One of the things the global coronavirus pandemic has brought about is time. Time to have time. The stay-at-home orders have meant just that, stay home! For me, this has been a time to sit with myself and not have the distractions of my very packed social life.
As I write this, I have been in quarantine for five months, at home and that has been a time of sitting with myself and feeling some discomfort with that.
Having to sit with myself and entertain my feelings of being uncomfortable with myself has forced me to delve deep and start dealing with the “what” and “why” of feeling this way. It has given me an opportunity to start looking into my shit.
As luck would have it, I also started seeing a professional therapist a week before we went into quarantine. With her help, I’m dealing with all the stuff going on and taking the work internally and not just working on eternal conditions. It has led me to do the work of owning my shit , stop pointing fingers at others, look myself in the mirror to see the ugly parts I may not want to see and work through them. I’m now doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal so I can show up a better version of myself.
As the time is passing and I’m learning through doing this work, I realize it has to be a constant process. I can’t stop. There is no arriving. There is no station to get off the train. Doing this work needs to be a constant process because it is from dealing with uncomfortable and difficult things that growth comes. Continuously. By doing the emotional, and spiritual work of dealing with my issues, I’m ensuring that I’m filling my cup. You can’t pour from an empty cup and my goal is to fill my cup so I can give to others freely and generously because my cup runneth over. That’s my goal with this personal growth journey I’m on.
I love my feminine side. It goes without saying that it comes with a kind of performance. Performing being a divine female with style, and color, and texture, and smell. I’m unapologetic about my love of beautiful shoes, clothes, perfumes and the transformational power of makeup. These are things that give me the tools as a female to express myself and most often than not, literally lift up my mood. I have surely had moments when I was feeling down and putting on makeup and spritz of perfume transformed not just my outside look and my inside feelings.
Smell is especially powerful for helping me enjoy the present but also take me to other places and other times with memory and nostalgia. I can get transported to different lands and different stages in my life just on a whiff of a specific smell. The smell of apples to my childhood in Strasbourg, the smell of the earth after the first rains to my girlhood in Chilanga, the perfume Chanel No. 5 to my early 20s and college years in Lusaka, Cruel Gardenia Guerlain to the glamour and glitz of New York City, Prada Infusion D’Iris to happy days in Berkeley.
I’m grateful for these gifts of femininity and enjoy utilizing them and I hope you do too!
As I write this post, we are in the fourth week of a shelter-in-place directive from our Governor here in California. It’s been an unusual situation for everyone. None of us, including septuagenarians have experienced anything like this before. Just last week, my father-in-law, who was a child during the 2nd World War said something profound about the newness of this situation. He said that back then, they heard news about happenings in the war a week to two weeks after it had already happened but, with this coronavirus, the latest information is on our fingertips 24/7. Another amazing fact is the global scale of this coronavirus. There is not a human being on the planet right now who is not touched by this.
As a Zambian, I have lived through some pandemics in my lifetime, for example, the HIV pandemic hit us really hard in the 1990s. We lost a lot of people. The Ebola virus affected our friends and neighbors to the north, Congo DRC and we lived in fear it would cross the border into Zambia although it did not. I also lived through the 9/11 terror attacks in the USA that brought us together as a country here and as a resident of California, I was deeply affected. But this coronavirus is affecting us all. And that is just incredible.
People have many ways of dealing with difficult times and in no way am I minimizing the devastation this is causing. However, I’d like to say that I have been stunned by the goodness-ness I feel circulating all around me. Lots of people have responded with such kindness and generosity that I hope will carry on after this is over.
I’m right now, staying connected to my disparate community groups through social media. I have the sickle cell disease community, the artists’ community, the fashion and style community, the Zambian community and several others who are providing a support system and an outlet to discharge anxiety, get some humor and forget the bad situation for a while.
My yoga studio is giving discounts and promotions on their virtual classes; my sickle community reached out with resources ready to help financially around nutrition, mental health and medications; my work is providing free groceries for staff members who need them. In addition to this, there have been some awesome happy hours online, phone calls, face-time and texts from long-lost friends and just time to sit back in gratitude. I feel blessed, not just for myself but for my loved ones as well. I’m so glad to see so much goodness from people in my communities and I’m super grateful for it. Stay safe out there, stay healthy and hugs to you!
I must admit that I’m a recluse. I do have friends of course, but as we all know, the older we get, the harder to keep friends or make new friends. But luckily, I also happen to have several sisters – who are forever friends. Especially compassionate caring ones like my sisters. They yank me back from bad stuff since they have more skin in the game to see me do well. My success and well-being is their success and well-being and vice versa. We have mutual love and respect and we cheer each other on.
Sometimes, when it comes to some friends, you can sense a lack mutual love and respect. They could be a type of friend who is also an enemy aka a “frenemy”, aka a toxic friend. That kind of relationship is toxic and therefore just easier to cut the cord and let them go. According to Urban Dictionary, a frenemy is a person who always roots for you to do well but, just not better than them. Normally stems from jealousy to any or all aspects of your life. Similar to a hater but you get along with them.
There is no need to have frenemies.
It sounds distressing and unfortunate to me that a friend could also be an enemy. Why have them in your life then? The energy on the enemy side can poison the best of intentions for the friend side, so it seems like a defeating purpose. If you are the frenemy, consider why you harbor negative sentiments towards your “friend”. Are you jealous or envious of them? Do you always feel the need to be one-up on them all the time? Is your friendship contingent on something, in other words transactional? Would this person be your friend if they could not provide you with X, Y, Z? Or are you friends with this person because they allow you to do A, B, C to them? If you find yourself in a frenemy situation, remove yourself from it. Focus your energy elsewhere. It will be more productive, wholesome and good for you. Get rid of your frenemy or refuse to be one. Be that genuine and sincere friend a friend would love to have.
I love fashion, style, elegance and sophistication. In fact, one of my dreams is to curate beautiful things for my community by owning a boutique specializing in, you guessed it! – beautiful things. I try, and most times, do succeed in building elegance into my everyday activities including what I wear and how and what I cook. It’s not always easy, but I delight in bringing charm to seemingly mundane everyday experiences. I learned the lesson of charm through the book, “Living a charmed life: your guide to finding magic in every moment of every day” by Victoria Moran. It opened my eyes to savoring with pleasure things like washing dishes with all your heart or giving something away everyday.
Many times we may believe that only those who are wealthy can enjoy living a charmed life. But that is lie – you can enjoy your life too if you change your mindset to enjoy the present and enjoy what you have in the here and now. And the funny thing is that once you do that, the universe delivers to you the things you desire but were seemingly beyond your reach.
I have a real life example when I started to dress elegantly and presented myself as an improved and an improving version of myself. My improvement was not just in outward aspects such as changing how I dress but also inwards aspects as well, with practicing meditation, gratitude, compassion and loving kindness for self and others. It’s incredible and doable.
I found my sense of fashion in step with those in our society with immense privilege, power and status. For example, the 1st daughter Ivanka Trump. Not that I want to be in step, I just noticed that I am. I was surprised to see the outfit Ivanka wore in London June 2019, I had worn in London in April 2019. She met world leaders, I met a former world leader, Tony Blair, on that trip to London and attended a banquet at Kensington Palace. It is possible for a small town girl from a small(ish) country in Africa to live large in her mind that reflects back in her reality. It’s the law of attraction. On the stylish outfit note, I think I wore it better than Ivanka.
One of the worst things I did in life was operate from a place fear. I did that for many years after emigrating from Lusaka, Zambia, to Berkeley, California almost 20 years ago. I feared the new location, I feared not fitting in, I feared not being liked, I feared not having enough. For instance, my fear for not having enough was real because as a young person growing up in Zambia, I experienced poverty and scarcity. It was a real fear for me. After spending a few of years in the US, I noticed that although I did not have a job or was working a minimum wage job, I always had money and I always had more than enough. ALWAYS.
How? I don’t know. I have a great husband who provided, even though he was a graduate student. Resources just showed up without the need to go into debt. I also noticed, that once I started to remove fear from my life, I attracted more joy, peace, love, money, good people. Then I stopped having fear altogether, and my blessings flowed. One thing that helped me overcome this fear is a verse in the Bible, Matthew 6 vs 26-27: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
This was an important lesson that fear and worry are not useful emotions. As the year comes to a close, I will fearlessly take on the world. My passport is already queued.
I recently had a major bereavement and with it a major emotional and psychiatric breakdown. I have lost close loved ones before, but losing a sister who was the first born, (I’m the second-born) was extremely devastating. We were close in age and as a result developed a very close bond. After she passed away, I could not carry on as normal. I had to leave my job as a director for a globally prominent non-profit organization, running out of a prestigious academic institution. In those early days of grief, I made some mistakes of numbing the pain with alcohol (bad idea). It just made the bad feelings worse. I found that the effects of alcohol actually enhance not ease the pain. So, what I worked on, through YouTube (its a great resource), was to train myself to shift my thoughts and feelings and find pleasure in simple everyday things such as: giving my one-and- a- half- year old niece a bath. Going with her to the park or simply being around her. Children are joy, and at this young age they are an extra delight!
Other simple pleasures like visiting the farmers market and planning a whole new recipe based on what was at the market. Talking on the phone with friends and family members; attending social engagements, to reduce isolation and loneliness. Watching, yet again, a favorite film. Listening to favorite music. Meditating and praying. Sending good thoughts and vibes to the universe for other people. Volunteering in the community.
Things can seem daunting after a bad experience but people tend to be wonderful and helpful once you share what’s going on with them. Finding pleasure in everyday seemingly mundane activities, I found is a great process to help recover the broken heart.
One of my all-time favorite little books is, “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” by Ilene Beckerman. As an enthusiastic fashionista, I always think about my style regardless of context. This book made it okay for me to consider paying attention to my fashion and style irrespective of my emotional and psychological state. Fashion is something I’m passionate about and try to keep up with. Not necessarily with the trends, but with keeping my style fresh and exciting.
This summer, I had a whirlwind trip to Africa, where I learned about myself and the people of Ghana. 2019 is the Year of Return for Africans in the diaspora who were taken as slaves. It marks 400 years of enslavement of African people which made it a great time to be in Ghana for the accompanying activities commemorating this occasion. My second stop in Africa was in Kenya where I gave back to the community with humanitarian work and my last stop was my home country of Zambia where I did some serious mourning for my dear late sister Violet. All through this journey, I was sure to be impeccably styled. I find that when I pay attention to my fashion and style, it boosts my self -esteem, in other words I feel good about myself. So, in Ghana where I was hanging out with my colleagues in the world of biomedical sciences research I went for lightweight fabrics like silks for warm sultry Accra days and nights. For Kenya, where I was in the remote rural villages where most folks are facing hunger due to prolonged droughts I took on cotton fabrics like chitenge to match the location, and for Zambia my home, all bets were off – everything from denim to sundresses where on the menu. I was thinking of this little book during my travels in Africa.
As I write this, I’m on my way to New York City- where it is fashion week. Although I will not be attending this time around I will be sure to follow along on social and other media platforms. My style there will be different from what I wore in Africa but I hope to pull in elegance with it. It’s fashion week in NYC after all.