there is no one like you in the world. not everyone will understand you. sometimes, you won’t understand yourself. you will be loved. you will be left. you will feel despair. and hope. sometimes simultaneously. you will beat your fists against the wall and hear nothing. you will lie there sometimes, lifeless. you will rise and begin on a path unknown. you will meet travelers. some will betray you. others will show you your light. you are not alone but you do inhabit this body alone. do you love it? how does it make you feel? remember that you’re all it’s got.
the popular usage of ”empowerment”— particularly in relation to self-development, the current women’s movement, wellness communities, and inspirational leaders— has long triggered unease within me; beyond gross overuse, i feel the way the term is often used is incorrect— and insidiously disempowering to the subconscious as a result.
some definitions i pulled across a handful of online dictionaries, including merriam-webster, cambridge, and oxford:
to give (someone) the authority or power to do something
to give official authority or legal power to
enable (to provide with the means or opportunity)
to give someone official authority or the freedom to do something
to enable or permit
to make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights
to encourage and support the ability to do something
to promote the self-actualization or influence of
for me, definitions one through five cover the formal empowerment of someone by granting them access to execute a certain position or action of power within a given institution or system. depending on context, this can be a fair naming, particularly when operating to “correct” systemic imbalances and injustices; the privileged using their means to empower the disenfranchised rightfully exists as one tool, amongst others. though some might get it twisted, such empowerment is not a transference of actual agency, ability, or deservingness, which every person innately possesses— it is largely functional and surface in nature.
then we arrive at definition six— the deeply troubling common usage definition in wellness and women’s communities; here, the first five definitions are rolled up to imply that one human can somehow “make” another human stronger and more confident. we can sure be deluded into this notion, but only after we decide— consciously or subconsciously— to give our own power away first. that this is a formal definition makes my head spin.
as far as i’m concerned, the only way it is possible for one person to empower another— i.e. give permission or power to— is by also giving power to systems of oppression and the victim-savior paradigm. our power is not derived from another. the power of our essential nature cannot be given, taken, or transferred— it can only be illuminated; others can inspire us to open to our truths but true empowerment can only ever come from within.
the only definitions i find relatively sound within a psychosocial context are seven and eight as they have a supportive quality— focusing instead on inspiration and promotion around self-actualization and self-empowerment.
but even then, i wonder how much we can escape the common usage assumptions embedded in our subconscious: “empower” as a subject oriented verb inherently disempowers the object by assuming its lack of agency and erasing its innate power. these subtle disempowering suggestions that have pervaded our collective subconscious require us to believe that we need something or someone outside of ourselves to be truly powerful— to “fix” us, to “heal” us, to “give us permission.” this is false, capitalistic, imperialist, supremacist, oppressive bullshit. it is quintessentially “giving our power away.” i don’t feel fucking empowered when someone suggests that they can empower me. making someone or something outside of ourselves the actor within contexts of empowerment, healing, and permission/agency is harmful, reductive, and regressive— let’s take some heavy pause here, please.
we wholly empower ourselves, heal ourselves, and give permission to ourselves— any outside influences are conduits and facilitators— that’s it. anyone claiming differently— saying they are saving, healing, fixing, allowing, empowering you (giving you power)— is quite possibly a false leader coming from ego.
even in healing modalities where say, someone performs a chakra clearing on you: your body, your energy, and your subconscious are active participants in these processes by offering permission, access, insight, and the willingness to shift— whether or not you are consciously aware of this. we are our own healers, even when we have assistance— healing fundamentally cannot happen without our consent or participation.
a quick shift back to institutional empowerment: though technically another can empower us in these situations, self-empowerment is still the purest and truest form of empowerment at the root level— even here. for example, the act of white people empowering people of color by offering them job roles will not alone correct racist institutions— or the issue of racism; as such, this deference or assignment by a white person or “white” institution to a person of color is still a phenomenon occurring within the original oppressive paradigm; it is “empowerment” only to a degree.
as much as we must do what we can within existing constructs, we can’t take for granted the need for imagining and building new paradigms from scratch ourselves, where terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” are no longer needed because our new systems are inherently sound and of integrity.
all said, in it being a word deeply intertwined with current movements, i don’t believe “empowerment” is going away any time soon. so my hope is that we at least use it and receive it with more discernment, awareness, self-respect, and humility— and that we explore fuller, truer ways to express how we are supporting each other in collective healing and liberation.
much love <3
upon deciding that i wanted to talk a bit about my depression that consumed the second half of my 2017, it took me a moment to realize that my previous post was in part about the bliss i was able to connect with earlier in that same year. i also recalled how the bliss itself was borne in response to pain. all around, the duality of that year was profound.
over the course of 2018, i couldn’t quite comprehend what the fuck 2017 was. because 2018 was confusing as all hell on its own; it was this extended sense of being suspended in transience, which i was aware of the whole time and simultaneously knew that it wasn’t something i could control or fight. i just had to be in this long ass incubation period of what felt like a whole lot of nothingness.
i still don’t have enough distance from 2018 to have much clarity on what quite happened— but my sense is that my system was integrating the rollercoaster of transformational experiences and deaths/rebirths that 2016 and 2017 brought me.
now having some distance from 2017, however, i can see what an important example of duality it was. it’s fascinating to know that what we view as opposite or polar are never too far apart— particularly with the recognition that duality itself is a construct. the only thing that is actually true and real is oneness.
i remember being awe struck by the daoist view of impermanence and the ever-changing nature of what we view to be opposite or contrasting; for example, light is not light but light-becoming-dark and dark is not dark but dark-becoming-light. because everything is constantly shifting, a static assumption or prescription upon anything is essentially inaccurate and moot. it’s deep and something i’m still unpacking.
existential interlude aside, i want to share a couple stories related to my experience with depression— particularly within the framework of vulnerability, authenticity, and personal boundaries.
to first offer some foundational context: i was on and off depressed from 15-25, then was totally in the pits from 25-27, and started therapy at 27 in 2010. i felt the depression pretty much fully lift after my first eight months of therapy and my first two months of a naturopathic regimen for my neurotransmitter imbalances. since then, i’ve had depressive dips for a week or two on a handful of occasions over the years and one few month long very low point around early 2013.
what i experienced in 2017 was the longest and most nuanced, shape-shifting, unrelenting depressive period i’ve experienced since what brought me to therapy in 2010. shit was real as fuck. basically, a succession of deeply traumatic and very unpleasant challenging things happened back to back to back— it took me out and knocked me all the way off center.
thankfully, i had my awareness tools to keep from completely going off the deep end, but i was literally teetering on the very edge of that hole for months. it took all my energy to at least just stay teetering and not fall in. after several months, i got two steps away from the hole— my awareness allowed me to measure that— and it took everything in me for another several months to maintain those two steps away from the hole. sometime in the first quarter of 2018, i felt like i got beyond two steps and finally was able to feel more grounded and self-possessed.
in fall 2016, i started sharing my poem-quote things and occasional reflective thoughts on instagram; some people decided i was wise and woke and zen and shit. i am, thanks. i’m also human and have eccentricities and quirks and seeming inconsistencies and personal boundaries. though that may be confusing for some, i get to contain all of that and still be authentic and in integrity.
in fall 2017, during the peak of the aforementioned deep depressive period, i ran into an acquaintance at an event.
she asked me how i was and before i could answer, she said something to the effect of, “and i know you being you, you’re gonna keep it real and not just be like, ‘i’m great!’ if you’re not.” i know she meant to be complimentary, but it was not what i needed to hear in the moment.
in those months, my whole life had been consumed around salvaging my mood the best i possibility could; my own thoughts on ‘how i was doing’ were already encroaching on my space in my alone time. i had decided in advance to do my best to act as if i was okay during this event— because that’s what i needed; i needed a goddamn break.
i got extremely uncomfortable and began wondering if i was inauthentic because i didn’t want to put energy on naming that i wasn’t well. i wanted to answer that i was good and move on to some other type of conversation that i could actually enjoy.
i told myself that saying “good” was true in a sense; because ultimately, i am always alright. and at that time, i was simply experiencing an ebb of my human experience.
i think my discomfort with her remark and my ensuing internal conflict blew my cover; i’m quite certain she felt my reservation and unease when i said “good.” it changed the vibe. and i mostly didn’t care. i wasn’t there to cater to her vision of me.
i chose my self-preservation. and that’s what i’ll choose in the vast majority of cases. i know how useless and even harmful i can be when i’m unwell and not tending to my needs. when i’m real low, any filter i’ve got to maintain a semblance of normalcy and civility with the outside world is paper thin— i know this.
i don’t think we need to feel obligated to say we’re feeling unwell while we are still amidst that experience; it doesn’t help my healing to put energy on a given challenging thing that i’m already working on for the sake of updating someone— especially an acquaintance—perfectly truthfully.
when i’m not intentionally going into my shadow to do work, i want to focus on light to help raise my vibration. note, there is a distinction between mindfully raising my vibration and avoidance/distraction.
online and on social media, there’s a pressure to name our precise reality while we are still inside of a challenging time— in the spirit of “vulnerability” and “authenticity.” nah.
internet and instagram vulnerability culture has distorted our vision on boundaries and what actually constitutes healthy sharing. this culture, which can also be beautiful, has also somehow allowed certain folks to think that they have license to our inner worlds.
our own vulnerability isn’t supposed to harm us. and it isn’t a service to others if we are self-sacrificing our health to share before we feel ready.
important: vulnerability online isn’t a replacement for professional help if you think you might need that. no shame in it— i’ve been in some form of therapy or another for a decade.
some things are only meant for specific people and specific communities in my life. and even then, that doesn’t mean i ever owe *anyone* anything i don’t feel called to share. for more introverted folk like me, certain things may be meant for us alone (and perhaps a therapist or healer, if inclined).
basically, we don’t owe the internet shit— least of all our bleeding hearts. <3
my crystal bowl has sat there for years, relatively untouched; presumably clearing and shifting energetic fields unseen and unknown to me.
the other day i was drawn to one crystal, then another, and another. the minute i grasped the trio in my palm, i began shaking (as i do at times when energy is shifting/clearing/generating) and underwent my first spontaneous intuitive crystal healing; i was pretty sure i wasn't done and 15-20 minutes later i went through one of my craziest shake sessions to date.
i kept this trio by my bedside and near me during the day for the following couple days during which i still felt a charge/connection. today i picked them up, felt nothing immediately, and became quite clear our work was done for now.
as i set them down back into my bowl, i stayed for a minute to see if any other crystals wanted to connect with me. i grabbed a black tourmaline (grounding/protecting) first and placed it in my left palm, then the white selenite (elevating/opening); recognizing the duality in color and vibration, i placed the selenite in my right palm. again, an immediate energetic response.
as i sat down, i placed the tourmaline on the left of my seat and the selenite on the right; and surely, i felt the crystals interacting to create a potent energetic field, forming something of a 180 degree arc around and above me; i'm buzzing as i write this.
a reminder that all in our lives ripens when it is time for us to receive it.
half of the crystals i've used were gifted to me, half i've had for years; we came together for these moments.
it's really quite surreal to follow your intuition and connectedness as it opens; kind of like the real life magical land i always dreamed about when i was little. i knew it was real.
in january 2017, i'll be joining the good folks at bleeker for a unique year-long personal and professional development fellowship. unlike many fellowships, bleeker does not hinge on a monetary grant but instead gifts its fellows with a thoughtfully crafted resource framework. the core of the program includes four main elements — executive coaching, monthly workshops, mentorship, and a full-time administrative assistant — intended to actively and regularly engage fellows in their development process.
bleeker has two fellowship cycles each year in both new york city and the bay area. one cycle begins in january and the other begins in july. applications for the july nyc and bay area cohorts are still open and are due january 31. you can go to this link for more detailed info about the fellowship and to apply.
before beginning our first group session in january, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire to help guide our experience; they said it would take 20 minutes but i knew i was going to have to set a few hours aside when i saw questions on there like “what is your purpose?” if you read my inaugural blog post, you know that’s a question i’m constantly asking myself that is forever yielding new nuance and answers.
as always, i learned more about myself and my path from this inquiry and also got pretty real about some shit that somehow even surprised me. like, how the 'positive' and 'negative' ways people might describe me are almost opposites or two sides of the same coin. or how the “projects” reflecting my abilities that i was most moved to write first have nothing to do with my photography career. i also came away grateful for the subtle and new articulations i found to communicate how i presently view my purpose and path. you can dig into my questionnaire below:
describe a positive impact that you've made on your community, neighborhood, company, city or country.
by being honest and open about my challenges, my growth, and who i am, i have inspired others to find their strength and follow their truth.
describe the positive impact that you intend to create in the future.
more of the above but with more structure and intentionality; applying that same ethos to various models for conversations, art, media, community spaces, cultural exchange, and social problem solving. with an additional focus on integrating a value of healing into our daily work, lives, relationships, and into a new paradigm for activism. specific areas of impact i am interested in are feminism (+ challenging what that's come to mean in the mainstream), multiculturalism, and social equality for marginalized groups.
describe the projects that you've initiated, led or contributed to that best define your abilities.
'the forum' - founding + moderating a discussion group series about whatever is on participants' hearts and minds in the moment; 'freewrite' - a social media short poem/personal adage series that encourages mindfulness, awareness, vulnerability, and authenticity; leading an intro to chi gong session in my home after a particularly challenging time with police brutality news & helping soothe my peers' systems; keeping a photography business and portfolio thatconsciously represent and honor people of color; capturing people through portraits that are honest and down to earth; creating space to capture raw and vulnerable cast portraits for the 'fit the description' documentary (it features honest conversations between black male police officers and black male civilians)
what is your purpose?
to foster healing and peace by extracting and illuminating truth from confusion, chaos, and seeming contradiction/disparity; and as such, to be a bridge for people and institutions. i see myself as a communicator/storyteller, strategic facilitator, and community builder.
what are your principles or values? (the rules that guide your personal and professional actions when no one is looking.)
authenticity, truth, healing, justice, balance, inner peace, contentment, mindfulness.
describe your personality. (how would your friends, teammates, family members and collaborators describe what it's like to spend time with you?)
insightful, intense, loving, silly, withdrawn/in her own world; what it's like to spend time with me? sometimes healing, inspiring, warm, and other times uncomfortable, challenging, isolating.
what is your professional trajectory?
i am interested in using my experience with photography, writing, media, marketing, and community building to conceive and produce multidisciplinary projects for social impact-- whether that entails me drawing from my own skills/talents or acting more as a visionary and culling the talents of other individuals. at the moment, my sights are primarily on devising a web-based social project + community spaces that foster empathy, conversation, learning breakthroughs, healing, and creative activism.
the most potent balm;
with your anger
most often, our relationships with anger, fear, and pain tend to center around our reactions to the emotions themselves; themes of frustration, shame, avoidance, and overwhelm pervade. this unfortunately only compounds existing “negative” feelings and drives us deeper into cycles of misery, escapism, helplessness, and self-judgment. we begin to feel like we’re drowning.
in these instances, we have opted to merge with the challenging emotions; take them on and wear them as parts of our identity and who we are — perhaps even beginning to look at ourselves as deficient. in my view, this is inaccurate as our essential selves are always whole, powerful, and wise. our spirits are indestructible and i personally refuse to see it any other way.
what i have to come to learn is that anger, fear, and pain are messengers; they are not negative, but are rather gifts we receive to learn more about ourselves and our relationship to this world and this existence. through my own rigorous experience, i’ve learned the unparalleled transformative power of making friends with my anger, pain, and fear — as entities separate from my true self whom have come to me as my teachers.
in unpacking the underlying truths my anger, pain, and fear reflect, i have come to more deeply meet and embody my true self, what i stand for, my connection with others, and the nature of existence. committing to this process has allowed me a greater acceptance for what is (no matter what) while simultaneously equipping me with a resolve to go out and fight for who i am and what i believe in with a delicacy and strength i’ve only just met.
yes, i preach love — lots of it; but my love is not one of passivity, one that turns a blind eye to injustice, or one that withholds itself from so-called ‘lower based emotions.’ if so inclined, i encourage you to connect with your anger, pain, and fear. ask them what they have to say; layer by layer — until you have stripped down to the core — to the truth. the fire behind that truth will naturally propel you to transform both what is within and what is beyond.