Monday Notes: Notifications

One of the best decisions I’ve made this year is to turn off my notifications. This has been life changing for me. Warning: What follows is not satire.

I first had the idea to turn off my notifications when I began preparing for the new academic year. You see, every year on August 1st, I spend between six and eight hours creating new videos, revising my syllabi, and updating documents. Usually, I place my phone face down on the desk, set my timer, work for an hour, and then check social media on a break.

But this year, I’d read that even if you place your phone face down, then it’s still a distraction. It’s better if it’s completely out of sight (full article here). I wasn’t willing to leave my phone in another room, even if the other room was in my house, but it did occur to me that I could silence it a bit more.

img_7597That’s when I turned off all of my social media and email notifications.

The brain is a funny thing. When I took my break, I looked at my phone as usual, but not seeing the little red dots made me not want to click on any of the icons. Don’t laugh. I’m being pretty transparent here. I couldn’t believe I had been a slave to those dots and associated numbers all…these…years!

The week that I turned off my notifications brought on a new sense of focus and discipline. Although my new routine only lasted seven days, it did shift the way I use my phone when I’m supposed to be working. I still post primarily in the morning, but during the remainder of the day (if I’m busy), I check social media less frequently. Instead of popping in every hour, I typically wait until the end of the day to read, scroll, and comment on any and everything.

img_7579I was so excited I thought I’d share this with the social media community and my youngest daughter. Her response? Uh, yeah. Your notifications go off like every two seconds so I’m sure that would be helpful.

Teenagers. I’m hoping you all won’t be as dismissive.

Let me know how you function with your devices. For example, Kat, over at Maybe Mindful participates in #SocialMediaFreeSunday, which might be more do-able because it’s only a 24-hour period. How about you? Are you a slave to those red dots like I used to be? Do you take breaks?

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Standing for Something

On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, when everyone else engaged in a social media conversation about Nike, Colin Kaepernick, and the burning of shoes, my husband and I were in Gainesville having a late lunch with our daughter, Kesi and her friend.

Afterwards, we also took her shopping. That’s when a conversation with her friend ensued.

“Do you want to go to Walmart?” friend asked.

Kesi laughed because she already knew the answer.

“I don’t wanna go to Walmart.”

“Well, then you must not wanna save money,” friend replied in a persnickety kind of way.

“It’s bigger than saving money,” I said.

“She won’t go to Chick-fil-A either,” Kesi added.

Friend was completely confused by this point. “What?” “Chick-fil-A has the best chick,” she said. “First, tell me why you won’t go to Walmart.”

I told her it was too long of an explanation because it really is. Twelve years ago, I read a book called The Wal-Mart Effect, watched two documentaries, and held a lengthy conversation with a respected friend, who called the company fascist. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been inside a Walmart since then, and it’s mostly to accompany others.

Still, I began with my reason. Walmart mistreats their employees by not hiring them as full-time workers, so they don’t have to pay insurance. For example, they might ask an employee to work 35 hours, just shy of a 40-hour work week. Dwight added that they use prison labor to make their products. Kesi chimed in and explained that the reason most stores operate the way they do now (e.g., importing cheap China goods) began with Walmart at the helm.

“Well, maybe when I get older I’ll shop somewhere else, but for now…”

I told her I understood. Many people who are older than her still can’t afford to shop somewhere else because they don’t make enough money, they’re retired, or on a fixed income. It’s just something I do because I can.

That answer was sufficient. Now she had to know why I avoided Chick-fil-A.

“You know those people who believe you can pray the gay away?” I asked.

“Mmmhmmm,” friend, who self-identifies as a lesbian answered.

“I stopped going because the owner uses part of the business’s funds to support those type of organizations. And I don’t think that’s right.”

I was driving so I couldn’t look back, but friend, who up til now had an answer for everything was silent for a second. And then, “Whaaaat? Oh, I’m definitely not going there anymore.”

Then, a few seconds later, “But that food is really good, though.”

We all laughed. But that’s it right? It’s hard to boycott something you like. And those of us who want to be moral people are faced with these decisions more and more because companies are sharing their personal values. Sometimes those ethics aren’t aligned with who we think we are. Or in the case of friend and Chick-fil-A, they are completely counter to your lifestyle.

What do you do? Do you fall back into willful ignorance, knowing the truth, while pretending you’re not part of the problem? Or, do you take your salary elsewhere, hoping that company doesn’t support something you’re against?

img_7740In the early 2000s, giving up $.97 items and waffle fries was an easy choice. I haven’t missed either. But what happens when you like the company but they inadvertently become a spokesperson for something you’re against? A couple days after the Kaepernick situation, another shoe story from 2016 re-surfaced. Two years ago, New Balance opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Trump also opposed. Consequently, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists deemed New Balance their official shoe. Yikes! New Balance quickly made a statement that reaffirmed their stance against “bigotry” and “hate,” but I certainly don’t want to be associated with the official Klan shoe! I love my New Balance and it took a while for me to find an affordable, cute workout sneaker with arch support. Furthermore, their shoes are made in the States, a rarity nowadays. For the first time, my decision is cloudy. But I’m leaning towards willful ignorance on this one.

So, tell me. Have you ever boycotted a business? If so, why? If not, why? In the long run, do you think it matters?

Monday Notes: Projecting

When I was twenty-two years old, my Grannie called me fat. We were discussing clothes, maybe my bra size or upcoming wedding dress size or something like that. And that’s when she said it.

“You’re supposed to wait until you’re married and have kids to get fat. You’re not supposed to be fat before you even get married.”

I was 125 pounds and a size six.

I probably met her criticisms and judgments with silence as usual. But let’s be clear. I cared about what she said. She was my Grannie and as far as I knew, she’d experienced more than I had about how women were supposed to look and act.

weight_lossAfter that day I obsessed about my weight. I read up on how to lose pounds.

One popular way in the 90s was to count calories. So, I counted. I ate no more than 1200 calories per day. That meant I usually had a baked potato or salad for lunch.

Five times a week, I popped in a Donna Richardson tape and sweated to old Motown hits in Dwight’s apartment. By the time, our wedding date rolled around, I was an abnormal 100 pounds and wore a size one. Even in my youth, I’d never been so small.

On our honeymoon, I ate all the tacos and drank all the Margaritas. Subconsciously, I was married, and according to Grannie had a license to get fat. I returned to a size considered normal for me.

***

Years later, both of our daughters visited Dwight’s parents, whom they affectionately call nana and papa.

Although I’d already been briefed about the trip’s happenings, I asked the obligatory question anyway, “How was your visit?”

Desi spoke up. “It was okay, but Nana just kept calling Kesi fat.”

It was true. She’d ridiculed Kesi’s nine-year-old frame the entire two weeks and actually used the word, fat. Though she never said a word about the incident, weeks after Kesi returned home, she ate less. I could tell she was affected.

Consequently, I sprung into “save my daughter” mode and insisted on having a conversation with Nana. But as I reflect, I’m not entirely sure if I was protecting my daughter, or if I was just triggered. Was my twenty-two year-old self projecting my own past hurts onto the situation? Was I speaking to Kesi’s Nana or saying what I wished I could have to my own grandmother a decade prior?

My point for sharing this is twofold. First of all, I think we ought to do better about how we speak to and about our daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and goddaughters. Whether they admit it or not, they look up to us as ways to be in the world. Because of that situation, I rarely comment on others’ weight gain, especially not my own daughters’.

Secondly, the more I try to be conscious about how I interact in the world, the harder I believe it is. While I do subscribe to everyone being him or herself, it also seems to be worthwhile to try as much as possible to first be aware of our insecurities and pasts, and then try as much as possible not to project those onto someone else.

I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Monday Notes: Rambling/Stream of Consciousness

Stream of Consciousness is the name applied specifically to a mode of narration that undertakes to reproduce, without a narrator’s intervention, the full spectrum and continuous flow of a character’s mental process” (Abrams 299).

I’m leery to call what follows as stream of consciousness. But this is what my internal dialogue looks like. It’s innate for me to add periods and press the return key, even if it is in my Notes section. Does that mean it’s not stream of consciousness? Here it is. You be the judge.

***

I write about the little things because it’s the little things that keep us up at night. We wonder why we didn’t get the party invite, some of us even at 40+ still wonder. We worry about how our voices sound and how we look in video. You know who you are.

I write about the little things because they turn into big things. Little indiscretions turn into major experiences that we wonder how tf we got into. Small slides of behavior turn into whole acts of disrespect.

I write about the little hints because that’s what’s relatable. I save the big things for books: abuse, drugs, flaws of Christianity. Yes. The little things are daily. It’s where annoying coworker meets zen philosophy. It’s where wrong job choice meets law of attraction. I want to have discussions in the middle of those spaces. I want to know why you haven’t talked to your dad in 12 years and I’ll tell you what happened with mine. Hmmm…is that little or big? I guess it depends on the size of the hole in our heart.

***

img_7481After re-writing this as-is, I’ve decided it is stream of consciousness for me. You see if I were writing a final, public version, I wouldn’t use wonder twice. I would revise hints to things and probably not use things so much. I would capitalize Zen and Law of Attraction. I would have used the phrase “Christianity’s flaws,” not “flaw of Christianity” because one rolls off the tongue and the other doesn’t.

I would’ve titled this “The Little Things” or “Why I Write.” And I would’ve given more examples. For instance, I write about why people have a fifth drink when they should’ve stopped at two; three more drinks can turn a small decision into a fiasco or a lifetime regret. I would keep the rhetorical question in the end and add this: what I’ve learned is they’re all little things. What we choose to hold on to and how we decide to respond makes them seem larger than life.

Also, if I were being all formulaic and precise,  I would end with an MLA citation for that beginning quote 😉

Looking forward to hearing what you think about stream of consciousness or the topic.

Monday Notes: 4 Ways to Function in Extreme Heat

chicago_skylineDwight and I went back home for about ten days. When I say “home,” I mean Detroit for him and Chicago for me, where we were both born and raised, respectively. While there, Midwesterners experienced extremely hot conditions. For them, this meant mid-90s, with 50% humidity. For Dwight and I, who’ve lived in Florida for over twenty years, it meant…summertime.

All jokes aside, we really were not uncomfortable and as I began to observe everyone else, I could understand why they were. There are certain things you probably should do when it’s unbearably hot.

#1: Wear shorts and stuff. I’d packed several pairs of shorts and tank tops because that’s how I dress during summer months. In fact, my father-in-law off-handedly commented about the size of my shorts. “That won’t take long to iron,” he said. And I thought, yeah…cause I’m dressing for the weather. However, others weren’t. You wouldn’t believe how many people I saw walking around with black jeans and dark long-sleeved shirts complaining about how hot they were! I was taught long ago not to wear dark clothing during the summer because it absorbs heat. But I’m not so sure everyone learned this rule. Trust me. It might make the weather more tolerable.

#2: Exercise indoors. When we arrived to my aunt’s house, I was happy to see her in some above-the knee clothing, but when I complained to her about the guy I saw during his midday jog, she had this to say, “We’ve been waiting all winter for warmer weather. We want to be outside!” I get it. But jogging outside around noon, under the blaring sun is not what’s best. Use your gym membership. Get your run in when it’s sundown, or better yet, when it’s sun rise. The weather’s cooler and you might not suffer heatstroke.

#3: Turn on the air conditioner before it gets hot. The primary reason we were in Detroit was for Dwight’s cousin’s wedding. Her nuptials took place in a humungous church. You know the kind of brick building that takes up an entire city block? Well, the wedding was beautiful, but our sweaty faces and underarm pits were not. It was hot as hell in there! Can I say that about a church? They hadn’t turned on the air conditioner until the morning of the wedding, and given the size of the church, I’d say it probably wasn’t cool until Sunday school. The same thing happened at the reception. In fact, her cake began to melt and lean to one side, all because the air wasn’t turned on in an appropriate timeframe.

#4: Drink lots of water. One year, my best friend visited and asked me, “What’s up with the bottle?” She was asking about something that I’ve done for several years now, carry bottles of water everywhere. No matter what, you’ll always see me with a bottle of water either in my car, on my nightstand, or in my hand. I drink water all day long because it’s always hot where we live. And at the risk of sounding like a PSA, “drinking water helps replenish the fluids lost by excessive sweating. If you don’t get enough water, you may become dehydrated, and the combination of hot temperatures and dehydration can lead to serious heat-related illnesses” (Very Well Fit).

And in the immortal words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I know I’ve partially made light of extreme weather conditions, but seriously, if you’re in a part of the world that doesn’t normally see high temps, take heed to some of these rules. They just might save your health.

Monday Notes: Agreement #2

A few weeks ago, a “friend” of mine read one of my FB posts, followed the comments, and then sent me this message via inbox:

You be so fake in your comments.

Or something like that. I can’t give a direct quote because after we conversed, I deleted the message. His unsolicited opinion bothered me that night. It stuck with me because of how I’d replied. Initially, I defended myself. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t being “fake.” It continued to irk me because I’ve worked so hard to be my authentic self no matter where I am, social media, in person, wherever. I’ve made conscious decisions to shine my personal light. Then, it bothered me because it bothered me. Have you ever felt like that?

It lingered in my thoughts for about 48 hours. By that time, I knew I had to remove him and his words from my consciousness. They were both taking up too much space in my mind. That Sunday night, I flipped through don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, until I found the one that fit: Don’t take anything personally.

If I see you on the street and say, “You are so stupid” without knowing you, it’s not about you, it’s about me. If you take it personally, then perhaps you believe you’re stupid.”

img_3174After reading a few more pages, I meditated, sipped my lavender tea, and let go of the incident.

About a week later, one of the ladies from the book club I’m hoping to join reached out to me and said, “I like your spirit.” This comment elicited the opposite emotion. I was elated. Who doesn’t want to hear nice things said about her personality? And like I’d mentioned above, I’ve worked on portraying my true self. So, I was overjoyed that someone I’d just met noticed a positive trait.

But I had to remember agreement #2. It still applied. You see, Ruiz continues to explain that even if someone says something that you agree with, then there’s still no reason to take it personally. A person’s opinion, whether positive or negative, is based on how that person feels in that moment. Tomorrow, the same person might have something horrible to say.

don_miguel_ruiz.jpg

The first time I read this it didn’t quite click. After receiving two different opinions within a week of one another, it now makes perfect sense. Not only is taking other people’s opinions personally exhausting, it can also be an indication that you’re not secure with who you are. If I know that I’m an authentic person, with a great spirit, then others’ opinions should be neither denigrating, nor uplifting. They should just…be.

Let me know what you think. How do you deal with other people’s opinions of who you are? Do people offer opinions of your personality?

*Edited for Forgiving Fridays. Participate here: https://forgivingconnects.com/2017/05/05/todays-forgiving-fridays-i-have-a-question-3/comment-page-1/#comment-3373

Monday Notes: Update #2

Around the first week in May, I was contemplating applying for a job. The job was semi-perfect. It’s here in Jacksonville. It’s at a university. However, it is a bit of a stretch for my field. The job is for reading education, and really I’m literacy and English Ed, but I was going to try for it anyway. Maybe. I kept going back and forth about it, mainly because I’ve learned the hard way (repeatedly) not to make myself fit into a job that’s not for me.

WomenSingBookShot9bWhile I was stewing about the application, I got a call. It was from the editor’s assistant of a book where I have a chapter, All the Women in My Family Sing (which I’ve mentioned here before). She wanted to know if I would be willing to participate in a radio interview in Tampa. I could’ve sworn she said radio interview. But when she sent the information, it was for a television interview!

No matter what, my answer was yes because like I said, I rarely refuse opportunities. In that moment, I decided not to apply for the job. I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t be wasting my time fitting myself into another imperfect for me position. I should be preparing for something I’ve never done before, a prerecorded morning show interview!

NBC_interviewI drove nearly four hours on adrenaline and anxiety. Morning shows don’t give you questions ahead of time because they want you to naturally converse. So, from the night before, up until the host, Cyndi counted down, I was quite concerned about what we would discuss. Because it’s an anthology, it could’ve been about the book in general, my specific story, or how the other stories related to motherhood, because umm, it was a Mother’s Day episode.

Luckily, my goddaughter was there with me. We talked about other things, like the people in the green room and the process itself and that calmed my nerves.

During the interview, I learned a lot. I didn’t know that when they pan across the studio to other things going on, those things are actually going on while you’re talking! Like, there’s actually someone making waffles and another person creating little knick knacks and there’s even an audience! Sheesh! My nosey-ness kicked in high gear. But luckily there are editors and producers who cut away when I started staring at the waffles.

If you have four minutes to watch, then here it is: Daytime Interview.

 

Monday Notes: Update #1

headphones2May was a whirlwind for me, just…like…I…like…it!

So slowly, I’ll be updating you on what amazing things occurred during that month.

The first thing that happened is I was minding my own blogging business, and Nadine Tomlinson emailed to see if I was interested in being interviewed for her Storyteller Series! I rarely say no to new opportunities, so the next thing I know, we were talking like old friends on a Friday evening.

It’s more like a podcast-style situation. If you have about 45 minutes and enjoy that medium, then please be sure to follow this link and listen to my thoughts on relationships, The Unhappy Wife book, and creative nonfiction, in general.

 

Monday Notes: What is Love?

From the time I turned eighteen until I was forty-one years old, my father visited me twice. He rarely called. However, he used to always say, I love you. And when we were at his funeral, more than one family member made sure to reiterate the sentiment by pulling me to the side and whispering, you know your dad loved you. Two decades of inaction proved otherwise. If someone loves you, then, in my mind, they do things to show it. Although the dictionary shows that love can be a noun, more than likely when you love someone it’s the verb part, a series of actions over time, that lead you to a firm conclusion.

An ironic set of events have made me pause to think about love as a concept again.

My father’s wife, MJ was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She’d undergone a double mastectomy in April, but complications arose. Consequently, we spoke on the phone more as she recounted her life’s circumstances. Whether money or transportation, her daughter and granddaughter, who live in the same city, were not capable of helping her this time. I tried to support from the comfort of my home by providing Uber rides and American Cancer Society phone calls. Soon, I could tell this wasn’t enough. She needed someone present during an additional surgery.

After mulling for three days, I decided that my youngest daughter, Desi and I would go help. I didn’t want to, but I thought about how I would feel if I was undergoing major surgery with no one to support me financially, emotionally, or physically.

Desi and I drove five and half hours to Atlanta. The following morning, I sat and asked her home healthcare nurse pertinent questions that she was too distraught to consider. Later, we went to breakfast, and then I bought her groceries out of my and Dwight’s household money. Afterwards, I made her six meals and packed them in the refrigerator, so she wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. The following day, Desi and I drove her to the hospital and stayed for twelve hours of pre-op, operation, and post-op. Again, I spoke with the nurses when she was too incoherent to do so. We remained by her side until her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren arrived, around six o’clock in the evening.

LOVE_juneI was able to do these things because I saw each act as service to an individual who needed support. I saw her like anyone else who might need help in the situation.

But she perceived my actions differently.

“I appreciate all you did for me,” MJ said right before we left. “You know I didn’t even know if you liked me.”

“Awww MJ,” I replied, partly in disbelief that she’d continued to repeat a twenty-year narrative.

“Now, I know you must love me to drive all this way and do the things you did,” she said with certainty.

How could I tell her that I didn’t? How could I explain that I provided a service to her out of empathy for her circumstances? How could I tell her that I can perform a loving act without loving her? In fact, how could I tell her that I neither liked, disliked, nor loved her? She’s always simply been my father’s wife.

Well, I didn’t tell her any of that. I remained silent, wished her well, and left.

But here is what I’ve concluded (as of today). We tend to use the word love when really we mean something else. For example, had MJ said, “I didn’t know you cared about me, but now I know you do,” I probably would’ve reassured her, because I do care. Love, on the other hand, is a little weighty and requires more than two-days worth of kind acts to develop.

What do you think? What is love to you? Do you use love when you mean something else?

CLEARING III

The past two days I’ve written about two ways I’ve gained clarity. One is by protecting my energy and another is by getting to know myself and what my body and soul needs. On today, my actual birthday, I’m sharing my final clearing: relationships.

For decades, I struggled with being in healthy relationships with people. Only a therapist can tell you if these issues were linked to being adopted or being abandoned. What I can tell you for sure is that today, I don’t have those challenges.

Here’s how I gained clarity.

Friendship Matters. You know that Jim Rohn quote, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Well, prior to 2014, I was the average of a bunch of very unhappy people. Whether it was their marriage, job, or general dissatisfaction, I’d spent a lot of time in close friendship and kinship with folks who were saddened or angry. While some saw me as grounded, deep inside I knew I was not. Since then, I’ve noticed there was a reason we were great friends. We were actually all in the same boat, just rowing with a different oar.

New Image

Once I began to work on myself by looking in the mirror and choosing to repair childhood issues, some of those relationships began to slough off. I can’t be certain, but sometimes I think your internal growth can make others uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do with it, or you. But you know what else? The relationships that weren’t built on those negative qualities have risen to the top and flourished. I’ve never felt more secure with the people I’ve surrounded myself with in all my adult life. Talking to and meeting with these folks feels like a peaceful ebb and flow, instead of a rant session.

Family Matters. I belong to several sets of families: my mother’s side, my father’s side, my step-family, my husband’s family, and all his subsets. For a very long time, I thought we were obligated to attend functions and visit no matter how we felt or what was going on in our lives. Dwight tried to convince me otherwise, but I didn’t listen. Instead, we had to visit my cousin in North Carolina. We had to take the girls to his aunt’s house in Tampa. We had to drive to Chicago every other year for Christmas. I thought these road trips were required.

But over the decades, I’ve learned family doesn’t always follow the same rules they set for you. I’ve learned they’ll keep driving towards Disney World without stopping to say hello. I’ve also learned that’s okay. Realizing I can only control myself, I’ve created my own rules for familial interaction. If money, time, and energy allow me to show up for events, then I do. If not, then that’s fine. In this way, I’ve released myself (and my family) from the obligation, sans guilt.

wilcoxMarriage Matters. The last relationship, secondary to loving myself, is the one I have with my husband. Once I got super clear about who I was and how I wanted to show up in the world, I also applied this to being married, and subsequently, gained clarity about the type of wife I wanted to be.

For 21 years, people have called Dwight and I “the perfect couple,” or better yet proclaimed, “I want what you all have.” These phrases used to piss me off, primarily because we were far from perfection, and also because of something Dwight frequently says, they don’t know what we have, so how can they want it?

Exactly.

What we had was a struggle some years. But when I decided I wanted my insides to match whatever people thought they saw on the outside, our relationship improved. I won’t take all the credit. I mean it takes two people to relate to one another. Dwight shifted how he interacts as well; however, it still required a bit of self-reflection and determining what’s best for us as individuals, and then deciding how we wanted to be together as a union.

So that’s it good people.

This is how I’ve gained clarity towards a path of a more whole me. Through clearing my energy, getting to know myself, and pruning a few relationships, I can say with confidence that I’m a happier, healthier version of myself.

Have you ever journeyed inward? What was the process? What was the result?

CLEARING I

CLEARING II