Reviving Our Relationships: Learning Not to Pour From An Empty Cup

By Chelcee Johns. Photography by Eric Michael Ward.

I'm weary of the ways of the world
Be weary of the ways of the world
I'm weary of the ways of the world

I'm going look for my body yeah
I'll be back real soon -

I spent the days watering the flowers, walking the dog, feeding the turtle. Slow, intentional days. Seven days of solitude as I agreed to house-sit away from the city, with the only obligation being: care for the things that grow in this house. What I didn’t know was how much the seemingly mundane would blanket my week in metaphors. I stood with the hose over the flower beds and heard spirit say, ‘This is what you need to do for yourself, daily.”

Not too long ago, I experienced my first anxiety attack. I had a visceral reaction to go in and see why, but also a moment of shame. Certainly, embedded from this idea and stigma of what healthy minds and bodies do compared to unhealthy ones. I didn’t speak on it. I created a day, a week, to breathe. What caused it? There are times in our lives where we feel stretched. Be it work, family, love, health - when too many wires are disconnecting at the same time or asking to be filled; it’s easy to fall into a place of overwhelm. And not all overwhelm is created equally—the good, busy day job or full client list as an entrepreneur sometimes comes with its moments. That’s just in our personal lives, let’s not start on this circus of a country we’re living in.

And, what does this have to do with reviving relationships? Everything. Because boundaries were what I allowed to become extinct as well as my daily watering. I attempted to pour from an empty cup and my body decided to let the glass tip to show me I needed a moment to refill. Often times, we hesitate in doing the thing that’d allow us to actually support the relationships in our lives genuinely, to take care of ourselves completely. The more compassionate we are with ourselves, the more compassion we will be able to lay on others.

Our bodies are sacred spaces. Our minds more vulnerable than we sometimes believe. Our spirits sustaining, but yet and still soft. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our relationships is say, “I’ll be back real soon. I am caring for the things that grow in this house."

It is a memo we must center before trying to ground a relationship on dry soil.

This August here at Black Girl In Om we're focused on the ways in which we revive our relationships from romance and family to career and finances, how we walk out the relationships in our lives greatly affects our well-being. But, the fact is, it's hard to pour into or revive any external relationship if your internal well is running dry.

Things to note & determine if your cup is running low:

- Feeling an intense need for solitude.                                                                                                 

- Forgetting to prioritize self over other relationships.                                                                      

- Checking emails (or answering calls) feels like a mountain climb.                                                   

- You aren’t properly feeding yourself.                                                                                                 

- Your spiritual relationship is flailing in the wind.

Ways to begin to refill:

- Create boundaries that are healthy and sustaining.                                                                           

- Prioritize solitude. Find a few days, a few hours a day, where it’s just you.

- Refuel your spiritual relationship.                                                                                                       

- Spend time reviewing the spaces that don’t feel safe and sacred.

- Ask why? And, don’t be afraid of the answers. (Sometimes we don’t really want to hear it, because then we have to change them.)

The sky shifts to coral, the moon is pearl as brown bodies sing along to the ethereal Solange under an open heaven. It’s a Sunday night as I make the drive back into the city with last minute plans to see Solange; to get free tonight. “You down?” I text my sister-friend the day before. “That’s basically a therapy session. Yes,” she responds. I was closing a week of solitude amongst sisters. Once we take the time for inner joy, inner watering, it resounds.  Let's too call this revival.

I'm going look for my glory yeah
I'll be back real soon
I'm going look for my glory yeah
I'll be back real soon- Solange

Do you have a personal story or essay you’d like to share about the ways you revive your relationships (personal, love, family, finances, career, etc.)? Email us at and share your journey with your collective sisters in this journey of wellness and learning to breathe easy.

Chelcee Johns is a digital nomad, Detroit native, editor/content strategist and word & world-loving soul. She is based between Harlem and Detroit, and recently called Bali home for a year. Her passion for the power of the written word & highlighting often policed narratives has led her to work in publishing for the past 7 years with organizations such as Moguldom Media Group, Serendipity Literary Agency, the New York Times and writing for the likes of Ebony. In a rupturing political climate and blooming social change, BGIO is the place Chelc is able to create a community of safe space in our collective stories as Publication Editor. She is empowered by the (inner)work! With that said, her self-care go to is journaling, prayer and meditation.