Revisiting 75hard

I got a reminder that today makes one year since I completed the 75hard challenge. There was a picture of a group strength training class and video of me taking my final–150th workout in 75 days. 75hard challenge comprised of 2 45-minute workouts, reading 10 pages of a personal development book, drink a gallon of water, no alcohol and following a diet of your choice each day for 75 days. It was both hard and helpful that the last 30 days of 75hard fell during bloglikecrazy.

The truth is that the reminder snuck up on me. I didn’t realize it had been a year. I knew it was close but 2020 has disoriented my sense of time and a sense of myself. During 75hard, I was planning on competing in a Strongman, training for the possibility of a Trifecta (three Spartan races) and for the first time, I saw a new thing emerge in me. An athletic me, a physically competitive me, the me who knew she would fall and never come in first, but was willing to shatter those perfectionist tendencies.

I want to find her again. I need to find her again. It would be easy for me to slip all the way back permanently. I spent 39 years never truly competing. Never willing to break down the body. I jogged, belly danced, took Zumba, water aerobics, yoga, hot yoga. I never knew dedication.

Now that I know I want her back, it’s time to do what I can at home or outdoors by my lonesome. Buy (and use) weights, kettlebells, go on walks, stretch and plan for a safe way to compete again (hopefully) in 2021.

What I’m Excited About

5 Things I’m Excited About:

  1. Time off the next few days without the expectation of going to work, a class or a meeting. I have days off but I regularly schedule appointments, meetings and errands. The only thing I am committed to is posting here until the end of the month.

2. Time to read. Octavia Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower” and “The Parable of the Talents” have been on tables and nightstands throughout my home. Started and put back down to write, sleep, work and binge watch to unwind. I am a better writer when I read and also far more inspired.

3. Taking a few more bike rides before it gets too cold. We haven’t out on our bikes in a while and I want to get back out there. I don’t believe I have ridden my bike through fall leaves since I was a little girl. I am looking forward to doing that again.

4. My upcoming workshop “Get Lifted: Using Music and Poetry to Find Your Light.” I keep finding songs and poems that seem perfect for it. I am hopeful listening, writing and reading aloud together will produce an experience that actually leaves us lighter and ready to try it again.

5. Seeing my family over Zoom tomorrow. It’s been a few months since we have all seen each other at the same time virtually and in person, years. COVID-19 has taken away so much but it cannot take this.

Jingle Jangle

I watched “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Netflix yesterday afternoon. It is the tale of toy inventor, Jeronicus Jangle, finding his way back to believing in himself with the help of his precocious genius granddaughter, Journey, many years after an apprentice stole his work that led to financial ruin. I knew it would be full of song, dance and Christmas cheer but I didn’t expect it to be the movie I needed to see in 2020.

It delighted me to see a Black cast expressing joy so unabashedly. It allowed me to indulge in this magical fantasy without racism lingering in the shadows. I loved seeing beautiful brown skinned children surrounding their grandmother (played by the incomparable Phylicia Rashad) clamoring to hear this story amid a crackling fire and Christmas decorations. The costumes were gorgeous. The idea of an Afro-Victorian fusion was genius. One of many highlights was a snowball fight and dance between Journey and Jeronicus and set to an Afrobeats song.

The acting was incredible and I would expect nothing less from Forest Whitaker, Keegan Michael Key and Anika Noni Rose but the children shone so brightly, too! I wasn’t taken out of the fantasy even once.

There were many messages delivered centered around believing in yourself but this by far was the most moving from Jeronicus to Journey:”Never be afraid when people can’t see what you see. Only be afraid if you no longer see it.” It’s one of those messages tailor made for everyone, but especially for those who may be on the brink of losing hope. Now that is something I believe we can also use a little more of in 2020.

Ascension

Last night, I cooked spelt spaghetti listening and intermittently peering into the living room to catch scenes from Solange’s When I Get Home visual album. I love the scenes with Black cowboys, riding regally down Houston streets.

I cut that part of my evening short to virtually attend Brooklyn Public Library’s event #SAYHERNAME, A Public Reading of Audre Lorde’s Need: A Chorale For Black Woman Voices, hosted by Sheena Wilson and moderated by my storytelling sister from University of Alabama, Tuacaloosa, Dr. Jameka Hartley.

There are times where you should be speaking and there are times where you should just listen. Last night was a time to listen. It was not because Jameka and her fellow poets, Keya and Liseli read Ms. Lorde’s work beautifully.

It was because I needed to learn.

During Jameka’s introduction, she mentioned she was moved to do this after the tragic death of the young activist, Toyin Salau, earlier this year. Need was written in 1979 after the death of 12 Black women in four short months in the Boston area. Sadly, we know why this is still happening.

Black women are still invisible. Our pain is ignored. But when we speak up a little too loudly about our pain or organize coalitions, birth movements, we are a threat–to colonized mentality, to governments, to whatever “status quo” is deemed to be.

I found myself typing and then erasing in the chat “Black women are invisible and perceived to be a threat simultaneously. It is infuriating.”

I erased it because I just wanted to listen and for that night to be about these scholarly sisters honoring Audre. Another one of my storytelling sisters spoke up about the adversity she’s encountered in her quest to secure quality mental health resources. This led to a discussion that included solutions in the form of a “kitchen table”, a close knit group of people with whom you can be vulnerable, calling on an ancestor and “dating” therapists until you’ve found “the one.”

There was commentary from the one man in the room about his need to protect his own sister and other Black women. Recognition of the fight of queer women like Audre Lorde and the founders of the Black Lives Matter was discussed.

At the end of the night, powerful poetry was recited for us. It was the perfect closing. After logging off, my husband asked how I felt. He heard my rejoicing and saw my head nodding vigorously throughout it.

He knew how I felt. He knows I want to be in a real room with those people. He knows I now want to close the door behind me with a stack of books written by Black women and do my homework. I want to write and read and shift my perspective.

I want to ascend.

So last night started with a pot of boiling pasta, being awestruck at Black cowboys and transcendent music and ended with Ms. Lorde’s work setting something ablaze inside of me.

Moving on

Hubby and I recently started talking about moving. I bought my home 13 years ago. I loved knowing I was a single woman in my 20’s buying property for no one but herself. I wasn’t waiting for marriage or for anyone to save me before making the leap, either. I have fond memories of my realtor walking me through the house, loving the layout, my walk-in closet and getting excited about being less than 10 minutes from work and the city.

I was so proud on the morning of my closing. My family and friends (except for one who was patronizing towards me) were happy for me. I felt like I had won, especially when I gripped the keys in my hands for the first time.

All these years later, I still feel a sense of pride for that young woman but I am also ready to say goodbye. I am at a stage where I know that although Hubby and I haven’t physically grown out of this place, emotionally we have moved on. I also realized there’s no permission needed to no longer hold on. I don’t need a security blanket.

We are slowly but surely making the changes we need. I am in no hurry to go. I am at peace with our decision even if we don’t know where we’ll be in a year or two.

I think this is what is called acceptance.

24 to 40

When I was 24, I graduated from college. Two years later, after a failed stint in a grad program that didn’t fit me, I moved back home and bought my first condo. Five years after that, I got married. A year later, I left my job which started me down a path to figure out what I was supposed to do. Two years after that, I enrolled in a different grad program and left after a successful semester of classes. By this time, every family member I had left the state, I developed fibroid tumors and psoriasis on most parts of my body.

A few months after leaving grad school, I knew if I was going to make anything creative work, I would have to do more writing than talking. I started writing a novel and had one article published. I joined a group of people trying to structure their lives and focus on goal setting. A couple of months later, I pitched said novel to an agent. The pitch went well and she requested pages. I sent her pages she did not love.

I kept writing this novel that seemed to go nowhere. I started a blog upon the suggestion of an agent at the writer’s conference where I pitched my idea. I took creative non-fiction and fiction writing classes, went to book signings and workshops and met other writers. I worked a few more jobs that had nothing to do with what I love most but you know, money.

When I was 37, I had a series of panic attacks I didn’t see coming. I thought working a soul numbing job, blogging three times a week, stressing about my husband’s health, writing a wedding vows journal and trying to keep up with life in general was a lot of things that were no big deal until I couldn’t breathe in the bed and then in front of my computer.

About a month later, I was let go for the first time from this job. I got back out there again and found one that was close by. At this time, I was still writing but not sure where any of it is going. I applied for a storytelling project for women of color. I actually get it. I fly to the University of Alabama. I feel myself coming to life again. My voice seems to be audible where it felt so quiet before. I had spoken a couple of places and published more but this was different.

I could be Black, insecure, awkward but vocal me. It didn’t matter I hadn’t found my footing professionally. In Alabama, I was surrounded by Black women who were excelling in every field from education, activism, music to law and social work. I could have felt less worthy but it didn’t matter. We all had stories to tell.

I flew back home and kept writing. I start working at a non-profit whose values more closely align with mine and eventually start facilitating creative non-fiction writing sessions there. I keep going to counseling and start weight training. I see myself as an athlete for the first time as a Strongman competitor. I keep writing because now it’s 2020 and I can’t hold back anymore of my rage, anxiety and frustration at the state of the world. I need to be free.

My writing becomes more honest.

I become more honest with myself.

I start thinking about turning this honesty into a book.

I receive a phone call. I am offered the opportunity to compile my work into a book by a publisher.

In a few days, I will be 40. I am just starting.

Because my life will always be a series of beginnings and endings.

Team

I have been on a minimizing tear this year. I got rid of a couch, sold almost one hundred books, donated several bags of clothes and kitchenware, threw away kitchen items and today, we cleaned and went through every inch of the bathroom, literally from floor to ceiling, cabinets and all.

I am actually writing this from the car after a quick run to the store for new bathroom accessories and groceries with a jumbo bag of recycling in the trunk. Something hit me earlier while scrubbing the floor and Hubby was dust busting our steps. He said something about teamwork making the dream work which always makes us feel a little lighter when doing tedious work.

He was right but I couldn’t help but think it’s only true when it’s the right team.

My husband and I switched off with scrubbing, dusting, bleaching when the other’s back was aching and when we played the “should this stay or go game”, our habits and needs were considered. We watch out for each other when it comes to being mindful of what we want to eat and who could stand to take a night off cooking or do it together.

I envision many things for my marriage and other relationships, most of it coming down to respect and who’s really there for me.

When I look back on all of it, I believe I will know I picked the right team, those who chose to love, listen and grow with me.

“Tuesday”

I am not going to pretend I feel normal. Tuesday has been going on for a few days. I purposely stayed away from current television and scrolling through social media to avoid hearing any election news. I watched Half and Half and Sex and the City so I could fool myself into believing it was 2004. Not that anything was perfect then but the country’s allegiance to the notion of white supremacy wasn’t so boldly proclaimed, at least not from the White House. I also didn’t have to wonder if I had a sticker supporting my candidate of choice on my bumper that there was a chance I could be boxed in by maniacs and screamed at by people claiming to be “Christians.”

Maybe there wore more people willing to wear the mask back then. Maybe I prefer the mask.

After avoiding incoming results, I went to bed but was only able to sleep for an hour. My restlessness continued until my wake up call for 5:00am Miracle Morning. I considered skipping but I am glad I didn’t.

We ended up listening to Amanda Maynard speak about mental wellness. She guided us through a powerful meditation but what really resonated with me was the group exercise. We were broken out randomly into groups. Each of us was tasked with stating our fear and then the rest of us were to suggest a solution to combat the fear.

One of the other women struggles with the same fear as I do: The fear of being seen. This may come as a surprise because I don’t have a problem with my work being seen. I separate Kristina from Kristina’s writing. I can press “Publish”, post a blog on a social media site or share my latest work or soon class with the people in my life. But constant networking? Going live? Though it’s not true, it feels inauthentic to me, as if I am pretending to be an outgoing bubbly person for the world.

As if I really believe all the world’s a stage. Since I truly want to be more engaged and have work coming I will be proud to share with the world, I need to be comfortable with being seen.

That whole breakout group revelation was before 6:00am. I logged out carrying hope with me and was finally able to sleep before starting work a couple hours later.

I am glad I got the little rest I did because it empowered me to be present for virtual self-care activities. My friend guided us through yoga class which eased the tension snaking up my back to my shoulders. I also facilitated a writing session with my co-workers I soon hope to repeat. We all showed up with our vulnerability and willingness to share of ourselves. I was honored and humbled to lead in this way.

I know “Tuesday” is far from over but I am leaning towards hope and acceptance. I am inspired to be ready to do my part, no matter the outcome, to be more of an empathetic leader and an agent for change in the world around me.

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.

 

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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