Without echoing the cliche “New Year, New You” sentiments we seem to traditionally subscribe to and share in the beginning of the (Roman) calendar year – it is possible to firmly set your expectations and intentions at the start of even a new month or season . . . So in that regard, my personal manifesto for this year is to be fully present and make space for spiritual, high vibration energy, relationships and to avoid indulging (even temporarily), in low frequency and vibrational toxic relationships. The featured photograph from our family’s recent and spiritually uplifting Kwanzaa celebration is my own personal reminder and accountability measurement to be true to my word and promise to myself.
I have always, unofficially operated with this as my personal preference, reality mantra, and norm. But even in the past, I would almost always make exceptions for people with whom I worked, worshipped with and/or with family. Well, since even the past 7 days of the year otherwise known as the traditional Kwanzaa season, which my immediate family and I have observed for as long as I can remember. . . My sacred, meaningful observance of the 7 principles of Blackness was marred from ugly, unwarranted, and negative behavior and toxicity which has prompted me to adjust my prior exceptions to the rule of toxic relationships. And never, no more will I embrace exceptions for those with whom I’m forced to work with; happen to be blood related to and/or find myself in sacred worship spaces with. In other words, I pledge to be my authentic self in all relationships and situations, despite my own admitted high expectations of myself and others around me.
By contrast, in making allowances for OPP or other people’s problems/pathologies etc. I have been subject to toxic situations I could and should have avoided altogether. Live and learn as the adage goes. So, there are no mistakes! Only lessons. And best believe, I have learned mine and “here endeth the lesson”. And just in case what I experienced has the unintended benefits of being a cautionary tale of what to avoid like the plague for others, I will share several of the toxic traits and experiences to which I was subject to and have since learned much from.
In the most recent, inexcusable case of toxic behavior, I encountered ableism – and trust me, within the past 7-8 years I’ve seen and personally experienced much more of this prevalent form of discrimination more than I ever even imagined existed, when I was still a young, naive and fully functioning, able bodied cis person. But ableism – please click HERE for a salient explanation and point of reference for exactly what ableist means – is extremely common, grossly inappropriate and deeply harmful, discriminatory, and traumatizing to the disabled persons who are regularly subject to this level of toxic behavior and abuse. Namely, while in our church’s annual Watch Night service on NYE I ran into a parishioner who attends the church very infrequently and no more than 1-2 times per year. As a general rule, I engage with her sister, a regular member, as infrequently as possible and with a long handled spoon or at a distance (for a short history of troublesome incidents). However, in just speaking to and exchanging pleasantries with the infrequent ‘guest’, after we exchanged what I wish had only been a routine conversation about how our respective, young adult children were . . . Her follow up ableist and inappropriate comments alluded to our collective need to focus on self-care and making sure that we were in the best possible shape and health, since our now grown children have their own lives and would soon have their own families. Of course my eyes (which are truly windows to the soul), were communicating: Now, what now?! And, Bye, Felicia . . . w/ your ugly acting, messy ass. But because we were in church and in the past I had/have made exceptions for this kind of toxic behavior and energy, I said nothing. Lesson learned though and in the future, I can’t promise that anyone who would deign to test me will come out unscathed. 👀
Sadly, this type of ableism is a form of discrimination which is admittedly new to me but is nonetheless encountered almost daily within public spaces. It’s why I have made a conscious decision to make my home a place of spiritual refuge and I rarely, if ever, venture out unless related to work, worship, or family. In my own personal case, I have an “invisible” disability, which renders me vulnerable to additional slips and falls and which has plagued my physical mobility for years now. Though I do use a mobility aid (cane), to get around outside of my own home – my disability and/or the fact that I have a full leg of hardware (from my femur to my tibial plateau; achieved in separate implantation surgeries, two years apart) – my need to use the cane is not readily visible to the naked eye. I am admittedly a robust and even physically strong and formidable appearing woman of large stature, standing 5’9 in height and weighing over 300 lbs. So, upon first glance, I just look like an overweight, middle aged Black woman. And to see me with my cane, which I have used since my early 40’s is admittedly surprising to some since I don’t present as “disabled”. However, just because someone isn’t frail or have a visible prosthetic limb, does not mean that they are as able bodied as they appear. Yes, although my right leg appears intact, and the 30-40 inch long scarring from the two prior surgeries (in 2015 and 2017 respectively), have healed nicely over the years, there’s no provisions for the residual nerve pain and joint damage (or just general, daily stiffness and discomfort), that one experiences. So, the bottom line is that whether a person looks disabled or not – don’t assume that your brazen, arrogant, and unsolicited weight loss tips/self-care advice or crass comments regarding what happened to another person is appropriate and/or warranted! When in doubt . . . Just err on the side of caution and STFU especially since a person suffering fibromyalgia, enduring stage 4 cancer, and/or valiantly managing one or more invisible disabilities is in need of your simple minded, judgmental, and toxic opinions. Full stop.
I will end this cathartic blog post by sharing how and why I have similarly come to the conclusion that family values and/or love of our relatives should not exempt the people to whom we’re blood related from the same high standards and vibrations to which the rest of our relationships are subject. Within the past few days, I have relinquished my own power, energy, and peace of mind to extend olive branches to family, who were woefully undeserving of the same. On Christmas morning, I called an Aunt with whom I have held a grudge for almost a year (for publicly speaking negatively and hurting my mother’s feelings), and unexpectedly wished her happy holidays. The brief conversation seemed to start well enough until I made the grave error of extending an invitation to the informal, family Kwanzaa gathering I was soon hosting at my home. Well, I should have kept my happy holidays call and warm invitation to myself, because this seemingly innocent extension on my behalf only seemed to re-ignite the original drama and toxic behavior. Needless to say, my aunt vehemently refused my offer (completely within her rights to choose to opt out and to not be ready to forgive and move forward). And she also shared that anything she said to my mother was not directed to me anyway (sad because the total absence of remorse only means that my response was warranted). Sigh . . . Of course I am aware that all things are in divine order and that to everything under the sun, divine timing and universal order reigns supreme. But it does bear mentioning that family members are just the people to whom you happen to be related – it doesn’t require there to be a relationship to even send them love and light. And trust me, I do send them positive energy across the miles. Being in one another’s presence is not always warranted or easy. In fact, I have personally noticed that family disputes and drama has been more prevalent since the onset of the global pandemic and I could care less how a person is related to you by blood. Attitude and behavior speaks volumes and it is much more desirable to maintain your personal peace and high vibrational energy and joy than to force toxic alliances with family.
Ultimately, I plan to keep my own company, forge relationships with others who are equally yoked and to reject any/all relationships, even those tied to my livelihood and employment – which requires one to diminish or snuff out their divine light in order to maintain. I consider it a blessing and privilege to have learned this powerful lesson so early in the year. And though in the African tradition, it is really the spring months (March/April), which usher in the growing season, newness and fresh start that European culture reserves for this time of year; I pledge to start with today. No time like the present and when you know better, you must do better. Asé!