Moving in general can be a life-changing experience, but moving clear across the country, across time zones, can be somewhat surreal. The after effects can leave you in a constant state of “where am I?”. Your soul will feel unsettled, much like those dreams where your spirit is floating above everything, as you watch the world going on without you below. You want to participate in it all, but somehow, you can never insert yourself into the scene. Everything you know is different, from the scent of your new home, to your ride to work, to even the water you drink. No matter how excited you are for the newness, it can be frightening. So, how can you stay sane?
This morning was not, by many standards, a good day. I woke up exhausted, having spent the night tossing and turning, uncomfortable and restless. I snoozed for a bit, then woke up with a start, because now I was running late. Traffic was awful, making my commute last almost an hour. I got to the Whole Foods-esque grocery store, only to find that, due to a water main break, I not only couldn’t have my coffee, but a smoothie was out of the question too. Begrudgingly, I stopped at a local restaurant, whose high prices on their subpar food is pretty much insulting. By the time I got to the office, any semblance of a happy mood had vanished. I got into a silly disagreement via text, got flustered on a call I was presenting on, and lamented having even gotten out of bed this morning. All in all, a pretty shitty a.m.
I decided that maybe I should go shopping during lunch because you know, that makes people feel better. (Side note: that NEVER makes me feel better. The frugalness within me brings on a huge wave of guilt as soon as I swipe my card for anything costing more than $19.99). Instead, I went to my favorite smoothie place, and complained that they somehow lost my smoothie points (they didn’t), and then sat ashamed at my first world problems grievance. As I sat and wallowed in my self-importance, I thought of things that could cheer me up. You know, count your blessings and all of that. Instead, I just felt sadder.
I brought my acai bowl back to my car, and instead of driving away, I sat in my car and just thought. Thought about life, thought about decisions I’ve made, thought about my life purpose, etc. etc. I stared out at the people walking by, and a little lonely dragonfly alighted the window shield of my car. I watched in fascination as it continued to fly around, landing, hovering, and then staring at me (I PROMISE it was staring at me). I’m a big believer in signs, so, I looked up the potential meaning of a dragonfly sighting.
“In almost every part of the world, [the dragonfly] symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization; and the kind of change that has its source in mental and emotional maturity and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life” (dragonfly-site.com). Whether this description is true or not, it did result in making me feel somewhat convicted, but in a way that brought upon an epiphany. When we feel as if we’re struggling, and we can’t quite pinpoint the source of our struggle, it is most likely that we are battling internally with what was and what will be. We are stuck in this purgatory of sorts, and it not only confuses our minds, but it conflicts our souls. We are in a process of change; a process that requires stretching, pulling, and pushing. This change is bringing us to a place we should be, but even change with the greatest of promise and intentions can be painful.
That little dragonfly came at the right moment today, because it brought me a message of hope, and promise. It reminded me that nothing worth having is ever easy, and in order for you to experience growth, you have to endure the change that comes with it. As you go through the rest of your day, stay cognizant of the little reminders to keep pushing, even when it hurts. It won’t always be easy, but it will almost always be worth it.
In light of the most recent episode of “why having a badge is equal to having a Purge-like murder pass” as well as, “why justice doesn’t really exist”, I was compelled to post a wonderfully written comment-turned-article by an awesome friend of mine. I urge you to pay attention, understand, and hopefully internalize her words, possibly awakening yourselves to a different point of view that doesn’t seem to be oft held by the majority of the people like her. It is because of rarely challenged potential (and actual) racist social behaviors that we are able to be desensitized to its effects when the crimes occur. There will never be any chance of change or progression if we fail to recognize and accept that there is indeed a problem. If you are still not angry, if you still do not believe that there is privilege and prejudice at play, if you are still blind to the effects of both “soft” and “hard” systematic oppression, then you too are part of the issue. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments.
“To My White Friends…” – C.G. Heilmann
When I attended Tulane (2000 – 2004), the Kappa Alpha fraternity held something called “Old South” every year, which was a Confederate-themed celebration and ball. Men in the fraternity rented Confederate uniforms and their dates were expected to rent antebellum dresses. The kick-off event for this day was a march from Tulane’s campus down St. Charles Avenue to Robert E. Lee Circle. This part, I refused to attend. Later in the evening, a black-tie formal dinner and dance was held, which I did attend.
When I was at P.S. 9 in NYC (2008 – 2010), the 5th grade taught a Civil War unit that assigned the students – including children of color – to be Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers. They learned about the “facts” of the Civil War through a reenactment game.
I am ashamed and embarrassed of my participation in upholding white normative traditions, rather than teaching children and ourselves to look at our history and current socio-economic order through a critical lens – asking my white friends to look critically and humbly at ourselves, asking the “why”. Why do we need to control a history, a narrative and a system that continues to hurt and oppress others? Why do we need to hoard all the opportunities, the wealth, and sit in all the places of institutional “gate-keeping?”
This weekend I learned that achieving “whiteness” in the United States is about giving up your ethnic culture, language, spirituality, community, and humanity in exchange for power and privilege, because the melanin in your skin – and the laws of our country – allowed you and your ancestors to do so. In order to right these wrongs, white people can stand up and say that we are ready to give that power and privilege up. That we are ready to stand aside while people of color build their own power and liberation. That we say “black lives matter.”
“Make America Great Again” is about maintaining the racist social order on which this country was founded, in the face of attempts to break that apart, analyze it, and build something else. To my white friends and family, it is ugly, it is embarrassing, it is shameful. It doesn’t feel good and it is easy to get defensive, to say “but I try to do and be right, but I like who I am, but I – and my ancestors – work hard.” But remember, “whiteness” isn’t who you are and it isn’t something you worked for, it is what has been given to you. And as I learned this weekend too, you can’t “do right in a do-wrong system.” That icky feeling in your gut is nothing compared to the violence people of color feel and suffer under every day in our country, and have for generations and generations. And so I am willing to stay in that uncomfortable, icky place…and I hope you’ll join me there.
“Great people do things before they’re ready”. Simple quote, but yesterday morning, during my daily wake-up ritual of opening up social media (don’t judge me), it was the first one I saw, and it hit me hard. It ended up shaping not only the course of my day, but it also impacted my interactions. Maybe there was something in the air, but a lot of my friends and colleagues seemed to have awakened with a restless motivation. You see, the status quo didn’t, and doesn’t seem to working anymore, and being just to be is no longer good enough. So many people expressed that they were living, but aren’t actually alive. The realization that there is more to life hit them just like that quote did for me. Are you feeling it too? Because here’s the thing: that restlessness is a clear sign that you are ready and in need of a change, and that change is imminent.
Maybe you work in corporate America, and you spend the majority of your days attending mindless meetings. You know, those meetings that aren’t held out of necessity, but more so because you had an empty spot in your calendar? And you end up spending those meetings daydreaming, unfulfilled, disenchanted, disillusioned, and disengaged. You find yourself starting to wonder what the point is, and whether there is truly more than what you wake up and do, day in and day out. You have ideas, you have dreams, but you don’t feel like it’s the right time to go after them. So instead, you sit in your meetings and push the daydreams out of your mind, because you know, security and responsibility and all of that. But of course, when you’re ready, then you’ll make the right move. However, at which point do you decide you’re ready?
That’s the issue many struggle with. Everything has to be done at the “right time”. I’ve realized though, that the right time doesn’t really exist. Tomorrow isn’t promised, yet we constantly push everything to that day. Recently, a friend of mine who was jaded in her corporate role, decided to take a chance and follow her passion. She was afraid, even terrified at times, and she needed somewhat of a push. She definitely wasn’t ready, but she decided that not being ready wasn’t a good enough reason anymore. Don’t get me wrong; she does admit it can be difficult at times, but the most important part is that she’s happy, fulfilled, and feeling as if she’s being true to herself and her heart.
If it scares you, yet thrills you…if it makes you want to curl up and hide away in a safe comfort zone, but the thought of NOT doing anything is more daunting, then chances are, it’s time for you to explore it. Maybe you can’t take the risk, maybe you’re afraid to jump, but if you take that approach, you’ll fail at it 100% of the time. Sometimes, the fear of trying is trumped by the fear of never knowing. Make today the day you try.
As I begin to write this, I’m a little hesitant, because, you see, in the past, I’ve tried very hard to stay away from political and social issues when it comes to my blog posts. I’m not someone who pretends to have all of the answers, or even someone who pretends to know about everything that occurs in our country and world. What I’m realizing though, is that I can’t be expected to be silent, and then in turn, become outraged at the results of my silence and inaction. On this day – a day a friend of mine characterized as “…growing up in the 60’s…”, I am grieving. Not because Hillary Clinton lost (sorry Hillary supporters, I wasn’t on the #imwithher bandwagon…more so #imnotwithim), but because of what we were losing. No, I’m not talking about losing Barack Obama (that in itself is an essay for another time), but what we, as American people, have lost holistically.
I look back over the last year or so, during the campaign, and I want to say that, above anything else, we lost our minds. More importantly though, we lost that false sense of security we were led to believe existed. Somehow, we lost our sense of reality of what has occurred in our country for hundreds of years. Oppression, hatred, misogyny, racism – we somehow have behaved like Columbus and claimed these things as new discoveries, blindly forgetting that they were already simmering below the surface. We lost the understanding that those prejudices and biases didn’t magically go away with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act was similar to how people with terminal cancer are treated. They’re given medicine to help ease the pain and suffering, but the cancer still remains, and unless there is a breakthrough, they won’t be healed.
Lately, there has been heavy discussion in many groups about the importance of organizing and mobilizing, and that is a beautiful thing. Because you see, we allowed our obsession with the Kardashians and the filtered world of social media to keep us uninformed and complacent. We’ve spent the last 50 years in this ocean of information that kept getting shallower and shallower with each passing decade, and now it’s barely deep enough to wade in. Even for the last four years, we remained apathetic and disconnected from reality, instead of remembering that we only had four years to focus on getting it right. I’m frightened that it has taken the election of the monster society created to snap out of it. And unfortunately, many people are still living in their land of Instagram likes and followers, unable (or unwilling) to face the fact that we’ve lost.
So what do we do now? How do we reverse this social media culture of information overload that has bred ineffective people who lack basic critical thinking skills? Is this the potentially catastrophic event that will cause people to turn off their phones and turn on their brains? Is this what begins to make us think, to read, to care? If you are not preparing for the next four years, then you shouldn’t complain about what occurs after it. If you are really outraged, if you are really disgusted, if you really care, then you have no choice but to take action. Now is the time we decide if the network is picking us up for another season, or if this is the end.
“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love this? Subscribe to my blog and enter to win something completely random yet positively useful! Click here to enter!
I grew up in a household with five other siblings, three being younger than me, and I can recall despising the concept of sharing. I would look at the adults and think, none of THEM are sharing – why do I have to? I would go to school and balk at the kids wanting to borrow my crayons, asking for my loose-leaf paper, eating my candy. I had to share my time, sometimes my bedroom, even my money when I was old enough to get a summer job. I relished in the times I had to myself, the moments I could open up a pack of Now and Laters without a hungry glance from a younger sibling, the moments when I could sit in a park and write uninterrupted (save for the attacking pigeons). I detested the concept so much that I carried my disdain over into adulthood, even in my friendships and unfortunately, in my marriage.
Now, don’t get wrong. I was a very giving person, and I still am. But that giving was always on my terms, under my control. I love nothing more than to help someone in need, to donate to a cause, to give my time and energy to something I believe in. However, when I was younger, if you told me you needed my sharing, my stubbornness and deep-rooted aversion to it would take hold. Even if I succumbed, it would probably be half-heartedly or with resentment. The more I was faced with compromise, the more I stood my ground, feeling that if I bended and shared, it would be akin to weakness. Nothing exemplified this rigidness more than my marriage.
We were married as teenagers, a time where you are still trying to find your way in the world, when you’re still trying to understand who you are as a person. And no one (NO ONE ) is more selfish than a teenager. Without the guidance of those who had been on that ride before, we fumbled through the relationship, without a clear path in mind. If he wanted to go left, I would probably go right. If I wanted to criss, he would probably want to cross. Compromise (the biggest form of sharing in a relationship) was a constant battle, and one that neither of us seemed to ever win. Instead of actually sharing, we would find ways to ensure our independence was intact, behaving in ways that destroyed the purpose and beauty of marriage. Even when it was breaking, it still wasn’t enough for us to attempt to mend it, because you see, we were both still viewing ourselves and our relationship from a selfish teenaged point of view.
For me, it wasn’t until after I was far removed from the relationship that I could clearly see that the cracks were really breaks. Hindsight is always 20/20, and knowing that a lot of the issues could have been solved, had the intention to actually share and compromise been at the forefront, was eye-opening. Some say people never change, and I believe that to be true. You should never change who you are at your core, because your uniqueness is what makes you, and you should never compromise your moral standards. But experiences – those should push you to grow, to evolve, to elevate yourself to a higher standard. I’ve learned that sharing isn’t a bad thing, and when done correctly, and bring the most amazing people, experiences and most importantly – love – into your life. I realize now that maybe – just maybe – our kindergarten teachers had the right mindset.
(All photos courtesy of gratisography.com)
There are moments in your life in which you’ll feel lost, unfocused, unmotivated, unambitious. It will seem like everything you want and dream of is always just out of reach. You will be filled with indescribable pain – pain that doesn’t radiate from a clear point, but is felt intensely just the same. Your appetite will begin to fail you, and every sunny day will have a permanent cloud floating within it, directly above your head. And in those moments, there will be nothing easier than for you to feel as if you have failed, and in effect, allow yourself to stop living. Not necessarily physically, but spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
Every single disappointment that is felt – every failed career move, every failed relationship, every failed diet and health endeavor – every supposed failure will begin to take its toll on your soul. The heaviness will feel immovable, and you will feel immobile and stuck. Almost as if your feet are covered in cement blocks, and you’ve been thrown into a vat of quicksand. When you’re in quicksand, you’re told to refrain from fighting, because you’ll make it worse, and that’s true. But some fights don’t require physical strength. It seems counterintuitive, but in those moments, your focus should turn inward, and you should seek wisdom to help calm you. These are the moments that are most crucial, because those moments are called transition.
So many of us hate the thought and feeling of transition. It is uncomfortable, because it is stretching us, pushing us towards a life that is unfamiliar to the one we currently have. We want desperately to hold on to what we have now, even if it is not serving us well, because the thought of the unknown is far worse. As humans, we are creatures of habit, because habitual behaviors enable us to multitask and get through our everyday life rather seamlessly. Our habits are a gift and a curse, and they can pin us down into situations and experiences that should be changed. We settle for less than what we deserve and what we want, because we put in our minds that something is better than nothing, and something familiar is better than something new. If we continue to hold on to that mindset, we will never experience growth, and lack of growth is akin to death. Would you rather be dead inside than to try, just a little bit?
Our cycles of growth are cyclical, and we are given the opportunity to evolve every few months or so. If I want to keep it one hundred, I would even argue that those opportunities are provided to us every day, the moment we open our eyes. When you’re going through those transitional growth periods, your biggest tool is to be present, to pay attention to what is occurring within as well as around you. It is when we’re at our lowest points that our biggest seasons of change are revving up. I’m personally experiencing my own growth cycle, and damn, it doesn’t feel good at all. And I’ll be honest; I don’t want it – I don’t want to deal with this battle. But I know that I need it. Some of us walk into the storm, but others hunker down deep in the basement of their minds. If you’re feeling paralyzed, be introspective and figure out why it may be happening. Cut down on the distractions and begin the process of internal de-cluttering, but most importantly, don’t be complacent. There is something so much greater for you, but you have to be willing to go through the changes to get there.
(All photos courtesy of gratisography.com)
The other day, I had the most amazing discussion with an older woman, in her early 80s, named Joyce M. I met her at an alteration shop, and she watched as I tried on my bridesmaid dress, waiting to be pinned. She told me how beautiful it was, and we chatted about her wedding, and the colors she made her bridesmaids wear. I joked and told her that I already knew what colors I’d have for mine, and that I couldn’t wait to get married again (this is actually true, even though I currently don’t have a boyfriend nor actual prospects). After I was all changed and ready to go, we stepped outside, and continued to converse by our cars in the sweltering July sun. I told her that, although marriage would be great, I was currently focusing on myself, and how to become more like myself everyday. She indicated that my focus was coincidental, as she had attended a family reunion the previous weekend, and her nephew had given a presentation on the pursuit of happiness.
He discussed a study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which is considered the longest study ever (75 years and counting). The study follows 724 adult men throughout their life, examining their experiences and quality of life, but the crux of the study essentially investigates what happiness is and was for each of those men. What was coincidental on my end is that just a couple of hours prior, I had a great discussion with a friend on this very topic, about what happiness is and what it looked like for us. Many times, people comment on the way you live your life, and interject their feelings of disapproval, because they aren’t in your specific situation. They find it mind-boggling that your version of happiness isn’t reflective of THEIR version of happiness. The thing is…your happiness is your responsibility, and no one else’s. You aren’t responsible for their happiness, their relationships, their careers – that is something they ultimately have control over. What we make of our lives is a direct result of our own decisions, and in those decisions, practicing mindfulness and self-guidance.
The discussion was so timely, because although I consider myself fairly content, I’m not sure if I’ve yet attained that goal of ultimate happiness. It was as if the Universe was speaking to me, and causing me to be mindful of my present, instead of focusing too heavily on my past or future. Joyce mentioned that her nephew presented a book during his presentation, by Dr. Seuss, entitled, “Oh The Places You’ll Go!”. How many of us have not even bothered to glance at that book, because it appears to be a children’s book? But oh, it’s definitely not, and it’s filled with a variety of advice on how life’s ups and downs will halt us, spin us around, even bring us to extreme moments of despair, but we have to keep moving. We can’t let past failures cloud our futures and our pursuits.I’m learning to be open to new situations and people, and to be careful to not close myself off because I think I already know better. Sometimes we have to start giving new and different experiences a chance, because we won’t know unless we actually try.
I would often talk about finding love, and wanting to be in love, but at the first sign of viable interest, I would close my heart’s windows and shut the blinds. After a failed marriage, there was nothing in me that could even consider trusting another human again. If once upon a time I had a love so deep and intense, but one we both could ultimately dispose of so callously, what hope was there for something equal or better? There were days and nights that I could do nothing but cry in emotional and spiritual pain, unable to verbalize the exact cause of my hurt. As a result, I made sure that my walls were reinforced with iron and industrial grade concrete, and every once in a while I would make sure there was a steel gate to slide across that wall too!
In the past couple of years of self-reflection and self-actualization, I’ve learned that while it’s quite alright to be cautious, sometimes you have to make space in that wall for a door too. I realized I was only going to receive the joy I longed for, the spiritual and mental peace I craved, if I took the risk of being open to change. Of course, the catch-22 is that no one else can determine what those risks will entail, because they can’t define what my happiness looks like. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to search for and create my own contentment. It has been difficult, because it has taken a lot of effort, and extreme soul-searching, but it is possible. I’m now living by the words of the famous Seuss, every day I wake up: “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”