Monday Notes: Therapy Every Day

“You want your friends to do therapy,” my goddaughter said. “And that’s too hard.”

            I had just shared the details of a failed friendship, and my goddaughter’s words made sense. You see, I’ve spent the last eight years in self-therapy. I allow my intuition to lead me to a new concept, then I research who the “leading authority” is on that idea, and then I read his or her work. For example, attempting to understand my oldest daughter and her choice of boyfriend(s), led me to the concept of codependence, which led me to Melody Beattie’s work, which led me to read The New Codependency. Consequently, I began to understand myself and how I’d embodied similar traits.

            This is normal for me. I not only read about concepts that reveal a deeper understanding of myself, but I also apply them. When I realized I’d lived much of my young adult and adult life sans boundaries, I read about and learned how to create and enforce them, so I could show up as a healthier version of myself. This is a part of how I live, so I can function in new ways.

            The problem is, as my goddaughter pointed out, everyone is not like this, and sometimes, it impacts how I relate. A lot of times, I’m having a conversation that is normal for me, but difficult for others. In essence, I’m asking others to dig deeper than they care to, than they usually do. I’ve asked friends to think about how they interact with me in relationship, and especially for those my age, it’s quite a challenge. I’ve had friends who’d rather end the relationship than to stop and figure out how to engage in a better way or to consider how I may have felt in situations. This is too hard, a friend recently told me. The this to which she referred was understanding that she never initiates a phone call with me.

            For a while, friends’ responses felt personal. Each situation seemed as if the person didn’t want to see my point of view, or as if they believed that what I was saying was ridiculous—as if I’d asked them to do drugs in the alley. They’d cross their eyes and fumble their words, until we were no longer communicating effectively. Now, I realize their reaction wasn’t personal. People are made up of their childhood and adolescent backgrounds and how they’ve learned to handle situations from those foundational times. Many people project, instead of reflect.

            And, as my goddaughter told me, “Most people don’t want to do what the therapist says, much less read something on their own and follow through with that.”

            “Hmmmph,” I said. “That’s interesting. I do therapy every day.” Therapy is not just for the therapist’s office. Just like yoga isn’t just for the mat, and practicing religions isn’t just for the church, synagogue, or mosque. It’s a daily practice and part of my life. Meaning, I will look at myself several times over in a situation, before I accuse someone else of being the problem. I’m always willing to take ownership, and subsequently, do better, if my doing better is a requirement for maintaining a bond.

            But again, everyone isn’t like this. Everyone isn’t interested in examining their life or taking steps to improve. My goddaughter reinforced something else the day we talked. “It’s okay if they don’t,” she said. “Everyone’s different.”

            You can only change you is an idea I consistently reiterate on this blog, and I stand by it. I will continue to do “therapy every day,” with a primary goal to improve myself. However, I also know from experience that changing me for the better also changes those around me, whether they consciously know it or not.  


Monday Notes: Intentionality

Intention is what you intend or plan to do. Intention is doing something on purpose.

When my daughters were younger, I made sure to not only spend time with them separately, but also together. Although they are the same gender, they have distinct personalities, and one way to honor that I saw them as individuals, was to plan different activities with each of them. For example, my youngest loved plants and animals, so if we visited a new city, I’d take her to a botanical garden. My oldest likes to eat, so we frequented restaurants. The relationship I developed with them (and that we continue to have) was and is intentional.

Being intentional takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. The relationship I currently have with my husband is an example. We wake up each day with the intent to be married and committed to one another. We spend every Sunday together: we choose a breakfast spot; we grocery shop; we have conversation. If one of my husband’s friends wants to do something with him on a Sunday, he declines; I do the same. We are dedicated to cultivating and maintaining a relationship. We are intentional with this commitment.

In addition to my daughters and spouse, I’m intentional with friends. One way I’ve done this is to be as honest as possible. If I see the relationship is faltering, then I say something. I want to ensure that friends know I care about our friendship, and if any way possible, I’d like to continue being friends. In my opinion, a friendship you care about is one where you can raise important issues, such as why there may have been a lag in communication or why you haven’t seen the person. Next, you can intentionally create space for the friendship to shift, grow, or dissipate.

Another way I’m intentional with friends is scheduling time to talk or be with them. Sometimes, my life is busy. Other times, I’ve built in time to be quiet and rest. In between, I am intentional about with whom I talk to and when. Most of my friends are similar; they are busy. And if we want to engage in authentic conversations, we schedule a chat. I have a standing Zoom “appointment” with a friend I’ve known since first grade. My sister, who I consider a friend, oftentimes has to schedule weeks ahead to speak with me. I have a host of friends who have to look at their calendars, so we can choose a date to meet in person and have hours long conversations. We are intentional about interacting and communing.

But everyone doesn’t see the value in intentionality.

A friend recently proclaimed scheduling time to speak as “weird.”  “I schedule an appointment to go to the doctor. I don’t schedule an appointment to speak to friends. I can just call you in the car or whenever.”

This reaction isn’t frequent, but when it is, I assure people who disagree that it’s not weird, and we’re all different. While some see being intentional as something cold and unfeeling, I see it as the opposite. In my opinion, it makes the person that much more special. I’d much rather know someone carved out a piece of time to listen to me, than to be yelling at drivers, their kids, or practicing lines for a show (as one friend used to do), while I share the latest details of my life. The latter seems like fitting someone into existing distractions, while the former seems, well, a bit more intentional.

I know this is a matter of perspective, so let me know what you think in the comments.


Monday Notes: “Where’s Waldo”

I call him “Where’s Waldo” because he wears a red and white striped shirt and blue pants. He’s an older man, who frequently walks around the neighborhood. During the summer months, he walks to the pool, strips down to his swimming trunks, and does several laps. I’ve watched him repeat this pattern several times from our community gym’s window.

Sometimes when it rains, and he cannot swim, he comes inside the gym. This is how we met.

“They should have another treadmill,” he once said, taking slow strides.

“I agree,” I replied, while using the elliptical. “I’ve told them that before.”

“I can only walk. And swim,” he added. “I have an injury, so I can only do those two things.”

“Maybe you can ride a bike?” I offered.

“I can only walk. And swim,” he repeated.

Before he left, he waved good-bye and bid me a good day. I did the same, and as is customary, I felt a little closer to him. I wished I would’ve asked him his name, so I could stop secretly calling him “Where’s Waldo.”


The next time I saw him was a few months later.

I drove to the fitness room, as usual. As usual, I sat my yoga mat next to the treadmill, wiped down the surface, and placed my phone, water bottle, and towel in each appropriate place. Then, I went back to my car to get my free weights.

That’s when I saw “Where’s Waldo.” He was either headed to the pool or headed to the gym.

“Good morning!” I said, happy to see him.

“Morning,” he mumbled.

Turns out, he was headed to the gym, because when I returned with my weights in hand, there he stood…on the treadmill.

“That’s my stuff,” I said, pointing to my belongings: the white towel, hanging on the equipment’s right arm, the water bottle in the cup holder, and my phone, sitting in front of him.

“Well, get it then,” he spat.

“Oh no,” I clarified. “I was about to use the treadmill. That’s why my stuff is here. I just had to get my other things.”

“Well, I’m here now,” he said.

For a moment, I thought he wasn’t for real. However, his wide-legged stance implied that not only was he not playing around, but he also wasn’t moving.

Though there were many thoughts rolling around in my head, they weren’t polite, and I’ve been working on being as kind in speech as possible.

“This is incredibly rude, you know.”

“So,” he replied.

I’m positive I resembled the wide-eyed emoji. I stood behind him…on the treadmill and retrieved my belongings, and I said, almost in his ear, “I hope you have a good day.”

“You, too,” he said, with a laugh.

Then, I practiced what I knew to do, so I wouldn’t let this man’s behavior dictate my morning:

Grounding: For those of us who ruminate, it can be quite easy to keep going over a situation, until it culminates into a bunch of “what-ifs” and “I should’ves.” That’s not helpful. For us, it’s important to ground ourselves in the present moment. So, I called my husband and told him the entire story. I didn’t need validation that I was right, but rather, I needed a way to release the narrative, so it wouldn’t fill my head. Talking to Dwight for five minutes helped.

Exercising: I was red with anger at this man’s behavior and my helplessness in the situation. I almost went home. But then I remembered, exercising helps move energy around and out of the body. I was actually in the perfect place to be angry. I stayed in the fitness room, and worked out in a different order. He left after 20 minutes, and I was able to use the treadmill at the end of my routine.

Ignoring: In the past, I would’ve placed my phone call to Dwight inside the gym, so the guy could hear the conversation. That’s called being passive-aggressive, and I’ve worked extremely hard to not embody this trait anymore. Long ago, I also would’ve stared the man down, which probably wouldn’t have ended well. Instead, I set up my equipment so that my back would be to him. I needed to work out, but I didn’t need to look at him. Our interaction had ended.

Like I’ve said before, we’re living in some weird times. You never know what folks are going through, and it’s important to reman level-headed. People seem to be on edge, which is understandable. But it’s important to remember that we can only control ourselves. I couldn’t make the man get off the treadmill, but I could control how I reacted in the situation, which prevented things from escalating.

Be safe out there. People are unstable, and sometimes peace relies on you.

Monday Notes: Emotion Words

There’s a scene from Four Christmases, where the main character’s nephew unexpectedly learns there’s no Santa Claus. Once he finds out this heartbreaking information, the little boy takes off his clothes, jumps out the window, and runs away.

“When he gets to hurtin’ inside and can’t use his emotion words, he takes to streakin’,” his mother says, as the little boy leaves his underwear behind.  

We’ve all been there, I think, running away from the thing that hurt us, our drawers limp on the windowsill. We’ve all had a moment where we’ve felt an emotion but didn’t know how to express it in a healthy way; however, since this movie released in 2008, I’ve noticed not knowing how to use your emotion words can present differently in each of our lives.

A personal example I have is my grandmother. Her sister is in a nursing home, and because my grandmother is in her nineties, there’s really nothing she can do about it. One time after visiting my great aunt, my grandmother told me about how she broke out into hives. Eventually, she realized it was because she was worried about her sister.

Books like The Body Keeps Score and people like, Louise Hay have written about how the energy of our emotions can be stored in the body, resulting in specific pain or illness. So, when my grandmother retold this story, it seemed obvious to me what had happened. Instead of being able to say something like, “I feel helpless because my only living sister is living with dementia in a nursing home” or even being able to sit and cry about it (remember, my grandmother lives by if you’re sad, you better scratch your butt and get glad), she seemed to have held on to her real emotions, and the result was hives.

A more global rendition of not knowing how to use your emotion words is when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Although this event was unfortunate for multiple reasons, it was a great example of what can happen when you don’t know how to take time to process emotions in a healthy way. Not only can you hurt yourself, but you can also hurt others and jeopardize your career. I don’t think it’s ever okay to put your hands on another person; however, this moment was an opportunity to show us that no matter how happy you may appear on the outside, and no matter how much money you may have, anyone can have unresolved issues that may result in not knowing how to use emotion words.

Finally, I’ve had several moments where I’ve learned to bury emotions so deep that when they resurfaced, I didn’t know how to deal with them, much less communicate how I felt in an effective way. I’ve written about that here and here. But luckily, I’ve taken time to learn how to use my emotion words so that I no longer injure myself or others. Here’s how:

  • Learn to feel emotions when they appear. For example, if something makes you sad, then take time to notice the sadness in your body: where is it?  How does it make you feel? You may even want to announce to yourself, “I am sad.”
  • Consider journaling about why you’re having the emotion. In the Will Smith scenario, I’d bet money he wasn’t really upset about Rock’s joke; something else was going on. We’re no different than a celebrity. Sometimes, what’s angered us is an unaddressed trigger. That’s worth exploring.
  • Find ways to release the emotion. One thing that helps me is exercising. Last year, I was so negatively affected by someone’s actions that the space around my heart physically hurt. The only thing that helped was a thirty-minute run/walk on the treadmill. Once I was done, I felt lighter and less bothered.
  • If another person is involved in your painful emotions, then maybe you need to have a conversation with that person…when you’re no longer angry, of course. Write out what you will say in a loving way, and then give them a call, so you can engage in positive dialogue about the issue.

Welp. That’s all I’ve got today. Feel free to add any advice in the comments. I’m all about helping one another as a community.


If you want to hear about the three levels of emotional fitness, then watch Mastinkipp’s explanation:


Monday Notes: It Was the Worst of Times

The world feels hella weird right now. Do you feel it? Is it just me? I partly blame the pandemic. It seems to be where things explicitly went awry on a global scale.

Politics, aside, living through a pandemic was weird and traumatic, but mostly traumatic. I’ve commented on a few blogs and other social media that I feel as if we all have collective anxiety (and maybe depression). During the height of death and disease, many of us suppressed our fears with booze and sourdough bread recipes. Do you realize that some of us didn’t even stop working? We Zoomed our way through, while people suffered and died with a new virus. Now, many of us are here, pretending we didn’t experience collective trauma: returning to school, working in person, and yes, like my husband and me—traveling.

It’s just weird.

As I write this, Hurricane Ian is headed toward Florida, the state where I live. In general, hurricanes don’t worry me. We’re in a city where we rarely see anything beyond a tropical storm, with high winds and rain. However, this hurricane feels different when juxtaposed against a pandemic backdrop. I mean, first comes the pestilence, then the natural disaster, right? I’m no bible scholar, so I’m not sure. But I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed toward religious prophecy. It’s the implication of the disaster that’s disconcerting, not the disaster itself. No matter the outcome, I’m sitting here writing an essay about how it feels, while Dwight works.

That’s weird, right?

Speaking of Florida, I’ve been meaning to tell ya’ll about how busy our governor has been. Since the summer, he’s disenfranchised teachers, women, and professors. His latest feat was accepting immigrants from Texas and flying them to Martha’s Vineyard. Normally, I would be outraged, but I don’t have the bandwidth. Politicians are stereotyped as those who don’t really care (democrat, republican, or otherwise); however, this seems a bit far. It seems common sense to me that physically using people as political pawns is unethical and shouldn’t be debatable. It’s weird that this isn’t a baseline of agreement, that there are people out here defending or deflecting the governor’s actions.

It’s also weird that I’ll be turning 50 next year. I’m a big birthday celebrator and party person. To that end, Dwight has something brewing…on an island. Pretty cool, right? Well, it would be if death and destruction weren’t constantly looming. The island on which we’d intended to celebrate is underwater: the media keeps showing a bridge floating in the ocean, separating the people and their access to the mainland. It feels selfish to plan a milestone birthday during these times, but you know, if the earth is still intact, I’d love to be sunbathing off the Caribbean. So, we’ve chosen a different place, one that isn’t in hurricane alley. This is weird. I know.

Do you know there’s still a war going on between Russia and Ukraine? Did you know there’s something going on with the United States and Taiwan that could result in a war…with China? Did you also know Nostradamus predicted the “Great War,” which philosophers associate with World War III? It’s supposed to occur in 2023…for seven months.

Weird.

I started to write “3 Ways to Live in Uncertain Times.” This is an inspirational blog, after all. But I couldn’t, mainly because I’ve only found one way. Every day, I wake up, look around, check the socials to make sure QAnon followers didn’t start an American civil war in the middle of the night or that the world didn’t fall apart, in general, then I start my day with goals, as if we’re not living in a pandemic, while facing natural disasters in every corner of the world, as we dodge multiple global wars. It’s probably a form of suppression or willful ignorance. Either way, I make plans, as if there’s a normal future ahead. Then, I repeat.

Weird, I know.


RESOURCES:


Monday Notes: How to Release People and Experiences

<Woo-woo alert> 

Everything is energy. Science tells us that much. It’s the reason you lose weight when you exercise and gain weight when you eat too much: it’s an energy exchange. 

You know what else is related to energy? Frequency. Science teaches us that waves carry energy. The amount of energy they carry is related to their frequency and their amplitude. The higher the frequency, the more the energy, and the higher the amplitude, the more energy

Throughout my life, I’ve come to know two things: one, we’re all composed of energy; therefore, it’s possible to be connected energetically, and two, because we are composed of energy, we can also function on different frequencies. Have you ever received a phone call from someone you were thinking about? Ever walked in a room and felt a little off? For me, the concept of energy and frequencies explains these happenings. 

Still with me? Cool. 


I’ve written before about the importance of releasing people, situations, and experiences, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained how I do this. What follows is my own process based on a compilation of suggestions from books and podcasts. Here are three basic ways I release people and experiences: journaling, cutting energetic cords, and purging

JOURNALING

Recently, a person I befriended in the late nineties commented on this blog about something I did that bothered her. I responded and told her to reach out. She never did. Instead, nine months later, she contacted Dwight, asking if we could both meet her for coffee. My husband told her we could meet, but only after she and I had a conversation, to which she replied, “no thanks.” 

I was angry for a few reasons, which I won’t get into here; however, I knew I needed to release this former friend because we no longer vibed in a way I valued. To release this connection, I journaled something like this: Dear XXX, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being there when I needed you. I release our connection and am grateful for any and all lessons that came with it. 

I’ve completed this process with a few others in the past, and miraculously, I’ve not heard from them anymore. Our journey together has ended.

CUTTING ENERGETIC CORDS

I completed a doctoral process from 2004-2010. Those six years were the most stressful of my academic and professional life; the experience shifted my perception of universities and myself. I didn’t realize how much grad school changed me until last year, when I had to face my digestive issues. 

This release required phases. First, I began by journaling about my doctoral chair in detail; I included everything I perceived that she’d done as my alleged mentor. I wrote about each year of grad school—things I’d not shared with anyone. Next, I envisioned my doctoral chair’s face and image. Then, I wrote a letter to her, which is a type of journaling. I always begin with gratitude for the person and experience. Next, I wrote an in-depth description of what I wanted to release. In this case, it was my perception of what I thought was supposed to happen in grad school, judgment about my doctoral chair, and judgment about myself as a doctoral student and candidate. 

The final part of this was actually cutting the energetic cord. Here is where I meditated on what I’d written and physically saw myself severing ties/cutting the cord with my chair and the process. 

Prior to this, I couldn’t discuss being a grad student without spiraling into anger. Since cutting the energetic cord, I’ve felt more at peace about attaining a doctorate and what it has meant for me, overall. 

PURGING

Sometimes, a person has been in your life so long that simply journaling is not sufficient enough to release them. Other times, an event may have had such a huge impact in developing who you are as a person that you need to do more than cut an energetic cord. When this is the case, then purging is an option. 

When I found my biological father and his family in 2018, I’d already accepted the circumstances of my biological mother and subsequent adoption in a healthy way. Acquiring new information from my father landed me back in a rumination of what-ifs and a narrative of poor me. Journaling and cutting energetic ties weren’t enough to move me through. 

So, in December 2021, I gathered up pages of my journal and set them on fire in a barbeque grill at a local park. This is called a fire purging ritual

Immediately, I felt free from the burden of my biological father, his wife, and my younger sister. It was magical. I understood that they entered my life for a reason, and I had the power to release them back to wherever they came from…with love.


A COUPLE MORE THOUGHTS

  • Releasing people is not about cutting people off; it’s about moving on. Prior to releasing, I always attempt to hold a conversation to express concerns, so we can move forward together. When that doesn’t occur, then I have to move on independently. 
  • Always release people and experiences with love and gratitude, because in my opinion, there’s a reason why you engaged with those people or had specific experiences. We all help each other in one way or another.
  • Everyone doesn’t need to complete these processes. Some of us have the ability to go with the flow, move on, or accept an it-is-what-it-is mindset. What I’ve described here is helpful for those of us who don’t function in that way.

Monday Notes: The Power of Story

Shortly after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I received several notifications from writing platforms. These publications had an urgent interest in “personal abortion stories.” Suddenly, hearing about women’s lived experiences was integral. I understand why. 

Stories are important. 

It’s one thing to be marching around in your knit, pink pussy hat; it’s quite another to share why you feel the need to. 

Sometimes, marching is easier than telling the person who disagrees with you that, you too, had an abortion at one point in your life. However, I’d argue that the narrative you share is what will actually create empathy, and eventually, a nuanced understanding of an issue.

Personal story is why the #MeToo movement was partly successful. For the first time that I know of, not only women, but also men were discussing definitions of sexual harassment. Is giving someone a compliment okay? Can I ask my coworker out on a date? If someone says, “yes” to sex, and then “no,” what should happen? I believe the only reason we were able to openly have conversation is because your favorite celebrity, your mother, or your friend shared a #MeToo story, and you offered a compassionate ear.

But personal stories are hard to share. 

I don’t want to speak for everyone, but it seems we’ve collectively bought into a similar message: life should be lived in shame. Sometimes, we do it to one another. For example, anytime you suggest for someone not to openly share what happened to them, you’re encouraging them to live a secret life of shame. And so we keep things from one another, but to what end?

I guarantee you know at least one woman who has had an abortion, and I’d bet money that at least one person explicitly or implicitly told her to hide her story. Subsequently, women who’ve chosen abortion live with the following: shame for getting pregnant, shame for getting an abortion, shame for not choosing motherhood, or D: All of the above. 

Even those of us who lived in homes supportive of our choices still navigated a bickering country that saw women who had abortions as another type of human being, separate from society and meant to be shamed, shunned, and lectured. We were seen as people who committed shameful acts. We were called murderers. In our own ways, each of us wore handcrafted scarlet letters, even if the only one who saw that red “A” was us when we looked in the mirror. 

So I get it. Choices can create isolation, and sharing about them can feel as if you’ll be further ostracized from society. 

But stories are important. Shared narratives make something less of an anomaly. 

So, I was thinking…What if instead of scaring and shaming women, we actually provided them with our own sex stories: stories about contraception, stories about sexually transmitted infections, stories about sex without love, stories about sex with love, stories about pregnancy, stories about birth, stories about miscarriages, and stories about abortion. The stories about abortion would be encompassed in stories about sex, not as fear tactics or moral instruction, but as an option for what could occur, should you need it.

Personal abortion stories should’ve been a part of our sex conversations since 1973. Now, it seems major publications are seeking narratives as a reactive form of storytelling. The conservative, Republican Supreme Court has “gone rogue,” so we need abortion stories—NOW! 

Sheesh! Reactivity to issues seems like an immature and exhausting way to be in the world. 

Personal abortion stories should have been part of our lives over the past fifty years. Perhaps, if more women discussed the commonality of our experiences, then we’d be less likely to allow a court, men, or anyone else to take away our rights. But as long as we’re tucking our lives away in the crevices of our closets and acting as if we know not of what those other heathens speak of, well…we get where we are now. 

Please don’t mistake this for victim shaming. It just seems that at some point, we have to stop living in shame for fear of what others, especially those who look like us and may have had similar experiences may say. Maybe if we would’ve shared “personal abortion stories” sooner, we would have a different national narrative. 

Or maybe I’m living in la-la land, we’re all powerless, and Roe v. Wade was always going to be overturned. I’d like to think otherwise, though. I’m a writer, after all, and believing in the power of story is what gives me hope.


Monday Notes: About Europe

Disclaimer: I realize all European countries are not alike. The entire continent is not a monolith. However, I have visited six European countries over my lifetime, and there seem to be a few commonalities.

TEENY-TINY THINGS

Europeans like things small. This ranges from coffee to living spaces. Our Zagreb Airbnb was 400 square feet; that’s the size of two dorm rooms or a garage. Maybe I’m set in my big-ass American ways, but even if I was alone, that wouldn’t be enough space. I’m a little over five-feet tall and around 135 pounds; the showers in both rentals were too small for me to wash my hair or shave my legs. I found this interesting, especially in the Netherlands, where the tallest people in the world live! How does the population function in capsule-like spaces? 

SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS

A Dutch Uber driver found out we were from the States and shouted, “Yay, Trump! Yee-haw!” in a facetious way. In our Rotterdam Airbnb, the owner asked us to use the heat sparingly, because “it’s not that cold outside, because of you know…climate change.” We met a thirty-year-old biracial woman from the UK who wants to visit the US, but is afraid because she “doesn’t want to get shot in the street, minding her own business.” And a Croatian Uber driver began a conversation with me about the “race” and “gun problem” we have. According to him, he wouldn’t even know how to obtain a gun in his country. He would have to “find someone in the underground, like the mafia, and even then, know exactly who to speak to to get a gun.” 

FRESH BREAD AND MEAT

If you like bread, then go to the Netherlands. The bread is freshly made, and it is evident. One time, we bought a loaf of bread on a Monday and by Wednesday or so, it was moldy. When we’re home, bread stays “good” foreva…and that’s probably not a good sign. If you like meat, then go to Croatia. That’s all we found in the grocery store: red meat and chicken. I had fish when we went to Hvar, which is off the coast; otherwise, meat is what’s for dinner there. But be careful of fillers. We bought some ground beef, and you could literally see and taste the filler. Well, that’s what we think it was.

SALADS

Both countries offer salad, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Dutch seem to really enjoy arugula, in particular. I don’t mean a spring mix with arugula, I mean…that’s the salad—arugula. In Croatia, the salads are a mix of shredded varieties, like iceberg, romaine, and arugula. Croatians also have a fresh, light vinegar and oil dressing. However, if you want something other than salad, then you will probably have to buy it at the grocery store or market, and even then, especially in Croatia, it is hard to find other types of green veggies. 

HANGING CLOTHES ON THE LINE

I know I’ve spoken ad nauseum about this, but hear me out one more time. Hanging clothes on the line seems to be cultural. When we were in the Netherlands, everyone in the apartment hung their clothes out. They even had special contraptions that allowed the clothes to hang out further and be brought back into the house. When we toured ruins and other places, I noticed surrounding areas where residents hung their clothes on the line. And when we got to Croatia, that again, was the expectation. If any of my European friends want to enlighten me about this, then please feel free in the comments. The only place I saw a dryer was at the laundromat.

WASHING WITHOUT A WASHCLOTH

Years ago, when I visited Spain and England, I learned that washcloths weren’t a thing. But I totally forgot about this on our trip. The owner of the Holland Airbnb had hand towels, but they were really too big to use as washcloths. When we visited Belgium, it was the same; there were hand towels but no washcloths. By the time we flew to Croatia, I was prepared and had purchased some smaller towels (but they weren’t washcloths). I looked this up to find out why some people, not necessarily Europeans, don’t use washcloths, and the answer is because it’s seen as unsanitary to repeatedly use a washcloth due to bacteria buildup. Who knew?

SMOKING

The Dutch and Croatians smoke…a lot. I legit thought I was going to get an illness from second-hand smoke. Whether it was when we were at home, relaxing or out and about, eating, cigarette smoke wafted through the air and into our nostrils. Europeans smoked so much I thought maybe no one had told them that it was bad, until I saw an empty pack on a table that said, “Smoking kills.

UNITED STATES IS A MICROCOSM OF EUROPE

If you’re familiar with any United States’ history, then this should be a no-brainer, but sometimes you have to see something to fully understand. When I visited parts of London, Manhattan’s setup made sense. New Orleans reminds me of parts of Spain. On this trip, I learned more about where specific cities, ideas, and people originated. For example, do these cities sound familiar: Breuckelen, Haarlem? Yeah. They originated in the Netherlands, so did the stock exchange. Neckties came from Zagreb, Croatia (as well as Nikola Tesla), and lace was invented in Bruges. Finally the Belgian waffle, which we (or I) love so much, is not Belgian due to its shape; it is Belgian because of the ingredients, which by the way, is not pancake flour.


Overall, this trip has broadened my perspective of the world and myself. I think it’s important to see how other people live, and traveling, whether it’s for a short or extended period of time, provides that. I’m grateful we were able to take this trip, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

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: 4 Weeks in the Netherlands

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

“I left my card at home,” I said.

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

I checked my bank account: 

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-52.67 (Spar City Witte)

$-39.60 (Spar City Witte)

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


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

It was an explicit balance of stress and relaxation. 

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

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

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

But these weren’t normal or structured circumstances.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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