Let me just say before getting into this piece that, if there was any year that really tried us on every level, hands down, it was 2020. That's why, whenever I've noticed an article or even a tweet that said something along the lines of, "Hey, give yourself a little grace if you're not feeling all that hot or performing at the level that you're used to this year", I found myself immediately nodding in agreement. From politics to the pandemic, from professional shifting to financial stress, from relational challenges to internal struggles, when it comes to finding something to be grateful for, during a month that is basically devoted entirely to that, it's understandable if you're having a bit of a hard time doing it.
That's actually the motivation behind all of what I'm about to say. While it's certainly not meant to make light of or even be dismissive about anything that may be pushing you to your limit right now, I just wanted to make sure that you remember that seasons are just that (they do change) and there are some things to always been appreciative of, even in super trying times. Off the top of my head, here are eight things to be grateful for.
1. Being Black
"Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being."—Steven Biko
C'mon. You and I both know that there is not enough bandwidth on this website or time in the day to address all of the reasons why being Black is beyond dope. For now, I'll just say that an entire holy book known as the Bible features only Africa and the Middle East in it. If you use the Bible as a guideline for your life, you are a part of the very beginning. Black excellence. Also, whenever you stop at a traffic light, go to your mailbox, walk through an elevator door, use a Black haircare product, turn on your home security system, donate blood, use VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol), add an animated GIF to a post, snack on a potato chip or watch something on Hulu—you've got a Black person to thank and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we've invented (sources are here, here and here)! And y'all, don't even get me started on the 2020 election cycle. It goes without saying how amazing it is to have a Black and South Asian American female Vice President-elect for the first time in history (big shout-out to Senator Kamala Harris). However, if you voted, definitely pat yourself on the back for being a Black person who helped to get her and President-Elect Joe Biden in office. That is irrefutable. We are powerful beyond measure.
From our vast history and rich culture to the various tones of our skin, beautiful features and textures of our hair, I'll speak for all of us and say that there is nothing better and in many ways, more sacred, than being a Black person. There really isn't.
2. Being a Woman
"You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation."—Brigham Young
Whenever I get into Bible mode and I speak on the story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3), I make sure to discuss how, before they both ate of the fruit, "her" name was "Woman"; after it became "Eve". As Woman, Adam had a helper (Genesis 2:18); one who was an ezer kenegdo (which Hebrew for lifesaver; I reference it in this article here). As Eve, her name means "mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). A lifesaver. Beings who have wombs that help to keep humanity populated. Whew. How mind-blowing is it to be a woman?
And here's the thing. Even if you choose to not (or are unable to) birth a child, it's important to keep in mind that a womb isn't just "the uterus of the human female and certain higher mammals"; a womb is also "the place in which anything is formed or produced". When God made you, He chose for you to be a literal epicenter for people, places, things and ideas to be formed and produced. Your femininity is a specific gift that makes you capable of achieving things in ways that men cannot—because they weren't designed to. And then, if you add on to this that you are a BLACK WOMAN? Girl, how can you not feel extremely grateful that God loved you so much to create you to be just as you are?
3. Your Uniqueness
"It was when I realized I needed to stop trying to be somebody else and be myself, I actually started to own, accept and love what I had."—Tracee Ellis Ross
I've written about boundaries quite a bit on this platform. One of the reasons why I am so passionate about setting limits (and also respecting the limits of others; it took me a while to master not just one but both) is because I grew up having my boundaries dishonored a lot. At the end of the day, that's what abuse is—someone disrespecting your boundaries. Anyway, when I got to a point and place of being super intentional about releasing people who were not just unhealthy but toxic in my life, I realized that another side effect of having those kinds of folks around is they tend to be an enemy of our uniqueness. In other words, abusers and oppressors are oftentimes jealous of and/or threatened by and/or clueless about how to handle someone's individuality. And so, they spend a lot of time, effort and energy trying to get you to be who they want you to be rather than (as parents) nurturing who you are or (as friends) celebrating who you are.
While I've always been a different kind of chick, before removing those kinds of people out of my life, I wasn't able to fully bloom into my uniqueness because there was so much pushback when it came to my calling, my personality, even my style. Now? I absolutely love my individuality in a way that I wish I had the space to back in my 20s because it would have spared me so much pain, heartache and counterproductive relationships. I get why a lot of opposition comes to prevent us from enjoying our uniqueness, though. When you fully grasp that there never has been nor will there ever be another you—EVER, that empowers you in a way that nothing else can.
From the way you look to the way you see the world to the what the Master Creator has placed within you to offer everyone you come into contact with on some level, appreciate how unique you are. You're amazing just by being incomparable. Never EVER forget that.
4. The Gifts and Talents You’ve Got
"You are unique. You have different talents and abilities. You don't have to always follow in the footsteps of others. And most important, you should always remind yourself that you don't have to do what everyone else is doing and have a responsibility to develop the talents you have been given."—Roy T. Bennett
Let's go back to the Bible for just a second, shall we? Psalm 33:15(NKJV) says, "He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." Romans 11:29(AMPC) says, "For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]" When God put you on this planet, he made sure that you had certain gifts and talents—ones that would complement your purpose so that you can fulfill your destiny. I've shared in a few other articles that 2020 is my 20th anniversary of deciding to leave corporate America (at least in the traditional sense), so that I could work from home as a writer. When I first made the call, I didn't have a job, car or computer. What I knew I did have was a profound writing gift (my mom even said that my favorite toy as a toddler was shaking newspaper). And it was the confidence in the gift that got me through some really, "What the hell am I doing? I need to get a freakin' job!" moments.
This year pushed us to the ultimate limits. I know, trust me, I do. Yet no matter what your job or financial state is looking like right now, make sure that you are clear about what your gifts and talents are and that put effort into utilizing them. I have seen so many people—especially Black people—thrive this year and it's because they threw caution to the wind and put their gifts and talents to great use.
What has been placed into you, if you combine it with your uniqueness, it might blow your mind what you can accomplish. Your individual gifts and talents aren't there for your amusement alone. USE THEM. Watch what happens when you do.
Oh, if you need some inspiration, check out KevOnStage's doc A Calculated Risk. Also, if you want a little motivation on how to transition out of a profession so that you can do more of what you like, I really enjoy the videos on Wine n' Chill's YouTube page.
5. Having Resources
"It is much easier to put existing resources to better use, than to develop resources where they do not exist."—George Soros
Water. Food. Shelter. Those are very basic resources yet, after a year like this one, I think we've already learned to not take any of 'em, even a little bit, for granted. Yet beyond that, if you've got a network, a computer (with internet access), a smartphone, a mentor, reading material—you've already got a wealth of things that many people didn't have, even in the 80s (the world wide web was invented, just in 1989, y'all).
A huge trap that transpires in trying times is focusing more on what you don't have than you do. Yet if you can get online, you're already in a really good spot to make things happen. Stop spending hours on Black Twitter and switch over to LinkedIn or check out articles like Bplan's "14 Business Resources Every Entrepreneur Should Know About" instead. There's a wealth of resources that are just waiting to change your entire life.
6. Impeccable Survival Skills
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."—Maya Angelou
This past election day was the 25th anniversary of the passing of my fiancé. Whenever I share the story about our relationship and/or how he died and someone says, "Girl, I would just die if that ever happened to me," I immediately respond with some variation of, "Be careful what you say. You might not want the Universe to test you like that." Proverbs 18:21(NKJV) does tell us that, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit", after all. This is why I'm not big on folks spending hours on end doom-scrolling on the internet or hanging around a lot of negativity. All that does is encourage you to magnify what's currently not so awesome and minimize what is.
That said, I'm pretty sure that a lot of you can agree with me that when Kobe and Gianna Bryant passed on January 26 of this year (y'all, that was this year), we thought that it wasn't gonna get too much worse than that. Chile, and look at all that's happened. The pandemic and countless deaths from it. This totally cray-cray Trump administration. Job losses and pandemics. Kids not being able to go to school. Folks not being unable to physically touch their loved ones. The list goes on and on. And yet, if you're reading this, you have survived. And to have survived a year like 2020 is no small feat.
If you've got nothing else that you feel like you can be grateful for right now, if you are able to read what I'm saying, in a halfway right mind, you are mighty blessed. Abundantly so. Real talk.
"We don't heal in isolation, but in community."—S. Kelley Harrell
As far as silver linings go in a year like this one, I've got one for you. It's when there is a lot of stress, struggle and adversity that we're able to see who our "peeps" really and truly are. That's because it's easy to be someone's friend when everything is all good. Oh, but find yourself in a position where you need some help with a bill, for someone to sit up with you all night as you cry over a loss or for you to need someone to do something that is super inconvenient for them (for whatever the reason)—that is when you see who's truly got your back.
While there used to be a time when I was doing most of the work to keep my relationships afloat, 2020 has reminded me that being codependent and having toxic relationships are such a thing of the past. There have been several times, in both directions, where someone has been in a bind and it has been nothing for the need to be met. While the older you get, you typically realize that a few genuine friends are all that you really need, if you've got even one person who held you down (as you did the same thing for them) this year, you've got something to be a billion times over thankful for. Because, unfortunately, not everyone can say the same.
8. A New Day
"Today is not just a new day. It's another opportunity."—Unknown
I'll keep this one short(er) and simple. Just like you have a special individuality to you, so does each day. The only thing that keeps us from realizing it is the choices that we make during each 24-hour period because, the reality is, we each have the power to make today entirely different than yesterday, just by switching up and doing things differently.
Again, I know 2020 pushed us all to the ultimate limit when it comes to figuring out what to be thankful, appreciative, GRATEFUL for. Yet the fact that you woke up this morning, take that as a sign that you've (still) got a purpose to fulfill and today doesn't have to be like the ones that came before it. If that ain't something to be super pleased about…I sincerely don't know what is.
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