Renewal Counseling and Consultation Services, LLC 

Why Now?

This was the question circulating through my head during my staff meeting on Monday when my White co-workers were processing their feelings about the recent events that have been occurring to African Americans in America. There were a lot of awkward silences as I supposed they were waiting for the few Black staff on the team to break the silence; interestingly we said nothing. Why?

Were we tired? Were we tired of having to “blacksplain” issues to non-black individuals. Tired of having to share with them why watching people that look like our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, sons and daughters be executed right in front of our eyes might be getting to us just a little bit. Were we angry? Angry that we have to explain why the killing of anybody but especially those targeted because of the color of their skin and the stereotypes that accompany is dead wrong. Were we over it? Sorry you’re feeling badly but I’ve got my own feelings to process and those of my loved ones who are still moving targets in this world. Be your own Kleenex. Were we resentful? Resentful that White privilege allows my White co-workers to pick and choose when they want to be bothered by social injustice.

I don’t know. Maybe it was one or all of these reasons- either way, we were quiet. And maybe that made more of an impact than if we had ranted about the injustice or shed tears for the assassinated. I also wonder if we wanted to have private grief of this issue. I am sure if we had been face to face, as Black staff we would have made a point of checking in with each other and having a conversation, if not with words with our eyes, our touch or our hearts.

This question of Why Now? sat in my head all Monday. It rang even louder on Tuesday as I saw the black boxes popping up all over social media and posts of people filming themselves being involved in protests around the country. Why does this particular killing get everyone involved? It’s not like black people haven’t been dying in this country for centuries- so Why Now? At this point I made a choice. To reframe my question. I don’t think I’ll ever get an answer to the question that will make sense to me or make up for the centuries of complacency, inaction, nonchalance, dismissiveness, or gaslighting that has occurred by the majority to the non-majority in our country.

The new question is – Why NOT Now? I could lament for all the times that Whites had the opportunity to get involved and they didn’t- and how their presence could have expanded the movement exponentially. Or I could accept that they are finally having an Awakening. Granted, I had the same awakening the moment I took my first breath from my mother’s womb- but at least they are having it. I have White people in my life that I consider family. What is my responsibility to them and vice versa? Do I give up trying to educate and share my experience so they can empathize and decide to use their privilege for the betterment of all? No. Do they stop trying to understand, ask questions, acknowledge their blindspots? No. 

One of my favorite quotes from James Baldwin is:  "If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don't see". And I do love people. Regardless of their color, or sexual preference, or age, or gender, or social background, or height, or weight, or religious preference. I could go on detailing all the ways that we are different. But I choose to focus on how we are alike. I think that’s what people who are prejudiced often forget. We are all more alike than different. And maybe that’s Why Now- people are beginning to focus on our similarities rather than differences. We’re all suffering. Whether we’re experiencing isolation, financial strain, illness or death from COVID-19; whether we are sickened to see yet another senseless loss of life; whether we are disgusted by the lack of humanity shown by the people that are supposed to be leading us. We have more things that draw us together than pull us apart.

I’m glad it’s NOW. I’m glad whoever has been living in the fog of “I don’t see color” is waking up to the realities of this world. I’m glad people are mobilizing and organizing and standing up. I’m glad my co-workers are having dialogue about what they don’t know and don’t understand. But what happens when the protest dies down and stops? How do we perpetuate this momentum? How do my co-workers show their continued support? I’m a grass roots type of person. I’ve dedicated my career to working with disenfranchised populations and have always been a boots on the ground advocate. Marching is great. Changing laws and policies is great. But who implements the change? Who ensures that the resources are there to support the change? That would be me and people like me- social workers, human service workers, social advocates- and we come in all shapes, colors, sizes, sexual preferences, religious backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, and regional locations.

I am hopeful that my co-workers will start small and figure out what they each can do to make our work environment more equitable. How can we do a better job of reflecting in our staffing composition and policies that we truly understand and value the diverse experiences of the individuals that we serve? How can we show each other grace and understanding- ask questions when we don’t know, show our humanity at all times with one another? The new question- Why NOT Now? stands tall. To paraphrase the great Gil Scott Heron, the “revolution is being televised” so tune In, turn up the volume, pay attention, take notes, and starting living a life that’s congruent- back up your words with action.

"I Never Can Say Goodbye"

The look on her face says it all. You’re sitting there listening to whatever excuse is being shared about why this person can no longer continue a relationship with you. Your face looks like this because this isn’t the first, second or third time this person has had this conversation with you. In fact, you can’t remember how many times you’ve been sitting at the same proverbial table sipping the same bitter tea being served by someone who says they care for you. A question could be, “what’s wrong with this person that they can’t recognize how amazing I am and that they need me in their life?” But a better question is “why do I keep wasting my amazingness on someone who doesn’t recognize, appreciate or desire to be in it’s presence?”

Why is ending a relationship that no longer serves you so hard to do? Whether it be romantic, familial or platonic- why is it so hard to say goodbye? As a therapist, many of my clients come to process issues related to this very issue- deciding when to move on and then actually doing so. I always start with the things about the individual that attracted you to starting a relationship in the first place. What were you searching for in them? What need were you trying to get filled by inviting them in your life? We then move into discussing what was good about the relationship. Everything is not black and white and people are not good or bad. I utilize a strategy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy that highlights the idea that someone can be both good and bad at the same time; or a situation is not just black or white, it can be grey. So reflecting on the good times is just as important as the times that weren’t so good. There was a reason this person was in your life and in that time frame good times were had. They should be recognized and appreciated.

You’ve finished reminiscing and now you’re sitting here with this load of rocks in your chest. You’re losing sleep, you’re engaging in a lot of self dialogue, self critique, self blame. You’re fighting the desire to obsessively call or post cryptic messages on Facebook or Instagram about how you “know your worth” etc. The red flags have been waving for some time and in your heart of hearts you know it’s time to move on. You see others in your life in similar situations, and in your sista-friend chats you hype your friend up with praise and tell them to move on. But then you go home and secretly check your phone to see if he, she, they have called or responded to the thousandth text you’ve sent. And then the social media stalking begins. I could go on but I won’t because I know you see me right now.

Unfortunately the reason it’s hard to move on is multi-faceted. Let’s start with what you can’t control- there are people in the world that you will encounter who will do hurtful things to you, take advantage of your good intentions, and break your heart. That is a fact that cannot be denied or avoided. They will come wrapped in pretty packages and many of them will absolutely deny any intentions to do the aforementioned things. To add a ray of hope to this dismal reality though is that often times those people send you some warning signs that they are of this breed. Whether it’s being untruthful, manipulative, inconsistent, lazy in the relationship, nonchalant, uninterested- they send you messages that they may not be on the same page as you about the goals of this relationship.

Why don’t we heed the warnings? This is where like a diamond, they are many facets to providing an answer. Some of this is in the category of what you can’t control. You can’t control that negative people are going to be drawn to your positive energy (I mean any 3rd grade science class will show you opposites attract). What you can control are your boundaries, your bottom lines and your deal breakers or standards you set for yourself about how you want to be treated and how you choose to treat others. You can also control your perspective about relationships. Sometimes we feel that our life will not go on if a relationship ends. But if we check the facts, it isn’t true. We do wake up the next day, a little sadder, eyes a little puffier- but we survive the night and every night thereafter.

Another reason we may not heed the warnings is because of what the ending of a relationship means to us. Do you take it as a reflection of a personal deficit if a relationship doesn’t work out? Or do you see it as a natural progression of a relationship; people being in your life for a time, season or reason. It’s hard not to turn the camera to selfie mode when a person gives you an ambiguous or bogus-feeling reason for why they are choosing to exit from your life and to question what it is about you that has caused them to run for the hills. I invite you to turn back to camera mode and take a panoramic view of the landscape. Look at the person, their patterns, the trail of bodies left in their wake. I think you’ll find that it’s less about you and more about them. But you know this already, you are telling yourself this as you dive into that second carton of Ben & Jerry’s, wiping your snotty nose on the sleeve of his, her, their sweatshirt they left at the house. Just because you know it, doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Let’s talk about the hurt. Part of the struggle to say goodbye is wanting to avoid how you’re feeling right now. The sadness, the disappointment ,the hurt, the weight that sits like a half digested burger from Cookout in your chest. No one like this feeling. NO ONE. But let’s sit with it for a moment. Often we try to rush through negative feelings because they are painful and we don’t give audience to the lessons they can teach us. Give yourself time to mourn and grieve the loss. Because it is a loss when a relationship ends- a loss of hope, future plans, dreams and desires. That deserves some time to breathe. It is unfair and you deserve the time and space to say so. Vent, cry, yell, feed your feelings- do what you need to do to get through the initial stage of hurt.

After you’ve had your moment- now is the time for reflection. Since you’ve provided space for your emotional release, you can look back over the relationship with a more logical and analytical eye. I like to use this metaphor with my clients and ask them if their life was like a movie, where would they rewind back to make a change or do something different. With a less emotional mind, you can analyze the relationship and notice moments where things could have been done differently. Why do this reflection? I already feel like crap, now I’m going to reflect on all the places where I messed up or didn’t recognize a warning sign? No. That’s not the purpose of this assignment. The logo for my private practice is a Sankofa- which is an Adinkra symbol that means “go back to the past and bring the lesson forward”. Reflecting on the course of the relationship is a useful tool to chart your course for future relationships. What red flags will you look out for. What potholes will you avoid. How will you assert your needs and boundaries differently.

This is a long post that basically says there’s not an easy way to end a relationship. It’s hard and its difficult for each of us for different reasons. One thing that is true for everyone is that it is hurtful to end a relationship with someone you care about. What is is also true is that the intensity of that hurt does not stay at the same level forever. Another truth is that relationships have both good and not so good moments. A final truth is that mourning the loss of the relationship is a necessary step to beginning the process of moving on from the relationship. Engage in self care. Surround yourself with relationships that are good for and to you. We can get stuck in a vacuum and lose sight of all the other great relationships that exist in our lives and are still here for us when a relationship ends. Process your emotion, then take the lesson and use it for your next relationship.

What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?

We hear about “Self-Care” all the time. It’s quite the buzz word in my profession. But was does it really look like? I mean for normal people… not the fitness gurus, or yoga lovers, or hikers, or people who can afford a week in Bali. I mean for the people who work 40+ hours, have a family, have responsibilities and operate at a persistent low grade level of just plain “T-I-R-E-D” everyday. That’s who this message is for.

I always thought self care was for the new age, crystal wearing, yoga loving crowd. However I have found that to be false. Self-care is for everyone and is possible at anytime. For me, yoga is not relaxing. It’s painful, I sweat, and I can barely get into any of the poses. Yoga is NOT my self-care routine. But I do love listening to a great song, or catching a Sonic happy hour and getting a lemon berry slush, or riding with my windows down, or taking my puppy for a walk, or cooking and eating a great meal, or taking a long hot shower, or painting my nails, or watching a great show, or sitting on my deck looking at the stars, lighting a candle, putting some of my friend’s homemade shea butter on my feet, having some belly laughs with friends, or just getting into bed early. The point is self-care is what makes you feel good and can be done whenever you need to change how you’re feeling or refill your spiritual tank. 

Think about your work day, we all have those moments that if “one more person asks me a question or sends me an email” they will receive the full experience of Black Girl Magic Gone Wrong. Perfect time for self-care. Step away from the desk, grab a snack or beverage, take a walk around the building, put your earbuds in and listen to a song that makes you feel good. That’s self-care. That’s putting your needs first. That’s listening to your body and mind and giving them the break they deserve. We can often feel that we are just “too busy” to stop for a few moments and do something for ourselves. Listen here, you might be too busy but eventually the universe is gonna make you stop and take care of yourself. I suggest you be proactive in this area and not let the universe take over on this one because though helpful she can be rather inconvenient. You don’t have to break all the way down to rock bottom in order to take care of yourself. Do little things along the way to keep the machine running smoothly. Self-care is possible and necessary- so do it!

Feeling Trapped? How Trauma Keeps You Stuck

There are several definitions of Trauma. The working definition I’ll use in this blog is that of an event that you experience as stressful that threatens your sense of safety and security. With this broad definition, many situations and experiences can fall under this umbrella. No matter what you have experienced the fact remains that the trauma but more importantly it’s impact can affect the quality of your life far past the incident itself.

In looking at your life to determine if you have experienced a trauma, don’t just focus on catastrophic events. Just because you didn’t survive an earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, a terrible car accident, or survive an abuse doesn’t mean you haven’t experienced a trauma and may still be impacted by its aftermath. Being Black in America is traumatizing. The ending of a relationship is a trauma. Being diagnosed with an illness is a trauma. Trauma and its effects can come at us in different shapes and sizes. What are the lingering effects of trauma? Let’s look at the physiological effects first.

Usually in a traumatic situation our survival instincts or our primitive brain kick in and take over to get us through. The primitive brain is the brain stem and controls functions basic to the survival of all animals, such as heart rate, breathing, digesting foods, and sleeping. This is our “fight or flight” system. When the primitive brain takes over to protect us it shuts down the frontal lobe of our brain where logic and reasoning reside and we run on pure instinct. We also experience an increase in chemicals such as Adrenaline and Cortisol which increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies as well as enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. These chemicals help us maneuver stressful and traumatic situations with our survival in mind. However, the dissipation of these chemicals from our system can take several days to weeks and can cause feelings of exhaustion and depression. If you think about this it makes sense. Think about the last stressful situation you found yourself in. You were able to get through it but afterwards you were exhausted. You may have slept for a long period after the event or felt depressed or irritable.

What are the psychological effects of trauma? It’s not objective circumstances that determine if an event is a trauma, but rather your subjective interpretation of the event. During and after a trauma you may experience: shock, denial, disbelief, confusion, anger, mood swings, anxiety and fear, guilt, shame, increased isolation, feeling sad or hopeless, or feeling numb. You may notice trouble sleeping; obsessing, edginess, restlessness, nightmares or vivid dreams, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating. A tendency is to downplay the significance of the event and the feelings you are having. You try to rationalize, explain away, compartmentalize, ignore or avoid addressing the fact that you have experienced a trauma and you’re not bouncing back like you thought you would. You minimize what you’ve experienced and tell yourself to “get over it and move on”- but you aren’t, you don’t, you can’t. It’s still with you, seeping all over areas of your life.

Why is it hard to accept the fact that we’ve been traumatized? Having our sense of security and safety threatened is a frightening experience. Whether our trauma is related to a financial, relational, health or environmental stressor- it’s scary when it happens and we don’t want to feel what we are feeling ever again. How do we prevent that from happening? By avoiding situations that could lead to that event happening again. If it was financial- then you might save every single penny you come by so you’ll never experience a financial stress again. If it was relational- you swear off relationships, build a wall and moat around your heart and keep people at your social distancing measurement. If it was health- you become a borderline hypochondriac, taking every supplement you can and following whatever health guru or fad is promising eternal health. Is this realistic? And what’s the impact on our quality of life? Is this the life you envision for yourself- living as a semi-hermit, heavily guarded and defended, afraid to take risks or pursue the uncalculated and unknown?

A step in decreasing the impact of trauma is to first acknowledge that you’ve been traumatized. As a therapist, I watch clients dance around their acknowledgment of their personal traumas trying to explaining an event in any other word than what it is- a TRAUMA. Validation and acknowledgment that something terrible happened to you, that was unfair, or undeserved is important. Acknowledging how out of control, scared, insecure, unsafe, vulnerable you felt during that event is crucial. Feeling vulnerable is such an exposed feeling kind of like the dream that you’re at school or work giving a presentation completely naked. It’s scary, it’s humiliating, it’s embarrassing, it’s shaming. Finding a safe place with people who will acknowledge and validate your experience and your feelings is important. Having someone look you in the eye and tell you that they are sorry that you experienced what you experienced and it wasn’t deserved and it wasn’t fair can be the exhale moment you need and the permission slip to drop the weight you’ve been carrying on your shoulders.

Acknowledgment and validation are the first steps to letting down your defenses and beginning to recovery from trauma. What’s the next step? Keep reading for Part 2: Recovery from Trauma- Getting Unstuck.

Comparison: Do you measure up?

There are times when issues that clients bring to the table look very much like issues I struggle with myself. Comparison. Comparing myself to others that I see in my circle, larger environment, social media etc. I’ll give you an example. I’ve worked really hard to get my own private practice up and running. It’s been such a blessing and is growing exponentially. I created a website for myself that is fully functional and has been useful in drawing individuals to my business. I’ve been completely satisfied with my website. That is until I saw the website of a dear sister friend who is starting her own business too. I checked out her site and gave her all the accolades she deserved. Later though, I found myself looking at her site wistfully and immediately began to critique my own. The website I’ve been completely satisfied with since October 2019 was now woefully inadequate. I began to obsess over what I needed to change; did I need to get professional pictures taken, should I change my website platform- the rumination went on for hours. Until I stopped and asked myself- what are you doing? Why are you comparing? Has your site become any less effective because you’ve seen someone else’s? The answer was no. My site was just as good as before evidenced by the continuous calls I receive daily from people directed to me by my website.

Comparison. There is such a fine line in using comparison as a motivation tool before it bleeds over to self-critique and self-doubt. It is so easy to see what someone has, what they’re doing, what they’re posting from the outside and assume that it’s better than what you have. Notice I used the word ASSUME. Because those thoughts that someone is better equipped, happier, more talented are just that ASSUMPTIONS. It’s like you’re looking through the window at a family eating dinner at the table and moaning that you don’t have a good meal to eat. First, you have no idea if what they are eating is even appetizing or something you would want. From the outside everything always appears to be shiny, glamorous, better. But remember- when’s the last time you posted a busted picture of yourself on Instagram or Facebook? How many shots does it take for you to finally get that just right picture where you look nonchalantly unbothered but amazingly put together? And how many filters, crops, and face tuning adjustments were made to that picture before you posted?

Comparison is a helpful tool when used for good, not evil. To continue with my example. I was motivated after viewing my sister friend’s site to go through my site and make some tweaks to incorporate some of the features that I liked about her site into my own to enhance my presentation. I appreciate her site as inspiration and feel that the few changes have made my site more comprehensive. That’s how comparison is a tool to motivate.

Most of us however use comparison for evil. Looking at something someone else has and thinking that what we have isn’t good enough anymore or is lacking. Or looking at what someone has accomplished and feeling that we are running behind on the timeline to reaching goals. This is a common theme with the clients that I see in my practice. They all seem to have these invisible timelines that they are holding themselves accountable to. Timelines that are developed by markers that other people have set for themselves and when they achieve their goals. The obvious question: Why would you compare yourself to someone else’s timetable for achieving their goals? So simple but such a complex construct. The drive to be seen as equal to or better than is immeasurable. It’s so easy to feel that you’re not measuring up based on what you see others doing. I always ask my clients when they begin to compare themselves to others: how do you know what you see is accurate? Do you know what they’ve sacrificed or had to do to get what you see posted or talked about on social media, or at church, or mentioned by others in your circle? Is it something you even want?

I have a client who was lamenting that she didn’t have children and everyone in her cohort was having children. So I asked her if she wanted to have children and she said “No, I don’t even like kids”. I had to fix my face not to react they way I really wanted to that statement. But I think it drives home the point. How ludicrous comparing ourselves to others and not feeling that we are enough can be. I’m encouraging my clients to live in a world where it is BOTH/AND not either/or. Other people can have good things and great lives AND so can you. One doesn’t cancel the other. I’ve encouraged clients to not feel that their timeline isn’t measuring up to that of others. It won’t ever measure up, because its YOUR timetable. Built on your desires, your priorities, your circumstances, your experiences. It may look similar to others and even follow many of the same paths as others, but is always uniquely your own. Maybe you haven’t gotten married yet because you were focused on knocking out grad school and getting your career started. Maybe you don’t have children yet because you and your partner have decided to travel before starting a family. Maybe you don’t have a fancy car because you’re saving your pennies for a down payment on a house. Maybe you don’t have hair down to your back because you don’t feel like putting the money or time into keeping hair that long looking decent. Maybe you’re not a size 0 because you’re Mom is 5’11 and your Dad is 6’5 – genetics trumps social media’s beauty standards. I think you get my point.

Throw the mental measuring tape in the trash (along with most of 2020) and stop comparing yourself to others. Celebrate your accomplishments and theirs. Use the good ideas of others for inspiration to enhance your life. Just like I was able to use some features of my sister friend’s website to improve my own, how do I know that someone isn’t looking at my website right now and thinking it’s the best thing since sliced bread? Comparison as a tool for motivation is great. Stay away from the self-critique and self doubt. Your journey may resemble that of others, but is uniquely your own. Live in a world of BOTH/AND- be awesome and celebrate others for being awesome too. There’s room for both.

Choosing Me: Being a Friend to Yourself

2018 and 2019 taught me some hard lessons about friendship. She was a merciless instructor. Some of these lessons literally brought me to my knees. I was a hard headed pupil. I had to put my hand in the fire multiple times before I realized I was getting severely burned. In 2018 and 2019 I experienced situations with individuals that I held extremely close to me that shook me to my core. I doubted everything I believed about friendship, but even more sadly I doubted myself. I began asking questions about if I was a good person, did I do something to cause this mistreatment, was I wrong to be feeling offended and hurt when my boundaries were being obliterated. All these lessons taught me that I couldn’t expect others to treat me well if I didn’t require that treatment of myself first. I was not being a good friend to myself. I wasn’t being loyal to myself or trustworthy. I wasn’t being my own cheerleader or respecting my own boundaries. How could I expect someone else to do so? I was allowing myself to be treated in ways that if I saw someone treating a friend of mine similarly, I’d be ready to throw hands. I wasn’t requiring anything but was giving in over abundance. I was depleting my reserves and was not getting any replenishment. I was emotionally exhausted. My edges were all frayed; I was a hot mess. As I struggled through very painful moments, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t let myself get in this situation again. Below were some of the lessons learned:

Lesson #1- Don’t give someone a title if they haven’t earned it. In hindsight, I was throwing out the title “friend” way too loosely. Knowing myself and how I interpret friendship, to call someone my “friend” really meant I considered this person as close as family to me. That meant total transparency on my part, complete trust, and staunch loyalty. I was providing those benefits to some individuals who didn’t warrant that level of treatment. Were there red flags? Aren’t there always?! Someone who was always calling on me for the bail out, to vent, to pat them on their back, to support them, cheer lead them; yet when I looked for reciprocity- crickets. Or maybe not crickets, maybe swift kicks in the shin in the form of brutally honest and soul slicing feedback. Had these people earned the privilege of my friendship?

Lesson #2- Don’t go harder for them than they will for you. I was out here telling people how wonderful they were, challenging the haters and naysayers, yelling from the mountain tops “that’s my best friend, that’s my best friend” when the reality was those people were actually talking very badly about me behind my back. As word does, it got back to me and I was devastated. Why would a friend talk about me negatively to someone else? Why wouldn’t they come to me if they had an issue? More importantly why did their behavior have me questioning myself and trying to take responsibility by thinking I had done something wrong to cause this behavior?

Lesson #3- Not everyone who says they are for you are really for you. I saw a quote somewhere on the internet that said “make sure everyone in your boat is rowing, not drilling holes when you’re not looking”. This word picture is so vivid for me because that’s exactly what was happening. I had people in my inner bubble who were steadily poking holes in the sides. As I gulped and gasped for air, I saw them with the scissors in their hands but didn’t want to believe they were the ones who had poked the holes. I was trying to see the best in people but also trying to prove to myself I hadn’t been a misjudge of character. What did it say about me to have given someone that sacred space in my friend circle and they turned out be a horrible person. Were my read skills off?

Lesson #4- When someone shows you who they are believe them. And if you are resistant to believe what you see- believe what others see. It was like I was in a burning house and looking out the window and seeing my neighbors screaming for me to get out and pointing at the roof. But because I was inside the house and couldn’t see the flames I didn’t believe there was a fire. People around me were giving me feedback about certain people in my life. They were suggesting I fall back or tread warily with those people. Many of them had cut off these people or drastically changed their relationship with them due to their own experiences. Yet I blindly kept tumbling down the friendship hole considering myself showing the utmost loyalty by defending them to others. Never once did I ask myself if it was possible that I could be wrong about these people and that everyone around me might be right.

Did I learn my lesson? A quote from Phylicia Rashad sticks in my mind: ” I can care about people without taking on their problems”. The first step in my journey to heal was to get some S-P-A-C-E. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees and I had to take a step back to get some perspective. I fell back into oblivion and cut people out of my life. That meant stopping communication, blocking on social media, asking mutual friends to not update me or pass messages to me about/from those people. I had to cut it off completely in order to give myself space to grieve. I acknowledged that losing the friendship as I knew it was indeed a loss. In that moment I had to get space to gain perspective by removing myself. FOMO kicked in big time and I had to fight the urge to social media “spy” to see what was going on with the other. Several times I got my feelings hurt through my investigations. So much so that I learned yet another lesson (you’re gonna find exactly what you’re looking for if you keep looking) and finally permanently blocked those individuals from social media.

Secondly I recognized my triggers and attempted to avoid them. I stayed away from reminiscing. I stopped social media stalking. I excused myself from conversations about them or deftly changed the topic. I also did not respond to blatant attempts at baiting me; whether it was through subliminal posts online or word of mouth filtered through mutual friends. I enlisted the help of my village to help me get through the urges to contact or engage with those people. It was basically heroin withdrawal- I had to sit down and sweat it out. I’m so thankful for my village who hung in there and listened to me lament repeatedly about the situations. I know they wanted to shake sense into me- they were so patient and loving. During this I began to learn who really was for me. I was able to assign the title of friendship to several in my circle with no hesitation that it was well deserved.

I learned to have levels of friendship. Not everyone I meet deserves the title of close friends. I learned that having associates is perfectly fine. Superficial relationships that come together over common interests are enjoyable and they don’t have to be anymore than they are. My former idea that once a close friend always a close friend was no longer the case. My friendship was no longer unconditional. There was one condition- treat me as well as I treat you. If that doesn’t happen then you’re not a friend- and that’s okay. I’m not Mr. Rogers; everyone I meet doesn’t need to be my neighbor. I was challenging this belief that boundaries in friendship was wrong or restrictive. It was actually protection.

Finally but not least, I chose me. For the first time really ever, I began to move in a way that put my needs as the priority, not the needs of others. I became my own friend. I became content with spending alone time. I didn’t always need to have a house full of people to feel whole. I began communicating genuinely with people in my life. If my feelings were hurt- I said so. If I didn’t agree with something- I said so. If I didn’t want to do something- I said so. If I didn’t want to be around someone because I didn’t care for their character – I didn’t go. No more accepting invitations to events I knew I didn’t want to attend because I was worried about optics. I allowed space to grow and time to pass. Getting some space gave me a panoramic view of the last two years. I saw very clearly opportunities to have chosen myself over others I didn’t take and the disastrous consequences that resulted. As time passed, the pain lessened and I thought less and less of those people who were no longer in my life. Did my feelings for them disappear? Absolutely not. I still think of one of those persons a whole lot. I miss them and the good times we shared. I’ve reached out to them from time to time since our relationship changed, to let them know they are on my mind and I hope they are doing well. I’ve provided emotional support when they lost a loved one. All interactions on my terms, meeting my needs, and within my boundaries. Others I removed from my life, I do not choose to interact with and will not. Those relationships were not deemed worthy to attempt to repair- and that is okay. They showed me who they were and I decided I didn’t like it. No hard feelings, it just wasn’t a fit for me. I forgave for my benefit not theirs and chose to move on; without them.

Bottom line- I’m not for everybody and everybody isn’t for me. I’m not going to click with everyone and I don’t have to force it if it doesn’t fit. Not everyone gets to be “framily” and that’s okay. It’s okay to have associates. It’s okay to set boundaries. It’s okay to take space from relationships when they become overwhelming. It’s more than okay to Choose Me- every. single. time.