Thursday, December 3, 2015

F*** Your Sugar Coating: Dealing with Grief

Tomorrow, December 4th is the birthday of a good friend of mine that passed away earlier this year. As the date draws closer, I’ve been thinking about him a lot. His mischievous grin...the hours of talking shit...gin gimlets...his love for the movie Clueless. I’ve been thinking about the courage and awareness it takes to speak to someone about pain. I’ve been thinking about grief and how we handle it. No one really schools us as to how to take care of ourselves when we lose someone important. Instead, we’re inundated with adages and sentiment like “everything happens for a reason” or “he/she is with God now” and my favorite “be strong.” What happens when that isn’t enough? What happens when I’m more sad and angry than I know what to do with?
How can we take care of ourselves and each other? In attempting to make sense out of all of this, I found some things that really did work in all of my struggle. It all boiled down to two questions for me: 1.) What happens when we’re acknowledged fully? and 2.) What happens when we pay attention to our emotional needs? I wanted to take a minute to share some of those thoughts with you, first of all as a reminder/co-sign from me that you’re ok exactly where you are, and secondly in remembrance of my friend, Maleno. If I can’t share what I learned from losing him, what the hell was it all for, right? Here is Eric’s “F” that noise guide to grieving.

  1. It is a pro-cess!!
One minute you’re up...the next you’re down. It’s a rollercoaster. I heard that from people quite a bit about grieving, but did not know the extent of which I would feel like a ping pong ball, bouncing endlessly through the gauntlet of extreme emotion. It came in waves. As soon as I would be done feeling sad and crying, I would feel seething, red hot anger. Then came the confusion. Some days I felt like i just needed to be around love and not have to talk or do anything. Some days I just needed to be alone. Let’s not forget about that “out of body” disconnected from everyone feeling. I keep coming back to this image of waves in an ocean. Some are really easy and rock you gently and softly. Some knock you over, sending you tumbling along the ocean floor, coming up with sand everywhere, wondering what the hell just happened. Emotions are powerful. Expect to get rocked at some point but know that not every wave will knock you down.

   2.) Be ok with everything that you’re feeling.
Don’t apologize for being a crying ass mess. Don’t apologize for being angry. Whatever you’re feeling is completely ok. You’re going through trauma. You lost something that was significant to you; It could be a relationship... a part of yourself...or maybe a way of seeing the world. It’s totally fine to acknowledge that significance.

I’ve had to check in with myself about this one repeatedly. I underestimated the cumulative effect the seemingly endless murders of Black Americans since Trayvon died.  (**Clearly the shit’s been going on since way before then but undeniably has reached a new level of frequency.) My world is different since then. I don’t see things in quite the same way. I’m angrier. I’m more hurt. I have to tamp rage on a frequent basis. And you know what? That’s ok. We have to consider our day to day traumas and how they affect us.

I especially think about men in our culture when it comes to this step. We’re taught to not be sensitive and not show when we’re hurting. Fuck that noise. You don’t have to “be strong” for anyone. I reject and resent that notion. It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling.

3.) Be kind to yourself
Along with being ok with wherever you are emotionally, be kind to yourself. Offer yourself the same kind of compassion that you would offer someone else in a time of crisis. Everyone has different ideas of what that looks like, so I would just encourage you to take a pause to ask yourself “what would it look like to be kind to myself right now?” “What would it look like to show myself compassion?” That could be something as simple as sitting in the park for twenty minutes or journaling or allowing yourself to dance or even allowing yourself to lay in bed and hug a pillow. How can you be kind and compassionate to yourself?

4.) It’s important to reach out
People want to help out. People want to be there for you. They do. That being said, they can only show up for you if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and speak up about what you need. People will surprise you in amazing ways with their capacity to love you. Let them. Let your connections surprise you. Let people show up for you.

5.) There’s power in creating rituals for yourself
When I found out about my friend passing, the only thing that I could think to do was to light a candle for him. My room is always full of candles, but prior to his passing, I hadn’t used them in this way. I lit a candle and said aloud everything I needed to say to him that I didn’t get a chance to. I expressed gratitude for our time together. Spoke aloud my anger (i cussed him out! haha) I said it all. I felt connected to him in a way that I needed to in order to start my healing process. It was powerful. You can call it prayer...maybe invoking the spirit...whatever that title may be, my takeaway is that there’s power in your rituals. You don’t have to have an established spiritual life or belief system necessarily, but if you impart meaning into something, it will be meaningful.

6.) Self care!
This goes along the lines of being kind and compassionate to yourself, but incorporates frequent checking in with yourself and your body and asking “what do i need right now?” I went to a lot of spin classes and dedicated my rides to my friends that had passed (again-another ritual.) It helped to do something active and meditative that allowed me to purge. What’s that thing for you? Is it journaling? Is that treating yourself to a really nice meal? Is it going to a place where you and that person went to all of the time? Is it working out? How can you show care for yourself?

These continue to be my key areas of understanding my grief and dealing with it in a healthy way. SO what are those ways for you? What’s helped you deal with grief? What would you add to this list? Add on. Substitute. Adjust where need be.

**If you need someone to talk to, I’m available. I can also recommend some amazing people.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Silence Supports a System That is Not Designed to Protect All

What do we tell our youth about their safety?

I'm sitting across from this family on the train. A young, probably 30something couple with their young son. He's clearly a young, sweet, well-mannered kid. He's wearing a baseball cap and athletic wear-the same things that Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin wore. I couldn't help but to feel a pang of deep hurt watching him sit between his parents. How are they beginning to train him to take care of himself? If the people/systems set in place to protect him are continuously showing themselves to not care about his safety, how will that affect his psyche and attitude about the value of his own life? What do you say as a parent to make him feel safe when the reality is, he isn't? I think of my nephew. What are my brother and my mother telling him? It's such a sorrowful, real thing. We have to train our children to code switch to the next level now. It's beyond having a "phone voice" or being taught-as I was-how to deal with police/authority figures. We have to train our children to appear to be different. Dress a certain way and speak a certain way , or you'll be viewed as a threat and very likely killed for walking down the street. Reality. Not exaggeration.

I'm outraged and I don't know where to direct it. Why are the lives of my people not worth anything? Why do our children have to grow up looking over their shoulders at every corner, distrusting those put in place to protect them? Why do our children have to grow up being told on a deep, intrinsic level that who they are is not ok?

This affects us all. It's not ok to rest behind apathy or privilege. We all need to be thinking about the messages we're sending to the next generation by our silence/tolerance/outrage or however we decide to proceed. Staying silent is the equivalent of telling a black child that it's not ok to be who they are in America. That's the real. Silence supports a system that is not designed to protect all.

What's the next step? I'm not sure. I think it has to start with us all being disgusted and outraged. It starts by checking in whatever privilege we can hide behind to have honest, courageous, and sometimes scary conversations about why this shit is happening. It has to go beyond facebook. It has to permeate into our living rooms...into our chats over lattes...into our consciousness overall. The cost of staying apathetic is way too high now.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Channeling the Fire: Healing in the Wake of Ferguson

What’s next? Join me in this 4 part series to unpack and dissect what to do now in the wake of all that’s happened in Ferguson/the Eric Garner decision/Tamir Rice/far too many others to name.

We’re at a crucial convergence of tipping points in this country. Now more than ever we are seeing and feeling the need to think critically about race relations, our failing justice system, and our roles in allowing oppressive systems to exist. Furthermore, we’re all in mourning. We’re all hurting and wondering what to do to heal. So What’s next? Join me in this 4 part series-beginning THIS SUNDAY DEC 14th-to unpack and dissect what we're feeling and how to move forward in the wake of all that’s happened. 

My goals in this series are to find healing, to find solutions, to build community, and to whoop racisms ass.

Topics being covered include:
1.) Dealing with and Expressing Grief (12/14)
2.) How to be an Ally: creating coalitions across color lines (12/21)
3.) Dealing with Distrust: Us and the police 12/28)
4.) Turning Rage into Action (1/4)

Donations will be accepted. A portion of the proceeds collected will go to funding Ferguson businesses seeking help in rebuilding.

Have questions? Want to secure your spot? Register at with your name, e-mail address, and what sessions you’re interested in attending.

Who?: Life coach/educator Diana Noriega and Eric Fleming (
What?:Channeling The Fire:Healing In the Wake of Ferguson
When?: Sundays starting 12/14. 4pm-6:30pm.
Where?: Shambhala Yoga and Dance Center. 1000 Dean. Suite 311

Friday, December 5, 2014

Screaming Inside: Showing Compassion in Moments of Grief

I’m in a terrible place right now guys. Just sayin'.  I’m a big ole' convoluted mess of anger, profound hurt, and despondence-so much so that I’m even having difficulty putting thoughts into words right now. The recent-and all too frequent-murders and non indictments happening in the world has left me feeling like absolute shit. I wrote this in my journal last night:

My chest is constricted.
It feels like a tear-a rip with each breath
Inhalations exacerbating the “I can’t do this” of the moment
Screams being contained by the most fragile of cages
Ready to fight at the blow of the wind
I will really fuck somebody up right now
Don’t look at me the wrong way-hell, don’t even look at me. How ‘bout that?
So hard to put on a happy face and tap dance around the rage behind the mask.
It’s seething
A slow burn ready to blow at any moment
I just need a break
I need a shift
Something’s gotta happen
It’s GOT to!
I’m on that fucking edge and a muthafucka betta not push me

We’re in a collective period of mourning right now. We’re in grief. People say “You never know what someone else has on their plate/is going through.” In this case, yes we do because we’re feeling the same thing. We’re all walking around with this anger and sadness and confusion with no where to necessarily direct it. We’re either turning it inward in a harmful way, stewing in it or projecting onto someone else. Being cognizant of that, my immediate thought/question is how are we taking care of ourselves? How are we taking care of each other?

With all that anger that I felt yesterday when I wrote that, I wonder how it would’ve been different had there been someone there with me to bounce my feelings off of, or to just offer a hug. I think in such a huge period of mourning, it’s important that we step up and take care of one another. Just as much as you’re going through, acknowledge that people sitting next to you on the train or that you see at work everyday are going through too. Think about what you need in moments like this. I guarantee that someone around you needs the same or something similar. Be kind to one another.  Maybe send a nice text to one person during the day letting them know that you’re there for them. Maybe give out a few more hugs than you normally would. Check in with roommates and loved ones. Ask them how they’re doing. We need it now! How are you taking care of the people around you?

How are you taking care of yourself? Are you journaling? Are you sitting in nature? Are you listening to show tunes and singing in the kitchen? (Shout out to my roommate) As important as it is to invest energy into creating change-and protesting if you decide to do so-it’s just as important to be aware of all that you’re feeling and to give yourself kindness and love. We’re going through a lot right now. Show yourself some compassion. Find those things or people that soothe your spirit and allow it to breathe.

So what are you going to do? I challenge you to do one thing differently today for yourself or for aloved one. What's one thing you can do to offer the compassion you deserve?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dear White People: Part 2- Preference or Just Racist?

"Black guys are for fucking. Not dating."

In the age of apps like grindr, scruff, and tindr, it's so much easier for us to tailor make our "dating" experiences. People are more upfront and direct about what it is that they're seeking out in potential mates. This specificity has extended itself to issues of race. Is it racist to filter out people of color on your searches? Or is that just expressing a preference? Is having a preference based on race, really just racism masquerading as something else? Listen below as we unpack race relations in the world of modern dating.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dear White People: Part 1- Appropriation vs. Appreciation

I saw the movie Dear White People recently-as should you-and let me tell you, it brought up SOOOOO many emotions for me. When the movie finished, I was stuck. I couldn't get out of my seat for trying to process what the hell just happened. This movie spoke thoughts and feelings that I had never voiced in a public space. It was a mirror that made me really question why I do a lot of the things I do, why I date the men I date, and why I hold the attitudes/beliefs that I hold. It's a powerful film. I appreciate the dialogue that it will spark. I appreciate that it made me feel uncomfortable and a bit exposed.

Along the lines of the film Dear White People, a while back I hosted an episode for my podcast about cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation. The topic was sparked by an article written by Sierra Mannie "Dear White Gays Stop Stealing Black Female Culture." Mannie took to the internet to express her frustration at being minimized to a caricature by many gay white men on her campus. The article caught on like a wildfire causing many of us readers to think deeply about what the differences are between appropriation and appreciation. In a culture where everyone is borrowing from everyone, how can we distinguish who the culture "belongs to?" How can we potentially be making our loved ones feel by perpetuating insensitive cultural stereotypes? There are no easy answers. These are not easy conversations to have. That being said, these conversations do need to be had. Listen below as my panel and I begin to unpack this topic.

A few things to note here:
  1. The audio is unmastered so not the greatest quality. 
  2. I said the woman's name wrong, Jesus! Her name is Sierra Mannie. I called her Sierra Massey several times. Sorry girl. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Connecting the Dots: Piecing Together the Magic of Who You Are

A lot of you know I spent some time in Thailand earlier this year. It was a dope trip. It was weird. It was beautiful. Had amazing food! I sweat through every shirt I brought with me. Saw some stunningly beautiful temples. Hung out with monks and ladyboys.  I met some beautiful, amazing people. I shared meals, drinks, and hugs with strangers. It was a phenomenal time.

One of the people that I met that had the most impact on me was a gentleman named Andy that was the epitome of lovely. Just an overall warm, charming, intelligent, generous guy. Andy was traveling for business and little bit of pleasure. He’s a 40-something entrepreneur living one of the most fabulous lives of anyone I know. Andy and I talked for hours about traveling, life, similar experiences, our varied experiences-everything. Meeting him was a highlight of my trip. He dropped gem after gem on me. That’s the thing that I love about talking with people with more life experience than me. There’s always that sense of ease, and wisdom, and trust. They trust in themselves and they trust that things will ultimately work out. The conversation naturally turned to “what do you do?” so we talked about my service industry experience and my starting a coaching business. This guy has done everything. I mean it-he came from humble, working class beginnings. He’s been a cook, ultimately becoming a chef, he was into visual art at some point, he was a restaurant manager, he studied international business and hospitality. The dude has done everything. NOW he gets paid to travel and help airlines and restaurants design their ideal hospitality experiences for their guests.

Word, Andy? You get paid to ask companies how they want their guests to feel when they’re greeted? But that’s exactly what he does. Restaurants and airlines all over Asia and Europe hire Andy to coach them on how to create an ideal experience for their guests, generally making the ship look good and run smoothly. There were a lot of take-aways from my conversation with Andy but the biggest one is this-who/what we are and all of the experiences that we’ve had are valuable. If we can connect the dots and see how our experiences fit together, we can create something meaningful, exciting, and useful from it. There’s value in all of our experience(s) no matter how much you think, or somebody else thinks, it’s bullshit. I could easily bitch about being in the restaurant industry for 4 years now, or I could shift that perspective to realize that there are companies abroad that find my experience valuable and are actively seeking it out. It’s up to me to give meaning and value to my experiences. Looking at Andy, because he’s been a chef and a manager and has a background in art, he’s able to tell you what works for food pairings, how to run a tight ship, and what looks good aesthetically. He’s using everything that he’s done.

Second major take-away from our chat, It’s ok to switch tracks. Andy told himself that it’s ok to follow his passions. He developed himself. He never stopped seeking knowledge. He never stopped being curious. He took risks. Clearly, risk yielded great reward as he is now running a business and using every bit of those varied experiences to help his clients.
The third take-away is to listen. Listen to yourself, primarily. Get into a still space and listen to that inner voice and what’s calling you. Not what your mama wants to you to do or what your cousin is doing-tap into what’s most important for you. Additionally, listen to people that have done what you want to do, and that have been where you want to go. They know how to do it. So quite simply, shut up. Sometimes you have to shut up, put that ego to the side, stop acting like you have it all figured out, and listen to the experiences of someone that’s doing it. By all means, there’s a flip side to that coin and people can be discouraging, but that’s when you get to tell them to shut up. ;-)

With that being said, I leave you with this final word: Don’t forsake your journey. All that you are and all that you’ve done is valuable. My challenge to you is to think about how you can connect those dots together and create something that highlights the best of you and the best of what you’ve done. And if you’re struggling with that, hire me so I can do it for you ;-)   

Hopefully you found this useful. If you want to hear more from me, become a follower on my facebook page “coach eric nyc.” You can subscribe to my blog at and you can check out my website at Happy monday y’all!