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:
From June 18th to July 1st, I decided not to communicate with people I know (and love). With the exception of my husband, two daughters, and a siSTAR video I’d committed to, I was silent. This included my not responding to text messages, DMs, phone calls, emails, and social media.
First, I alerted everyone I could through social media so that people didn’t think I was ignoring them. In this social media age, people’s feelings are hurt quite quickly if they don’t hear instantly from you. This worked for the most part. For family, like Grannie, who are not on these platforms, I simply left a message on her answering machine asking her to please wait until July 1st to speak with me, unless of course, there is an emergency. For others like my father, who sent photos of his grandson’s kindergarten graduation, I replied with the photo you see here. And for my cousin who called with news of their newborn baby, I begged Dwight to call him back so I could listen, but not respond.
Why, you might be thinking?
I needed time, space, and silence to disengage so I could hear my inner thoughts.
Recently, my sister gifted me with a numerology reading. In our conversation, the reader said, “Everyone isn’t worthy of your time.” That is one of the most poignant statements I’ve heard in 2019, and it really made me pause. Aside from thoughts about friendships, I decided to use my fourteen days of silence to assess the many collaborations and projects with which I’m involved. Will I continue with Project A, B, and C? Are these projects aligned with my personal mission? Even if they are aligned, are they worth the time/energy investment to continue? To make these decisions, I needed time, space, and silence.
Also, I wanted to focus on how I would generate extra money for the remainder of the year. Contrary to public belief, many professors do not make a huge salary. Like other professions, it is contingent on lots of factors: discipline, rank, and institution. Being quiet allowed me to think deeply about how to attract money and from where.
Along with these fourteen silent days, I also decreased my sugar intake. This isn’t new to me. About four years ago, I did a 21-day detox that excluded all sugars. This time, I followed the recommendation that women have no more than 25 grams per day. Initially it was challenging, and I hovered around 24-50. But overall, it was a success. When I remove sugar, my brain becomes clearer; subsequently, my thoughts and dreams are also lucid. And combined with silence, it’s like a veil was removed, revealing the direction in which I needed to travel.
Although I wanted badlyto celebrate the birth of my cousin’s baby, and although it took everything out of me not to respond to email plans for our DC reading or to text Bree to find out how she did at the Daughters’ Lives Matter event, or to comment on blog posts, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be at everyone’s beck and call in each moment. It’s okay to tell people you need a minute…away, just for yourself. In this instant communication society we’ve created, it’s okay to say, hold on wait a minute while I get myself together.
Trust me…their good and bad news will still be there for you to praise or lament. Their worlds will not crumble. And, you my friend, may feel more healthy and whole.
Every time I go I feel guilty. Sitting here while Vietnamese women rub my feet and pamper my body seems wrong. Couldn’t I do this myself? I used to. I used to cut my own toe nails and paint them too, with vibrant reds, oranges, and purples. But now? I act as if I don’t know how to reach my toes. They do it better. I’m convinced.
As I sit, I listen.
I want it round, not square. She has to help her because only she knows reflexology. I don’t like this color; can I choose something more nude? This last one comes from a six-foot woman, with a thick accent whose feet were already submerged to her lower calf in the tub of bubbly water. She expected the nail technician to stop working, walk to the front of the salon, and get a new polish for her.
Every so often, I ignore my book’s pages. The overweight woman in front of me eats her Taco Bell bowl and slurps her over-sized drink as someone scrapes the bottom of her heels. The middle-aged woman two seats down mmmhmmms and ahas her way through a conversation. She must be going on vacation because she speaks of taking her suitcases down from wherever they’ve been hibernating, while someone massages the tops of her feet with hot stones, turning them cherry red. Another woman lies flat on the black massage chair. An employee shuffles over to slather thick, yellow wax on her eyebrows, eventually ripping it and her tiny hairs off one strip at a time.
I just messed up a toe, another woman whines as she walks towards the front of the salon, with her black terrier leashed beside her. All of the patrons exchange glances. No one knew a dog was there until that moment. Her nail tech says something in what I assume to be Viet-Muong and briskly moves ahead without her.
I wonder why we do it.
Why do we get caught up in consumerism that somehow turns to a perceived necessary part of life…mine and yours? Today it’s pedicures and eyebrows. Tomorrow it’s something else society will have convinced us we need, something women need. It’ll always be something because we women are always in need of improvement. Right?
Yoga sparks my creativity. I’m sure there’s some scientific/spiritual rationale of which I’m unaware, but for me, the proof is production. With all my Unhappy Wifemarketing, it became challenging to write anything new, so I decided to engage in seven days of yoga. Consequently, I attained more than creativity.
Monday, October 31st(Yoga Den, Mandarin 7:45-9:00 P.M.) It slipped my mind that today was Halloween, so I almost didn’t make it. I wanted to pass out the four bags of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms that Dwight’s eyes had signaled was too much. But I’d promised myself attendance at Sun Flow Yin. I would have to rely on my nonsocial daughters to take the lead. One little boy showed up right before I left. Turns out he was the only trick-or-treater we got this year, so I didn’t miss anything and my daughters didn’t have to interact with people.
Today’s Lesson: Follow your instinct.
Tuesday, November 1st(LA Fitness, Kernan, 9:45-10:45 A.M.) I slept like a six-month old baby snuggled in between co-sleeping parents. I’m attributing a good night’s rest to the previous night’s yoga. However, practicing back-to-back made me nervous. My anxiety floated away once I noticed a guy doing downward facing dog in his drawers. I was slightly distracted, not because anything showed, but because I kept wondering if those were indeed his skivvies. They were. The bright blue band around the top gave it away. I didn’t think my yoga crew noticed because there were no side eyes or eyebrow raises. He and I walked out together and he engaged me in conversation. Underwear guy’s name is Joe. He’d lost his wife seven years ago in a drunk driving accident. She left him with a set of twin boys and a daughter to raise. Without yoga, he believed he would’ve died too.
Lesson: You never know what someone’s gone through, so treat them with kindness.
Wednesday, November 2nd(Yoga Den, Mandarin 6:30-7:30 P.M.) I loathe Wednesdays. On this day, I drive two hours to teach one class that lasts an hour and fifteen minutes. The angst of the drive begins Tuesday night and settles into my consciousness, making for a stressful morning and grumpy day. But today felt a little different. Maybe back-to-back yoga helped me maintain peace. After class, I usually drive to main campus and participate in a meeting, work in my office until 5:00, and then leave. The chair cancelled today’s meeting, so I graded papers until 3:45 and made it back home just in time for Mind-Body yoga. To be honest, I chose this yoga because the time was appropriate. But the lesson about mind-body connection was also what I needed to hear. Hopefully, I can put it into practice this coming Wednesday.
Lesson: Everything begins in the mind.
Thursday, November 3rd(LA Fitness, Kernan, Jacksonville, Florida 9:45-10:45 A.M.) Welp, my yoga crew did notice that Joe and his undies. They were in a circle discussing it as I rolled out my mat. By the time I returned from the restroom, someone had approached Joe about it. I came back just in time to hear this:
Joe: Y’all shouldn’t be looking at me anyways. Yoga is supposed to be a meditation. Y’all should be meditating. Everybody in here should be able to do yoga naked ‘cause we should all be so focused on ourselves.
Mrs. Gail: That’s what I tried to tell ‘em Joe!
I politely stretched into child’s pose and minded my own business.
Lesson: Focus on yourself.
Friday, November 4th(Yoga Den, Mandarin, Jacksonville, Florida 9:15-10:45 A.M.) I almost didn’t make it today you guys. The bed was so warm and cozy. And I thought to myself, KG, you’ve already done four days. Isn’t that good enough? Then, that same nagging feeling I get when I make self-promises began to surface. It’s familiar. I cannot tell myself I’m going to do a thing and not follow through. Off to yoga I went. This isn’t any old type of yoga. The instructor begins by playing a banjo and we all chant Om Namah Shivaya. Then, we chant three OMs and begin our practice. It’s intense. Today, I almost threw up. I know that’s not a good yoga practice if you almost hurl. And it certainly goes against what you’re supposed to be practicing in the first place. I thought I was done overachieving, but this proved otherwise. Every now and then, I still unconsciously overextend myself; yoga is no different. I’m working on it. After Savasana, she plays the banjo again and we do three more OMs. This particular practice is my favorite one, but it usually doesn’t come behind four other yoga days.
Lesson: Be true to yourself by honoring your word. Be mindful.
Saturday, November 5th (LA Fitness, Lakewood, Jacksonville, Florida 11:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M.) On Saturdays, I wake up sans alarm clock. I lie in bed, blog a little, write a little, and then decide what I’m going to do. Not today. Friday afternoon, my goddaughter texted to inform me that the local bookstore had run out of copies of The Unhappy Wife.
“So I can come Monday?” I asked Jen, the owner.
“We’re open Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 A.M.” she replied.
I broke my usual routine and was at the bookstore by 9:00 A.M.
“Thank you so much,” she started, “Really appreciate you.”
“No. Thank you,” I smiled.
We were helping one another. Because of her, I didn’t have to sell books out of my trunk, and because of me, she was gaining more customers and revenue. This was the win-win I’d heard so much about.
Afterwards, I went to yoga.
Lesson: If you want something, you have to be willing to break self-made traditions.
Sunday, November 6th (Walk with Dwight) By this day, I was tired of yoga. My shoulders felt as if I’d been lifting weights all day. My core was a bit tighter, but hurt when I bent to the side. My legs felt as if I’d done 100 squats each day. So Dwight and I took our usual Sunday walk.
Lesson: Know when to listen to your body, as opposed to your mind.
My creativity is back, but quite honestly, three days worth of yoga is quite enough for me.
A few weeks ago, I received an email confirmation from our new housing association. It was addressed to Katherine. What’s wrong with this you might ask? Well, my name is misspelled. There’s no “e” at the end. Who cares you might be thinking? ME! I know it seems quite the trivial thing, except it’s not. It’s something that has plagued me year after year after year for as long as I could write my own name and then correct people when they spell it however they want.
I’ve had cashiers and bank tellers ask me if I’ve spelled my name incorrectly, “because you know there’s no “e” at the end of it.” Can you imagine someone asking you if you’d misspelled your own name? People are nutz.
My stepmother misspelled it on the handmade wedding favors she’d created. All 200 mini-scrolls said, Congratulations Katherine and Dwight!
After a couple of decades of this, I’ve come up with some strategies. I spell it real slow and then say nice and clear, “There’s no “e” at the end of it.” And you know what happens? Fill-in-the-blank person still puts an “e” at the end of it.
This happened recently. I sent my email address to someone and made sure to note the no “e” part. You know what she did? She argued me down that she’d sent the email and didn’t know what happened, until I asked her to please go back and make sure she didn’t misspell my name. Guess what? Oh never mind. You already know what happened.
So, how did I get this name? Well, it’s kind of a funny story.
For the longest, my dad’s side of the family would insist that Aunt Cat was my namesake. They’d refer to her this way, saying things like, have you talked to your namesake? In my mind, I would just shake my head and disagree because I knew she couldn’t have been for one simple reason: my mother disliked the lady.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Cat had a milestone birthday. Her daughter thought it’d be a great idea to create something handmade, so she called me up.
“Kathy, can you please contribute to Mom’s scrapbook? I mean she is your namesake and all?”
“She is not my namesake,” I clarified. “But I’ll send something.”
“Uh. Yes she is. You were named after her.”
I didn’t continue the conversation. Instead, I called my dad. This had to be squashed once and for all.
“Oh yes. You were named after her,” he confirmed. “Your Aunt Cat was my favorite cousin at the time, but your mom didn’t like her.”
Right. Right, I thought.
“I wanted your name to be Catherine, like hers, but your mom said ‘no.’”
I nodded in agreement to the phone.
“So she compromised.”
“Yes. She said your name could be Catherine, but it had to be spelled completely different, with a “k” and no “e” at the end.
Hmmmph. I was wrong. And that was a clever move, sort of. I suppose my mom couldn’t have predicted that decades later I’d still be correcting store clerks and housing associations. The same way I didn’t realize that my oldest daughter would spend a lifetime correcting people’s pronunciations (it’s Kesi, like Kasie, not like Keeesie). Or the way my youngest has to repeatedly say Desi isn’t short for anything; it’s just Desi.
Names are interesting. They are the result of your parents’ creative expression. Maybe that’s why I continue to be so bothered when I see it misspelled. My mother’s innovation is woven into those eight letters. I want people to recognize that: it’s Katherin with no “e.” I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Do you?
I know my name is not the weirdest thing out there. Do you have a “strange” name that’s caused a lifetime of confusion and misspellings? Do you have an interesting story about your name?
Recently, I announced that I was one of the top-ten finalists for the Still I Rise Grant for Black Women Writers. Although I didn’t win, I’m pleased Alternating Current decided to publish The Transition via The Coil. Here is the link. I hope you enjoy this story about my relationship with my father.
On Sunday, November 30th, I received an invitation to a fête scheduled for December 3rd. I almost said, no because one of my rules is not to attend events where my invite seems to have been an afterthought. My friend, Dr. B. had planned this celebration months ago, but somehow my invitation was given less than seven days prior. Another reason I almost said, no is because it is in Gainesville, and I already commute twice a week. By the time a weekend rolls around, I’d rather spend my Saturday without hard commitments. The final reason I almost said, no is because I wasn’t sure I would know anyone there besides the host, and who likes going to an event where they don’t know more than one other person?
But, I said, yes for one reason only. The things I’d made up in my head were just that. Made up. I’m glad I ignored them. My friend’s party was one of the most authentic experiences I’ve had and it reinforced the following:
Just Be. The celebration’s theme was to be. Dr. B’s hope was to provide a space for 20 or so women to simply be. There were no husbands or significant others. There were no children, except hers and one of her friends. There were just women, be-ing themselves, eating a three-course meal with fine linen, and having conversation. Each of us being ourselves, in our own ways. Some women cried as they reflected on their connection to the host. Others revealed insecurities about their journeys, things that many women hold dear and hold in. You know. Body image, motherhood, perfection. Dr. B. had literally carved out a space for authenticity without judgment. Wouldn’t it be great if we each did that for one another every day?
Honor your friends. Because Dr. B. is a self-proclaimed introvert, she understood that most of her 20 friends wouldn’t want to stand up and introduce themselves, so she did it for them. However, this wasn’t just a “This is Kathy Garland” introduction. She individually described each and every person, including their personal connection and why she valued the woman. In addition, she’d recently learned letter writing, so each lady was given a handwritten letter with calligraphy-style address. Acknowledging others for how they’ve influenced your path is important. When is the last time you told the people in your life how much you value them?
Pay it forward. This isn’t a new concept to me, but it’s the first time I’ve heard how other people were affected. The room was filled with women who’d ridden that all too familiar “struggle bus.” They needed one another at some point in time. As a result, these women found themselves asking how they could ever repay their friends? The answer was simple: pay it forward. A lot of times we think we’re required to do some overt action to thank someone. But the ultimate act of gratitude is to help another person when she is in need, especially if you’ve been in her shoes. Is paying it forward a part of your life’s practice?
I’m glad I ignored my perception of the invitation, and my subsequent made-up social rules. That decision alone allowed me to be a part of something heartfelt and special.