This past weekend, I went to Vegfest with hubby. It was a cornucopia of vegan soul food, burgers, sweets, Thai and Caribbean food. A friend of mine performed with her belly dancing group. It was a lot of fun and our burgers with slaw and vegan Mac lived up to its delicious promise.
Vegan burger with slaw
Hubby enjoying his gluten free mac
However, I knew this weekend was going to be a last hurrah of sorts. A good friend of mine and I decided to start the #75 hard challenge created by Andy Frisella.
Here are the basic rules:
1. 2 45-minute workouts: at least one of them has to be outdoors.
2. Stick to whatever diet you’ve chosen: no junk food, no alcohol and no cheating!
3. Drink a gallon of water a day.
4. Read 10 pages of a non-fiction/personal development book each day.
5. Take a progress picture everyday.
And if you mess up on even one, you have to start again at Day 1! Intense!
Our lunch was on Friday and we vowed to begin on Monday. So with that in mind, I blew it out this past weekend. But there was one thing I watched that reminded me how important it was to keep this upcoming commitment: Brittany Runs a Marathon.
I may not drink or pop pills but the cholesterol is a bit high and I am not trying to add anything else to the list. I felt convicted to change after my last doctor visit. I am motivated more than ever to complete this and get a clean bill of health at my next appointment in February. By the time the movie was over, I was in tears. I knew I didn’t want to let it be a fleeting moment of inspiration. I wanted the results and the mental toughness cultivated to get there.
So here I am on Day 2. Tired but ready to tackle my second workout of the day. Tired but ready to guzzle the last of this gallon and read those 10 pages.
Wish me luck on the next 73!
When was the last time you set a challenge and saw it all the way through?
Last weekend, I made my way to Columbus, Ohio for The Summit of Greatness hosted by Lewis Howes. This was my third time in attendance (had to miss last year due to The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa).
And it was my best time.
Not because any of the other speakers weren’t impactful or powerful (they absolutely were) or that I didn’t make beautiful connections (without a doubt I did). It’s because I could truly enjoy the experience by myself. No one has ever held me back but I did hold myself back when I attended with others.
Even when I had a couple of pangs of loneliness, they quickly went away because I knew it would be just a matter of time before I would strike up a conversation with a stranger who would soon become a friend.
The Summit started with a welcome party at the Columbus Commons. I got to reunite with old friends and meet a few new ones. One of the more notable parts was a tent devoted to crafting instant poems based on the word of intention for the weekend.
A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.
The first speaker was renowned singer Leann Rimes. Apparently, it was her first speaking engagement and her vulnerability was palpable. She spoke about the isolation of fame and her growth. She sang a beautiful song and led us all in a chant:
I am human.
I am holy.
Grace renews me.
It’s love that guides me.
The vibration and the spirit in the theater left many in tears including me.
The next speaker was Ed Mylett. His idea of hell: meeting the person you could have become at the end of your life. This concept is not a new one to me but his phrasing was exceptional. He called it “chasing his twin.” He was unapologetic about his faith but at the same time inclusive of everyone and exuded humility. He seemed to be the perfect person to seek advice from for my future students at the nonprofit I work for. I took a chance and sent him a message. I was right! He sent me a voice message with wonderful recommendations and I will be eternally grateful for the time he took to send it.
Kyle Cease was up next. He had a few messages that resonated with me but his emphasis of staying in the now was particularly impactful for me. Learning to embrace it is a non-negotiable for me as Hubby and I navigate life post health scares.
Jesse Itzler, former rapper, serial entrepreneur and endurance athlete delivered an impassioned speech urging us to inject more adventure into our lives. He compared life to a bus that never stops and does not go in reverse. At 51, he completely rejects the notion of being “too old” and is smart about the risks he takes.
Day 1 was great but I needed to take a minute to power down afterwards before heading to North Market for the Friday social. I loved on old friends I only get to see at Summit and was inspired by new ones. There was even a mural by Ruben Rojas painted representing our community.
Day 2 proved to be massively inspirational and incredibly fun! Marisa Peer’s message of “I am enough” and teaching us not to criticize ourselves was powerful. Our thoughts listen and execute the stories we tell about ourselves.
The R&B group Final Draft performed for us. They were amazing and had great command of the stage. Dr. Alaa Murabit was incredibly impressive. She is a UN Commissioner, a doctor changing the world with her peacekeeping efforts. She graduated high school at 15, medical school at 21 and is only 29!I loved how she stressed that we should listen to all leaders of all ages. Heed the wisdom of those that came before us. Figure out what went wrong before, what was missing and execute from there. She said that a leader is not someone with a lot of followers. It’s someone who creates other leaders.
Stephan speaks offered us sage advice about relationships. I agreed we should be telling each other what we want and need specifically and the power of a written letter. Also, we are not responsible for anyone else’s healing. It was wonderful to see Lewis honor his team, volunteers and highlight Pencils of Promise and the hundreds of schools built all over the world.
In-Q closed out the conference with his soul stirring poetry. There was also a special video from Sean Stephenson. He recently passed and his message to love our bodies, love ourselves was the perfect note to end on. The closing party was a blast and the return of DJ Irie did not disappoint. I danced until I ached. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a couple of hours of sleep, I was at the airport, reeling from the weekend. On my layover in Philly, I ran into Elec Simon who was just as gracious and personable as he seemed on stage.
It’s all over until 2020.
So what now?
I found that when I was the most engaged, it was with people who travel, seek adventure, take action and are creative. In addition to hitting my fitness and writing/teaching goals, I want to create my own (mostly) solo adventures.
That part of myself has been slightly repressed over the years due to letting myself become distracted with work, relationships and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness. Realizing it was painful but it is a box I don’t have to stay in.
I can tell myself a new story.
Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.
I finally feel like I have turned a corner. I took a chance and proposed bringing a creative writing workshop to my job. I am proud to say it was accepted and in a few months, I will be teaching. It made my rejection from the residency I applied for much more palatable. I truly believe what’s for me is for me.
This year will also be my third time at The Summit of Greatness in Columbus, Ohio. I couldn’t go last year due to being selected for The Storyteller Project at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. Although I have zero regrets about my choice to go to Alabama, I did miss my Greatness community. Everytime I go, a couple of things happen: I come back home with renewed energy to finish a project and I look forward to how we all change and grow the next year.
It’s a relief that I come away with being propelled into action. I never wanted to be someone who loves standing, jumping around, dancing and listening to successful people and then come home to do nothing but listen to podcasts and drown myself only in self-help books and other conferences. I see how easy it would be to get caught up in that world without creating your own but it wouldn’t be worth it for me.
But I am not interested in focusing on what I don’t want.
I want to focus on the fun and love I will undoubtedly experience and how it will drive me to keep taking chances until we all meet again.
This weekend, Hubby and I attended the Heart Festival at a local meditation center. Earlier that week, I saw two lectures that seemed interesting: The Science of Meditation and Meditation as Medication.
Due to driving and walking a bit further than anticipated, we were a little late but came in on the tail end of the first portion before the introduction of the meditation. I wished I could have heard what she had to say. However, we did get a chance to participate in the meditation which lasted much longer than I expected–at least a half hour.
The chairs were comfy, the room darkened and my feet were bare– a seemingly perfect recipe for a successful meditation. However, my mind and heart raced. I wondered why I didn’t hear more about the science, how long would it actually last and then hoped I would eventually drift off to sleep to tame the pace of my thoughts.
I never did but it got me thinking about being in the moment. During the second presentation, Dr. Dilip Sarkar addressed our short attention spans, the benefits of yoga therapy and shared concrete evidence of improved health of his students and patients. I could have stayed another hour. One thing that stuck with me is his emphasis on achieving a meditative state all of the time. It reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.
I understand the spirit of the verse and Dr. Sarkar were asking for the same thing: peace and contentment without the oppression of anxiety and the illusion of control.
After the Heart Festival, we went to a local bookstore for a poetry reading to support my friend Hope’s book “Traveling the River.” It was followed by an open mic where I was encouraged to read a couple of pieces. Normally, if I were to read I would have chosen to wear something different, pieces would have been printed out and read aloud to myself a couple of times.
Sometimes I tell my husband I am letting go of the idea I need to be in control, he takes a big step back and says he is getting out of the way (because he doesn’t want lightning to strike him).
I try but clearly I am not as successful as I think I am. But there is one thing I am working on letting go of:
The story I told myself about who I am. I have been letting go of it for the past 3 years.
I was telling myself (and others) that I liked to write but I wasn’t a writer.
That I was more of a simple person who wasn’t into changing her hair.
I wasn’t a teacher.
I was completely burnt out by Human Services and couldn’t see myself returning to it in any meaningful way.
But here I am: Looking slightly different, helping men and women start over at a dynamic nonprofit, blogging, publishing articles, writing an E-book journal, speaking, attending inspirational conferences and writing classes and will soon be learning how to fuse my passion for writing and healing others together.
A part of me needed to tell those old stories to lie about how much control I had over everything. But holding on that tight to an old, over told story doesn’t leave room for one thing.
What story have you been telling about yourself in order to stay in control?
Last week Hubby and I went to Charleston, SC for vacation. We walked around the French Quarter including the City Market and talked to vendors. We lounged lazily in our beach chairs and splashed in the warm waves at Isle of Palms beach, visited a delightful farmer’s market in Mt. Pleasant and ate at a couple of delicious plant-based restaurants.
When we came back to our room in the evenings, we made no apologies for simply wanting to power all the way down, connect with each other and fall asleep guessing who won Chopped. We slept late, let our skin drink in the sun and didn’t think of work.
On the way back, I knew I was going to miss being away on vacation but there was something else I was going to miss: how engaged I felt.
While I was walking along the beach, I listened to nothing but the water, the conversation and laughter of passerbys. At one point, Hubby and I were standing in the ocean and it started to thunder. I waded out as far and as fast as I could to have one last moment before having to leave. That moment almost seems nondescript but there was a desperate quality to my run. Even as I sit here now, I can feel the weight of the water on my legs.
We talked and sang (badly) the entire way home. As much as I enjoyed Charleston, it was clear to me it could have been almost anywhere because I allowed myself to get lost in my time there. I allowed myself not to seek constant distraction.
Outside of Toni Morrison’s glorious new documentary, I took time for a few weeks to process multiple things that were going on.
I went to an event about harnessing fear.
I went to a comedy show and laughed until it hurt.
I started journaling again (not everyday but I began picking up the pen).
I became much more comfortable with not reaching out to people who don’t reach out to me. It didn’t feel petty. It felt right. I want to cultivate relationships with people who show they care. They deserve all the love and kindness I have to give and I truly wish others well but they no longer take up real estate in my mind.
I am taking a long break from the scale. Not as an excuse to eat but as a way to love myself.
I started drinking a gallon of water a day.
I decided not to eat my boredom and emotions after dinner.
I went to therapy, a helpful and potentially life-changing workshop on breast health and received a vigorous and soothing armpit massage (who knew about the armpits?) and received therapeutic massage.
I cut down my cable (a lot).
I donated books and old DVDs.
I fell a little more in love with one of my jobs.
I met someone who confirmed a next step for me with my writing.
I showed my arms more than I usually would because it’s hot and psoriasis cannot be hidden all the time nor should it be.
I went to a festival and danced with some friends.
I put some time in at church and listening to podcasts that made me think (and take action) about what I want for the next 10-15 years.
I did experience anxiety but I breathed through it.
I let go and let myself live.
How have you let go and let yourself live this summer?
On Saturday, a friend of mine asked me to go to the movies to see Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. My friend and I had tears in our eyes by the end. I scooted to the edge of my seat several times as if I was at a thriller. It has taken me a few days to process what I was feeling. Inspired? Challenged? Convicted?
I don’t have all of the right words that won’t be a regurgitation of scenes from the film.
So I will just say all of this:
It made me feel like I could write anything or work on one dream while lifting up the dreams of others or raise children or write from a place that doesn’t take the white male gaze into account or be unapologetic about wanting to be celebrated and unapologetic about my Blackness or my faith or turn down the volume of doubt in my own head or from others or be fiercely private or lay it all out there for the world to see and hear. Embrace the sunrise as I put pen to paper. It made me want to… everything.
I haven’t written anything related to wellness in months. Not since I decided if I wasn’t doing anything about it, there was no need to write about it. I was starting to feel like I was recycling posts and not offering my readers or myself anything new.
Last week I listened to a sermon about what I ask God for. The pastor talked about how some people tend to ask God for small things (and take small action), when we need to go bigger. And he wasn’t just referring to material success, either.
I can (but don’t want to) pray to survive the night or just be thankful to wake up. I want to ask for and declare dreams and health that make me tremor to say out loud, even when I am alone by myself. I opened my mouth and felt the weight of my BIG ask.
Lord, heal me. I am asking for a healthy body that runs races, dances for hours and easily starts with a “1” again, days and nights filled with writing workshops I get to attend and teach, many, many books sold and a bank account so healthy all debt is paid off, endless miles traveled and the ability to give back in ways I cannot currently imagine is a reality.
I was even more specific when I asked big by myself. All of those details belong to me.
However, I will say when the pastor pointed out how we do that, he said something that struck me. He called the small, desperate prayers “sick prayers”, said they had “the flu.” I am one to believe in prayers and action together but since I have recommitted to whole foods again without the pressure of putting so much on a scale these last couple of weeks and I have been reading and researching what a writing workshop that I would teach looks like, I am placing my faith in the big ask.
I am placing my faith with works and I feel very much alive.
Have you ever been grateful when something you hoped for didn’t work out?
I am not completely sure if I am just doing a deep dive for a lesson but when I got an email rejection for a residency recently (wasn’t even a finalist) I was more at peace with it than I expected. It is not as if I wouldn’t have done the work and been proud if I had but I was accepting that maybe it just wasn’t my time. All I wanted to know was how I could strengthen my application for next year and I sent that email asking for an answer.
I realized I want to be better. Better will come with classes, reading, continuing this blog, journaling, and writing fiction and poetry. Better will come when I choose to show up at workshops and conferences.
Yes, I was sad and I let myself have a whole evening to feel it.
But I know one rejection doesn’t mean everything and it means there’s room for other projects to take root and bloom.
And maybe it’s time for me to create these opportunities for myself.