Corona Chronicles: Revelations 2020

Early in the pandemic, a lot of people asked what we had learned. My initial answer was nothing. But that’s because we hadn’t been experiencing a COVID-19 society long enough for me to have learned anything. Eventually, my life was just as troubling as everyone else’s. With that said, I won’t lament on my perceived loss, but I do want to share what was new or revived this year, with a few explanations.

  1. Watching a funeral on Facebook Live is both weird and convenient and it’s not something I think I would’ve ever participated in had it not be for COVID-19 (the funeral wasn’t COVID related).
  2. There are a lot of ways to connect with friends and family, like playing a virtual game. I would share the host’s site, but she has a bunch of grammar errors and I feel strongly about that. Instead, here’s a link to virtual games you can play with others: Games to Play on Zoom.
  3. Traveling by airplane during a pandemic isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
  4. States’ rights mean different states have vastly different rules, and I was able to see this firsthand. For example, Michiganders (and others in the Midwest) seem to think they cannot catch COVID-19 if they’re outside. No matter how many friends try to explain the logic of a virus dissipating in air, it just doesn’t make sense to me. But hey…I’m no virologist.  
  5. A road trip during a pandemic is actually a safe way to change your surroundings.
  6. Josh’s red blend is superb. It’s made with a blend of fruits, not wines (which is something else I learned to differentiate this year).
  7. Participating in 10,989 Zoom meetings is not fun. Okay. That’s not true. I only participated in like 9,989, but they still were annoying. What’s funny to me is that I spent a bit of time three years ago trying to convince my job that it was okay for me to Zoom into a meeting. Now, it’s pretty much expected. Isn’t life funny?
  8. Reconnecting with high school friends because of Zoom has been fulfilling.
  9. Slowing down helped me to clearly see friends’ and family members’ personalities for the first time.
  10. A pandemic seemed to have helped people reveal their whole selves for the first time.
  11. I need more peace and quiet than I thought. I always knew my husband was a morning person and I was a night owl; however, I didn’t realize just how “ready to rule the day” he is in the AM and how talkative he is throughout the day…until we began working from the same home space. I use my noise cancelling headphones when I need to concentrate.
  12. My body holds on to stress no matter how much reading and yoga I do. I came to this conclusion when I developed a rash that took up the length of my left arm. It’s healing, but it’s been there since May or so. A biopsy showed that it is lichen striatus. The only explanation is that it’s genetic and stress related. What can I say?
  13. I can only tolerate stay-at-home orders for three months.
  14. Escapism is my go-to when anything gets uncomfortable. I wrote about reading before, but the reality is I’ll go through great lengths to feel as if I’m floating, rather than feeling tethered to an awful reality, like a pandemic, social unrest, California on fire, stay-at-home mandates, nail-biting election results, etc., etc., etc…
  15. Trauma sparks my creativity. I’m not sure how I feel about this, except to say: it is what it is. This year, I’ve written quite a bit, not only on the blog, but also for other places, which I hope to be published in 2021. It’s probably another way to escape. I mean, I can go inward pretty easily; writing is just another way to do that.
  16. There’s only so much T.V. I can watch. I watched more television than I’m willing to share. I totally blame COVID-19 for this. My favorite finds were Twilight Zone (Season 2) and Modern Love, both are on Prime.
  17. More than ever, Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be about noticing and giving thanks for what’s in front of me, instead of what I hoped for.
  18. Others’ opinions have no place in how I feel. If I’m uneasy about something, then I should honor that feeling.
  19. Eating out has been more enjoyable. Mid-year we frequented some restaurants, and whether it was due to fear or the 50% capacity rule, there were fewer people, which seemingly improved service because the chef had time to cook food and the waitstaff had time to serve it.
  20. It’s okay to order all of the things online.

I think that’s about it. Although I’m happy to have learned, re-learned, or engaged in these experiences, I do hope that 2021 includes COVID numbers decreasing and the earth healing in multiple ways. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough.

Until then, what has 2020 shown or taught you?

~kg 12/26/20

Mental Health Matters: Resources

Thank you for indulging in my year of discussing how mental health issues showed up in my life and how I’ve managed to become a healthier version of myself. I wanted to close out the year with a few resources that supported me over the past six years just in case you planned on working on yourself in the future. *

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

Oprah & Deepak Miraculous Relationships 21-Day Meditation: I remember doing this meditation like it was yesterday. I’d sat down to figure out how I could have better relationships with everyone in my life. At that time, I wasn’t speaking to one of my favorite cousins because he hadn’t introduced me to his then fiancée, had missed my doctoral graduation, and had begun drifting away from me. Two of my goddaughters hated me; one of them, according to their father, didn’t even want to vacation in Florida because then, they’d “have to visit Kathy.” And my marriage was a hot mess. When I sat down to do this meditation, I thought for sure it was going to offer a prescription for how to be better at relationships. Instead, it focused on the relationship I had with myself. It truly was miraculous, and I recommend it for anyone who has so-called relationship issues.

Mindvalley: It’s hard to explain what Mindvalley is, and I don’t even remember how I stumbled across it, but many of the videos and podcasts that the founder, Vishen Lakhiani offers have helped me develop a new perspective of the world and everything in it. For example, Lakhiani created a term called brules, which stands for bullshit rules. In short, these are cultural norms that we all learn that limit who we can become. One brule is “your success should look like someone else’s success,” something that I think we can all agree isn’t true. Mindvalley offers information from people you may (or may not) have heard of, such as Lisa Nichols, Michael Beckwith, Jim Kwik, Marisa Peer, or Neale Donald Walsch. Each person has a specific message about a topic intended to increase your personal growth. I especially suggest listening to the podcast whenever you can.

Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life: Louise Hay, the author of this book, is an internationally and well-known healer. But before I praise the contents, I do want to say, that of course, no one can heal themselves, no matter the issue, in twenty-one days. However, this book is a great example of something that can jumpstart the process. I enjoy it because it provides you with four things: 1) a short explanation of the day’s concept, 2) the day’s mantra and mirror work, 3) a journal prompt, and 4) a free meditation you download from Hay’s site. With the exception of two, I spent approximately fifteen minutes per day doing this mirror work. Even though I’d done a lot of introspection and healing over the course of six years, this book was very helpful in showing me where I still needed to heal and grow. It highlighted people with whom I still held resentment and anger and provided me with healthy ways to acknowledge, accept, and move forward in processing these emotions.

Other resources that I won’t explain in great detail:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is like a self-help book masked as literature. The overall message (for me) seemed to be that all of our lives are spiritual journeys and how we walk them is up to us. Essentially, we can do what we want here on this earth.

The 7 Essene Mirrors” explained by Gregg Braden shows how we’re all, essentially, mirrors of one another. Everyone with whom you’re close to is showing you something about yourself. This video is two long hours, with no glitz or glam, but it helped me process possible reasons for why I judged those close to me.

Get Over It!: Thought Therapy for Healing the Hard Stuff is a self-help book that is a little woo-woo. If you believe that perhaps your mother’s mental state and overall health condition during the time you were floating around in amniotic fluid impacted you in some way, then this book is for you. It’s mostly centered on cognitive behavioral therapy concepts, which loosely explained, demonstrates how thought processes can lead you to a better way of dealing with past trauma.

As we enter 2021, I hope we remember that no matter what’s going on around us, we still have a responsibility to name, heal, and process what’s going on inside of us. Each of these resources have helped me to deal with my mental health in some way, which has also shifted how I function in most relationships.

Please feel free to add anything in the comments as I believe you never know what may support someone else.

*Disclaimer: I have not been paid to market any of these resources. Statements are my personal opinion.

Monday Notes: A New Way to Create Resolutions for the New Year

Every year since I was about ten-years-old, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Goals have ranged from losing a specific amount of weight to attaining jobs in my field. But last year, I resolved differently.

For 2018, I resolved to remember five concepts. I typed them out and hung them on my mirror to recite daily.

img_8878

#1: Anything is possible. Instead of being tied to a pre-determined outcome (e.g., I will appear on Jacksonville’s morning show to discuss The Unhappy Wife), I focused on believing that anything is possible. This turned out to be helpful. I had no idea that the editor of an anthology I’m apart of would ask me to represent the book via Tampa’s morning talk show. Nor did I conceive that I would be asked to participate in a book reading in Boston. With this reminder, I was open to any possibility, not just one that I thought was best for me. And it seemed to work.

#2: What you see is a manifestation of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. I’d learned long ago that however you feel on the inside will show up in your daily life. If you feel sh*tty, then your home, job, and other activities will reflect sh*tty circumstances. However, two things you absolutely can control are your emotions and your thoughts. With this resolution, I vowed to pay more attention to when I was excited and fulfilled. For example, though presenting my work isn’t new to me, when I attended a national conference in April, I admitted to myself that no matter where I’m employed, I’m a scholar and I enjoy this part of working in the field. Several months later, I was asked to chair a special interest group for a different national conference.

#3: Take nothing personally (AKA Agreement #2). This was the hardest but most useful for me. Many times things will occur and I tend to personalize it as if someone was trying purposefully to hurt my feelings. This surfaced when Dwight and I visited his parents. On their wall, is a six-foot blanketed image of his brother and his family hanging on the living room wall. How could I have personalized this? Well, immediately I was a bit jealous. And with that feeling, I became mad as if his brother intentionally made and sent his own father this gift to not only poo-poo on us, but also to one up our family. I’m not proud of this feeling, but it happened. I talked myself out of these made-up emotions and realized that his brother did what he wanted to do for his father. This had nothing to do with me.

#4: Be positive. This is self-explanatory, I think. But I will add this: Don’t be a Negative Norman. Think positive thoughts prior to entering a situation. I promise this will affect the way you see the actual event. In essence, don’t just hope for the best; actually see the best outcome.

new_year_2019#5: Follow your instinct. My intuition about people and circumstances is very strong. But sometimes I still second-guess those feelings and engage with others whom I should’ve left alone long ago. This resolution reminded me to follow my gut when people showed me who they were, whether it was the umpteenth or the second time. I stopped asking friends and family if they thought the person’s actions were disrespectful or uncalled for. I stopped needing second opinions about how I felt when interacting with others. Instead, I made decisions healthy for me. This resulted in de-friending a former high-school boyfriend from social media, pulling back from a one-sided friendship, and creating clear boundaries with my newfound biological family.

These 2018 resolutions worked best for me and I’ll continue with them in 2019. Nowadays, people tend to denigrate resolutions, but not me. Tell me if you still create resolutions/goals at the beginning or any part of the year. Are they more concrete than what I’ve described? Is this process history for you?

Monday Notes: New Paradigm…Old Mindset?

For the twenty-seven years that I had a relaxer, I’d been taught to only wash my hair once a week. Also, while using chemical treatments, I’d learned to be careful during workouts, in the shower, in the pool, and in the rain because if my hair were to get wet, then the style would most certainly be ruined, creating hours of beauty restoration.

However, in 2011, when I decided to wear my hair in its natural state, I found that wetting my hair wasn’t nearly as horrible an experience as it was with a perm. In fact, I learned that for my hair type, I had to wash it more often than once a week to maintain a “fresher” looking style. Water is good.

hairFor the first five years, I managed to wash my hair twice a week to maintain twist-outs. Since cutting it and wearing a wash-n-go style, my routine has increased to as much as every other day some weeks.

I’ve tried applying the old mindset with this new paradigm, sometimes waiting up to five days to shampoo and condition. You know what happened? It took me twice as long to detangle it. When I was done, there were clumps of hair everywhere, in the comb, on the shower curtain, and on the bathroom floor. And my head hurt. It was a mess.

That’s when it dawned on me: you can’t use yesterday’s mindset with a new framework.

img_5766We’re still in the season where people are considering a change and I think this message is critical. Many times we want to adopt a new practice, but we want to maintain the old way of doing things. We develop new relationships, but hang on to the ex in our DMs. We exercise, but still eat fast food three times a day. Or vice versa. We learn to eat healthier, but don’t make time to exercise. That doesn’t always work. New ways of living require new ways of thinking for comprehensive change to occur.

With that said, I know it’s not always easy to make behavioral shifts. Returning to an old mindset is simple because it’s been ingrained in our brain for so long. Maintaining a new discipline seems counterintuitive to what we’ve learned. But it can be done with a few small changes. For example, I think about where I have to be each week and then plan hair washing accordingly. If I have to leave by seven in the morning, then I plan to wash my hair the day before. This eliminates a stressful morning of hair maintenance, yet continues my natural hair practice.

The same can be said for other lifestyle changes. Maybe it’s too much for you to plan out every single meal or to wake at 5 AM every day to workout. But I bet you can plan one meal a day or find an enjoyable exercise at least once a week. Either way, a new mindset is possible.

What helpful tips can you share for maintaining lifestyle changes? How have you successfully shifted into a different paradigm? Have you ever found yourself sliding back into an old mindset while trying to change? If so, what did you do to get back on track?

Let’s help one another create a new mindset that matches our new paradigms.

RE-Defined: DISCIPLINE

I’ve been thinking about discipline a lot. People have asked me how I accomplish things, and I never have a clear answer. I think I do now. Discipline.

In 2009, I quit a school instructional coaching job so that I could focus on finishing my dissertation.

“Who do you know that can actually make themselves sit for hours during the day to write?” my very good friend had asked when I shared my decision.

“I can,” I replied.

And that’s what I did. While Dwight was at work and the girls were at school, I analyzed data and wrote eight hours a day for nine months. I know my friend’s comment wasn’t a judgment against what she perceived me to be able to do or not do. It was more about what many people cannot and will not do…discipline themselves to achieve a goal.

But I want to be clear. I didn’t magically wake up with a spirit of commitment towards projects. It was taught.

typewriterYears ago, when people typed things on typewriters, I had a fifth-grade report due on Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. I’d made several mistakes and had to use that awful liquid paper/correction fluid stuff to cover it up and re-type words. It was a bumpy sludge of a mess.

My English major mother peered through her glasses to see how it was going.

“Kathy,” she started, “you’re going to have to re-type this paper. You can’t turn in something that looks like this. Your work is a reflection of you.”

I didn’t say anything back to her. In 1983, children simply sat there and seethed with anger and did what they were told. Or at least that’s what I learned to do.

I sat at that brown dining room table for hours. I wasn’t allowed to watch television until I finished. I ended up re-typing that essay three times, well past The Love Boat and Fantasy Island…and well past my bedtime. But it was done properly. What’s more is because of my mother’s correction I’d learned self-discipline. I’d learned the importance of focusing on one task (typing) and ignoring others (television). I learned to sit quietly and perfect something until it was “right.”

Today, being disciplined has served me well. I function within a distraction-based society by turning my phone over when I’m working and turning it off altogether while I’m sleeping. I’ve learned to take social media breaks when I’m indulging too much, so that offscreen life and people can take precedence. More importantly, I still practice sitting quietly and focusing on the day’s project until it’s complete.

Thirty-something years ago, I typed and re-typed those words through ten-year-old, tear-filled eyes. Now, I’m grateful for that early lesson because I see it as having shaped a positive and useful trait: discipline.

What about you? Do you have a positive superpower that you attribute learning from your parents’ rules? Are you disciplined? Do you want to be more disciplined? Feel free to share below.

Monday Notes: Being Yourself

I was raised in a family with a lot of rules about how to function in socially acceptable ways. I grew up in the ghetto where I had to learn a whole different set of rules for safety. And I attended schools with routines that didn’t fit either of the first two situations. A lot of times, I sat quietly until I determined which set of rules I was supposed to apply. For decades, I learned not to be myself and for just as long I had to unlearn it by simply trusting that who I am in each moment is okay.

I know this to be true because being myself has served others well, even when I wasn’t aware. For example, my goddaughter visited me over ten years ago because she was going through personal problems that left her feeling less than worthy. She was suicidal. Instead of embracing her in a big bear hug, I asked her one simple question, are you fucking crazy?

img_5554There is more, but my point is I didn’t stop to wonder if I should use a cuss word, or try to figure out what type of language would comfort her best. I didn’t offer a hug because that’s not my thing. I was myself in that moment, and years later, she’s grateful for that conversation and more because she viewed them as helpful.

Likewise, a former student reached out to me a couple years ago.

“You saved my life,” he said.

His statement was bold. I was humbled. How could little old me have “saved someone’s life?” He recounted a time when he was traveling down a path of self-destruction. His mother had begged me to encourage him to apply to a university. Because I take everything I do seriously, especially educating people’s children, I did as she asked. I bugged the heck out of him about applying, and to get me off his back, he applied to one, Florida International. He was accepted and the rest is how he redirected his life.

In both of those situations, I didn’t think twice. Actually, I didn’t even think once. I just acted according to my personality and beliefs at the time. I’ve since grown to believe that’s what being yourself is all about.

img_5553If you have to stop and ponder on how to perfect your words and actions for the person or the moment, then perhaps those people and experiences are not aligned with who you are in the first place. Because I’ll tell you what, being yourself will never require you to change parts about you to accommodate others.

Let me know what you think. Have you struggled to be yourself? Do you think it’s possible to be yourself 100% of the time? Do you change who you are to fit the setting?

Monday Notes: *When You Know Better

img_5728When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you have some semblance of clarity. You know yourself, and you no longer walk the fine line of being one type of person in public and an entirely different one in private. You learn that it’s either okay that you speak from your heart, or it’s not. You learn that people will be comfortable with who you are, or they will not. Either scenario is fine.

When you know better, you do better, and when you open your eyes and begin to see other people for who they are, instead of who you want them to be, then you can truly choose. You can choose to highlight the excellent parts. You can continue to allow the bad parts into your space and energy. Or you can determine if the good outweighs the bad. You can decide with whom you want to engage and how.

Do-the-best-you-can-until-you-know-better.-Then-when-you-know-better-do-better.When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you accept better. What is better for you? Is it a better job that is aligned with your passion and skillset? Is it a better relationship that mirrors your values? Is it a better home that reflects who you are? Whatever “it” is, when you know better, you’ll feel what’s best and draw it into your life. There will be no choice; like attracts like.

And when you do these things altogether: be your true self, see others for who they are, and accept better circumstances, then you can live a more peaceful life.

But first you have to know better.

Happy New Year good people! Are you making any changes this year? Will you continue walking a similar path because it’s working for you? Feel free to share; you never know who you might meet right here in these comments. As for me, I’ll be publishing another book and focusing positive feelings towards the type of educational setting that’s right for me. 

*inspired by Maya Angelou

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.

kwotedbyBLOG

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?

kwoted