The Power of Vulnerability

I wasn’t planning on actually being vulnerable when I wrote this. Far from it. I had a perfectly laid out post – that’s been percolating in my head and blog planner for weeks. Life doesn’t lend itself that way though. It happens in its roller-coaster, snowglobe shake kinda way, and bloop here I am, feeling all types of vulnerable as I heave it out. Warning: You will read the word vulnerable many times.

I was just about to delete my blog.

On a whim, I decided to check on it and saw that I had gotten quite a few views in the last few days. Well, that’s weird because I haven’t written in the last few weeks.  Then it dawned on me. I’m job-searching. These people are looking me up and seeing my blog posts about depression, and God, and hot heavy breathing – and they’re getting scared! This is why I’m not being hired! In a sincere moment of panic and frustration, I jumped and corresponded with WordPress about how I can customize my blog so a Google search doesn’t yield a kickback to every single post on here. I mean, I’m not ashamed of what I write but I don’t want to choose between eating and a blog! As it turns out, it’s not that easy. It would require me to choose between a few bad options including renaming and re-uploading all of my images, making my blog private (and therefore an online diary), or deleting it altogether.

I slowly rummaged over the history of my posts – of my cousin’s inspiring climb to success, my friend’s first time at church, embracing the journey. My journey has led me here: recently fired from my job for declining to take the flu shot, wondering if it was a sign to shift my career, and walking in my fairly newfound power. In spite of the loss, it’s been mostly invigorating but on days like this, I feel ashamed of my journey and ask God, “Am I doing this right?” “Where is this road to success? Actually, not even success! Just give me regular! Give me a regular job with a regular man and a regular life!”

Regular doesn’t exist.

What I do know is that vulnerability kicks shame in the chin. Claketty clack. It reveals what we do and do not like. It rips the bandaid off caring about what people think and exposes that area to some much-needed air. I can take a stand in that. The truth is that I want a job that encompasses so much, it often feels impossible to start! I would be exercising all of my gifts – digital storytelling, executing ridiculous amounts of research on things that matter like emotional, mental and spiritual healthiness and how that manifests in our everyday lives, anndd then use those deliverables to motivate the masses. And that’s just the beginning.

But first, it starts with me.

I did what most of us do in stressful situations. React. Reject. Repress. And what good does that do me? It only aids in internalizing negativity and massive overthinking. Vulnerability enables us to be strong in our no’s and chase down our yeses. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I don’t think we’re compatible but thank you for dinner.” A lot of us would’ve saved ourselves much heartache if we went straight for it from day 1, eh? I – we – have been given the spirit of love, power, and self-discipline. That enables us to own our feelings, be responsible for only our values, choices, thoughts and desires while setting limits on what we will not tolerate.

Self-control without repression.

That’s the power of vulnerability. I own all my stuff (good and bad) and make choices that align with my path. So I start with choosing to keep this blog up. My gifts all lie within the realm of my responsibility as well, and though getting to my goals will take work, practice, learning, prayer, resources and GRACE for the fear of failure, it’ll be worth it.

I believe.

Share your deepest vulnerabilities below. If you’re not comfortable doing that, feel free to instead send me a referral or tip in my job search. I would appreciate it!

Xo

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5 ways to cope with Donald Trump’s presidency

PHOTOGRAPH BY AL DRAGO / CQ ROLL CALL VIA GETTY

I can hardly believe it’s a hop skip away to February. It was literally just the New Year. By now, we’ve crossed out enough accidental 2016s, developed new habits, and welcomed the 45th President of the United States. Well. Let me rephrase. By welcome I mean accept, resign ourselves to, and protest. The number gathered to celebrate Donald J. Trump on Inauguration Day may be up for argument,* but simultaneous protests around the world counteracted the celebrations with deafening messages.

*Trump (l) inauguration versus Obama(r). Obama’s inauguration head count was estimated at 1.6 million. The Trump administration continues to debate which crowd was larger.

inauguration-comparison

One of the largest protests was the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) and Women’s March Global (WMG).  It consisted of 616 marches in the United States and overseas, from Atlanta to Antarctica. On January 20, an article reported participation from 60 countries on seven continents. Social media was buzzing as well. Provoking commentary from both supporters and anti-Trumps had my timelines in a tizzy.

womens-march-2017

In spite of the protests, a mere seven days into the presidency have brought a number of overwhelming changes. Here are a few coping mechanisms I’ve gathered in my own acceptance of the new presidency. Whatever your stance, there’s a valuable takeaway:

  1. Get in the know. This here has been the brunt of my civilian participation since the inauguration. I’ve been taking in as much news–until I’m tired of it—as possible. There’s no fear of #alternativefacts when you’re keenly paying attention to what’s going on. Beyond social media. If we want to affect change, we need to know what an executive order is. He pretty immediately signed three in regards to the ACA (Obama Care), a Federal Program for First Time Homeowners, and the TPP. Let’s read what these  are about and find out how it potentially affects us citizens at large.
  2. Start fights on the Internet. Ha. I literally think people wake up and get into it just for fun. Let’s try this instead: keep the complaining and people-bashing to your WhatsApp and text messages with your homies. Or better yet, don’t do it (clears throat). I admit that it’s not an easy adjustment, for many, from Obama to DJT but it doesn’t serve us any good to become what we say we hate. Doesn’t love trump hate? Some of the articles that I saw online were sickening.
  3. Engage in conversations with people who have different views.  AKA let’s grow up. Similar flow to the previous point. I mean, I’ve heard that family members are disowning each other over the election. REALLY?! Let’s take a moment of silence for that. [……………………………….] Healthy respectful debate is a GOOD thing. The world is bigger than us, and we live in a democracy. We should stand up for what’s right, but we can disagree without being malicious. A democracy also means that sometimes the option chosen will be the one we didn’t choose. And even the people on “our side” will make decisions based on those results (case in point: Chrisette Michele. Ya’ll, publicly tearing our own down is music to the hateful ear). We can’t expect a democracy to mean we’ll get everything we want. Everyone has the right to think for themselves and act for themselves, and it doesn’t mean you’re not (black, a woman, Democratic, loving, or a Christian). Self-righteousness isn’t helpful for anyone. Let’s be and think bigger, and I think we’ll be surprised at how much MORE we have in common.
  4. Pray. I believe in prayer which means that I believe God is control. The Bible warns us of times like these–of wars and rumors of wars, of men being lovers of themselves, of questionable leaders taking the helm. It also states that God can change any situation in our favor. So I’m not completely surprised by what’s going on or of what can suddenly change. But I also now realize that Christians are called to do work as the world shifts. Someone said to me that she’s tired of Christians saying cliché statements like “All we have to do is pray” or “Get over it, he’s the president.” In healthy conversation, we spoke about why faith in action is best…which brings me to my last point.
  5. We can do something. We concluded that when Christians turn their eyes and glaze over the magnitude of the changing world with only traditional mantras, it’s the same as when social-media-obsessed fight-picker Sallies wake up at 5:20am ready to rant. We have so much more power than we’ve been taught to believe. Although we use these sayings as a source of comfort, it actually takes away our power to act. There are better phrases to use: God is with us! We have to unlearn our patterns of helplessness and get on the move. Complaining is also powerless, and a passive-aggressive way of trying to gain control and have your voice be heard. Instead, pray and call your representatives. March peacefully. If you want, join Obama’s organization. Search out other organizations (do a google search, ask your social media outlets, look for articles) that have been active for decades.

The future is uncertain, for sure, but with our knees to the ground, our hands ready to work, our hearts in unity as fellow citizens–albeit different interests–, we will be able to conquer the next 4 years.

Let’s talk: What action will you be taking during President Trump’s tenure?

Featured Image Credit, Photo 1, Photo 2 by John Moore/Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling in love can help you with your New Year resolution

When I get riled up like this, I need to get my cow on – regurgitate and chew it again. 2016 is almost over. It has been a year of believing and shaking out the wrinkles of idealism and expectations for responsibility and authenticity. Idealism had come with its share of busyness, and left me feeling accomplished but askew (see last post on the crazy). I abandoned my to-do lists in search of realness and ended up here:

“The only way to win is to go all in.”

The rhyming corniness of this quote doesn’t negate its truth. My post-college job search during one 2010 job recession was not a secret. The hustle was real, and my grind was apparent. I did everything in the books from informational interviews to forming a job search committee for my peers. Whatever would get me the corner office in a high-rise. When I quit my job in 2014, all I had was a prayer and a vision (ok, and my savings). That’s when I started hearing questions, “Are you sure you’re making the right decision? What about 401k, health insurance?” I eventually went back to work but I needed that time to walk in faith. The point: completing checklists and risking it all are two different concepts. With the latter, we’re vulnerable with everything to lose but we’re ready to sacrifice it anyway in pursuit of the prize.

Listen, ok, because I want you to get this. I want us to get this. I wasn’t even planning on sharing what I’m about to write. I remember vividly when I decided to love. As in, I didn’t fall in love, but I purposely leapt into it. Beforehand, I was caught up in how I could do better than this and what the gurus said good relationships took. I was all mixed up, and I spoke to a friend who gave me the most valuable advice. “Make a decision. Any decision. If you wanna love him, then love him fully but if you don’t, walk away and let it fully go.” I remember when I made the decision to go for it – ego and justifications aside. I didn’t care if I looked dumb; I put myself out there. It didn’t work out but let me tell you. That was easily one of the top learning lessons in my life. I would’ve gotten NOWHERE on the fence. I was tired of straddling doubts and regret, while still determined to be right. In the strength of making a concrete decision, the truth emerged. With that said, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Don’t toss yourself in the garbage along with your inhibitions. Self-respect and dignity should be our constant companions. There’s only so much we can or should give any effort before realizing it’s time to move on. Otherwise, we’ve got a recipe to lose it all.

Fast forward to now and we’re knocking at 2017. I reflect on some of these old lessons learned in different ways (because, of course, mistakes only count after you’ve made it a few times over). Of how relationships become autopsies because self-protection kills. Of how dreams and visions are under-nourished, and fear dabs on goals because it knows we won’t step forward without guaranteed outcomes. Or of when we are pleasantly overwhelmed by the bounty while we were begging for pennies.

“Believe in the integrity and value of the jagged path. We don’t always do the right thing on the way to rightness.”*

My 2017 goal: GO ALL IN. Even one exploit to the hilt, one lesson fully ingested, one dare executed, will make it the best year yet. For better or worse – because indecision is always the wrong decision.

Share with me: What decision in 2016 became easier once you decided to go risk it all? What will you decide to do, regardless of the outcome, in 2017?

*Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

My 29th Birthday and why I will never reach my goals

Wow. This is the first official day of year 29. Yesterday was my birthday and I was inundated with love from every area of my life – I’m so grateful!! As the birthday wishes poured in, I couldn’t help but think back through the year. This has undoubtedly been one of the most eventful years of my life. I was an adventurous unemployed traveler, produced the most blogs in one year in this blog’s history, prayed the hardest and most consistently, was featured in a number of inspirational blogs, became much more clear in my career path, started realizing the type of people I wanted needed around me, and became a master pescavegan chef – ya girl no longer dreams wistfully about burgers and has not eaten meat in one year! In spite of all these exploits, it has been the most vulnerable time in my life. Clarity paradoxically presents with itself a healthy dose of uncertainty. New terrain needs different travel gear. Like the Israelites, I could easily believe that “Egypt” was better – a happy and ignorant slave bound to random obligations and limitations versus the heavy knowledge that there’s a bountiful Promise that I’ll have to sometimes have to wearily crawl to.

As my birthday approached, it registered that there were few tangible evidences that could guarantee my success. I had to wrestle not to measure myself by my accomplishments and who I did (or did not) have around me. I composed a series of questions to combat limiting beliefs and totally made-up stories. Pride and self-righteousness knocked repeatedly at the door of my heart as the easy way out of a conflict. It got real in the last month, ya’ll. What kept me crawling towards that uncertain outcome? Pep talks, verses, loved ones and the same heavy knowledge that my promise awaits. Once your eyes are open to bigger possibilities, you’re left with a sense of restlessness if you don’t engage in the process. So with my knees and elbows to the ground, I studied two important lessons:

  • We’re going to die without reaching the finish line. The moment we cross the finish line before we die is the moment we start living our lives without vision. When we follow an eternal dream and vision, it never dies; it will always grow beyond our reach – prompting us to reach out in faith. Or crawl. I reminded myself to be thankful that I have something to live for. In fact, the very root of my discouragement was cemented in the fact that I have something to live for; that I ACTUALLY have vision. It means that when we die, the vision will live beyond us. Jesus himself was mocked while living out his purpose but he had extraordinary vision that would live beyond his human life. The lowest point was not the end. This is what we call…legacy.
  • Am I worthy? “I’m going and doing, guilty for ever saying no, trying to control it all, but just being controlled but it all instead…”*If we’re honest, so many of us end up there. If I do not accomplish this, I am not worth celebrating. Wow. The pressure. So now I got FOMO: fear of missing out. We gotta be the prettiest or the smartest or the most relevant or the most helpful. Join two ministries while balancing your marriage and kids – only if you really love God, of course. And don’t forget to check everything off your to-do list but hey! Make sure you live in the moment. Because YOLO. Now let’s take a picture for social media of everything we’ve accomplished because we are definitely so…craazyyy. I mean, c’mon. Can you admit with me that this is crazy? Whenever I succumbed to any of these rules, I was enslaving myself. The point: We should celebrate who God has made us to BE. Minus what I’ve done, who I’ve snagged, or coins in the bank. Fear cannot be the motivation behind any of my pursuits.

 

There’s always so much more to be done. So many injustices still to set right. Relationships to restore. Lives to change. We’re often reaching toward the future and trying to fill the gap between where we are and where we are going. There is power in the end, but there is also power in the process. Vulnerabilities and brokenness often squeeze out the most change. So when the vision keeps moving out of reach, sometimes you’ve got to look back at the trail you’ve already blazed. By the time my birthday arrived, I had determined to be owt and bad, grab a couple others and enjoy the ride.

Celebrate with me, and cheers to being!

xo,

Shaloma

*excerpt taken from Fervent by Priscilla Shirer

Unchurched: An unbeliever’s take on church

What I heard – me, the “church girl”

“I don’t like that church.”

Her words were unexpected and final, breaking the easy silence we were enjoying over lunch.

“Huh?” I replied questioningly.

“It feels like a social experiment – that church you took me to,” she explained. “I’d rather go to a traditional church.”

I thought back to the mega church we had been to last – one of the more popular churches among my same-aged peers in New York. Whenever my friends and I wanted to slip anonymously into the crowd, and worship alongside a bunch of fellow young adult Christians to bolster our own faith, we went there. It felt safe, and fun, like being moved forward by the strength of a crowd at a concert. You didn’t have to feel strong, or anything, for that matter. She wasn’t one of my regular church friends though, but the opposite – a long-time friend who normally slept in on Sundays and only acquiesced to coming to church with me after much persuasion – “Girl! You need Jesus!”

As if she heard my thoughts, she added, “I don’t know how you got me there a second time but I’m telling you, I’m never going back there.”

What she saw – her, the “unchurched”

There was a palpable buzz of excitement as young adults milled outside, waiting for service to begin. There were so many of them yet they all seemed to know each other. Girls with enviable afros stood comfortably in heels and sported printed tees with cryptic phrases like “Worth the Wait.” Every once in a while, there was a loner or two, darting their gazes nervously, shifting from foot to foot, and looking as lost as I felt. What is this, exactly? Someone in front of me tapped their foot to the music that blasted from someone’s boom box. It had nice rhythm, a good Katy Perry cadence. Shaloma suddenly pulled my arm. “C’mon, the doors are open!” I scuttled behind her and the running crowd, unsure of why we were rushing but not wanting to be left behind. We plug the entrance of the church. As groups of friends break free, they dash to rows of seats only to stand and hover over them, grinning and beckoning to the back of the church with their hands. I come closer to one group, unsure. Their smiles falter and I quickly realize they’re reserving the seats for the friends who hadn’t yet made it through the throng. I step back, embarrassed.

“We can sit here.”

Shaloma was already settled in her seat – she hadn’t even noticed the snub from the pretty girls in front of us. Why are all the girls here so pretty?! Before I could mull that over, the church exploded in sound.

“We wanna see Jesus lifted high!”

Half a dozen people with mics had just run across the stage and belted out these words in perfect harmony and unison. Cued, the crowd leaps up and responds, “A banner that flies across the land!”

church-concert

“I don’t know the words,” I shout over the music to Shaloma. “How does everyone know the words?”

She shhhs me and points to the front. I squint past the flashing colored lights that had just started to strobe and pulse with each beat. I see them: two large screens with scrolling words. Karaoke? In church? I stand dumbly, fascinated with this new knowledge. The song changes to a softer tune, gripping me with its amazing solo. I turn to Shaloma to comment but she now has her hands raised and her eyes closed; I doubt she will hear me. It’s a nice song, and feels familiar. I sway with the sound. Then fear unexpectedly grips me. What if gets stuck in my head?? I don’t really believe in God! I’m starting to feel weird now.

By the time they collect money from everyone – no thanks – and pray (I never know when to close or open my eyes), I’m stifling a yawn. I catch Shaloma staring at me with knowing gentle eyes.

“Are you overwhelmed?” she asks. I shake my head and turn away. White men and black men in tunics and skinny jeans laugh together on the pulpit. More perfectly manicured girls give me hugs after the preacher does what’s called an altar call. The large church feels small, bearing down on me. I feel like I’m levitating – like I did at Andra Day’s last concert – but also like I’m suffocating because it was about Jesus. I don’t believe in Him, yet I can’t separate the experiences.

It ends and Shaloma looks at me.

“What a blessing.”

I smile, weakly.

“Yes.”

The gospel truth

I questioned my friend when she told me she wasn’t going back. Why not? An exploring Christian now, she shared her first church thoughts with me, years after it happened.

“The second time I went to church, I was only there 5% for Jesus, and 95% because I felt like a fish drawn to bait,” she explained. “With all that extra stuff, how do I really know that I’m there for the gospel of Jesus, or to serve him?”

Her words blew my mind…and my heart. I was humbled. In our modern-day churchy lives, how often do we question our motives? I’m not necessarily suggesting we downplay our music and ambiance. Nor do I command that we give up the saved seats for our like-minded fabulous friends…though maybe we should.

Her experience taught me that the gospel has the power to stand alone. She recognized her need for the pure unadulterated word of Jesus. We don’t have to dress it up. It stands in truth, in might and in time. It has the power to free people who leave their perfectly synchronized concerts in search for something different – something that will fill their empty hearts. They are searching for a truth that will resonate past the undulation of their heartbreak playlists, and climb beyond their career ladders that lead to nowhere. May we have the courage to point them to it. May we give them the gospel.

Jesus said, “I am the Way, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. (John 14:6 MSG). This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:16 MSG)…I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (John 14:27) Say with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord.” Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Then you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NIRV) 

Embrace the Journey [series]: I still have anxiety*

I stopped short in my Embrace the Journey series (post one and two here) earlier than I intended to because life beckoned. What kind of series is only two episodes long?! Ha. So far, we’ve learned about the danger of watching others, and that the process cannot be rushed – at least not without paying a dear price. We’ve even unofficially elaborated with the very last post and how embracing your journey entails recognizing your weaknesses, and disciplining yourself to move forward despite never-changing adversity. So what’s left?

haiti-hurricane-matthew

My answer came when I found out that 40 million American adults experience anxiety.  FORTY MILLION. Anxieties that are obvious, crippling, disabling, hidden, deceiving. I didn’t even understand what anxiety meant till I felt it for myself two years ago. Random bouts of anxiety still come as I think about my unmet goals but I have learned that trusting in God gives me much more peace than trying to control it all. Self-love can’t do it for me because if I could do it myself, I would’ve.

But let’s take this further. I have a friend who recently finished seven grueling years of schooling. Now a doctor, she confided in me: “I don’t even know what to pray about anymore – school consumed my life and mind, and now it’s all done.” We laughed then but I thought about it later. Imagine being crazy laser-focused on your goal, getting past current obstacles and then suddenly feeling wiped clean and free but lost. Which then gives you more anxiety. It makes me think of a colonoscopy. I haven’t had the pleasure of one but it conjures images of clogged harried people forced to fast; they are emptied out and eventually left dazed, loose bowelled, and full of air. What can I eat now?! Ahem. I digress.

Bottom line: It would be a shame to let our current circumstances consume our vision with crippling anxiety that they render us lifeless once they’ve stormed through. I’d like to wrap up the week and this series with this quick and dirty tip:

Live a multi-dimensional life. Below are a few things I’ve learneding to keep my cool. Continue reading

The ‘PLUS’ when nothing changes

This post has been ready for weeks and I hesitated with sharing it. Even after I was past the moment, I was wary to post. But now, I’m hoping that you relate and grasp the hope. Grab it and don’t let go.

I can’t lie. This post was hard for me to write. Someone I care dearly about was dealt a bad (and extremely unfair) blow. The people that made it happen seem to have escaped with little or no consequences. My heart felt like a stone in my chest. I restlessly slept and woke up sick. Literally and randomly. Each intake of breath stabbed me in my back, and as I swallowed, everything grudgingly made its way to my throat and stopped there as I choked it down. Contorted in pain, I managed to stop at a doc on my way to work. Muscle spasms and Tonsillitis. Nothing is promised, I thought. There’s too much going on, lots of transitions – much of it precarious. There’s enough negativity swarming in the world to just throw in the towel and say, “why try? There is no reason to continue, no reason to fight, the good people don’t win. Black men can’t live, people will heal at your expense, and efforts to attain God’s promises seem futile. Why God, anyway? Nothing changes.

Continue reading

Embrace the Journey [series]: Olympians

Last month, I flew down to Miami (I’m basically a world traveler now ha) for the world university netball championship games as one of the key covering journalists.

Journalist Essence New York Times Lucky Mag.JPG

The game – though it stands on its own as a sport for more than 2 million people around the world – is most comparable to basketball. It was a huge fanfare, with eight nations competing for the gold – USA, Jamaica, South Africa, Namibia, University of Worcestor (England), Uganda, Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago. It was quite an international affair between the competing countries, and staff from all around the world.  I made new friends, learned a few traditional Suriname dances, attempted to speak in Afrikaans (South Africa’s main language) and was able to closely follow this game I had barely known before arriving.

Shaloma with new friends.JPG

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Embrace the Journey [series]: Hurry!

It’s Fri-yay!

new york city blogger

I trust your week has been successful, productive and happy. I’m pretty sure, though, that some of you – if you’re anything like me – spent some time thinking about where you are and how different it looks from where you want to be. All I do is werk, werk, werk, werk, werk but I’m not seeing any payoffs as yet.

I’ve been working on this dissertation forever! When am I going to graduate?

When is this business going to become more profitable? My social media followers are lurkers and never buy in.

I pray and I fast and I do everything I think God wants me to, but I still feel confused.

I eat my greens but I am still in love with cupcakes. When will my one-pack separate into six? Ok, four?

If you’re motivated and working to be higher in any area of your life, you can relate. I was inspired to create a series just for us called Embrace the Journey.  These are lessons I’ve learned in the last few years, or even more recently, on how to actively pursue my goals without burning out and losing momentum.

Embrace the Journey: YOU CAN’T RUSH IT. Continue reading

Trust your gut?

How many times have you waited for that feeling? If I have this feeling, I know that all is well. I would know that it’s getting better. If I just felt it all the way in my gut, then I would know that I could move on.

Sometimes it does hit you, the settled finality. I’m done. Deuces. Drops mic. Upwards and onwards.

There are other times, though, that our sense of inner approval seems elusive. We keep trying and trying and the will to get past this life-changing obstacle isn’t strong enough.

My sibling has passed away. Can I really enjoy life without feeling guilty?

I’ve recovered all the losses from my business failure but is it safe to start again?

The cloud of divorce is far away now and maybe, just maybe, I can date – even with the kids. Or maybe not…

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