*7 Days of Yoga

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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 Wife marketing, 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.

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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.

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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.

*©2016 K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.

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Journey to the Center of My Heart: Trusting My Inner Voice

The year after my mother died, my father packed up all of my belongings in trash bags and sent me to live with my maternal grandmother. I was seventeen. One day after I’d gotten settled, I confided a feeling I’d had.

“I’m going to write a book,” I said with a smile.

“Oh yeah?” She asked. “About what?”

“About my mother’s death.”

“You think you’re the only whose mother’s died?” She replied.

feedback_opinionI want to share this with you, not to bash my grandmother. Twenty-seven years later, I know that people’s conversations and comments have little to do with me. I’m sharing this with you because I never wrote about my mother. Her response led me to believe that not only was my topic one in a million, but that no one else would want to read it.

So I didn’t write it. In fact, I didn’t write much of anything for the next 25 years.

I became a high-school English teacher, got two more degrees, and became an education professor.

The urge to write crept back around 2014. I asked my little sister friend to create this very WordPress site for me. She did. I took it from there and learned the ins and outs of blogging. I continued to follow my intuition. Blogging gave me more writing confidence. Blogging 101 and 201 gave me more tools and knowledge. Following people like Janice Wald gave me more tips.

2015 rolled around. My dad died. I felt a flurry of emotions and another urge of intuition: Write about it. This time I didn’t tell anyone, not one soul. I sat in my stepmother’s guest bedroom and wrote the entire story of our failed relationship from 1989 to his death in 2015. I included all of the murky, emotional details that people rarely want to discuss or feel. By the last keystroke, I felt satisfied. But it was too long for a blog post (that’s something Janice Wald taught me).

I broke it up into five separate posts and called it a series; that’s something I learned in Blogging 101 or 201. The response was positive and endearing. Once again, this validated a choice I’d made to follow my heart.

A few months later, I had another stroke of intuition: Find a local writers group. I sought out the Florida Writers Association and considered entering their annual writing contest. Mek, a blogging friend I’d written with had been taking writing courses. She read The Transition and offered genuine suggestions.

I entered the contest and won first place for Creative Nonfiction of an unpublished piece. Did I need to win to prove I should follow my heart? Not really. I’d already felt good by simply writing it. But there’s no doubt my choice to write was again validated.

Now I had an “award-winning” piece of literature. It came in handy when the Still I Rise Grant required three writing samples. And although I didn’t win, as some of you remember, Alternating Current/The Coil published that piece during Father’s Day weekend.

Furthermore, Alternating Current then nominated The Transition for Best of the Net.

meditating_1This is just one example of why I’m adamant about listening to your inner voice and tuning others’ out. This is why I almost beg people to follow their hearts. Those feelings, voices, visions, or whatever come to you, they’re not accidental. They are specific nuances sent to guide you towards what you and only you should be doing.

Furthermore, I finally realize my grandmother was right. I’m not the only person whose mother (and father) have died. However, I’ve also recognized my ability to string words together that convey relatable feelings for people who’ve been through similar experiences. Today, I’m glad sharing about my life through writing has not only helped others, but also shaped a clear path for me as I continue to follow my heart.

Gina from The Unhappy Wife book

unhappy-wifeGina was the third wife that I’d interviewed. By the time I began putting the book together, I knew that she fit into the Voiceless Wife category. At first glance, her story may seem similar to Jasmyne’s. She knew she shouldn’t have married Bryan, but wed anyway and sought counseling through marriage ministry. However, her story is a tad bit different. Whereas Jasmyne seemed to heed advice from people she trusted, Gina never told anyone how she felt. Her mother, father, and best friend never suspected that she knew Bryan wasn’t the man for her.

Concept: Gina began our interview by saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have married Bryan as soon as he proposed,” so I wrote the story around that idea. I wanted to show the reader how we can have a suspicion about a person, and even if they do something blatant, we ignore those feelings and proceed with our own illusion.

With this narrative, I wanted to also illustrate how we keep relationship secrets due to something I’ve talked about on this blog before: shame. Gina didn’t want anyone to know that she’d given up her dog, her weekly visits with her mother, or her relationship with her best friend, simply to please Bryan.

I have to add that this wife’s story is one of my “favorites” because of the bloody kitten scene. I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book, but the imagery of the animal gasping for its breath stayed with me for quite a while. This part of her story is true.

Similar to Jasmyne’s chapter, I created the part about her stomach twisting and turning in knots. The reason I continue to use this analogy is because intuition is oftentimes described as a gut feeling. If you’re familiar with chakras, then you know the yellow one is associated with your stomach and trusting what you feel. This is a message I felt important to continue.

Commentary: What stood out to me is the progression of abuse. Bryan slowly pulled her away from her loved ones, including her dog. He never physically hurt her, but rather imposed psychological abuse. He was jealous of everyone she interacted with, but it wasn’t obvious to her until after the experience. This is common. When you’re in a situation with a person who’s mentally abusive, then it might not be as apparent, especially if you’re ignoring instincts.

The other part of Gina’s story that intrigued me was the shame she carried. The shame grew at the same rate as her instincts about the relationship. This fit into another reason I felt compelled to write this book. There are many women who keep the details of their marriages secret because they believe they’re the only ones going through horrible situations. I’m not suggesting that we tell everyone, everything about our unions. I’m just saying perhaps it’s time to be a little more authentic in how we present ourselves to our friends and family. And if those people can’t be trusted, seek counsel that is aligned with who you are and what you believe. There are ways to discontinue the abuse and the loneliness that accompanies maintaining this type of secret.

unhappy-wifeLet me know what you thought about Gina and Bryan, what I’ve said here, or anything else that you felt was important. Next month, we’ll delve into many readers’ favorite character, Mrs. Little.

The Unhappy Wife is on sale here.

Behind the Kwote: Your Journey

journey_zero_explanationThis kwote popped into my mind after I’d announced to several people that I was leaving my tenure-track position at Florida State University. There was no visible job prospect in April 2015, but my intuition had spoken and I was listening. Even though my instinct was clear to me it wasn’t to others.

My cousin’s response, “Are you crazy?” Mind you he’d asked me the same question when I announced the commute.

My best friend at the time replied, “What??? Now I can’t say my best friend is a professor at FSU!”

My daughter’s reaction, “Are we gonna be poor?”

My aunt’s email, “So what if you’re the only Black person? Since when did that become a big deal?”

My friend and university’s alum, “What? Why?”

This is just a small number of people and their opinions. But in my mind, there were far too many and I didn’t feel as if I owed anyone an explanation for decisions about my life. With the exception of my daughter, none of these people would be affected by how I generated income. This kwote helped me to see the truth.

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Oftentimes, this time of year prompts reflection and a sense of renewal. But sometimes we neglect to follow our hearts and inner voice because we’re worried about what family and friends will think about our new paths. Let me tell you something. They’ll be just fine! Now, let me ask this question. If you don’t follow your intuition, will you?

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The Ultimate Inside Job: You

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Spiritual growth is an inside job. That’s why I work on myself constantly. For me, inspiration stems from relationships and experiences within those relationships. For example, I’d noticed that people with the title mother oftentimes wrap their love in judgment. My mother-in-law, grandmother and stepmother have all, at some point passed judgment on something they thought was best…for me. Whether it’s getting my oldest daughter’s hair done more frequently, not moving around so much or engaging with my dad in ways someone else saw fit, each of these women have offered unsolicited advice about how I choose to live. Conversely, I’d inherited a few of these traits myself. My younger cousins claimed I was “too judgmental” and my own daughter once said I was so “judgy.” I probably was. What finally did it was a group conversation I had with a few friends. One thing led to another, and summer 2013, I decided to try and judge less.

It’s a lot harder than just saying it.

Think of judgment as a big box that encompasses many other things, such as superiority and arrogance. In order for me to stop passing judgment, I had to see myself as equal to everyone. I had to step down from my proverbial moral high ground and stop wagging my opinionated finger at others. We’re the same. I’m equal to the drug addicted, the shop-a-holic and the teenage mom. I’m not better than either of these people, thus I have zero right to judge their lives. If I’m feeling judgmental, then I remind myself of this: anyone, at any moment could judge what you’re doing or have done in your life. Who am I to pass judgment on anyone’s life or life choices?

Image. © 2016 K E Garland
Image. © 2016 K E Garland

My next project was learning to trust my intuition. I’ve always had a good sense of how I felt, but somewhere along the way, I’d stopped fully listening. That is until I read T.D. Jakes’ Instinct. My husband and I were having some rough times and I’d met a friend to vent. I didn’t know what to do. She suggested we read the book together. Though I’m not religious, I am open to new ideas, so I agreed. I was so inspired by this book that I attempted a Facebook group centered on the ideas. That was a flop. But my renewed sense of following my heart was not. Using one’s instinct means consciously living life and being mindful about those pesky feelings. You must be perceptive and pay attention to that thing in the pit of your stomach that’s warning you about where you are and who you’re with. Though Bishop Jakes situates the concept in a discussion about passion and purpose, he also touches on relationships. He describes how people grow, sometimes together and sometimes apart due to monotony. Either way, instinct can show you how to proceed. I’d decided then and there to be quiet so I could hear. I quit a job that was too far to drive, wrote a book of Kwotes, started a blog, and just celebrated my 19th year of marriage. I firmly believe intuition is an underrated tool that we all have.

The last principle is a result of my father’s death. So I’m still figuring it out and listening for answers. When my dad died, I needed a lot more compassion and care than I thought I would. Because I had been following my intuition, I was in tune with my emotions. I requested empathy from specific people. It didn’t matter though. Considerations from them didn’t flow like I thought they would. I was very confused. All this time I thought that compassion was an easy sentiment to provide. It turns out that I was mistaken. Compassion is made up of three parts: (1) putting yourself in another person’s place, (2) imagining what she or he might be feeling and (3) doing something considerate. That’s a lot to ask of anyone. It’s a challenge. It takes extra effort. As it turns out, it’s something that I shouldn’t have sought out. So I stopped. Instead, I began showing other people compassion. Like I said, this one is a work in progress but already I feel better being compassionate, rather than seeking it.

“I’m not perfect.” We use this phrase often. But what does it mean? Does it mean that you stay stuck in your imperfect self, while asking forgiveness for bad behavior and judging other people’s perceived imperfections? I don’t have a universal answer. But I do believe that we can all be better than we were yesterday if we try. How are you willing to be a better you? What advice would you add to this?

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