Look at me. Look at my face.

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to speak a couple of times about my new book She Lives Here which will be released on March 15th. I have been grateful for it and it came with some realizations.

At the start of the new year, three words would not leave me: open, unmask and free. I knew if I was going to give my all to the process of writing this book and promoting it, I would have to embody these words. I was going to have to stop saying things like “I’m not the look at me, look at my face girl” because it can’t be true if I am leading with my voice and my words. My voice and words are coming out of me, literally coming out of the mouth that’s on my face.

While I may not be the woman who takes 50 (or even 2) selfies a day, I cannot pretend I don’t yearn for recognition and that I am not proud of the work I’ve done. I actually admire women who do put more of themselves out there. I admire the confidence and the willingness to shut out the noise of others’ judgements about how they express themselves.

I have written about being seen (despite any insecurities I may have about psoriasis flares) or not waiting until something is my version of perfection before stepping out of shadows and into the light. Right now, I feel like it’s the perfect time to call my bluff. If perfection is impossible, what is possible?

That is what I would like to lead with in my life.

The possibilities. Exploring them, giving voice to them and making myself wildly uncomfortable in them.

Make a Plan

I was listening to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown in a podcast interview with Lewis Howes (The School of Greatness). They spoke of many things: letting go of a poem, adopting the identity of Jericho Brown, their shared history of abuse, paying homage to Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Lucille Clifton and his relationship with God.

But here’s what grabbed my attention more than any of the deep penetrating conversation: He says he makes a plan for laughter. He referred to watching an episode of “The Golden Girls” every night. During the Slant Poetry Festival, he mentioned his nightly ritual with Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia but I didn’t know it was an intentional plan.

I have never heard of anyone making a plan for laughter. Of course, I love to laugh but what would a plan look like? Or is the best part of laughter is when it comes spontaneously?

I will take my spontaneous giggles when they come but I like the idea of making time to laugh. I already enjoy comedic television and podcasts regularly. My husband and I probably goof around with each other more than most. It’s just us so there’s no one around to be “grown-up” for. We are not above dancing for each other, tickling and purposely watching a nighttime soap or two, just to howl with laughter at the over the top antics and tragic acting.

So maybe the plan starts with asking myself each day: Have I laughed today? And if not, what will I do to change it?

After all, what’s so bad about seeking relief from the dreary?

About letting a little laughter in?

Spartan

Have you ever been presented with something that challenges the very idea of who you thought you were?

That happened this past Monday when podcast host Jonathan Frederick (Heart Healthy Hustle) posted an opportunity on Instagram. He interviewed Spartan race founder, Joe De Sena and a challenge was issued. Anyone who wants to complete the Trifecta in 2020 (Sprint, Super and Beast) has one week from the airing (11/4) to email Joe and Jonathan to sign up and all three entry fees will be covered by Joe himself!

When Jonathan posted about it, I congratulated him on the partnership and was content to leave it at that. But then, he replied “you in?”

Once I got a few more details about the time (can complete all three at any point in 2020), something in me told myself not to shut it down despite many things:

I don’t have a trainer.

I have never run an obstacle course before.

I am at least 80 lbs overweight.

I never thought of myself as an athlete.

I don’t know if I can find anyone to do it with me.

I have never liked weightlifting.

I can’t do a pull up.

So despite all of those things, I picked up the phone and scheduled a session with a trainer. Despite all of those things, I showed up.

The trainer put all my fears to rest. Even after completing my inbody assessment, she seemed more delighted by my muscle mass and deadlifting than discouraged by weight. She wasn’t discouraged at all.

IMG_20191110_152605
Amber Shaw, trainer extraordinaire who opened my eyes today.

When all was said and done, I start tomorrow. Training 4 times a week, finally incorporating stretching and continuing to track my food and pound my water. Even though 75hard has a phase that comes after this, running these races feels like what comes after for me. It set me up to believe this was a possibility for me.

Possibility is hope. Possibility is leading me to believe I can mold myself into a true athlete, a competitor and someone I might not soon recognize- a Spartan.

Rationalizing

Last weekend, my sister invited us to workout with her trainer. I am ashamed to admit it had been a good two months since I worked out strenuously. Her trainer didn’t beat us up (although walking was a challenge for 2 days afterwards) but it was obvious to me it was about time someone did or at least come close to it consistently.

Between travel, doctor’s visits and hospital stays, I hadn’t realized I gave up on working out. Days really do turn into weeks and weeks into months. I am determined not to finish that last sentence with “and months into years.”

I can rationalize reasons to let the sentence head in that direction but I heard something else from Patrice Washington’s podcast yesterday. She calls rationalizing “rationing out lies.”

I could lie and say there’s not enough time or I’m too tired but why tell those lies? They are not fooling anyone, including myself. As for all of the other reasons that took my focus away from my healing these last couple months, I forgive myself and will move on. I have a tendency to stress about “where I would have been if only I had done this” but that never gets me anywhere.

The point is to start over right where I am. No waiting for the New Year or even my birthday in a couple of weeks. I am hoping the adage “when you know better, you do better” applies to me this time around.

So for anyone else starting over especially in the midst of a trial, I wish you luck, pray for blessings and send every ounce of positivity I can your way.

A Word

I listened to Patrice Washington’s podcast “Redefining Wealth” today. It was entitled “Give God Something to Bless.”

I knew right away her message would speak to me. Hubby and I frequently talk about God blessing our efforts whether it pertains to our careers, our health, our finances or finding a church community we can trust again.  She said something that had a strong impact on me. I had to hear it twice.

“Can God see what I’m waiting on based on what I’m working on?”

When I listen to podcasts, I often feel inspired, as if I am getting a free education and depending on the nature of it, I have found myself in tears (listen to the School of Greatness interview with John Gray).

But today, I got “a word.”

I was convicted. I know the things I need to consistently work on and when I don’t, I do kind of have an entitled idea that I should be blessed in that area anyway.

After all, I’m a good person. Right?

But what I know and what Patrice’s words seared into me, was that being “good” doesn’t mean you are doing your best. “Good” doesn’t mean you are rising to your challenges and it definitely doesn’t mean you have honored the talent that was gifted to you since you first drew breath.

So I am going to take this word and give Him something to bless. No need to talk about it.

I prefer to be about it.

What’s in Store for 2018.

After tonight, the next time I post here will be on January 1, 2018. So this is the perfect time to share my writing goals for 2018 (some of which are already in full swing).

Here we go:

-Submit work to publications at least once a week

-Complete my E-Book. I have an outline. It’s time to execute.

-Complete my novel. This was on my list last year. I know achieving this goal will be a result of my effort and consistency. No excuses.

-Go to more events as part of James River Writers, our local organization for writers. I went to a Writing Show, their annual conference, a book reading and a salon but I can make time for more.

-Connect with and be of service to other writers

-Strengthen my accountability resources (Be more active in my online groups and with my current writing partners)

-Embrace opportunities to speak about my journey (whether that be as part of a panel, as a speaker or as a podcast guest)

-Read more (2 books a month). Some months I read more, some less. I would like to be more consistent.

-Continue to go to book signings (especially for local authors!)

-Continue blogging 3 times a week.

-Do #bloglikecrazy challenge with See Jane Write again in November! (That challenge stretched me and gave me the idea to incorporate Meatless Monday posts).

-Seek more opportunities to guest post (at least once a month).

-Continue to take writing classes, even if it’s just a one-day workshop.

-Write down my goals daily in my journal!

-Remember to keep having fun! This level of commitment to writing is still technically in its infancy so there is no need to compare my walk with anyone else’s. I love that last year at this time I didn’t have a blog, had never taken a writing class, had only been published on one site, never thought to apply for a fellowship, and did not have a writing group. All of that has changed in the space of one year. I feel like my eyes have sprung open. I am already excited about what goals I will get to post in December 2018.

Happy New Year to all of my readers! I wish and pray for the absolute best for all of you!

Your turn: What are some of your goals for 2018?

 

Sisterly Advice

Yesterday, I received two kinds of news. We’ll start with the “negative.” I submitted two pieces to a literary magazine. Both were rejected. However, my reaction was a sigh and guess what? I’ll have something else to add to my collection.

Let me explain. Last year, I got my first official rejection from an agent I sent requested pages to after the James River Writers’ Conference 2016. The email was kind and encouraging but she just didn’t connect with the work.  I called my sister (younger but so wise and confident–I believe she was secretly reading HR Manuals and Personal Development books while the rest of us were struggling with our ABCs).

After telling her what happened, she practically congratulated me! “You got your first rejection. You should print it out and hang it on your wall!” I was a little puzzled but it quickly became clear: It means I tried! It means I put myself out there! It means I actually had pages to send the agent! It means that this is the first of many so I better keep going!

I never forgot that conversation. I have saved every rejection and kept every pitch I sent out no matter the result. They are my treasures, too. I look forward to perusing them when I’ve “made it.”

On to the second kind of news. I have been asked to be a guest on a podcast! I will follow-up soon with more details. Also, the post I wrote about the 2017 Pop-Up Conference with Sharvette Mitchell was featured on her website: http://www.mitchell-productions.com.  For me, the point I want to drive home is to keep going. Look forward to the failures. It means you put yourself in the arena and choose not to sit on the sidelines.

This is all I can ask of myself.

Your turn: How do you deal with rejection? Has your perspective changed as you have gotten older?

 

Defined by a Number?

I’ve actively resisted using the word “weight” on this blog. I happily write about wellness in its totality. However, the world seems so invested in exact numbers. It’s as if people need to know exactly where to place you.

Sometimes “people” is me.

I don’t define beauty and worthiness by a number. For sure, I want to change the number but I don’t subscribe to any of those notions. I heard a podcast host (an extremely fit man) in response to his guest who is struggling with his weight loss goals say something like: Yeah, I love doughnuts! The guest said nothing about doughnuts and the host repeated it more than once.

Clearly, this is not wildly offensive. I am sure it was just an awkward attempt to relate to his guest but I was disappointed by it. For me, it fed into the notion some people have about overweight/obese people sitting around, glued to the couch and shoving _________ (insert whatever junk food you would like) down his/her gullet. I actually have heard some version of this on more than one podcast, radio station, TV show, magazine, book or film.

Since you can find overweight people sitting next to you at work, class or at a sporting event, traveling beside you on the plane or working out with you at the gym, why does this notion persist?

Maybe I feel compelled to write about it as my husband and I, who eat a plant-based diet  to heal from our conditions exacerbated by inflammation and love to be out and about, are about to undertake a serious weight loss journey. I don’t want who we already are  to be lost on those who read this or already know us. I start as someone who works, writes, dances, prays, reads, travels, nurtures and cooks and I will be that woman in a smaller body and my husband will be who he is in a smaller body, too.

Not people who are waiting to get off of the couch but people who are ready to move on to the next adventure.