Category Archives: One Word: Quiet

When You’re Too Woke For Your Own Good

Too Woke
So many people from all walks of life have a habit of throwing around the terms “woke“, “ally“, “space” “decolonization” without really considering that these words have different meanings to different people. Worldview and social location contribute to how you define these words and how you live them.

I had to take issue with some women who were a bit “too woke” for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a woman of colour who also gets tired of the same old B.S. but I also believe in being realistic. Justice, equality, equity, and the like don’t happen overnight. It requires groups of people to commit to the steady, difficult, painful, and not always instantly rewarding work of creating change. Change is never instant.

I’m not saying advocates need to become silent, soft, or passive. What I’m saying is that sometimes you just might be your own worst enemy and become a barrier to change.

What do I mean by being “too woke”, well here are some examples:

-You think you, and only you are right, always right

-When you are proven wrong you refuse to apologize or acknowledge it

-You have deemed everyone and anyone who doesn’t look like you or experience the same oppression as an enemy; despite not knowing the other person(s) story

-You speak for everyone in your community and don’t allow for intersectionality and diversity of views

-If things don’t go your way you become upset and disrupt meetings, storm out of meetings, take over meetings, silence others who don’t agree with you; all.the.time.

-You take on the negative habits of oppressors or colonizers and refuse to engage in self-reflection

-You are so woke and wide eyed you see things that are not there

-You refuse to acknowledge the work that others are making towards positive and healthy changes

-You demand change NOW without considering the consequences of poorly thought out plans

-You don’t engage in discussions or communicate well. Instead, you take to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to express your thoughts. You are more interested in cancelling, destroying, and seeking revenge rather than helping to make long lasting positive change that benefits others.

-You don’t know how to relax and have fun. You take everything seriously. Self-care and community care are not familiar parts of your wellness routine.

-You critique, but rarely have any ideas, solutions, or alternatives to offer

-You refuse to learn more about people who are different from you (gender, socio-economic, ability, race/ethnicity, colour, sexuality, etc.)

Unfortunately, this is a short list of examples.

I think it is best for those of who are involved in community work and change making to remember the words of Audre Lorde, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.

Let’s all do our best not to make positive change more difficult than it has to be.

Fill Your Cup and Others Also

Fill Your Cup

We hear the expression “You can’t pour from an empty cup” followed by “You have to fill your own cup first”. These sayings are very much in line with North American concepts of self-care being about one’s self only. That might also explain why there are so many memes which say, “self-care is not selfish”.

I’ve never liked the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” because I always wondered, who pours from a cup anyways? When was the last time you went to a restaurant and the waiter poured your tea from one cup into your own cup? Even at home you start the kettle or the Keurig, and your beverage of choice is served from there into your cup. Full or empty, you don’t pour from a cup, maybe this is also key to why people continuously feel empty and drained; they are doing things in ways that were never meant to be.

As for “You have to fill your own cup first”, I would say to others; your cup is not meant to be poured from. Your cup is for you and only you to drink from. How often do you share your personal cup of tea or coffee? Probably never or rarely. Instead what we pour from is the teapot or the coffee carafe. We can pour our own drink first and pour for others or pass the container along for others to do so themselves. Your cup is for you to replenish yourself only and none of it is to be consumed by others, it is what helps to fulfill and sustain you according to your own needs and your life responsibilities.

Drinking from your cup isn’t about the amount of time you selflessly give to others doing good deeds, favours, and things that are a result of your not being able to say no. The contents of your cup represent what is in your life. Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote a book Can You Drink the Cup using the cup as a great metaphor for life. In his book he writes,

You have to know what you are drinking, and you have to be able to talk about it. Similarly, just living life is not enough. We must know what we are living. A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it, and form opinions about it. Half of living is reflecting on what is being lived. Is it worth it? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it old? Is it new? What is it all about? The greatest  joy as well as the greatest pain of living come not only from what we live but even more from how we think and feel about what we are living. …Holding the cup of life means looking critically as what we are living. This requires great courage, because when we start looking, we might be terrified by what we see. Questions may arise that we don’t know how to answer.”

Everyone has something different in their cup and what they drink might be refreshing, bitter, sweet, bland, nourishing, or toxic; regardless it fills them up. And when filled, what pours out is not from their cup but from their heart, mind, and actions.

Ask yourself, what are you filling your cup with, why, and what does it mean to you. How does it affect others?

Henri Nouwen_Can You Drink The Cup
From Can You Drink the Cup by Henri Nouwen


Judging without Judging

Life live to the fullest!

The title, it doesn’t sound quite right. Judging without judging others, how is that possible, is that even possible? Sounds almost like an oxymoron.

Over the past few weeks I had been trying to figure out how to deal with a very powerful peer who happens to be a highly judgmental, self-serving, vindictive, and bitter person (this description sounds judgmental, doesn’t it?). It has gotten to the point where a conversation couldn’t be had without her tearing down other women who work in our industry. It was an earful of listening to nasty comments about how these other women dress, what their husbands look like, silly gossip, and fantasies of taking her opponents down in the cruelest manner.

If this was a friend rather than an industry peer, keeping my distance would be easy. Speaking to her about the behaviour described earlier is out of the question. I have seen firsthand what has happened to those who have dared to do so; it wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately, I live in a mid-sized city and it is difficult to entirely avoid people who are in the same career field as you. Everyone knows somebody who knows someone. In the end I decided to forfeit having her as part of my career sphere of influence.

The Lessons

What I have been learning is that when you are close to a peer(s) and you distance yourself from these people who are emotionally toxic yet powerful and well connected, it makes more labour for you in terms of networking, getting connected with just the right people, learning the ropes, and having your work known by others; but in the end it is worth it.

Not having that powerful and seasoned professional by your side to give you the ins and outs of a cutthroat industry makes the struggle even harder, but I was alright with this, my personal values were more important.

If your career-based circle of associates requires that you cut others down, eliminate your competition with dishonest words or actions; and your emerging business plan includes a social media smear campaign against people you (or they) don’t like; take a pass, this is necessary. Your mentors and those who are part of your career circle heavily influence your behaviour, values, and personal work ethic.

Ask yourself, “what part of who I am as a person is being sacrificed in order to stay within this career based inner circle”?

Is the sacrifice and trade-off your…?

  • personal values
  • unnecessary time away from your family
  • money that you don’t have to spare
  • integrity and honesty
  • healthy character traits
  • long-time friendships (healthy ones)
  • your faith/religion
  • keeping up shallow and superficial appearances
  • constant emotional and mental fatigue that isn’t directly related to the production of your work
  • abandoning your own dreams or personal goals in order to people-please
  • decrease in quality of your own work

Count the costs, not just short-term, but long term as well. It can be difficult to set boundaries with people who have direct influence on your work, reputation, and income, but I encourage you to find a way to create a healthy distance between yourself and industry peers who have a spirit of spitefulness, revenge, pettiness, and exclusion. The slower path to career fulfillment will leave you with a clearer conscience knowing your achievements were obtained without having to sabotage peers, belittle the work of others, or step all over people.

When you take the more laborious and often longer path, do so because the other option was not a part of who you are as a person, nor who you aspire to become. Recognize that people who thrive from their toxic behviour are often personally scared and insecure, and might even have developed such ways of living due to past trauma. But remember, it is not your problem to deal with. Be willing to operate in a different way without seeing yourself as better than anyone else or allowing bitterness and self-doubt to permeate your mind and your work. This is how you “judge without judging”.




Reading… Self-care in a Book

Read Something… 2019

Do people still read books?

Why do we have libraries, nobody reads books anymore?

Reading is a waste of time. I could be doing something instead of sitting around?

I kid you not, these are things I have heard people say about reading. I don’t read as much as I used to, but I honestly can’t imagine a life without reading. And when people say they don’t have time to read, I don’t believe them. If you enjoy reading, you’ll find time for it. There are plenty of things we don’t have time for, brushing our teeth, showering, putting on makeup, but we somehow find time for them.

What I noticed about people who tell me they don’t like reading, is they had unpleasant experiences with reading in junior high and high school. I remember the days of having to read novels that I had no interest in, and worse, we were required to write essays about these novels and even debate some of the topics and themes from these books. I usually did well in English Language Arts, as it was called back then, but I know it was not an activity that I always enjoyed. As a result, I made full use of my public library card. I wanted to read books I was actually interested in. It didn’t matter to me that they weren’t literary classics; what mattered was how much I was engaged in the plot, characters and setting.

Now, if you’re wondering how reading counts as self-care, here it is. Reading is a relaxing way to feed your mind, spirit, and creativity.

Open-Minded: Reading different types of fiction, memoirs, and biographies can help you become more open-minded. Reading exposes you to new and different ideas, other cultures, the life stories of people you otherwise wouldn’t encounter, and fictional worlds you wouldn’t have thought to create; the accumulation of knowledge is boundless.

Your critical and analytical skills are also engaged when you discuss the book with others in person or online. Book clubs are fun, but if it’s not your thing or you can’t get to one, you can often find others online or in person who enjoy informally discussing a book.

Cognitive Engagement: Reading helps you to concentrate. It also increases your vocabulary and thinking skills. Reading is also emotional.  I can tell you with confidence that I doubt I am the only one who has cried over a fictional character. A novel can evoke all sorts of emotion, sometimes on the same page: anger, happiness, surprise, sadness.

Reading is also an exercise in memory. 200-300 pages in you have a lot to remember, the names of characters, what happened since you last put the book down, the story line and so on.

Stress Buster: Reading can help you to de-stress. Grab a cup of something warm to drink, a throw, and make yourself comfortable somewhere. Reading suddenly becomes “me time”. We often think of self-care as something spa like, but the ability to be able to sit and read a book without being bothered is an excellent way to care for your physical and mental well being.

Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about taking time to read, it’s a pleasure, but it is also a form of self-care, regardless of what types of books you read.

There are endless types of books available for reading. If you need some ideas or prompts, here is a short and simple guide to help you experience a diverse and rewarding way to read your way through 2019.

Reading List and Ideas

  • A new release (2019)
  • A memoir or biography
  • A Thriller or Suspense
  • A fictional or true story featuring an immigrant’s life experience in coming to Canada or the United States
  • A self-help book about something you want to address in your own life
  • A Romance
  • A book that was made into a movie you enjoyed
  • A science-fiction
  • Historical fiction from a time period that is of interest to you
  • A humorous book
  • A novel where the story takes place in a country you have always wanted to visit
  • A novel that takes place in a country that you have visited before
  • A trilogy, and be sure to read all three
  • A book you started reading months or years ago and never got around to finishing
  • A book written by a Native American
  • A book about the environment
  • A book that has been banned by public high schools
  • The biography or memoir of someone who’s life sounds quite different from your own (e.g. class/gender/sexual orientation/religion)
  • A book that takes place during World War 1, World War 2, or the Depression