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.

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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

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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.

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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

CLEARING II

Yesterday I talked about paying attention to where I spend my energy as a way to gain clarity and make room for more pleasurable thoughts and actions. One day before my birthday, I’m sharing another way I’ve gotten clear.

Knowing Myself. I’ve spent the last three years cultivating the relationship that matters the most…the one I have with myself. I’ve gotten to know myself more and more, and I have to say, I love her.

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©Astrograph

I’ve realized just how much I have to communicate. It’s a part of my being. I could blame it on being a Gemini, ruled by planet Mercury, the messenger. But I won’t do that today. Let’s just say I’ve noticed that if I’m in a situation where I’m silenced, then I have a physical reaction. It begins with a pulsating jumble in my belly that swirls around, and moves up towards my throat.

These times don’t happen often. But when they do, I begin to shake my foot out of nervousness and blink my eyes real fast because I know if the interaction doesn’t end soon, whatever is in my mouth is coming up and out, good or bad. Because I’ve recognized this, I now find healthy ways to use my voice no matter what, like keeping virtual notes or blogging.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I have to exercise. You might be thinking, duh, don’t we all? The answer is I don’t know. For me, if I don’t practice yoga, ride my bike, or go to the gym too many days in a row, then I become irritable. In fact, exercising prior to writing or editing seems to clear my brain and boost my creativity. Consequently, I now prioritize movement; I think it’s also a way to clear stagnant energy.

Along the same lines, lighting incense and meditating at least four times a week has become a necessity. The smell of incense, specifically earthy scents, calms me. Likewise, meditation allows me to clear my mind and provides a pathway for listening to my intuition and heart. Because I know how I feel in a regular, calm state, it’s easier to recognize when my body sends a signal in a misaligned situation.

The last thing I’ve done consistently to clear my mind and get to know myself is to keep a gratitude journal. Four years ago, I realized I had issues with feeling important and loved. So, the first thing I do is write “I am” statements: I am important. I am love. Notice, I didn’t say, I am loved, but rather, I am love, itself… wrapped up in a person. With this statement, I’m not seeking love from outside of myself, but rather acknowledging that I’m love personified and fully capable of bringing love to a situation. After these statements, I find five things for which I’m grateful.

Again, I’m not perfect. There are times when I forget I’m supposed to bring the love and want to cuss someone the eff out. But more days than not, when I participate in the above activities, I become clear about who I am before I vibe out in the world with other people.

Tomorrow I’ll share the third and final area of my life I’ve cleared up.

Until then, tell me…do you know yourself? What do you love about yourself? Do you have daily rituals before you go out and greet the world?

CLEARING I

CLEARING III

Monday Notes: CLEARING

In every culture, people have a clearing process. Whether it’s spring cleaning, which according to handy-dandy Wikipedia began with Iranians, who call it khooneh tekouni, or sage cleansing, which is known as a Native American ritual, the human race seems to have recognized the importance of de-cluttering as a road toward clarity.

And I am no different. Over the past three years, I’ve consciously taken time to decide who I want to be and how I want to function in this world. Two days before my birthday, I’m sharing them with you.

The first thing I did was to pay more attention to where I put my energy as a way to create more pleasurable spaces in my life.

Energy Matters.

 We’re all energy. I don’t think that’s a new idea. However, I also believe that our thoughts and actions are comprised of energy. And for the last few years, I’ve become much more mindful about how and what I spend my energy on.

Sometimes I think of energy like money. You know how some people are frugal with their dollars? Well, that’s how I feel about my energy. Would you allow someone to take $1000 out of your bank account? Me neither. But I also don’t allow others to withdraw from my energy account.

There are a few ways I’ve learned to do this. I try not to expend too much energy on conversations I deem frivolous. A great example is when Hurricane Irma was headed towards Jacksonville. A day or so before, I was scheduled to teach in Gainesville.

“I thought you’d be home,” one of my co-workers said.

“Nope. The hurricane isn’t coming til…”

“Well, I hope you have gas. I hope you don’t run out of gas. I hope the gas stations still have gas on your way home. The gas station on 39th is already out …”

I briefly stared at her, and then gathered my personal belongings and inched towards the door. In my mind, I didn’t have the energy to expend on such a negative conversation about the state of gas. And I didn’t need to prove her wrong by saying, I have gas in my tank and I drive a Honda. It’ll be full for a while. It would be wasted energy.

energyLikewise, I try not to spend a lot of time in places I’d rather not be. A great example is work. I go to work and focus on teaching my students. When that’s done, sometimes I attend meetings and grade papers. I don’t stand around holding lengthy conversations about other people’s business because, in the long run, it doesn’t solve anything. And sometimes, in the end you feel just as crappy as the person you’re discussing.

This is not to say I’m perfect. Occasionally, I catch myself in a rant about some event that pissed me off. But once I realize I’m expending energy, then I make a mental note and change the subject to something that feels better, like my business. The results seem to prove the phrase that which you focus on grows. Writing Endeavors® is going well. This blog is going well. Books are selling. Much of this I attribute to clearing and re-focusing my energy.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the second aspect of my life I’ve cleared up. Until then, tell me…do you pay attention to how and where you spend your energy?

CLEARING II

CLEARING III

Monday Notes: Nail Salon Thoughts 💅🏾

I’m sitting in a nail salon.

Every time I go I feel guilty. Sitting here while Vietnamese women rub my feet and pamper my body seems wrong. Couldn’t I do this myself? I used to. I used to cut my own toe nails and paint them too, with vibrant reds, oranges, and purples. But now? I act as if I don’t know how to reach my toes. They do it better. I’m convinced.

As I sit, I listen.

I want it round, not square. She has to help her because only she knows reflexology. I don’t like this color; can I choose something more nude? This last one comes from a six-foot woman, with a thick accent whose feet were already submerged to her lower calf in the tub of bubbly water. She expected the nail technician to stop working, walk to the front of the salon, and get a new polish for her.

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This image doesn’t belong to me.

Every so often, I ignore my book’s pages. The overweight woman in front of me eats her Taco Bell bowl and slurps her over-sized drink  as someone scrapes the bottom of her heels. The middle-aged woman two seats down mmmhmmms and ahas her way through a conversation. She must be going on vacation because she speaks of taking her suitcases down from wherever they’ve been hibernating, while someone massages the tops of her feet with hot stones, turning them cherry red. Another woman lies flat on the black massage chair. An employee shuffles over to slather thick, yellow wax on her eyebrows, eventually ripping it and her tiny hairs off one strip at a time.

I just messed up a toe, another woman whines as she walks towards the front of the salon, with her black terrier leashed beside her. All of the patrons exchange glances. No one knew a dog was there until that moment. Her nail tech says something in what I assume to be Viet-Muong and briskly moves ahead without her.

I wonder why we do it.

Why do we get caught up in consumerism that somehow turns to a perceived necessary part of life…mine and yours? Today it’s pedicures and eyebrows. Tomorrow it’s something else society will have convinced us we need, something women need. It’ll always be something because we women are always in need of improvement. Right?

Monday Notes: Some People

img_6288Some people will only call; they’ll never visit. Hearing the sound of your voice is enough to fill thousands of miles between.

Some people will only text; they’ll never call. lolz, emoji smiles, and gifs are enough to remind them of the place you hold in their hearts.

Some people will only check social media to determine your well-being; they’ll never text. Reading about your last coffee house visit or your latest societal gripe is good enough to know you still exist.

Some people will allow you to fade into a distant memory, assigning your time together as a seasonal happenstance, relegating your relationship to a blip on life’s journey.

Most will do what they want to maintain a relationship. Who are you? What’s your relationship style?

Monday Notes: 5 Ways to Become a Writer

img_3443Sometimes I jot down a note and it’s very negative. When that happens, I re-focus and make it a positive post, like this one.

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I’ve written since I was in elementary school, fifth grade to be exact. However, I didn’t consider myself a writer until six years ago. Once I accepted this part of my identity, I started observing and listening to writers and “aspiring” writers. I’ve determined if you want to be a writer, then this is what you’ll have to do:

Start Writing Now that my writing is public knowledge, people confide in me. Cousins, the man at the Florida Writers Association conference, and the woman who asked me to ghostwrite her novel each want to write. But when I ask them what they’ve written so far, the answer is nothing. I advise each of them the same. Start writing. Whether it’s a public blog or a private diary, the first step is to begin.

Make Time to Write I often thought my job was getting in the way of writing. That wasn’t the truth. And because no one was going to offer me more time in the day, I had to shift my priorities. Instead of watching the Today Show every morning, I wrote for two hours. Then, I began my regular day. Where could you shift your priorities so that you can make time to write?

Take Time to Edit After you’ve written something, consider that your first draft. All writers have first drafts, and second, and thirds, and…you get the picture. As a former English teacher, rarely have I seen a masterpiece written in one fell swoop. When you take time to write, that means you might find yourself pondering over the use of the word stroll, saunter, or walk because you know each one of those words will change the connotation and flow of your sentence. So take the time to think about the words you’ve written in a meaningful way.

You Think Your Stories Have Already Been Heard Probably. I mean an infinite number of books have been written and read. But not yours and not the way you can write it. Comments about The Unhappy Wife have validated this concept. Recently, Story Teller Alley approved me to sell my book on their site. One of the reasons it was accepted is because of originality. A reviewer said,

Although stories of unhappy marriages have been told before, because these are all true stories and each person is different, the stories are all different.”

I’m glad the innovation shone through. Sometimes people read the title and assume they know what’s inside. But it’s a false assumption. Likewise, if I would’ve thought these were trite narratives, then I might not have written the book. So my advice? Don’t worry about it. Somebody wants to read it the way you’ve written it.

You’re Worried about What Other People Think If you follow my blog, then you know I write about many things that have happened in my life. Stories include family, friends, and people I barely know. I couldn’t write half of what you read here if I stopped to worry about someone’s hurt feelings and reinvention of history. Initially, an Anne Lamott quote helped me forge ahead with authentic writing, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” That quote changed my entire creative nonfiction writing life. The other part that has helped me write the truth is to separate fact from emotion. For example, it’s a fact that my dad packed up my belongings in the middle of the night while I slept. Consequently, I felt abandoned and pushed aside because of what occurred. Stick to the facts and make clear when you’re describing an emotion.

I hope one of these sparks the writer in you. Trust me. Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear your voice, even if the someone is you.