For one half of summer 2018, my daughter Sanaa wore her hair in blue and purple box braids. She's an artist; a lover of a fresh notebook with a penchant towards carrying all she cares aboutin her hands. She wears her heart on her sleeve, which she got from me. This summer, my daughter learned just how powerful her voice rings when she chose to speak her truth, which landed her square in the ire of my ex in-laws. "Don't raise her to be selfish likeyou," my ex-husband's mother left on my voicemail.
My child's feelings had been hurt and she made an executive decision to put her needs first, even if at the time they laid nameless. It's funny, deciding at any age to take ownership of your safety and healing is both revolutionary and offensive.
Since early 2017, life had run me ragged.
I was going through it, as sage smoke poured from my closed bedroom door more often. In search for some relief in between therapy sessions, I set an appointment to receive my first Reiki session from a friend I'd known since high school. She had recently received her Reiki II certification and was taking on new clients. Along with my appointment came an email detailing what I am to expect during my session. "You may have lucid dreams," she said just before I closed my eyes. I laid in bed, preparing myself to receive something I'd never experienced, and felt my body float above me.
I dreamt of 4s and foundations being uprooted and repaired. I woke up feeling the pull of a mission. More and more, I'm seeing black women going back to move forward. We are taking court with our ancestors asking to be given what generations before us deemed unbecoming: the tools to crack ourselves open and change our trajectories.
The bravery to look up as our feet hit the ground.
The spells to block, heal, break, manifest.
The power of Grandma's Hands.
To live and thrive in spiritual duality.
They tell you that good things come in 3s. That sequences of numbers should be paid extra attention to. That dreams aren't simply symbolic: they often show glimpses of the future. My great-grandmother visited during meditation to tell me I have a gift. I saw myself as a healer, acalling I ran from for years. Readers have told me to go heal.
But to heal, I had to accept the journey to continuously heal myself.
Writer Joi Donaldson and her daughter Sanaa
That's the moment I finally moved towards becoming a Reiki practitioner. Many of us are taught to break ourselves for love, to starve our wants and needs to make a belly full outside of us. It's as if our natural posture is that of bent over and grateful to be alive.
I learned that initially in church. As I stretched my spine through praise dance to show the lengths I would go to serve a God I couldn't question. A God who had to be a He. A God who never says sorry. For this, and many other reasons, I began to largely denounce segments of my Southern Baptist upbringing. I still give a hum and wave at a gospel classic. But many of the foundations for me have crumbled. The standards of exclusion, fear mongering and unquestioned agreeance left holes in my spirit. A connection to something bigger than this Prepackaged Dogma began to call out to me.
And for once in my life, I allowed myself to listen.
I received my Reiki I Certification after a day of intense spiraling. There was no break in between - I wanted it all at once. I left hungry but not for food; angry with no sole root as to why. My teacher told me anything goes during the 21-day incubation period and to allow what comes up the room it needs to surface. It was rough; learning how to channel through multiple mediums and listening in a completely new way. My already sensitive, empathic nature was now raw with friction. I didn't think I'd make it past the 21-day period, let alone up another level. Receiving my Reiki II Certification was as intense but surprisingly more fluid. By this time, my activation coursed through me with less fear, less resistance. My teacher said the guides had been waiting for me to get to this space. I was honored to finally be there.
To be completely honest, I was nervous introducing my belief system to my child.
For the last seven years, all she'd known was me heavily into church serving on multiple ministries. On Sundays now, I'd much rather go to the river. I'd rather run cool water over my crystals. I'd rather mix herbs for candle work and write down my latest pull. Sanaa has gotten used to sage smoke. When her friends come over and they predictably ask what's that smell in the air, "Oh. My mom's clearing her room."
I've taught her how to sweep her room for negative energy, how to pay attention to her dreams, and how to listen and move when something doesn't feel right. And at a moment in summer 2018, on the cusp of her first big trip without me, she felt the pangs of anxiety against her chest. "What if something terrible happens? What if I get hurt? I'm scared, mommy."
I looked over at my altar, my grandmother, great-grandmother, uncle and aunt stared back. My eyes then turned to my hands as I felt the energy surfacing. I still had my doubts.
What if she doesn't get it? I'm still working to get it.
What if she thinks I'm weird? A step past our usual views of weirdness.
What if she chooses not to believe? Sometimes my doubts ring louder than my prayers.In the midst of my doubts,
I stretched out my hands over her heart and crown chakras. I reminded her and myself to breathe. My palms felt warm and I peeked to see her reaction. She stood still. Stoic. Cautious. I again reminded us to breathe. I went where the energy directed: I blanketed her 3rd eye, her back, her crown, her hands, her belly, her heart. I prayed. I let out deep breaths and watched as my child relaxed into a new tradition. I asked her how does she feel. "A little better. Tired." As I expected.
I told her to look to the altar where her ancestors were. "Repeat after me: I am brave. I am safe. I am protected."
"I am brave. I am safe. I am protected."
Sanaa's braids are now ruby.
She's walking into fourth grade with a foundation of emotional intelligence that I think surprises even her. As we move to a new state, her notebook has become a cell phone; her drawings now photo collages. She breathes easier, allows herself to feel even when it's too much.
Introducing Reiki to my kid hasn't been a magical cure-all, it's been a wake-up call. I notice her calmness when it gives way to anxiety and I ask if she needs help. She's become aware of her triggers and more open to exploring her power instead of accepting she's selfish to have it.
We meditate when we can but more than anything, I no longer hide this side of me. Instead I bring her in to take parts in the rituals I call my own. And that is when the energy has room to flow.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images courtesy of Joi Donaldson
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Victoria Monét has had an incredible year. Thanks to the success of the widely popular “On My Mama” that went viral, the singer/ songwriter’s Jaguar II album debuted in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top R&B Albums chart. She also went on to headline her own sold-out tour. So, when the MTV VMAs happened in September, everyone was surprised to learn that Victoria’s team was told that it was “too early” for the “Smoke” artist to perform at the award show. However, a couple of months later, the mom of one received seven Grammy nominations, including “Best R&B Album” and “Record Of The Year.”
Victoria is currently in London and stopped by The Dotty Show on Apple Music and shared how she feels “validated” after being dismissed by the VMAs.
“It really does feel nice and validating because, in my head, the reason why I wanted to be a performer at the VMAs or award ceremonies like that is because I felt like I am at the place where I should. I would work really hard to put on the best show that I could, and I was excited to do so,” she said.
“And I guess the best way to describe it for me is like when you're like on a sports team, and the coach is like, ‘No, you gotta sit this one out.’ When they finally put you in, and then you score all these points, and it feels like that feeling. You're like, yes, I knew it wasn't tripping, but I knew I worked hard for this, and so it's been super validating to just have these accolades come after a moment like that, and I know the fans feel vindicated for me.
While her fans called the VMAs out on their decision, the “Moment” singer kept it cute and is still open to performing at the iconic award show. “I feel no ill towards them because it's just maybe that's just truly how they felt at the time, but I hope their mind has changed,” she admitted.
Feature image by Amy Sussman/WireImage for Parkwood