True Image – On Self-Care and Grieving

Queen of my thoughts.

This past week marked the fourth anniversary of my paternal grandmother passing away and I think I’ve only now come to full terms with her passing. You see, some people grieve by shutting down. All methods of grieving are valid and are unique to all of us. I on the other hand, masterfully avoided that pain as best I could for four years.  

In January 2012, ninety days after I said goodbye to my paternal uncle Monty, My father and I had to say goodbye to Helen Veronica. A namesake, I had so many questions left unanswered, about what drove her to immigrate from St. Kitts via Guyana, and the family she left behind, but was never able to utter aloud. What was once a sense of wonder about the world shifted to a series of should ofs, could ofs and would ofs, and that lack of control scared me.

Instead I sought out instances that I could control, such as my responsibilities and roles of that time. At City College of New York, I dove straight into my work and my projects. In order to keep going, I told myself that my uncle and grandmother wouldn't want me to slip, and that I had too many people (in body and in spirit) counting on me to step up and lead. I even added a mantra on my body to this effect; “no ducor, duco,” which translates from Latin as "I am not led, I lead." Looking back, while I am proud of the leader that I became and the communities that I discovered, I realized that I did myself such a disservice by not slowing down. I played straight into the “strong Black woman” archetype that has harmed so many and stopped my healing in its tracks.

When I was running a meeting, planning an event, or holding space for others, I lost myself. While I don't regret the friends and family I made, I wish that the I made the time to revisit the version of me that was a singer. The girl who wrote poetry. The spirit that danced ballet for six years and was always moving. The drummer trying to keep the beat and stay in step as a member of the marching band. The girl who learned how to do the Electric Slide from her grandmother.

Well that girl is (finally) on her way home through prioritizing self-care rituals. But a key part of this process requires putting back these pieces of myself that I let go of. Moving from a place rooted in fear to getting to know the carefree Black girl again. My name literally means “true image” and it’s taken what feels like a lifetime to see the vision that I once had for myself come back into focus. By putting back those pieces, I'm slowly able to envision what I need to revisit while making space for harmful practices and habits.

What does that vision look like? It mainly consists of me following up on what I was originally drawn to in the past: ritual and practice. But I’ve remembered that intentions to build rituals and practices are best followed up with action. My intention for 2016 is to continue to cultivate my spirit, by reading (and finishing) books like The Altar of My Soul by Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, building altars everywhere I go, and making time to heal through movements such as kundalini yoga and capoeira. I may even graduate to singing out loud and not just in the shower!

I share these examples to emphasize that this healing process is ongoing and growing everyday that I must choose to continue if I am to become my best self. Your method and practices will be unique to you. It’s a journey to remember where you came from and to find that spark. A jolt of light. I can’t keep preaching a message of healing if I’m not on the same frequency. To do so is inauthentic. I have to surrender to the unknown and be patient as everything becomes clear.

Right now – that's my true image.

What’s yours? What opportunities are you inviting into your life?

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Veronica is (barely) a Sagittarius Sun, a Libra Rising and an Aquarius Moon. You can find her roaming Harlem in real life or at @veraicon_.

 

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