Nostalgia

Nostalgia

This weekend I watched “Star Wars” for the first time. I don’t shun sci-fi at all but I was never drawn to that particular franchise (I grew up in a Star Trek household). I may not have fallen in love with it but I tried to see it through my husband’s eyes. He was a child when it came out so while the technology and the acting made me cringe at times, he must have seen nothing but magic and heroes stretch the fabric of reality and his budding imagination.

It was a sweet reminder of the power of nostalgia. I can instantly connect to how I felt  jumping rope in my cousin’s backyard on Long Island, pouring over the pages of “The Baby-sitters’ Club” books, dancing to Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in our living room and watching with bated breath to see if Whitley and Dwayne were finally going to get together on “A Different World.”

I love that I don’t care if any of it was perfect. I didn’t want flawless. I wanted fun. I didn’t know it then but all I needed was simplicity. Laughing hard until the breath sputters and there is guffawing. Pumping the volume up to dance and sweat. Turning the pages, losing myself in hours of uncomplicated storyline.

I hope to reconnect with more of that..the simplicity. Fondly remembering what was is beautiful but being able to carry its essence with me now–in the present moment–is priceless.

 

Winning?

Winning?

I had a conversation yesterday. Let me be real. A therapy session yesterday.

I talked.

About lots of issues. Family. My own marriage. A need for me to let go of the things I cannot or should not always control. My lack of trust and faith in others. I am not sleeping full nights.

And I kept talking.

About all the “shoulding” I have done during the quarantine these last couple of months. I should have written more and read more than 4 books. Did I watch all of the revolutionary interviews and experience all of these mind-blowing Verzus battles live? Did I watch all the shows? How about getting back into perfecting burpees to return back to the shape I was in at Strongman competition time? Shouldn’t I take more than just the one writing class? What about daily walks? All of those people in this motivational FB group are going live, talking about their insecurities and constantly interviewing for podcasts… should I be in this mix? Did I donate enough? Did I contact everyone for Mother’s Day? How about starting an indoor garden? But oh wait!  I did learn to play poker and I am working with Hubby on this 1000-piece puzzle and I continue to work from home.

Then I stopped talking.

It was pointed out that I was listing goals, checking off imaginary boxes, obsessing over what the next few months may bring (financially and otherwise) and whether I am doing enough right now in order to do what?

She observed all these mental gymnastics I was performing were not just in order to keep up with family, friends, stay distracted, entertained and to make a living but I was acting as if any of these things were going to change what’s going on “out there.”

As if any of these things were going to make me “win the quarantine.”

As if I accomplish all of these things, come out on the other side with a stunning body, a thick and voluminous curly afro, a couple of manuscripts ready to pitch and new languages acquired, I will change the reality of what’s out there.

A scary pandemic, conflicting opinions, no answers as to when this will actually be over and a world where people who are Black like me and my husband are never quite safe. We never know if and when we will be confronted with the fear and hatred people have for us solely based on our race. I never know when we will be perceived as a threat: during a walk? driving? Sitting at home eating ice cream on our own couch?

My lists, my books, puzzles, card games, work, television, dancing to music, working out and social media engagement won’t change it.

It won’t make it all go away.

So what can be done?

I can write about it.

I can talk about it.

I can cry about it.

I can let myself fall into bed, let my mind find the peace it seeks and sleep.

I can sit in the sunshine on my balcony and pray.

I can build myself up enough emotionally to allow myself to engage authentically in the things I truly want to do, not what I think should be done.

I can relieve the pressure.

And let it be.

If some days look like a short walk outside before work, cooking, journaling and putting a puzzle together, I will let it be.

If somedays I need to sleep longer, eat and laugh at reruns of “The Office”, I will let it be.

Anything else doesn’t work for me.

Because it’s not about winning the distraction or achievement quarantine Olympics, it’s about finding a healthy and real way through it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Unfolds

What Unfolds

Recently, without realizing it, I developed an obsession with the concept of time. Well, not so much time but the concepts of an alternative future and time travel.

This is not something I would normally write about but this is where I am.

No matter how silly it was (re: Seth Rogen’s Hulu Original Future Man), innovative and emotional (Amazon’s Undone), groundbreaking (the writers’ doomed vision for the world’s future in Westworld) or how prolific (Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred), over the past couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to tear my eyes or hands away from it.

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Octavia Butler’s “Kindred.” I am only sad I didn’t read it years ago.
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“Undone” on Amazon Prime.

It was happening and for some reason, I didn’t connect the dots or recognize the common thread.

Each time I read or watched, I was asking myself if I would make the same choices.

Change the past for a better future. Alter a minute detail for a shiny, new me. Attempt to take control over what’s already done.

These stories have made me examine choice in a way I haven’t in a long time, if ever.

I understand there is no sense in longing for a past that never was or clinging to a hope I will one day bend reality to my whim.

But my analytical nature examines why I made the choices I did–picked up the phone at a particular moment, took long aimless drives, booked that flight, didn’t take the leap to pursue teaching overseas when I had the chance, grew silent when I should have been shouting or simply why some people have floated in and out of my life like nameless ghosts and others seemingly tethered to me, part of my DNA.

I have found myself indulging in the fantasy: if I went through this door, maybe I would have been a dancer or an activist or a healer, adorned in vibrant headscarves and crystals or a suburban woman with a brood of children or a tightly wound, bespectacled corporate drone in a more metropolitan setting.

I will never know the truth of any of those closed doors, those unexplored lives.

Choices have been made. Deals have been struck.

And thankfully, more will come.

Everyday, I am living in the abundance of choice, the beauty of possibility. Even now, in the midst of this uncertainty.

I think that’s enough to take with me as I watch and read, in awe at the boundless imagination of others and my real life unfolds.

 

 

 

All of the Flowers

All of the Flowers

The world needs all its flowers.

I heard it at the end of a meditation today.

I heard it, hurriedly grabbed a leopard print pen that sits on our side table and scribbled it in small orange memo book.

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I then thought about all of the things and the people that I consider “all the flowers.”

Books. Heavenly books I have run into the arms of virtually everyday these past few weeks.

The pointsetta kept all year long gifted from my mother-in-law that soaks in the sun. I absentmindedly reach out and stroke its leaves from time to time.

Our balcony at dusk where we have spent precious moments relishing silence, the comfort of our mismatched chairs and the sight of the tree where I often catch the same white cat perched on its branches.

My Mom’s text messages full of videos, jokes to make us laugh, inspire hope and advice to be as healthy and safe as possible.

Work. Knowing we are still able to help people even over the phone and via email reminds me it isn’t all over.

Friends. Knowing they are there is enough. Knowing they are there and safe is even better. I haven’t done all of the virtual “everythings” but I am still happy with the occasional phone calls and texts.

My family. I want them now more than ever. They are my first flowers.

Other creators– artists of all stripes still finding their art in the midst of it. Even if their art is a reflection of their weariness in these times, I have fallen in love with your vulnerability.

The small business owners I watch hustling their wares online. I may not have hustle surging through my veins right now but I respect their willingness and bravery to try to do this in unprecedented times.

All of the flowers taking care of the sick, carrying mail, delivering food, cleaning, stocking shelves, manning service stations, driving trucks and buses.

The flowers that bring us closer together and fight for those whose voice has been muted or forgotten.

My husband’s touch and voice that reminds me we walk together, never alone.

My Creator who made all of the flowers a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

An Odd Dream

An Odd Dream

What a difference a month makes.

The last month has been out of an odd dream I can’t seem to wake up from. An odd but forgettable one where I am home, on my couch or upstairs in my bedroom, with bouts of disinfecting grocery deliveries, countertops, light switches and doorknobs maniacally, feverishly washing hands and where I take intermittent walks that consist of waving to my neighbors from afar or dodging people and cars that come too close because if they do, I might catch a strange virus that may or may not kill me or anyone I come into contact with.

This odd dream feels like something I would struggle to remember but retain enough detail to recount it to my husband as he’s preparing to head out the door for the day. An odd dream that I would share with a co-worker who would then ask: What did you watch before you went to sleep last night?

But it is all real.

This oddity is real.

I have been home since March 13th. I have been to a grocery store and a pharmacy (on the same day) once since then and have not eaten take out either. Competing in a Strongman on March 7th feels like it happened in an alternate reality.

Because it was.

I am not a doom and gloom person but I can be an anxious one. I am not in a state of panic but perhaps the privilege and the blessing of a fully employed household working from home, good books, loving family and friends and distracting technology affords me that peace.

But psoriasis and Lupus live here so we are a house of people whose immune systems don’t always do exactly as it should.

So where does that leave me?

In a variety of places.

Sometimes mourning the option to go everywhere worry free and sometimes giggling in bed with my husband because his goofiness makes me deliriously happy first thing in the morning.

It has had me fraught with worry a couple times when a cough refused to go but then I realized it’s allergy season and my neighborhood often looks like a pollen dust bowl.

It has also had me praying more, grateful for video calls, journaling, the one N95 mask we had in our linen closet, and telehealth therapy sessions. I have danced to DJs on Instagram, laughed at memes and YouTube videos, cried at people singing in unison in New York and Italy, harmonizing from their windows and balconies. I have raged at the administration and people who won’t stay home, wiped tears for the sick and the dead, signed petitions, donated money, felt restless and helpless and fearful for the homeless, the incarcerated and everyone who has to work outside of the home, ordered and got lost in books. I watched game shows and paused screens to turn to my husband and talk about all of my feelings which I have eaten a few times (see pint of ice cream in my trash).

I will continue to be in all of the places because I know I have no control over the outside world.

Just my inside one.

And that has to be enough.

For now.

Athlete Ready?

Athlete Ready?

This past weekend I became a Strongwoman. I may have always known there was an inner strength but I unveiled a woman that was physically strong, too.

My gym hosted a Strongman competition. There were many classes (light and heavyweight women and men, master’s men and women, novice men and women which was my category). I also found out we had fitness trainers among the competition which made me proud that people like me who don’t work in the fitness industry could hang and in some cases, beat those who do.

I had my husband, friends and family there to cheer me on which besides the friendly and vibrant Strongman community, was the best part. They knew and understood my investment –the time, the money and the conviction it took to believe I could do it. It would have not been as special without them.

There were five events: the log press (65lbs lifted repeatedly overhead for a minute), the deadlift (my favorite starting at 125lbs–met my goal of 315lbs), the husafel carry (carrying a 110lb iron tomb-shaped structure 100ft), the hand over hand sled pull (pulling the sled 50 ft across AstroTurf while sitting in the middle of a tire) and the sandball toss (for my class, throwing a 10lb, 15lb and 20lb over a 12ft caution tape in the fastest time).

I placed 4th in log press (16 lifts), 1st in deadlift, 3rd in husafel (16.77 seconds), 5th in hand over hand sled (I lost my balance and fell out of the tire but I was 2 pulls away from finishing before getting back in to complete it) and 2nd in the sandball toss (15.65 seconds). Overall, I finished 3rd!

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I am incredibly proud of entering the competition, daring to see myself as an athlete, grateful for pushing past fear to recognize my body’s ability and of course, for medaling my first time out.

If you had told me six months ago I would be standing in a gym, hearing someone ask “Athlete ready?”, I would have definitely thought you couldn’t have been talking about me.  But there I was standing in a gym, with chalky palms, bruised forearms, broken nails,  sore arms and a genuine smile feeling more like myself than ever.

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At 315lbs! Adrenaline rush is real! Could have pulled more but this was my PR.

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What’s Next

What’s Next

I have been thinking about what it means to do it all. Recently, I was asked to recognize that just because I can do it doesn’t mean I should. It also doesn’t mean I should try to do it all at the same time because it rarely works well and something inevitably falls through the cracks.

I have been taking time to figure out what that means to me. I am still training for my Strongman competition next month, gearing up to accelerate training for the Spartan Trifecta, planning a workshop with a partner and I have started facilitating a creative non-fiction class at a non-profit for returning citizens.

While I love all of it, I am yearning to devote more time to short stories and reading. So I am. Even if it means one of the other things (like posting here) temporarily falls by the wayside. After reading “Heads of the Colored People” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, I reconnected with the part of me that needs to slow down and explore what it means to bring my heart and imagination together on the page.

I remembered fretting over prompts given to me in a fiction writing class last year but ultimately happy when the stories came to fruition. I was even looking forward (albeit nervously) to critique by my classmates and teacher. I wanted to get better.

So this is me.

Saying yes to what’s next.

 

Last Week

Last Week

Last week, I saw “Just Mercy” based on the book by Bryan Stevenson and I left not knowing what to do with the rage and helplessness for several hours afterwards.

I had a long talk with a friend and she gifted me a magazine full of thoughtful essays.

I went back to Hot Vinyasa yoga and fought my body and then accepted it for what it CAN do.

I trained 3 times and felt gratitude for the love I have consistently showed my temple.

I watched a show that made me tremble for the world’s future and wonder how I can be brave.

I got a solid and unexpected reminder of what love looks like  (love is a verb) by my husband.

The fear that left me with a sense of paralysis after this past summer’s family health scare seems to have taken leave and I won’t be inviting it to come back over.

Whatever was fragile is whole.

And I will hold onto it for as long as this world will let me.

 

 

Battle

Battle

I know I will look back on this month as the time I chose to bet on myself AND trust God.

I am starting to increase my training this week to ready myself for the strongman competition in March. I finally have a date set to facilitate my first class (February 5th!). I am signing up for the second race in the Spartan Trifecta soon and buying my copyright for “What I Love About You” this week.

Executing on all of these things means I am fighting ancient battles, ones so old I was not even 10 years old when they began. I am worn from the fights but I have a renewed energy.

I was standing in the ocean a couple of days ago, foamy cool waves soaking my feet and brushing against my calves. I thought about what I want my life to look like and the things I want to let go. I want to make room for all of the possibility and trust all of the new I am embarking on will bring me to a place where some of those battle scars will have healed.

I want to go back at the beginning of 2021 to the same spot and reminisce on who I was and all of the changes I made. No journey is ever really over but I want leave the intensity of the fear and uncertainty behind.

Set it free.

Set myself free.

 

 

 

Salt

Salt

Last Saturday, Hubby and I went to a salt cave for the first time. Months ago, I looked at a couples massage in a salt cave for a weekend getaway but didn’t end up going. When I saw a deal on Groupon for a local salt cave, I jumped at the chance to try it for the following reasons:

“Halotherapy is known to help relieve skin conditions, stress, high blood pressure, respiratory infections, hangovers, and allergies. Salt is a natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial.”

And also because I didn’t want to shut down any modes of therapy that may prove beneficial just because I don’t know much about it.

I set a 45-minute appointment for two chairs at a spa that primarily does float therapy and has an infrared sauna. The cave was dimly lit with 4 cream-colored reclining chairs. We were surrounded by bricks of Himalayan salt from Pakistan and the floor was also covered in salt. We were each given a fresh pair of socks to wear as to not track salt back into our own shoes after the session. 

 

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I don’t know if it was the gradual release of salt-infused air into the cave but I drifted off easily when I chose to use the wireless headphones provided to us.

When our session was over, I just thought it was a great way to get quality rest. However the next day, that changed.

I don’t know if I can attribute it to the salt but the nagging pain in my left ankle from the light sprain and the strain on the left side of my right knee disappeared. It’s been a few days and it hasn’t come back. I am willing to explore it more because I have heard of the healing properties for people living with psoriasis.

Since the completion of 75hard, my desire to experience life more fully has only grown and I am glad it now includes halotherapy.