If I could label 2020 it would be the equivalent of my Google music playlist:  Meaning, you never know what type of song is coming up next. Would it be a love ballad, hype dance remix, an empowerment anthem, or instrumental jazz melody?  No matter what, there is something for every mood and emotion.  That has been my 2020–and probably many of yours. This year has stretched me in some ways that I was not prepared to address; at the same time, it made me confront the quiet painful realities in my life that I could not avoid. The Universe or God has a unique way of making us pay attention. Please understand, this blog post is not to convince you one way or another about the Divine but to share my growing pains in coping with COVID-19 and life. 

Three weeks ago, I received a card in the mail from my mother that read, “In the middle of the ordinary and the everyday, she sometimes forgot she was actually quite extraordinary.”  These words brought tears to my eyes as I reflected back on the lessons of the last seven months. This would be the first piece of personal mail at my new home address after courageously ending a relationship after nearly six years together. Please note: These relationships do not necessarily have to be abusive; yet, they can be emotionally exhaustive which potentially derails you from your purpose.  No one can be held responsible for our happiness but us. Many times women sacrifice their dreams, goals, desires, and joy for something that looks good on paper. Or, something that you have convinced yourself is going to change and get better.  During these moments, it is essential that you take an inventory of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being…Then get help. 

As a single mom, I have always prioritized my child in my decision-making. I want to be my best self for him at all times. However, I quickly learned that I was far from being the best for either one of us. At the beginning of January, my doctor challenged me to lose 15 pounds to address some increasing health concerns that resulted from previous work-related stress and relationship issues. I exceeded those weight loss goals; yet, losing weight was not enough. There was more internal work that needed to be done. My spirit and heart were broken but my smile told a different story.

Professionally, I was thriving in a new job that allowed me to utilize my skills, connections, and expertise to bring a new perspective on church-state issues that incorporated race and religion. I received numerous invitations for speaking engagements or panel discussions with the ever-increasing number of webinars. This brought me immense joy. Being my mother’s daughter, I pushed myself to exhibit the highest level of work ethic. I focused on the issues of marginalized communities and challenged groups that professed to be allies in social justice spaces to do better. 

Yet, I slowly continued to lose a piece of myself as I morphed into a woman who held more sorrow than joy. Why? I accepted situations in my life as they were because I was afraid to do anything to disrupt my child’s life. But not doing anything was a depletion of my own. Being stuck at home in quarantine, forced me to accept responsibility for decisions that negatively and positively impacted my emotional and mental health. The power to choose and exercise that right is an empowering action step. Three days after my 45th birthday, I begin my healing journey by meeting with a therapist weekly via virtual appointments. This by no means was my first time seeing a therapist; but she was just what I needed. A seasoned, no-nonsense Black woman who reminded me of who I am; how I am supported by my ancestors; and, all that I could become while embracing the power of my womanhood. She inspired me to practice meditation and journal my thoughts and feelings after every session. 

In doing my healing work, I learned to silence the chatter of well-meaning friends and family members. This was a necessary step to reaffirm and establish my identity as a resilient, brilliant, and courageous woman that would not be held hostage by generational habits. When I stopped turning to other people for answers about my personal life, I began to change and things became clearer. Instead of standing still waiting for something to happen or someone to change, I developed a renewed sense of faith in myself knowing that God and the Universe would surround me with everything that I needed. Seeing myself liberated from the traumas of my past would be beneficial to not only myself but my child. 

Coping with COVID-19 has not been easy. I have lost beloved friends to the virus and others simply unexpectedly. Not to mention, my life has transitioned tremendously in with the loss of a relationship, a physical move, being a full-time working mom while supporting a child via distance learning. Yet, the isolation of this pandemic forced me to ask myself the questions: “What makes you feel alive? and, how do imagine your life going forward?” This gives me space to creatively think about my future in ways that embody a more peaceful and happy version of myself. For that, I am truly grateful. 

Sabrina Dent is Senior Faith Adviser at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.