The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder affects tens of millions of people. SAD is associated with the prolonged darkness of winter months. Some places experience winter up to seven months out of the year.
Can you imagine being SAD for over half the year? Month after month looking to the sky only to find Cirrostratus clouds and gray shadows? Many people live a sad existence, when all they really need is the sun.
I dreamed once that I was in a home with a man and children. The place was dark but spotlight surrounded me wherever I walked. I was trying to get the man of the house to see that what was missing in this home was light. I tried a lamp but it was not working. I tried opening windows and pushing back drapery to no avail. In frustration, I left this home and the light followed me.
In Plato’s Symposium, the character Aristophanes introduces the concept of twin flames to describe love. The idea stems from man and woman originally existing as one being. They became arrogant and wanted to be Godlike, so the gods split them in two. Each half craves the other half to experiences wholeness. Reveries illuminate unconscious desires. In that dream, I was desperately seeking light. I could not comprehend how someone could live in the absence of it. I tried to share my own but it was not enough.
I now understand that you cannot be the only light in a relationship; the only one planning for the future, the only one financially stable, etc. You need a companion flame. This companion love exists. It is too light to be seen, as one cannot look into the sun. You will not because its glow will surround you.
I saw an interview of Sherri Shepherd on the DL Hughley Radio Show discussing her ex husband to whom she is paying spousal support. DL jokes about him being a sorry **s man. Sherri said (paraphrasing) that she had to take ownership of her decision to marry him, a decision she said was made out of fear and loneliness. She also said that she was tired of being single and celibate. I was really surprised by her honesty.
Community is important. Friends are important. Family (blood or otherwise) is important. Loneliness is a powerful state of mind. Loneliness is not necessarily the absence of people but rather disconnectedness. You should not choose a mate in this unhealthy state. It is like shopping when you are hungry. You end up with a cart full of junk, completely ignoring your list.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in a state of loneliness?
Someone wants to hear from you; an old friend, an older family member who may not get many visitors, an elderly neighbor. Someone needs to hear your voice and you need to hear theirs.
Build community. We are not intended to do life alone. Church, clubs, groups, are some ways to connect with others.
Do something nice for someone who cannot repay you. Loneliness is rooted in being self-centered. Volunteering allows you to reorient your focus to someone else in need. You derive a sense of value in helping others.
Practice daily gratitude
Write down five things you are grateful for and post them on your bathroom mirror. Glance at it everyday while you are brushing your teeth. It is a method to focus on the good things you have in your life and not the one thing you are missing.
Write your feelings, goals, hopes, and dreams. It helps you visualize what is going on in your heart and head. There is power in the written word. I recently reviewed some of my journal entries and was blown away by my progress. This brought a sense of gratitude and happiness. This exercise helped reinforce that trouble don’t last always.
Identify your feelings of loneliness. Take steps to connect with others in a beneficial way. Don’t allow loneliness to lead you to detrimental habits or choices.
A fairy tale is defined as a mythical tale featuring magical and fantastic creatures. There are heroic feats accomplished by ordinary humans who somehow found their inner strength after a long quest. Beautiful maidens are brought back to life by the kiss of a true love. In short, it is a made up tale in a make believe world with invented characters and creatures. They are written for children. As children, we still possess that wide-eyed faith that good wins over evil. We believe in happy endings.
As we age, we stop believing. Kissed too many frogs and they stayed ugly and slimy. Dropped all of our money on a handful of beans and a dream to wake up still broke with no golden goose egg. Disappointment and bad breaks lead to disillusionment.
I want you to believe again.
This is why I write. Have an eye-wide open faith in love, redemption and the happily ever after. It is hope that keeps us going. I write hope-filled love stories centered around Christian characters with real life issues. It is an un-sanitized look at imperfect people with a hope in a perfect God making mistakes, getting it wrong, and through the drama – finding redemption and a happy ending. The happy ending may not look like a prince on a horse but something a little unexpected.
I will keep writing and if, you will keep reading – we will get to our happy ending – together.
One of the most difficult exercises I have encountered (outside of burpees) has been setting and reinforcing healthy boundaries in my life. I can distinctly recall having a bully of a friend in college. Not the physically violent type of bully but a controlling, will-imposing, guilt-tripping kind of friend. I tried everything, except telling her directly how she was overbearing, to end the relationship. The final straw was an argument that could have been avoided if I had only stood up for myself, erected, and enforced a healthy boundary.
Toxic people poison your life and impact your health by being a constant drain on your energy and mood. They can be tricky to identify. Humans are multifaceted beings. No one is all bad. However, when someone continues to do things that harm you emotionally, socially, and/or financially, you may need to set a boundary.
Controllers: These are people who want to dictate who you can or cannot be friends with. They want to isolate you from others so that their influence is the most dominant one in your life. You can experience this in friendship, marriage, or business.
Angry Birds: These are people who have a negative disposition on life. They will shoot down any good news with a complaint. They will dull your dreams with why it will never work out. Do yourself a favor and erect a boundary. Start by informing that person of how their behavior makes you feel. Next, state that if the behavior continues, you will limit the time spent with this person. Last, enforce it.
The Needy and the Greedy: These are people who always have a hand out. They always need to borrow money or your car. They hit you with a sob story and lead you to believe you are their only hope. Point them to Jesus and a financial literacy course.
Establishing boundaries is no easy feat. Relationships develop behavior patterns. You may even positively identify as the ‘strong one’. It is easy to fall back into a familiar role if not careful.
Recently, I had someone call me at 4:30 am. The last time I received a call that early, my godmother had passed. I answered in a panic. The caller was stuck in a town an hour away and asked if I would come and get him. I was so relieved that someone was not actually dead. I put on my ‘captain-save-a-bro’ cape and headed out. As I was driving down winding, isolated back-roads in the dark, I realized how incredibly stupid this was. I was putting myself at risk to save someone who, as I learned later, was in the predicament by being irresponsible.
On the way back, I start asking all of the questions I should have asked earlier on the phone: Don’t you have roadside assistance? How much would an Uber have cost? Granted, this was an extenuating circumstance, so I was not tripping too hard that I had agreed to pick him up. However, I was annoyed by his lack of preparedness. I firmly stated that I was not driving back out to this town or any town in the middle of the night. I explained that he needed to have a plan in place in case something like this happened again, a rescue plan did not include me.
The next day, I get a call asking if I will ride out to the same town to help drive his car back. Having already firmly stated that I would not be driving back out to that remote town, I said no. I provided sound alternatives; get a male friend to help, pay someone to assist, or get a tow truck to haul your car back. Of course this person, used to me swooping in to save the day, was annoyed and angrily ended the call.
Enforcing boundaries is necessary to protect your mental and emotional health. You must set the rules of engagement for your relationships. Those who love and respect you will choose to play by the rules. Those who do not will be effectively blocked.
Ever hear yourself talking and realize you need to take your own advice?
I was being interviewed by hosts Denise Cole Hill and Wilson Murkinson for Nuu Beats Radio on Saturday. I start saying something like, “you have to give yourself permission to go for what you really want, not for what you think you can get.” I heard the sentences as if they were coming from another person’s mouth. My vocals reverberated off the walls and landed back into my soul.
Was I truly going for what I want in life and not what was easily attainable?
Being raised with lack can cause you to believe any crumb is a blessing. Gratitude for what you have is necessary before you can truly appreciate more. A crumb is insufficient if you are truly hungry. It is a blessing in a sense but is it God’s best? The Bible says it like:
” . . . but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Proverbs 27:7b.
When i was unemployed back in 2010, I took the first job offer available. I was immensely grateful to be working; however, I recognized early on that this was not a holding place for me. I started inquiring about and applying for jobs that aligned with what I actually wanted to be doing. I got a new gig 11 months in.
Have you heard the term ‘Struggle Love’? It’s the idea that in a relationship a person has to remain loyal through someone else’s emotional, financial, and relational struggles. Your loyalty is rewarded with marriage after you have sufficiently suffered.
I saw an Instagram post about a reality star Kimbella who has been in a relationship with rapper Juelz Santana for nearly ten years. According to the post, Kimbella has endured birthing two children, infidelity, his drug addiction, and finally as he may be doing jail time, he proposes.
Granted, I do not know all of the details of their relationship, it is ‘reality’ TV of course, but on the surface this appears to be textbook ‘struggle love’.
A guy told me that if I don’t want to accept the breakups and makeups of a relationship then I am not really ready for one. I explained that we understand love differently. I believe love is the action of sacrificially seeking the best for someone. I demonstrate love by caring for and taking care of the needs of my partner. I want him to be healthier, wealthier, wiser. I will assist in any way required. That’s how my soul is setup. Hurting someone to see how much they can withstand to test their loyalty/love is cruelty.
Putting me first is a challenge. Rejecting what I can get and going for what I truly want takes a level of faith that I am still developing. There is always someone or something demanding the attention/time that I have allotted to self-care or pursuing my calling. There is always a small doubt saying maybe this is as good as it gets. In my prayer time, I can hear the spirit saying ‘don’t settle’. My inner voice is calling out to me to take care of me, to put me first.
There was a season in my life when I felt like a lioness spiritually. I could check several things of of my how to be righteous checklist. My prayer game was strong. Check. I had completed reading the entire bible. Check. I paid my tithes on time. Check. My life was so full. I had church, singing, school, family, and friends. No idle time for the devil to make a playground of.
I was truly asking, believing, and receiving. Feeling self-assured, I decided to ask a bold prayer:
God reveal to me those who are not for me.
It was a prayer that I felt I already knew the answer to. At the time, I naively, believed that I had no enemies. To me knowledge, I had not mistreated anyone. So, I expected nothing to happen. And then something happened. People started to fall away from my life. I am talking about folk who I thought were my day ones, my ride-or-dies. I look back on it and wonder – wow. It was swift and exact like a two-edged sword.
God will answer your prayers so be careful what you ask. Your frame of mind matters. Ask from a pure heart and not spiritual arrogance, as was my case.
I am older now. I have gone through a process of forgiving, even when the the person has not acknowledged or asked for forgiveness. I realize that Christ has forgiven, and keeps forgiving me without adding each offense to my account. Isn’t that a beautiful thing – grace? All of it stems from God’s love for me. It is infinite and complete. One of my goals in life is to love completely.
Twenty years older and wiser, I have decided to edit that prayer. I now pray:
God reveal to me those who truly love me.
The good people God allows in our life are a gift. I don’t want to overlook anyone in my life who may be feeling unappreciated. Like Dorothy in Oz, we can spend our lives on an a wistless journey to find favor of impotent wizardly friends. People who we feel that if we can garner their favor they can provide access to some secret loyalty or treasure that has been kept from us. Family and friends – these are the true treasures of life. If you have people who truly love you, you are rich.
2016 has been a trying year for all. There have been disappointments, deaths, and disasters. Not to mention the rise of the Donald. Social media posts show heartbreak over celebrity deaths. Someone has created a GoFundMe account to protect Betty White. Many people are eager to see 2016 go in hopes of a better 2017.
If you really think about it, there have also been joys, births, and good times. Isn’t every year a mix of triumphs and disappointments? It is called life. We as humans increment the vastness of time into yearly increments. Perhaps it gives us some sense of control over the uncontrollable. The truth is – bad stuff happens and so does good stuff. Your happiness cannot hinge on the nature of what is happening around you.
I have been cooking lately. Well, learning to cook. Yesterday, I decided to do it big. The meal planned – fried pork chops, mashed potatoes from scratch, and roasted garlic asparagus. I prepared by reading highly rated recipes. I watched how-to videos on Youtube. I was PREPARED. Armed with ingredients, knowledge, and determination – I was ready. I started cooking. Everything seemed to be going great. Food looked good, smelled even better. After much sweat, I was finally finished. I fixed my plate. It looked good enough for Instagram. I cut into the perfectly browned pork chop. It was too salty. I felt the wind escape from my sails. I was not only cooking for myself but for my boyfriend, too. I was near tears. My friend said that is was okay. He stated that the only way to learn is to try. I began to feel less terrible.
That is my 2016 in a nutshell. It started with great aspirations. I even had a plan, a vision board even. I tried my best and still some things failed – relationships, promotion attempts, finishing my second book, weight loss. It was like those Facebook videos you watch of someone taking off in a race and then some invisible leg extends in front of them and they trip and fall. It feels like the fall is so hard because the person running was moving ahead at full-speed expecting to finish first.
I had started writing a great story based on my childhood adventures – over 10,000 words. I had written some wonderful poetry almost 30 pages worth. I went to Texas for a work conference and lost my thumb drive. Talk about tripping over an invisible leg. Man, I was hurt. Thankfully, the 10,000 words had been backed-up on the cloud. The poetry only exists in my head and heart.
I am ready to start again.
If you have been graced with another day of life, you have another chance to get it right. Some failures require some hard work. Others require some downtime for healing. No matter how comfortable, resist the urge to stay here. This place is meant to be temporary. You have to get up and keep running.
2017 is what you make of it. Start again. Be enthusiastic again. If you should fall, get back up and continue.
Back in the '90s, there was a hip-hop song, "We're All in the Same Gang". It was a collaboration of West Coast rappers that promoted anti-gang violence. The message of the song is that we are all fighting the same battle so why fight each other. The relationship between women can be as precarious as gang-affiliations. If a new sister enters the arena, she is an enemy first until proven otherwise. I may be getting a little too deep but that has been my experience. Moving from city to city, I have been the new girl more often than not.
Saturday, I participated in a newly formed book club at my new church. My novel, Ruth's Awakening: A Love Story, was selected as the first book. I was a little nervous about this meeting. As a writer, I consider my novel my baby. I am very protective of it. I had to overcome the self-doubt that others would find the story as good as I thought it to be. Plus, I am the new girl. I was not sure what to expect.
We met at a local bakery. I handed out an agenda created to facilitate the conversation. In no time, everyone was opening up, laughing and talking. The characters in the novel became a mirror by which some attendees could see their own experiences reflected. The experience was revelatory.
I learned a few things during our book club discussion.
The retrospective offers the most precise point of view. You know every twist and turn your life has taken – no surprises here. Often, I have looked upon my past and only recount my mistakes. If I had only done this or not done that – then . . . *insert perfect ending*. Evaluating your past successes and mistakes can be a painful process. Embrace it. Through it, you can make well-planned choices for a deliberate future. Life still happens but it is important to know that you have a choice in the matter.
To myself five years ago, I write:
1. Enjoy the moment you are in. In five years, you will be in a different state – physically and metaphorically.
2. This extra weight will be a thing of the past. You will not be at your goal weight but you will have lost 35 plus lbs, have a fitness group of over 100 members, and be lifting weights.
3. Do not dwell on the past mistakes as much. Learn from them and move on. A choice made is just a choice. Do not torture yourself wondering what would have been if you had made a different choice.
4. The man you have been dreaming about is just that – a man and a dream. He will disappoint your fantasy of him and that is okay. You are more beautiful and desired than you have ever known.
5. Life is going to throw you some curve balls in every area – health, family and finances. Know that you are well-equipped for this battle and God has your back.
6. Please, Felicia, be kinder to yourself. You have accomplished so much already. You will be amazed by what you are going to do.
7. STOP, just STOP living in fear. You will curse the chance not taken because of playing it safe. Do not fret too much, you will get another opportunity to prove yourself brave. You will pass.
8. You will learn that it is okay to love and to lose because the joy is in the experience. Loving without any expectation of reciprocity is the purest love of all.
9. Once you have completed reading this letter, do not ponder it too much. Life is lived in the now.