spurt relationships that I cleared my throat chakra, developed my voice and boundaries while keeping my heart open to love. I learned that open and honest communication about core principles and values like faith, child-rearing, and politics are the table our conversations about emotions and shared interests rest on. Being armed with all this knowledge and experience I find myself in a healthy relationship that I know I couldn’t have sustained had I not had those experiences and made adjustments to my mindset along the way.

As I mentioned before, there was a period where I almost self-sabotaged because things weren’t progressing how I had seen them on TV or as quickly as I had seen them manifest in other people’s lives. I will be the first to say I had unrealistic expectations. I was looking for the fiery magnetism and instead found a sweet calm and stability. Let me be the first to say that as an ever-adventurous woman, stability is far from boring. I find myself with someone stable who loves their family, makes me laugh from my core, compliments my personality, and shares my values as well as interests. I have such a fondness, appreciation, and love for this man that I can only attribute to knowing what it means to have had a bad one. These nuances are things that aren’t so readily discussed in everyday conversation about relationships. They are the things we hope to figure out and grow from along the way. Community is important to me, so I hope to inspire conversations among other young women who are as lost as I was and are slowly but surely finding their way. I am in no way an expert on all things love, I’m merely an observer and reporter on the subject and I pray my observations find you well.

Charging Your Energy with Crystals

You may have noticed that crystals in the form of bracelets, necklaces, tumbled stones, etc. making a rise in popularity. Because crystals have become a trend, it is easy to get confused as to their purpose, and how and why people use them. Here’s a brief breakdown on the benefits of working with crystals, and some of my favorite places to purchase them.

What are Crystals?

A simplistic definition of crystals is that they are elemental stones/gems that have specific energic properties that can enhance, or alleviate, certain ailments and conditions of the wearer/user. Everything and everyone vibrate with energy, and crystals can be used to help bring a persons energic field into balance, or in some cases protect a person from the negative energy of those around them.

The energy that a crystal carries depends on its composition which is why not all crystals can, or should, be used for the same thing. Some of the more common categories that crystals can be grouped into are: cleansing, chakra balancing, healing, protection, and grounding. This list is of course in no way exhaustive but provides just a general overview for those looking to begin their crystal collection.

How to Use Crystals

The first step when thinking about how to use your crystal is to answer the question, why do you want or need it? Are you trying to attract more self-love? Are you working on dream recall? Do you live or work with energy vampires? Do you travel a lot? Are depression and anxiety hindering your ability to function? Are your chakras, or a specific chakra, out of balance? Does your business need help? All of these are common reasons why people purchase crystals, and each question has a different crystal as an answer. Once you determine your why, you are then ready to purchase your first crystal or crystals. Generally, I would recommend going into your local metaphysical store to see which crystals call out to you. However, in the time of COVID, I recommend purchasing them online. However, be mindful of where you purchase them from. You want to make sure that the crystal dealer is reputable so that you can be certain that you are actually getting ethically sourced crystals as opposed to imitations or glass. So, Walmart and Five Below for example may not be where you would want to look for these purposes. Three online crystal stores that I recommend are Queendom Cultivation, Chakra Zulu, and Hella Vybz. Each store provides information regarding the best uses for each crystal, and starter kits for those looking to just cover the basics.

Once you have selected and received your crystals, you should cleanse and charge them. How this is done depends on the type of crystal. For example, some can be cleansed with water while others are water sensitive. If you are unsure, Sage, Palo Santo, and other similar cleansing agents should suffice. After you have cleansed and charged your crystals, you want to set your intention for the crystal. Intention setting is a form of manifestation and allows you and your crystal to be on one accord, which is especially useful for crystals that have more than one metaphysical purpose. You can also use crystals during meditation and mindfulness activities. For more information on mindfulness, please check out my November post “Free Your Mind.”

Recommended Starter Crystals

If you are looking to begin your crystal journey, here are a few crystals that I recommend that have come to be my favorites.

  • Clear Quartz – This is a stone that can help clear out negative energy, protect, and charge other crystals you may have.
  • Black Tourmaline – This is a grounding stone that helps protect against negativity and is also good to carry if you are someone who travels a lot.
  • Amethyst – For those who want help with dreamwork, this is a great stone for that purpose.
  • Rose Quartz – This is a stone that is especially useful in helping to call in self-love and self-affirmation.
  • Sodalite – Sodalite is useful in helping with balancing emotions and is great for those who deal with anxiety.
  • Citrine – For business owners, this stone is a must! It helps to call in wealth and abundance.

This is of course a short list to get you started. Remember, crystals are just a tool and they do not replace deep, introspective grounding and shadow work. They instead just make doing the work a bit easier at times. May your crystal journey be fruitful, and your energy balanced!

Shift Happens

I’m in no way suicidal, but I contemplated stepping in front of a subway car once. It was about a year ago to the day that I stood at the yellow line of the Sunset Station in Los Angeles and thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” I felt purposeless, and therefore useless and hopeless. What I’ve come to understand now is that hopelessness and extreme discomfort is a sure sign that things are about to change. Crazy right? I find that the more popular topics regarding manifestation and taking hold of the very things we’ve been praying for don’t cover the pain that precedes the reward.
In the past five years, I’ve become a very self-aware woman through much trial and error. To be self-aware is to know oneself and to break it down further, it means to become both the participant and the observer in your own life. You thus begin the process of truly understanding who you are by observing how you respond or react to things; what triggers you. As a natural observer, I’ve learned that doing nothing is as much of a response as taking action. I have trained myself to use my hyper-sensitivity and awareness to my benefit by checking my intentions, identifying and sitting with my emotions, setting boundaries, and applying everything I’ve learned to manifest the life that I desire. Unlike the application, these lessons were easy to learn and they prepared me to see the hard things to come, 2020 for example.
The whole year has been a Wizard of Oz moment; the pandemic, senseless deaths resulting in social unrest, and Trump are all a part of the tornado. We’ve just landed in a strange land where we all celebrate that Trump is no longer in power, but now we have another quest: to get back home (the new normal). All in all, we’re not in Kansas anymore, but there are still issues here. We have a new President-elect, but there are more reports of the virus resurging, police are still abusing their authority, and the energy of the collective conscious is heavy. With the election being over, there is a weight that has been lifted, which frees us to focus on other things, even while some of us aren’t willing to address those other things. Up until a little while ago, I was among the unwilling. I was tired of having nothing to do and the way I’m wired, I get tired from doing nothing so sheltering in place has been hard on me. The more active I am (physical or mental), the more energy I have. To get my energy back, I began running again and started to look into creative remote work, while dreaming about my ideal life. It involves finally acquiring a passport and traveling internationally. Whether I travel alone or with company, I don’t care, I want out! My dream life also includes being wealthy, married with children, a dog, and a well-furnished van behind the house for cross country road trips. This dream has been edited time and time again, but now I feel I am acquiring everything on this list. They weren’t kidding when they said pressure creates diamonds because I’ve felt the pressure of instability and loss and I’m finally seeing the glimmer of perfect manifestation.
I’m here to report that answered prayers can be overwhelming and scary and that’s ok. The key is to feel the pain and fear and progress despite it. I have a high pain tolerance as a former athlete, but my emotional pain tolerance was low. The pressure of being homeless on the streets is a different type of pressure from having to live in a young adult shelter with difficult personalities, and I’m not referring to the shelter patrons. The pressure of living with strangers as roommates is a different type of pressure from living with the family members you dislike. However, nothing beats the pressure of not knowing your purpose, and the day I stood waiting for the train, I felt utterly lost and overwhelmed. This wasn’t the first time I’ve felt this feeling, but it was certainly the first time I pondered calling quits. I didn’t feel hopeful about the future or content with the present. I felt alone, but I want you to know you are not alone.
Looking back from where I sit now, I’m glad I didn’t give up because I’m finally catching glimpses of my purpose and what I want to do in this life. As much as I complain about it, sheltering in place has provided a wealth of time for me to observe my journey to this place of peace, wholeness, and emotional healing. I am not alone. You are not alone. Be sure to check on your friends and family to remind them they’re not alone. We are all collectively working toward the life we want to lead at our own pace, so don’t make comparisons, take notes, make adjustments, and live your best life!

Black Hair and Femininity Part 1 (Youth Speak Out Series)

From a young age, my mother has enforced in me the idea that my type four hair is beautiful. She taught me that good hair is healthy hair; that hair texture is not important and that everyone is different and unique in her own way. Like many Black women in Corporate America she spent many hours in a beauty shop chair under a hair dryer letting ammonium thioglycolate soak into her scalp to make her hair straight. After having me, her pride and joy, she decided to go natural in a successful attempt to teach me to love the hair that God intended to grow out of my head.

But as I grew up, went to school, associated with new people who looked different from me, and joined social media, I began to notice a pattern in which our society praises and uplifts people with tighter curl patterns, and typically, those people do not look like me. I also noticed how society is so quick to put an emphasis on masculine and feminine; short hair is seen as masculine and long hair is seen as feminine. While no one explicitly told me that I was masculine, as I got older I became more self conscious over my appearance and my hair because it as, and still is very short.

I’d never had an issue with my natural hair until I joined social media. Being the only Black girl in my grade level through elementary and middle school, being different worked in my favor. It made me stand out and set me apart from the other students. However, when I joined social media, I was introduced to other Black girls who didn’t wear their hair natural. Girls who wore weaves, braids, and wigs. Girls who had longer hair than me.

So here I am at thirteen years old, taking all of this in at once, and like every other person my age, I started to compare myself to these girls.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-misha-voguel-4407900.jpg
Photo by Misha Voguel at Pexels

Flash forward to 2020, now a high school senior I can confirm with great pride that my confidence levels have increased tremendously. But I’ve been faced with a dilemma that brought me years back to my early days of social media. I’ve been thinking about doing the big chop and cutting my hair.

In the Boat

This is an excerpt from Shelter in Place season 2, episode 3. Listen to full story above.


In his essay, “The Blessing of Friends Who Weather the Storm With Us, Omid Safi writes “We learn a lot about the people who stay in our boat during the storm. Sometimes it’s exactly who you expect. Sometimes there are those whom we expect to be in our boat, and at the moment of deepest
crisis, they go missing.”

Going into this school year, there was one friend in particular who I was sure would be in my boat. Ruth lives just a few blocks away. Her kids are the same ages as our kids, and they’ve all gone to school together since they were toddlers. Ruth’s family is one of the few families in our neighborhood who share our faith. We’ve shared a lot of life, too. We’ve carpooled to school, dropped off dinner for each other weekly, shared countless meals, swapped keys to each other’s houses. We were each other’s emergency contacts. For years Ruth’s house had been the place my kids felt safest outside their own home.

But a couple of weeks before school started Ruth and I had coffee in her backyard, and she told me she’d formed a distance learning pod with another family from our school. They were going to hire a tutor, and the tutor wasn’t comfortable taking on any more kids.

I tried not to feel stung, but as I walked home from her house that day, I realized I’d taken it for granted that Ruth and I were in each other’s boat. Now I began to doubt not just that assumption, but our friendship.

A couple of days later, Ruth reached out again. She gave me the names of several parents she knew who might be interested in teaming up with me, but she also wanted to check in to make sure we were okay.

It was a watershed moment in our friendship, and it says a lot about what a good friend Ruth is that she invited that conversation. It wasn’t easy for either of us. For the first time we peeled back the layers of our friendship, revealing unspoken expectations. Ruth and I had been in each other’s lives daily for years. In the absence of family nearby, I’d thought of Ruth and her family as our substitute family. It had never occurred to me that with their own parents in the same state, Ruth and her family didn’t have the same expectations for us.

And that’s the thing about friendship. There are no written codes or contracts. Most of the time, we don’t even realize what we expect of our friends until a particular situation reveals it.

Safi says when you turn around and the friends you thought would be in your boat aren’t there, don’t assume the worst. He writes, “Maybe they were trying to survive in their own boat. It’s been said before, whenever
possible. Be kind. You never know what battles others are fighting.”

Ruth confessed her own weariness. She’s a frontline essential worker. Parenting during the pandemic had been hard. She’d often felt like she wanted to be there for me, but she was so exhausted that she didn’t have the energy.

“You do so much,” Ruth said. “Your tolerance for chaos is so high. Sometimes, I just don’t want to get swept up in the tornado.”

Later she said she regretted that comment. She worried that it came off as overly harsh. But her words rang true. I don’t want to be the tornado family–I long for us not to be–but the amount of chaos and disorder in our life during this pandemic in particular has felt torrential. Part of that was circumstantial. Our family has dealt with a massive amount of change in 2020. We’re still dealing with it.

“Most of the time, we don’t even realize what we expect of our friends until a particular situation reveals it.”

Part of it was personality. Ruth had often told me that her central need in life is to preserve harmony in her environment. I like peace. I even long for it. But if given the choice in relationships, I’ll choose intimacy over ease every single time.

When I stepped away from the emotion of the situation, the feeling that Ruth wasn’t in my boat, I could see that what I was asking of Ruth was more than any of my friends could give me, especially in a time when we were all just trying to survive and keep our own boats afloat. No one is able to be in our boat all the time. Not substitute family. Not actual family. Not the best of friends. The trick is learning to appreciate who is in your boat–even if it’s not who you thought it would be, or if their shift is brief, because they’ve got to tend to their own crew. It’s learning to be in other people’s boats, too.

This is an excerpt from Shelter in Place’s season 2 episode 3: In the Boat. Read the full transcript here.