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

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.

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.

Thank U

This week I (like many of y’all) am celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in my hometown. Family, fellowship, and food–the holy trinity of this particular celebration. An opportunity to appreciate all we have…then go out and buy more on Black Friday! And of course, the question asked around dinner tables every single year…

“What are you thankful for?”

The pandemic made me extremely thankful for the many blessings in my life. I imagine others had a similar onslaught of overwhelming appreciation for life, health, and other things oft taken for granted. COVID really helped us put things in perspective, y’all.

But sometimes it’s hard to see the sugar for all the shit.

Lately I’ve been stressed, depressed, and just plain exhausted. Work life has tried me. Home life has tried me. My inner saboteur has been working overtime to convince me I’m a terrible human being who only deserves the worst in life.

How am I supposed to find the sugar in all that shit???

I’m thankful I have a job, even if it feels like work gets added but never gets taken away. I’m thankful for my family and friends, even if we don’t always see eye to eye. I’m thankful to see another season, even with the cold, dark, windy days. Every day I draw breath is a great day, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Because each day gives me the opportunity to be thankful for the beautiful things–big and small.

And if you have nothing else to be thankful for…

Be thankful for the ability to be thankful.

Buy Me a Rose

“Give people their flowers while they’re here.”

You’ve heard that saying, right? Basically, we should tell people how much they mean to us while they are around to hear it. It’s a call to action we can all take on.

Sometimes, I wish it were taken more literally.

I absolutely adore fresh flowers. (I honestly think it’s a hereditary thing–a lot of the women in my family are flower freaks.) While expensive to send, I know nothing will thrill my grandmother more than a beautiful bouquet. My great-aunt always had fresh flowers in the house when she was alive. Just last week, my husband surprised me with flowers and I thought my heart would explode. It’s wild how something a small as a $15 arrangement from the grocery store down the street can bring so much joy.

So I want to start giving people their flowers by literally giving them their flowers.

Over the next year, I want to send surprise flowers to people I care about. Family, friends–anyone who’s made a positive impact in my life. Not for a holiday or anything in particular, just because they are special to me.

I hope their hearts are fill with joy.

I hope they feel special, appreciated, loved.

I hope they see the beauty in the gift as a reflection of the beauty in them.

I’ve heard more than once that flowers aren’t a great gift because they eventually die. Who wants a gift that doesn’t last? Cut flowers show their colors and slowly fade away until nothing is left but the memory.

But isn’t that true of all of us?

We eventually die–we cease to exist. While we’re living, we show our colors: our talents, our feelings, our love. We grow older, and eventually all that is left of us is the legacy we leave behind.

We are flowers: beautiful, colorful, fragile, temporary. Acknowledge the beauty in everyone you meet, but especially those who’ve impacted your life in a positive way. Cherish those people; give them support and encouragement just as you’d give water and sunlight to the beautiful blooms you arrange in a vase.

After all, flowers don’t last forever.

No More (Baby Imma Do Right)

“I’m gettina lil’ tired of your broken promises, promises…”

Y’all remember that song??? 3LW had middle school me hype! I was really out there singing (definitely off-key) to my (completely imaginary) boyfriend to get his (entirely hypothetical) shit together. 😂😂😂

Now, those three little women didn’t know what the hell they were singing about either. (Or maybe they were more sophisticated young adults than I was—who knows?) Either way, I appreciate the message behind the song in a way I couldn’t back then.

Sometimes, we stay in situations we know aren’t good for us. Whether it’s a job or a relationship or something else entirely, we stay because we feel comfortable. We stay because it’s what we know. We stay because we can’t imagine another way.

So we put up with the lies. The abuse. The broken promises, promises. We push aside our intuition and let the situation control us, instead of the other way around. Eventually, we find ourselves two options: stay or go.

Not an easy decision, but a necessary one.

Today, I stand at this crossroads. I can stay comfortable (and unhappy) where I am. I could journey to a new (scary and unknown) place.

I don’t know what to choose.

Without sharing too much, I’ve been in this situation for a long time time (over a decade actually). Many aspects of the situation are excellent, but a few key areas conflict with my personal values. I can choose to overlook those few things and just focus on the good, but that makes me feel like a fraud. I don’t want to lie to anyone, especially myself.

So here I am, between a rock and a hard place. I don’t know what I’m going to choose, but I do now this—I need to make a choice. Because as those three little women sang all those years ago…

“You do, or you don’t. You will, or you won’t.”