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.

October Blogger Spotlight

I’ve been spotlighted! Jen over at Bossy Babe interviewed me for her blog, and I think she put together a really nice feature. Head over there to read and comment, if you’re so inclined 😉

BosssyBabe

Welcome to my series in which I spotlight one of my followers. I’ve always had a deep fascination with people: how they became who they are, the struggles they won, and the hard lessons they learned over time. All of these scars and stories make up a person’s life. While I think it’s important to reflect on your own journey, it is also equally important to hear other voices and see diverse perspectives. In this series, the spotlighted blogger will be able to tell their story through curated questions I’ve asked of them.

October’s blogger feature is someone I greatly admire for her insight and candor. I love how she unabashedly expresses herself through her unique perspective. She is a prolific writer whose work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now (Black Women Share their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope), The…

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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: 4 Weeks in the Netherlands

On Friday, May the 13th, Dwight and I ventured off to breakfast. I checked my workout pants pocket: phone, ID, no debit card. 

“I left my card at home,” I said.

But when I returned home, my debit card wasn’t inside the deep pocket of my travel backpack where I’ve kept it since we’d left the States. I’d lost it. 

I checked my bank account: 

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)

Someone found my card and had repeatedly used it at a corner store (where I probably dropped it). It had only been an hour. 


This incident describes part of how I’d felt while vacationing in the Netherlands for four weeks. 

It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation. 

The stress began week one when I found out there was no clothes dryer. I would have to hang clothes on a five-foot clothes rack. This may not sound stressful to you, but for someone like me, who successfully washes, dries, folds, and puts clothes away every Sunday, this immediately interrupted my carefully organized routine that I maintain to avoid stress. By week two, I realized it would take three days to use a small European washer and several clothes hangers to achieve what I usually did in one day. 

Stress compounded week two when we didn’t grocery shop for the week. No groceries meant no food, and no food meant buying food at restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or multiple runs to the grocery store. Consequently, because Dwight worked from one to ten at night, if I wanted groceries, I’d have to do it alone. Shopping by myself wasn’t an issue; fitting this into my existing schedule was.

These new stressors occurred in between finishing Spring semester, starting Summer semester, agreeing to be on a work committee, and taking on an editing client—all manageable tasks when I’m completing household tasks under normal structured circumstances.

But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.

I needed to rely on strategies so the stress wouldn’t build up in my body and turn into uncontrollable anxiety. I immediately scheduled a virtual yoga class with a studio in Jacksonville. Unlike being in Costa Rica, where the serenity of the mountains calmed me, in Rotterdam, I needed an organized practice once a week. 

Because I’d been working hard on balancing my microbiome in relation to my digestion system, I noticed when I was eating too much sugar or too little fiber. Unlike in Panamá, I didn’t have to wait until my belly was bloated to know when I’d gone too far. Instead, I began no-weight workouts with an exercise app; I had to meditate to stay calm; I had to journal. I had to work hard to be balanced in this new environment.

Without these practices already in place, it would have been easy to spiral when I lost my debit card, and I almost did. I was angry at myself for being careless in another country. But you know what? I first settled something in my mind, and then, out loud:

“I am not about to let this f**k up my day!” I said to Dwight but more so to myself. “I’m going to get my nails done.” 

Did I choke back tears when the bank representative asked me where I was located and then the country and then my zip code—twice? Yep. Did I wallow? Nope. 

Instead of spiraling into an abyss of anger after playing twenty-one questions with customer service, I thought rationally. I am not without. I have another bank account to transfer and use money. I am not lacking because of a mistake, and I’m not some sort of dolt because I made an error. 


The reality is in between dealing with the stress of unexpected events, I’ve done the following:

  • eaten authentic Belgian waffles in Brussels, the way Belgians intended, 
  • tried premier chocolate from a chocolatier in Brussels,
  • visited Gieethorn, a wealthy town built around a canal, 
  • watched sex workers solicit clients in Amsterdam, 
  • drank shots at the nine degree below Ice Bar
  • viewed Jesus’s (alleged) blood captured in a capsule, 
  • toured the city where In Bruges was filmed, 
  • eaten at a myriad of outdoor cafes, 
  • photographed tulips on the last day of tulip season, and
  • walked an average of six miles per day. 

It’s super easy to get caught up in one or two bad events, right? But we can’t let a few negative encounters dictate our entire experience. Overall, I’ve enjoyed living in the Netherlands. Sure, there were unexpected cultural shifts for living our lives; however, there were more “good” days than “bad” days. Was washing clothes half the week a pain? YEP! Was eating an authentic Belgian waffle worth it? ABSOLUTELY!

I’ll check back in once we leave our next destination: Croatia. Until then, I hope you enjoy these photos.



Monday Notes: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME

Hey Ya’ll! At first, I wasn’t gonna post today, because it’s my birthday. But then, I was like … it’s #MondayNotes aaand my birthday! I have to share something! Plus, I love social media birthdays. They’re the most positive thing about any social media platform.

But enough about me.

Last year, a group of high school friends and I began giving each other money for our birthdays. Last year, I also met a lady named Crystal Parks, the founder of the Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida. Even though there were diaper banks in other Florida cities, there wasn’t one in Jacksonville, so Crystal created one to alleviate diaper need in the Northeast Florida community. Isn’t that cool? Consequently, I thought it would be nice for my high school friends to give money to the Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida for my birthday, instead of me. Now, I’m opening it up to you.

Please feel no pressure. I will be just as satisfied if you simply wish me a happy birthday. However, if you are so inclined to give, then please do so here: Diaper Bank for Northeast Florida.