2016 Reflections and 2017 Word of the Year

Advance was my word of the year for 2016.  I advanced in my career by taking on new roles during our company merger and responsibilities that I believe put me in a better position to excel in 2017.  As an artist, I advanced by launching my websites, new blogs and working on my first book.  I love house music and I love being from a city with such a rich House history.  I love writing about the great things going on in the Chicago House Community and the immense amount of talent in this city.  I’m looking forward to growing my websites and expanding my blogs.    I love writing and speaking about love and relationships in music, poetry and books. The release of my book later this year will be a realization of a dream.   I’m very excited about this new phase in my professional and creative life.   I still have a very long way to go and so much more to learn, but this year; I definitely became very clear and focused about my professional, creative and financial goals. 

“...I tried to work it away
but that just made me even sadder...
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around in circles
Think I made myself dizzy...”
— Solange "Cranes in the Sky"

Now my personal life was a completely different story.  2016 was a yearlong funeral…mentally and physically.  The overwhelming theme of 2016 was death.  There were so many dead people, dead relationships and dead situations this year.   I was losing myself in busyness…busy with the merger and conversion at work, busy with my kids and their new school responsibilities, scholarship programs, extracurricular activities and their transition to new schools, busy with family obligations, busy creating and launching two websites and working on new music,  and a book.  I found that my personal calendar was increasingly overscheduled. It was too much noise in my life.   I really believe my life came to a “standstill” this past quarter because I needed to sit with some stuff. 

I hate being a burden to people, I don’t like asking for help and I hate feeling dependent on people.  I don’t like being the person  “always going through” and I also don’t like being around people when I’m in a bad mood or negative space, so when tough times come my way, I retreat into my own shell, my world of words, music and notebooks.   I try to work myself out and attempt to work through whatever is troubling my spirit.  I try to understand what’s happening to me and around me.  It was too much to bear at times, literally one thing after another and I was breaking but couldn’t show it.  Black women are rarely afforded the opportunity to be vulnerable or weak.  We are expected to be strong and practically numb to pain all of the time.  I found myself asking, “When can I take a moment to break, put myself back together and heal”?  I was tired of “getting over” things…I wanted to heal some things.    I just needed a moment…a really long moment.  Things were dying in my life and I needed time to grieve.  

“Hey..It’s me
I’m calling to schedule
ahhh...no...make that necessary Breakdown
I won’t be answering anything
I’ll be so busy...with my knees on the ground
and my hands up towards the clouds
confessing out loud...confessing out loud
I ain’t...to proud...to say... I’m slipping
— Jill Scott "Pause"

I had to give myself permission to break down.  I retreated to my “safe space”.    It was in those quiet spaces that I allowed myself to grieve, hurt, cry, be sad, get angry, feel confused, feel like a failure, throw a pity party, and then release those feelings.    I allowed myself to go through every emotion and I didn’t rush it.  Quite frankly, I’m still going through the process.   I used to give myself time frames for healing and moving on from things, but grief and pain don’t operate on my timeframes.   Just like Remy said to Charlie in Queen Sugar “ You can’t run from grief, it follows you… grief leaves you on its own.   Grief wasn’t done with me...you gotta sit with it, respect it, feel it all.”  There was no one telling me to “get over it”… No one telling me “just let it go”, no one telling me “you got kids…you gotta do _____”, no one telling me “are you seriously still upset about that?”   That’s the beauty of solitude sometimes; it allows you spaces without judgement; where you can just strip down to truth of who you are.     I was running on empty, giving myself away in pieces.   I was giving people the “best” of me.   I was giving away the pieces of myself  that I thought were “ok” and “put together” and deemed “acceptable”.   The other “pieces of me” the undesirable pieces, the “not so put together pieces”, the pieces of me that needed work…I kept to myself.    After a while…the only thing left was brokenness.   Not much of me was left to give!    It was at that moment, I realized the gravity of wearing “the mask”.

"We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes; this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile..."-Paul Laurence Dunbar

"We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes; this debt we pay to human guile; with torn and bleeding hearts we smile..."-Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the masks to make ourselves more acceptable to others but the weight of those masks can be heavy.  Those “code switching” masks we wear daily got a little heavier this year, especially after the election.  “The “yeah I’m doing well…life is just wonderful” masks got heavier this year.    I’ve seen people who have ended relationships wear the mask of “I’m not hurt, I’m not sad” while privately devastated at the loss of friendships and romantic relationships.    I’ve seen people break under the weight of these various masks, falling into depression and dark spaces.   I’ve seen people lose themselves because the mask begins to take over and many forget what’s real and instead become more concerned with what they do “for show, likes and clicks”.   Many are quietly suffering from the weight of living up to the expectations of false images presented online;  constantly worried about being exposed by those who know who they really are.     People can only fake it for so long and when that mask falls off…people and relationships crumble.    It leads to more pain and unnecessary heartache not just for those individuals wearing the mask but for those “innocent bystanders” in their immediate circles and spaces.   It’s a domino effect and it leaves a trail of broken hearted people.   We really need to just get real about who we really are sometimes…it’s good for your mental health and it can save a lot of people you are connected with time and unnecessary heartache.   The masks we wear can be murderous, killing your spirit, your soul, and your relationships. 

“…If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken….”-Warshan Shire (From Beyonce’s Lemonade)

“…If we're gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken….”-Warshan Shire (From Beyonce’s Lemonade)

I have so much inside of me I want to share creatively, especially with women.  I am so passionate about sisterhood.   Women are incredible to me.  We carry so much on a daily basis….the strength inside of us is awe inspiring.  We make things happen in spite of obstacles every single day and we give and give to so many; however, we cannot continue pouring out of empty cups. We cannot keep wearing 24 hour masks in our life.    Self-Care is absolutely mandatory especially now as our lives are busier than ever.  There is a need for real healing in the hearts of women who have been told long enough to be strong and feel less then be criticized for it later because our hearts have become numb.  We have held so much inside of us because of our obligations, and responsibilities and it’s killing us, mentally, physically and spiritually.  We are carrying too much weight, physically and mentally.   I truly believe women are in need of a healing that only we can provide ourselves by speaking our truth in safe spaces of sisterhood.   It is in those safe spaces of sisterhood that we can remove the mask and talk about the pain we have endured, the pain we have caused one another, the sadness, the hurt, the abandonment, the struggles, the triumphs and accomplishments.   We need to build our sister circles with people we trust more than ever now. 


We’ve stored so much inside because speaking our truth opens us up to those who will choose to call us bitter and angry and a host of other names that dismiss the reality of our shared experiences instead of trying to understand and offer assistance in the healing process.    Once you realize “THEY” don’t care…you have to stop asking them to; even if they share the same skin tone as you.   Acknowledge the wolves and see them for who they are and stop trying to “heal” and “fix” them.  Women are ripping themselves apart for the wolves that eventually leave them to feed on others.   It’s not our job anymore.   It’s time to take care of ourselves first.  

...”Not everyone is okay with living like an open wound. But the thing about open wounds is that, well, you aren’t ignoring it. Your’re healing; the fresh air can get to it. It’s honest. You aren’t hiding who you are. You aren’t rotting...”
— Warsan Shire

So what do I want for 2017?   Healing… complete healing of my mind, my heart and my body.   I believe they are all connected so I’m seeking a different domino effect.   One that will prove to be life changing and positive.    It’s time to change my mindset as I approach the New Year.  This year,  I commit to building up my sister circle by trusting them more.   I know they love me as I am, while encouraging me to do and be better.  I have to stop retreating and learn how to lean on those who love me.    I make a commitment to honoring sisterhood and being a “safe space” for those who choose to share themselves with me.   I make a commitment to putting self-care first in my life.    I understand that I need moments of solitude in some areas of my life in order to bring clarity and peace of mind and will take it when it’s necessary.    I needed these last few months.   I needed the solitude and the darkness.  It advanced me to where I am right now…a place where I’m ready to heal and make some necessary life adjustments.  As much as we would like to avoid it…there can be clarity in the midst of darkness.  You just have to be open and sometimes you just need to be still in order to hear and receive it.    2017 is the year I remove the mask and get real… My word for 2017 is “Heal”:

 Heal: Become sound or healthy again; Alleviate (a person's distress or anguish); Correct or put right (an undesirable situation); To make sound or whole; To cause to be overcome; mend; To restore to original purity or integrity; To return to a sound state


So it's your turn...what is your 2017 word? If you participated in last year's challenge, how did your word manifest itself in your life.