I watched a tree bloom in Rotterdam.
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.
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.
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.
Shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I received several notifications from writing platforms. These publications had an urgent interest in “personal abortion stories.” Suddenly, hearing about women’s lived experiences was integral. I understand why.
Stories are important.
It’s one thing to be marching around in your knit, pink pussy hat; it’s quite another to share why you feel the need to.
Sometimes, marching is easier than telling the person who disagrees with you that, you too, had an abortion at one point in your life. However, I’d argue that the narrative you share is what will actually create empathy, and eventually, a nuanced understanding of an issue.
Personal story is why the #MeToo movement was partly successful. For the first time that I know of, not only women, but also men were discussing definitions of sexual harassment. Is giving someone a compliment okay? Can I ask my coworker out on a date? If someone says, “yes” to sex, and then “no,” what should happen? I believe the only reason we were able to openly have conversation is because your favorite celebrity, your mother, or your friend shared a #MeToo story, and you offered a compassionate ear.
But personal stories are hard to share.
I don’t want to speak for everyone, but it seems we’ve collectively bought into a similar message: life should be lived in shame. Sometimes, we do it to one another. For example, anytime you suggest for someone not to openly share what happened to them, you’re encouraging them to live a secret life of shame. And so we keep things from one another, but to what end?
I guarantee you know at least one woman who has had an abortion, and I’d bet money that at least one person explicitly or implicitly told her to hide her story. Subsequently, women who’ve chosen abortion live with the following: shame for getting pregnant, shame for getting an abortion, shame for not choosing motherhood, or D: All of the above.
Even those of us who lived in homes supportive of our choices still navigated a bickering country that saw women who had abortions as another type of human being, separate from society and meant to be shamed, shunned, and lectured. We were seen as people who committed shameful acts. We were called murderers. In our own ways, each of us wore handcrafted scarlet letters, even if the only one who saw that red “A” was us when we looked in the mirror.
So I get it. Choices can create isolation, and sharing about them can feel as if you’ll be further ostracized from society.
But stories are important. Shared narratives make something less of an anomaly.
So, I was thinking…What if instead of scaring and shaming women, we actually provided them with our own sex stories: stories about contraception, stories about sexually transmitted infections, stories about sex without love, stories about sex with love, stories about pregnancy, stories about birth, stories about miscarriages, and stories about abortion. The stories about abortion would be encompassed in stories about sex, not as fear tactics or moral instruction, but as an option for what could occur, should you need it.
Personal abortion stories should’ve been a part of our sex conversations since 1973. Now, it seems major publications are seeking narratives as a reactive form of storytelling. The conservative, Republican Supreme Court has “gone rogue,” so we need abortion stories—NOW!
Sheesh! Reactivity to issues seems like an immature and exhausting way to be in the world.
Personal abortion stories should have been part of our lives over the past fifty years. Perhaps, if more women discussed the commonality of our experiences, then we’d be less likely to allow a court, men, or anyone else to take away our rights. But as long as we’re tucking our lives away in the crevices of our closets and acting as if we know not of what those other heathens speak of, well…we get where we are now.
Please don’t mistake this for victim shaming. It just seems that at some point, we have to stop living in shame for fear of what others, especially those who look like us and may have had similar experiences may say. Maybe if we would’ve shared “personal abortion stories” sooner, we would have a different national narrative.
Or maybe I’m living in la-la land, we’re all powerless, and Roe v. Wade was always going to be overturned. I’d like to think otherwise, though. I’m a writer, after all, and believing in the power of story is what gives me hope.
My first blog post was “Why I Refuse to Judge Any Mother.” In it, I describe my observations of a friend’s mother, juxtapose her mother with how I felt about my own mother, and then explain how I hope my own daughters will see me as a mother—when they eventually begin to reflect.
Out of all the texts I received, I appreciated my journalist friend’s the most.
“Kathy, this is good,” she said. “You have what they call voice. In grad school, they used to always talk about how you should have voice in writing. You have it.”
Whenever I write, I want the reader to experience exactly what I was thinking or feeling.
But how do I do this?
I may tell you something that goes against what you’ve been told before:
I pretty much write how I talk and think. Even that last sentence is an example. I promise you a grammar program will tell you to remove “pretty much” because it’s unnecessary, but I left it in because that’s how I talk and think. If we were together, and you asked me how do I write? I’d say I pretty much write how I talk and think.
What is also helpful is my brain’s duality. I was raised in a family that valued so-called standard English, so I grew up learning the syntax appropriate for news personalities and job interviews. However, I was also raised on the west side of Chicago, which by all accounts is the hood. I quickly learned how to switch the verb “to be” around or to insert a cuss word so as not to be accused of talking like a White girl. I’m not special. Many Black people know how to codeswitch in this way.
What this means for my writing is I can create a sentence that appeals to White folks and Black people…or should I say Black folks and White people. You see how just interchanging those two words—folks and people—shifts meaning and tone?
I also want my writing to be accessible. I want to have a conversation with you. In order to do that, I have to write how I would talk if we were together having a latte, green tea, or Caipirinha. So, sometimes I stop, and address you directly. Maybe I’ll add a question, like what do ya’ll think to invite you into this conversation we’re having, while also throwing in the Southern dialect I’ve acquired from living in Florida for over two decades.
Most of my in-real-life friends who read my blog say, “Girl, I could hear you saying…” And that’s what I want.
To reiterate, if you’re concerned with developing voice in writing, then you have to determine what “vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax” you want to use and why. Only you know what that is.
And remember, voice, kind of like personality, cannot be imitated because it’s something only you possess. (Full disclosure: I sat here for five minutes flip-flopping between the word possess and own).
Do you worry about voice in writing? Does it matter?
I knew it wasn’t a good idea when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to no longer require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery from COVID-19 prior to boarding.
It didn’t sound like a smart move. How would any of us know if the person next to, in front of, or behind us was truly COVID-free? This decision, coupled with the newly lifted mask mandate for flying, seemed irresponsible on the government’s part.
Still, my husband and I prepared for our June 19th flight back to the States.
They say you attract what you fear, so I tried not to think about how many people did or did not wear masks in each overcrowded airport. I can’t say with accuracy how many times I actually wore my mask while standing in the TSA line. Sometimes, I did. Sometimes, I didn’t, which was irresponsible on my part.
But here we all were, boarding a plane, trusting none of us were infected.
As we ascended higher and clouds floated by, my fears eased. There was no reason to worry. Just as I relaxed, I heard it.
“Atchoo!” then a sniffle. Then another, “Atchoo!”
The guy to our right and two rows back had an uncontrollable sneeze. Because I’m not very discreet, I looked back at him to see what he’d do next. Turns out, he didn’t have a tissue, so he used his sleeve.
That’s when I went into full panic mode, looped my mask around my ears, and kept it there unless I needed to sip water or eat. And it’s a good thing, too. Another guy to the left, one row back had an uncontrollable cough.
These two continued through the eight-hour flight, like a ping-pong match: atchoo, hack-hack-hack, atchoo, hack-hack-hack.
I knew right then I was gonna get COVID.
Anywho, we arrived at JFK late Sunday evening, where unmasked travelers were not only sniffling, coughing, and touching things, but also piled on top of one another as if we weren’t in a pandemic.
By the time we landed in Florida Sunday night, I was so happy to be back that I put the previous twenty-four hours behind me. All that mattered was that we’d made it home.
Wednesday, I woke up with a sore throat and runny nose. Could I have COVID? I thought. I don’t have COVID, I hoped. I just have a cold. So, I went about my day as usual.
Thursday, I woke up and felt as if I’d been hit by a truck. My body was achy, my voice was raspy due to the sore throat, my nose wouldn’t stop running, and my temperature was 100.7. My husband did the COVID test for me. You know—the one the US government sent to everyone in the little orange box? Fifteen minutes later, the test was negative.
Friday, I was healed. Maybe my body was just getting used to US germs I reasoned. I felt fine, so I went about the rest of the weekend with regular activity: grocery shopping, working out, etc.
The following Monday I had the hit-by-a-truck feeling again, and Tuesday, I could barely keep my eyes open. This time, I went to the clinic. Thirty minutes later, the doctor came in and announced that I was, indeed, positive.
“How long have you had symptoms?” he asked.
“Since last Wednesday.”
“That’s odd you’re still testing positive,” he said. “But you’re out of the quarantine period, which is five days now. You’re not contagious anymore. All you have to do is wear a mask if you go out, and don’t take a PCR test for three months; otherwise, you’re gonna test positive again,” he said while handing me two printed pages of COVID-positive protocols.
His advice sounded strange. But who was I to argue with the CDC and the doctor?
My case was mild. Within two weeks, I was fully recovered.
I can’t say with certainty that I contracted COVID on the international flight home; however, it makes sense. COVID-19 is known to appear 2-14 days after exposure. Flying all day on a Sunday and waking up sick on Wednesday, makes the plane the logical place to have been exposed.
However, something else seems logical to me. Restrictions are important. I’ve traveled internationally three times over the past two years and have never contracted COVID while in another country or on a flight, but in the past, there were always rules in place.
While I take full responsibility for not wearing a mask the entire travel day, I maintain the no-mask, no-COVID test for re-entry rules are partially to blame. This experience makes me think the following should happen:
- The six-feet, social distancing rule should be implemented at the airport.
- Masks should be mandated at the airport.
- Masks should be mandated on airplanes, especially because the negative COVID test rule is over.
Because the above will probably never be reinstated, maybe we should all take personal responsibility and at least wear masks in the airport and on our flight. It seems like the least we can do if we’re going to be moving about the world during a pandemic.
Post-script: I have been vaccinated. I have been boosted. You cannot move between countries, unless you have been. However, I now completely understand that part of the purpose of vaccinations and boosters is so that you’re not hospitalized (because most countries don’t have the capacity). It has little to do with protecting you from getting COVID.
Disclaimer: I realize all European countries are not alike. The entire continent is not a monolith. However, I have visited six European countries over my lifetime, and there seem to be a few commonalities.
Europeans like things small. This ranges from coffee to living spaces. Our Zagreb Airbnb was 400 square feet; that’s the size of two dorm rooms or a garage. Maybe I’m set in my big-ass American ways, but even if I was alone, that wouldn’t be enough space. I’m a little over five-feet tall and around 135 pounds; the showers in both rentals were too small for me to wash my hair or shave my legs. I found this interesting, especially in the Netherlands, where the tallest people in the world live! How does the population function in capsule-like spaces?
A Dutch Uber driver found out we were from the States and shouted, “Yay, Trump! Yee-haw!” in a facetious way. In our Rotterdam Airbnb, the owner asked us to use the heat sparingly, because “it’s not that cold outside, because of you know…climate change.” We met a thirty-year-old biracial woman from the UK who wants to visit the US, but is afraid because she “doesn’t want to get shot in the street, minding her own business.” And a Croatian Uber driver began a conversation with me about the “race” and “gun problem” we have. According to him, he wouldn’t even know how to obtain a gun in his country. He would have to “find someone in the underground, like the mafia, and even then, know exactly who to speak to to get a gun.”
FRESH BREAD AND MEAT
If you like bread, then go to the Netherlands. The bread is freshly made, and it is evident. One time, we bought a loaf of bread on a Monday and by Wednesday or so, it was moldy. When we’re home, bread stays “good” foreva…and that’s probably not a good sign. If you like meat, then go to Croatia. That’s all we found in the grocery store: red meat and chicken. I had fish when we went to Hvar, which is off the coast; otherwise, meat is what’s for dinner there. But be careful of fillers. We bought some ground beef, and you could literally see and taste the filler. Well, that’s what we think it was.
Both countries offer salad, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Dutch seem to really enjoy arugula, in particular. I don’t mean a spring mix with arugula, I mean…that’s the salad—arugula. In Croatia, the salads are a mix of shredded varieties, like iceberg, romaine, and arugula. Croatians also have a fresh, light vinegar and oil dressing. However, if you want something other than salad, then you will probably have to buy it at the grocery store or market, and even then, especially in Croatia, it is hard to find other types of green veggies.
HANGING CLOTHES ON THE LINE
I know I’ve spoken ad nauseum about this, but hear me out one more time. Hanging clothes on the line seems to be cultural. When we were in the Netherlands, everyone in the apartment hung their clothes out. They even had special contraptions that allowed the clothes to hang out further and be brought back into the house. When we toured ruins and other places, I noticed surrounding areas where residents hung their clothes on the line. And when we got to Croatia, that again, was the expectation. If any of my European friends want to enlighten me about this, then please feel free in the comments. The only place I saw a dryer was at the laundromat.
WASHING WITHOUT A WASHCLOTH
Years ago, when I visited Spain and England, I learned that washcloths weren’t a thing. But I totally forgot about this on our trip. The owner of the Holland Airbnb had hand towels, but they were really too big to use as washcloths. When we visited Belgium, it was the same; there were hand towels but no washcloths. By the time we flew to Croatia, I was prepared and had purchased some smaller towels (but they weren’t washcloths). I looked this up to find out why some people, not necessarily Europeans, don’t use washcloths, and the answer is because it’s seen as unsanitary to repeatedly use a washcloth due to bacteria buildup. Who knew?
The Dutch and Croatians smoke…a lot. I legit thought I was going to get an illness from second-hand smoke. Whether it was when we were at home, relaxing or out and about, eating, cigarette smoke wafted through the air and into our nostrils. Europeans smoked so much I thought maybe no one had told them that it was bad, until I saw an empty pack on a table that said, “Smoking kills.”
UNITED STATES IS A MICROCOSM OF EUROPE
If you’re familiar with any United States’ history, then this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes you have to see something to fully understand. When I visited parts of London, Manhattan’s setup made sense. New Orleans reminds me of parts of Spain. On this trip, I learned more about where specific cities, ideas, and people originated. For example, do these cities sound familiar: Breuckelen, Haarlem? Yeah. They originated in the Netherlands, so did the stock exchange. Neckties came from Zagreb, Croatia (as well as Nikola Tesla), and lace was invented in Bruges. Finally the Belgian waffle, which we (or I) love so much, is not Belgian due to its shape; it is Belgian because of the ingredients, which by the way, is not pancake flour.
Overall, this trip has broadened my perspective of the world and myself. I think it’s important to see how other people live, and traveling, whether it’s for a short or extended period of time, provides that. I’m grateful we were able to take this trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one.
- work with a therapist
- daily meditation
- find meaning and purpose
- connect with nature and natural light
- correct your nutrition and supplement
- correct your nutrition and supplement for detoxification and anti-inflammation
- heal your gut
- practice “radical acceptance”
- use mantras
- practice gratitude
- keep a journal
- manage your technology and social media use
- balance your hormones
- sleep better
- change your lifestyle habits
I do a combination of these eighteen things a minimum of four times a week. On the weekends, I rest, and call it balance.
You may be wondering the following: if these eighteen habits are already a part of my daily life, then how did Stressed in the Netherlands occur, and why was there some residual when I was De-Stressed in Croatia?
Well, apparently, there’s a difference between avoiding stress and managing stress.
Dr. Linear Passaler (the person with the dysregulated nervous system quiz) said that a lot of the narrative around sensitivity is built on the idea that in order to honor it, we need to reduce stressors.
Exactly, Dr. Passaler, exactly, I thought as I listened to her.
In addition to the eighteen above practices, my husband and I have designed a peaceful home.
Our walls are creamy white. Our gray, wraparound couch is soft to the touch, and easy to fall asleep on. When we open the blinds to our Florida room, otherwise known as an enclosed patio, the sun lights up the entire kitchen, dining, and living room. It is spacious and light. Each of these was an intentional choice to create calm.
Aside from the eighteen habits and a peaceful home, I block stress with a tight schedule. I have two agendas: written and electronic, so I will never be caught off-guard. Lunch with friends, editing clients’ books and dissertations, and posting to social media are logged onto both to maintain a sense of control in my life. There is no room for a surprise-something-or-another. Unless it is a death situation, I do not and probably will not make time for your “emergency.” People who know me accept this.
I’ve spent the last thirty-three years developing and perfecting a system to avoid stress, which works in the States when I adhere to it. But when I’m somewhere else and don’t? Stressed in the Netherlands creeps up.
It’s easy for me to become dysregulated, because I’ve never really learned to be regulated in the moment. However, learning to manage stress is important because stressful events will always occur, and for someone like me, whose set point is stressed, events will always appear more stressful than they may actually be.
REBALANCING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AND MANAGING STRESS
Instead of eliminating stressors, Dr. Passaler says, deliberate stress exposure trains us to expand our capacity. It teaches our nervous system that we have some control over external circumstances. This is one way to learn how to rebalance your nervous system. She also says moderate stressors can help us be more resilient, adaptable, and successful.
I haven’t found more information about deliberate stress exposure; however, I do know one thing I can practice to include moderate stressors—not having an airtight agenda.
One example is before Dwight and I left, he asked me if I could drop him off to get an oil change. This wasn’t on either of my to-do lists, so the answer, without blinking, was no. Moving forward, I plan to take baby steps toward saying yes to some unscheduled requests…not all, but some.
I developed the above list from MindHealth360, a site that describes how complex this issue is and lists ways to rebalance your nervous system, depending on your specific issue (e.g., hormonal or cognitive).
As it turns out, I’ve already been working on rebalancing my nervous system. However, when I’m out of the country again, I have to not only prioritize things like finding fresh fruits and vegetables and exercising, but also making time to meditate and using pranayama breath when unexpected stressors appear.
WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE
That’s the lesson. Wherever I am, there I will be—sensitive nervous system and all. In addition to my hair care supplies and jacket, I must pack my eighteen strategies for avoiding or managing stress, especially if I am planning to live somewhere with unknown stressors for eight weeks. On some trips, like Central America, I may only need five. On others, like Europe, I may need more. Either way, next time I’ll be prepared.
Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.