Monday Notes: Seeking Perfection

I was hit by a car when I was fourteen years old. It was a Saturday. Because my father was the youth pastor, we were going to church to pick up teens for an activity. When we arrived, my then best friend stood across the street in front of the building. She yelled out my name, and without a second thought, I darted into traffic.

As the story goes, the car hit me, my body flew up in the air, and I landed on the man’s windshield.

I awoke in a Northwestern Memorial Hospital bed the next day. Aside from being unconscious and sore, I had also chipped my front tooth. Out of all the details my mother, the nurse, and best friend relayed, missing about twenty-five percent of my front tooth is what filled my eyes with tears.

Consequently, every five years, since I was fourteen, I’ve gotten a filling for just that part of my front tooth. It’s been a lifelong hassle. Some years, shading was either too off-white or not white enough, leaving that one tooth in a mismatched contrast. Other years, I didn’t have enough money to get it re-done and had to suffer the coffee stains that remained. Some years, the tooth was too short or too long.

2019

The last time I had it re-filled was 2017. Not only was the shading off, but the dentist had shaped the tooth to be facing to the right.

That’s when I decided to find a new dentist.

“If you want it to look perfect,” new dentist said, “you’ll have to get a crown. That way, it’ll be computer generated and you can get custom shading, so it’ll match your other teeth.” “Plus,” he continued, “you can’t keep getting this filled. It’s deteriorating.”

I saved my money and made my appointment for November 30th. I carefully chose this date because classes would be ending, and I would have the semester break to get used to a crown.

As I lie in the chair, I knew I’d made a bit of a mistake.

I didn’t realize the dentist had to file down most of my tooth. This is standard, so the crown will fit over it. I should’ve googled the process ahead of time.

I knew I’d have a temporary crown for three weeks, but I didn’t know it could fall off, which is exactly what happened.

Not having a front tooth was stressful. Dwight and I have been together since 1993. Last month is the first time he’d seen me without a front tooth. Hell, it was the first time I’d seen myself toothless. And let me tell you, having a little baby tooth right in the front of your mouth creates a black hole only fit for hockey players and such.

The second time it fell off, I was with a friend. Though I was embarrassed, I was grateful we were at her house and not at a public restaurant.

The third time it fell off, I was tired. I’d been so stressed about not having a tooth that I couldn’t sleep, and when I did, I awoke with a pain on the right side of my mouth from where I’d been grinding all night. So, I just left it off until my appointment arrived.

December 15th, I received the permanent crown. Let me tell you something. It’s beautiful. It’s the best tooth I’ve ever had since I was fourteen.

But it’s different. It feels like a foreign object in my mouth.

I’m a tad bit traumatized from the temporary and don’t really want to bite into anything, so it takes me twice as long to finish a meal these days. Jamie, the dental assistant, who’s become my bestie at the office has assured me it’s fine and the tooth will not fall off.

2020

I can feel a slight space between the crown and the back of my actual tooth, but again, Jamie took a picture, showed it to me, and explained that it’s fine. According to her, the dentist will not attach it to my gum line because it may cause irritation and gum disease.

This. Feels. Weird.

So, yeah. This is one of those rare times where I feel as if I’ve made a huge mistake. Instead of seeking to have the perfect tooth, I should’ve sought some level of acceptance of my imperfect smile that only I seemed to have noticed all these years.

Yep. I think that’s the lesson here.

Do you have a crown? Implants? Dentures? An area of your body you wish looked a little different? Let me know about your experience in the comments, while I adjust to this, um, new situation.

Monday Notes: 3 Reasons I Left Facebook

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was around eight in the morning. My groggy eyes were glued to my cell phone. I was watching the weight-loss journey of a tan golden retriever. The background music was sad. Although I knew the ending, I had to see how he did it. How did this fat golden retriever lose weight? Turns out it was through diet and exercise. Hmmmph. It was a heartwarming story, but I couldn’t get those five minutes back. I knew then I needed to leave Facebook for good, but here are a few other reasons why:

It seems like a never-ending reunion. Have you ever been to a family reunion? You show up. You introduce your family to long, lost cousins and great aunts. You find your favorite family member and hang out with them the whole day, vow to keep in touch, and go about your business. From what I understand, class reunions seem to be similar. You catch up, share about your mate, kids, and occupation. Facebook seems to be that but on steroids. It’s cool to catch up, but I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to be connected to all of these people for a lifetime. But because they are now your “forever friends,” you find out a lot more about them than you may have bargained for, like who your boss voted for, if your brother believes COVID is a hoax or not, and if your best friend thinks all lives matter or Black lives matter. It can be #teamtoomuch We were never meant to know all of the things about everyone we’ve ever encountered.

It’s an unnatural interaction. I’m the type of person who’s okay with having a party with all the people I know. As my goddaughter says she never knows who will show up to my events. It could be someone’s 85-year-old grandmother or someone’s 6-year-old son, because that’s the kind of life I live. I’m free and open to all relationships. But Facebook puts all of these people in the same place at the same time…all the time. Like other FB users, my friends’ list included a hodgepodge of people: a former and current director, my current provost, a former program coordinator, a couple principals, friends from undergrad, all types of family members, former high school students, people I went to elementary, high school, and grad school with, and on and on and on. Because we’ve been taught to interact a certain way with each of these people, Facebook creates a weird, alternate reality. Although I’m always me, I found myself functioning as a middle-of-the-road me, because what I might say to my sister may not be the same as what I’d say to the provost of a college. In short, it was too much self-censorship for me.

Everyone’s social media is curated. My FB was comprised of people I actually knew in some way. So, when I saw someone’s close-up shot, I knew she was actually hiding a hoarding problem because I was just over her house. I knew when my friend posted some wonderful quote about relationships that he was on the struggle bus with his own marriage because we’d just hung up the phone. I knew that someone’s perfect selfie was shrouded in depression and anxiety because we’d talked that morning about how it may be a good idea for her to take a shower that day. And this bothered me. FB, in particular seems to be like the Disneyland of socials. Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s excited. Everyone’s passionate. Even when they’re not. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve pushed weeks of mail out of view for my perfectly angled hot cocoa shot. I took a family photo at breakfast the morning after Dwight and I had discussed getting a divorce. But I’ve also posted about not wanting to return to work after the holidays, feeling angry when I realized my bike’s brakes didn’t work, and being disappointed after getting a PhD. I don’t think this is odd. It’s called balance and authenticity. Scrolling through curation after curation is exhausting. I mean even a museum shows the true human condition, which includes pain and sadness sometimes.

Although these are the main reasons I permanently deactivated, I have to mention a few more reasons: I hate that people think they really know you because they read the highlights of your life. I dislike the pettiness and self-centered nature of the platform. The fact that people don’t read the whole article that they post or reply to is quite annoying. Thirst trapping for likes and its evil twin, lurking with no interaction feel a bit creepy. And this idea we’ve created that we can’t live without FB is a bit strange.

If you’re still on FB, I hope you don’t take this as a personal dig. It’s not. I just woke up one day knowing that Facebook is not aligned with how I want to interact with people.

Corona Chronicles: Revelations 2020

Early in the pandemic, a lot of people asked what we had learned. My initial answer was nothing. But that’s because we hadn’t been experiencing a COVID-19 society long enough for me to have learned anything. Eventually, my life was just as troubling as everyone else’s. With that said, I won’t lament on my perceived loss, but I do want to share what was new or revived this year, with a few explanations.

  1. Watching a funeral on Facebook Live is both weird and convenient and it’s not something I think I would’ve ever participated in had it not be for COVID-19 (the funeral wasn’t COVID related).
  2. There are a lot of ways to connect with friends and family, like playing a virtual game. I would share the host’s site, but she has a bunch of grammar errors and I feel strongly about that. Instead, here’s a link to virtual games you can play with others: Games to Play on Zoom.
  3. Traveling by airplane during a pandemic isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
  4. States’ rights mean different states have vastly different rules, and I was able to see this firsthand. For example, Michiganders (and others in the Midwest) seem to think they cannot catch COVID-19 if they’re outside. No matter how many friends try to explain the logic of a virus dissipating in air, it just doesn’t make sense to me. But hey…I’m no virologist.  
  5. A road trip during a pandemic is actually a safe way to change your surroundings.
  6. Josh’s red blend is superb. It’s made with a blend of fruits, not wines (which is something else I learned to differentiate this year).
  7. Participating in 10,989 Zoom meetings is not fun. Okay. That’s not true. I only participated in like 9,989, but they still were annoying. What’s funny to me is that I spent a bit of time three years ago trying to convince my job that it was okay for me to Zoom into a meeting. Now, it’s pretty much expected. Isn’t life funny?
  8. Reconnecting with high school friends because of Zoom has been fulfilling.
  9. Slowing down helped me to clearly see friends’ and family members’ personalities for the first time.
  10. A pandemic seemed to have helped people reveal their whole selves for the first time.
  11. I need more peace and quiet than I thought. I always knew my husband was a morning person and I was a night owl; however, I didn’t realize just how “ready to rule the day” he is in the AM and how talkative he is throughout the day…until we began working from the same home space. I use my noise cancelling headphones when I need to concentrate.
  12. My body holds on to stress no matter how much reading and yoga I do. I came to this conclusion when I developed a rash that took up the length of my left arm. It’s healing, but it’s been there since May or so. A biopsy showed that it is lichen striatus. The only explanation is that it’s genetic and stress related. What can I say?
  13. I can only tolerate stay-at-home orders for three months.
  14. Escapism is my go-to when anything gets uncomfortable. I wrote about reading before, but the reality is I’ll go through great lengths to feel as if I’m floating, rather than feeling tethered to an awful reality, like a pandemic, social unrest, California on fire, stay-at-home mandates, nail-biting election results, etc., etc., etc…
  15. Trauma sparks my creativity. I’m not sure how I feel about this, except to say: it is what it is. This year, I’ve written quite a bit, not only on the blog, but also for other places, which I hope to be published in 2021. It’s probably another way to escape. I mean, I can go inward pretty easily; writing is just another way to do that.
  16. There’s only so much T.V. I can watch. I watched more television than I’m willing to share. I totally blame COVID-19 for this. My favorite finds were Twilight Zone (Season 2) and Modern Love, both are on Prime.
  17. More than ever, Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be about noticing and giving thanks for what’s in front of me, instead of what I hoped for.
  18. Others’ opinions have no place in how I feel. If I’m uneasy about something, then I should honor that feeling.
  19. Eating out has been more enjoyable. Mid-year we frequented some restaurants, and whether it was due to fear or the 50% capacity rule, there were fewer people, which seemingly improved service because the chef had time to cook food and the waitstaff had time to serve it.
  20. It’s okay to order all of the things online.

I think that’s about it. Although I’m happy to have learned, re-learned, or engaged in these experiences, I do hope that 2021 includes COVID numbers decreasing and the earth healing in multiple ways. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.

Until then, what has 2020 shown or taught you?

~kg 12/26/20

Mental Health Matters: Resources

Thank you for indulging in my year of discussing how mental health issues showed up in my life and how I’ve managed to become a healthier version of myself. I wanted to close out the year with a few resources that supported me over the past six years just in case you planned on working on yourself in the future. *

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

Oprah & Deepak Miraculous Relationships 21-Day Meditation: I remember doing this meditation like it was yesterday. I’d sat down to figure out how I could have better relationships with everyone in my life. At that time, I wasn’t speaking to one of my favorite cousins because he hadn’t introduced me to his then fiancée, had missed my doctoral graduation, and had begun drifting away from me. Two of my goddaughters hated me; one of them, according to their father, didn’t even want to vacation in Florida because then, they’d “have to visit Kathy.” And my marriage was a hot mess. When I sat down to do this meditation, I thought for sure it was going to offer a prescription for how to be better at relationships. Instead, it focused on the relationship I had with myself. It truly was miraculous, and I recommend it for anyone who has so-called relationship issues.

Mindvalley: It’s hard to explain what Mindvalley is, and I don’t even remember how I stumbled across it, but many of the videos and podcasts that the founder, Vishen Lakhiani offers have helped me develop a new perspective of the world and everything in it. For example, Lakhiani created a term called brules, which stands for bullshit rules. In short, these are cultural norms that we all learn that limit who we can become. One brule is “your success should look like someone else’s success,” something that I think we can all agree isn’t true. Mindvalley offers information from people you may (or may not) have heard of, such as Lisa Nichols, Michael Beckwith, Jim Kwik, Marisa Peer, or Neale Donald Walsch. Each person has a specific message about a topic intended to increase your personal growth. I especially suggest listening to the podcast whenever you can.

Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life: Louise Hay, the author of this book, is an internationally and well-known healer. But before I praise the contents, I do want to say, that of course, no one can heal themselves, no matter the issue, in twenty-one days. However, this book is a great example of something that can jumpstart the process. I enjoy it because it provides you with four things: 1) a short explanation of the day’s concept, 2) the day’s mantra and mirror work, 3) a journal prompt, and 4) a free meditation you download from Hay’s site. With the exception of two, I spent approximately fifteen minutes per day doing this mirror work. Even though I’d done a lot of introspection and healing over the course of six years, this book was very helpful in showing me where I still needed to heal and grow. It highlighted people with whom I still held resentment and anger and provided me with healthy ways to acknowledge, accept, and move forward in processing these emotions.

Other resources that I won’t explain in great detail:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is like a self-help book masked as literature. The overall message (for me) seemed to be that all of our lives are spiritual journeys and how we walk them is up to us. Essentially, we can do what we want here on this earth.

The 7 Essene Mirrors” explained by Gregg Braden shows how we’re all, essentially, mirrors of one another. Everyone with whom you’re close to is showing you something about yourself. This video is two long hours, with no glitz or glam, but it helped me process possible reasons for why I judged those close to me.

Get Over It!: Thought Therapy for Healing the Hard Stuff is a self-help book that is a little woo-woo. If you believe that perhaps your mother’s mental state and overall health condition during the time you were floating around in amniotic fluid impacted you in some way, then this book is for you. It’s mostly centered on cognitive behavioral therapy concepts, which loosely explained, demonstrates how thought processes can lead you to a better way of dealing with past trauma.

As we enter 2021, I hope we remember that no matter what’s going on around us, we still have a responsibility to name, heal, and process what’s going on inside of us. Each of these resources have helped me to deal with my mental health in some way, which has also shifted how I function in most relationships.

Please feel free to add anything in the comments as I believe you never know what may support someone else.

*Disclaimer: I have not been paid to market any of these resources. Statements are my personal opinion.

Monday Notes: 4 Movies Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey Reminded Me Of 🧐

Have you watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey yet? It’s a wonderfully made Christmas movie. As I mentioned before, I especially like it because its all-Black cast executes a brilliant performance through a familiar trope, a Christmas story. However, with many movies, it’s challenging for me to focus on the innovation because I recognize so many similarities to other movies. Here are a few that I noticed:

The setting is very much like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a story about a 243-year-old owner of a magic store, Mr. Magorium. The store’s liveliness is connected to Mr. Magorium, whose eccentricity means he keeps a zebra on his couch and washes his ties in the dishwasher. Aside from bright oranges, reds, and blues, puppets puppeteer themselves and fish mobiles are comprised of fresh fish one would find in the ocean. Jangles and Things, like Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, is owned by “the greatest inventor in all the land, Jeronicus Jangle.” “Everything was alive,” including “even things that shouldn’t be,” like mini air balloons that seemed to float around the shop independently.

Like many Christmas movies, Jingle Jangle is a frame story, a story within a story, but it is particularly reminiscent of The Polar Express, in that both main characters lose their belief in something. For the young boy in The Polar Express, it is his belief in Santa Claus that is waning. Jeronicus Jangle is an adult and life’s circumstances have led him to lose his belief in magic, specifically his own gift as an inventor. For both of these characters, the only way they can find their way back to life as they once knew it is through belief. Also, worth mentioning is that both movies include a little bit of singing and dancing to move the plot along.

Jeronicus Jangle’s life shifted for the worst when his wife, Joanne died and he insisted his daughter, Jessica move on without him. Jangle and Things grew grey and Jangle turned the store into a pawn shop. Jangle’s sadness and lack of spirit reminded me of A Christmas Carol’s. Ebenezer Scrooge. The death of Scrooge’s sister early in life, combined with his business partner, Jacob Marley’s recent death seemed to have both contributed to his overall negative attitude. Scrooge was so surly that Christmas carolers stopped singing as he passed. Jangle wasn’t so much mean as he was sad; he sat in the dark, ignored blatant advances from a woman mail carrier, and hadn’t communicated with his daughter in years. Either way, death affected both men, and only the magic that Christmas brings could cure it.

WALL-E isn’t a Christmas movie, but the main character, WALL-E, an old forgotten robot that represents our throwaway culture, looks an awful like an invention Jangle’s daughter created and granddaughter, Journey brought to life, Buddy 3000*. They’re both little, square robots, with round, bulging eyes. WALL-E has wheels, speaks only a few words, and plays VHS tapes; Buddy 3000, however, has feet and hands, mimics his surroundings, flies (and allows you to fly) if you believe in yourself.

I could go on and on because I’ve noticed a lot more, but let me know if you recognized any other similarities.

*You’ll have to watch the movie to find out how the granddaughter got in the story.

Monday Notes: 4 Things I Liked About Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

A few weeks ago, three friends reached out to me to ask if I’d watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey yet. I love Christmas movies and didn’t even know it was a thing, so I was super excited to run home and watch it as soon as I could. Here are four things I liked about the movie.

The cast is Black. Representation in media is important. I came of age in the ‘80s. At the time, the only Christmas film I had that included people who looked me was The Wiz with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, and even that was an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. As I grew older, I enjoyed watching Christmas movies…a lot, but there still weren’t many that included an all-Black cast. As of today, there are about eleven, including some fan favs, like The Preacher’s Wife, The Best Man Holiday, and Almost Christmas. So, I’m quite pleased to add another all-Black Christmas movie to the list.

There is a dysfunctional father-daughter theme. Most of you know I’ve edited and contributed to a book called Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships, so I was super happy to see this movie normalizes that theme, while not blaming the father or the daughter for the dysfunction. There was one part, in particular, with which I could relate. The narrator says, “Jessica didn’t just lose one parent, she lost two.” That’s exactly how I felt when my mother died and I think this film did a great job of demonstrating how dysfunction occurs, without centralizing the issue or overexaggerating events.

Jeronicus Jangle is a Black male professor. I’m a professor who has worked fulltime at three different institutions. I have encountered two Black male professors in each department. I’ve also graduated from three different universities in three different cities and have studied under three Black male professors in the English and education field. There aren’t a lot of professors who fit the demographic. I’m not sure what the statistic is for math and science, which is what Jangle’s character was, but I’m willing to bet it’s low. Kind of like having an all-Black cast, this type of representation matters, too.

The songs are inspiring and uplifting. I’m glad no one told me Jingle Jangle was a musical, because I probably wouldn’t have watched it. I absolutely loathe musicals. There’s something about people breaking out into song and dance in the middle of a script that’s uber annoying. But, as I prepared to write this blog post, I re-watched the movie and really listened to the songs. Each one is very motivational. My favorite is sung by Journey (Madalen Mills), Jangle’s granddaughter; it’s called, “Square Root of Possible.” And the chorus is,

It’s so possible
Watch me rise high above my obstacles
Watch me become who I’m supposed to be
Oh, the possibilities
‘Cause the squarе root of impossible
Is possible
In me
In mе

I mean, really. How much more inspiring can you get than this song???

Have you watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey? If so, let me know what you liked about it in the comments. If not, I suggest checking it out on Netflix. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s nice to have a new sunshiny movie to watch.