Donning Our Crowns

“Your crown has been bought and paid for. All you have to do is put it on your head.” – James Baldwin

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By Dawn Onley

We are women. Queens. Royalty. Givers of life. Nurturers of the human condition. We are the ones who deeply feel things; the glue that keeps it all together.

There are no boundaries to our love, it’s as bottomless as the ocean. We are as strong as our hope, tested but not easily broken. We are a wellspring of wisdom, gently measured out like an ingredient to a cake.

Our sacrifice knows no limit.

We often forget our worth. We leave our crowns on the bathroom vanity, figuratively speaking, in the rush to get dressed – although we seldom forget to put on our made up faces, lips lined and eyebrows thickened just so. Isn’t that funny?

Our crowns are part of our regalia. We are not fully dressed without them. We are all precious and worthy of the honor and dignity of our elegant headpieces. All of the time we commit to everyone else but ourselves. All of those dark, sleepless nights without a star in sight. All of the heartache and pain. Every ounce of the anxiety and stress. All of the worries. The tough lessons.

All of the prayers.

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James Baldwin was right.

Excuse me while I straighten my crown. I suggest you do the same.

Wear them proudly, queens.

“Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.” – Lauryn Hill

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The New Leaders

By Samantha McKenzie

During this presidential election season, I am glued to the news updates, waiting to hear which candidate said what – the good, the bad and the ugly.

To be honest, I’m not so big on politics, but I take pleasure in voting. Years ago, after working as a summer intern at a weekly newspaper in Washington, D.C., I think my brain got fried on an over-abundance of stump speeches and rhetoric rumbling down the so-called  hill.

But here recently, it’s been encouraging to see women, from both sides of the aisle, taking their seat at the table.

When women allow their voices to be heard, it stills the room. I applaud any woman who throws her hat into the ring and allows her platform, her perspective, her point of view to be heard.

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According to writer Steven Hill, at the current rate of political progress, “it will take nearly 500 years for women to reach fair representation in government.” To date, only 20% of congressional seats are held by women, even though we make up a larger portion of this country’s population (50.8% to be exact).

Now feast on these facts:

We earn 60% of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. and 60% of all the master’s degrees. We earn 47% of all law degrees and 48% of all medical degrees. And we are 59% of the college-educated, entry-level workforce.

Democratic Leader Pelosi Highlights Increased Number Of Women In The House

And there’s more: We are only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. There are no female CEOs in the financial services industry nor the healthcare industry. Although women make up 80% of consumer spending, we are only 3% of creative directors in advertising. For African American and Latino women the gap is even wider.

There are countless non-verbal messages in our society that feed the notion that we are not good enough. There are even more subliminal stories that suggest we aren’t fit to take the helm.

Who you vote for is up to you. I am just glad to see the faces of new leaders and the feminine voice at the big table. I am glad that we are being a visible part of the solution. So ladies, pull up your chair, throw your hat in the ring and let your leadership shine through.

Live for This Moment

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By Dawn Onley

There are people who woke up this morning who won’t make it through this day.

Heck, I could be one of them. So could you.

This is not meant to scare you. It is simply meant to state a fact that can easily be forgotten as we go about our busy lives.

The news is filled with stories of sudden death; people who had no idea they were living in their final moments. The Miami Marlins pitcher, Jose Fernandez, who just died in a boating accident. The woman chilling at Virginia Beach this summer when a fierce wind blew a beach umbrella her way and the pointy end impaled her. Or the man who worked at a gasoline station in Washington, D.C. who happened to be outside just when a man who had stolen a Metro bus came careening through the parking lot, running him over.

And countless more. All random. Not one of these people knew this fate awaited them when they woke up in the morning, showered, got dressed and started their day.

Life deals us some crushing blows sometimes. None of us are protected from its grasp. We will all face sorrow and grief, and maybe even tragedy.

Nothing is certain about this life, except that it will someday end.

Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Sure, that’s a cliché, but it’s so relevant, especially for the times we are living in. Don’t wait to start living. Live for this very moment. It’s truly all we have.

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I know of someone who was always putting off traveling until he retired. He would wait until then to see the world. Except “then” never happened. He got sick a few months after retirement and he died less than a year later.

Later is not assured.

Do it today. Whatever it is.

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An Old Hindu Legend

By Samantha McKenzie

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While we are all looking outwards for solutions, the answers lie within.

According to an old Hindu legend…

There was once a time when all human beings were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.

Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide. “Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods.

But Brahma answered, “No, that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it.” Then the gods said, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.” But Brahma said, “No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.”

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Then the gods said, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” But once again Brahma replied, “No, that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity.”

Then the gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.”

Brahma thought for a long time and then said, “Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center of their own being, for humans will never think to look for it there.”

All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done.

And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring–searching for something already within themselves.

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Recovering from the Addiction of Pain

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“I just read something powerful: ‘Healing is a decision.’ You don’t have to walk around being broken. You can make a choice, and choose forgiveness, and be healed from brokenness. The choice is solely up to you. Are you choosing what brings you closer to an abundant life or what is going to bring you closer to death? The choice is yours. I choose an abundant life.” – Kendra Parker

By Dawn Onley

It’s possible to become addicted to pain. It’s possible to find a sort of comfort in pain.

It seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not. It’s possible to grab ahold of physical, mental and/or emotional pain and long after the cause of the pain goes away – decades after, in some cases – we can still find ourselves clinging to the brokenness of pain. We can still find ourselves regurgitating past injuries. And through that decision to not heal from the injury – and I believe it is a decision on our part — it can alter our life trajectories for years to come.

So much of adult pain emanates from childhood incidents. It could have been something said to us. Maybe it was something done to us. It could have been how we were treated or made to feel. It could have even been a perceived slight of some sort. It could have been a number of things that left us feeling less than or shattered in some way.

We can become so accustomed to being down, to feeling inadequate that we can begin to distrust that there is a better way. Much of who we become as adults is ignited in our childhoods — and that includes the good and the bad stuff.

Unless this pain is acknowledged and dealt with, it can become a default mechanism later in life. As adults, the moment we face abandonment or a broken heart or betrayal or a mean-spirited person, it can become a trigger that brings us right back to the thing that caused the initial childhood pain.

It’s at these points, when we are tempted to withdraw and default back to the hurt little girl, that it is absolutely vital to take pain medicine. And no, I’m not talking about the pills at the pharmacy. I’m talking about the stuff that replenishes what the painful experiences threaten to take away.

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I’m talking about facing the pain head on and taking the steps to heal from it. I’m talking about doing more of the things that bring joy and light to our lives.

“When you hold on to your history, you do it at the expense of your destiny,” says Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Once we decide to get over any addiction we have to pain, we unleash unlimited possibilities that may have been previously blocked by our decision to stay addicted.

Drop the habit. Like any other addiction, it’s bad for your health.

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Find Your Anchor

By Samantha McKenzie

I tried to make sense of the past few days. The hate. The violence. The fear. And that was before the peaceful protests turned into riots.

screenshot_20160922-222232I called my son who lives in Charlotte, NC, multiple times. I prayed for the grieving families and the police officers, intermittently, throughout the quiet times of my day.

I watched people carry on, business as usual. I was careful to drive the speed limit. I wanted, like you, to make it home safely.

I searched around for a word, a feeling, a moment of clarity. I wanted something positive to say. What do women who hope do now?

And it came to me. We anchor down.

In the midst of chaos, we find our steady. In the midst of storm, we are the peace. We hold on because letting go is unfamiliar to us.

We find our source and carry one another to safer ground.

Find your anchor sis, and let it hold you down.

 

I’ve Decided …

African Mahogany

By Dawn Onley

I want to associate with greatness.

I want to associate with people who care about the energy they put out into the world.

I want to associate with people who want to do better, who want to be better. People who are not content with mediocrity.

There’s plenty of average people with lukewarm mindsets walking this Earth, with no desire to elevate. There’s plenty of people who are unwilling to do the work.

I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been lazy, and tired, and weary. I’ve been a whiner and a complainer. I’ve been stubborn. I’ve been fearful and I’ve run away from people and from opportunities. I’ve been paralyzed by failure and I’ve been scared of success, too. I’ve put up walls that only a select few could penetrate. I’ve been doubtful and I’ve lacked faith.

That’s not where I want to be. Not anymore.

I want to use whatever time I have left in this world (and I’m hoping that is a lot of time) to make a real impact. I want people to see the divine in me and through me – through my actions and through my love for others. I want to engage on a higher plane.

I want to stop making excuses. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. I want to use my time more wisely.

I’ve decided that I need my best self to come forth today, and so does this world. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

I’ve decided to give life all I’ve got and to stop holding myself back.

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I’ve decided that love deserves a fighting chance – and that I do too.

I’ve decided to pursue my passions with a new vigor.

I’ve decided that from this day forward, I will no longer define myself by what I do, but by who I am and by whose I am.

I’ve decided.