You Are the Land

“It is the end of a family – when they begin to sell the land… Out of the land we came and into it we must go – and if you will hold your land you can live … if you sell the land, it is the end.”  - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
By Aaron Burden, Unsplash

February’s coming to a close. I’m starting to look at the plant containers in the tiny garden on my deck, their soil still covered in snow and ice, and my mind is calculating. As it forms a lists of seeds and a schedule for the staggered planting of romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, collards, kale, and arugula, it also paints a picture of seedlings happily plucked from the shelves at Lowes. 

I can feel the shift. There were times in the past when I was so bogged down, so mentally disoriented that I could not align with and enjoy this change. But now that I’ve dedicated myself to that alignment, the change is delightful, and I flow with it even when I’m not trying. I’ve learned to stop and observe, to meditate in the open air and remember from whence I came.

I’m thawing. I may be groggy from the still long stretches of night, drained by recent storms and all that comes with them, and dazed by the happenings in yet another year of seemingly nonstop work, but my mental hibernation is waning. I’m becoming more social again. My mental freeze – the deep need for silence and the strong desire to be alone, to rest – is giving way to planning, and I am hopeful again of the prospect of living a sane life at a sane pace on my terms. I’m getting closer.

“Take what you need, and leave our land the way you found it.” - African Proverb

Putting feet to ground and hands to soil is a critical habit for me in maintaining that kind of life – a life of freedom. I shudder to think that many of my Black peers will not enter cruise ships because our ancestors were carried into a legacy of bondage and torture on ships;  will not even consider living abroad because they feel shackled to this land where rivers of the blood of our direct ancestors flow; will not think of bending under the blazing sun to tend a row of plants because our forebears had no choice but to do so. 

Their minds are still in chains. They don’t realize that our ancestors endured so that we could have the liberty to move throughout the world at our leisure, as we see fit, enjoying the sights and sounds, meeting the people, dancing a dance with air, sea and land that keeps us nourished, joy-strong, and free. 

“If two brothers fight over their father's land, it is a stranger who will enjoy their sweat and labour.” - African Proverb

They don’t value the land. Maybe they don’t know what it’s worth. They don’t understand that the deep dark soil – like the darkness of our skin, like the darkness of the seemingly endless universe – is Infinite Potential itself. It is a womb of vitamins, minerals and possibilities.

Land is the vault, the original storehouse. It brings life itself into being and offers us a final embrace in death. It forms and stores our diamonds, gold, gems, precious metals, food, and secrets. The land doesn’t just hold our treasure, it is our treasure. It is truly “where the money resides”.

When lack of knowledge, poor planning, lack of unity, lack of initiative, and small thinking all result in the dilapidation of our homes and neighborhoods, and someone else swoops in to “improve” what we refused to maintain, we call it a crying shame. I say shame on us, because we don’t know the value of that blood-bought land, and we of all people should know it by now. 

In the Information Age, gentrification and heirs property issues are old news. We should be our own gentrifiers. Like the late Francis Cress Welsing said, there’s a reason they call it RACE. It is a game that we should be fully aware of by now.

We should understand the land, and we should never forget that we are the land.

Happy Black History Month.

“Take your spear and shield and I will take my hatchets and axe and protect our land from the intruder…” - Excerpt from an Eritrean proverb

For a deeper look at the issues around land ownership and the ways in which some are working to preserve land and profit from land investment, check out this (not at all comprehensive) list of resources:

I. LEGAL EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR LAND PRESERVATION

A. Center for Heirs Property Preservation

“We help families protect and keep their family land…build generational wealth and…grow “working” landscapes….  We offer legal education and direct legal services to help families reach agreement, clear title to family land and probate estates… We offer forestry education and services to help landowners understand the value of managing their forestland for greater income.”

http://www.heirsproperty.org

B. What is heirs property, and why is it a problem?

C. The Benefits of Land Trusts

“A land trust is a legal entity that takes ownership of, or authority over, a piece of property at the behest of the property owner. Like other types of trust, each land trust’s terms are unique… Title-holding land trusts, also known as Illinois land trusts, protect landowner anonymity and keep property out of probate. Conservation land trusts are tasked with the management of undeveloped land to maintain natural resources, historical sites, and public recreational areas for future generations.”

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/land-trust.asp

Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently. With prospective homeowners, it enters into a long-term, renewable lease instead of a traditional sale. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families.

https://community-wealth.org/strategies/panel/clts/index.html

II. FARMING AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY

A. Ancestral Case Study: FANNIE LOU HAMER founds Freedom Farm Cooperative

“In 1969, Mrs. Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative with a $10,000 donation from Measure for Measure, a charitable organization based in Wisconsin. The former sharecropper purchased 40 acres of prime Delta land. It was her attempt to empower poor Black farmers and sharecroppers, who, for generations, had been at the mercy of the local white landowners...

However, the Freedom Farm was unable to sustain itself. It never received the institutional backing that was necessary to make it a viable organization. And it was not a commercial venture, thus without continuing resources at the federal level, it made it almost impossible to survive.

"If you give a hungry man food, he will eat it. [But] if you give him land, he will grow his own food.” - Fannie Lou Hamer

B. Soul Fire Farm, Founded, Co-Directed and Managed by Leah Penniman

“Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system. We raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system.”

http://www.soulfirefarm.org

“UJIMA: Food Sovereignty, Fannie Lou Hamer, & How to make Kraut!”

C. Freight Farms

“…at Freight Farms, we believe that healthy food is a right, not a luxury. For this reason, we are dedicated to making fresh food accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time with a complete platform of products and services.”

https://www.freightfarms.com/company

III. SUSTAINABILITY, GLOBAL URBAN AND LAND PLANNING

A. United Nations Global Land Outlook

“The premise of the Global Land Outlook (GLO) is that land, and its associated resources such as soil, water, and biodiversity, comprise a relatively fixed stock of natural capital… The GLO publications focus on a positive narrative and provide a clear set of responses to optimize land use, management, and planning, and thereby create synergies among different sectors in the provision of land-based goods and services.”

https://knowledge.unccd.int/glo/global-land-outlook-glo

B. Urban Green-Blue Grids for sustainable and resilient cities

“The quality of our future, the quality of urban life and the functioning of the city thus depends on the quality with which we shape our cities, restructuring and transforming toward a sustainable city… Green-blue urban planning can offer more room for the development of biodiversity and a healthier, more attractive living environment.”

IV. LAND AS AN INVESTMENT AND A HERITAGE

When it comes to investing, y’all can miss me with the get rich quick schemes, investing “secrets”, and big ticket classes run by fast-talking bro coaches. It may not sound sexy, but for the levelheaded investor who’s interested in stability and long-term growth, land is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

“10 Reasons Why LAND is the BEST Future Proof Investment”

“How Property Law is Used to Appropriate Black Land” (and how to flip the script)

V. MEDIA BONUS

They share some very compelling stories about gentrification in Philadelphia on WURD radio, but there’s also much more.

WURD Radio

“WURD is the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and one of few in the country. WURD serves as the heartbeat and pulse of Philadelphia’s African-American community by providing information and solutions that educate, uplift and inspire.”

https://wurdradio.com/ Click play to listen live.


***

As always, any link that I share is for your learning pleasure. It is not an endorsement of any particular source or organization and does not mean that I agree with every idea that they espouse. Explore. Study to show thyself approved, and find the answers that are right for you.

Love is not blind, you are


Have you been to Inanna’s Temple where we are baptized in the waters of the JoyWell? The truth will set you free in there, but not before pissing you off, making you laugh, and causing you to clutch your pearls!

Join us any time on my new YouTube channel. Subscribe and hit the notification bell for updates. Like, share, and let YouTube’s algorithm spread this gospel. Thanks, and see you there!


We have a clever way of shaking off responsibility for our shortcomings through the use of cute words and phrases. (I should know, words are my stock and trade.) Some of our adages are so short and sweet, and sound close enough to the truth that we often don’t bother to examine them more deeply.

I get a little amused every time I hear someone say, “Money is the root of all evil.” Not only are they simply regurgitating an often misquoted bible verse, but I can immediately see right through to the sense of powerlessness and lazy thinking that would cause a person to latch on to a phrase like that.  

Why do we speak this way? Because it shifts the responsibility for doing something away from us. 

Bruno Feitosa, Pexels

Look it up. The actual bible verse says, “The love of money is the root of all evil”, and the addition or omission of those first three words gives the phrase a totally different meaning. “The love of” makes it clear that evil is not the inherent quality of money. It’s an out of control desire for money and unbalanced behavior in relationship to it that create evil outcomes. 

Here in the good ‘ol USA, another name for our money is fiat currency. That literally means that it is backed by nothing and has no value other than what we assign to it. Whatever circumstances we create in dealing with money is purely a function of our thinking and behavior. It is simply a tool, and we are the builders.

The same logic can be applied to love and the phrase, “Love is blind”. If you’ve uttered these words, I’m placing the bags full of shame, blame, resentment, and self-pity related to your disappointments in love squarely in your lap. Your mind is the only one that you have the power to change. So, I want you to stop what you’re doing, mosey on over to a mirror, look yourself dead in the eyes and say,

“Love is not blind. I am.”

Now close your eyes and think about all the things that you cannot see, all that you’re missing out on, as you accept the truth of your behavior. Ask yourself what you have been choosing not to see, and if you’re afraid of the answers as they come, face them anyway. Write them down for full effect. 

I’m not doing this to make you beat yourself up over your missteps in love, because wallowing in guilt is just as unproductive as self-pity. You can toss those bags I placed in your lap out with the trash just as soon as you acknowledge what’s in them. I need you to understand that taking responsibility is taking back your power, and it is one of the first steps to healing and getting stronger. 

Kristina Paukshtite, Pexels

Now, I’ve seen enough to know that there can seem to be as many definitions for love in this world as there are people. And at times the definition gets so convoluted and watered down that it ceases to be distinct. This is why it is important to maintain the purity of values and ideas to a reasonable degree. The expression of love may evolve with time, but it still has certain fundamental qualities.

I think one of the most invaluable characteristics of love is wanting the best for someone. When someone knowingly engages in behavior that opposes the best interests of someone they claim to love, that so-called love is falling short. Of course, life is complicated and it isn’t always easy to know what is in a person’s best interests, but love tries to learn. 

Yet, I’m not even referring to the hard cases. I’m talking about the cut and dry, no brainer situations where we know that what is happening is bad for us. Whether it’s our own substance addictions, choosing to stay in toxic, abusive relationships, eating poorly and neglecting our physical health, or any number of destructive patterns, these situations reflect a lack of love for others or for self. 

So instead of saying love is causing this unwillingness to see and deal with gaping flaws, maybe we should adopt some new phrases like:

“Fear is blind”

“Codependency is blind”

“Lack of knowledge/Ignorance is blind”

“Loneliness can make you blind”

You get the idea.

Sometimes we make the mistake of fixating our love on the wrong thing, like money. We might chase wealth and accomplishment to the detriment of ourselves and others. Or we may pour out our energy and good intentions on the wrong people. We might make ridiculous displays of devotion and blind faith hoping to be validated in return. We lose sight of the fact that love is not always a gift that should be tossed out like candy from the back of a float at a parade. There are times when the benefits of love have to be earned.

No one gives out the medals before a race even starts.

There are times when love has to be kept on reserve and given only as a reward.

Ladies, I’m talking to you here, because this is especially true in romantic relationships, situationships, and dalliances. Women often make the mistake of believing that if they just keep pouring love into someone else’s cup, somehow their own cups will be filled. That generally doesn’t work with men who prefer a challenge, even if they say they don’t.

Pixabay, Pexels

You know when something’s not good for you. You feel it in your gut. It keeps you awake at night. No matter what you do to drown it out, it just keeps screaming louder and getting brighter and brighter until you shut your eyes tight like vice grips, shutting out the very light that would illuminate your path to freedom. 

Love is in that light. Love is the thing screaming. It sees the flaws of the beloved with 20/20 clarity and chooses to keep loving anyway… even if it has to do so from a distance.

Love is in your conscience, in your heart asking you to see the truth. 

Love is that truth. 

You are the one who’s blind. But you don’t have to be. 

Your Picker isn’t Broken | you’re just using it wrong

“You can’t control who you fall in love with, but you better control who you love.”

From Pixabay, Pexels

So, you’re chugging along the path of life, and you decide you’re gonna make a pit stop for some lovin’. You see a bunch of signs ahead pointing in different directions: 

“1 mile to a one night stand with no call back”

“5 miles to an average 15-year marriage that ends in boredom and divorce”

“12 miles to a whirlwind romance”

“Next exit for a long-distance affair where you don’t have to worry about sharing your bed or favorite food”

“Prison penpal love ahead” 

“Celibacy on I-86. EXPECT DELAYS.”

…and so on.

You have a gut feeling that some of these options aren’t quite right. I mean, who the hell would take those exits to “Bruiseville” and “Wife Beater Valley?” Nonetheless, when you look down at your Picker’s navigation screen, it’s pointing straight at “Codependence Way”, and for the umpteenth time, you shrug your shoulders and take the exit without a second thought.

When you reach your destination and plop down next to Johnny-Come-Lately, you’re certain that he’s the one. Butterflies in the stomach? Check. Finishing each other’s sentences? Check. That cozy familiar feeling like you’ve known him for three lifetimes? Check. Great sex? Check! Yet, sooner rather than later, he proves to be just like every other guy you thought you knew, and you’re right back on the highway to nowhere. 

What happened?

From Godisable Jacob, Pexels

You know what your Picker is, right? It’s that part of your subconscious makeup that is largely responsible for your attraction to certain types of people, while others fly completely under your radar. It’s the inner GPS system that tries to lead you to your healing by way of relationship. 

There are certain things that you will never discover about yourself, lessons that you will never learn, without a partner or potential partner grating on your nerves and triggering your idiosyncrasies. (Because of this, I also liken it to a syllabus for the “classes” life puts us in, but I’m sticking with the driving analogy.) 

What’s love got to do with it? Not a damn thing.

Sorry. I know, it doesn’t sound sexy at all, right? What you thought was the work of a chorus of angels led by Cupid and a 90’s R&B group is most likely caused by biological imperatives, conscious biases, and unresolved, subconscious trauma. This is the reason why people say, “you can’t control who you fall in love with”. 

I, however, am here to tell you how you can (and why you better) control who you love.

If you are one of those people who seems hopelessly drawn to the wrong kinds of potential partners — people who are selfish, too materialistic, cold, emotionally unavailable, abusive, shallow, or generally noxious— then your Picker is playing a part. It’s purpose is simply not what you think it is.

If you think your head-over-heels attraction to a moron is a sign from heaven that you’re meant to be together, while you have little to no attraction to the kinds of people who would worship the ground you walk on, you’re probably misinterpreting your Picker’s dashboard readings.

Look, I’ve been there more times than I care to count. My skull is just as hard as anyone else’s, and I often need to be reminded of the very things I’m telling you. I know, firsthand, that feelings can be extremely persuasive. They can make a situation that could literally kill you seem like medicine for your soul—if you don’t understand their purpose. 

I’ve learned that feelings play a very important role. They are like sensors that tip you off to faulty thinking and behavior patterns, or issues that require your attention. They can even feed your Picker data that causes your subconscious navigation system to lead you into encounters with people who ultimately are not good for you. But the encounters are for your good. 

Did you catch that?

Problems occur when the Picker’s directives are interpreted as gospel, as evidence that you belong in a situation that is bad for you. Making matters worse is the fact that we are often inclined to remain in bad situations because they are familiar and do not require us to jump out of our comfort zones onto new paths.

The purpose of your Picker is not to lead you into seedy territory so that you can pitch a tent and stay there. Your Picker’s purpose is not to pick your life partner, or any partner, necessarily. It intends to help you pick apart the fears, projections, unrealistic expectations, and negative thinking patterns that prevent you from traveling a smoother path in life. It draws you into the mirror of another’s face, so that every time you look into your potential partner’s eyes and see their flaws, you can become that much more aware of your own— in order to grow and heal.

From The Lazy Artist Gallery, Pexels

If you had experience with someone early in life who was selfish, abusive, addicted, narcissistic… fill-in-the-blank, it’s highly probable that your subconscious mind will continue to guide you to those kinds of people, whether they show up as bad lovers, fake friends, nasty co-workers, bully bosses, nightmare neighbors, etc. The same holds true if you’ve picked up certain beliefs along the way that lead you to magnetize these kinds of people. Until you figure out how to free yourself from the shackles of those early experiences or negative thinking patterns, you’ll keep taking the wrong exits. 

It’s not what you attract, it’s what you keep.

Don’t blame your Picker. It’s doing exactly what it is supposed to do. I think all of the systems within our bodies and minds that are designed to run on autopilot often function exactly as they should. It is usually the challenges within our environments, along with our decisions and experiences, that throw them off balance or that prevent us from using them to our greatest benefit. 

From Rachel Claire, Pexels

The truth is, if you could closely examine many of the relationships that have stood the test of time, you will learn that those couples don’t have a magic formula. They aren’t always (or even usually) high on the fumes of Cupid’s pheromonic eau de toilette. Their relationships weren’t without cheating, lying, disappointment, or significant trauma of some kind or another. 

They may not necessarily light each other’s fire in such a way that their story would make you swoon with warm fuzzies and proclaim “awwww! as if you saw them confessing on an OWN series. They don’t make love like jack rabbits—well maybe some do. But many don’t, and that is perfectly normal for them. 

Yet the relationships last, or they are at least productive, peaceful, and satisfying for as long as they last. The good far outweighs the bad. 

Often, the distinct words that you will hear from at least one of them go something like this:

“I wasn’t all that impressed when I met him.”

“He wasn’t really my type.”

“A relative/friend introduced her to me.”

Lots of these relationships began with outside involvement, where a neutral third party (with a balanced mindset) who could see and appreciate the qualities of both people, suggested that they meet. There was little to no biologically-driven chemistry clouding their ability to recognize red flags or influencing them to rush ahead. Yet, something about the other person’s character, values, and willingness to work together drew them in and made it possible to build a stable and loyal partnership over time.

Now if strong, lasting love is not really what you’re interested in, if your heart is nomadic and you’re more wired for exciting flings and relationships that are short-term adventures, there is plenty of that to be had in this world. You won’t have to expend much energy to find it. Be safe and enjoy.

However, if you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve picked up on one of life’s timeless and most potent lessons: 

The things that are of the highest value and substance are usually in shorter supply, require more risk, and are harder to get and keep. Of course, the upshot is that the rewards are greater.

True devotion is Limited Edition in this world. It is highly exclusive. The raw ingredients for love are not scarce, but healthy committed partnerships can be, because stable love is not a fleeting feeling, and it must be cultivated. Many people simply aren’t up for the task. 

You can increase your chances of attracting somebody who’s ready to fully commit if you place yourself in close proximity to people who want to commit. So get off the highway to nowhere, and try a more scenic route. If balanced, lasting commitment is what you want, you will have to slow down, and be more selective and discerning.

For healthier, longer-term relationships, take the time to self-reflect and address your subconscious issues. Perfection isn’t the goal here, but at least become aware of what’s driving you. Then, when your Picker hones in on an immature, playboy/girl who brings out the worst in you, you will understand why you feel drawn to them. 

You can decide to drive off immediately with the full understanding that your feelings are offering you valuable clues. This attraction, no matter how strong, is to toxicity, and it is not a “sign” that you two belong together. It is a signpost, pointing to the inner work that will lead you to a freer life, day by day. You can kindly thank your Picker for pointing out your blindspots, leave the potential train wreck in the dust, and continue on the path of your development. 

Soon, you’ll stop driving down the path of foolishness at breakneck speed. You’ll take in some of the beautiful view, including all those sane and mentally balanced potential lovers that you might have sped past before. At the very least, you’ll avoid a lot of potholes. 

If you want to build relationships that last a while and that bring more good than bad into your life, think of relating like good nutrition and health. You can enjoy dessert, but if you lead with it and overindulge, you’ll end up sloppy, sluggish, and unwell. Period. Relationships built only on treats lack the muscle mass, bone density, and vital circulation that would keep them healthy. 

Choose levelheadedness over Love Bug Fever, sense before sensuality. Balance reason with adventure. You can have some of that double chocolate trifle romance. Just remember, it will probably taste better if it’s made well at a quaint mom & pop shop in town with a solid reputation for making kickass sweets, rather than slapped together in the back of a gas station shop just off Route 2 by some guy named “Slim”.

It’ll cost more, but it won’t make you sick.

If You Ain’t Dancing, You Ain’t Living | 10 reasons to add dance to your workout schedule

A still from the “Move Your Body” video. NPR.org

I credit Michelle Obama and Beyoncé for changing my life—in terms of fitness, that is. I discovered dance workouts ten years ago after giving birth to my daughter. I had two children under the age of two, was breastfeeding, and working part-time. This was during the former First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative , when Beyoncé reworked her song “Get Me Bodied” and made it into a workout dance.

I can’t tell you how many times I worked out using that routine, because it would be a ridiculous number, and you’d probably think I was a little off. But it helped me lose about 15 pounds of baby weight and gave me a confident edge when I leaped into a modeling stint while my daughter was two months old. (I even landed a commercial! It was a short creative adventure that I embarked on to keep my sense of self in the midst of all that adulting.)

At the time, I had very little interest in and even less time for running back and forth to a gym. I also wanted to delve into workouts which were fun, wouldn’t feel like punishment, and would be even more beneficial.

Kiera LaShae of superherofitnesstv
Kukuwa, creator of Kukuwa Fitness… she’s in her 60’s, ya’ll!

“MOVE YOUR BOOMBSEY!”

Once I was hooked, I began scouring the YouTube university dance workout curriculum and found Kiera LaShae, who’s superherofitnesstv channel would become my next fitness obsession. A decade in, I’m still fit and have amassed quite a workout playlist full of dance styles from around the globe.

So, while I’m definitely not a fitness or dance expert, I’m living proof that, as they say in Kukuwa Fitness, Moving Your Boombsey for health and well-being is the way to go.

I understand that many people shy away from dancing because of body image issues. So, before I get into the shining benefits of dance fitness, I have a few sage words below to help you overcome some of those insecurities and get comfy in your skin:

Get over yourself

– This is supposed to be fun, so let go and dance like nobody’s watching. I mean, you’ll likely be doing this in the privacy of your own home, so maybe no one is. But if there’s a chance that someone may be watching in the future (like at a party or in a class), the more you practice, the fitter you’ll get, and the less likely you will be to look like an awkward fool in public.

– Speaking of awkwardness—the more you move and simply allow yourself to enjoy the moment, the less awkward you will feel, because you’ll get better (and look better in a more relaxed body).

– If you’re on the curvier or fluffier side and are overcoming a tendency to want to shrink to avoid being seen, remember that you have a right to enjoy your own body. Other people’s issues with it are their problems to fix.

– Same with you skinny minnies (a club to which I’ve always been a card-carrying member). Don’t let the big girls shame you. It matters not that you’re built like a snake, cuz you can certainly learn to move like one.

Got it?!

Have we peeled away at least one layer of fear and excuses? If you still have some doubts, I think these 10 good reasons will help sway you:

By Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

1 The basic benefits of dance include improvement in all the following: strength, muscle tone, agility, flexibility, balance, heart health, and circulation. This is that true, balanced, all around well-being that we’re going for here in the JoyWell. Want to look strong, be strong, be flexible like Gumby, and have the reflexes of a cat (all qualities that I’ve been told I exhibit)? Dance for it.

2 You don’t need any equipment or a gym to dance. You can do it in your bedroom, in the living room, or the backyard garden after you water the greens. You can dance next to your desk in between naps—I mean tasks. If you live in a crowded house, lock a bathroom door and get moving. Any place with a few square feet of space can be your dancefloor.

3 Dance largely involves fluid movement. As opposed to several sets of repetitive motion activities that may not really mimic the movements you make in everyday life, dance is highly functional, and therefore strengthens the muscles, joints, and bones you need most. For someone like me who has arthritis, this is a real plus.  I still love a good weight-training session sometimes, but my joints love dance much more.

“Oya” (Orisha of Change) by Dr. Inetta Jenkins Cooper

4 Dance strengthens bones. We hear a lot about how important weight-training can be, especially for women as we age and risk losing bone mass. But, because dance is considered a “weight-bearing” exercise which forces your body to work against gravity, you’ll get many of the same benefits.

5 It’s a major confidence builder. It is great for helping the bashful become better acquainted with and comfortable in their bodies. I’ve never really been shy, but I came from a religious background where dancing for anything other than holy deliverance was a major no-no, where any music that didn’t include a healthy dose of the name of Jesus was off limits, and where even Jazz (with no lyrics) was considered suspect due to it’s “sensual” nature. Discovering the sheer ecstasy of dance was absolutely liberating, physically and mentally, and it definitely added a few watts to my glow.

6 It’s a wonderful outlet for sensual expression, and I don’t just mean twerking (which is plenty of fun, but only the tip of the iceberg). With so many forms of dance around the world there are hundreds of styles and cultures to choose from. They are all deliciously sensual in their own seductively subtle or fantastically flamboyant ways. They will all teach you different things about the mind-body connection and how people around the world relate.

By Jennifer Enujiugha, Pexels

7 You’ll gain an increased sense of youthfulness and vitality. I believe in aging with grace, but that doesn’t mean that one must sit down in an armchair and be content with the onset of chronic constipation. You are as old as you feel and moving like the wind can make you feel timeless.

8 Dance is creative expression that sparks more creativity. Once you’re turned on by the sound of the music, the cultural immersion, and the intense beating of your heart, you can’t help but be inspired to simply create. You may even start making up your own routines.

9 Bring on the Feminine! As the world witnesses the “return of the Divine Feminine”, the implications of getting back to a worldview that honors feminine intelligence just as much as the masculine are astounding. Dance and sensuality in general have long been considered gifts from the realm of the feminine. (Although, I love watching a man who knows how to moves his hips!) To balance your energy and get back in touch with your feminine side, dance.

Ashley, of Fit Body by Ashley

10 Joy! Dance is a high vibration activity that disperses mental and physical inertia. If I’m feeling down, dance pulls me back into the moment and charges me up. Feeling good is a major part of looking good, and nothing provides a rush like a good sweat.

And there you have it.

Over the last decade, I’ve taken a couple of classes in Salsa and Pole Fitness. I once had a surprising amount of fun trying out ballroom dancing. I’m dying to get back to Latin dance, once it’s safe again to dance chest to chest with 20 strangers in one night. Until then, I’ll keep exploring tutorials and workout routines on YouTube, and maybe making up a few of my own.

My favs include African and Caribbean styles inspired by modern Afrobeat’s, Dancehall, and Soca. I also like Punta from the Garifuna tradition, Somali Niiko, Mapouka from Côte d’Ivoire, belly dance, and Tahitian dance. The lower body has always been my challenge area, and these styles are great for core and lower body toning, among other things….

Here are links to a few of my favorite tutorials, routines and channels. Consider them all paths to the JoyWell where you can follow your bliss to your purpose, follow your Joy, and live Well. Jump in!

The Fight Against Injustice | NOT MY CIRCUS, NOT MY MONKEYS

By Pixababy on Pexels (Text added)

Since when did it become the hunted’s job to talk sense into the hunter? And when has that ever worked? When have we ever observed a gazelle trying to counsel the lion out of his instinct to hunt and feast as it rested in the clutches of the beast’s teeth? Is that footage hiding somewhere in the archives at PBS or National Geographic?

Help me understand why, still — after this eons-long war between the haves and have nots began — the targets of oppression seek to make the assailants change their ways.

That’s not how any of this works.

Who the hell pauses, kneels in the middle of a battlefield, and begs an invading army to

“Forget about this war! Please, abandon your privilege, your bloodthirst for power, and the sense of preeminence which gives you your very identity, in favor of a world where we all love and share with one another. Don’t kill us!”

The destitute. That’s who.

Be about the business for your own well-being, your advancement, and that of your loved ones. Of course, defend your life and your honor — this is your birthright as a human being. Or, slip your shackles and leap from this blazing ship into the sea, if you have to. But trying to sway the assailant’s mind as he sets deck after deck alight is a waste of precious energy and time.

You cannot appeal to the morality of one who does not share your morals. You will not mine empathy from the prehistoric rock that is his brain. The scriptures and holy values you throw his way to convict his soul will only ricochet off that calloused shell and knock you upside the head.

Such indoctrinations were given to YOU, branded upon YOUR flesh, molded into the crevices of YOUR heart and mind, woven into YOUR offspring’s DNA, to assure your plentiful presence on the lower rungs of the food chain.

Morality isn’t the predator’s burden to carry.

And in the same way, you cannot be laden with any responsibility for his psychosis.

As protests rage on, as lands heave along the fault lines of antiquated and diabolical ideologies, (as is the way of life on earth throughout the ages) I am firm in my understanding of this:


The onus is not on me to fix anything but myself. I don’t want to spin my wheels,  playing social justice whack-a-mole, chasing mirages of prosperity and clout, running around like a caped crusader supposedly “fighting” oppression, yet groveling and begging at every turn for acknowledgement, assistance, sympathy, honors and awards, proper compensation, food, clean water, clothing, shelter, electricity, jobs, better jobs, management jobs, housing, better housing, the best housing at a good price, education, safety, equality, respect, or humane treatment from the very assailant who’s teeth are dripping with the blood of my peers.

We can’t go to rehab on behalf of this addict. He has to want sobriety for himself. If he doesn’t, he will only reinvent the hunt, time and again, by way of yet another loophole, as he has indeed done for centuries.

Injustice is The Unjust One’s problem to fix. His lunacy is the result of the parasites that plague his mind. I cannot take his medicine for him.

I cannot spend precious time spoon-feeding history, biology, and world affairs lessons to those who are otherwise savvy and brilliantly informed but somehow manage to be brazenly ignorant of the Move Bombing, past and current slave trades, rape culture, the gender and sexuality paradigms as nature actually presents them, the Tulsa Massacre, poverty pimping, or any number of blatant issues that have affected the targeted.

Marcus Williams, Webcomicms.net

It is not my job to fix the insanity of racism, to correct the short-sighted foolishness of misogyny, to convince someone that homosexuality and pedophilia are not one and the same, or to elucidate that disagreement alone does not equal fear or hatred.

I cannot educate a person’s mind into one that is not awash with prejudgments, and uninformed, perverted assumptions about someone else. I especially do not have the presence of mind to do this as I bob and weave my way around his bullets. What we focus on expands, and I’m interested, only, in expanding a sense of well-being for those who seek true wellness.

When the world’s targets are no longer bound to this imagined moral imperative to extend compassion, patience, and knowledge to their assailants, their efforts to advance will get a much-needed boost from the deluge of redirected focus and resolve. When the predators can no longer get fat on the prey’s undivided attention, they will have nothing but their own long-expired sense of superiority to consume. When the hunted are no longer enslaved to an insatiable covetousness to enjoy the privileges of the hunter and no longer beholden to a worldview that hails the hunter’s way as best, they might escape predation and reach their own prizewinning zenith.

I have no additional energy available to relegate to the hope that the world’s assailants will finally pull themselves up by their own intellectual bootstraps and become true human beings.

I can only correct my own shortcomings, limiting beliefs, and biases. I only have the energy and wherewithal to lay my own course, to hunt my own prey, and to help feed those around me who are still within range of reason. That is a task that I fully accept, and it is engrossing enough.

NO REMEDY | When even therapy can’t help your effed up situation

Raphael Lovaski – Unsplash

There are times when motivation is a luxury that cannot be drummed up out of thin air, when one must push through life’s inescapable valleys on the fumes of sheer determination alone.

As an inspirational author whose aim is to help you live a life of Joy, I recognize that the meaning of Joy has to be much deeper than a simple feeling of happiness which hang glides on the whims of motivation. So I won’t (always) grandstand like some drill sergeant shouting mottos and maxims for self-mastery at you. I won’t act like some guru tossing sage quotes and pop culture cliches down from my mental temple, high in the vibrational clouds (at least not right now).

I acknowledge that there can be no light without darkness. In life we have to navigate the day as well as the night. 

The kind of Joy that builds fortitude has to be based in one’s daily decision to be grateful for life, no matter what. It is cultivated when one is determined to be their best even when their own inner cheerleaders have collapsed from utter debility, when the “go-go-go” shouting of the cacophony of coaches sounds like a distant, unintelligible murmur.

Sometimes the only way out is through. (Ok, sorry! That quote just slipped out.)

The other day at work, I was inspecting a newly reconstructed bridge, and I found a large, tattered coin resting on one of the parapet walls. It was a sobriety medallion that was heavily scarred, possibly from being tossed around the site in the upheaval of construction, maybe slammed by a jackhammer or overrun and scraped across the ground by the bucket of a front end loader. However it got there, I couldn’t help but wonder why it had ultimately been abandoned. Maybe the person to whom it belonged had dropped it unknowingly or relapsed and left it behind in a moment of discouragement. 

Embossed on one side of the coin is the well-known Serenity Prayer:

          “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

On the flip side is Polonius’s famous quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 

            “To thine own self be true.”

At first, I found that second quote to be ironic. I never knew it was part of the foundation of recovery counseling. In fact, as someone who grew up with front row tickets to the crack epidemic, I had plenty of up close contact with loved ones who were either drug dealers or addicts. I could argue that intractable self-centeredness is the most prominent side effect of both afflictions (and possibly even a key cause). I thought, why on earth would someone encourage an addict to be more selfish?

But then the quote brought to mind the ancient Egyptian directive, “Know Thyself”, and I made the connection. Again, I was brought back to center, to the need for balance in all things. This quote on the coin doesn’t encourage one to only be concerned with their own interests. It’s a reminder that you have to stand firm on a foundation of self-awareness in order to master your challenges. The prayer for assistance from a higher power is, for many, essential, but one still has to do their inner work.

The extended version of the quote helps to clarify its meaning:

            “This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.” 

Be true (honest with, accepting of, and loving toward) yourself, and you can offer the same courtesy to others. 

You have to be willing to look in the mirror and accept your shortcomings in order to improve. You also have to acknowledge your inherent value as a human being and accept your innermost pain, desires, and dreams as valid. 

That validity is a matter of fact that you will cling to when it becomes apparent that no one else can fully understand your circumstances, your yearnings, yours flaws and fears, your decisions and what drives you; when you are projected upon by strangers and loved ones alike, who are all barely making sense of their own journeys; when your sentiments are misinterpreted; when you’re all talked out and your attempts to explain have only resulted in more misunderstanding by even your most reliable confidants; when you’re trying to survive a global pandemic, and paying into a bottomless pit of never-ending therapy sessions is the last thing your budget (or your patience) will allow.

Stoicism is not a popular notion these days, but in the balance of effort and rest, it has its place. The Christians of 1 Corinthians 15:58 were admonished to:

“Stand firm…Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

In chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita, we find the concept of “sama-chittatvam”, which means equanimity of mind. It is the ability to remain calm with a balanced perspective no matter what circumstances arise. 

Thinkers the world over have stated this same message in myriad ways. Though your methods for overcoming adversity may require cunning, flexibility, and copious amounts of radical self-care, in your resolve, you have to be as stubborn as iron. 

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And you don’t have to perform happiness, wholeness, inspiration, or success for anyone. Stop trying to explain yourself. Be still. You can literally go into Energy Save mode, conserving your attention for only the most essential and beneficial of functions. 

Just get through this. Just get up. Just make it through another day without bringing anyone, including yourself, harm. 

Try to remember that it is during these cataclysmic shifts of circumstances that new paradigms are born. If, in your lowest moment, the only thing you can pull together is a deep breath to get you through the next cosmic “labor pain”, breathe, and know that a new you is being born. It won’t always be this way. 

You still have the power to decide if the new version of you will be worse or better than ever.

Sit down, shut up, and live

By Pixababy on Pexels.com

There are times when I let my thoughts roam free as wild mares dashing across some quiet beach in the Outer Banks. It’s usually when I’m brainstorming for a creative project, reveling in my imagination to manifest the next level in my glow up, or daydreaming about my flavor of the week fantasy men.

More often than not, though, I have to corral my thoughts, or those feral beasts will stampede through my psyche and graze willy nilly on my peace of mind. It’s a daily challenge that nearly everyone faces on some level.

How does one navigate each day with consistent mental calm and clarity?

Good mental health is not an easy thing to maintain in a culture that is always pressing us on every side to be, do, and have something other than what already is. Even in our promotion of mindfulness and the practices that help us to maintain it, we often slip into perfectionism, greed, impatience, entitlement, and the rigid runaway-go-getter mentality that is ultimately unsustainable and opposed to the very stability that we want and need. 

Yet, with responsibilities and the fundamental human instinct to improve always bearing down on us, stagnation is certainly not an option. Life is a constant balancing act that requires minute-to-minute adjustment to the waves of change. 

How do you adjust AND stay on course? How do you avoid being taken out by the undertow?

By Annie Spratt on Unsplash.com

When I first delved into the philosophy behind yoga over ten years ago, “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” became one of my favorite mantras. I had learned some skills to manage anxiety which first became a challenge for me in my mid teens, and applying mantras like this was the next step in developing a consistently calmer mind. 

The phrase is one of the Yoga Sutras credited to the sage Patanjali, and the literal word for word meaning is:

YOGA = to yoke, to join, to unite

CHITTA = consciousness

VRITTI = fluctuations

NIRODAH = quieting of

The aim in applying this mantra is uniting consciousness and quieting its fluctuations—achieving a more balanced mental state by calming one’s mental chatter. 

It’s important to note that the elimination of thoughts is not the goal here. Many people who are newly drawn to tools like yoga and meditation often get frustrated with their inability to totally quiet their minds and stop thinking during practice. I used to feel the same way, but now I don’t think that is the point. We need our thoughts. How effective can it be to exert so much mental force in an attempt to wrestle one’s mind into submission? I’ve found that this is actually counter to the essence of mindfulness. 

I’ve never embraced complete removal of ego as a worthwhile goal. How can one be “mindful” without any awareness of self? How can one be, do, and have more or grow as a human being without some awareness of “I”, which is derived from the ego? 

It is necessary to balance the ego and the mind, and this ultimately involves balancing the thoughts.

The challenges of our current time cannot be underestimated. We’ve got a global pandemic in full swing which seems like only a backdrop to political chaos, a centuries old “soft” race war, severe economic uncertainty, climate instability, and cultural shifts that reveal a massive erosion of our people skills and ability to see the nuance in our experiences. 

For me, the COVID crisis has been like a canvas upon which a slew of stressors have been vividly painted. Homeschooling as a full-time essential worker, navigating marital separation and co-parenting, deaths of loved ones, strained friendships, and a raging skin condition that sometimes requires me to bandage half of my face, are some of the challenges that I juggle daily. I’m sure many of you reading this could describe some pretty colorful “paintings” of your own.

By Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

In times like these I kick my coping strategies into high gear, strategies that I learned while navigating some early life challenges and the highs and lows of daily life. I start with being brutally honest about what I feel.

In these times, I am in physical pain. I am hypervigilant and untrusting. I am extremely tired (mentally and physically) and likely sleep-deprived. Boiling hot resentment radiates from my chest. And I am hungry. Reeeeally hungry…for carbs and sweets mostly, but I seek blood. 

My dreams become more vivid. My sensitivity to light and noise increases. All my emotional grievances flood to the surface, begging to be purged, and any unfortunate soul with whom I have a bone to pick is in danger of elimination. I am the werewolf who pleads with her friend to lock her away just before the rising of the full moon, so I hide it well.

I journal it, speak it softly in prayer, and maybe confess it once and for all to that good friend in order to get it out of my system. I accept the fact that every single one of my emotions are here to help me, but they don’t run the show. They serve as a barometer of my circumstances and help me to determine what my priorities should be in any given moment. They are not in control. I am. 

So, once I remember that, I freeze. Now it’s time to really get quiet. I turn down the volume on all the input, opinions, distractions, advice, sales gimmicks, news feeds, DM’s, clap backs, passive aggressive snipes and lowbrow remarks, shallow connections and insignificant attachments, sensual parasites, and social weeds that threaten to deplete me. 

When times get tight, it’s not just economic and social measures that have to get a little draconian. Some heavy-handed self-preservation becomes necessary, too. Without slowing down, logging off, and getting quiet, there’s no way I can address the unhealthy habits and negative thought patterns that created all this chatter in the first place. 

Once I’ve gotten quiet, I can make better use of my time. I recalibrate my daily spiritual practice. I reaffirm my commitment to getting up early and getting centered. I sit outside and meditate at the start of my day, and spend my first moments just enjoying the natural environment around me. This helps me to recharge my sense of gratitude. 

By Diana Simumpande on Unsplash.com

I recommit to daily rest, and stop going to bed at ungodly hours (the hardest part by far). I get reenergized through exercise and preparing healthier meals. I can read more, write more, get lost in more uplifting music. I can sit on my ass and binge watch fascinating documentaries on Curiosity Stream. 

Soon enough, I’m ready to toss our bikes onto the back of my car and take the kids on a trail ride. A few days later I may have the energy to make a call to a cousin or friend I haven’t heard from in a while. The next day, I may even go to work without cursing. 

I demonstrate all of this openly to my kids, and even find humorous and age-appropriate ways to talk to them about it so that they can see me modeling the emotional intelligence that they need to develop.

Every time you come back to your senses, you recognize that you will need to push through some inertia—maybe a lot of inertia. You have to continue doing the THINGS, even if you don’t feel like it, and that’s fine. But beating yourself up and trying to grind against the grain will likely not work in the long run.

Get quiet. Conserve your energy, protect and take care of yourself from a place of yielding rather than resentment, and prioritize. You can’t do it all, but you gotta do something, so you have to do what counts. 

Self-care is more than pedicures, herbal baths, and good wine, although those are all things I thoroughly enjoy. It is making time to get to the bottom of why you feel hungry, angry, tired, and unsafe. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with using a rose-petal-laced milk bath and a little Pinot Grigio to help get you there. Our sweet indulgences, in reasonable amounts, can be valuable tools for keeping burnout at bay. Just make sure you sit down somewhere and develop a long game approach to your well-being so that you can truly experience quality of life and longevity.

I’m a July Leo with a serious jones for the beach, so excuse my extended metaphors about wildness, water and sun. Remember those Outer Banks horses I mentioned? Well, at some point during one of my ass-loafing nerd fests, I learned that they often swim between barrier islands to access new grazing areas. 

Horses can swim, but they find it hard to turn in water. They may even sometimes swim right out to sea because they instinctively want to swim in a straight line. But that’s where the greatest resistance is, and that’s where the danger is, because clearly, horses don’t belong in the deep sea. 

They don’t always see the value in following the path of least resistance, of turning, swimming along the shoreline, and using the natural current to push them to where they want to be. And I suspect they don’t like being tamed either, having bridles and reins strapped to their heads, and being our servants for life. 

Most things, however, require us to counterbalance the wild and the tamed. If you want your mind to help you ride off into the sunset of your best life, it must be trained, daily.  You also have to know how and when to let it jump into the ocean and simply swim with the current. 

By Nika Akin on Pexels.com

I don’t want another friend to die needlessly

How do you process it when your worst fears for a friend come true?

…When you have to watch those fears play out in a long process of suffering that goes on for years?

…When there isn’t a damn thing you can do to help, because your advice falls on deaf ears?

…When your place in your friend’s life is too insignificant for you to make an impact, but too meaningful for you to back away?

I have a friend named Sabrina A. Jones. To our crew, the “A” is for Alize, but we all know full well her mama named her Sabrina ANNE. One of us thought she should have a name better suited to her spunky personality, and the rest of us agreed. It’s one of our many inside jokes.

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Sabrina passed away Saturday, July 11, 2020—weeks before her 39th birthday. She died after a decades-long struggle with several ailments, including heart trouble and overwhelming stress from which she just couldn’t seem to break free.

I cannot celebrate the tremendous light that she was in this world without acknowledging the pain that she endured and the battles she fought.

So I’m gonna go there, because I am tired of watching us die of broken hearts, unnecessarily, far before our time.

I am sick of using our lives as cautionary tales, as examples of what not to do and how not to live. I’m tired of grieving our lives as much as our deaths.

Twenty years ago, our gang of friends and acquaintances sat around a table at a Friendly’s restaurant laughing, joking, and having the best of times, like we always did. It was normal for us to roll twenty-deep into a restaurant and find a reason to celebrate. Graduations, birthdays, weddings, weekends, a good time at church—if there was an occasion, food was at the center of it. We were college students.  We couldn’t afford much, but a meal with friends was always doable.

I vividly remember looking around at the plates on the table that day and realizing that I saw almost nothing green. Nearly every plate was a sea of tan and brown, fried, unhealthy “food”. This was a long-standing habit, a way of life. I saw it and got scared, because I knew the clock was already ticking on us, and we hardly had a clue.

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Shortly after the outing, about four of us got on a phone call and talked about where we hoped our friendship would be in the years to come. I had already had a couple of health scares due to hormonal and nutritional deficiencies, and I couldn’t imagine living out the coming years in and out of emergency rooms. I didn’t want that for any of us. It was desperation that led me to blurt out,

“I don’t want to be standing next to somebody’s hospital bed because one of us has had a heart attack at 40.”

 

In fact, Sabrina’s first cardiac event was well before 40. She would ultimately have several.

We hear so much about self-care these days, and the message is sorely needed. Too many of us die for the lack of it. Too many of us desperately need to understand that our worth is not in our work, that we don’t have to earn love in score-keeping battles with selfish mates, that we don’t have to feel guilty for relaxing or leaving wiggle room in our schedules for doing nothing at all.

We don’t have to beg to live well, to be treated well, or apologize for wanting to.

Too many of us need a daily reminder that we were not created to be anyone’s beasts of burden. However, we also need to understand that the riches that we will find in good health must be cultivated. We have to develop a habit of making small, regular deposits into the bank of health if we are going to reap the rewards down the line. If we don’t, we won’t just be uncomfortable, or have a few extra doctor bills, or not be able to fit into our favorite bathing suits. We will experience severe deficits.

I grew up surrounded by women who had servants’ hearts—nurses, cleaning women, teachers, counselors—women who often cared for others more than they cared for themselves. That’s what good Christian women do back home in Virginia where I’m from, and where I met these friends who became my chosen siblings.

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One vital thing Sabrina and I had in common was that both our fathers were addicts. I was fortunate enough to see my dad achieve recovery to some degree, and to even witness him make a sincere apology for the mistakes he made years ago.

I can’t pretend to know the conversations Sabrina had with her father, a man who she worked tirelessly to shelter and support through his addiction. I can’t help thinking that if he made different choices, she might have finally understood that it was not her place to parent her parent, and that enabling an addict is ultimately detrimental to everyone involved, no matter how close the relationship.

Sabrina followed in her mother’s footsteps. From what we knew, Mrs. Jones was a hard working and devout woman who refused to turn her back on her husband, no matter how many times he turned his back on them. She died when we were all in college.

Then, in my naïveté, I hoped my friend would somehow find a way to use her mother’s memory as a catalyst for creating a better life. But instead, she embarked on a twenty-year journey of working frantically, eating poorly, failing to follow doctors’ orders, and refusing to obtain treatment for crippling depression that kept her in suspended animation.

I will not be the friend who sugarcoats or ignores that. She knows me better than that, and I’ve already asked her to forgive me for my anger and unwillingness to shut up about it. In my mind, all of her suffering is in vain if I sweep it under the rug and simply regurgitate the standard pleasantries that people say when a loved one passes.

A lot of women like us wanted to make our ancestors proud.

We understand that we rose up on their shoulders and, in their honor, we strive to achieve what they could not. We think we’re further along than the generations of women who came before us, because we accumulate accomplishments that our grandmothers didn’t have access to.

We celebrate the woman who works two jobs, runs a side hustle, and gets her doctorate while raising 3 kids. Yet we downright denigrate the domestic women, who tends fully to her home and to the children she chose to bring into this world. We ignore the woman who expresses zero interest in burning the candle at both ends in business or the corporate world.

We worship at the altar of overwork while our children sit at home alone or with dubious caregivers, as our bodies degenerate from stress.

Have we really come that much further, or did we just move to a different plantation? Have we really made progress, or did we just trade the whip for the surgeon’s scalpel?

Please forgive my candor, because trust me, I got the degree. I am the mom with the 9-5 and the business, and the packed out schedule. I, of all people, know what’s up, so I have to ask. What is the cost?

What does it profit a woman to gain the world and lose her heart and soul?

How good is it, really, to feed and clothe men who wave the banner of our independence as they hide behind it to shirk their own responsibilities? What is the long term benefit of breeding a generation of men who prefer to live like kept women to the detriment of their mothers, sisters, lovers, and children? Is throwing on the Magical Black Superwoman cape for every single battle actually helping us?

Too many of us are still putting ourselves into physical and mental chains.

 

What the hell is all this working, accomplishing, and driving ourselves into the ground for?

I lost count of the many times that we pleaded with Sabrina to take better care of herself. We would often call her, reminding her to stop working long enough to eat or to take her medicine. When she finally ate, oftentimes the food she chose was not the kind that would actually help to heal her body or sustain her energy.

And I know that lack of motivation to care for oneself is often an uncontrollable symptom of depression. I know what that does. I have an aunt who died of heart complications on April 13th who I suspect also struggled with depression.

I cannot be sure, because she also suffered from other forms of untreated mental illness for decades. She was a recluse, and I never had the chance to get to know her. When she collapsed while shopping, the doctors had to hunt down a cause, because she hadn’t had a checkup in nearly 30 years.

I currently have a friend who is battling breast cancer, and I can’t tell if her extreme isolation is cautious, physical distancing or deep depression. I can only check in and hope she answers the phone.

Sabrina went into a coma the same week that my state’s first lockdown went into effect. I was still planning to drive down to see her after work that Friday evening when I called the hospital she was in and realized that they would not be allowing visitors.

I sat in a weird state of limbo wondering what would happen for weeks, and then months, knowing that the last time that I would ever see Sabrina’s authentic smile in person was long gone. That time had passed years ago.

Sabrina’s birthday is a week after mine. We are Leos, lionesses of the same pride, and I definitely felt a unique connection with her. Years after I moved away from home to study in Philadelphia and later settle down with a family, she could still feel my spirit as if I was sitting next to her.

So many times, when I was feeling down or having a hard time, she called me out of nowhere, completely unprovoked, to ask, “What’s going on wit you’ girly. Something don’t feel right. I was thinking about you.”

Sabrina always made the rounds checking on friends, family, and strangers alike. We could be at the movies, a music festival, the mall, the grocery store, the mailbox, the gas station, in a public bathroom, and she would make conversation asking people their names, how they were, if they were having a good day, and on and on!

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A quintessential Sun Child, she struck up conversations with complete strangers of all kinds wherever we went. She had studied Human Services Counseling in college, and she lived to encourage others. She could hardly go anywhere without running into someone she knew and who didn’t seem happy to see her.

We knew a party had started whenever she came bouncing into a room singing some song and making up half the lyrics. And the childlike glee in her voice whenever she was truly happy or surprised or excited is something I’ll never forget.

When I sit outside and observe the trees, work in my garden, or light the green candles on my altar, I remember her telling me how much she liked that color. I remember that green is the color of life, abundance, and renewal, and I convince myself that she did not suffer for nothing.

I know what loyalty is because of Sabrina. I know what uninhibited love, which is not afraid to express itself and is not diluted by superficial bullshit and ulterior motives, feels like, because of Sabrina. I know what it is to be cherished, seen, and celebrated because of her. Love was something that she was never willing to put on hold, and that alone took courage.

As much as I wanted to see her live a long and full life, I have to accept that maybe she was just rewarded with an early graduation. I know she deserved that.

 

Earth is a place where the good-hearted, who hardly consider themselves worthy of life, suffer and die young, while savages live well beyond their golden years, destroying nearly everything they touch.

But earth is also a place where we can take the bad hands that life deals us and learn to play a more clever game. We can take the lessons, the good memories, and the inspiration that our loved ones gave us, and use it all as fuel for living unapologetically joyful lives. I think that is the least we can do.

Peace, joy, and balance are things that we have to choose to develop, but they aren’t really optional. They’re like essential nutrients that preserve our mental health. Sure we can choose to leave them off the plate, but we’ll suffer when we do.

For a black woman, maintaining stasis, learning to rest in carefree quietude, and not allowing her mental, physical, or spiritual health to be shaken, is in itself, a revolutionary act. And, as anyone with two good eyes should see, the time for revolution is now.

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SABRINA A. JONES, August 2, 1981 – July 11, 2020

How to start a Tiny Garden in 5 Steps

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If you think it’s too late to start your summer garden, or that your small outdoor space has no room for one, you are totally WRONG!

It’s not too late to grow greens for Fall, herbs for tea, and more. To learn how, click below and check out my article in

Naturally You Magazine

Naturally-You

AND

For a quick list of all the supplies you’ll need to get started, click on the flower to get a copy of my Tiny Garden Cheat Sheet.

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Remember, you don’t have to have a green thumb to jump into gardening. You can grow that too, with curiosity, time and TLC.

Stop Apologizing for Living

Hormones are the gifts that just keep on giving!

And to suddenly go from

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IS A DAMN NIGHTMARE!

But ya know what, life goes on. In the JoyWell, we eat these kinds of challenges for breakfast. Many of you are experiencing health challenges, big, small, and in between. Here, we express gratitude and align with Joy, because in Joy we find strength and balance. No cowering, no hiding, no apologies.

This vid is a little off the cuff, cuz I had some things that just needed to be said. Accept it in its rawness, let it resonate, and marinate.

(For best playback, you may wanna open in YouTube, but that’s your call.)