Monday Notes: I Don’t Want your Child (or Dog)!

I vibe with dogs and kids. That’s the way I’ve always been. If you have a dog and 24 hours, then we’ll probably be besties. The same applies if you have a child under 12. He, she, or they will be my best friend by the time I leave your home. I’ve accepted this about myself; however, those outside of my immediate circle don’t know this information, and thus, problems arise. Sometimes, people think I want their kid and dog, or at least that’s how they act.

When I visited my in-laws, my youngest niece attached herself to me as soon as I arrived. We’d never met, yet she stuck by my side and offered me a snaggle-tooth grin every time I looked her way. She followed me around the house and said she wanted to come home with me. She sat beside me at church and whispered jokes.

“Does anyone want to give their life to Christ?” the pastor asked.

“She does,” she shouted, pointing at me and trying to raise my hand.

“Oh yeaaaah?” the pastor’s eyes brightened.

“No. No,” I assured him, and then to my niece, “you trying to get me in trouble…at church???” I teased, giving her a side-eye.

She returned a gapped-tooth smile.

She insisted on sitting next to me at dinner, her mother on the opposite side of the table. “You like your Aunt Kathy?” she asked, through a tight grin.

When we returned home, she began calling me “Mama,” instead of Aunt Kathy.

“You don’t even know her name,” her father said, clearly bothered by her instant affinity.

I remained quiet as insecurity filled the air. Children don’t have to know your name. All they have to feel is safe and seen. It’s a vibe. I don’t want your child I wanted to holler. She’s clearly starving for attention. Instead, I lay on the couch and pretended to be sleepy, in hopes that she’d leave me alone and perhaps spare her parents the sound of her eight-year-old voice calling me mama.

The next day, she cried and hid under the table because she didn’t want me to leave.


Fast forward years later, and I met a three-year-old cousin, who hadn’t seen me since she was born. At first, she was shy, as many tots are, but eventually, after I began asking her questions, in Spanish and English, and wiping her runny nose, she warmed up, so did her parents’ ten-year-old dog.

Her parents and I went to a store, where I asked, “Do you like toys?”

Her head bobbed up and down.

“Good. Let’s go look at some,” I suggested. “You wanna go look at toys?” I asked with my hand outstretched.

More head bobbing.

“We’re gonna go look at toys,” I announced to her mother, and then she put her tiny hand in mine and we traipsed away toward Barbie and them.

We picked over Pepa the Pig trinkets and a box of Marvel bowling pins. “You like those?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“A skate…”

“Issa skateboard,” her mother said. “You know how to use a skateboard?” she had found us and decided she’d show her child around the toy aisle. As her mother showed her how to kick and push, I slowly slipped away because it started to feel a lot like my niece and her mother years ago. It felt like insecurity, as if she didn’t really want her daughter to be with or like me, even though she was and did.

I thought I was tripping, projecting even, until we returned to the house where the mother’s dog greeted me at the door as if we were old friends. He barked for me to pick him up, and feed him the attention he, too, craved and lacked since his doggy parents had had a baby and become mommy and daddy to a human.

He sat on my lap and we played a game where my fingers came close enough to his mouth for him to snap at them, but not really catch them. He barked and snarled and wagged his tail with happiness. Like the toy aisle, where she skated her way back into her child’s view, the mother made cute clicking noises to distract her pet from my lap and from the fun, but it didn’t work. Instead, he settled down right next to my thigh, licked my hand, and then fell into a deep sleep with a slight snore.

My cousin, the mother’s husband, laughed at the sight, and said, “You gotta new Mama now, huh,” while his wife looked on fuming.

Again, I wanted to yell, I don’t want your child (or your dog). I just don’t mind offering a little attention.

But of course, I didn’t say this. Again, I shied away from the dog and the child and made as little eye contact with both.


I hope you hear the empathy in between these narratives: I’m a mother, and I wouldn’t want one of my daughters calling someone else mother. I’ve owned a dog, and I wouldn’t want my dog sidling up to someone else as if he didn’t have an owner. However, I also understand children and dogs. They both need constant attention, something that is oftentimes impossible in today’s busy world. And if I happen to be around for a couple days, I’m happy to offer it.

At the same time, I understand the careful balance of human beingness that has to be in place. I’ll only indulge if everyone is comfortable in the situation, but sometimes, ego makes that impossible.


Monday Notes: A Reflection on Last Year’s Goals

In 2022, I had three goals:

  1. I would no longer persuade people to see my point of view.
  2. I would no longer chase people for reciprocity.
  3. I would no longer ignore my gut, figuratively or literally.

Here’s how I did:

Not persuading people to see my point of view was hard. A healer friend of mine shared a post on Instagram that said you don’t have to always let people know how you feel before you release them. You can just stop talking, interacting, etc. I told him that I knew I needed to balance this behavior because “I be having all the words.”

“You want them to hurt like you? Or do you have a deep-seated need to be understood?” he asked.

I knew it was the latter. I hate for people to not understand what I’m saying, to not consider what I’m saying to be truth, and to ignore what I’ve shared without thinking about how an experience could have affected me. As a result, I usually end up saying a whole bunch of stuff, when I really should’ve just released them from my life. This year, I only felt as if I had to persuade one person to see my point of view, but a back-and-forth conversation lingered much of the year.

I didn’t do well with this goal, but after our chat, my healer friend sent me a homework assignment and a bible verse so that I could learn to heal what’s at the root of this need. I know I’ll be doing better in 2023.

I did really well with not chasing people for reciprocity, mainly because I’m tired of what my friend, Dr. D. calls one-way, transactional relationships. There were a few situations where I felt as if I was doing much more calling, texting, or planning. But once I slowed down or stopped altogether, people noticed. When those friends said something (I considered) passive, like oh, we haven’t talked in a while, then I brought the reason why to their attention, which was usually because if I don’t reach out, we don’t talk. Friends and family either accepted this and changed their behavior, or they didn’t. Either way, the result was I no longer had to chase anyone for reciprocity. This behavioral change worked.


Literally paying attention to my gut was easy. Two years ago, I accepted the idea that my parasympathetic system had been disrupted long ago when I experienced several subsequent traumatic events in childhood and adolescence. (That’s a mouthful). Anywho, as a result, I learned that I have to not only eat differently, but also keep my stress levels low; otherwise, there’s a physical and mental breakdown. In 2022, I focused quite a bit on these two things. For example, I knew when Dwight and I were out of the country and I didn’t feel right, I had to return to strategies that kept my anxiety at bay. My step-mother coming to visit was also a reminder of how important listening to my gut is, so this was successful.

Figuratively listening to my gut was also easier this year. To be clear, I mean following my intuition. One time, I could sense that my cousin’s wife seemed bothered for some reason. I could feel my belly swirling, and it almost seemed as if our spirits were fighting, even though we hadn’t engaged in an argument. I decided to leave her alone for the remainder of the day. The next day, without my prompting, my cousin revealed this was true. His wife was, indeed, angry because of something I said. In these situations, following my gut doesn’t mean confronting the person. I’ve learned that’s rarely necessary. What it does mean is paying attention to what I feel and then focusing on what I can do on my part to dissolve the situation.


This year, I’m focusing on the following:

  • Prioritize my artistry/writing.
  • Heal the part of me that wasn’t heard as a child.
  • Flow with the elements.

See what I did there? That second one is a re-frame of the first goal from last year. It’s not about not persuading others to see my point of view. It’s about why I feel the need to persuade others to see my point of view. Once I heal this, then the need will cease to exist 😉

How’d you do last year? Did you commit to doing something in order to strengthen your human beingness? Are you doing something this year to be a better person?


Monday Notes: Therapy Every Day

“You want your friends to do therapy,” my goddaughter said. “And that’s too hard.”

            I had just shared the details of a failed friendship, and my goddaughter’s words made sense. You see, I’ve spent the last eight years in self-therapy. I allow my intuition to lead me to a new concept, then I research who the “leading authority” is on that idea, and then I read his or her work. For example, attempting to understand my oldest daughter and her choice of boyfriend(s), led me to the concept of codependence, which led me to Melody Beattie’s work, which led me to read The New Codependency. Consequently, I began to understand myself and how I’d embodied similar traits.

            This is normal for me. I not only read about concepts that reveal a deeper understanding of myself, but I also apply them. When I realized I’d lived much of my young adult and adult life sans boundaries, I read about and learned how to create and enforce them, so I could show up as a healthier version of myself. This is a part of how I live, so I can function in new ways.

            The problem is, as my goddaughter pointed out, everyone is not like this, and sometimes, it impacts how I relate. A lot of times, I’m having a conversation that is normal for me, but difficult for others. In essence, I’m asking others to dig deeper than they care to, than they usually do. I’ve asked friends to think about how they interact with me in relationship, and especially for those my age, it’s quite a challenge. I’ve had friends who’d rather end the relationship than to stop and figure out how to engage in a better way or to consider how I may have felt in situations. This is too hard, a friend recently told me. The this to which she referred was understanding that she never initiates a phone call with me.

            For a while, friends’ responses felt personal. Each situation seemed as if the person didn’t want to see my point of view, or as if they believed that what I was saying was ridiculous—as if I’d asked them to do drugs in the alley. They’d cross their eyes and fumble their words, until we were no longer communicating effectively. Now, I realize their reaction wasn’t personal. People are made up of their childhood and adolescent backgrounds and how they’ve learned to handle situations from those foundational times. Many people project, instead of reflect.

            And, as my goddaughter told me, “Most people don’t want to do what the therapist says, much less read something on their own and follow through with that.”

            “Hmmmph,” I said. “That’s interesting. I do therapy every day.” Therapy is not just for the therapist’s office. Just like yoga isn’t just for the mat, and practicing religions isn’t just for the church, synagogue, or mosque. It’s a daily practice and part of my life. Meaning, I will look at myself several times over in a situation, before I accuse someone else of being the problem. I’m always willing to take ownership, and subsequently, do better, if my doing better is a requirement for maintaining a bond.

            But again, everyone isn’t like this. Everyone isn’t interested in examining their life or taking steps to improve. My goddaughter reinforced something else the day we talked. “It’s okay if they don’t,” she said. “Everyone’s different.”

            You can only change you is an idea I consistently reiterate on this blog, and I stand by it. I will continue to do “therapy every day,” with a primary goal to improve myself. However, I also know from experience that changing me for the better also changes those around me, whether they consciously know it or not.  


Monday Notes: Intentionality

Intention is what you intend or plan to do. Intention is doing something on purpose.

When my daughters were younger, I made sure to not only spend time with them separately, but also together. Although they are the same gender, they have distinct personalities, and one way to honor that I saw them as individuals, was to plan different activities with each of them. For example, my youngest loved plants and animals, so if we visited a new city, I’d take her to a botanical garden. My oldest likes to eat, so we frequented restaurants. The relationship I developed with them (and that we continue to have) was and is intentional.

Being intentional takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. The relationship I currently have with my husband is an example. We wake up each day with the intent to be married and committed to one another. We spend every Sunday together: we choose a breakfast spot; we grocery shop; we have conversation. If one of my husband’s friends wants to do something with him on a Sunday, he declines; I do the same. We are dedicated to cultivating and maintaining a relationship. We are intentional with this commitment.

In addition to my daughters and spouse, I’m intentional with friends. One way I’ve done this is to be as honest as possible. If I see the relationship is faltering, then I say something. I want to ensure that friends know I care about our friendship, and if any way possible, I’d like to continue being friends. In my opinion, a friendship you care about is one where you can raise important issues, such as why there may have been a lag in communication or why you haven’t seen the person. Next, you can intentionally create space for the friendship to shift, grow, or dissipate.

Another way I’m intentional with friends is scheduling time to talk or be with them. Sometimes, my life is busy. Other times, I’ve built in time to be quiet and rest. In between, I am intentional about with whom I talk to and when. Most of my friends are similar; they are busy. And if we want to engage in authentic conversations, we schedule a chat. I have a standing Zoom “appointment” with a friend I’ve known since first grade. My sister, who I consider a friend, oftentimes has to schedule weeks ahead to speak with me. I have a host of friends who have to look at their calendars, so we can choose a date to meet in person and have hours long conversations. We are intentional about interacting and communing.

But everyone doesn’t see the value in intentionality.

A friend recently proclaimed scheduling time to speak as “weird.”  “I schedule an appointment to go to the doctor. I don’t schedule an appointment to speak to friends. I can just call you in the car or whenever.”

This reaction isn’t frequent, but when it is, I assure people who disagree that it’s not weird, and we’re all different. While some see being intentional as something cold and unfeeling, I see it as the opposite. In my opinion, it makes the person that much more special. I’d much rather know someone carved out a piece of time to listen to me, than to be yelling at drivers, their kids, or practicing lines for a show (as one friend used to do), while I share the latest details of my life. The latter seems like fitting someone into existing distractions, while the former seems, well, a bit more intentional.

I know this is a matter of perspective, so let me know what you think in the comments.


Monday Notes: “Where’s Waldo”

I call him “Where’s Waldo” because he wears a red and white striped shirt and blue pants. He’s an older man, who frequently walks around the neighborhood. During the summer months, he walks to the pool, strips down to his swimming trunks, and does several laps. I’ve watched him repeat this pattern several times from our community gym’s window.

Sometimes when it rains, and he cannot swim, he comes inside the gym. This is how we met.

“They should have another treadmill,” he once said, taking slow strides.

“I agree,” I replied, while using the elliptical. “I’ve told them that before.”

“I can only walk. And swim,” he added. “I have an injury, so I can only do those two things.”

“Maybe you can ride a bike?” I offered.

“I can only walk. And swim,” he repeated.

Before he left, he waved good-bye and bid me a good day. I did the same, and as is customary, I felt a little closer to him. I wished I would’ve asked him his name, so I could stop secretly calling him “Where’s Waldo.”


The next time I saw him was a few months later.

I drove to the fitness room, as usual. As usual, I sat my yoga mat next to the treadmill, wiped down the surface, and placed my phone, water bottle, and towel in each appropriate place. Then, I went back to my car to get my free weights.

That’s when I saw “Where’s Waldo.” He was either headed to the pool or headed to the gym.

“Good morning!” I said, happy to see him.

“Morning,” he mumbled.

Turns out, he was headed to the gym, because when I returned with my weights in hand, there he stood…on the treadmill.

“That’s my stuff,” I said, pointing to my belongings: the white towel, hanging on the equipment’s right arm, the water bottle in the cup holder, and my phone, sitting in front of him.

“Well, get it then,” he spat.

“Oh no,” I clarified. “I was about to use the treadmill. That’s why my stuff is here. I just had to get my other things.”

“Well, I’m here now,” he said.

For a moment, I thought he wasn’t for real. However, his wide-legged stance implied that not only was he not playing around, but he also wasn’t moving.

Though there were many thoughts rolling around in my head, they weren’t polite, and I’ve been working on being as kind in speech as possible.

“This is incredibly rude, you know.”

“So,” he replied.

I’m positive I resembled the wide-eyed emoji. I stood behind him…on the treadmill and retrieved my belongings, and I said, almost in his ear, “I hope you have a good day.”

“You, too,” he said, with a laugh.

Then, I practiced what I knew to do, so I wouldn’t let this man’s behavior dictate my morning:

Grounding: For those of us who ruminate, it can be quite easy to keep going over a situation, until it culminates into a bunch of “what-ifs” and “I should’ves.” That’s not helpful. For us, it’s important to ground ourselves in the present moment. So, I called my husband and told him the entire story. I didn’t need validation that I was right, but rather, I needed a way to release the narrative, so it wouldn’t fill my head. Talking to Dwight for five minutes helped.

Exercising: I was red with anger at this man’s behavior and my helplessness in the situation. I almost went home. But then I remembered, exercising helps move energy around and out of the body. I was actually in the perfect place to be angry. I stayed in the fitness room, and worked out in a different order. He left after 20 minutes, and I was able to use the treadmill at the end of my routine.

Ignoring: In the past, I would’ve placed my phone call to Dwight inside the gym, so the guy could hear the conversation. That’s called being passive-aggressive, and I’ve worked extremely hard to not embody this trait anymore. Long ago, I also would’ve stared the man down, which probably wouldn’t have ended well. Instead, I set up my equipment so that my back would be to him. I needed to work out, but I didn’t need to look at him. Our interaction had ended.

Like I’ve said before, we’re living in some weird times. You never know what folks are going through, and it’s important to reman level-headed. People seem to be on edge, which is understandable. But it’s important to remember that we can only control ourselves. I couldn’t make the man get off the treadmill, but I could control how I reacted in the situation, which prevented things from escalating.

Be safe out there. People are unstable, and sometimes peace relies on you.

Monday Notes: Emotion Words

There’s a scene from Four Christmases, where the main character’s nephew unexpectedly learns there’s no Santa Claus. Once he finds out this heartbreaking information, the little boy takes off his clothes, jumps out the window, and runs away.

“When he gets to hurtin’ inside and can’t use his emotion words, he takes to streakin’,” his mother says, as the little boy leaves his underwear behind.  

We’ve all been there, I think, running away from the thing that hurt us, our drawers limp on the windowsill. We’ve all had a moment where we’ve felt an emotion but didn’t know how to express it in a healthy way; however, since this movie released in 2008, I’ve noticed not knowing how to use your emotion words can present differently in each of our lives.

A personal example I have is my grandmother. Her sister is in a nursing home, and because my grandmother is in her nineties, there’s really nothing she can do about it. One time after visiting my great aunt, my grandmother told me about how she broke out into hives. Eventually, she realized it was because she was worried about her sister.

Books like The Body Keeps Score and people like, Louise Hay have written about how the energy of our emotions can be stored in the body, resulting in specific pain or illness. So, when my grandmother retold this story, it seemed obvious to me what had happened. Instead of being able to say something like, “I feel helpless because my only living sister is living with dementia in a nursing home” or even being able to sit and cry about it (remember, my grandmother lives by if you’re sad, you better scratch your butt and get glad), she seemed to have held on to her real emotions, and the result was hives.

A more global rendition of not knowing how to use your emotion words is when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Although this event was unfortunate for multiple reasons, it was a great example of what can happen when you don’t know how to take time to process emotions in a healthy way. Not only can you hurt yourself, but you can also hurt others and jeopardize your career. I don’t think it’s ever okay to put your hands on another person; however, this moment was an opportunity to show us that no matter how happy you may appear on the outside, and no matter how much money you may have, anyone can have unresolved issues that may result in not knowing how to use emotion words.

Finally, I’ve had several moments where I’ve learned to bury emotions so deep that when they resurfaced, I didn’t know how to deal with them, much less communicate how I felt in an effective way. I’ve written about that here and here. But luckily, I’ve taken time to learn how to use my emotion words so that I no longer injure myself or others. Here’s how:

  • Learn to feel emotions when they appear. For example, if something makes you sad, then take time to notice the sadness in your body: where is it?  How does it make you feel? You may even want to announce to yourself, “I am sad.”
  • Consider journaling about why you’re having the emotion. In the Will Smith scenario, I’d bet money he wasn’t really upset about Rock’s joke; something else was going on. We’re no different than a celebrity. Sometimes, what’s angered us is an unaddressed trigger. That’s worth exploring.
  • Find ways to release the emotion. One thing that helps me is exercising. Last year, I was so negatively affected by someone’s actions that the space around my heart physically hurt. The only thing that helped was a thirty-minute run/walk on the treadmill. Once I was done, I felt lighter and less bothered.
  • If another person is involved in your painful emotions, then maybe you need to have a conversation with that person…when you’re no longer angry, of course. Write out what you will say in a loving way, and then give them a call, so you can engage in positive dialogue about the issue.

Welp. That’s all I’ve got today. Feel free to add any advice in the comments. I’m all about helping one another as a community.


If you want to hear about the three levels of emotional fitness, then watch Mastinkipp’s explanation:


Monday Notes: It Was the Worst of Times

The world feels hella weird right now. Do you feel it? Is it just me? I partly blame the pandemic. It seems to be where things explicitly went awry on a global scale.

Politics, aside, living through a pandemic was weird and traumatic, but mostly traumatic. I’ve commented on a few blogs and other social media that I feel as if we all have collective anxiety (and maybe depression). During the height of death and disease, many of us suppressed our fears with booze and sourdough bread recipes. Do you realize that some of us didn’t even stop working? We Zoomed our way through, while people suffered and died with a new virus. Now, many of us are here, pretending we didn’t experience collective trauma: returning to school, working in person, and yes, like my husband and me—traveling.

It’s just weird.

As I write this, Hurricane Ian is headed toward Florida, the state where I live. In general, hurricanes don’t worry me. We’re in a city where we rarely see anything beyond a tropical storm, with high winds and rain. However, this hurricane feels different when juxtaposed against a pandemic backdrop. I mean, first comes the pestilence, then the natural disaster, right? I’m no bible scholar, so I’m not sure. But I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed toward religious prophecy. It’s the implication of the disaster that’s disconcerting, not the disaster itself. No matter the outcome, I’m sitting here writing an essay about how it feels, while Dwight works.

That’s weird, right?

Speaking of Florida, I’ve been meaning to tell ya’ll about how busy our governor has been. Since the summer, he’s disenfranchised teachers, women, and professors. His latest feat was accepting immigrants from Texas and flying them to Martha’s Vineyard. Normally, I would be outraged, but I don’t have the bandwidth. Politicians are stereotyped as those who don’t really care (democrat, republican, or otherwise); however, this seems a bit far. It seems common sense to me that physically using people as political pawns is unethical and shouldn’t be debatable. It’s weird that this isn’t a baseline of agreement, that there are people out here defending or deflecting the governor’s actions.

It’s also weird that I’ll be turning 50 next year. I’m a big birthday celebrator and party person. To that end, Dwight has something brewing…on an island. Pretty cool, right? Well, it would be if death and destruction weren’t constantly looming. The island on which we’d intended to celebrate is underwater: the media keeps showing a bridge floating in the ocean, separating the people and their access to the mainland. It feels selfish to plan a milestone birthday during these times, but you know, if the earth is still intact, I’d love to be sunbathing off the Caribbean. So, we’ve chosen a different place, one that isn’t in hurricane alley. This is weird. I know.

Do you know there’s still a war going on between Russia and Ukraine? Did you know there’s something going on with the United States and Taiwan that could result in a war…with China? Did you also know Nostradamus predicted the “Great War,” which philosophers associate with World War III? It’s supposed to occur in 2023…for seven months.

Weird.

I started to write “3 Ways to Live in Uncertain Times.” This is an inspirational blog, after all. But I couldn’t, mainly because I’ve only found one way. Every day, I wake up, look around, check the socials to make sure QAnon followers didn’t start an American civil war in the middle of the night or that the world didn’t fall apart, in general, then I start my day with goals, as if we’re not living in a pandemic, while facing natural disasters in every corner of the world, as we dodge multiple global wars. It’s probably a form of suppression or willful ignorance. Either way, I make plans, as if there’s a normal future ahead. Then, I repeat.

Weird, I know.


RESOURCES:


Monday Notes: Resisting Social Norms

The other day, I went for my biannual haircut. The difference is I’ve been growing my gray hair out since 2021. It’s blossomed a lot faster than I’d anticipated, adding about four inches of snowy white strands on either side of my head, and a salt-and-pepper effect from my crown to the nape of my neck. 

“I saw your pictures on Instagram,” my stylist said. “And I was like, ‘oh, she must done decided to let it all go.’” 

I laughed and assured her that was exactly what I’d decided. 

“It’s been harder than I thought,” I told her. “One time my husband looked over and asked, ‘are you just gonna have a big gray afro?’ But you know…I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do with it just yet.” Then, I confided, “I almost re-dyed it.” 

“Hmmmph,” she replied.

Usually, my stylist finishes my cut and dramatically swirls me around to face the full-length mirror. This time, though, she turned the chair slowly. “Yeah. It’s all just out there,” she said borderline dismayed. “You gotta do something: cut it, color it, braids.” 

“Do I?” 

“Yeah! You gotta give your husband something to look at, glrl. He don’t wanna see that!” she said, referring to my reflection.


People say a lot of things to me. I imagine it’s because I’m open to authentic conversations that lend themselves to a safe space for others’ internal thoughts. When these bursts of opinions occur, oftentimes I’m quiet. I don’t know what to say because so much is going through my head. That’s what happened the day my stylist told me I needed to give my husband something to look at.

I wanted to tell her that her perspective was based on society’s predisposition to bend toward the male gaze. Women are born into a system where we we’re taught to worry about wearing clothes to attract a man, but not wearing clothes where we appear like so-called sluts; female athletes adhere to dress codes that represent the 19th century, instead of the 21st, and still cater to wearing athletic clothing intended to appeal to men; as children, we’re taught to follow K-12 dress codes that teach girls their bodies are something to be policed because boys don’t know how to control their hormones; and we’re implicitly taught to dye our hair as we age, so that we can be more appealing…to men. 

But I was in a hair salon, not a lecture hall, so I said this, instead: “Luckily, I have high self-esteem.” Then, I paid my bill, shared a final laugh, and left. 

However, the thought that another woman, who is a licensed beautician, would suggest to me that the only way to be beautiful is to create an illusion with a cut, color, or braids weighed on me for a couple days. 

Here’s why.

Her comment implied that I’m less desirable, because I have gray hair. And that’s ridiculous. I have a whole-ass body attached to my hair. Since wearing my hair the way it naturally grows out of my head, I’ve also done the following with my body: straightened my teeth, embraced wearing high-waisted bikinis, and worn clothes that fit my personality. Also worth mentioning, my blood pressure, HDL, LDL, A1c, and weight are low. Lastly, I think I look pretty good.

Do I sometimes want my hair to be the reddish-brown color with which I was born? Sure. Gray hair does shift your appearance, but regardless, I’m me. Shouldn’t I love me—the way I look? Shouldn’t I appreciate how I look today, not long for the beauty of yesteryear? 

I don’t want to be too hard on my current stylist. I have nothing against her personally. She—like many of us—is a product of our society. Resisting social norms is hard work. Social constructs abound. Someone makes “the rules,” and we follow them. That’s why I started dying my hair in my thirties. Whether it was family, friends, or the media, I’d learned that gray hair was for a specific decade of life, even though the average age to begin going gray is in your 30s. So, when I found my first strand, I followed suit. I professionally dyed my hair so much one year, it fell out in clumps. You know who advised me to stop over-processing my hair? No one, not even the stylist I had at the time. Women, especially professional beauticians, condone covering up signs of aging, while simultaneously promoting the loss of ourselves and our own sense of beauty. It’s the norm. 

But I wish it would stop. 

I wish we could be happy just being our natural selves. I wish we would stop worrying about impressing men or other women. I wish we could look in the mirror and love what we see, no matter what. 


Monday Notes: Don’t Pop up on Me (Please)

March 2022, my stepmother, MJ reached out to me saying she’d be in Jacksonville sometime in August. 

“Okay,” I told her. “Just be sure to let me know ahead of time…when you know the date for sure.”

She agreed. 

The next time I heard from MJ was August 15, 2022 at 4:30 PM, when she texted me the following:

Hi Kathy

I am in Jacksonville at my friend’s house. I got here at 10:30

am this morning and I will be here until Friday. I would love to see 

you and the family.

Her daughter is going on vacation so I don’t have a ride. Give

me a call. 


August is the worst time to visit me, no matter what my relationship is with someone. I begin the semester in the third week, and to maintain a low stress level, I start revising syllabi and classes on August 1st. 

Also, I’ve learned to keep a very strict schedule, in general. Hosting or visiting with unexpected guests is not on the agenda. Hence, the reason you have to let me know if you’ll be in town, especially if you “would love to see me and my family.” 

In addition to planning for classes, the week I heard from MJ I also had an editing client scheduled, an unexpected trip to the car dealer, and a prior commitment to attend family game night at Dwight’s job

I couldn’t fathom how someone could plan a trip to a city, purchase a flight for a specific date, and not mention it to me. If nothing else, it seemed inconsiderate and rude. 

But I’ve been working on not freaking out when an unexpected non-emergency occurs, as a way to practice being calm when an actual emergency occurs. So, I meditated and gave her a call. 

“I thought you were going to let me know when you were coming?” I asked.

“Oh. I was, but something came up, so I didn’t.” 

Even though her flippancy set my belly on fire, I told her I’d pick her up on Thursday. I’d bring her by the house. We’d go to family game night. We’d take her to dinner with us.

“Okay,” she said.


Wednesday, MJ texted me, again:

Hi Kathy. What is your plan for tomorrow? What time are you coming

over here? 

I want to go to the beach while I’m here. My friend’s daughter knew this

but she is out of town working for the next two days. She is a traveling

nurse.

So she called a friend of hers to take us to the beach tomorrow. 

So please call me so I can change the time or day to go to the beach,

because I want to see you before I leave. My flight leaves at 5:45 PM on 

Friday.


My I’m not important trigger kicked in. 

“I deserve for people to visit me,” I said to Dwight. “I deserve for someone to plan ahead, with a date. I am not crazy for thinking this,” I continued. “And how does she plan a beach day on the day I agreed to come get her?” Then, I added, “Well, at least she came to Jacksonville, I guess.”

But I caught myself. I stopped myself from tying my worth to what other folks do or don’t do. 

And I didn’t get caught up in the “at least,” part of it, because that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. The phrase “at least” is not a positive way to frame something. It minimizes what you want or need in a situation. Sometimes, it represents the minimum action you think you deserve, which again, can cloud perception when tied to your self-worth. 

Even though I didn’t spiral, my stomach was so twisted in knots that I had to lie down. After resting, I realized I wasn’t responsible for how MJ decided to move in the world; her actions had nothing to do with me…at all. I called her back and told her to just go to the beach with her friend. We could take her to dinner afterwards.

At first, she agreed, but then she called back and said her “heart hurt,” with the idea of going to the beach, instead of seeing us; so she’d cancel her beach date.  

“Good,” I said. 


Thursday was pleasant. 

Friday, Dwight graciously drove MJ to the airport (because she also didn’t have a ride there), while I made my one hour and 45-minute trek to campus. I arrived at work by nine to attend a three-hour convocation, made finishing touches to courses, and returned home around six that evening. 

That night, I slept for nine hours. 

Saturday, my oldest daughter and I had lunch, and when I returned home, I slept for another three hours. Saturday night, I slept another nine hours. 

Stress exhausts me, more so because my parasympathetic nervous system is a little wonky. Whether obvious or not, beneath the surface, our bodies are always reacting to perceived stress. The kicker is that my body thinks a pop-up visit from my stepmother is the same as finding out my daughter was in a car accident, for example. Both feel exactly the same.  

So, as I re-learn, un-learn, and learn ways to function as a person with knowledge of my nervous system, one thing I know for sure is that I will not tolerate people popping up to visit, even if they are only 15 minutes away, like MJ was. 

It will not matter if the person understands or doesn’t understand. It will not matter if they think I should bend to their whims, expectations, and lack of social graces. 

Ultimately, I’m the one who has to deal with the fallout that occurs in my body, and being physically exhausted two days after is not worth it. 

And even though I know my self-worth is not tied to how people interact with me, I also know I am better than to be treated as an afterthought, and I will not be responding to that type of behavior, either, as I move forward.


Monday Notes: How to Release People and Experiences

<Woo-woo alert> 

Everything is energy. Science tells us that much. It’s the reason you lose weight when you exercise and gain weight when you eat too much: it’s an energy exchange. 

You know what else is related to energy? Frequency. Science teaches us that waves carry energy. The amount of energy they carry is related to their frequency and their amplitude. The higher the frequency, the more the energy, and the higher the amplitude, the more energy

Throughout my life, I’ve come to know two things: one, we’re all composed of energy; therefore, it’s possible to be connected energetically, and two, because we are composed of energy, we can also function on different frequencies. Have you ever received a phone call from someone you were thinking about? Ever walked in a room and felt a little off? For me, the concept of energy and frequencies explains these happenings. 

Still with me? Cool. 


I’ve written before about the importance of releasing people, situations, and experiences, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained how I do this. What follows is my own process based on a compilation of suggestions from books and podcasts. Here are three basic ways I release people and experiences: journaling, cutting energetic cords, and purging

JOURNALING

Recently, a person I befriended in the late nineties commented on this blog about something I did that bothered her. I responded and told her to reach out. She never did. Instead, nine months later, she contacted Dwight, asking if we could both meet her for coffee. My husband told her we could meet, but only after she and I had a conversation, to which she replied, “no thanks.” 

I was angry for a few reasons, which I won’t get into here; however, I knew I needed to release this former friend because we no longer vibed in a way I valued. To release this connection, I journaled something like this: Dear XXX, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being there when I needed you. I release our connection and am grateful for any and all lessons that came with it. 

I’ve completed this process with a few others in the past, and miraculously, I’ve not heard from them anymore. Our journey together has ended.

CUTTING ENERGETIC CORDS

I completed a doctoral process from 2004-2010. Those six years were the most stressful of my academic and professional life; the experience shifted my perception of universities and myself. I didn’t realize how much grad school changed me until last year, when I had to face my digestive issues. 

This release required phases. First, I began by journaling about my doctoral chair in detail; I included everything I perceived that she’d done as my alleged mentor. I wrote about each year of grad school—things I’d not shared with anyone. Next, I envisioned my doctoral chair’s face and image. Then, I wrote a letter to her, which is a type of journaling. I always begin with gratitude for the person and experience. Next, I wrote an in-depth description of what I wanted to release. In this case, it was my perception of what I thought was supposed to happen in grad school, judgment about my doctoral chair, and judgment about myself as a doctoral student and candidate. 

The final part of this was actually cutting the energetic cord. Here is where I meditated on what I’d written and physically saw myself severing ties/cutting the cord with my chair and the process. 

Prior to this, I couldn’t discuss being a grad student without spiraling into anger. Since cutting the energetic cord, I’ve felt more at peace about attaining a doctorate and what it has meant for me, overall. 

PURGING

Sometimes, a person has been in your life so long that simply journaling is not sufficient enough to release them. Other times, an event may have had such a huge impact in developing who you are as a person that you need to do more than cut an energetic cord. When this is the case, then purging is an option. 

When I found my biological father and his family in 2018, I’d already accepted the circumstances of my biological mother and subsequent adoption in a healthy way. Acquiring new information from my father landed me back in a rumination of what-ifs and a narrative of poor me. Journaling and cutting energetic ties weren’t enough to move me through. 

So, in December 2021, I gathered up pages of my journal and set them on fire in a barbeque grill at a local park. This is called a fire purging ritual

Immediately, I felt free from the burden of my biological father, his wife, and my younger sister. It was magical. I understood that they entered my life for a reason, and I had the power to release them back to wherever they came from…with love.


A COUPLE MORE THOUGHTS

  • Releasing people is not about cutting people off; it’s about moving on. Prior to releasing, I always attempt to hold a conversation to express concerns, so we can move forward together. When that doesn’t occur, then I have to move on independently. 
  • Always release people and experiences with love and gratitude, because in my opinion, there’s a reason why you engaged with those people or had specific experiences. We all help each other in one way or another.
  • Everyone doesn’t need to complete these processes. Some of us have the ability to go with the flow, move on, or accept an it-is-what-it-is mindset. What I’ve described here is helpful for those of us who don’t function in that way.