I'm pretty much assuming that we all can agree on the fact that this isn't the most pleasant topic on the planet. But when I factor in the fact that I know what it's like to choose to remove myself from toxic family members and then I add to that, an article I read that said between 12-17 percent of folks are estranged from at least one family member (personally, based on a lot of stories I've been told, that stat seems really low to be honest with you), I knew that it would be necessary to get this done; especially during a year when a lot of us have spent more time away from loved ones, just with the pandemic alone.
If you're like me and holidays aren't really your thing anyway, figuring out how to make it through the next several weeks may not be that big of a deal. But if Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve are typically the time when you see your family the most and yet, for whatever the reason, this year, you're not speaking to some or all of your folks, take a deep breath, get yourself a warm cup of tea or cocoa and let's figure out how you can get to January 1, 2021 with your heart as intact as possible, OK?
Remember Why the Boundaries Exist in the First Place
I say it often because it's the truth—boundaries are limits and yes, limits oftentimes have to be applied to family members, just like anyone else; shoot, sometimes even more. It's clear that many of us either weren't taught what boundaries are as well as we should've been or we had people in our lives who constantly violated our boundaries, whether that's physically, emotionally, mentally or even spiritually (you know, people who use religion to justify all of their foolish, destructive and erratic behavior). And so, sometimes, a season of estrangement is so we can get away from the people who clearly have a lot to learn in the area of boundaries so that we can establish the ones that are best for us and the kind of life that we choose to live.
While it's perfectly normal (and understandable) to miss your family around this time of year, it's important to make sure that you do your best to separate your nostalgia and sentimentality from the truth, facts, and reality of why you are maintaining a distance from them to begin with. Make no mistake about it—if you're currently estranged because say, you've got family members who are controlling or manipulative, they will definitely try and use that to their advantage between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. That said, if you choose to engage, let it be because you're ready, not simply because it's the holiday season because, at the end of the day, a holiday is just a day and you'll still have to pick up the pieces of whatever "extra else" your family brought into your life, once the festivities are over. Boundaries are designed to protect us. The violation of boundaries is abusive. Set boundaries first. Honor them. Then make whatever other decisions are best for you, based on that.
Be Honest with Yourself About What You’re Currently Feeling
As I've done a lot of my own healing as it relates to toxic family members, if I had to put together a top five list of things that made me be like, "Yeah, we need some distance", something that would probably go into the third or fourth slot, is the fact that I was never really given the space to feel what I wanted and needed to feel when it came to the abuse that I endured or the abusers who caused it. I was always cut off or emotionally manipulated and told that whatever thoughts or emotions I had weren't "pleasing to God" or valid to them. THAT. IS. POISON. And when you're constantly around people like that, it can cause you to have a bit of an identity crisis as you try and figure out who the heck you are and what your real feelings are vs. what they tried to guilt you into feeling—or not feeling.
While estrangement can be hard, if there is a bona fide benefit to it, it's that you now have the space to figure out how you feel when it comes to why you pulled yourself away, what you would need in order to reconcile and how you feel in this very moment. It's important to factor all of this in because between Hallmark movies, holiday music and your friends constantly bringing their own families up, it can be easy to question if you should totally forget your boundaries and at least act like you and your family are close; healthy even.
Please try and avoid doing that. I know a lot of media says that the holidays are a time for burying the hatchet 'n all, yet the reality is, if you didn't feel great about connecting back in June, December 25 shouldn't automatically change anything. Honor your feelings and make decisions from there because, remember—if your family had done the same, there would be no need to read this article…right?
Watch Your Triggers
On the heels of what I just said, there's a really good chance that someone from your family is gonna hit you up, saying that it's in the spirit of the holiday season. No one can really fault them for that; however, if you do choose to answer their DM, email, text, or phone call, just make sure that you know what your triggers are beforehand. For instance, something that I've learned is a sho 'nuf trigger for me are people who claim that they are reaching out to apologize, only to really call to justify foul behavior, hoping that by the time they are done, I will excuse what they've done—perhaps even feel sorry for them for hurting me in the first place (a true narcissism trait, by the way). For years, I would fall for that BS, only to hang up and feel like they opened up my wound all over again.
Why? Because when you've been harmed by someone, it's important for them to validate that pain; they can do that by taking full ownership for their actions. That said, whenever folks find a way to skirt around this fact, all they're doing is injuring you more. And when you keep getting hurt, either it makes you angry or turns you numb. So yeah, I had to stop dealing with the ones who did that to me because they've been like that since, shoot...for as long as I can remember. This means that they've been wounding me and causing me grief for as long as I can remember as well. I had to get some space so that the wounds could heal. Fully.
I don't know what sets you off and by no means am I saying that it's a given that once you get to the root of your triggers that you also shouldn't speak or deal with whoever triggers you. What I am saying is unsafe/toxic people seem to live to push triggers, so the way to deal with them is to know yours and then set up safeguards. If your controlling mama makes you a basket case with her religious deflecting, accept that. If your sister drives you up the wall with her constantly asking for things without ever offering something in return, own that. If you've got some other family member who puts you in the foulest of moods, just 10 minutes into a conversation, admit that too. Then make two decisions. First, decide if there is a way to deactivate that trigger within yourself (because expecting them to not trigger you is, 8 times out of 10, gonna disappoint you every time). Second, if you can't deactivate it, be real with yourself about whether total avoidance is still the best route to take. After the holidays, you've still got a life to live. It would be a shame to spend months into next year trying to heal from a few short weeks of the holiday season and that family of yours, simply because you let them trigger you in a way that you know you're not fully prepared to handle. Yet.
Create Your Own Traditions
While I was growing up, my mother was pretty big on Christmas. I remember getting a fresh evergreen Christmas tree, stringing popcorn, watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and listening to gospel Christmas music while she baked. It was also pretty common for folks to come over as she made us—yes, made us—go caroling in the neighborhood. Christmas was cool. As Christmas goes, I guess. However, as an adult, I don't observe Christmas or really any holiday. No, I'm not a Jehovah's Witness; I'm just the kind of person who, once I know the backstory on something and decide I don't want to be a part of it, I tend to dip out. Anyway, that's so not the point. Once I started fading out of Christmas, for years, I would get pushback. And if there's a truth about adulthood, it's that you now have the complete freedom to live your life as you see fit, without the need for anyone's permission or approval.
While being estranged means that you won't be a part of your family's holiday-themed customs, never forget that the flip to that is you can happily create some of your own. So yeah, take this time and ask yourself what you do and don't like about the holiday season. Then make plans for observing them—or not observing them—just as you see fit. Finally.
Spend Time with Some of Your “Love Family”
Friendships have layers and levels. I will be the very first person to agree with that resolve. I liken it to Christ and his 12 disciples. One was a devil (it's Scriptural—John 6:70). Eight were his homies. And then there was Peter, James and John—the three he asked to pray with him as he was preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice (Matthew 26, John 3:16); those were his top-tier, inner circle friends—the ones he probably saw as being like brothers to him. I've got people like that in my life. Individuals who are emotionally safe, who love me like we're blood and who have my back no matter what. While the family I was born into is my "blood family", I choose to call my dearest friends my "love family".
Even if you aren't close to and/or engaging your blood family this year, if you've got people in your world who you consider to be your own love family, I am willing to be my next paycheck that they will be more than willing to embrace you with open arms and a seat at their dinner table (so long as you show no signs of sickness and bring your mask). And because you are so at peace with them, you can easily avoid all of the discomfort and drama that might arise if you try and force yourself to be in an environment where you don't really want to be…just because it's "the holidays". Trust me, love family can be a wonderful alternative to blood family, if you want to be around people yet you want to not risk conflict and issues in the process.
Understand What True Reconciliation Requires
I can't tell you, just how many Christmas movies I've seen over the course of my lifetime, where the overall message is it's this time of year when all faults need to be wiped clean, so that we can start the year anew. There's A LOT I could say to that, yet I'll leave it where I typically do when I just wanna give the Reader's Digest version of my thoughts on the matter. If you feel like you want to connect back with the family who you're not currently interacting with, do that. Just make sure that you know who and what you're dealing with and that you are clear on what reconciliation is all about.
What reconciliation is not is what a lot of republicans are trying to shove down democrats' throats right through here; it's not about enduring constant abuse and then having the burden be placed on you, the one who had to endure it all, to set things right. While yes, restoring a broken relationship does require some forgiving on the "victim's" part, don't let anyone make you feel bad for expecting some full-on repenting on the "victimizer's" part as well. Repenting requires taking responsibility. Repentance requires wanting to make amends. Repentance requires seeking what you need in order for the estrangement to cease. Repentance also requires humility.
So, if a family member chooses to reach out, stating that reconciliation is what they truly desire, keep in mind what it looks like. Don't let anyone make you feel like being flippant or dismissive is good enough. It's not. Not by a long shot.
Again, I know this wasn't the warm-and-cozy-wrapped-up-in-a-big-red-bow kind of message. Still, I hope it offered up a little bit of clarity and confirmation for those who may not be with their family this year. Being estranged doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you someone who simply wants better for yourself. Feel good about that. Even if that means experiencing a different kind of holiday season this year. One that brings peace and goodwill your way—just differently.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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