The winter of my discontent is starting to feel like a permanent freeze.

We are cresting into the third year of a global pandemic. I carry persistent, low-grade anxiety in my chest like a wad of peppermint candies my Great-Aunt Thelma used to haul to church on Sunday mornings.

Random acts of aggression erupt because people haven’t processed the uncertainty, depression, and fear they have been carrying since the pandemic began. Vacillating public guidelines designed to help us manage COVID leave me feeling unsafe. I feel powerless to comfort friends and family grappling with illness, loss, and death.

It “makes me wanna holler,” as Marvin Gaye once sang.

Instead, I retreat to inspiring art, practices, rituals, and resources that connect me to the divine spirit. They provide solace, spark joy, and renew the cracked places in me that have grown fearful and cynical.

These inspiration sources remind me we can choose to transform pain into purpose. Below are three things that nourish me during these trying times. I hope they inspire you to discover and explore what works for you.

New Roots Music – A vanguard of Black, female artists have emerged in recent years to breathe new life into roots, country, and folk music. They include Yasmin Williams, Valerie June, Yola, Adia Victoria, and Allison Russell.

Russell, a Canadian singer-songwriter now based in Nashville, is my favorite. Her sound is sparse but lush with meaning and purpose. She released last year her first solo album, Outside Child. The haunting melody of “Little Rebirth” and hard-splitting truths of “All of the Women” examine personal and multigenerational trauma as paths to redemption and liberation.

Outside Child was nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Americana Album category. In contrast, “Nightflyer,” a single from the album, was nominated for Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song.

Writing for Uproxx, Erin Osmon sums up with differentiates Russell from her contemporaries: “To reclaim your future from past oppressors, from the unseen forces with a bloodthirst for your failure, is both a triumph and a gift.”

Cooking Your Origin Story – I like to eat more than cook. However, Michael W. Twitty’s delightful approach to African American foodways is an ancestral journey, famously documented in his book, The Cooking Gene.

In the book, Twitty, a renowned culinary historian, “reveals a truth that is more than skin deep – the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.”

Now Twitty is taking is an innovative approach to MasterClass. The James Beard Award-winning author teaches online course participants how to trace your culinary roots through your ancestors’ food. Specifically, Twitty shows how anyone can learn about their food history with one look inside their pantry.

The First Lady – Starring powerhouses Viola Davis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Gillian Anderson, The First Lady, a Showtime anthology series, follows presidential couples through American history. The Obamas, Fords, and Roosevelts are among those portrayed by A-list stars.

The lives of the First Ladies, regardless of their political affiliation, fascinate me. First Ladies are unelected but expected to serve husband and country through depression and war, domestic and international crises, and death and tragedy. These extraordinary women walk the precipice of symbolizing domesticity and American femininity while staying true to their ambitions and desires. Each First Lady singularly approached the job, often with courage, tenacity, and intelligence.

Debuting in April, The First Lady promises to be inspiring and unforgettable.

What about you? What renews and refreshes your soul these days? What inspires you?

Kerra Bolton is a writer and filmmaker based in the Mexican Caribbean. In a former life, she was a political columnist; Director of Communications, Outreach, and Oppositional Research for the North Carolina Democratic Party; and founder of a boutique strategic communications firm.


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