“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first”
As a woman of colour, I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders daily. Telling me who I should sound like, be like, and act like, which leaves me feeling depleted, craving a connection my forebear would surely be proud of. As a mother of two beautiful girls, Alicia and Mia Thompson, I find myself working towards becoming the best version of myself daily so that I can pass onto them a wholesome meaning of love. A love you are ready to receive an abundance of because you are discovering what it looks like and means to you. Yet here I am asking myself questions like: Do I love myself? Is it enough? What is Self Care to me, and what does self-love look like to other women of black culture? What safe space can I have these conversations?
I’ve been in a deep search for the last couple of months. A search for a local Canadian black space for women who look like me, unapologetically proud of their heritage and in search of a better understanding of what self-care means to them. I found in my Instagram stories, The Egoinitiative, talking about self-care journal prompts she had for the viewers to do, it was almost like light homework because it made you think self-care or at least your version of it. I needed to understand myself better, so I started to dig deeper into The Egoinitiative and what the program had to offer me as a young black woman. In my search, I found the Stay Whole Retreat. The Egoinitative - (Stay Whole Retreat) allows women to discover what self-care means to them. It was intriguing, so I signed up not knowing how I was going to get there and if it would be worth it, because Jah(God) knows I did not want to waste my energy, but it ended up exceeding my expectations. In attending three out of the four group sessions, which lead up to the retreat, we discussed many self-care topics and practices as well as how we can maintain a growing healthy relationship with self-care ourselves. The most recent retreat was in Dunnville, Ontario, at a place called the Bliss Haven Retreat Center, where we got to connect or reconnect away from the city. We travelled by Greyhound to Grimsby, Ontario and then took a 30-minute drive to Dunville (and no there was no Lyft in Grimsby, we got lucky enough to get an Uber Driver who had initially been from Scarborough!) by Uber and taxi to the retreat centre. Upon arrival, Bliss Haven's uplifting quotes were in every corner, and delicious snacks were laid out. Lessons of food through healing were spoken of from the beginning of our trip till the very end. Morning meditations, journal prompts, a socacize class, and hand massages with all-natural products from Up-Beauty, along with a wellness tip after your massage, followed with a few other activities throughout the weekend. My highlight of the weekend was the food. I even had a self-reflection on the menu and how I should pay more attention to the food I consumed to reconnect to the health benefits food provides.
On the Sunday of our retreat, The Egoinitative had a guest speaker named Natacha Pennycooke, a registered psychotherapist. She is also a Caribbean-Canadian woman. The fact that she was a Caribbean-Canadian woman had an impact on me. Seeing an educated black woman speak passionately about her field of work, especially on the topic of intergenerational trauma and how we can obtain emotional healing from it, was inspiring. Natacha's presentation was beautiful and enlightening for the end of the Stay Whole Retreat. This kind of knowledge is what a young black woman (me) with a family needed to hear and feel; a sense of significance. In the last hour of our Stay Whole Retreat, Bliss Haven's Coordinator, Dolly shared the Retreat Centre's History, which only strengthened our connection at the end of the retreat. Thank you to the universe for putting together these pieces to create a space/place of healing for me and hopefully others who attended.
To any black female in any age group who feels how I feel sometimes, do not give up looking for your safe space or create one yourself. You should always be able to express who you are without others' limitations, labels or expectations on you. So, go on and shine like the sun unapologetically.