All By Myself

It feels like I’ve been alone my whole life.

Not literally, of course. But I grew up an only child in a town of about 3000 people. My closest neighbors (both in age and proximity) were fully grown adults with fully grown children. No public transit, no sidewalks, no bike paths—if my mom wasn’t available to drive me into town, it was my responsibility to keep myself occupied.

I generally got along with the kids at school, but I was never the kid people clamored to hang out with. I was one of the few Black kids, and some parents wouldn’t let their kids play with me even if they wanted to. It wasn’t until 4th grade that I found someone I really connected with.

But I wasn’t lonely. Far from it! What I lacked in human companionship I made up for in books.

I read constantly—while I ate, waiting for the school bus, on the school bus, basically anytime I got a free moment. My mom played in a slow-pitch softball league, and I’d always ask how long the games would be. (I needed to know how many books to bring.) Reading, something I did entirely by myself, introduced me to people I’d never meet in my small southern town. But beyond that, those countless hours with my nose in a book taught me something truly valuable.

Being alone and being lonely aren’t the same at all.

Take yourself out on a date. Go on a solo trip. Be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Learn who you are without anyone else. Love who you are without anyone else. As long as you love who you are, what others think or say truly doesn’t matter.

In solitude the mind gains strength, and learns to lean upon itself.

Laurence Sterne

Simple Strategies for Boosting Your Health

Guest blogger Melissa Howard shares some valuable insight on keeping yourself well as we move into spring:

Making health and wellness a priority isn’t easy. Most adults are overburdened. As a result, they aren’t as likely to make self-care a central focus in their lives. Luckily, there are some simple health-boosting techniques that can fit into even the busiest of schedules. Deep Curves Ahead shares some options below.

Make Time for Sleep
Overall, adults usually need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night. It gives your body enough time to go through critical processes that keep you healthy, so rest needs to be a priority.

If you experience any signs or symptoms of sleep disorders, such as frequent waking or extreme fatigue during the day, it’s wise to see a medical professional. They can assess your condition and develop a treatment plan, ensuring you can get the rest you need.

Use Stress-Reducing Techniques
Many stress reduction techniques are easy to work into even the busiest of schedules. Meditation and deep breathing can be incredibly effective and can often be done nearly anywhere. Taking a second to watch a funny video is also an excellent option, as a quick laugh can be a natural mood-booster.

For some people, journaling is a great way to keep stress levels down. It lets them vent their frustrations in a safe manner, giving them an outlet. However, writing down what you’re grateful for can also work. With the gratitude approach, you focus on the positive, which can be a better fit for many.

Lastly, take a look at your surroundings and see if your home is cluttered — believe it or not, this could be a major source of stress and anxiety. Not only will cleaning up a bit help alleviate these feelings, but it can also release any negative energy this clutter has trapped in your home.

Examine Your Job
For many people, their careers are a major source of stress. A lack of job satisfaction has a negative impact on your health, so it’s crucial to examine your work situation to see if it’s an issue.

When you’re not feeling challenged at work, boredom can become a problem. If you’re under constant stress, burnout is more likely to be an issue. When a workplace is blatantly toxic, it strains your mental health.

If your job is causing you a significant amount of distress, pivoting into a new career might be a smart move. Online degree programs make heading in a new direction simple. You can keep working and manage family obligations while you acquire new skills, allowing you to maintain a balance.

When you look for an online school, make sure it’s accredited. Additionally, research tuition costs, fee structures, and other related expenses to ensure the pricing is competitive. That way, you can secure a quality education without breaking the bank.

Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is a big part of overall wellness. Not only can it keep you physically fit, but it can also reduce stress, lead to better sleep, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and more.

Most adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. As long as each session is at least 10 minutes long, you’re meeting the requirement.

Learn to Say ‘No’
In some cases, people struggle with their health because they’re overwhelmed. By learning to say “no,” you can get more control over your workload and personal life.

If you’re asked to accept a task or obligation that you genuinely feel isn’t a smart idea, say “no.” Don’t overburden yourself if it isn’t a genuine necessity or requires you to sacrifice in another critical area of your life. If you do, you can keep your workload manageable, relieving a significant source of stress.

Photo Credit: Pexels

About Melissa:

“Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create Stop Suicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information. She went to school at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and currently works as an executive assistant.”

What’s Going On

I had an entirely different post planned but then Russia invaded Ukraine and the governor in Texas wants to investigate parents of trans kids as child abusers and the world is imploding.

This is terrifying. I don’t understand it.

Why are we still doing this to ourselves? Why are people so greedy, so selfish, so unwilling to see other humans as fucking HUMAN???

I know this blog post won’t change anything but right is right and wrong is wrong. Staying silent seems complicit to me and I want to use the little platform I have to do something—anything.

Stand with Ukraine.

Protect trans kids.

Treat other humans with decency and respect (and do the same for Mother Earth too—don’t treat our planet like it’s disposable).

We only have one life to live. Don’t spend it being a shitty person.

Back in the Day (Puff)

Sometimes, the universe sends me exactly what I need when I least expect it.

This year, I decided I wanted to take more control over my life. I wanted to better understand what I did each day and maximize my time–COVID showed me life is short, and I want to make the most of each day I live. So, in true Virgo fashion…

I bought a fancy planner. 🙂

This planner is built like a brick house, but so sleek and chic I don’t mind how much it weighs. It’s got a spot for everything: my daily schedule, a to-do list, even a spot to write down what’s for dinner every night! In addition to all that, there is a little quotation at the top of each page. I admit I didn’t really pay much attention to this section–too focused filling in all the other stuff–but Monday’s entry gave me pause:

Close up of a planner page with the quotation "I fling my past behind me like a robe...I have outgrown it." by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“I fling my past behind me like a robe…I have outgrown it.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oof. What a punch in the gut.

I consistently berate myself over things I did/said in the past. My inner saboteur loves to mollywop me with reminders of cringeworthy statements and inappropriate behavior, particularly when I’m anxious or depressed. Doesn’t matter if it happened in 2nd grade–that nasty inner voice has a sharp tongue and a long memory.

On Monday, I was stressed and anxious. I’d had a rough couple of weeks at work and my nerves were one adverse event away from snapping. These factors created a prime situation for negative self-talk and I almost gave into it. But this quote made me stop and ask myself, “How does beating myself up over last week help me this week?”

Short story: It…doesn’t.

So I shook it off and went to work. I disregarded any silly comment or errant mistake from the last week. I moved forward.

And so should you.

Beating yourself up over things that happened “back in the day” doesn’t help current you. Shame and criticism are not effective motivators, especially over something that happened a long time ago. Learn from your mistakes, grow from them, but don’t let them control you.

You never know if you’ll get a tomorrow, so treat yourself with care and compassion today.

(Lay Your Head On My) Pillow

“…and just relax, relax, relax…”

I know I can’t be the only one who remembers that groove from Tony! Toni! Toné!. Yes, that song came out when I was, like, 7. No, I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about (there are some pretty adult themes in those lyrics). But hey–I’m a sucker for a good R&B tune! (And if you’ve never heard this song, please give it a listen–it’s awesome.)

You’ve probably figured out I use songs as the titles for my blog posts. Sometimes the songs get stuck in my head for days–they won’t leave until I get my thoughts out. Most times, the songs remind me of a particular feeling…a moment…a memory. Today’s song actually came from a conversation with my therapist.

In a session earlier this week, I shared how overwhelmed I felt–just plain stressed and anxious–with all the changes in my work schedule and obligations in my personal life. After I was done explaining everything, she asked me a question that knocked me right on my ass:

Can you be relaxed on the busiest day of your life?

Now I had to think about this for a minute, because basically my entire life I’ve assumed busy = stressed. I enjoy having things to do; I love staying busy. But I don’t like being stressed the fuck out. (My guess is most people don’t.) My therapist challenged me to relax and not get tense even when I’ve got a lot going on.

So yesterday, even with the stress of work and home, I tried to relax. Instead of worrying about every possible thing that could go wrong, I tried to focus on the present–what was happening in that moment. And the day went surprisingly well! Usually at the end of a work day, I’m dragging myself back to my car–all the stress of the day just weighs on me, so much that it feels like a physical weight.

Yesterday, I left work feeling light as air.

So many of us struggle with anxiety and stress; we weigh ourselves down with worrying and feel we’ll never be able to accomplish everything. If you feel this way, you are absolutely not alone–I’m right there with you. But I’d encourage you to ask yourself that question, “Can I be relaxed on the busiest day of my life?” Allow yourself to see things in perspective–you don’t have to be stressed or anxious just because you are busy. Handle your shit–don’t let your shit handle you.

And just relax…relax…relax.

Self-Improvement Efforts You Can Implement Today for a Better Tomorrow

Photo Credit: Pexels

As we move forward in this new year, guest blogger Melissa Howard shares some fabulous tips for making positive changes in your life:

Are you of a mindset that you need to turn your life around? Many of us make the mistake of thinking that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to make big, sweeping changes to our entire routine. After all, we think, if what we’re doing right now isn’t working, wouldn’t it be best to make major changes? Although this is well-intentioned, it relies on the logical fallacy that bigger is always better when it comes to self-improvement.

In reality, small changes are likely to make the biggest difference. Why? You’ll actually stick with them. DeepCurvesAhead takes a look at some techniques you can use to make yourself healthier, happier, and more excited to face each and every day:

Take Charge of Your Career

Many of us move through our careers in whatever way feels most natural and expected of us. We get a job that uses our skills or degree; we do the work and put in the time; we take the raises, promotions, and opportunities that come our way. Although this happens to work out well for some people, it can leave others feeling listless and out of control of their lives.

If you’re in the latter camp, take little steps each day to reclaim and take charge of your career. For example, you might decide you’d rather work for yourself than for a large company. Rather than jumping ship right away, however, you can start by taking on a little bit of freelance or contract work on the side.

Always check your contract to avoid breaking a non-compete clause, and consider forming an LLC if your work requires taking on any legal risks. Little steps each day will push you toward your ultimate goal.

Make Time for Exercise

It feels almost contradictory at first blush, but most of us live busy sedentary lives. If you have an office job, there may be days where your only real activity is the walk from your car to the office and back. As more and more of us work from home at least some of the time, even this short jaunt gets cut from our routines.

This constant inactivity leaves our bodies restless and in desperate need of movement. This can lead to increased anxiety, fatigue, and, of course, poor health overall. Fitting in something as simple as a thirty-minute walk each day, however, can make a huge difference.

Mix Up Your Style

Finally, now is a fantastic time to take a look at your personal style and see if it’s truly representing who you are. Many of us dress to satisfy others’ expectations of us, instead of wearing what we feel best in. Although you may be bound by formality expectations, such as wearing business clothing in the workplace, you should still strive to represent yourself as much as possible in what you wear.

However, many people don’t really know what their own style actually is. Consider picking up a new piece of clothing or accessory at a regular interval, such as monthly or every other week. Try it out for a while, and see if it suits you. If it does, you can use that as a launching point for the next item. If not, sell or donate it and try something else; avoid falling into the trap of too much stuff. This is a great way to gradually transform your wardrobe into items that feel authentic and empowering for you.

These are just a few of the ways you can make a big difference in your life by taking small steps. Remember, the smaller the change, the easier it will be to stick with, and the bigger an impact it will have in the long run.

About Melissa:

“Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create Stop Suicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information. Went to school at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and currently works as an executive assistant.”

You Can Do It

Welcome to 2022, y’all! Here’s to…not having a nervous breakdown, I guess?

In all seriousness, I’m taking my life back this year. The past few years subjected all of us to things well outside our control (global pandemic, anyone?) and I–like many of you–have had about enough of it. If the world’s going to shit, I might as well captain my own boat. 🤷‍♀️ So I’m doing stuff for me alllllll 2022!

Some of the things I’m working on are:

  • Keeping a daily planner (to keep my commitments close at hand)
  • Keeping a wellness journal (to track my mental, physical, and emotional health)
  • Exercising 5-6 times a week (strength, cardio, and stretching)
  • Adding new/different content to the blog (to keep things fresh and interesting)
  • Finding a new career path (and, hopefully, my true passion)
  • Learning Spanish (because I’ve always wanted to!)

I’m also focusing on meditation and keeping a positive mindset. The past two years have left me feeling…well…defeated. While I can’t change everything going on, I can change my perspective and point of view. My therapist recommended meditation to help with this, and now is as good a time as any to try it out. In fact, today I did my very first five-minute meditation! Shoutout to Yoga with Kassandra for providing the inspiration (and also some pretty awesome yoga videos–my husband and I do a stretch every morning using one of Kassandra’s videos). Today’s meditation was:

I am capable and competent; I know my worth.

Yoga with Kassandra

I can’t be the only one who forgets who they are and what they’re worth. Too often, the outside world–and the negativity in it–clouds my vision and makes me forget I’m 100% that bitch. (Shoutout to Lizzo for the lyric!)

I’ve survived too much. I’ve persevered too long. I’ve accomplished too many things to let life crush my spirit. I deserve the absolute fucking best this life has to offer and I’m taking it! And you should too.

It is so easy to give up, to just let life happen to you. But you are amazing, capable, and competent. You can tackle anything that stands in your way. Know your worth and treat yourself accordingly. Not everyone and everything deserves your time/resources/energy. Love yourself unconditionally, respect yourself wholeheartedly, and treat yourself with care.

As I say these words to you, I say them to myself as well. We all forget just how spectacular we are, so any reminder to you about your badassness is a reminder to myself also. Let’s make 2022 a year of personal transformation, a year of realizing our dreams, a year of loving ourselves so fully we won’t need validation from the outside world. You are capable and competent! Know your worth…and I’ll be here to remind you if you happen to forget.

Too Little Too Late

Today started like any other Tuesday.

My alarm woke me up at 5am. I made a cup of coffee. I sat down on the couch and leafed through the latest edition of Essence magazine, slowly sipping. I finished the magazine, stood up, and rushed into my husband’s arms. Eyes filled with tears, I uttered the phrase that’s been permeating my thoughts for quite some time.

“…I don’t know what I want to do with my life.”

My husband chuckled, held me tighter, and replied, “Join the club.”

Ever since COVID hit, I’ve realized more and more that life is too short to waste on things that don’t fulfill you. The “great resignation” of the past year proves I’m not the only one–we are all waking up to the fact that we can control our own lives. We don’t have to work at a place we hate for pennies; we can make our way through life in our own way, on our own terms.

These realizations are freeing and crippling (at least for me). I’m so overwhelmed, y’all. A billion questions fly through my head at any given moment: What am I passionate about? Where do I start? What do I do? How can I make a life–a comfortable, sustainable life–that brings me true joy? What is true joy anyway? Have I ever even felt it before???

There are so many things I like to do: orate, read, cook, motivate people, laugh. But I struggle to see where I stand apart in those areas, how I can bring something new and different to the world. There was an article about Tabitha Brown in the Essence I read today and good Lord–what an inspiration! That’s the kind of person I want to be: funny, kind, uplifting, a breath of fresh air. Tab’s got that lane on lock right now–she’s even got the vegan scene covered! (Veganism–particularly for Black people–is also something I find very important.)

In my head, I’m giving “too little, too late.” I feel like I missed an opportunity I didn’t even know was there. I was so focused on work and school and other people I neglected to nurture myself. I was too busy just trying to keep my head above water, going to work and coming home and paying bills like a fucking robot.

But hey, hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I can’t look backward–I’ve got to look forward. I’d never tell anyone else they’d missed their opportunity to get what they want out of life, so I won’t say that to myself.

I won’t let fear stop me from pursuing my goals either.

A lot of people know me as an outgoing, confident person. But the truth is I’m scared as shit. I’m absolutely terrified of making a mistake, causing problems, not being perfect. For the longest time I thought perfectionism drove me forward and made me successful, but now I’m realizing it hindered me in many ways too. My therapist tells me, “There is no such thing as perfect, so do what you want.

Easier said than done, right?

Especially for me, a Black woman from a tiny town who can’t seem to take her blinders off. A 30-something who can’t get out of her own head long enough to figure out what she really wants out of life. I feel like a piece of furniture from Ikea with no instructions–all the pieces are there, but I can’t figure out how to put them together. I see all these examples of excellence everywhere–Tabitha Brown, Issa Rae, and many others–and wonder how the fuck they did it.

My guess? They just tried. And if it didn’t work out, they tried again. And if that didn’t work, they tried something else!

So for 2022, I’m just gonna try shit and see what happens. Stop being scared and start doing me. Time to work on all those things I’ve wanted to do but didn’t have the time/energy/money/motivation to pursue. I’m going to focus less on “perfect” and more on authentic. Any amount of effort can’t be too little, and it definitely isn’t too late to start–I’ve got the next 30+ years of life to put myself and my dreams first.

I wish you and yours all the best in the new year–drop a comment and let me know what you’re planning to work on in 2022. One of my goals is to make this blog more interactive, so I promise to reply to comments (which I admit I haven’t been good about in the past). Maybe we can help each other become the best versions of ourselves. 🙂

Enter Sandman

Anybody else have extremely vivid dreams?

Personally, I feel like I’m not even sleeping when I dream. Everything’s in technicolor. The sounds are loud and close. I even smell what’s happening in my dreams–it’s wild! Basically my dreams are the same as what I’d experience in real life…except for the people.

The people in my dreams aren’t even close to who they are in real life.

My dream people are cruel, calculating, liars. They manipulate me and break my trust. They try to enslave me, humiliate me, even kill me. They look just like they do in real life, but they act so viciously. They terrify me. It’s hard to shake those feelings even after I wake up.

You know there’s a lot of research out there on dreams. Scientists and psychologists say they represent our innermost thoughts, fears, and desires. Your teeth falling out in a dream means you’re afraid of getting old,”–that sort of thing. So what does it mean when the people I love most–my husband, mother, close friends–betray me so brazenly in my dreams?

I think it all comes down to trust.

I have such a hard time trusting people. Well, technically that’s not true. I trust people very easily–too easily. I remember times in my childhood where friends played pranks on me because they knew I’d buy into it. I grew up believeing someone until they gave me reason not to.

In adulthood, I’ve behaved differently. I’m more calculating, more hesitant to take someone at their word. I don’t fully trust anyone, because I’ve been let down so many times before. And that’s showing up in my dreams (I think). Which, to be frank, sucks. The absolute terror I feel when I sleep creeps into my thoughts and actions when I’m awake, perpetuating the cycle of distrust. (My husband can tell you firsthand about all the side-eyes he’s gotten for something “Dream Hubs” did or said.)

So much for a restful night’s sleep.

The Outside

Never in my life have I felt more out of place than I did an hour ago.

Currently, I’m celebrating an early Christmas with my in-laws at a ski resort in Utah. They own a timeshare here and invited me to join them on their annual trip to the slopes. I accepted the invitation with enthusiasm; I’d only been to Utah once for a high school speech trip and even them I never ventured into the mountains.

I haven’t seen anyone else who looks like me here either.

The scenery is breathtaking. The mountains take up the entire skyline, coated in a think blanked of pearly snow, dotted with toothpick trees. Sunny, cloudless, with air so crisp you could bite into it. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

Technically, that isn’t true. I did see three other Black people…working on the property. But I haven’t seen any other Black guests just enjoying their time here.

Definitely not surprising, but absolutely disappointing.

I knew this would happen. I honestly wasn’t even expecting to see the Black employees (and was was pleasantly surprised when I did). But that doesn’t make it any less isolating.

My in-laws are wonderful people, welcoming and supportive. But all their efforts don’t lessen my fears that someone will decide I don’t fit in. I’m terrified people are laughing at me, wondering why the hell this Black girl is here. Asking themselves, “Who brought her? Who does she belong to?”

Have you ever felt like this? Utterly defective, entirely out of place? It is so hard to explain unless you’ve been there. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone. It makes me want to stay in the room, hiding from people who might judge me.

But I won’t hide.

Instead I’ll do my makeup, just enough to make my eyes pop and my skin glow. I’ll style my hair so it looks perfect, but still natural. I’ll put on my cutest casual outfit, something that highlights my figure and makes me stand out in the sea of bulky coats and snow pants. I’ll pretend I belong here until I feel like I actually do.

I may feel like an outsider, but I sure as hell won’t show it.

Who knows? I may even start to believe it.