BY DIANA MARIE LEE
Winter Solstice Greetings (smile)! Per an ancient definition, “solstice” means “standing still sun.” Winter Solstice is a time to stand still and turn inward, toward the darkness in our lives. Now is the time to seed visions that will bear fruit in the spring; decide whether to let go of situations, people, and habits that no longer serve our purpose or well-being.
Standing in Our Power spaces have been a source of healing for me, giving me the courage to explore the darkness and share more of myself and journey…
When I first read Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “The Reason I Like Chocolate,” I was about thirteen years old:
The reason I like chocolate
is I can lick my fingers
and nobody tells me I’m not polite
I especially like scary movies
‘cause I can snuggle with Mommy
or my big sister and they don’t laugh
I like to cry sometimes ‘cause
everybody says “what’s the matter
and I like books
for all those reasons
but mostly ‘cause they just make me
and I really like
to be happy
Unlike my sister, brother, and cousins, I hated chocolate as a child. I didn’t like the sweet, decadent taste of chocolate on my tongue— afraid to allow myself this simple pleasure. By thirteen, I began to dampen my inner joy and talk myself out of doing things that brought me pleasure— afraid that if I showed my joy, someone would take it away.
Having things taken away was common. My dad left our family when I was around 4-years-old, leaving a space in our home and our hearts. My mom withheld her affection as she struggled to cope with a new reality and hold on. And when a white teenage boy forced himself on me when I was five, he took away my innocence. Surrounded by boys and men who used violence and harsh words as a way to make sure us girls grew up to be good girls, I had no real sense of safety.
To protect myself, I decided that the best way to be safe was to go unnoticed. From a young age, I learned that if I smiled all the time it made adults around me feel safe. They assumed that I was “being a good girl” and that whatever abuse they heaped on me, I could handle. I preferred being alone to being noticed; being noticed increased likelihood of being hurt in some way.
I was a workaholic by the time I was ten, always studying to get straight A’s and show that I could handle things, serving leadership roles in my church and school. I never snuggled with my mom when I was afraid, or struggling to handle things on my own because she never learned how. When I could not find refuge or relief in my own home or the lives of the people around me, I cradled books instead. I was the kind of girl who sought refuge and joy from books, inspired by the heroines who somehow found the courage to do what they wanted to do.
During my teens, I became more familiar with the story of Harriet Tubman, one of my spiritual guides. She is known for saying:
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Hearing Ms. Tubman’s story began to cultivate within me an idea that one day I could do something to make life better for girls and women like me: my sister, our mother, aunties and grandmothers who often put their dreams on hold to take care of their families and communities.
Cultivated from school days to my work in the public health and nonprofit sectors, I was a workaholic who fed off the acclamations and rewards bestowed upon those of us willing to sacrifice everything— our identity, our sanity, our freedom, our health, our social lives, our family and friendship ties, our happiness, and yes, even our values, for the cause. I left a lucrative job and went on a healing journey.
I first connected with Standing in Our Power (SiOP) in 2012, when I returned to the states after living in Belize as a part of my healing journey to reclaim my joy and dream again.
I launched my company Sweet Livity during the same year I became one of SiOP’s transformational leadership coaches. Being part of the SiOP family over the past six years has been a slow process of unraveling layers of oppressed rage, grief, and confusion that has colored my life for as long as I can remember. I began to reclaim an unapologetic sense of self and found my voice during healing rituals like the Truth Mandala and community altars, through courageous conversations and practices about restoring trust, building solidarity, self-care, forgiveness, and reclaiming our joy. Through holding healing spaces for others, I had also allowed the SiOP community to co-create a healing space for me, too.
I began to recognize that it’s okay to admit I love chocolate; it’s okay to lick my fingers with pleasure. It’s okay to snuggle with my mom and let her hold me. It’s okay not to smile unless I am expressing authentic happiness and well-being, and it’s okay to be noticed. I choose to turn toward the darkness in my life. I dream and play big without apology to inspire the healing and transformation of others.
I am a Black woman in her mid 50’s, ready to ask for support and to put into action my long-deferred dreams. In no small part due to the healing I’ve experienced through SiOP, this year I began the process of putting one of those dreams into action— converting my company into a worker-owned cooperative.
Like me, you may have dreams seeded in darkness, ready to emerge and bear fruit. If you want to invest in spaces and places where people like us reclaim our authentic selves and our happiness, I invite you to join me during this season of sharing. Please dig deep into your heart and give this year to support the forward progress of Standing in Our Power.
On behalf of the SiOP leadership team, and in the spirit of sharing, I offer you this gift.
Winter Solstice Ritual: Call in your vision for 2019. Name what you want, not what you don’t want. Below is a principle for transformation we practice at SiOP:
Being clear about what we are working towards and what we want to build and create serves as a guiding light, pushing us forward and preventing us from recreating what’s ‘wrong’ and ‘not working.’
Part of moving on requires us to release what holds us back, and claim what we want. Find time to meditate, dream, and perhaps create a vision board for what you want to “call forth” in your life, your relationships, your work and communities for 2019. We hope you’ll consider sharing an image of your vision board with us via Facebook or Instagram.