What I’m Excited About

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.

The Rider

The Rider

I was drawn to reread Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. I had takeaways when I read it a few years ago but this time I read it for a very different reason. It was for the reminder to give myself grace and surrender to the process. I knew I had a self-care writing session to lead, another writing class in December, a bloglikecrazy challenge coming and pages I needed to edit and submit in November. With all of that on the horizon, it would be natural to think I wouldn’t want to crack open a book, let alone something I’ve read before.

Big Magic serves to remind the reader of the sacred nature of creativity and how you must protect it. Protection looks like not putting too much pressure on it to financially support me, engaging with it and remembering it’s part of my gifting from God. It made me laugh, recognize when I was not honoring my gift and that time spent away to come back to my work with new eyes is essential.

When it came to a close, I knew I wanted to commit deeply. Gilbert describes a ceremony where she took a vow to wed writing when she was young. I may never take such vows but my commitment is riding with me, a silent partner who occasionally reaches over to change the music, hold my hand and take over just when I think there’s no more road left to travel.

Almost

Almost

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought of Toni Morrison, scribbling away on her yellow legal paper all those early mornings.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought about how the sun burned my right breast through my T-shirt while I sunbathed on the balcony reading “Assata” on her birthday.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I saw a towering tree in the distance that persistently leans left, bucking tradition of all the others that surround it.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I saw my sister swing her twists while she gracefully spun and inverted on her pole, beckoning and inviting others to love themselves and her art.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I thought of my husband’s black and silver curls falling to the floor after holding it between my fingers, cutting new growth away.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I remembered how I sobbed in the shower when I heard a stranger talk about her miscarriages and her infertility.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I remembered how I deeply miss the hugs, kisses, the eye contact of people I love.

I almost didn’t write this week but then I opened a lipstick that made me smile wide when I painted my full lips the color of deep red wine.

I need to capture it because one day, hopefully many many years from now, I won’t be here to “almost” at all.

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.

 

 

 

75Hard Recap

75Hard Recap

It’s Day 76. 75hard is over which means I accomplished the following:

150 workouts (mostly walks but many strength training workouts)

Drank 75 gallons of water

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Stuck to my diet (calorie counting for me) using the Lose It app.

Lost over 20 pounds.

Read over 750 pages of personal development books.

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No alcohol (I already didn’t drink)

I recapped more of the emotional side yesterday and I have said it before but it bears repeating:

I am less afraid.

The thing I thought I would be more fearful of was what to do next but it’s clear I had nothing to fear. Today, I went to a small group workout, took a walk and along with Hubby and a friend, climbed for the first time at an indoor gym.

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Even though the mental transformation far outweighs the physical, here are a couple of pictures to showcase that aspect:

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Today and August 2019

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Day 75 vs Day 1

I feel more confident about the next steps I am taking. If anyone is wondering if I would do it again, the answer is a resounding Yes. If anyone is doubting if they can do it, please don’t. The old saying is true: You will find the time for the things that matter to you.

One last note.

I loved that unintentionally the bloglikecrazy challenge came at the same time I was winding down with 75hard. I have a record of these last 30 days which included teacher training, strength classes, a fulfilling writing intensive and the introduction of the idea that I will one day be a Spartan and a Strongwoman.

 

All Done

All Done

There will be more reflection tomorrow but I have to acknowledge I made it to Day 75!

I both completely believe it and have a sense of disbelief that it’s almost done. I just have a few more ounces of water, dinner to track and I will close my eyes to wake up to Day 76.

I keep thinking about Friday, September 13th. I was at lunch with my friend explaining the challenge to her, asking if she’d like to join me. We agreed to start on Monday the 16th. That could have given me pause right there–starting on a Monday. How many times had I said that?

But this time was different. I didn’t have a special restrictive diet or fast to stick to and this was more about developing mental toughness which I lacked.

The morning of Monday, September 16th came. I was in bed, contemplating an excuse to not start and then my friend sent a text. I saw her name but didn’t read it. Seeing her name was the impetus for me to roll out of bed, get dressed and take my first walk in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until I was out there that I opened the text. It was a picture of her and a message saying her first workout was done. My response: “Yes! Doing first workout now!”

I know she’ll read this and see I might have sabotaged myself on yet another Monday if she hadn’t been stronger than me that day.

So I thank her for being my partner. I thank my husband for filling up gallon water bottles, packing lunches, taking pictures and pushing me on the days when the second workout ended up beginning later than anticipated.

I owe gratitude to all the people who supported me and to God, whom I prayed to repeatedly asking for strength to finish and for a host of other things during this time.

No more words tonight.

Tomorrow may be day 76 and the challenge is over but I have a walk I want to take and a small group workout I will choose to participate in.

Because this is only the beginning.

 

 

Live

Live

Last week, I completed my second week of #75hard challenge created by Andy Frisella.  As I was in the throes of a cycle all week and took it easy on a couple of my evening workouts to heal my ankle, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a slight gain. I actually stayed the same and felt like I had more energy. I even realized I wanted to push myself a bit harder on my workouts. During my second walk this evening, I cut it short, marched in the house and threw on one of my favorite Caribbean dance workouts for the remainder of my time.

As I mentioned last week, I am starting to see my mindset shift in other ways, too. I promised myself I would get my E-book professionally printed and guess what….

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I did it! I also now have a couple of leads on print on demand distributors and even though it will be an investment, what’s wrong with betting on myself?

Absolutely nothing.

I spent so much time afraid of risk even when I didn’t admit it to myself. This challenge is forcing me to confront my excuses. It is teaching me I am more resourceful and hard-working than I gave myself credit for.

This past Saturday, I went to work, did both workouts, drank my gallon of water and then some, read and enjoyed a comedy show. I know, without a doubt I would have made every excuse not to experience everything the day had to offer just a month ago. I was always too tired.

Too tired for what?

Too tired to live?

In the Moment

In the Moment

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.

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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.

But I let all of those ideas go.

I chose to be in the moment.