On how music can heal

Hey y’all,

Happpppppy Monday!

So back in November 2021, Summer Walker released, arguably, the best R&B album that’s been released in a loooong time. Entitled Still Over It, Summer Walker’s second studio album was critically acclaimed and loved by pretty much everyone who blessed their ears with it—including me and this week’s author, Kahina Ray. Music has long been a means for us to heal, and Kahina’s story is a love letter to how music, particularly Summer Walker’s, helped her in her healing journey when it came to patterns of toxicity in her relationships.


PS – Make sure to check out my curated list of Black girl tings from around the web down at the bottom of the email. And, as always, hit the like button if you’re feeling the storyletter!

Take care,

Anayo Awuzie
EIC of Carefree

How Summer Walker’s Vulnerability Inspired My Healing 

by Kahina Ray

In regards to healing, there is no linear journey, and I had to accept that. 

Storytellers, scientists, therapists, doctors, and researchers around the world often tell tales of the healing powers of music. They say that music can have magical effects on our minds, bodies, and soul. And in just a few weeks of listening to Still Over It, Summer Walker’s latest album, I was able to experience this magic.

It was a regular Friday night and I was in my bed with ice cream in hand and Carrie Bradshaw on the screen; I had never felt so relatable to Carrie Bradshaw as I did on that evening. Carrie was in her 40s in the Sex And The City movie and I remember saying to myself that at her age, she should be past the drama and theatrics in her relationship with Big…how could she still be attracted to that cheating asshole?

I thought about the many phases of Carrie and Big’s relationship and how much it mirrored the relationships of my early-mid 20s. From the constant feeling of confusion Carrie experienced with Big to the sadness, overthinking, overcompensating, emotional highs, emotional lows, and a countless number of excuses—I had experienced it all. However, on that night, just a week before the release of Summer Walker’s new album, I didn’t realize that my relationship drama had not ended in my 20s…or at least I didn’t want to admit to it. 

I woke up the next morning feeling embarrassed that I could relate to a character that chased a man around New York City for six seasons. I thought about how society glamorized Carrie & Big’s relationship as if it was something to look forward to. Maybe for some it was, but I wanted to avoid running into a Big by any means necessary; my stomach fluttered with dread and anxiety just from the thought of it. I know that I have a while before I reach Carrie’s status, but I couldn’t ignore the fear that I felt settling into every inch of my skin. My mind was plagued with thoughts of the unknown: what if I never escaped toxicity in my relationships? If I was to end up like Carrie Bradshaw, what would that say about me?

These were the kinds of questions that would dance around in my mind while I was completing courses to become a therapist three years ago. I had done a lot of self-work at that time so I thought my healing journey had ended, or so I convinced myself. It wasn’t until a conversation with a lover on generational trauma that I slowly realized that I had only scratched the surface of healing. 

Fast forward to a few weeks of listening to Still Over It and now I’m feeling inspired to self-reflect. I heard the song “Closure” on her new album and instantly connected to the song’s lyrics, as well as many others on the album. Listening to the album made me realize that almost every relationship I have ever been in was dysfunctional. Still Over It captures the many stages of a toxic relationship and I could relate to every single emotion and feeling felt throughout those stages. Without self-reflecting on the decisions I’ve made in my 10 years of dating, I was in denial and unable to see how toxicity became a pattern in my relationships…until Summer opened my eyes through the expression of her own vulnerability. 

In the song ‘No Love’, Summer sings, “If I could go back, I wouldn’t have done all that…” that realization comes from self-reflection and accountability. So I began looking back at my behavior in my past relationships and thinking of things I would now do differently. But this wasn’t enough, I had to dig deeper and ask better questions. What encouraged some of my past mistakes? And how much have I learned from them? How much of my behavior was a result of something else?  As I continued listening to Summer and scrolled Twitter, I came across this poem written by Ijeoma Umebinyuo that reads:

“Bless the daughters who sat,

carrying the trauma of mothers.

Who sat asking for more love, and

not getting any,

carried themselves to light.”

This poem spoke greatly to the healing that I wanted to do. Sometimes, we tend to think that healing only involves getting over our romantic relationship issues, but it is beneficial to heal from anything that plagues us: insecurities, abandonment, poor boundary setting, poor discernment, etc. are all things that can be passed down through generations. As I began noticing unhealthy patterns that I could change, I realized the hold that these things have always had on me…generational trauma was detrimental for me to explore and heal.

So I changed my language in how I thought about my relationships—if it’s a situationship then call it a situationship. Journal writing helped me with feeling more comfortable with this. I would listen to Still Over It as I wrote. Summer sang, “Why you gotta hang your love over my head like that”, and I thought about how having something “hanging over your head” prevents the ability to move forward…it keeps one stagnant. Sometimes we’re stuck and stagnant because we’re afraid of something, like what we’ll look like outside of our trauma. What I was afraid of was the possibility of the self-work being too difficult to complete. Completion. Here I was again looking forward to my healing reaching its “completion”, but healing simply doesn’t work that way.

In regards to healing, there is no linear journey, and I had to accept that. Healing is the journey, not the destination. I don’t know what the destination looks like, what it feels like, or what it sounds like. What I do know now, as I’ve been on my journey for a few months, is that healing is both miserable and magical. One week I’m celebrating the progress in the changes I’ve made and the next week I’m crying because of something I let slide 5 years ago. But as I continue I’ve learned to embrace these contradicting moments by accepting that I’m in the midst of a metamorphosis, and when I reach my final form it will be something to sing about. 

Kahina Ray (aka Kay Ray) is a lover of the arts, 90s neo-soul, Gold jewelry, tacos, and everything related to her hometown of Chicago. She’s a masters-level mental health therapist by day and by night, she’s both a published love & relationships writer as well as an author using her stories to cultivate positive and transformative representations of Black love. Follow her journey and connect with her on social media, Instagram & Twitter: @soulchild_kay Facebook: Kahina Senice Ray.

✨This article from the New York Times titled Accepting Applications For A Black Boyfriend was an interesting read. Just because you and the other person you’re seeking to date are both Black, does that mean you automatically have some level of connection?

✨This TikTok sound has had me in a chokehold all weekend. It’s really pointless but it has the most iconic Jamaican storytelling thanks to Spice, and for that, it’s so important. Mainly for a really good laugh.

✨Speaking of Summer Walker, I recently discovered the singer Kaash Paige and her song “Love Songs” is a vibe.

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