Is “No” a Dirty Word: On our Culture of “Ghosting”

This morning on Facebook, I’d written a status asking about ghosting and the word no. The status said–

I have a question for Gen X/ Millennials… why is it so hard for people to say “no” in lieu of ghosting? Saying no is responsible. It shows you considered something but for whatever reason, it won’t work out at this moment. How is it that people will allow your email, questions, etc. about something they can tell is significant to you (and significant more broadly) to go unanswered and unreplied to on a consistent basis? Now, I’m emphasizing the consistent piece because I found an unanswered text last night, I simply did not see, to which I apologized for, answered, and moved on with yesterday’s business. But why have we as a culture normalized ignoring people when saying “no” is a simple answer? Has no become a dirty word?

I was prompted to write the status after sending several emails and texts to people about employment, educational support, fitness support groups, and even in hopes of getting together a team of people to visit the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.

I could not understand why the people I’d reached out to had failed to reply either saying no or acknowledging receipt of my message and suggesting they’d been away or needed more time.

As an overachiever and sometimes people pleaser, I know first hand the desire to do everything. I overextended myself so much the last few years and this past spring semester to the point that my body had finally had enough and I had to rest for 2.5 weeks due to illness and general exhaustion over the summer. I learned from that mistake. I said no to writing opportunities shared with me;  I said no to taking a course on data sets that, while not required, would be great for developing my skill set; I said no to additional conferences on top of the few that I have committed to at an earlier date. I. Said. No. 

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I realize that saying no is hard, but I genuinely believe it to be better than ghosting. What is ghosting you ask? When people agree or have the option to (dis) agree to something and rather than getting it done or saying no because they can’t  (or don’t want to) they fail to reply or acknowledge it at all. Ghosting is at an all-time high in both the dating and working worlds and I can’t believe I’m saying this– but it’s downright unprofessional to do to your colleagues and peers.

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I know professionalism is laced with specific connotations. I know that there are gender and racial disparities in who gets asked for what and how often. I know that some people feel like they HAVE to say yes because of their positionality. But hear me when I say this: ghosting might remove the temporary burden of having to say no or do something else, but it changes the way people view you.

Perhaps some of us don’t care. Perhaps a few people considering us unreliable is a cost we’re willing to pay. But for me? I refuse to do it to others and I refuse to accept its continuation to me. I’m at the point where ghosting is considered an answer and where I’m keeping track of how often people are unreliable to protect my peace of mind.

I am convinced that saying no is an alternative to non-response or ghosting… Are you? 

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Learning to Mourn Because Sh*t Hurts

I learned that I needed to mourn because I got tired of carrying around grief that I pretended did not exist. I learned how to mourn after I realized that I didn’t have practices to help honor the grief that I experienced and that I carried with me. I have learned to mourn non-events (i.e., anticipated life events that don’t come to pass), injustices (e.g., the way -isms impact communities), and loss (e.g., death, ending relationships, implications of non-events and injustices, etc.). Learning to mourn and allowing myself the space and time to honor my grief have been powerful lessons in being more human, living more authentically, and knowing myself and others more deeply.

love-selfcare-createherstock-2 I’m a joyful person by temperament, faith, and practice. Part of the reason why I am able to feel joy and be joyous so deeply is my ability to feel sorrow and be sorrowful so deeply. The two balance out the ups and downs of life and shape how we experience the other. I can still have joy as I mourn and I can recognize the absence of mourning as I bask in joy. They’re not mutually exclusive. In mourning, we recognize loss and that the loss requires something beyond mere sadness to reconcile the absence of what is missing (ex. failed expectations, people, lost opportunities, etc.).

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Choosing to mourn isn’t necessarily the “cool” thing to do, but it’s a just thing to do. Mourning and being around people who are in mourning might be off putting for some folks, and I find that the “rut-ro” feelings or ideologies associated with the disdain some folks have for mourners/mourning are rooted in the discomfort of being or unwillingness to be that vulnerable with themselves (or others) about loss. Others may shun or turn away from mourning because they’ve never had the luxury or opportunity to mourn. I offer that when we deny the diversity of our experiences, grieving included, we deny our own truth(s) and limit a certain fullness to our living. We are worthy of honoring our truths, no matter how unhappy those are or how unwilling others are to legitimize or recognize our truths.
Createherstock A Summer Day Neosha Gardner 27Mourning looks like/has looked like journaling, intentional action with my body (movement, stillness, and rest), having loved ones bear witness to my grief so that it’s not trapped in darkness, and other actions that help me articulate and express the grief. In supporting those who grieve around me, support has looked like being present with them for the purpose of them not being alone (when they don’t want to be alone), bearing witness to their pain, and offering to aid them in tangible ways that free up their energy (physical and emotional) to mourn.

Createherstock A Summer Day Neosha Gardner 22Mourning is therapeutic for me. It’s part of my healing process. When I fail to mourn, I fail to keep my life moving and fail to keep myself honest. I mourn because for centuries, my people haven’t been allowed to mourn because our losses weren’t “legitimate”. I mourn because I’m human and it keeps me honest. I mourn as a practice of faith. As we move along in life, celebrating the highs and being free in our joys (regardless of size), I encourage us all to tune into the loss(es) in our lives and develop/continue practices that help us to round out the fullness of our humanity.

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May our mourning bring us greater joy. May our recognition of our fullness lead us to practices that honor the totality of life, including grief. May we grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice. May we remember that weeping may endure for a night (or a season), but joy comes in the morning/mourning. May our mourning be good after all. Asè. Amen.

 

Want Your Birth Control Delivered? There’s an App for That!

Thanks to the ever-evolving intersection between women’s health and mobile app technology, you can now have birth control pills delivered to your home faster than the next book on your Amazon wishlist!

One of the most important health achievements in the modern era has been the ability for women to decide when or if they want to become parents. Contraception has allowed for women who want to become parents to space their pregnancies for optimal maternal and child health outcomes.  It’s also allowed women to help support themselves and their families through educational and career advancements.

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But often women who want to prevent pregnancy, encounter issues that make it difficult or impossible to get the care they need. These issues include:

  • Difficulty taking time off school or work to get to a doctor’s visit
  • Getting enough medication to last until you can get back to a doctor or pharmacist
  • Paying for transportation to/from a doctor’s appointment
  • Paying co-pays
  • Finding a doctor that prescribes the type of birth control you want

These barriers to accessing health care can exist for anyone but they have a much larger impact on women in rural locations, those with limited financial resources, and Black women who simultaneous experience racism within the healthcare system. So, now that the technology industry and women’s health have converged to help women overcome the many challenges we face in accessing health care, it’s essential that we support Black women by getting the word out.

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For some time now, pharmacists in many states have been providing emergency contraception (EC) to women without a prescription. Now, many women’s health experts believe that other forms of birth control are safe enough to be sold without a prescription. In fact, several states, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon, trained pharmacists can prescribe birth control so you can skip the doctor’s visit and get the medication at the same place you purchase condoms and feminine hygiene products.

Although no smartphone app will ever completely replace the valuable experience of meeting face-to-face with a clinician, these apps do offer an alternative to those who want to avoid many of the pitfalls of the traditional healthcare experience. And although women must visit a clinician to get access to the most effective forms of birth control, research suggests that for Black women,

the ability start/stop birth control that comes with less effective methods like birth control pills, the patch, and the ring, are important to Black women. Here’s the scoop on a few options to have your birth control delivered to your doorstep:

NURX

They are committed to disrupting the traditional healthcare model that too often leaves women of color with poor outcomes. Perhaps the most popular of the mobile health platforms, Nurx also provides the widest range of birth control, with over 50 options that include the patch and the ring.

Nurx also prescribes pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to women at risk for contracting HIV, making it unique among the online options. It’s available in 17 states and expanding to offer services in other states.

PRJKTRUBY

PrjktRuby aims to break the cycles of generational poverty by empowering women to decide if/when they want to become parents.

PrjktRuby is available in 48 states, giving it the widest reach of any of the platforms. Also, they demonstrate a commitment to their mission of halting generational poverty by donating 25 cents of every $20 pack of birth pills purchased, toward the provision of contraception in developing countries.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD DIRECT

If you live in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, or Washington, you can order birth control online through Planned Parenthood Direct. They offer delivery of 5 different birth control pills through the app. You can also get information on more effective birth control like IUDs and implants. Consistent with their provision of comprehensive care in person, they also provide treatment for UTIs. Unique to this app is that you always have to option to turn your online visit to an in-person one if necessary.

LEMONAID HEALTH

Lemonaid Health’s mission is to provide ultra-low cost healthcare to everyone in America. Birth control is just one of many medications the deliver. They offer a wide array of birth control pills and although you can skip the doctor’s visit, you will need to go to the pharmacy to pick it up the patch or the ring.

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Photo Cred: thoughtcatalog.com

In general, the mobile health platforms require an online medical assessment, which most women are capable of completing quite accurately. Licensed clinicians then review your responses and meet with you, usually via telephone or video. No physical exam needed so the mobile app options may be most appropriate for women who have no pre-existing health conditions. And there is no substitute for the experience of meeting face-to-face with a licensed health care provider so it may be a good idea to visit the doctor’s office if you’re just getting started on birth control and use the online option for refills. Without insurance, prices start as low as $9 per cycle, depending on the birth control method and the platform you use. In most cases, that’s less money that it takes to take the train to the doctor’s office!

So what do you think! Have you tried either of these platforms? Do you think ordering your birth control online s something you’d be willing to try? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Grief and Betrayal: What Happens When Black Men Betray Us?

Over the past few weeks, social media has been in a whirlwind of think pieces and “call-ins”, as we (society) have grappled with the realizations that some of our faves (actors, entertainers), may not be as perfect as *we* (society) once thought. PLEASE do not read this as being in defense of ANY of the egregious acts of Cosby, Nas, Kanye, R. Kelly, or any other Black man that has recently made pop culture news for their thoughts or actions. I have ZERO desire, whatsoever, to defend any of that. I do wonder, however, how we can make space for more than one thing to be true at a time? AND, how can we allow folks to painfully interrogate/accept these truths within our communities? Is it possible, that SOME folks, may be both grateful that we (Black women and girls) are FINALLY seeing some accountability and justice, while also experiencing grief over the loss?

Before I start, here’s a NECESSARY disclaimer: I am NOT a pop culture critic, nor do I claim to be one. However, I have read a lot of different threads of folks calling Black communities, particularly Black women, out and in for their disbelief of Cosby’s convictions, Kanye’s rants (*insert eye roll here*), the #muting of R. Kelly, and the new allegations of interpersonal partner violence made by Kelis against her ex-husband, Nas. I want to suggest to you that maybe, just maybe, the feelings of disbelief are not about these particular men, but are instead about what they (may have) represented.

Before you write this off as another, “Cosby represented Black fatherhood and we can’t just throw that away” op-ed, hear me out. When working with folks who have experienced trauma and betrayal, it is more common than not for survivors to feel torn between what they believe they should be feeling, and what they are actually experiencing towards the people/person/relationship/experience that violated and betrayed them. Part of this dissonance is related to processing and wrestling with feelings of grief, for and/or towards someone that they feel they should be happy is gone and/or for something that they feel they should be relieved has ended.

Believe it or not, some folks experience grief and are immediately angry, some are confused, some in disbelief, some relieved, some saddened, some enraged, some even grateful…and every other feeling that you could imagine. Much of this complexity is because grief doesn’t only apply to the physical loss of a person. We can grieve people, places, things, relationships, experiences, could-haves, should-haves, would-haves….the list goes on and on. Given this, is it at all possible, that SOME folks are grieving the (informal and one-sided) relationships and representations that they may have once experienced with these celebrities?

Now, WE know that when Black men mess up or are wronged in some way, it’s usually (historically) Black women that show up on the front lines for them. WE also know that, when we are hurt, mistreated, and even murdered, it’s usually other Black WOMEN that show up and mourn for us. To be clear: We DO NOT have to let these folks back in to our homes, earphones, tv screens, or hearts, simply because they once provided some form of entertainment or artistic pleasure for us. We DO NOT (and should not) have to apologize for the terrible things that they have done, for the sake of #theculture. That is a cycle of violence that has been sustained and preserved by our culture and communities for far too long.

We CAN, however, sit discomfortably in the process that it takes to accept that the person/place/thing/relationship/representation/experience that we once knew and believed in, is not *that* anymore. Feelings of betrayal aren’t assuaged away simply because, “no one should feel sorry for them”. While that may be true for many of us, it’s normal to feel betrayed by (the relationship you felt you had with) someone you once admired or respected (yes, even if that person only PLAYED a beloved character on a classic tv show).

I guess my hope in sharing this, is that we can add some nuance to the conversation about why SOME folks are struggling to come to terms with the news. After all, a consequence of becoming attached to/invested in (via time, money, viewership, etc) any (public) figure is knowing that at any moment, they could betray the trust/relationship that we once had in/with them (*knock on wood that Queen Michelle Obama won’t ever leave me hanging out here*).

If you see/hear someone saying, “I’m not sure how to feel about all of this”, consider for a moment that they may be grieving a relationship that they once held to/with that person’s art, music, entertainment, portrayal, etc.. While it should go without saying, we also know and unapologetically believe that feeling (momentarily) conflicted over consuming/eliminating one’s art does not AT ALL compare to the necessity of valuing and protecting Black girls and women.

As consumers, we are often called to separate art from reality, entertainers from their on-stage personas, characters from real people…that’s just part of the *relationship* that we can’t ignore. We also can’t ignore that these informal relationships can be complicated and messy and not necessarily black and white, particularly if *we* are grieving and/or feeling betrayed. If you have any thoughts about this process of grief and betrayal, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

On #Scandal, “The List,” & A Culture of Workplace “Sex”

I turned in a full draft of my dissertation proposal and finally got a moment to breathe. As an over-committed graduate student working to break the cycle of doing too much (in my best of Moneybagg Yo et al. voices), I decided to allow myself the space to watch four hours of TV this week.

In T.V. time, four hours is nothing. Four one hour episodes, two movies, eight episodes of a 30 min hit, etc. NOTHING. But given just how far behind I was, it was enough time to catch up on Scandal thanks to the lack of episode airings due to the Winter Olympics. I’ve never been happier to have a TV show I love disrupted by sports in my life.

At any rate, I finished my Scandal catch up with the episode “The List”. If you haven’t seen it, spoilers ahead so click off this post.

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The episode enters the Me Too discussion and follows the story of two recent graduates hoping to make it big in D.C. The pair are roommates and serve as Congressional aids/ Interns. At the start of the episode, we see a gorgeous Black woman (Alicia? Alisha? Francis played by Marquise C. Brown) who goes to buy herself a gun and then eventually find out she’s missing and given the purchase presumed dead. It is later revealed the Black woman (t.w.: suicide) killed herself as a result of being unable to gain a full-time position after the close of her internship because of a professional decision. With Olitz, because lol, on the case we find out the true cause of her demise was her unwillingness to participate in administering sexual favors for men she worked with/ for. Her roommate eventually comes forward (at the end of the episode) and it is revealed there’s a list that floats around D.C. so men know who to hire based on their willingness to perform sexual acts and attractiveness because these things are rewarded more than good work.

Whew.

I was particularly interested when Fitz asked Liv about the power dynamics that led to their relationship (but that’s another post entirely) and it brought up flashbacks for me about my own life.

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I once dated a man in my field for a few months only to find out he’d slept with a student who had an internship in his office. Though I spoke with the woman in question and she seemed to have some agency in the situation, I couldn’t stop thinking about the power dynamics associated with men in leadership sleeping with young, new, burgeoning professionals. I immediately thought about my own situation when watching this Scandal episode and wondered just how much agency does one have in a situation where we have to choose between our jobs/ livelihoods and elect to draw a line in the sand as they relate to professional ethics?

The Me Too movement and even this episode of Scandal shows just how differently workplace harassment manifests and how it can be particularly devastating for Black women. I’ll never forget the ways in which people immediately believed the tales about Harvey Weinstein until my fellow Hampshire Alumna and fave Lupita Nyong’o came forward. People couldn’t rationalize that Nyong’o would have been a victim because we position conversations about sexual assault as those where white women are victims and where Black women are willing participants. Because we rely on old stereotypes about the salaciousness of the Black female body (read: Jezebel) and when taken in tandem with white supremacist notions about beauty, we assume no one would assault a Black woman because Black women aren’t even worthy of assault. FFS.

What a ridiculous yet prevalent notion?

If you think I’m nuts, take a gander at the ways in which your favorite local Ashy men on Twitter and white supremacists talk similarly about Black women, our bodies, and our worth. It’s astounding, honestly.

I was shocked at the lack of attention given to this episode of Scandal because it tackled something that women everywhere could identify with.

Trans women (of color) experience sexual violence and harassment at alarmingly high rates.

Black women experience sexual violence and harassment at dangerously high rates

Non-Black women of color experience sexual violence at startling high rates.

White women experience sexual violence and harassment at high rates.

WOMEN. Experience. Sexual. Violence. And. Harassment. At. High. Rates.

And yet, one of the first mainstream primetime T.V. shows to talk about this subject with such nuance and proper timing and I’ve heard almost nothing in the blogosphere? Maybe I missed it because I can no longer live tweet. Maybe I haven’t done enough of my Googles. But this episode had me in my feelings as both a survivor of and champion against sexual harassment and violence. It also reminded me of the ways in which I traded on my own ethics about not speaking up regarding the man I dated and his misdeeds because I’d feel guilty about seeing a Black man fired. There goes that socialization for racial loyalty showing up despite my commitment to a Black feminist practice–I guess I have even more to unlearn.  This brought me back to Mama Pope’s monologue on the ways in which we as Black women work to save everyone even at the expense of saving ourselves.

 

Being in student affairs has made me particularly w(e)ary of conversations around workplace sexual violence and assault because a quick scan of apps and hashtags around conference season shows just how many people who are supposed to be protecting us and our students on campus are the very people committing some of the most heinous acts of violence.

Power dynamics are always at play and while I’ll never take away someone’s agency, I feel inclined to question how much agency a person has in a situation where their future depends on sexual compliance? It was about time for a mainstream television show to highlight this conversation and for us to be forced to contend with how these dynamics can have particularly catastrophic consequences for Black women–even if it is on a fictional television show.

And while I appreciate Scandal for tackling this issue at all, I was reminded by a friend in talking through this post of the ways in which Mellie and Fitz’s initial reactions to Olivia’s desire to take on the case were based in misogynoir and privilege. Fitz’s (white) male privilege had shone through as he didn’t fully grasp the big deal around this particular case and this particular girl (for a while) and Mellie was willing to listen to Jake and wait on seeking legislation around this issue until the face of the movement was Alisha’s white roommate. Yikes. It was a subtle reminder of the ways in which white women betray the sisterhood with their complicity in narratives around Black women’s experiences with sexual violence… And while this is just a show, Lupita’s experiences weren’t.

And silence.

Though Scandal has moved on to other storylines and I can’t wait to see Liv reclaim her power on the show, I am reminded of the power in each and every one of us as Black women calling out workplace harassment and sexual violence. We don’t owe racial loyalty to Black men when it comes in the name of perpetual harm (physical or otherwise) against ourselves and other (Black) women.

I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this post with, but I hope that we’ll begin to have more real conversations about the impact of sexual violence and harassment on Black women. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my part to call out research that continues to silence Black women’s experience and whitewash dialogues around campus sexual violence. It’s the least I can do within my locus of control and a way for me to continue my commitment to uplifting and centering Black women’s experience.

Our stories and truths are ours for speaking, controlling, and deciding what to do with; We must take command of them to avoid being silenced.

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The Insightful Client: Getting the Most out of Therapy

One of the best things about engaging in therapy for yourself is having a trusting relationship with a person that can hold the mirror up for you, to help you see things that  are emotionally eclipsed in your own awareness.

However, if you’re a client like me, you probably already have a list of things prepared to talk to your counselor about before you enter the room. You’ve thought about the things that went well, the things that didn’t, and all sorts of feelings/happenings that occurred since your last session. This list of “things” may serve several purposes, like helping you to optimize your time (and MONEY!) in session, to follow through on homework assigned by your counselor, or it may serve as a coping mechanism, to alleviate some of the generalized anxiety that you may experience related counseling.

 Insight, or a feeling of heightened personal awareness, is usually achieved through thoughtful, probing questions and vulnerable dialogue with your partner-in-healing. Achieving insight during and/or after your session can be liberating, challenging, and/or just plain hard (and sometimes, it feels like all of these at the same time). While the process of gaining insight is extremely powerful in therapy, for folks who are already(somewhat) insightful prior to beginning the therapeutic process, counseling may feel a little different.

For example, insightful clients may already know why they do/feel/speak/react in certain ways, which can be half of the battle in session (and afterwards). If you find yourself in this space, PLEASE know that you are NOT alone. I have found that (in my own healing) and in doing healing work with others, that folks who are insightful prior to counseling sometimes talk themselves out of going, because they feel that they don’t really need it. “If I already know how/why I feel/act this way, why am I here? What else is there to gain?”

Well, for all of my insightful clients, here are some tips from one client (and counselor) to another:

1. Check-ins are healthy.

One of the biggest myths that keeps people (particularly Black women who are used to self-sacrificing) from seeking therapeutic services is feeling that, “nothing is really wrong. Someone who really needs this space should have it”. Well, just think about purchasing your dream vehicle. If you have a really good mechanic, they’ll probably tell you to bring your (dream) car in at specified time periods throughout the year, so that they can check your car for any minor issues before they become bigger concerns. Hear me loud and clear, sis: Your mental wellness is so much more valuable than any vehicle. Please know that you DO NOT have to be in crisis or experiencing present-trauma in order to get your healing.

2.  Be open to other interpretations.

If you are already insightful, you probably have a clear understanding of your motivations, emotions, reactions, etc. However, your counselor may have a different (i.e., challenging, alternative) perspective and/or interpretation. Try to remain open to your counselor’s insights, as it is their job to help you heal yourself.

3. Share your insights and OWN them.

Don’t be afraid to tell your counselor what you think/feel/know is going on with you. For Black women, a huge piece of this is being able to name, define, and own our own experiences, without someone else (i.e., society, co-workers, supervisors, professors) telling us how we should feel, think, speak, or react.  Remember, YOU are the expert of your own experience and NO ONE can take that away from you.

4. Validation and affirmation are meaningful goals.

Sometimes, we just want somebody to talk with, hear our stories, and validate us. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting/needing to feel affirmed in your thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. Don’t deny yourself the right to personal affirmation, sis. If you feel that you need/want to talk to someone (and have the access/means to do so), do it. You are so worth it!

Are you the insightful client? Have you experienced any of the challenges that I shared here? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments!

The List

Have you written down the list?

You know which one I am talking about. The list of things you want in a mate.

The wish list of romance. The list of hopes and dreams of love.

I haven’t written that list.

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A few weeks ago I was talking with Dr. Joan about love and whatnot and she challenged me to really write that list out. And here we are weeks later… I still haven’t written the list.

Why?

What is so scary about writing down the things I want and desire and have thought about for a while? I know Brittany is going to kill me for not being on time with my deadline. But I have literally been frozen trying to write this… The struggle is REALLLLLLLLLLL.

Am I scared to write this down and be disappointed that it won’t come to light?

Are the things on my list too lofty? Am I wanting too much? This list is not about salary or credit score or height, but truly about how I want my interactions to be with a partner. Last month I wrote about intimacy and that is easy for me. To be poetic and metaphorical, but concrete, letting it out plain…welllll

So here is this list…. It is not fully a poem. It is just something I need to get out. Shoutout to Dr. Joan for pushing me and Brittany for the gentle nudge to finish. I am writing this list as a manifestation of what is to come. I am writing this list as an affirmation of what I deserve. I wrote this list to face the fear and embrace that it can happen. It will happen. Here’s to love:

  1. I want to laugh. Brother make my stomach hurt from laughing so hard at the nonsense. Let’s make corny jokes that only we know and
  2. I want to pray with you and for you and you pray for me. There is intimacy in knowing that God is a provider for all of our desires and you want that for my life.
  3. I want to dream together. Let’s talk about our passions and how we can help one another accomplish them.
  4. I want to question together. The world, the Bible, all the isms, all the problematics.
  5. I want to have great sex. Like I think about it afterward and gets chills sex. Like you want to please me before yourself sex. Like we try out all the kinky sex. Like we can’t get enough of each other… SEX.
  6. I want someone who wants to travel and experiences new places.
  7. I want someone who appreciates the arts. You don’t have to be an artist (although that would be nice) but appreciate it so we can go to concerts and open mic nights and museums and ish together.
  8. I want transparency. I want us to share and be vulnerable. Even if it is uncomfortable. I want to tear down masculinity with our vulnerability.
  9. I want someone who looooovvvesss to listen to music. Like to the point we can share new music with each other. (Because that’s foreplay duh)
  10. I want someone who is good with money (in terms of budgeting and planning so we can do all the stuff I want to do) I can learn from someone else.
  11. I want someone who is patient. Because I can be stubborn and I can snore. So your patience in those two things is greatly appreciated.
  12. I want someone who challenges me and inspires me to be better. Someone who wants to be in my corner cheering me on. And of course, I would be doing the same.
  13. I want someone who can be social. I am involved in a lot and I be doing a lot. LOL. But if we go to an event, you can mix with folks. If we are with my family, you can mix in with them. (I got a lot of cousins)
  14. I want someone who cares about people. Someone who understands that liberation is in love and daily we should strive towards loving more and more.

To my future love: With this list, I will match you with all these and more. I am open to whatever more you bring outside of this list as well. I hope that we have a love that complements the badass people we already are and that with our love we make the world better.  -BCB

It’s Okay to Pray…AND Go to Counseling.

“It’s Okay to Pray…AND Go to Counseling.”

It’s a debate that I find myself having every few months with my (very Christian, very southern) Black family. Any conversation about mental health and healing in my family usually ends with the age-old adage, just pray about it. Or, “you can’t pray and worry, so which one will you choose?” I hear you, grandma, but life hasn’t been that easy. I can certainly pray and try not worry, AND I need to go and talk to somebody.

As a mental health practitioner (shout out to all of my National Certified Counselors!) and a counselor educator-in-training, I know the value of having a relatable, reliable, culturally-conscious counselor in your corner. However, with the history of exclusion and cultural invalidation in counseling praxis, there really is no wonder why Black folks, particularly Black church folks, have an aversion to seeking a counselor or helping professional. Further, within a socio-historical context, counseling and mental health fields have been excruciatingly white. White practitioners, white practices, white diagnostic tests…nothing about the traditional (read: western, colonized) process of doing therapy seems appealing to folks from collectivistic groups. #CounselingSoWhite

In Dr. Joan’s most recent post, Therapy for *This* Black Girl, she beautifully outlined some of the systemic and pervasive issues and barriers that Black folks have experienced with seeking access to counseling services– e.g., affordability, location, availability of culturally-conscious clinicians, the mystifying of the counseling process, and so many others (I am becoming a counselor educator to address these issues, by the way).

To be honest, if your counselor is really worth their salt (and if they are obeying the Counseling Code of Ethics), they will be actively seeking ways to include your Indigenous/faith-based practices/values into your healing process. In fact, because my faith tradition and practices are so salient to me and my healing, I will only see Black women counselors who share my faith background. Disclaimer: having a counselor that shares my cultural, gender, and religious affiliations and identities is a requirement for me; there are plenty of counselors who may not share your faith-based values or other social identities, and are ready, willing, and able to meet your needs.

Sis, contrary to what Pastor-nem may tell you from the pulpit, counseling is NOT where your faith goes to die. If you need confirmation in The Word, Proverbs alone is full of references towards seeking wise counsel, advisors, consultation, and guidance (see Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, and 19:20-21, just to start). I am of the conviction that Jesus was indeed, the very first counselor, and He has called a select few to be helpers in the healing process. Because of this conviction, I resist any undue feelings of guilt, shame, or like I’m being a bad Christian, because I believe in (and actively seek) counseling services while practicing my faith.

The reality is, I can AND DO talk to Jesus AND MY THERAPIST. The two are not mutually exclusive. For all of my Black Church girls who need some extra healing, please know that you can be a devout Christian, knowing/believing that God won’t fail you, be FAITHFUL, and still talk to (a trained) somebody who is adequately prepared to help you. So, IF you can afford it, have the access, and can find someone who meets YOUR requirements, please do NOT feel guilty for seeking a counselor to help you on your healing journey. Pray on it, listen for God’s response, and get the help that you need (and deserve). It IS okay to pray…AND go to counseling.

3 Things I’ve Learned From My Long Distance Marriage

My husband and I have what some might call a non-traditional relationship…

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We were high school sweethearts who ended up going to different colleges and managed to keep the relationship together. You might be thinking what’s non-traditional about that? Well, let me tell you. After graduating from college my husband, then my bf, got a job in our home state of NJ and I went to get my masters degree in D.C. at George Washington University.   About a year and a half into my two-year program, we got married with the intent that I would move back home after graduation. I then got accepted into a Ph.D. program in Georgia. I moved to Georgia with the idea that he would get a job in Georgia and be down within a year. I knew job searching might take some time and we weren’t strangers to long distance, so what were a few more months, right?

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Well after not being able to find adequate employment in Georgia, what seems like a million arguments, many visits and 4 years, we still hadn’t moved in together. We were coming up on our 5th year of marriage and I was coming toward the end of my Ph.D. journey. We just moved in together full time for the first time after our 5-year anniversary in October after I wrapped up the research portion of my Ph.D. I tell this story to say that I could probably be considered an “expert” in long distance relationships and marriages since I did both for a cumulative total of 12 years. So when #CiteASista asked me to write a post on what I have learned through all of this, I couldn’t really say no, could I?

But first, a caveat: Neither me nor my marriage are anywhere near perfect. There’s still a lot of room left to grow as flawed human beings… 

Nevertheless, here are the top 3 things I’ve learned from my long distance marriage/relationship:

First: Communication is king, queen, prince, and princess:

Createherstock Black Love Neosha Gardner 62When you are in a long distance relationship communication is the most abundant resource at your disposal. Between Facetime, texting and phone calls you can ALMOST forget your significant other is thousands of miles away. But this goes deeper than you think. I was a person that relied heavily on facial cues and body language to gauge the tone of a conversation, but that isn’t always an option when long distance. Over time, I have been able to hear the subtlest changes in tone and have a general idea what my husband is feeling and so can he.

Second: Everything isn’t meant to be said: My husband and I would call each other at least 3x a day while long distance, in addition to texting and occasional video chats. Our arguments would get pretty vicious and when the only thing you have at your disposal is words…. let’s just say mine have surgical precision if I’m trying to hurt your feelings. But words also cut deep and when you can’t rely on physical closeness to help bridge the gap after an argument you realize that everything you say has a LONG LASTING effect. Over the years I have learned that even though I’m probably right and I could really win the argument by saying a bunch of true but not nice things, in the long run, its not worth it. Some of my friends can tell you this was a HARD learned lesson.

DSC M29Third: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Let’s be honest here, marriage is hard AF. Married people who live together get into their fair share of arguments but at least they have make-up sex to fall back on. Long distance marriage is HARD. SUPER HARD. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I really feel like through all the rough patches of our long distance marriage we really have come through better people and stronger in terms of our relationship for it. Between learning how to fight fair (most of the time), understanding that communication is gold in any relationship and enduring not seeing each other every day, I feel like I cherish being with my husband, even more, now than I would have if we would have done things more traditionally.

BONUS! Its O.K. to do your own thing: I was only asked for 3 things so I’ll be quick. Being long distance through the majority of my relationship has allowed me to continue to grow myself as a person, foster invaluable friendships and do my own thing A LOT. Now, I can do things with my spouse and enjoy it, but I cherish the time with friends because they had my back when he wasn’t around and really became a great support system. I know it is easy to get wrapped up in your romantic relationships but friendships are SO important. It is 100% ok to reserve time for your crew and have your own interests and hobbies that don’t include your spouse.

Ok, that’s my $.02 about long-distance marriages. Are you in a long distance marriage/ relationship? Thinking about starting one? Let’s talk about it in the comments!