Slow Living

When the world is burning, I:

Donate

Sign petitions

Go on hikes

Use my tens machine

Read that book

Meditate

Sit with my sangha in an equanimity practice

Masturbate…a lot

Listen to music

Cook

Cry a ton

Go to therapy

Get back on hinge in a moment of…I just want someone hot (who’s not Ginele) to fuck my brains out

Drink pretty

cocktails

Photograph flowers blooming in the desert

Tend to my plants

What an immense privilege 🙏🏾

What do you do when the word is burning? I’d love to know. How similar/dissimilar are we?

Christabel.

Skincare ingredients for hyperpigmentation on Black skin with before and after pictures.

Listen y’all, this is my third time trying to write this post about hyperpigmentation! The first complete post did not save and my computer froze when I tried to save the second draft. I joked to Ginele that it is the universe saying why are you out here writing about skin care when India is dying from COVID, there’s anti-trans legislation, continued anti-Black racism and a myriad of issues.


Yes, those things are so so important to me but I’m really trying not to let the system play me like it so often plays Black people. Making us the worker bees of the world in addressing all the issues that exist instead of leaning into all our facets that exist as human beings. I mean, call your legislators, sign petitions, donate – all things I’ve done and do – without having a Black person remind you of it so we can just be ya know?


So, yes, today, we’re going to be talking skincare. One of my absolutely favorite things to nerd out over. From my teen years into my late 20s and early 30s, I’ve always had skin “issues”. What started off as adolescent acne grew into adult acne with the resultant hyperpigmentation and textured skin. For years, trips to the drugstore were not complete without venturing down the skincare aisle to try something new promising to get rid of my acne or my hyperpigmentation. As a Black woman with highly melanated skin, the options I found on the store counters always over promised and under-delivered in every capacity. I’m sure it didn’t help that I had the patience of a two-year-old in a candy aisle (thanks Ginele for the metaphor) in actually waiting to see if the new products were working before tacking on yet another product.


This basically resulted in me wearing full makeup almost every day of my 20s. And when I say almost every day, I mean exactly that. Even when I would work my 12 hour night shift gig as a nurse. It was always concealer, foundation, powder, lipstick, eyebrows, eyeshadow… the whole nine. I just thought that I really liked makeup – and I do – but it was more than that. It was a deep insecurity about how my skin looked in a culture obsessed with flawless skin. The days I couldn’t put on my full face armor, I avoided the mirror and just feeling less than pretty. I don’t know what happened, but in the last few years; I decided to to address the underlying skin issues that I wanted to correct.

That was when I found Gothamista who is a YouTuber who focuses on explaining active ingredients in skincare rather than empty promises and marketing catchphrases that are found on the front of products. So yeah, allow me to share some things I learned and what worked the best for me. I’m going to write about the particular ingredients first, then talk about how I went about incorporating them in a routine. If you’re Black or have darker skin and have hyperpigmentation, this is especially for you.

One of the biggest things that watching Gothamista’s videos gifted me was learning about The Ordinary, which is a company by the Canadian Deciem brand. The Ordinary products are a no frill product line that focuses on ingredients and so the prices are very affordable, allowing you to try things while figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t. This post is not sponsored or anything but yeah, 3 years later after I first discovered them, I’m still a stan! I will include my amazon storefront affiliate link for purchasing some of the ordinary products through that.

Let’s get started then, shall we!


First things first, none of this matters if you do not have the most important ingredient – PATIENCE! Literally, that is the one thing I really, really had to for us on. I basically had to force myself to sit on my hands for the first 6 months to a year of starting my skincare journey. And trust me, if you’ve dealt with skin issues, you know how hard this is. But I swear, without it, the journey wouldn’t have been successful. Literally, using the same products day in day out without visible results for 6-12 months is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done not going to lie. Whew!


For dark spots (hyperpigmentation) and brightening:
Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C)


Retinoids

For congestion and pores:
Niacinamide
Zinc

For chemical exfoliation (texture):
Azalaiec Acid
Lactic Acid
Glycolic Acid

For moisture:
Hyalunoric acid
Squalene
Oil (I prefer rose hip oil)

Using the above ingredients as a guide, this is how I put together a routine for my oily, dehydrated, acne prone skin.


General order of application of products:

  • Cleanse (double cleanse at night)
  • Treatment serum (acids, retinoid or serum used on different days as needed for hyperpigmentation, texture, blemishes etc.)
  • Moisturizer
  • Oil

  • AM routine:
  • Cleanse with a moisturizing cleanser. I like Cerave Hydrating cleanser
  • The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
  • The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
  • The Ordinary Hyalunoric Acid 2% + B5 as moisturizer
  • Sunscreen (Supergoop unseen sunscreen is my fave)

  • PM routine
  • Cleanse with a cleansing balm (Farmacy Green Clean is my fave)
  • Double cleanse with a salicylic acid cleanser (Cerave SA cleanser is bae)
  • The Ordinary Vitamin C 23% in 2% HA
  • Azalaeic acid, Lactic Acid, or Retinol as needed
  • Moisturizer
  • Squalene and/or rose hip oil

  • Twice a week, exfoliate with The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% peeling solution (this here is liquid GOLD!)
    And there ya have it! 12 months later, my skin looked remarkably different. It was fun to try other more expensive, more luxurious products later on, having a solid understanding of what does what. Today, my routine is much paired down as I’m using the Curology system where I cleanse, treat, and moisturize under the guidance of a dermatologist developed treatment serum incorporating active ingredients for my current specific skin needs.

The above picture was about a year into using The Ordinary products exclusively. And all the below pictures are of my skin today with no foundation or concealer.

This post is not comprehensive and you’ll need to do your own deeper research, taking into consideration your specific skincare needs. But people have asked me often throughout the years, so I wanted to get it down on paper.


Lemme know in the comments if you have questions. I created a link to most of the products mentioned here in my Amazon store front. It’s an affiliate link so I get a commission when you purchase through that link.l I wanted to give you an easy way to get access to everything mentioned.

Is it COVID or is it you? Sex edition.

Illustration by Chelsea Charles.

Hi y’all!

A big welcome to everyone who is new. I appreciate you supporting my work. I love how Sonya Renee Taylor puts it thank you for being in “right relationship” with me. Where, hopefully, you gain insight or learn something from me sharing my viewpoints with you while I gain monetary support from you. This feels deeply aligned, especially as a Black woman. Grateful.
Okay, let’s get into what this post is about. As you might tell from the attached image, we’re talking about S.E.X.


🎶Let’s talk about sex baby, let’s talk about you and me 🎶
Actually, before we start proper, let me say that I am as always speaking from my perspective as a coupled, able-bodied, sexually active individual with no medical (and otherwise) hindrances to sexual activities. Please know that this is the lens from which I write.


When I read that article after a friend posted it on IG, I immediately forwarded it to my partner. I was like….oh so it’s not just us, huh? When we went from being regularly sexually active to a diminished libido, it brought up old hurts and questions. Especially since you don’t see people all over the internet talking about how they ain’t been getting none since the pandemic. So when I saw that article, I was like whew! It’s not just us. I mean, I think I knew that, but actually reading it felt validating for me. The following quote from the piece was especially so for me.


“Many spouses are feeling trapped under one roof. Amid the strain, uncertainty and unending sameness of pandemic life, many couples find the bandwidth for intimacy is gone.”


The article also mentioned that while most people have had decreased libidos,, for a few, the opposite has been the case. That brings us the question of what happens in a partnership where two people living under the same roof are having the opposite experience. One person has diminished libido while the other has increased libido, as it’s been for us. What then? How do we approach the subject of consent vs getting your needs met vs not getting resentful because your sexual needs aren’t met or because you’re feeling pressured by your partner? The article addresses this briefly as below


“For those whose marriages were already sexless before the pandemic, or where one partner has more desire than the other, months of lockdowns “magnify what’s not working in the relationship,” said Seattle marriage and family therapist Mindy McGovern.”


I just wanted to share a few things we learned in couples’ therapy that may prove beneficial to you too.
First, the needs of both parties are valid. Both the need for space and the need for sexual connection.
Consent still applies. Pressuring or guilting our partner to have sex isn’t in line with consent.
Patience. Patience. Patience. This too shall pass. Most likely.
Cultivating equanimity. The ability to sit in silence with a hard emotion or unmet needs. This will come in handy.
Showing grace and kindness and love towards each other. Being long suffering.
If the energy is there, build intimacy and closeness that isn’t actually sex.
Masturbate a lot!! Self pleasure for the person who has more sexual is going to come in clutch here.


The article ends by saying:
“What I’m saying to my couples is, don’t set the bar too high but … keep your relationship simmering until such time as a full boil becomes possible. This is the time to cultivate ‘maybe’ and little bits of flirtation – even if one knows there is no energy to act on it right now.”


So yeah, if you’re in a similar boat, I’m here to say I see you. A lot of us are. A lot of couples are going to end up splitting up. I think about splitting up at least once a month, tbh even though this person is my person and has been my person for the last seven years and there’s no one I love more than her after me. Because I can be impatient and given the history of our relationship (we had just gotten back together after a divorce at the beginning of the lockdown), it can sometimes be difficult to separate COVID related stressors from old stuff creeping up. And that uncertainty can be a scary place for me to be.


But I’m facing my fears, giving myself and her grace whole endeavoring to remember that we’re in a global pandemic. I hope you remember too.


Xo, Christabel.


Ps.: the article is linked below.
https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-another-victim-of-covid-19-sex-between-married-couples/

The Talk

The Talk

Two Black girls in America. One had “The Talk” one didn’t. Navigating the labyrinth that is anti-blackness.

Before we continue, you know what The Talk is, don’t you? You might not, and that’s okay. Google will help here. But also, the TV show Blackish had an episode all in The Talk that is very helpful. Come back and continue reading after you’ve acquainted yourself. Promise, it’s worth the effort.

How did I get to thinking about The Talk today you may ask? On my flight to Palm Springs for my second COVID vaccine, I was watching a random movie (Waves is the movie if you care to look it up, I’m only 37 minutes into it so I don’t have a review of it or anything) where the Black father is having a truncated version of The Talk with his son. It wasn’t the full Talk to see; it was just a quick reminder thrown into general life lessons he was teaching his kid on the importance of hard work. But, as a Black man, raising a Black man in America, he can’t just talk about hard work without the following thrown in and stressed

“The world don’t give a shit about you or me. They do not afford us the luxury of being average. Gotta work ten times as hard just to get anywhere.”

When I heard him say that, it felt like a punch in the gut and I had to pause the movie to write some thought. Not because I’m not familiar with The Talk or haven’t heard it talked about often in my partner’s family. But because, in that moment, I could see the privilege I had growing up not having The Talk giving to me. Not because my mom was the kinda parent who’s like, nah, I will not mention that to them because I want them to grow up unaware of racism. But because there was never any need to get The Talk as a kid growing up in Ghana.

Sure, there’s colorism and tribalism and a host of other issues in Ghana. But racism was not one of them. My mom still expected me to take first place in my class by working the hardest because according to her,

“those who always get first place, do they have two heads? Okay then, why can’t you be the person in first place Chinweokwu (my traditional name)”

So, I faced pressure that comes from being raised by an African parent with high expectations. But, here’s the thing, every kid in my class was probably getting the same tongue lashing from their parent as I was. So, we were on an equal playing field with the same pressures. In America, though, only the Black kids are getting the talk.

For instance, I find it hard to believe that any of you who are white, reading this, tell your kid that the world doesn’t give a shit about them, that they’re not afforded the luxury of being average, that they have to work ten times as hard to get anywhere based on the COLOR OF THEIR SKIN alone. Take a moment and think about that. Seriously, take it in. That this is a talk many Black parents feel like they have to have with their Black kids on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.

Not every Black parent in America has The Talk with their kid. And you can find many articles online as to the reason they choose not to. One of which is, the kid is going to face racism no matter what, why inundate them with it at home too? Why not them maintain their innocence? Some even say, when you have The Talk with Black kids, they’re more apt to see anti-Black racism where none exists (major eye roll at this).

Ultimately, for many parents with Black kids, there isn’t a choice but to let them know the reality of life in the country they live in. The undeniable truth that the very foundations of the country are anti-Black. And that, if they don’t have the talk with their kids, how will they make it in this world? When, just by their name, they’re discriminated against.

It got me thinking though of how my partner moves through an anti-Black society vs. how I move through it. Sure, we have fundamental personality differences that account for how differently we move. But, it got me thinking of how not having The Talk (because there was no need for it) vs having it influences how differently we view rest, working hard, achieving goals, making money, showing vulnerability, maintaining a protective shell (in order to survive a system intent on killing you). How differently we react when the police pull us over and the list goes on and on.

Ultimately, my thought process (and writing) ended with me having more questions than answers. How will we raise Black kids in this society? Will we have The Talk with them? Is “making it” in with a white supremacist world the goal? Considering that white supremacy is truly worldwide, the question then is, is “making it” the goal. Especially if making it means us just not being able to BE. When that means working ten times as hard. When that means grinding harder than our white counterparts in order to achieve a modicum of the success they have. Is there a way to achieve balance? Can we convey they might work the hardest and the white world they’re surrounded by may still not recognize their greatness come what may? So then, they shouldn’t use that a benchmark on how hard or not they work? How do we teach them to understand and accept their inherent worth and that it’s not their problem if the racist world they’re born into and inhabit doesn’t recognize it?

On the other side of the coin, what are the roles of white people/parents? How can you dismantle the system by just naming these things in front of your kids and other white people? Having these discussions with them instead of just online. I believe that most of the work we’re doing today is for the next generation. Laying the groundwork for a more fair future. Killing this cancer that is white supremacy once and for all. A cancer that has ravaged the entire world and keeps in going. A cancer that is resistant to most treatments because it holds on to power, money, success, superiority with a death grip. It’s a cancer that affects us all. Not just Black people or other POC but also white people. Perhaps mostly white people with its ability to strip them of their humanity.

How can you, as a white person, tangibly harness your power to eradicate white supremacy and eradicate the need for any parent to a Black kid to ever have The Talk with their kid?

If you’re Black, yes or no to The Talk? Or grey areas?

Xo, Christabel.

My love hate relationship with couple’s therapy. You too?

It’s the night before our weekly couple’s therapy session and I’m laying in bed thinking of which energy I’m going to be bringing into the session at 12pm PST the next day. I landed on, I’m going to let G do the most talking because it’s not like what I have to say matters. Completely satisfied with this narrative, I promptly roll over, put on my sleep meditation music and go to bed. The next morning, I wake up not thinking about it anymore. I was certain that not talking for the 50 minutes was totally doable and the absolute right move.

For any of you who are in couple’s therapy or ever been in one, you know that it’s vastly different from individual therapy. In individual therapy, my needs are front and center, my therapist attentively listens to me, affirms me, teaches me how to work on changing the things that I want to change that can be changed; all from a place of deep acceptance and love.

In couple’s therapy, all the above applies except…it’s not only about the singular you anymore, but about the plural YOU. It’s about the relationship dynamics. Working with a professional to affirm the relationship and change things that can be changed. In my particular case, a lot of the cue I get has to do with patience and accepting my partner for who they are. While in the eyes of my individual therapist, I can do no wrong (not really, but you know what I mean), in couple’s therapy, with my partner right there, the stories I recount has another set of eyes and mouth bearing witness to my unconscious embellishments. And it doesn’t always feel good. Because in the moments where she corrects me or reminds me exactly how things went down, I realize that yes; I have blind spots; I remember things in ways that minimizes the harm I may have caused and really, sometimes; I flat out lie to myself.

Then there’s the therapist who is there to facilitate the creation of a relationship that serves both parties. It’s not about only my tears anymore. Sure, she cares about my tears and she also cares about G’s tears. I’m forced to face the fact that I have a lot of expectations of my partner to relate with me the way I relate to my family structure. I’ve done a lot of work to unlearn behaviors that do not serve me anymore. But in couple’s therapy, I am forced to face the absolute truth that to love someone is to accept them AS IS. And that perhaps what we term love while trying to get the person to be a different person is perhaps not love at all. At least not love that allows for a peaceful cohabitation.

And so, for the last three sessions, she has met any concerns that I’ve brought up regarding G with, “well, what if she’s not ready,” “she has to do it at her own pace,” “many people process internally for a long time before its externally manifest,” “Yeah, it’ll be nice if she can do XYZ but she can’t and so now what,” “you can’t demand honesty from anyone,” “you can’t know what anyone is thinking, assuming you do is erroneous,” “knowing all this about her, what are you going to do Christabel?” and “the answer is not in getting her to change.”

I could go on forever, but I won’t. As you can see, that’s why the decision I had made the night before seemed like a viable one. In fact, I said, “honestly, today, G can talk, because I’m still working on my assignment of loving without expectations, accepting her as is, and cultivating patience” LOL. Yup, I sure said that because I was over it! LOL. But I did not stay quiet the whole 50 minutes.

Therapist took it in stride and said, “seems like a good place to be, I know the work is difficult but it’s worth it because they’re skills that’ll help you beyond this relationship.” Then she turned to G and said, “I guess the ball is in your court today.” I tell ya, that woman is hilarious. She’s not fazed one bit by my pouting and woe-is-me act. She’s just like, okay, do what you need to do. In the meantime, there’s someone else here who can get my attention. So, yeah, couple’s therapy is not the easiest for me but it proves, each week, to be exactly what I need right now in this phase of life.

In fact, I’ve suspended individual therapy to focus only on lessons I have to learn yet in how I am in relationships. I’ve seen now, more than ever, the benefit of healing in community. Self work is important for sure, but at some point, I’ve found that I had to go beyond the navel gazing that accompanies self-improvement. I had to get to a place where I could actively seek input from others around me on how who I am growing to be is impacting them. How I can continue to refine self in community. I am beyond privileged to can pursue this mode of healing. I wish we all had that access; you know? Because it is so so helpful.

How about you? How do you love and relate? Are you able to love without expectations? In fact, do you think expectations ought to accompany love? Last, couple’s or individual therapy, which is your fave?

I had a beer; rolled skated; and broke my ankle. Lessons in sharing, vulnerability and addiction.

Whew! Why do I write about such matters? Who does being so emotionally vulnerable benefit? Sharing about things that I’d perhaps be better off keeping to myself. Perhaps. It’s at that juncture I hit a hard pause. The thought that I’d perhaps be better off if I didn’t share as much I recognize as the societal conditioning that tells us we should value our privacy above all else. I would succumb to this belief – in fact, I have in times past – if not for this deeper and more primal desire within me that propels me to share. To share not only because of the healing I experience when I let go of shame in the telling. But also, because in sharing, I hope no one gets to live in their shame. In the shame of feeling broken, alone, and unworthy.

I have felt all of those things and still feel them from time to time. This idea that I may indeed help someone feel less alone isn’t one that I’ve always believed without questioning my motives. Am I narcissistic, do I not understand the sacredness of privacy and the sanctity of our deeply felt emotions? Do I over share because of trauma? And the list and self-flagellation goes on and on. At one point, I may have believed that I had said ulterior motives and failures in self regulation if not that what has helped me feel the least alone and broken in this world are the words of others. The words with which they too shared what many in our society consider private/secret and sacred even. It is in others sharing their stories of abortion, self harm, abuse, violence, anger that I’ve seen myself reflected to me. It is in those stories that I found reason to stop questioning my worth, my validity, my humanness. And so I share.

This latest share is about how the pandemic, multiple infidelities, a divorce and reconciliation led me to develop coping mechanisms I’m re-examining. I grew up with an alcoholic dad and later became witness to an alcoholic brother. All that to say alcoholism isn’t new to me. I’ve seen the different shapes it takes. The dad who only drinks at night but might finish a 24 pack of beer yet still wake up in the morning to run a very successful business. To the brother who is using alcohol and drugs to escape a mind besieged by words and images that aren’t within his control.

Because of those very close examples of what it looks to be at the mercy of alcohol, I would never have categorized myself as an alcoholic. I still don’t. But there was enough for me to examine my newly developing coping mechanisms. I mean, I had the “good” coping mechanisms on lock. I crocheted, I went to therapy, I wrote, I podcasted, I skated, and I drank a bottle of beer almost every night. Yup, that’s it. Just that one bottle. Some nights, if I was feeling frisky, I’d have two bottles or maybe some wine. Certainly not enough to get drunk. But for me, a lightweight, a bottle of beer was just enough to take the edge off. You know, the edge of living life during a global pandemic isolated from friends, family, and for me, coworkers as I haven’t been to work in four months.

I never sought more than those one or two bottles because I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. Tipsy is just good enough for me. Good enough for me to want to feel it nightly. My partner would tease me every time I said I went grocery shopping by asking, “you mean you got plantain chips and beer?” I’d chuckle and say “you already know it”. While she said nothing expressly, I could tell she was beginning increasingly worried about my apparent desire to have a beer every night.

So yeah, I had some concern, but nothing that I couldn’t explain away. I was just kinda taking the approach of observing myself to see how long this streak would last. I didn’t consistently drink the whole pandemic; just in those initial did in the initial months where I was freaking out and filled with anxiety at the unknown. In fact, I intentionally went a couple of months with no alcohol at all because I wasn’t trying to have the conversation about whether I was drinking too much. This time around though, I was taking more of a let me wait and see how this plays out approach.

What prompted me to write about this, you may ask. Well, I broke my ankle a few days ago while practicing my new hobby of roller skating. It happened in the hallway of our apartment complex, which is where I had taken to practicing ever since I took up the new hobby. I’ve had multiple falls, as one does when learning how to roller skate for the first time! Yet, with this fall a few days ago, I couldn’t brace myself for the fall the way I had learned to. I was “off” just enough to careen into the wall with my foot with a resultant crack sound that showed the break an X-ray eventually confirmed. That feeling of being “off” is the feeling I recognize accompanies my tipsiness after a beer. This happened around 3pm in the afternoon, and I had had a beer earlier on that afternoon with lunch.

When I was telling my partner and folks on Instagram of the fall, I didn’t mention I had had a beer. I didn’t even mention it jokingly like I would have if I felt it was a joke. Something to the tune of “y’all better not skate after having a beer because you might break your leg, learn from me”. As I kept this from my partner especially more and more, I realized the familiar feelings of shame that accompany doing something that my instinct tells me isn’t right for me. I eventually told my partner, and she was kind enough to say “that was kinda hard for you to tell me, wasn’t it?” Yes, it has been hard to admit it. And so, after tackling that hard, I wrote about it.

I’m choosing to write more, but also to write truly and share authentically in all ways. This may resonate with you, or it may not. That is not within my control. However, if it does, I want to say, you’re not alone. Maybe I’ll never know how this resonated with you and I don’t need to know. I only needed to get it out. To cast out the shame that accompanied this for me. Because only when I have let go of the shame am I able to decide and say hey love, let’s stop with the daily beer, yeah? Let’s see how hard it is to stop. Let’s see the emotions that stopping brings up for you. Let’s face it from a place of self love and acceptance and see what comes up for us.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m two days in and so far, a little anxiety, a little displacing of that anxiety onto my partner, a little desire to open that bottle of wine or buy some beer but above all, a lot of noticing and sitting still.

Xo, Christabel.

In a world of social media, does my voice matter?

In a world of social media with a proliferation of voices, does my voice matter? This is a question I ask myself a LOT. So much so that I’m certain it must tire my partner that I’m constantly pulling her into the discussions about it. One reason I’m doubtful of the importance of my voice is because I never want to cause any harm by my words or messaging intentionally or inadvertently. People present many things on Instagram as undeniable facts. Captions and text blocks would have you believe personal experiences universally apply. These things while often benign aren’t always so. My experience with the holistic psychologist brand last summer was a splendid example of how much harm some accounts can cause. Her graphics felt like they resonated. Sure, I knew how to take what resonated and leave the rest. For some people, this wasn’t the case. There are stories of people who got off their medication based on her posts and the ideologies she taught, and this has turned out not to be the right decision for them. Not only that, it has caused them harm.

This leaves me cautious about the need for me to add my voice to the mix. I often think that perhaps what people need isn’t another voice to hear from, but to see that their inner voice is all they ever need. I’m not prescriptive and I don’t have the answers to your problems. Shit, I don’t have the answers to MY problems.

So, those are the things I don’t know and things I’m not sure of. Let’s get to the things that I know. I know that while it sounds good, and it’s probably true that our inner voice is all we ever need, this inner voice isn’t always accessible to us on our own. It is often through the words and the writings of other people that we’re able to gain a deeper understanding into who we are. It is in their bravery to speak up and share about their life experiences and the lessons they’ve learned in life that we all benefit. When I think of my favorite writer, Maya Angelou, I can’t explain how her writings and life stories continue to be an immense inspiration to my life. Her life wasn’t perfect, and she never sought to make it seem like it was. She also wasn’t prescriptive, she just spoke from her life experience and what proved to be true for her. Dr. Angelou had a deep longing to share insight from a place of not perfection but from a place of a desire to uplift Black folks.

This is a longing I know too well. I wake up each day with a deep yearning to speak and write about my life experiences. Not from a place of knowing it all or even knowing anything at all, but from a place of maybe if I share, someone somewhere will not feel alone in THEIR experiences. Writing about my love and my struggles isn’t all fun and games. My story is rife with a lot of pain and heartache, but in the pain is where I’ve found the lessons. In it is where I’ve formed my most cherished friendships and connections. It’s in that authenticity that I’m able to connect with others in my life. I want to continue writing and sharing. I want to have a record of a life well lived, a life well experienced, a life full of joys and sadnesses that are unique to me but universal in its lessons.

Maybe that’s my gift, huh? This ability to share. To connect our human experiences. To find the shared connections and the collective lessons. I doubt this gift of mine a lot and when I see other people who appear confident in their gifts, I’m sometimes inspired but more often scared that if im not that way, then maybe I have nothing to offer after all. Here’s the thing, I could keep holding back from giving it all my all while waiting to get confident or I can just share about this too. The struggle to believe I have a voice, the struggle to find that voice, and the self doubt that plagues me about whether there’s any benefit in me sharing that voice. That struggle isn’t just by the way, nor is it something I have to overcome first before I’m able to share about my experiences. It is all a part of my experience, this is the work. In my sharing this fear, doubt, and struggles and many others to come, I hope that you not feel alone in your fears, doubts and struggles.

Relationships as my biggest teacher.

I’ve had many relationships over the years all with trials but none has been as impactful as my current one with my partner and that with my mom over our lifetime. I believe that our relationships can be outstanding teachers if we are in the right space to be a student. Otherwise, it becomes about blame game. Focusing on the other person’s shortcomings or how they’re toxic or and anything else that is not how we can learn about ourselves from that relationship.

Disclaimer *this is not talking about truly abusive relationships*

It feels like taboo to talk about thing like your relationship is hard but you both remain intentional about remaining in it but that’s why I think we should. There were so many things that have happened throughout our relationship that many people (and us) would say we probably should have broken up in our first year.

I had a lot of anger from a life filled with painful moments. I had grown up a specific way where we yelled, screamed, hit people, thrown things etc. I was always ready to rumble if I felt hurt. Ginele also came into the relationship with her unique set of conditioning. So yeah, it was tumultuous. When I met Ginele, I had just had a pretty nasty divorce a few months prior after 4 years of a pretty abusive relationship. Of course I loved Ginele, but I had conditioning that I hadn’t worked on. My favorite thing to say was I am who I am and if you don’t like it, oh well. While secretly, I felt ashamed of the ways I acted out. But after a year of utter chaos, the love I had for her and the love she had for me motivated me for the first time to see if I can change the way I expressed my emotions. Five years later, here I am, grown and healed in so many ways. And six years into our relationship, the lessons keep coming.

While there are things I desperately wish I could change in our history, I can honestly say that she has been the truest reflection of myself that I’ve ever had. It’s so hard to see yourself. It’s much easier to see someone else and tell them what they need to work on. Shifting from that to just seeing yourself, sitting with that revelation, accepting it, and looking for ways to gain new skills to help you navigate life and your relationships with more ease is life-changing work. Our culture has taught us to throw in the towel early. If it’s hard in a certain manner, or for a prolonged period, or in a recurrent way, it’s not meant to be. And while I’m sure the sentiment that love should be easy resonates with and is true for some people, it’s never resonated with me. I don’t know of any uncomplicated relationships. I’ve never seen that, and so I don’t relate. What I know though and have witnessed in my life is the magic that comes from using love as a catalyst to learn, evolve, grow and repair relationships that matter to us.

By Instagram standards, I should have disavowed my mom so long ago. We have a very difficult history filled with abuse and it was the worst relationship in my life for a really long time. But when I started therapy and just talking about and processing everything that I went through in her hands, I learned compassion for her and by extension for self. She did the best with the knowledge she had. She saw certain treatments that were incredibly harmful to me as normal. So, when I learned the skills of telling her how what she did affected me, the skills of setting boundaries with her, and her (unspoken) determination to do the work, our relationship changed for the better. And it’s still evolving to this day. I’m so glad I stuck it out with her. And that’s kinda how I feel about Ginele and I. It’s been so hard. We have traumatic memories that I’d rather not have. We’ve married, there’s been infidelities, we’ve divorced, there are trust issues, there’s still a fairly regular conversation about if we’ll make it. If perhaps the hurt is too much to overcome.

So, we work, we go to therapy, we fight, we cry, we threaten to leave weekly because it feels just so hard sometimes. But above all, we love. At least we try to. Our love is divine. We both truly feel that way. Our therapists marvel at what we have. Our mothers marvel at what we have. That love is worth fighting for. Even if we have spent most of it unhooking from and unlearning our respective conditioning. Literally just last week, she called me out on my tendency to use tears and my pain as an emotionally manipulate weapon. At first, I wanted to defend myself and talk about how that’s so not true. But I examined myself and came to the open acceptance that I do that. It was such a relief when I finally admitted it and let go of the shame that came from it. And so now I can begin the work of learning new skills and techniques to counteract that conditioning. Anyhow, this is a much bigger conversation that I can’t wait to have going forward with Ginele as my guest.

Why I hate social media therapy.

When I first discovered that I had a voice, I wasn’t sure how to use it. I wasn’t sure of what avenue best suited the use of said voice. What I knew is that in my personal life, through conversations I have had with friends and family, I have an impact. The most profound impact I have from what I’ve been told is that I show others how to just be by being (I know because I asked). But gaining that voice first began in one-on-one therapy.

I’ve had the same therapist for the last 5 years. We talk about the same things repeatedly, but with new insights and perspective each time. He has seen me through the initial stages of leaving a lifelong religion, supported me when I came out and lost 99% of the people I loved. He has witnessed me navigate intense anger and self sabotage. He’s seen me navigate my first same sex relationship where I displayed hetero-normative expectations and therefore disappointments. He’s seen me perhaps get married when I shouldn’t have (he’s also thought me that taking should out of my vocabulary is a great strategy), he’s supported me through my divorce from that marriage because of multiple infidelities by my then wife and the eventual decision to get back together with her. If I were to guess based on his 25 odd years of being a therapist, he probably knew that the marriage would not work, he probably knew that I would file for divorce, he probably knew that that experience would be my biggest teacher, he probably also knew that my love for my partner would send me back into her arms. Yet, through it all, he maintained what I can only characterize as unbelievable restraint.

Restraint from offering me advice. Restraint from imposing his thoughts on me. He made sure I lived organically by living, experiencing, learning, and therefore growing. One could say that perhaps he should have helped me avoid the pitfalls of the heartache that was a constant companion to me during the last five years. But I beg to differ. As someone who experienced the pain, I beg to differ. The pain taught me more than his advice would ever have. Feeling gut wrenching, heart breaking pain has integrated the lessons into my DNA, into my very cells. I know what it is to have felt pain that was indescribable. Pain that feels as though your very gut is being ripped into shreds, the inability to speak, the increased heart rate, the shallow breathing, losing appetite followed by the gorging on food. If he had protected me from that, where would I be today?

So, if a therapist is so hesitant to give advice, why are there so many people on Ig, therapists included, who are quick to supply us with an endless list of should and should nots. And even when they’re not should and should nots, there is definitely a litany of advice givers on IG. I remember when I would take things I had seen on IG to my therapist, he would always say… well, it depends. Examples are “You have to love yourself before others can love you”… well, it depends on YOUR particular life experiences. Well, how about “you have to cut toxic people out of your life”… well, it depends, are you running away from triggers that could help you grow? So, he taught me that every single advice depends on your particular life experiences and that to know if advice applies to you, understand who you are. Otherwise, you’ll run from one advice to other, most of which are often contradictory unable to know if the problem is the advice or you. As a rule of thumb, I do not consume info and advice from therapists on IG. I get that there’s a vast market for it. Because of how difficult the human experience is, people are desperate for solutions. The self help market is a big and lucrative one. In fact, when I was still in church, they’ll always mock people seeking self help advice as lost sheep. I don’t consider anyone lost sheep, but I am determined not to contribute to the culture of offering people who I don’t know their life experiences advice on anything.

So then, as a creative, empathetic person who has had a positive impact in the lives of people in my life, what is my strategy for continuing to have a positive impact in the life of many more? JUST BEING! That hasn’t always been my strategy, though. In 2018, I had hired a business coach to help me figure out how to be an impactful human while on this earth and also make a living from it. I’ve been a nurse for the last 8 years and I love nursing and the impact I have on the lives of people, but over the years, I’ve felt less impactful. The medical system and the lack of autonomy that I have in the care of my patients made me want more. How can I make a living doing what I love, which is having a meaningful impact in the lives of others while also making a living from it because I don’t believe I have to be a pauper to be a good person? That’s where the business coach came in with all the strategies she has learned over her decade of social media marketing. Some of those strategies were: 1. Identify 3 quirky habits you have and weave them into every story so that people will come to relate to you by those three things. 2. DOn’t just post about your days on your stories, have a point to it. A lesson to teach, a thing to point out… story with a purpose. 3. Give people a bunch of free material so you can one day sell to them etc.

And I tried it for a little. I created free pdf’s building mailing lists that I’ll one day get to monetize off of. Build trust in your audience so that one day, you can sell to them and they wouldn’t see it coming. YOOOO…. that caused me so much anxiety because that is so who I’m not. But I thought, oh maybe it’s because I’m not as skilled a marketer as they are. I had paid hundreds of dollars for this coaching after I had followed them for a few years. So, yes, they got me as a client… hence their methods works. But you know what, over the last few years, I see those marketing strategies for what they are… white supremacist, capitalistic, predatory marketing strategies. I’m not saying don’t build a business on social media, but my question is why does it have to be couched in subterfuge? Why can’t you just come up with a brilliant business strategy that isn’t tied to you as a human who is flawed af and then market it as a business off the bat? Like hey, I’m a writer, I’m going to write a book filled with all the lessons I’ve learned from my life so far that I’m going to sell to you, buy it if you want to? While you go on being your hoeish, weed smoking, ratchet music twerking flawed af individual if that’s what you want to be. Or conversely, be your private self without having to showcase your entire life to be the relatable individual you are if that’s the case.

So, yeah, nursing is still annoying the fuck out of me based on how fucked up the healthcare system is. And I’m still a very creative impactful individual who would love to earn a living doing creative impactful things. And my strategy is just going to be to build a business that supports that that isn’t tied to who I am or how I present on here. Or maybe it is tied to it, but I’ll make sure it’s going to be exactly who tf I am and no persona curated by a social media strategist team. Yeah, you can strategize about my actual business, but never about ME as a person. Nah son, no one gets to get me to present a way that isn’t authentic in any way just to gain followers or sell some t-shirts.

Let me say though that I don’t feel this way about professionals who offer advice on their profession. It’s almost as though the self help, coaching, therapy business is the worst business to do on social media yet is the most popular. Because I believe that it is highly difficult to offer generalized advice when it comes to mental healthcare since it’s such an individualized thing. I think doing it in tandem is certainly beneficial but often times, people aren’t in therapy or doing one on one coaching. Rather, they’re consuming memes and tables and charts that offer generalized mental health advice. But also, there’s the nuanced conversation about access to therapy and alladat so I get why people gravitate towards free access to SOME mental healthcare.

Of course, I don’t know everything about everything and I’m not condemning anyone. Just had these thoughts rattling around in my head and wanted to write and talk about it.

Let’s talk,

Christabel.

Religion and Internalized Homophobia

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Listen here: Aberrant Behavior Podcast: 3. Religion and Internalized Homophobia

Hi everyone! I started a podcast called Aberrant Behavior and I’m so excited to facilitate conversation around societal norms and mores I’ve shed on my journey towards self-discovery.

In this episode, I delve into my long and complex relationship with religion and why I had to let it go if I was ever to love myself deeply. I have nothing against religion as a whole because I recognize it’s role in providing comfort and hope to many people as it did for me. Plus, faith and belief is a deeply personal thing that I don’t really think I have room to comment on another person’s faith walk. My mental health required that I let go of that journey and embark on a personal spiritual journey of self-discovery, self-love and self-acceptance. Psychotherapy and other modalities proved to be more effective in helping me eliminate the internalized homophobia I had.

I loved religion a lot, with my entire heart. Yes, I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and I remained one until I was 28. One reason was fear of losing my family and friends if I left. If you know anything about Jehovah’s witnesses, you’d know that there is legitimacy to this fear. But also, because bible scriptures answered many of the questions I had about life. Questions like, why are we here, what happens to us when we die, where are our dead loved ones and why are there kids in the world who go to bed hungry. It gave me a deep sense of assurance that this is not all there is to life. I still have a lot of those questions and without religion, there’s no assured answers to assuage my fears and concerns and that’s okay.

It was hard coming to terms with being uncertain. Without biblical answers to all my questions, I had to face myself. More accurately, I had to begin an exploration of what *I* thought about these issues but also day-to-day stuff. Like, is there really anything wrong with sex before marriage? Is there anything wrong with homosexuality? Can I be friends with people from all walks of life instead of just people who shared the same belief as I did. Is the man really the head of the family? What if there’s no man? What if the man has no head for leadership? Etc. Many of you may not have dealt with not knowing your own personal views of these things, but I did.

I had an identity crisis essentially when I had been in therapy for a year. It was painful work to temporarily (or permanently) to set aside religion in favor of self-help. Self-help was heavily condemned in my church. There’s a scripture in James that says that the human heart is deceptive and should definitely not be trusted. So yeah, learning from the works of other humans with deceptive hearts was not the smart thing to do. I still don’t think the intension behind this message was malicious. What I think is that getting people to completely distrust their instincts is harmful intent or not. At the very least, it proved harmful to me.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with religion. It gives hope, comfort and a sense of belonging. What I think is that religion would be so much better if people were encouraged and told that their instincts are worthwhile. That we’re not inherently flawed. That it’s beneficial to engage in a personal journey in parallel with a religious one. I wish churches and pastors did not discourage members from seeking mental health care. This is especially my wish within the black community. A community with so much generational and personal trauma coupled with the intense racism they face.

While religion is still on pause for me, I wish that when I was still religious; I had also sought to embark on a personal spiritual journey. I may not be religious anymore, but I’m the most spiritual I’ve ever been. I may not pray, but I meditate often. I may not go to a building to worship, but I visit with my journal often. I love all people. I believe that love is love. My intuition is all I ever need to call on. My ancestors are ever present to guide me because they live within me.

Things are changing, people are coming into an awareness of limitations inherent in religion. Church goers are also seeking therapy, they journal while going to church. They meditate and pray and I’m here for this evolution. But as things change, things remain the same. The homophobia persists, the demonization of self-help and mental health care persists. The hate of homosexuals continues.

I’m hoping that anyone who listens to me today and is religious realizes that the world is changing and that the acceptance of all people is the way forward. And that we are incredibly and wonderfully made and that we are not broken. I had a close friend tell me they couldn’t come to my wedding because I was marrying a woman. May you not be that friend.

Resources:

Find a therapist in your area: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us?tr=Hdr_Brand

Low-cost therapy for black women: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/

Low cost remote and in person therapy: https://openpathcollective.org/

Until next time, be well.

xoc.