Authenticity, power and equity are key ingredients that nourish the sisterhood and contest the garnish-only meals society has been feeding us through narratives that paint us as a deficient community—the equivalent of dining on a “plate full of parsley.”

In Black culture, potato salad can often be a divisive culinary topic—the stark difference of opinions tied to which ingredients come together to make good potato salad is outdone only by the partisan passion connected to who prepared the dish. The state of contention related to “who made the potato salad” can be so prolonged that some succumb to the strife and even skip the meal as presented if they cannot vouch for the potato salad preparer.

The level of scrutiny and loyalty intertwined with the “mustard” versus “mayonnaise” ends of the debate spectrum are expected and accepted with little quarrel; but taking similar principled stances on necessary aspects of our lived realities as a sisterhood is often not as normalized as these common side-dish debates or as emphasized as it needs to be for us to thrive. We are pickier about whose potato salad we will eat than we are pledged to the creation of boundaries that keep us healthy in body, mind and spirit. As the world evolves beyond the global pandemic, I beckon Black women to let go of the unhealthy way in which we sacrifice ourselves for others, and alternatively pursue a path forward as discerning and cultivated as the cultural innuendos we tie to our potato salad—a cuisine of self-compassion, I’d say.

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Sista Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This quote has guided my own self-care journey in good times and been the post that propped me up during the challenging times. We can reflect on the last few years as the tough times we are presently emerging out of, but I would offer that, for our minds, our bodies and our spirits, the most turbulent of times are still ahead of us.

As we collectively and individually reacclimate to life redesigned, I urge you to do the necessary inner work to identify the ingredients that create the right kind of next-life phase for you, and to be unwavering in adhering to your investment in yourself. Whether it is as lighthearted as reclaiming that strut in your favorite heels without looking like a baby giraffe struggling to stand, or as soul-wrenching as the unresolved celebrations of life that the pandemic prevented as you lost loved ones, what normal looks like going forward will be curated around what you have now redefined it to be—so design a plan that helps you exist in it as your best self.

I have been guided by a self-compassion plan that I developed many years ago, as I was trying to figure out how to manage my energy, my job, my purpose and my life. While it covered all aspects of my reality, the most important part of the process was sharing it with my peers, boss, team and family and asking them to help me adhere to it, because if I knew how to, I wouldn’t have needed to build a plan.

Similar to the potato salad phenomenon, discerning the need for others to help me adhere to my commitments was the equivalent of not eating just anybody’s potato salad. Beware of the cage you may unintentionally build around yourself, with bars that represent the burden of caring for others. The needs and words of others can be served out of the surplus that remains after you have cared for yourself. Sistas, you are the life source of the universe, but your light won’t be its brightest if you aren’t intentionally, selfishly dining on a “cuisine of compassion,” so you can be what you want to be for yourself and others. Have the unmitigated gall to believe in an existence that is healthy for you and those you love in a world that will never be the same again. Blessings.