Sitting With Loneliness

                For the last few days, loneliness has come to keep company with me.  Loneliness just sits and says nothing but its presence is unnerving.  Loneliness is an unfamiliar visitor to me.  I have never really sat with it before.  I grew up in a large family.  I have five brothers and sisters and a host of cousins.  We all grew up together so there was always someone to play with and to talk to.  I got married and for a while, we lived with my family.  My oldest son was born in the house where I grew up and it was full.  When we moved out, I was working so there were people around and then our little family was together.  After the divorce, I moved back to my parent’s house and my youngest was born.  We moved out, from the “woods” to the city, where I taught school and had my sons to care for.  When I remarried our families blended and that house was full.  The children began to leave, yet there was still Oscar and I and work.

            When Oscar became too ill to live at home alone, I retired and came home to care for him.  Though I dreadfully missed the hustle and bustle of school and the clamoring of children, I did not feel lonely because my full attention was dedicated to caring for Oscar.  During that time our love grew exponentially, though it was one of the most challenging times of both our lives.  I was always busy doing things for him or thinking about and planning the things that needed to be done.

            The passing of my mother left a gaping hole in my heart that I have yet to find the words to adequately express.  Her passing was sudden and unexpected, though quiet and peaceful.  The necessity to remain focused on caring for Oscar, whose health was beginning to debilitate, caused me to compartmentalize my mother’s death and set it to the side.  There was no long period of mourning and consequently little time to “fall apart,” a somewhat necessary event at the death of one’s mother.  Later that same year when Oscar died I found myself grieving him and my mother simultaneously.  I am thankful for my strong faith in God and my therapist.

            Getting therapy was one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.  Trying to navigate grief is difficult, to say the least.  Navigating grief amid a global pandemic as you are aware of the hundreds of thousands of people who have died, six of which are your family members who all died within a period of two months is a pain that I can only describe as excruciating.  So, today as I am writing this, I am sitting in the unwelcomed presence of loneliness. 

            Just like many other people, I hate the unfamiliar.  Whenever I have had to enter an unfamiliar situation, whether the first day of college, the first day of work, the birth of my firstborn, I experience a time of profuse crying.  Disequilibrium grips my brain and I seemingly fall apart.  I have come to realize however that this is the process my mind uses to wash my soul of fear and allow courage to enter.  Today is one of those days.  Loneliness has come for a visit and because it is unfamiliar to me my first response to its arrival was to cry.  Now, that I recognize it, although I find it a horrid guest, I refuse to turn from it.  And though I do not necessarily want to offer it a cup of coffee, I am willing to sit with it and learn whatever it has come to teach me.  Now that I have identified what it is by calling it by name, I am not afraid because I realize that it has come to give me further insight into the path ahead. 

            What does this have to do with LIFE – Living Inspired Free Enthusiastic?  Well, avoiding the unpleasant things that come into our presence will cause us to simply go around in circles.  The disequilibrium our mind experiences, if not resolved, will cause our thought processes to circle down into worry, complaining, and even depression.  Those are not good ingredients for LIFE.   However, identifying and recognizing even the most horrible experiences as a part of your present reality unleashes the mental power to move forward step-by-step towards resolution.  A balanced mind is a joyful mind.  Joy will always result in inspiration, freedom, and enthusiasm.  So, do not run from unpleasant, scary feelings like loneliness.  Face them.  Sit with them.  Learn from them.  Be healthy.  Be whole. Live LIFE.

The Gifts of Fasting and Prayer

21 Testimonies of 42 Days of Fasting and Prayer

In December 2020 our pastor, Rev. Dr. Tyree Anderson, called the church to a 21-day period of fasting and prayer in preparation for the approaching new year.  I have learned through the years that fasting as a discipline is most effective for my spiritual and intellectual growth when I fast “to” something in addition to fasting “from” something.  I decided that one of the areas I needed to enhance was my ability to speak to people with words that build up in opposed to words that tear down.  I set out to speak only words that edify.  I was not at all surprised when many days I had little to say.  It is amazing how easy it is to speak words that serve to hinder people.  In addition to fasting, our pastor gave us a list of scriptures to read and specific things to pray.  Afterwards, I found that this time in prayer and fasting enhanced my ability to see the world around me in a different, more truthful light.  It also aided in my ability to effectively communicate with my adult children, who often report that I am not good at listening to them and that my words are often harsh.  Holy Spirit continues this work in my life.

                In January 2021 a mentor, Rev. Dr. Kris Erskine called a fast for his church as well as “The MoveMent,” a group of believers who meet each morning via a variety of social media platforms to believe God for two things “the Radical and the Ridiculous.”  I joined the fast with a decision to fast from sugar and fast to better physical health.  Along with this fast there was Bible teaching and prayer each morning.  I have followed the MoveMent since it began.  This time however the teaching was deeper and stouter, challenging us to grow up.  It was as Dr. Erskine loves to say, “Phenomenal!”  At the completion of the fast, the participants were asked to submit a list of 21 testimonies of how God has worked in our lives during this time of fasting and prayer.  Below are mine.

  1. I published my first children’s book entitled, Yes, Junior.  Available at Amazon.com
  2. My youngest son got a new job.
  3. My oldest son developed and attitude of helpfulness.
  4. I got some unexpected money.
  5. I completed grief counseling (last meeting will be February 6, 2021).
  6. I learned to drink black coffee which is much more beneficial to my health.
  7. No one in my house, nor any of my siblings, nor any of their children have contracted COVID-19.
  8. I began journaling using the guided journal Self-Love NOT Self-Loathing by Dr. Dimple J. Martin.
  9. I am experiencing more happy, joyful moments that sad ones.
  10. I am eating practically no meat.
  11. My ear is more opened to hearing the truth.
  12. I am developing the capacity to not force my way, but to allow Holy Spirit to make the way.
  13. I am becoming more politically and socially aware.
  14. Began studying for the Praxis in Educational Leadership to renew my certification.
  15. My appetite for unhealthy food stuff has further diminished.
  16. I have earned some money on some investments.
  17. I am experiencing greater assurance that God is working on my behalf.
  18. I am gaining a better understanding of what it means to believe in Jesus.
  19. I am near the completion of another book project.
  20. I am being delivered form the desire to engage in unfruitful arguments.
  21. I am learning to be honest with God and people.

As we approach the Lenten season, our pastor has instructed us to begin to think and pray about what we will fast from as we prepare to celebrate the life of Jesus by remembering his death and resurrection.  I believe I will fast from unhealthy practices by fasting to a more consistent exercise routine.  I need my body to be stronger so that it is fit to carry out the upcoming work that will be assigned to me. 

I have learned that fasting and prayer are wonderful gifts that make the mind and body alert and energized.  In addition to these assigned times of fasting and prayer I also engage in intermittent fasting which I began as a treatment for diabetes.  I am determined to be all that God has created me to be and to accomplish all that God has assigned to me.  That is LIFE – Living Inspired Free Enthusiastic!

To Whom Do I Matter

LIFE Requires That You Love Yourself First

                During these times of isolation and irritation many are seeking to understand to whom they matter.  Times are stressful and people are tightening their circles of friends and influencers. Social media sites are filled to with comments of people “cutting people off.” People are evaluating the significance of each relationship in which they are involved.  Trust issues are rising as instincts move toward self-preservation.  Still others do not seem to be concerned with their own preservation or the preservation of anyone else as they flaunt their bare faces in public, declaring their right to be free from mask wearing and social distancing.

                Things are weird.  People are dying slow, painful deaths alone in hospitals and nursing facilities.  Others have not been outside their homes for months and long for the accustomed visits from friends and loved ones.  Media stories giving conflicting information, render sound decisions difficult to make.  Those who thought they would live forever have come face to face with their mortality, sometimes questioning how they have lived their lives thus far and how they can live better if the future is granted to them. 

                Life has become a rollercoaster of change.  Up, down, twist, turn, loop the loop; what we rely on as facts change with the blink of an eye.  As soon as we are sure of the right thing to do, news reports inform us that we must do something different.  In this great time of tossing and shifting many people are finding it troublesome to hold on to familiar bonds.  Simply trying to survive the arduous stress of these times has left some so tiringly exhausted that they lack the vigor necessary to maintain relationships.

                These times have left and will leave many alone and without connections on which they have learned to depend.  Death has invaded many families, violently taking away loved ones that members refer to as “the rock,” or the “backbone,” of the family.  Financial strain has caused husbands, wives and lovers who swore their love was unbreakable to trade partnership for separation and disregard.  One is easier to feed than two or three or five. 

                Many are alone, afraid, distressed, anxious and unhappy.  They are in crisis.  Yet, there is good news.  Although crisis is a time of disaster and calamity, it is also a time of opportunity.   Times of crisis can serve as a catalyst that help you to realize your own value and your inner ability to not only survive crisis but to thrive at life.   This time is perfect for self-examination; not to figure what is wrong with you but to better learn what is right with you.  This is the time to discover or rediscover your gifts, skills and talents and make them work for you.  Once unveiled, you can develop your gifts, skills, and talents to the level of excellence.  This might mean taking classes, watching videos, spending time in prayer, meditation, and discovery.  What if this is the time for you to do what you have always dreamed of doing? 

                Spend time improving yourself.  If you have always wanted to be writer, then get a notebook or computer and start writing.  Write every day.  Read books about a variety of things including writing.  You must spend time practicing your craft.  One of the wonderful things about this time is that many universities and colleges are offering courses for free or little pay.  If you have always been curious about something, maybe now is the perfect time to learn about it. 

                Set goals.  Have grand expectations for yourself.  It may sound outdated but making a list for the day can be motivating by keeping you on task and providing data for daily accomplishments.  Computer apps can record your progress on goals that you have set from the number of steps you walk to the number of calories you have eaten to the number of books you have read. 

                Maybe before this pandemic you were the go-to person.  They called on you for everything and you were always there.  Truth be told you basked in what you thought was your importance in someone’s life while at the same time you were wearing yourself out as thin as a sheet of rice paper.  This time of isolation is the time for you to learn to say, “No.”  Just face it.  Oftentimes others use us, and the benefits are not reciprocal.  And we allow this to continue as we, in a state of sheer exhaustion, complain of not being loved or cared for.  This is the time for that to cease.

                During this pandemic you are learning how strong you really are.  You are discovering your resolve, your stamina, and your perseverance.  You are also discovering that you were sent to earth with specific gifts and talents just for this time.  All the things that are happening to you, in you, and around you are showing up your own uniqueness and value.  They are also forcing you, if you take time to notice, to see these wonderful gifts in yourself.  Now, the question is will you love yourself enough to cultivate your gifts, talents, and skills, and live in the purpose for which you were born?

                God and the entire universe are waiting on you to understand that the person to whom you matter most must be you.  This is not selfishness; it is self-love.  Selfness means I love only me.  Self-love means I love me and therefore I possess the capacity and the strength to love others. You must love yourself to the point where every gift that is in you is displayed and every purpose for which you were born is accomplished.  Be number one to yourself and watch your dreams come true and the entire universe stand up and take notice.

LIFE – Living Inspired Free Enthusiastic

Life is beautiful. Life is challenging. Life is simple. Life is complicated. Things are a part of life, but life is not about things.  Life is filled with emotions, but emotions are not the sum of life.  In life we have desires and plans but our desires and plans are not what make life livable.  Life can be filled with horrendous pain. But pain and sorrow do not define life. Life is complex and intricate.  It is not always easy to understand and not always easy to endure.  Yet, life is livable if it is an exercise that is inspired, free, and enthusiastic.

Publishing this blog is a LIFE exercise for me. I am learning new skills and putting myself out there for the entire world to see. I am fulfilling my purpose to live with understanding and maximize our ability to do the same. As I connect with other bloggers, I am growing in my understanding of the value of Black women to this country called the United States of America and the world. I am growing in my understanding that Black women need each other, depend on each other, are motivated by each other and inspired by each other. Everyday we engage each other, support and push each other to Live Inspired Free Enthusiastic. Let following this blog be a LIFE exercise for you. Leave your comments and suggestions so that we can all grow in our understanding of LIFE. Let’s come together and be inspired to live free with an enthusiasm that makes others want to live free and enthusiastic. Let your ideas come to LIFE! Let your actions reflect LIFE! Let your voice speak words of LIFE!  Live LIFE!

https://hbr.org/2011/11/why-inspiration-matters