Monday Notes: Non-Attachment

Unlike other blog posts, I don’t have a clear definition/citation for the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. Instead, what I’m going to share is what I’ve gathered from reading articles, having conversation with my husband, and living life. What follows is literally my interpretation:

Non-attachment seems to be one’s ability to simultaneously care and let go.

Here’s what I mean.

CAREER

When I began my job as a community college professor, I took a twenty-thousand dollar decrease in salary. This pissed me off the entire first two years. I couldn’t believe I had a doctorate and decades of experience yet made far less than my peers and far less than I did my first year of teaching high school in 1996. How little my paychecks were clouded my vision.

Unlike at a university, I couldn’t negotiate my salary. My choice was to either find a new job or accept what I was bringing home, so I chose the latter. It wasn’t until I released worry about how much money I was making that I was able to develop a creative solution that didn’t involve quitting. Two years later, I began a small editing business. While my salary affords me basics, like food and shelter, my editing business helps me to afford the lifestyle I desire.

Do I care about making money? Of course, that’s how we live in this capitalistic society that commodifies people and their talents. However, letting go of the worry that comes with being low paid in my field is what led to the lifestyle I currently have, which I’m still not attached to because I know it could cease to exist tomorrow.

ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP

Dwight and I have been together for nearly three decades. I’ve written before about how attached I was to him when we first met. There was an inherent fear that if I lost him and our relationship, then somehow, I would be nothing. Our relationship was attached to my self-worth.

After healing unresolved trauma, I was able to see the flaw in my perception. If Dwight and I separate, I will not die. I will be fine. Don’t worry. He feels the same. I once asked him if he needed me. His response was no, and so was mine. I mean, think about it. It sounds a bit desperate to say that you need someone, like in a life-or-death way. In our relationship, we’re happy because we both want to be with each other; we’re not together out of obligation or desperation.  

Do I care about Dwight? Of course, care is a part of love. However, I know at any moment, this relationship could end for any reason, and I’m at peace with that. This not only applies to my romantic relationship, but also familial and friendship ones.

BLOGGING

Like many bloggers, when I first began, I was concerned about gaining readership. I participated in WordPress’s Blogging 101 and Blogging 201. I religiously followed Janice Wald’s advice. I begged family and friends to subscribe to my blog and felt bad when people didn’t. You know where all of that got me? Worried with a side of hurt feelings. I was so attached to what it meant to have five, ten, eighteen more followers that I was ignoring the creative part.

I had to stop worrying about who was following my blog and who wasn’t. I had to become unattached to the outcome of blogging. One day, I received one of those WP automated announcements about having 500 followers or something like that. I was surprised because I’d been focusing on just creating meaningful content, not gaining readers.

Do I care about blogging? I think most of you know the answer to that. However, I am not attached to how many likes or comments I receive. I rarely look at statistics, because I’m happy to engage with whoever happens to stop by.

Ultimately, what I’ve learned is that worry is a type of fear and it is linked to an attachment of some sort: I was attached to my pay because I feared being broke; I was attached to my husband because I was afraid to be alone; and I was attached to accumulating likes and comments because I was scared of not being a “good” blogger.


But in each example, when I released worry, and subsequently the fear associated with it, then that’s when the magic happened. I still cared, but I was also able to let go, and eventually, reach some level of non-attachment. Let me know what you think. Can you be non-attached to people, things, and circumstances?

Postscript: Non-attachment is not detachment. Detachment is not a healthy coping mechanism. Non-attachment is not a lack of care and concern. Not caring and being concerned with people is another form of detachment, which is not a healthy coping mechanism.


Monday Notes: A Post-Mother’s Day Message for the Motherless

Dear Motherless Child, 

I see you.

If you’ve just lost your mother, then a holiday, like Mother’s Day may seem strange. You’ll want to acknowledge that you, too, had a mother, good, bad, or otherwise. A woman birthed or adopted you and provided you with unconditional love. But now you’re in a different club. You may walk by aisles of Mother’s Day cards, their pinks and reds taunting you. You may feel inclined to buy one, forgetting you have no one for whom this would be appropriate. Or you may feel as if someone should buy you a card as recognition for your loss. Wouldn’t it be nice if Hallmark made a greeting card that began—I know it’s Mother’s Day, and you just lost yours…? But they don’t. The most you may have is Mother’s Day at church where you’re encouraged to partake in a new tradition, wearing a white carnation, symbolizing your mother’s death

Women who possess a nurturing gene may try to mother you. Their gestures will stem from kindness. Their heartstrings will lengthen and tug and wrap tightly around you, until you can’t breathe. But they will fail, because they are not your mother. As Mouse, a seven-year-old fictional character from the book Looking for Hope says, “there’s nothing like your own mother.” She’s right. Only the woman assigned to you knew the lilt in your voice when you were angry or excited. Only your mother knew when you needed a hug or extra encouragement. It is normal to have mixed feelings about others’ good intentions. Feeling grateful for other women who’ve served as proxy is understandable; wishing you had your own mother is also valid. The latter doesn’t make you ungrateful; it makes you sad and grieving. And that’s okay.

If it’s been a few years since your mother died, then the compassion some showed may have worn off. Friends and family may even suggest that you should “get over it,” as if losing one’s mother is akin to a bad breakup. However, even bad breakups can be hard to “get over.” Sometimes, bad breakups last years in the cells of your body and crevices of your brain. Shouldn’t losing one’s mother take a bit of time? Still, you’ll learn to have compassion for these people. They don’t get it. They don’t understand. Though we may suspect, not one of us knows how we will feel when our mother dies. Even if it’s an expected event, prompted by a terminal illness, or even if you hated her for trivial or grandiose reasons, no one understands the bundle of emotions that may bubble to the surface, threatening to erupt, until it happens. So, offer a smidge of grace for those who think you should “get over” your mother’s death. They simply don’t know.

Losing one’s mother, no matter your age, is not easy. But here’s what I hope for you. I hope these words are comforting. I hope you’ve found a space where other motherless children convene. I hope peace fills the void. 

Love,

a motherless child

RESOURCES

Motherless Daughters Online Source

Motherless Daughters

Blog Post about Motherless Daughters Retreat

Monday Notes: Nine Days

I recently watched a film called Nine Days. Basically, a reclusive man conducts a series of interviews with human souls for a chance to be born. A large part of the process requires the souls to watch human beings live their lives via televisions screens. At one point, Will, the recluse who leads this process, asks the souls what moment stood out to them, and that’s what got me thinking.

The film is clearly about recognizing life’s value. One way to do that is to stop and enjoy the moment in the moment, kind of like mindfulness. Even the souls who “lost,” and weren’t offered an opportunity to live, were still offered an opportunity to have Will recreate a moment prior to disappearing into oblivion.

Life is a gift, and the moments of our lives should be cherished.

That’s part of the film’s message.

But it seems like it would take a lot to live in 100% appreciation of one’s life. When my daughters were six and four, for example, I couldn’t imagine stopping to enjoy or appreciate moments. Many times, I hoped all of us would make it through the day without incident. Sure, I appreciated major events, like the time my grandmother and her sister babysat, so Dwight and I could take a group of high school students to England. But what about “small” everyday moments? I don’t even remember those.

In the movie, one soul’s last moment was a recreation of standing in the sand, on the beach, while the waves crashed…in silence. I’ve been to dozens of beaches, and I was grateful for each visit, but going to the beach is like brushing my teeth. How can we stop ourselves from taking moments for granted?

Can we really learn to live in and enjoy each moment without distraction?

When I say distraction, I don’t just mean a technological device. Sometimes, the thoughts in my head are distractions when I’m supposed to be listening to a friend. I’m sure you have your own to choose from. My question is can you pause your distraction, while you fully engage in and appreciate a moment that matters to you, a matter you intentionally created in the first place?

Since watching this movie, I’ve begun reflecting on special moments from my day. This is different than journaling about gratitude. Instead, I simply think about the whole day, as if I’m one of those souls watching myself. What would I value from this day if I weren’t alive? What would I wish for if I didn’t have a body? Then, I choose a couple of moments that were important. This seems like a legitimate way to honor your own life.

What moment would you choose?

What if you were a soul looking at human beings living life? What moment would look meaningful to you? Eating a delicious meal? Hugging another body? Or what if you were the soul who didn’t “win” a life? What moment would you want to experience right before you disappeared into nothingness? Laughing with friends? Creating art? Whatever you chose, do you value those moments now? Are you fully immersed?

I’m sure many of us, at some point, live life by rote memory as if none of it is special. Yesterday could’ve been today, which could be tomorrow, especially since COVID hit. However, Nine Days really helped me conceptualize what enjoying a moment is, and I think it’s something many of us need right now. There seem to be two ways: either get in there and enjoy the moment’s imagery (smell, touch, etc.) or reflect on a moment that was important for you that day. Either way, I know this has helped me live with deeper appreciation of the life I have, and I hope it helps you, too.



Monday Notes: Award-Winning Blog

A lot of times, I do things based on how I feel in the moment. I attribute this to a strong sense of intuition.

This year, my gut led me to judge the Florida Writers Association’s (FWA’s) Royal Palms Literary Awards (RPLA). I had done it before, but it was a long time ago. I felt it was time for some writerly service.

When I read the guidelines, I saw there was a new category: blogging. “What?” I thought. “I have a blog. Will this be a conflict of interest?” I decided it wouldn’t be. FWA is hella professional; they use rubrics and very careful directions, so I made a firm decision to go for it.

When I read that entries could be singular or a series, again, I was a bit excited. “I’ve done many series,” I thought. But which would be appropriate?

It was between Corona Chronicles and Mental Health Matters. I based my decision on stats. Both series were released during 2020, but Mental Health Matters was pretty successful in terms of readership.

Entries were limited by word count, so I had to decide which part of the series I’d submit. Again, I based it on stats, not on which ones I personally liked. According to WordPress, the following were hits:

So, I got all of my materials together and emailed them.

Months later, I was quite surprised to learn I was a semi-finalist.

Then, over the weekend, during the virtual ceremony, I was again surprised to learn I’d actually won. FWA awarded me first place in the blogging category!

But guess what? I wasn’t as excited as I was the first time I won a writing award, and here’s why:

  • I’m a different person. I’ve learned not to rely on awards to make me feel good about myself. Sure, I’m happy, but I’m not ecstatic. The first time I won was 2016, and I was still developing my identity outside of external rewards, so it was still exciting because I was associating it with my self-worth. Today, I know awards and compliments are not connected to how great of a person I am.
  • Awards mean something in the writer community. This second award gives me credence in the writer world. I can add this to my CV when publishers ask for it. I can include it in my bio. It means something because other people believe it means something. I get that and use it accordingly.
  • Comments on my blog are the real reward. And they are no match for any award. The other day, I legit teared up at a blogger’s words because it was so authentic. This has happened before. Anytime someone tells me they understand what I’ve said, or a story resonates with their experience, or I’ve helped them feel heard and less alone, I feel a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. That’s something a state award can’t give me.

So, yes. I’m appreciative and proud of myself for having won another award for writing, specifically for something I literally do for free just for authenticity and connection. However, I do know that it is not the end-all be-all for my talent. What truly matters is how I’m impacting the world with my words. And for that I’m truly grateful.



Monday Notes: Semi-Finalist

Guess what? Remember My Mental Health Matters series from last year? Well, I entered it into the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palms Literary Awards blogging category, and it’s made it to semi-finalist status!

Crossed fingers that I’ll make it past this point.

Here are the articles that are up for review:

No matter the outcome, I want to take this moment to personally thank all of you for continuing to rock with me on this blog. It brings me joy.

Monday Notes: On Aging (The Gray Area)

In the United States, there seem to be two choices: you’re either young, or you’re old.

That’s it.

When you’re young, you’re hella attractive. You have lots of energy and the latitude to make so-called “silly” choices—in music, in relationship, and in the overall living of life.

When you’re old, you’re hella unattractive. If you’re “brave,” you let your gray hairs grow wild and speak your mind like a toddler, but more often than not, the elderly are depicted as being crazy and forgetful pains that society either tolerates or ignores.

Well, what about people like myself, who are middle age? Where do we fit?

Kind of like my generation (X), I noticed we don’t fit anywhere.

On the one hand, I blame pop cultural and preformed societal views. We’re too old for skinny jeans, but not old enough for a Mumu. Too old for the club, but not old enough for the senior center. Too old to “start over,” but not old enough to retire.

On the other hand, friends and family tend to limit us. For example, if I decided to do a TikTok video for the Touch Down 2 Cause Hell challenge, eyebrows would raise. In fact, I’ve had people question why I even watch and know about these social-media challenges. I’ve never asked, but I surmise they think I’m “too old” to be aware. Based on the wide-ranging TikTok video demographics, I know this isn’t true. Anyone can lip sync and dance. But I do think there’s a reason why we’re so impressed when an over-fifty person twerks on beat. It’s seen as an anomaly.

Because I like to play contemporary rap music in my Jeep as loud as possible, my sister once called me a twenty-year-old forty-six-year-old. Maybe I should be like the phlebotomist I met who blasted the smooth crooning of Anita Baker’s love songs, or perhaps, I can mirror one of my favorite bloggers and deem only R&B from the seventies and eighties as respectable. Just kidding. I’m good with the music I prefer; however, I think others believe I’m “too old” to be listening to what I do…how I do.

If that isn’t enough, I have a thirty-something friend who has referred to one of her forty-year-old friends as “old and crusty.” She’s also admitted that she fears growing older and putting on a few pounds, possibly looking different than she currently does. There’s the other friend who has described her daughter as “cute and young,” while grumbling about how said daughter isn’t “like us…old” (and I assume not cute). And finally, there’s the friend who recently left me a birthday message deeming both of us as now “old,” because we’re approaching fifty.

It makes me tired. I’ve never spent so much time announcing that I’m not old or emphasizing that I’m getting oldER.

<insert big ole sigh and eye roll>

Let me leave you with this final story: A few years ago, one my cousins partied with me in New Orleans. He’s the type of person who stays on the dancefloor until the club closes, and this night was no different. He took up so much space with his moves that party-goers started screaming, “Go Old School! Go Old School! Go Old School!” in unison. It was like a scene out of a movie. He be-bopped around, sweat pouring down his face, shirt drenched. Then, he did it all again the next night.

Why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-age lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?

I’ve frequently thought about that night. Aging is something we’re all doing, every moment, but proclaiming to be old is quite another thing.

I’ve wondered why my cousin couldn’t dance his heart out without being labeled “Old School?” Why couldn’t he just be a human being having fun in life?

More importantly, why can’t we recognize there are more than two types of people? Pun intended—why can’t we acknowledge the gray area and let people live their best middle-aged lives, whether it fits our societal norms or not?

Let me know what you think.


Here are some other articles from bloggers who discuss aging:


Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Rethink your Rhetoric (Part VI)

A vacation can be however long you want it to be. But not everyone knows this. I know because of the feedback I received from friends and family when they found out we’d be gone for eight weeks.

Friend A: Are you going to get a job there?

Me: Ummm I have a job already.


Friend B: How will I talk to you?

Me: Ummm the same way we’ve been talking. Zoom, Google Duo, FaceTime?


In-Law: Don’t work too hard over there!

Me: I gotta work so I can pay for this trip lol

In-Law: Yeah, right. Don’t even try it.

Me: 😬 ha-ha


Friend C: What are you doing over there?

Me: Working.

Friend C: Doing what?

Me: 🧐 My job.

This trip and others’ responses to it reminded me of a term I came up with a few years ago: #RethinkYourRhetoric. It was a way to remind myself and others to think outside of our societal and self-imposed boxes.

Many people I talked to have one idea of what a vacation is. It’s 3-8 days. You save your money, leave, and return (sometimes tired).

But that’s not the only way you can see another place, especially in times when most companies are fine with remote working and while millennials seem to be paving the way as digital nomads.

Depending on your position and job’s expectations, you can work from anywhere, which means the world is literally your oyster.

This type of travel also allows for the following:

  • Working. Dwight and I worked just like we would in the States—Monday through Friday. In fact, I’d argue I worked a little more because I shaved off two hours by not working out religiously and watched very little TV. My workday began around seven in the morning and ended at varied times in the evening, depending on if we had to cook or shop.
  • Relaxing. Unlike traditional vacays where you’re running around trying to see all of the things in a set amount of time, extended travel helps you to view surroundings in a relaxed frame of mind. Every weekend, Dwight and I took a road trip to another part of the country and returned back to our Airbnb refreshed and ready to work at our jobs.
  • Immersing. A longer period also means you can immerse yourself in the culture. Meaning, you can practice and improve upon speaking the language and also learn and live the country’s customs. There’s nothing like learning Costa Rica doesn’t use plastic bags for shopping, while translating the cashier’s words and angry tone after you’ve bought a bunch of stuff and don’t know how you’ll get it home.

I never advocate for someone doing what I’ve done. That’s not what life’s all about. However, I will always encourage others to rethink their rhetoric. Most of what society teaches is to keep you in a bubble, and once you’ve mastered those lessons, you’ll keep yourself coloring in the lines.

See what happens if you think about something a different way. See what happens when you rethink your rhetoric.