Living in Central America for 8 Weeks: Routines and Other Self-Imposed Creations (Part II)
When I’m at home, I have a routine. I do some type of workout four times a week. Afterwards, I write in my gratitude journal, I light incense and meditate, and every so often, I do a tarot card spread. Then, I start my regular workday.
While I was in Central America, I rarely did an organized workout. In Costa Rica, it took two weeks for me to roll my yoga mat out on the upstairs patio and practice some poses. In terms of moving my body, Dwight and did several walking tours and hikes, lasting at least three hours. In Panamá, we took one to three-mile walks around the neighborhood during the week. And I thought to myself: isn’t this exercise? Not to mention, my diet significantly decreased in calories in Costa Rica. This was mainly because we didn’t have immediate access to a grocery store and sometimes underestimated the amount of food we would need for the week.
Instead of writing down five things I was grateful for each day, I started being grateful in the moment. For example, while I was doing yoga, the mountains surrounded me. That was dope, and I was grateful, right then. Oftentimes, I’d stand in the shower and think about how fortunate I was to be able to travel to another country, while maintaining material things back home (e.g., house, cars, etc.).
I didn’t bring any incense because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to light it, and it took me three weeks to pull a tarot card because I didn’t feel the need. Whatever I wanted to know, I intuited it.
Living this way reinforced something a medium told me last year. According to her, my spirit guides said I’m too regimented. They said I don’t need to sit down and meditate and do everything in such an orderly way. This message wasn’t just for me; she said no person needs to schedule time like this. It’s unnecessary. And now, I see what she meant.
This message was affirmed as I listened to a podcaster. She said, “If I don’t meditate in the morning, my day doesn’t go right.” I wondered if this was true. Does her entire twenty-four hours hinge on meditating for fifteen minutes? That’s a lot of pressure.
No doubt, there are times we need to center ourselves and become clear about our intentions in this world or get in touch with whatever deity we praise. But we’ve also created a system that we rely on a bit too much to live life. Consequently, this can cause us to forget to…live life.
While I was away, this idea was further affirmed through a conversation with my sister, who is Muslim. She decided not to celebrate Ramadan this year. She realized she was only doing it because she was Muslim. I saw our conversation as a clear message. Whether you believe in organized religion or not, you can make anything religious and then lean on that thing, the same way you would the teachings of Jesus or Allah.
Should I move my body every day? Of course. Do I have to spend exactly X number of minutes four times a week ensuring I do? I’m not sure. I’m starting to see this as a Western ideal we’ve created because many of us sit around too much. I’m now leaning more toward the idea of moving in ways I enjoy to remain active and mobile. I like riding my bike. I like practicing yoga. Sometimes I should pick up the pace a bit to work up a sweat. But I shouldn’t get myself into a frenzy if I don’t. It’ll be okay.
Monday Notes: UPDATES!
I’m one of those people who busies herself with all of the things when faced with adversity. So, while some people were in a worried frenzy last year, I was sitting at my laptop writing my life away. This is probably a form of escapism, but I don’t wanna get into that today. Instead, I want to update you on what my creativity yielded thus far:
Stories of Sport: I’ve already told you about this one, but I have to share again. During the beginning of 2020, I’m not ashamed to say I pushed my colleagues to complete a monograph. I’m not the kind of person who puts off projects or abandons them. If I say I’m doing something, then you can believe that it will manifest in some way. And if you said you’re helping, then I’m going to be on your tail, like “Let’s go!” It didn’t matter if we were facing a collective unknown, and it didn’t matter that there were global protests in the streets. I’m glad we persevered. We’ve received nothing short of high praise for a timely publication, and I’m pretty proud of it. My institution even ordered a copy for the library, which is now on hold because people are wanting to read it, something I never considered.
Tough Love: March 2021, one of my essays, “Tough Love” was curated with an organization called the Lungs Project. A close friend sent me their call for essays focused on all things love. At first, I wasn’t going to submit because I didn’t want to write about something sappy. I never do. But then, I had an idea to write about my grandmother and the way she interacted with me during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Maybe you’ve heard of the phrase tough love? If not, it’s associated with raising someone in an abrasive way to toughen them up. Unfortunately, this was published and offered during a limited time, but as soon as I read what my author’s rights are, I’ll share it here if I can.
There’s Strength in Softness: Mid-May 2021, Raising Mothers published one of my essays called, “There’s Strength in Softness.” I wrote this last year, too, but I had nowhere to publish it. This is a frequent happening in my life. I’m compelled to write something, so I do, and then months (sometimes years) later, there’s a call and I’m ready with an essay. Anywho, when I saw Raising Mothers’ theme on tenderness, I knew I had the perfect writeup. This one is based how generational patterns persist.
But here’s the cool part: while I was preparing Strength for submission, I was a bit stuck as to how to end it. One day while practicing yoga, the instructor said something she always says, “Sthira-Sukha,” which means there’s strength in softness. That’s where the title came from and also how I knew this essay was destined to be public. This pub is one of my favs to date because during the process, the editor really pushed me to dig a little deeper and use narrative nonfiction to tell a story, as opposed to using the blogging skills with which I’ve become accustom. I worked hard for this one.
Good Enough: June 1, 2021, another Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) series I’m Speaking Now: Black Women Share their Truth in 101 Stories of Love, Courage and Hope will be available for purchase. In it, you’ll find an essay I’ve written called “Good Enough.” My story is about being an Affirmative Action hired prof who worked alongside an arrogant, white male, who didn’t know how to do his job. It may sound familiar because parts of it were first written on this blog. The beauty of CSS is that they don’t care if you published the work somewhere else; they’ll still publish it…and pay you. The other cool thing about this publication is they did a book trailer. And to my surprise, guess whose chapter is featured twice? Here it is, in case you’re interested:
That’s it for my updates! Let me know if you purchase a book or read any of these works.
Monday Notes: Control in the Midst of Too Much
Sometimes life is too much, like last month.
There was too much to accept.
Too much estrogen and not enough progesterone means I have a menstruation cycle every other week…sometimes. Other months, I have no period at all.
After showing me two ultrasounds of my “perfect” uterus and peering at my chart to check my age, two gynecologists assured me this is natural.
“It’s perimenopause,” they’ve both said, while shrugging their shoulders and pursing their lips into a doctor smirk, as if to say, buckle up.
The media makes it seem as if this phase of a woman’s life is all about hot flashes and moodiness. No one mentioned rogue periods.
Last month, I had too much to accept.
I wanted my oldest daughter to live her life partially on my terms: go to college, find a trade, whatever. Just be a productive citizen independent of her father and me. Guess what she’s done? Whatever she wants. Thus far, her life has consisted of bad decisions that, every now and then, cause me to ponder and fear for her wellbeing. Her life is made up of Tyler Perry tropes and Lifetime movie narratives. Lifetime used to be fun to watch on lazy Sundays. I remember stuffing my face with some snack, while analyzing how silly each woman seemed. It’s less entertaining when it’s your daughter.
Last month, I had too much to accept.
I finally felt COVID-19’s thievery. The pandemic had successfully snatched the type of life I’d carefully crafted and turned it into a sort of dull loop. This probably seems like no big deal to those who’ve suffered job or health loss. But I’m not really into comparing losses right now. This current way of life is not what I desire. I wanted to go to a movie, regret eating too much popcorn, and lose myself in someone else’s conflict for two hours. I wanted to visit my friends. I wanted to do more than shower and log on to our college’s learning management system.
But I couldn’t. I can’t.
I just have to accept what is. I have to accept what I can’t control and begin to control what I can.
Biologically, my body is going to do what women’s bodies do. The process is out of my hands. Sure, I can drink some herbal tea, but I can’t control perimenopause any more than I can control my eyes blinking. I can, however, properly exercise for my age and eat foods that work for my current body.
My twenty-one-year-old daughter unconsciously lives life on the edge and doesn’t notice when she’s about to lose her footing. Though it’s distressful, I can’t control this. She is not a child whom I can punish for two weeks. However, I can establish new physical and emotional boundaries for our relationship, which stem from love, yet also protect me from being swept up in her maelstrom. I like to watch suspenseful movies, not be a part of them.
Finally, COVID-19 is here to stay. The disease and our president’s lack of leadership is out of my control; however, I can determine what type of pandemic life I’m going to live. Sometimes I make a traditional Saturday breakfast during the middle of the week to shake things up. I’ve also begun taking random trips within my city to photograph inspirational moments. In a couple weeks, Dwight and I will travel to Michigan to attend our cousin’s wedding. According to the invite, social distancing rules will be in effect. This should be interesting.
I still have a lot to accept that I’ve left unsaid. But I’m getting better at focusing on what I can control. It’s been a helpful way to exist these days.
Corona Chronicles: A True Florida Story
Most of you know me to be a “reasonable” person, so I hope you will listen to this story with your “reasonable” person ears:
July 11th my 18-year-old daughter texted me and apologized for not coming home in time to drive with Dwight and me to help her sister move. Her best friend had been kicked out of the house and she and another friend went to help him. The three spent the night together at the first friend’s house.
July 12th she sent a frantic text to me saying she’d reconsidered all of her 18-year-old choices and would be doing something different with her life. The reason why? The best friend’s dad was in the ER with COVID-19.
Cue wtf responses.
July 12th my daughter’s best friend supposedly had an expedited test (48-hour return) because he was in contact with his father.
July 13th my daughter was able to be tested because she’d been in contact with the best friend. Her test was due back within 6 to 10 days.
Prior to this, I had planned a solo trip to another part of Florida for some peace, relaxation, and solitude. Shelter-in-place, etc. had gotten the best of me and I needed to leave my home. The trip was planned for July 17th-20th.
Part of my trip would include stopping and spending the night with my goddaughter, whose friend had also been staying with her. I’d decided to alert my goddaughter of the happenings and let her determine what she wanted to do. We’d wait for my daughter’s best friend’s test results to plan next steps.
Are you still with me?
Time moved slowly. While you’re waiting for a COVID-19 test, you’re supposed to self-quarantine.
Because my daughter lives with us and her best friend had been to our home, Dwight said that should include us, too. I agreed, but I wanted to take my trip…just saying.
July 17th came. My daughter, husband, and I had been home 5 days by then. Neither my daughter nor her best friend had received their results. I decided I was still going on my trip. My goddaughter said it was fine to stay with her. (Just for the record, I offered to stay at a hotel). We wore our masks at the restaurant, as required, and she made breakfast the next day. The friend stayed at least 6 feet away from me…for the most part.
July 18th I left my goddaughter’s home, headed to my vacay spot, and received a text from my daughter. Her best friend was positive.
His dad was back home and building a new porch for their home. I also found out his father had been coaching high school basketball this whole time. Why? His family needed money.
My goddaughter’s friend was supposed to go back home with her parents. She decided not to in case she’d been exposed. My daughter still hadn’t received her results. I briefly had a thought: what if our whole family is asymptomatic? What are we to do…remain in the house socially inactive, until a trusted vaccine surfaces?
Oh…and my daughter was supposed to begin a new job, but they told her to wait two weeks.
July 18th-20th I had a great time on my solo trip. I sprayed Lysol in the hotel, wore my mask, ordered to-go, socially distanced, and otherwise relaxed.
July 21st my goddaughter’s best friend was tested.
July 23rd my goddaughter’s friend’s test was negative. She was safe to travel to her parents’ home, so she did.
July 24th (11 days after her test), my daughter received her results: negative.
I decided to share this anecdote for a few reasons:
- The only narratives we’ve had are those of people dying, which I do not take lightly. However, like many things in this society we don’t seem to realize there’s a range of stories. We’ve been led to believe that we can either catch COVID-19 and die or stay home and not die. But there are many in-between situations. I’m not saying we should remove our masks and visit the nearest bar. I am saying we should begin to make decisions based on our respective perspectives and states.
- Being critical of the world is different than being judgmental. I’m critical of the consumerist, capitalistic society we’ve agreed to participate in. Unfortunately, the entire world relies on businesses being open. However, I do not have any judgment about my daughter’s best friend’s father having to work a job to support his household. I just don’t. I do think we all have personal responsibility. For example, if I had a basketball-playing son, he would’ve sat this season out.
- I know it’s fun to point fingers at those Florida beach photos, but testing is a huge problem here. Around Day 5, when my daughter was restless, I asked her a rhetorical question: How is anyone supposed to do the right thing? If my life (and others’) depends on a positive/negative test result, but it takes 11 days to receive…how can you expect an adult person, who may rely on their minimum wage job to pay rent to make the “right” choice to stay home and self-quarantine?
Finally, I hope you saw yourself in one or more of these situations, kind of like a real-life John Quinones What Would You Do if you were any of us? I’m looking forward to any comments.
kg ~ 7/27/20
Buying Black ✊🏽🇺🇸✊🏽
Whether motivated by rebellion or love, here’s a list:
75 Black-Owned Businesses to Support
Black-Owned Business Directory
Just 27 Cool Products from Black-Owned Businesses
Monday Notes: 18 Thoughts from a Phone Dump
I began Monday Notes a few years ago as a self-accountable way to transfer thoughts from the Notes section of my phone to this blog. But sometimes, I have more ideas than writing time. When my notes outweigh my writing, I do a phone dump to share.
Here we go:
- Relationships take effort and not everyone’s willing to put in the energy. What do you do when others don’t exert the same energy, whether it is familial, romantic, or friend?
- To be a mother, you have to get used to others judging what type of mother they think you ought to be. I’ve been on both ends of this, so at this point, I think it just happens. Either you think you know a better way for someone to mother her children, or someone thinks the same about the how you’re doing it.
- “I ain’t popping no pill, but you do as you wish” is one of my favorite rap lines. It’s from a song called “Middle Child,” by J. Cole. I love it because I think it’s representative of live and let live, which of course is contradictory to #2, but hey.
- Life was easier when I wasn’t as conscious.
- It’s not my job to make you be self-aware. It’s not any of our jobs to make someone else be self-aware.
- Acceptance does not mean approval; I think I read this in Iyanla Vanzant’s, Get Over It!
- Has anyone written about how patriarchy is reflected in the American presidency through age and race?
- There’s a difference between being influenced by someone and copying someone. I prefer the former.
- Some people think they have an open mind, but really, they just are open to listening to people who share their worldview.
- Seeing how people treat others in their life may be an indicator of how they will treat you as well.
- When someone says they wished they were married or had a husband/wife, I always think what they’re wishing for is a fairy tale. Marriage is not a fairy tale, even if the two people have immense love/like for one another.
- Love is deeper than your love language.
- You’re either committed to your craft, or you’re committed to your excuses. I think this may be a direct quote, but I’m not sure…maybe I made it up. I’ve Googled it and can’t find it, so I’m claiming it.
- I could complain about the person who didn’t hold the door for me, or I could just hold the door for the next person.
Is it fair to ask someone to change their behavior to suit your needs? I’ve decided it’s not fair, which is why I’d rather change myself than ask anyone in my life to change how they function around or with me.
- Don’t ask people to change their review of your book. This happened to me last year. An author didn’t like what I had to say, so that person DM’d me on Twitter and asked me to change my rating and comment. My answer? NOPE. I thought this was hella tacky.
- The threat of male privilege is showing through American comedians. I wrote this when I happened to watch a series of comedy shows, where men seem very threatened by the LGBTIQ community. This has ranged from Dave Chappell to Bill Burr. They all have a segment specifically focused on sexual identity and how it’s affected them, but opinions/jokes seem to be fear and insecurity based.
- If there’s a vast difference between how you present yourself on social media and how you present face-to-face, then the problem isn’t social media.
Please feel free to comment on any of these. You know I’m always up for a conversation in the comments 😉
Corona Chronicles: “New Normal”?
Someone asked me the other day what I thought a “new normal” would look like. In summary, I told her I didn’t know.
Prior to COVID-19, I ate out a lot at restaurants: fancy, new, local, whatever. I have no idea what a new normal will look like for someone who eats out as a form of socialization, with social distancing rules…and a mask. Will I wear my mask to the restaurant but then pull it down towards my neck when it’s time to eat, a mask-wearing no-no? Will the waiter wear a mask while describing the catch of the day?
My daughter’s graduation has been moved to July. Will we sit in a university setting as years’ past? Or, will we have to sit six feet apart, even from the people with whom we came? I don’t know. And there is no space in my brain for the new rules. None make sense for a situation like this.
Recently, I’d seen reports of how K-12 schools might interact for the new year. Desks six feet apart. Lunch in the room, instead of a cafeteria. Teachers change rooms, instead of students. None of this seems reasonable because, logically, if Kid A has corona virus and Kid B does not, but they’re both in the same room, just six feet apart, but maybe sharing a pencil sharpener, computer, book (because Kid A forgot his), then Kid B may be in trouble anyway. Unless, they wear masks and gloves. Will they wear masks and gloves?
I’m writing this the first day that Florida’s shelter-at-home has been lifted. My husband is supposed to return to work May 15th. He says he won’t, unless his job has a plan for testing for reasons similar to the ones I’ve stated above with Kid A and B, just replace them with Coworker A and B and replace books, with stapler, copy machine, and open office concept, which was such a great idea at the turn of the century. Not so much now.
New normal? I have no idea what this refers to because, remember, it was just two months ago that this “normal” was thrust upon us; this is still new. We’re still shifting.
Will we no longer hug and kiss people, even those we love and trust hope to not be sick? That doesn’t seem normal to me. Come to think of it, in the midst of this pandemic, people are probably sneaking around hugging and kissing, if you know what I mean, because, yeah…we’re human beings who need physical interaction of all kinds. Don’t we? Or will that be a part of our new normal? Not touching one another.
So anyway, I don’t pretend to make baseless predictions of what the future will look like. Hell, I didn’t even know this would be a thing. What would make me believe I’d know what tomorrow will bring? I’m very comfortable saying, I don’t know.
But maybe you’ll play along. What do you think our “new normal” will be?
Corona Chronicles: Privilege
Usually when I think of privilege, I think of other people and their social freedoms. You know…white, male, etc. But this pandemic has forced me to consider my and my family’s own privilege.
When Desi’s school district first announced classes would be online and when Dwight found out he’d be working from home, he immediately went to Office Depot and purchased two things: a lap desk for our daughter and a range extender for the home because neither of us can afford to have slow internet.
When I received a parent survey asking about access, I had to take a good look at ourselves.
- cell phones (3)
- MacBooks (2)
- tablets (2)
- work laptop (1)
We have more than enough access.
When my job asked how quickly I could begin teaching online, the answer was simple…immediately. Eighty percent of my classes were already online and the one that wasn’t was previously set up for online learning because it’s hybrid.
As I listened to friends who live in New York and bloggers from the same area, I realize space is a privilege. Our home isn’t large, but we have separate rooms from which to work. Our spare bedroom is set up for me to grade or virtually meet privately with students. My teenage daughter is comfy logging on to Google Classroom from her bed. And Dwight has joked that the entire downstairs is his office. Even when I want to “get out,” I don’t have to leave the house. I can sit on our screened-in patio and eat meals and write.
That leads me to another privilege: location. We live in Florida. Unlike family members, who are in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, I’ve been able to work out in my driveway, take bike rides, and practice yoga (on the patio). The weather’s been between the 70s and 90s. I don’t have cabin fever.
Though circumstances are sad, I’m grateful our daughter is a senior. I won’t have to worry about what the school district is doing in the fall. Stay online or don’t stay online, both of our daughters’ K-12 education is complete. I only halfway feel this way; online education for the nation is not a great idea for a host of reasons. But see how easy it is to slip into a self-centered perspective?
I’m thankful my husband and I have occupations we can still do from home and that I have a thriving business that’s kept me occupied with editing dissertations and independent novels throughout this pandemic. *We’re not worried about finances.
Initially, people were asking what’s changed or what have I learned from these times. And for a minute, my answer was nothing because I’d already adjusted my life according to what I’d determine is right for me.
As I think long and hard, my answer is still nothing. But a few ideas have been reinforced.
It’s always important to acknowledge our specific privileges and then consider life from others’ perspectives as a way to break out of our bubbles and gain diverse understandings. Some people are a little more worried than I am because they’ve had to figure out how to make life work, not make adjustments…literally learn how to do life. They’re waiting on their government-funded stimulus checks so they can eat and pay bills.
Others are a little more whimsical because their local news reports sound different and their government restrictions are few. For example, an IG follower in Brisbane posted a photo of herself getting a haircut…at a salon. Someone in California would probably shudder to think of committing what they would view as a socially irresponsible act right now.
Think about life from another person’s perspective. An alternate point of view may lead to a shift in empathy, thus opening a space for other things, like dialogue, grace, or service. And without sounding too preachy, I think it’s worth reminding that these traits are important not just now, but always.
*Oh, and about those finances…privilege has also allowed me to give more. Because I’m not driving anywhere, I’m saving on gas. Because we’re eating out less and spending fewer dollars on entertainment, I’ve watched my discretionary funds grow. With the money I’ve saved, I’ve been able to be of service to my alma maters and to a few family members, and for that I’m grateful.
In what ways are you privileged these days?
Corona Chronicles: Shelter in Place
I’m sitting on my patio, watching a little brown boy in a white shirt and gray shorts. He’s riding a hoverboard on his knees. First, he goes straight all the way to the cul-de-sac, where he whirls around and comes back towards me again. Then, he twirls in circles, one, two, three times, until he’s facing straight again. Music is playing but not loud enough for me to hear the melody or words, just enough for me to know he’s listening to something while he spins in circles, passing the time.
To his right are two squirrels. I’ve been watching them for twenty minutes. One sits close to a tree, eating something between his paws, probably a nut. I’ve always known squirrels were skittish, but I never noticed how much. It seems he can hardly enjoy whatever he’s nibbling in between sporadic looks toward distracted noises. He scurries up the tree and sits on a branch and I briefly think about making a squirrel house, with nuts and such. Who am I kidding? I don’t even want to help my husband build things for our own house, much less build a whole home for a hungry squirrel, who seems to be doing life just fine without my interference.
Now, my across-the-way neighbor has come out. He and his wife are in the at-risk age group for coronavirus; his white hair tells me so. Friday, he washed his patio screen with a hard-bristle brush while the trees on his Christmas pajamas danced. I drowned out the repetitive grating during online yoga. Saturday, I saw him drive a two-seater sports car for the first time. His wife slowly backed their white SUV out of the driveway, making space for him to zip into the one-car garage. Today, he’s semi-dressed for an outing: light-blue, short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, navy casual shorts, barefoot. We have an automated sprinkler system and rain has begun to drizzle, but for some reason he’s decided to water the bushes.
Two hours have passed. There’s a father-son duo riding their bikes up and down and up and down the street to the same dead-end hoverboard-boy glided towards. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I wonder if the father is wearing a helmet to model good cycling practices for his son, who looks to be no more than five years old, or if he wears it because he really believes it will protect him, should he fall on this short jaunt. I also wonder where the mother is. I always question mothers’ whereabouts when I see fathers and their children. It’s probably a result of my own social conditioning. Here they come again, a fifth revolution.
I’ve sat here long enough. I know because hoverboard boy is back at it, this time a bit more dare devilish with his twirls. I glance up to see him belly down on the concrete. He’s limping back to his garage. He returns with his bike.
I wonder if anyone heard me cackling with my sister for hours the other day or if neighbors watched my husband and I eat waffles, sausage, and eggs in our PJs this morning. Is someone sitting in their home office, peering out their window at the brown woman, wearing glasses, trying to preserve her final month of contacts, while tip-tapping away on her orange laptop? Are they guessing what I’m writing, creating a narrative about why I’ve been sitting here for three days? Or, have they assumed as I have that we’re all creatively sheltering in place?
P.S. I wrote something similar three years ago from Starbucks. It’s funny what can change in a short amount of time. While I realize I cannot go to Starbucks and people-watch, I can make my own coffee, sit on my screened-in patio and create a similar experience. Adjustments. We all have to make them and function according to our current circumstances.