After surviving a chaotic 9 months of 2020, being on "house arrest" (aka quarantine), seeing people you know pass away, and watching the credibility of leadership dwindle...all while dealing with your own mess, and the human right issue causing protests worldwide... it's time to recenter and cut off the toxicity (news, social media, etc) for a moment. Try to focus on your breathing when overwhelmed and anxious....just inhale deeply (Let that quarantine belly extend fully), then exhale ...slowly. (Repeat as needed; a relaxation technique I used a lot in hospital settings)
The message today is simple; it serves mostly as a reminder. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Be kind to the ones you love. Forgive yourself and others. Let go of what you can’t control and change what you can. Hold yourself accountable. Take time to heal. Embrace the scars you carry, they are your badge of honor from living on this earth. As hard as it can be at times, try to crack a smile ( see picture above)
The marathon of life is made for those who pace themselves, not for the swift. It’s not a sprint! So slow down when you can, and make sure you enjoy the view, moving forward one step at a time.
The world as we know has suddenly halted, and the SAT word of the year is “unprecedented” (def: never known before). Let’s start listing some of these “unprecedented” events that transpired in the last 1.5 mo. You can skip the bullet points if you want to be spared feeling sad since we are all living it in the muck of 2020:
Let’s talk about this short term solution: Putting out the fire, Flattening the curve, Planking the curve…whatever your health officials call it… Um … planking it, extends it (look at that x-axis=time since outbreak), so while we are helping the healthcare system, what long-term solution are we proactively putting in place to sustain the disruption of other industries and people’s livelihood? It seems so easy to ask the unemployed to stay home. Has the media covered raising that blue bar though (hospital's capacity)…I’m just curious, maybe I missed it?
“Social and Economic Lockdown until a virus is eradicated” is a lofty goal. Here is why? Only 2 viruses have been eradicated so far in history. Two. Dos. Due. Deux. That is 1. Small pox, and 2. Rinderpest (which only affected cattle). Some would argue that polio* might fall in that category making it 3…but that’s not what we’re debating here. Ultimately what I’m saying is that 2 diseases caused by microbes (viruses to be exact) have been eradicated which took decades of scientific advancement, vaccination, a global campaign with social, political and scientific efforts. Decades. The solution to manage COVID-19, clinical trials, the mass hysteria, panic, conspiracy theorist, anti-vaxers, economic recession and imminent depression will require a GLOBAL solution and coalition. Emphasis on “global”. Not a separatist/populist/nationalist approach or unilateral solution that omits other countries in an era of mass transportation. The solution needs to be multifaceted. It will need an approach that prioritizes healthcare workers having proper equipment to manage ALL patients. It will need to increase its healthcare workforce (and why not tap into the foreign medical doctors in North America that have been relegated to other industries.) It’s like we’ve suddenly forgotten that other medical conditions exist like cancer, liver failure, heart disease, organ transplants, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis… It requires a campaign on proper personal hygiene, hand washing, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It requires people returning to a semblance of a functional society so they can feed themselves. It will require a more sensitive society that appreciates teachers, custodial workers, grocery store workers, etc. It will require funding for scientists and researchers (who are the real unsung heroes) since society will depend on them for the development and scientific interpretation of serologic studies, therapeutic modality, and a vaccine. Lastly, it will need a HUGE campaign focusing on pandemic prevention and management, because our short-term memories and nonchalance about history will set us up to repeat this mistake in the future. A little over a century ago, the Spanish Flu Pandemic taught us lessons that we as a society all forgot… A long term solution will require way more than the totality of a lockdown until the virus is “eradicated”… But what do I know… I’m just an artist…
(PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, in case you wondered)
Just 2 references for your reading pleasure… Because you have time.
(I’ll keep it short)
…What do you do when things go completely haywire? Plans fail, people bail, and you’re left with yourself? What do you do when you are discouraged, filled with doubt and despair? What do you do when the dream (work, relationship, family, startup, whatever your dream is) you’ve worked and sacrificed for becomes an utter nightmare? What do you do when you feel trapped in a rat race, or trapped in a hopeless situation? You stand...
I don’t mean standing in the literal sense. I mean stand stand [sic]! (How our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts did)..You don’t lose faith, face, or hope. Exercising faith is essential in that very moment; not when everything is working out. Faith becomes essential when you are in that dark crucible and you can’t see a way out...That’s when you exercise faith! When you realize that amidst the fleeting things of this world which don’t define you, there is a faith that gives you hope. As La Bruyere (French philosopher) would say, “out of difficulties grow miracles”. This is just a moment that you will evolve from. Your narrative is being rewritten… and the story will be beautiful… so stand.
We owe it to ourselves to walk the unpaved road and create something that future generations will deem a burgeoning age of innovation and creativity. I can’t help but think about where our society was a century ago. The 1920s was a booming decade with innovations that led to the age of electricity, the assembly line, the airplane, the washing machine, radio, television, the automobile, and Harlem Renaissance to name a few (my very obvious plug for black history). I’d like to simply state that 100 years ago, entrepreneurship and creativity was inundating our society. The decade of the 1920s forever changed the trajectory of humanity. When I think of this decade that we are starting (2020), I am sure that there are many visionaries on the brink of discovering or creating something that will change this century. I hope we will allow our curious, bright-eyed, creative, hopeful, visionary selves to come out and play! We owe it to our predecessors that did it 100 years ago.
I get that it can be absolutely terrifying, and gut churning to walk down a road less traveled. The accounts of what to expect are fittingly few, and the whispers of success are too far for you to truly grasp what’s ahead. I think, as a society, we are a bit too risk averse. We tread on roads well-traveled because we are guaranteed results. Uncovering new territories can feel like walking a dark road with too few lamp posts to light the path. I recognize that feeling. Yeeeeaaarrrrs ago, I came to this country with $800, and a little bit of faith that it would all work out. That's it. The driving thought that kept me afloat was faith in placing one foot in front of the next .
The jitters can be quite overwhelming when charting new territories. But to manage those “butterflies”, and terrifying thoughts that try to push you backwards, you must remember why you took the leap in the first place. What propelled you on this new journey. We have a history to rely on, which assures us that innovation will lead us to a more fulfilling destination. A destination that will be preceded by a journey ripe with lessons, and beautiful moments. I am excited (and have a tiny bit of trepidation) for what lies ahead in 2020. Hopefully, you’ll join me in taking the leap, creating a new path, one step at a time.
The pendulum of experiences in these last 12 months (both personally and professionally) has shown me the darkness and beauty of life. I’d be remiss to say that this year didn’t show me an incredible amount of grace and delightful moments amidst the pain.
Oh 2019, what a year filled with contradictions: I felt the most alone, when I was surrounded by the most amount of people. I found love when I was at my darkest moment. I received the most generosity when I least needed it. I gained sisters when I lost one. Family gained a whole new meaning when my mother passed. I became adaptable when dealing with my own rigidity. I found wholeness when I was broken. Lastly, I decided to start living, when facing my mother’s and my mortality. Often times I get entrapped in my analytical ways, and evidence-based thinking to define life and the lessons it provides. I would start delineating its features, its valleys, and troughs, which often undermined its substance. That method was truly pointless. This last year I entangled myself in a futile exercise of unraveling the variables that constituted life. The coping mechanism of 2019 was intellectualization and rationalization. A mechanism that made me forget to look around and see the paved roads that surrounded me. Roads that revealed I have been on the sideline… ( if that makes any sense..anyway)
As 2020 creeps around the corner, I am letting go of trying to define every experience, and I am choosing to be “more” present. I am going to start living a little more, feeling a little more, loving a little more, risking a little more, laughing a little more, cooking a little more, sleeping a little more, drawing/painting a little more, and dare a little more. Simply put, I am going to let the waves of life carry me instead of attempting to control it. Anyway 2019, it’s been real.
Grief/pain is like a horrible ex; a bitter one at it. Just when you thought you finally moved on, and replaced it with something much more peaceful… it irrationally keys your car and slashes your tires. There you are stranded, trying to detach yourself from this endless pull and tug with an ex that just won’t leave you alone. An ex that wants to be front and center. It pops up at work unannounced demanding your attention. It shows up at dinner with friends, while you try your best to pretend it’s not there. Any reminder of your ex puts you on edge, because you are reminded of its power to make a scene. Worst of all, for whatever reason it refuses to loosen its grip. So let’s talk about it… (not the Kübler-Ross stages)
I was told by many that, “grief gets better with time”, “Time heals all wounds”, “You are so strong, you’ll get through this”, “Life goes on”, “Your (insert deceased person) wouldn’t want you to be sad”, “God never gives you more than you can handle”, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through”, and best of all “ If you need anything, call me”. I think these cliches and platitudes are well intentioned, because ultimately (the alternative) saying nothing is worse. Saying nothing (not to be confused with actively listening) almost immediately screams you don’t care about this unfathomable loss. However, these aforementioned statements fall short because they are centered on the person and not the griever. I believe the term used to describe what I’m trying to relay here is “conversational narcissism”.
I’m not a trained sociologist/psychiatrist/psychologist but here is what I gathered from my very informal literature search. Ted Baeur put it beautifully in his article published in Medium: “ Sociologist Charles Derber describes this tendency as “conversational narcissism.” Often subtle and unconscious, it’s the desire to take over a conversation to do most of the talking, and to turn the focus … to yourself.”
I get it…Listening to someone’s pain can be unbearable especially when we live in a culture seeking only “GOOD VIBES”. It makes it easy for the phenomenon of conversational narcissism to creep in; “insert a trite statement” meant to cheer you up. The person embodying it may not be a narcissist, but the inability to relate subtly leaves them reaching in their repertoire of overused statements to become a “helpful sincere” friend. I wholeheartedly believe that sincerity is in fact there, however more often than not it is not helpful. What typically occurs is a gulf between the griever because ultimately they may not want to be cheered up. Most importantly, the space the griever is in is entirely valid and human! Here are examples of what would be more appropriate …“you must feel like your pain will never end” instead of “time will heal ”…or…“Tell me what’s the hardest part for you?” instead of “Be strong”/“You’re so resilient”…
… SO for those of you are currently experiencing (or experienced) pain/loss; here’s what I’m telling you: “I know life has dealt you a terrible blow, and living with this new reality is incredibly hard… seemingly endless even. Trying to keep yourself balanced in a space that doesn’t recognize/validate your grief is not ok. I may not know exactly what you are going through, but I can imagine the devastation you feel. You do not have to act like you are ok, or pretend you don’t miss what you’ve lost…Listen to me… I see you…. I see the pain you carry in your eyes, a look of … desolation. A look I recognize behind the many masks you carry…A look that few recognize… I’m right there with you too… trying to reconcile love and loss…”
That sneaky b*tch called grief/pain… she/he/it sure doesn’t discriminate, that MF…
In a world that often reminds us we aren’t enough and highlight our shortcomings; I want this blog post/space to do the exact opposite.
You, yes you! There is so much talent and power that lies in you. Your very existence is miraculous. You are the perfect genetic mixture of beauty and creativity. From the texture of your hair, the shape of your nose, the softness of your lips, the frame of your body, and to the tone of your voice… As they say, “you bad”! You were not designed to make people comfortable with your thoughts, your journey, or your being. Just as you are, you are enough! You are enough (in case you didn’t hear me the first time); believe that! I believe that to be true for you, wholeheartedly!
Now that we’ve established how “bad” you are/is ;) ...Take time and imagine what greatness looks like for you. Start believing that to be a reality. There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t happen for you. You deserve it! Start believing that you deserve all the goodness and greatness that life can offer. Because…well why not?
Some of you will say "life is no picnic," or “I’ve made so many irreversible mistakes” to deserve any good. Trust me, I know where you are coming from all too well. Do me a favor and name one person in your circle who hasn’t made a mistake? If you know someone who "hasn't" ( side eye) ; they have a lot of "living" to do! Look, you have to be kind to yourself; you’re doing what you can. Life will throw curve balls; and worst of all, it is not a respecter of persons.
No one is immune to the rollercoaster ride called life. I’ve lived it, and I see it everyday with patients I care for. One minute the playing field is leveled, and the next, you are facing Mount Everest. Suddenly you are challenged to surmount things you've never imagined for yourself. The urgency of "life" can suddenly change your swag and confidence. You may even experience helplessness, guilt, fear, regret, and doubt as a result of it. It's normal. But owe it to yourself not to let these emotions fester longer than they need to. Before you know it, like an insidious cancer, it can slowly eat away at your intrinsic beauty, creativity, and ability to shine. So take it from me, let the emotion run its course. And when it's time, (the debris of oppressive thoughts weighing on your shoulders that paralyze you) dust that sh*t off. Life is tough, but it’s no reason to prevent your light to shine amidst dark moments. The cards you were dealt may not be the best hand, ( I’ve often said eff those cards, and eff those rules); and it shouldn't matter anyway because life isn’t a game of cards. Surprise yourself, and dare to be great … amidst the mistakes and chaos. Dare to strut your stuff like you deserve every opportunity that comes your way. It’s your time to shine. It’s your time to trail-blaze. It's your time to walk tall. It is YOUR time. So go ahead with your bad self, be you! Be great.. and shine!
- Dr. M. C.
"Often times, in the dark crucibles of life, the greatest gifts are born."
WHO ARE YOU?
How many of us can genuinely answer that while omitting our jobs, and our societal roles? Let's try answering that question by prefacing it with these "hypotheticals"...If you were stripped of your job, your wealth or lack thereof), your instagram page, your twitter, your clothes and shoes, your weaves (that includes you too fellas), what would be left? Can what is left stand on its own? Think about it...
I think we often hide behind the idea of what we ought to be, who we should be, and lose ourselves in trying to adhere to what society, our families, and friends impose on us. So the question remains, who are you?
When I think back of critical moments in my life that defined me ... I am mostly drawn to what I initially deemed as huge disappointments. I took the road less traveled occasionally accompanied by a tribe, and at other moments feeling completely destitute. I have seen doors closed, and others swing right open. I have laughed, and I have cried. I have won, and I have lost. I've lived under a roof surrounded by family, and lived alone at the mercy of an unreliable car dodging homeless people, police, and violent ridden neighborhoods.
Interestingly, it was in those moments of having no money, no place to stay, no "friends" that I truly faced myself. In those moments, when the cacophony of my own deprecation quieted down, I finally heard that voice. That whispering voice that is often drowned by the masks we put on. That voice that tells you to take risks, to stand up tall when everyone wants to remind you of your shortcomings. That voice that reverberates in your soul, that tells you that you matter, that you are beautiful, that you are intelligent, that you are more than the sum of your accomplishments or failures. It is that small voice, that once had childlike tendencies and curiosity, that emanates the true you. Who you are, is something most of us have yet to figure out, because we've programmed ourselves to operate in away that is the anti-thesis of our intrinsic design. Regrettably, we hide behind these false narratives and we pretend in our professional domains because, sh*t we have bills and loans (credit, cars, college, etc) to pay! But how often do we meet ourselves and embrace what it looks like? How often do we let that voice guide our decisions? How often do we let ourselves simply be? How often do we see that the voice, that pulls the curtain to tell you who you are, is enough?
I hope you realize who you are? I think the best way to do that is sometimes to shut everything off. (TV, phones, parents, and taking some time to reflect) What would your 80 year old self say about who you are now, in your current state? Even if all you can afford is just 5 minutes a day, take it. Give yourself time and space to be you. Who you are is more powerful than you think... You are created with quirks and imperfections, talents, and interests. You were created from an act of love. You were made to live out your greatest version of yourself ( even a modicum would suffice when you consider the alternative), and not be a cheap duplicate of something you'll never be.
Today, I hope you get to know who you are. I sincerely hope you are ready to embrace every part of it. My father used to quote fables of Jean de La Fontaine when I was a child, and I can't help but think of The Frog that wished to be as big as an Ox. An envious little frog, who met its demise trying to be something it wasn't. There was so much wisdom in that fable. You get the gist, right? You will prematurely meet your demise trying to be something you were not designed to be. Who you are is enough, and you need to see it. Most importantly you need to know it. Your life depends on it. Eventually the world will catch up. But that won't matter anyway, because the most important part is your own recognition and acceptance. So simply embrace it.
-Dr. M. C.