Perfectionism also used to dictate how I showed up in personal and work relationships. There was a time when I did things because I wanted to be perceived as the best fill-in-the-blank person. For example, I wanted to be the best co-worker, so I overextended myself, attended meetings that had little value, and was always the first to complete a task. I wanted whatever director or department chair over me to see me as “the best.” Oftentimes, I functioned similarly with family. I wanted to be seen as the person whom everyone could count on, the person who my cousins could call no matter what. So, I visited for holidays even though it wasn’t ideal; I showed up with my family in tow, no matter how it impacted my household. This was due in part to the perfectionist identity I’d unconsciously developed.
But functioning like that bred resentment. There were many times when I would be the “best co-worker” and when it went unnoticed, I took it personally and grew bitter, wondering why no one acknowledged my extra efforts. Or better yet, I’d be mad because someone who’d done less received accolades for minimal activity. When we drove our family out of state year after year, I grew angry. Few family members ever planned holiday visits to my home.
Around 2015, I stopped worrying about being the best co-worker, best family member, best friend, or best anything and started just being the best version of me for me. In action, this simply means that instead I focus on being present and doing the best I can in that moment. I avoid doing things that don’t physically or emotionally feel good or that cause my family or me distress. And the last thing I think about is how the other people to whom the answer is sometimes, “no” may feel.
Functioning this way takes practice and sometimes I lapse. For those times, I pause and become more conscious. For example, the chair of a committee I’m on sent an invite on a Sunday evening for a meeting that began at 5:00 PM on Monday. Not only was the meeting scheduled at the last minute, but it was also 20 minutes farther from where we typically meet, which would add on to my already hour and 45-minute commute. My first thought was to rearrange everything so that I could make the meeting. But then I stopped and asked myself why? Why am I doing this for someone who scheduled a meeting at the last minute? The only reason I would is to appear like the “best co-worker.” It had nothing to do with the value of the agenda. Instead of acquiescing, I simply told her I couldn’t make it. And you know what? The world did not end. I’m not fired. I’m still on the committee, and I saw them the following month.
I hope this isn’t confused with the idea of “doing your best.” No matter what I do, I give 100%. I’m fully present and invested. I’m just no longer concerned with being perceived as the best.
Remembering anything is possible has been one of my goals since 2017. It’s the first sentence on my list of goals that sits on the right side of my bathroom mirror. I remind myself of this because it keeps me not grounded. It reminds me of life’s possibilities.
Recently this statement was reinforced. One of my colleagues contacted me and asked if I would be the keynote speaker for a session at our national literacy conference. Their original speaker was Laurie Halse Anderson. Laurie…flipping Halse Anderson! If you don’t know who she is, then click here. She had a scheduling conflict and had to bow out. Because my colleague knew that three other women and I have an edited anthology coming out October 2020, he thought showcasing our work would be a good fit.
I had zero hesitation. I knew I could deliver the keynote because my co-editors and I have a strong message about marginalization in sports media and a desire to highlight how we talk about or don’t talk about issues of diversity and representation. Think Megan Rapinoe, Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and the most obvious, Colin Kaepernick. But I digress.
My point is never in a million years would I have thought I’d be replacing Anderson or giving a speech about this topic in November 2019. But anything is possible. All you have to do is be open to the anything and maintain alignment with what you value.
If you have 14 minutes to spare, here’s what I had to say:
August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.
WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.
“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.
I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.
We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.
“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.
I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.
We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.
Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:
Tarra by herself.
Tarra and me.
Tarra and John.
John and me.
Tarra, John, and me.
I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.
A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.
“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”
Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.
As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.
We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.
I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.
“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”
“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”
A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”
She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.
By now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.
“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”
“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.
Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.
We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.
My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.
I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.
It’s Monday. It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I’m sitting in my bed in my PJs after taking a two-hour afternoon nap. I am refreshed.
This might not seem like a big deal to some of you but for me, this time and space is divine.
You see, I’ve been doing something I typically don’t do: running nonstop, without thinking.
December 7th-9th, I went on a scheduled girls trip with high-school friends.
December 15th, I hosted an all women’s brunch at my home.
December 21st-23rd, I met my paternal, biological sister for the first time.
December 24th, I took our four-year-old goddaughter to breakfast and the movies.
December 29th, I attended a party with a former friend that went left.
January 4th, I spoke at our institution’s general meeting.
January 7th, the semester began and I started a professional relationship with an elementary school.
January 9th, I flew to Chicago to pay respects at my namesake’s funeral, the person I’d written previously about.
January 10th, I visited my maternal, biological sister, who I’d not seen in at least ten years.
January 11th, I met my biological father (and his wife, and her daughter, and my youngest sister) for the first time.
January 14th, my youngest daughter revealed something personal that sent me into a tailspin of Mommy guilt.
January 18th-19th, my friends’ six-year-old son spent the night with us.
I’m tired. Emotionally.
If you follow me on any social media platform, it may look as if this is the norm for me. In some ways the activity is. However, it is not normal for me to engage in back-to-back emotional events, sans reflection. I usually have time to sit and think about the people with whom I’ve engaged and interpret what that says about them, about us, about relationships, and about society at-large.
Eventually, I will write about one or all of these events. But for right now, I’m sitting in time and space without expectations from myself or anyone else. Consequently, I’ve reached a point of understanding.
I understand how easy it is to simply roll on to the next experience or situation and to not think about who you were in the last moment. I recognize how an occupied life sets the stage for missed opportunities of growth. How can you grow (emotionally, spiritually) if you don’t stop to reflect on specific circumstances, especially those that are tied to your heart?
What I’ve also realized is that I’ve created a life that has built-in time and space. In my daily life, I neither move too fast, nor too slow, so that I can meditate, exercise, rinse and repeat. What I haven’t done very well is set aside time and space during moments of unexpected life events, like funerals and biological family meetings.
But from this moment forward, I will. I’ll remind myself to step outside if I’m feeling swirly in the belly; this is my body’s signal to me that I need to sit down somewhere. I’ll remind myself to find solitude in the midst of a crowd. I’ll remind myself that pranayama breathing is just as useful off the mat as it is on.
I’ll remind myself that creating time and space is important for my well being. And, most importantly, no one can offer me the time and space I need, but me.
Over the holiday season, a few bloggers and I discussed how easily people slip into the “giving” spirit when mid-November rolls around. And then *poof* Just like that, people tend to slip right out of it when January appears. It got me thinking. How can we maintain this energy year-round?
Initially, I’d planned to “experiment” with different ways and then write this at the end of the year. But I figured some people might want to try with me, so instead, I’ve updated and re-blogged the post every four weeks.
The first thing I did was serve the homeless (January). I chose to volunteer at the Clara White Mission here in Jacksonville. The shelter is named after a black American who was enslaved on Amelia Island. Her daughter, Eartha became an entertainer and philanthropist, who cared about the poor and disenfranchised. Consequently, she founded the mission and named it after her mom.
Once a week for a couple of hours, I awoke from my usual slumber to literally bring plates of freshly cooked meals to patrons. Interacting with people of varied walks of life humbled me. Providing my time, instead of simply handing someone a dollar yielded a different type of energy.
Volunteering here is pretty simple. If you’re in the area, here’s the information. If not, then I’d encourage you to find a shelter/mission in your city.
People say that Christmas isn’t about giving and receiving gifts, but I can’t tell. It seems to be the part that everyone enjoys. And if you suggest removing it, then entire social media arguments ensue. I once read someone justify Christmas gifts with the story of the Three Wise Men.
The second thing I did was send people gifts (February). I began with my little sister friend’s birthday. I ordered Wandas from Two Dough Girls and had them delivered to her home. I also sent my little cousin a care package. She’s completing her first year at my alma mater, Western Michigan University. I asked her what she wanted/needed and she sent me a list. Dwight and I added her requests to our groceries and shipped them off. If you’ve ever been away from home, then you understand how exciting it is to receive free snacks and toiletries. Her older sister didn’t need anything, so I sent her a handwritten card with well-wishes and a copy of my book.
This next idea was a combination of a failed attempt to volunteer at a food pantry and something I’d seen other people do on social media. In February, I thought I was going to hand out food with United Community Outreach Ministry (UCOM). Instead, the director asked me to tidy up the toiletry section for an hour and a half. Although I saw the indirect benefit of helping her because she probably didn’t have time, I couldn’t see myself continuing to do this for three more weeks.
“I could do this myself, in my own way, I thought.”
That’s just what I did. The third thing I did was pass out goodie bags to transient people (March). I packed four 1-gallon Ziplock bags with deodorant, wipes, Vaseline, fresh fruit, granola bars, water, and five $1 bills. The first week, I started with the guy I see sleeping under I95. He mumbled something to me that I didn’t quite understand. The second week, I traveled downtown to where I know a group of the same population hangs out. Before I could make it there, a guy stopped me.
“Can I have that orange?” he asked
I gave him the entire bag. He seemed genuinely thankful, and even more excited when I told him there was money in there.
The third week, I was battling a cold and busy with book stuff, so Dwight gave a bag to an elderly gentleman with a cane.
I had planned to hand out the final bag on my way to Gainesville. For the past two years, I’ve noticed a small population of men who alternate holding a sign right at the Baldwin exit off I10. This time I tracked a guy as he crossed the street to nearby trees. I parked my car, walked over to the men who were seated around a makeshift living area, and handed the bag to the bearded man nearest the fence that separated us.
“God Bless you hun.” He said twice.
“You too luv,” I replied.
With this one, I’ve learned that the homeless population is invisible, until you open your eyes and look for them. Then, they’re right in front of your face, begging to be seen.
For the fourth service project, I decided to do something near and dear to my heart, tutor elementary school children. Can you believe it took me two months to find a place to actually volunteer? YReads, associated with the YMCA is the name of the program I chose. After I found a program, it took a full three months (or so) for me to be approved. I’d forgotten that working with children requires a million and one items: application, resume, three references, a webinar about not molesting children, and a background check. Sheesh! This is why I didn’t begin until April.
During April and May, I’ve tutored children in reading. But, these aren’t just any children. Have you heard the term ESL? If not, it stands for English as a Second Language. These children attend one of Jacksonville’s designated ESL schools. I typically have the same two students at the beginning of the hour. One is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the second half hour, I tutor students who are Hispanic, mostly from Mexico.
My time with these children has been hopeful. Little kids are vulnerable in ways that adults have learned not to be. For example, the Congolese girl moved to the States two years ago. English is one of four languages she speaks.
“Where you from?” she asked on day one.
“I live here in Jacksonville, like you,” I responded.
“Noooo. Where you from???”
She’s so perceptive. Guess she’d wondered, as others have asked before, you not from ‘round here, huh? I ended up telling her that I was born and raised in Chicago and her eyes brightened. From that day forward, I knew Maya and I had bonded.
Week three she thought I wasn’t coming, and when I walked in the door, her face lit up.
“You’re heeeere!” she exclaimed.
“Of course Maya! I’ve been looking all over for you. I thought you weren’t here,” I put on.
I love children of all ages. It’s one of three things with which I have a natural ability. Therefore, tutoring for one hour a week wasn’t strenuous. And although I don’t know for sure what the impact will be, I suspect I’ve positively influenced Maya’s life in some way just by being there.
YReads is a state of Florida initiative; however, I’m sure your city and state has a similar tutoring program designed to support children’s literacy. Tutoring is a way to give back to your own community that is sure to yield high returns.
*Maya is a pseudonym.
By June, I’d forgotten to formally give in some systematic way. However, I’m happy to report that I was still service-minded…it was just more natural.
My goddaughter and I traveled to Nashville the second week in June. There, we hung out on Broad Street with a friend of mine who we’d visited. I’d noticed the homeless population almost immediately and the busyness of the area allowed me to take some candid shots. Well, one man wouldn’t let me take a photo, unless I gave him some money. How much was up to me. I paid $2.00 for a shot of his sign. This, however, isn’t it lol I must’ve deleted it. But this is representative of the types of signs we saw that day.
A couple days later, we rented a car and drove to Memphis to visit my cousin. Here, people party on the infamous Beale Street. The evening wore into morning and clubs began to close. People began to filter back into the street. This is when I met a guy in a wheelchair. He explained to me that it cost $7.00 to enter one of the Memphis shelters. He had one dollar, so I gave him six more. And just as I’ve written before, I didn’t worry about if he actually used the money for housing; that’s none of my business.
Later that morning, my cousin had a breakdown where she revealed her disappointment in our relationship. She’d been suppressing these feelings for a few years. From what I could tell, she wanted more of my money, time, and affection, seemingly in that order. A former part of me would have dug deep and matched her hurt feelings with my own. But I’ve lived long enough to know that doesn’t help. Instead, I hugged her and listened. Later that day, I maintained my own silence and thoughts. Don’t get me wrong. I was mad; however, I chose not to allow my anger to drown out her opinion. Furthermore, when we went to lunch, I also chose to pay for her meal as an act of kindness.
The lesson I learned for Christmas in June is that sometimes it’s good to just go with the flow and give when necessary or as you can.
Additionally, I’ve learned to give without worry.
Many times I’ve not wanted to give to the homeless because I might need that $2 or I don’t want to pay for someone’s food because I’ve already paid for the last five meals when we were together. But in a way, that’s the opposite of an abundant mindset. Giving this year has shown me that I always have enough. I have so much that I can give time, money and resources freely without stress. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
Soooo…one day I looked up at it was July 25th aaannnd I hadn’t maintained the Christmas Spirit for that month! Turns out the summer is the time when I’m most forgetful about these things cause I’m out frolicking and stuff.
For August, I paid it forward. In case you’re unfamiliar with this concept, the idea is instead of paying someone back for a good deed, you pay it forward by doing something nice for someone else. For example, during one of this summer’s vacations, our friends paid for all of our meals and museum exhibits. Instead of paying them back, we would just pay it forward by doing something for someone else. Typically, people associate this with literally paying for something for someone. So, that’s where I began.
I learned a few years ago that strangers tend not to accept face-to-face help. When I tried to pay for a guy’s groceries, he vehemently declined. This time around, I simply paid for the person behind me in the Starbucks line. It was done and I could zoom off before the driver knew what happened.
But paying it forward in that way seemed cliche. So the following week, I was more in tune with my surroundings and looked for ways to pay it forward without money. I suppose it’s just called helping someone. This worked out perfectly. Instead of ignoring the bewildered lady who’s never signed into the library’s computer, I stood beside her and patiently explained how to log in and find her name. Someone once had to do this for me too.
I continued paying it forward in this way by holding the door for a lady at yoga. I’d noticed some time ago that people are all Namaste while they’re in yoga, but will let that door slam in your face when it’s over. Instead of silently complaining, I decided to be the change I wanted to see. Another opportunity presented itself the following week. A lady in my Bodyworks class was running late, so I helped her set up her space by getting her dumbbells for her.
“Thank you so much! I was finishing my quinoa and fruit in the car,” she said.
Then, you know what happened? I was running late the next week, and she didn’t hesitate to help me set up so I could begin on time.
This month, I also participated in our citywide “Stuff the Bus” back-to-school campaign. I normally don’t do this because we have our own children’s school supply needs to fulfill, but again, there was that one year D and I needed a little extra help for our own daughters. Instead of paying that person back, I gave freely to support the children in my community.
Paying it forward really is just about being present and giving of oneself in ways that someone once gave to you.
There was a lot going on in the world in September. Natural disasters brought death, destruction, renewal, and rebuilding. Additionally, “regular” life is going on and many times that also requires help. So, for September, I donated and I donated, and I donated.
- I donated to the American Red Cross through a shoe store, called DSW. All you had to do was stop by a store and literally swipe your card. This was easy enough. However, afterwards I read that the American Red Cross isn’t trustworthy. Well, what’s done is done. I do hope that’s not true.
- Firehouse ran a campaign for Hurricane Harvey victims. All you had to do was round up your bill to the nearest dollar. This also seemed like a simple way to give, so I rounded my meal’s receipt to support.
- A friend of mine participated in a suicide prevention run. Consequently, I supported her by giving money to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
- My daughter’s friend’s birthday was September 20th. In addition to planning a huge surprise Sweet 16 Birthday party, her mother also wanted to buy her a car. She used a crowdfunding tool to raise money for this gift. While I don’t usually participate in GoFundMes and such, our family is pretty close to her, so I gave a few dollars for her cause.
- A friend of mine from high school also created and promoted a feed the homeless day in my home city, Chicago. She calls them “blessing bags.” They are the same concept that I did a few months back. While I had planned on actually sending toiletries, etc., I failed to plan how to execute it by the September 30th deadline. So, I gave money for You Matter Outreach Day (Feed the Homeless).
Around September, I asked for service project suggestions. Although I received some great ideas, one stood out. Ann from Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50 mentioned collecting duffel bags for foster care children because they’re always in transition and rarely have luggage. First, I contacted a couple of friends to find out if they could point me in the direction of a foster care home specifically for minority children. They could not. That’s when I used trusty Google.
Through a simple search, I found Family Support Services of North Florida. Their community service liaison, Dani said they needed diapers. A light bulb literally went off over my head. For October, I decided to host a virtual diaper drive. I’d planned on buying a pack of diapers each week anyway, but it seemed that including others would be even more helpful.
I was quite surprised by the outcome. A friend of mine from Illinois immediately sent $15 through Messenger. I transferred the money and purchased my first box. Other friends ordered diapers through Amazon or Walmart and had them sent to my home. Another friend who lives here in Jacksonville physically dropped off a box. A few bloggers participated by also mailing them. Wanda is one. And Michelle was another. Four weeks later, I was able to deliver 2,212 diapers.
I am grateful that, together, we were able to support a baby or family in need. This diaper drive has been the most internally rewarding activity. I really believe we need to encourage each other to be more giving in multiple ways. I hate to get all preachy, but a lot of times we expect someone else to help out or we think “help” has to be a grandiose idea. Or, we believe we have to join an organization to impact society in positive ways. Well, I’m here to say that support can be as simple as dropping off or sending a box of diapers at your local foster care home. If you don’t do it, then who will?
This year-long project really became a part of my being. I could tell because when Thanksgiving rolled around, I didn’t have the urge to do something nice for someone because I’d been of service the entire year. However, I did purchase a Barbie doll and give to Toys for Tots. This program runs from mid-November through December if you’re ever interested in giving. Toys can be dropped off at most Toys R Us.
A week later, when December 1st hit, I really hadn’t thought of a bang-up way to end the 12 months of service, so I combined two of the year’s ideas.
I began the month with a random act of kindness, and I have to tell you, it was quite natural. An older woman pulled up behind me in the Publix grocery store line. She was in one of those motorized scooters with the baskets attached.
“Do you need help?” I asked.
I’ve learned to ask first because some people get super ornery if you assume they can’t do it themselves.
She kind of glanced up at me, and then said, “Actually, I do.”
I placed all of her groceries on the conveyor belt, and she was pleased. She thanked me over and over again, and told me how much easier that made her shopping.
Imagine that. One act that took less than two minutes made this woman’s day.
Next, I decided to end the year the same way I began it, at the Clara White Mission serving breakfast to those who need it. I’ve since learned that the people who frequent this mission are not always homeless. Sometimes they are newly released prisoners; other times they are simply people who can’t afford to eat.
Either way, I spent three December Mondays with them.
I wished there were some grand finale with fireworks or something, but I suppose the endgame is the internal transformation that has occurred. And you’ll have to wait until January for that reflection 😉
If you celebrate something during this holiday season, then Happy Holidays to you! If not, then I wish you well on this day. I do hope these 12 months have been an inspiration for each of you to contribute to society in some way.
Today I begin my twenty-second year as somebody’s teacher/professor.
Twenty-two years of convincing someone that what he or she is doing is just temporary and that anything can be done short term in order to achieve a long-term goal
Twenty-two years of being at least one student’s first African-American teacher/professor…still
Twenty-two years of helping people shift their thinking as they step out of the boxes in which others have placed them and sometimes shed or re-shape the boxes they’ve created for themselves
Twenty-two years of building and re-building the delicate teacher-student relationship because each student is unique, no matter the institution
Twenty-two years of counseling someone through the process of what it means to gain more knowledge because they didn’t realize critical thinking was an integral part of the experience
Twenty-two years of reminding students that they really can do it because sometimes we all need a nudge and reminder of our strengths
Today I begin my 22nd year in a profession that I pursued on purpose. Today I’ll influence someone’s future life…on purpose.
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.
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.
Marriage 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?
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?
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.
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?