In Transition

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.

Laundry

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. 

Which Door

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?

Strength

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

 

 

 

Lowered Expectations

Something has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks. It’s been weighing very heavily…so heavily that I haven’t been able to shape my thoughts enough around the subject to begin writing. And it’s not something super serious, but it’s something super important. I get my inspiration for my posts in the most random moments, and if a word is swirling around in my head for more than a couple of days, I know that it’s something I have to get my thoughts down on. My word over the last few weeks? Disappointment.

Deflated Balloon

The older I get, and the more life experiences I have, the more I realize how much faith we need to STOP putting in people. Well, let me rephrase that: maybe not faith, but expectations. I think we have to stop expecting so much from people and their actions. This isn’t a bitter or contrite post; quite the contrary. It’s more so one of my epiphany moments. I realized that I was expecting so much from imperfect people – imperfect people like myself. Even when I didn’t know what I wanted or how I felt, I was still expecting others to know what they wanted and how they felt. And I understand now that those expectations are a heavy load for anyone to carry around.

Laundry

Just because you would behave a certain way in a given situation, doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else will do the same. We all have that inherent “me me me” complex of assuming that our way is always the right way, and we expect others to do things the way we want them to. We tend to have very limited tolerance of accepting anything less than what we want, especially when we’re emotionally immature. I have a secret though, one that I’ve learned throughout the years: it’s really not about you.

Bear Slippers

Once you really let that statement and mindset resonate with you, you’ll stop putting so much effort into trying to change others into your mini-clone. You’ll begin to learn to respect their thoughts and feelings and views, and you’ll start meeting them where they are, instead of where you think they should be. Most importantly, you won’t get hurt so easily, because you’re not creating unrealistic assumptions surrounding your interactions with them. It is such a freeing experience, to accept others for who they uniquely are. And the moment you begin lowering your expectations, that’s the moment you lower the chances of enduring heartbreak and disappointment.

The Heart of the Matter

Forgiveness. It’s a word that’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. I’d been contemplating whether or not I should write about it, and then Sunday morning, India Arie’s cover of the song “Heart of the Matter” rolled through on Pandora, and then her song “Wings of Forgiveness” came on. So yeah, the question in my mind was pretty much answered for me. And of course, with today being the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, it seemed even more apropos.

Boxing

I’ve never considered myself to be a very forgiving person. In fact, traditionally, I’ve been the complete opposite, the grudge-holder, who contemplated all of the ways I could make you pay for hurting me, betraying me, no matter what the offense might be. I grew up around people who didn’t necessarily believe in the idea of letting things slide, of letting bygones be bygones. Because if you did, you were somehow weak, a pushover. And you know what all of that negative energy beget? A home filled with resentment. Pent-up anger. Anguish. Anxiety. All of the things that can lead to depression. I realized that it also hurt ME. If the other person was smart, they weren’t even thinking about me and my animosity towards them. I was only damaging my OWN soul.

Arm Wrestling

I’ve been dealt with some hurtful situations over the last year. Situations in which I would have had every right to lash out and act crazy. Initially, that was my first inclination. I wanted to do everything in my power to make those persons pay for what they had done to me, how they had made me feel. I sometimes even fantasized about how it would all go down. But for some reason, I made a different decision. I determined that it essentially wasn’t worth my energy. Yeah, I’d feel good in the moment, but that’s all it would be. Just a moment. Once it was done, my psyche would be wrought with the memories of my malicious impulsiveness. So, I did nothing. I meditated and prayed on it, and decided to just forgive.

Pancake Smiley

Let me tell you – that was quite literally the best decision I  could have made. Now, instead of being consumed with rage, I could focus on more important aspects of the situation’s aftermath – like healing from it. Anytime I had any thoughts on potentially going back on my decision to forgive, I just thought about how it would affect me. After a while, it stopped being in the forefront of my mind, and I’m pretty certain that I pushed my healing curve ahead tremendously. Yes, anger can be justified, but it’s also a choice. We can always choose to keep our minds and spirits there, and as a result, become breeding grounds for negativity. Or, we can choose forgiveness, and learn to be the person who moves on. Not because we’re weak, no. But BECAUSE we’re strong, and we love ourselves more.

You’re Really Not Missing Anything

The other day, while aimlessly checking my FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, and [insert social media app of the moment here], I had an epiphany. Or something like one. More like a kick in the shins. I didn’t really care what anyone was doing or posting (not in a negative way, because I do care about my friends or family), but I was drawn to the need to feel connected to something, anything. It seems that I, like many young people in my generation, suffer from extreme bouts of the fear of “missing out” and “being alone with yourself”. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like this has become a huge issue for me. I’m slowing become a boring person, one who gets bored easily, and needs to find some sort of stimulation by living vicariously through the mundane but seemingly more exciting lives of my social media friends. I’m forgetting how to think critically and deeply, how to entertain myself, how to feel okay with being by myself.

Social-Media-Addiction-Shots

Most of us aren’t so young that we can’t remember the times of actual interaction with real live human beings, with no distractions like smartphones to glance down at every five seconds in the middle of a conversation. Remember trying to remember the name of a movie or a place, etc, and you had to like, actual talk each other through it and THINK, instead of Googling it?? And while you were trying to remember that thing, you thought of other things, that possibly made you think of something else, and took the conversation off into a tangent about THAT new thing?? That so rarely happens in my life now, I’m sad to report. I’m trying to think of the last time I had a real-life intellectually stimulating conversation with someone, and I’m blanking out (maybe two weeks ago?). And those times that I do attempt it, because I’m feeling quite thoughtful and pensive that day, people look at me like I take life too seriously. But isn’t the purpose of life to ponder and well, search for the purpose of it?

Prehistoric Googling

I can also recall not being able to wait until I had a few hours to myself, so I could do whatever I wanted, kid and husband free. I would write some poetry or music (or a blog post), or maybe do a little reading, or make something else worthwhile, like being present in the moment. Now, I get a couple of hours, and I’m staring at a phone or iPad screen, scrolling through and “liking” stuff that I actually really don’t like, or playing the evil that is Ruzzle or CandyCrush (I’m soooo ashamed to admit this). I’ve considered deactivating my social media accounts, but I always come up with excuses like, “I live so far away from my friends and family now, this is how they can keep up with us!” (because there are no such things as phones, anymore, right?), or, “I need it for business purposes!” (I really don’t). And so the insanity ensues.

Tyrone Biggums

I honestly don’t have a solution to this issue, but I know it’s one that is starting to have a large impact on my relationships and my creativity. When I can sit on the phone with someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, and I can’t have a conversation that’s longer then ten minutes, that’s a problem to me. And when it takes me a month and a half to write a new blog post because I can’t focus, that’s also a problem. If you’re not experiencing this issue, I commend you. And if you are, I think we may need to start a support group. If you suddenly see me disappear from your friend feed in the near future, know that I haven’t unfriended you or blocked you out of my life. I’m just needing to be focused and blocked in to MY life.

Here Comes the Sun

It’s so easy to a bitter, sour person when things don’t go your way. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion you wanted, or they left you out of the equation yet again. Maybe your archenemy just drove by in the car you wanted, or purchased the house you thought you’d be able to buy. Unfortunately, bitterness won’t improve your situation, or make you happier. Sometimes, you have to make a conscious effort to just let it go and be happy. As of late, I’ve been focusing on three ways I can ensure my daily happiness (daily, because you have to start somewhere), and just be great. Why do I keep focusing on these positive posts? Well duh, I’ve still got work to do!

1. Don’t let other people’s emotions and reactions to you determine your mood.

Argh

I have such an issue with this. I tend to be very empathetic, and sensitive, and if I care about someone, their mood seems to always somehow dictate mine. I could be floating on cloud nine all day, and one sideways comment or dirty look can make me feel some type of way. I can’t help but feed off of others emotions sometimes. It’s such a gift and a curse (ok, I’ll stop with the hip-hop song references). I’m figuring out slowly but surely that I have to do my best to kind of put up a wall, or just brush it off. Because, like I’ve said in previous posts, it’s really not that serious. That doesn’t mean you can’t care, but you kind of have to care about yourself first.

2. Stop raining on other people’s parades. 

Debbie Downer

Like, seriously. Just because you’re in a bad mood doesn’t mean you have to put everyone else in a bad mood too. Try being genuinely happy with someone else’s good news or good fortune. Or dammit, if you have to, fake it. There are always those scientific studies out there that say things like, “smile when you’re upset and it’ll make you happy”. That’s like, actually true. At least in my case. When I start faking the feeling, I actually start feeling it. Try it today. Smile!

3. Chill with the self-deprecation. 

The Breakfast Club

You’re actually not as horrible as you think you are, or as stupid, or as [insert unrealistic negativity here]. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes in life, but the key is to feel it, and move on. And while you’re at it, relax with the over-analyzing. I’m one of those people who, after a trying situation, goes back and tries to think of every single thing I could have done differently. And when I bring it up to whomever was involved, they had already stopped thinking about it eons ago. Besides, if you were sooo perfect, how would you ever learn, and grow? If you have to, stick some positive affirmations up around you. THEY ACTUALLY WORK.

No one is expecting you to be happy all day, all of the time. That’s actually pretty ridiculous and would make you some weirdo Stepford Wife or robot. However, you can actively change your outlook on life, so you can start being a more content. If you have some tips for improving your outlook on life, please please please feel free to share with the rest of us!

Either Love Me, or Leave Me Alone

Have you ever found yourself spending so much time and energy focused on how other people feel, checking in on them, never realizing that you’ve forgotten to figure out how YOU feel, forgotten to check in with you? It’s so easy to get caught up in being who others want you to be, and you eventually find yourself confused about who you really are. It’s happened to me, and frequently happens to me. I’ve gone through so many changes in my life lately, and it has me feeling like some sort of drifter, hovering on the outskirts of life. I found myself losing sight of what makes me unique, what makes me special to those who love me. Inauthenticity, even if unintentional, can literally un-ground you and make you question everything. You’re spinning in no particular direction, with no buffer or barrier to stop you from doing so.

be-original

In the shower the other day (my best thoughts happen in the shower), I tried to think of the last time I sat and actually spent some time with myself, meditating or just figuring life out. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t come up with anything. When you take time for yourself, you give yourself the space to explore what it means to be you. Conversely, when you fail to do that, you fail to be creative, to be innovative, to exemplify what sets you apart from any other mindless drone. As a result, you start searching for meaning and purpose in things that shouldn’t be remotely important to you. You begin to be formless and spineless, living vicariously through someone else’s personality, their existence.

doyoubootote_large

So the purpose of today’s post? I suppose there’s no real, clear purpose, aside from me utilizing this medium to express myself (and do all the stuff I just said I don’t have time to do). And I guess, it’s also to give you a nudge and inspire you to do the same. Stop living other people’s dreams, skulking in their shadows, and stop stop stop emulating their lives. If they aren’t happy with you once you actually begin to be yourself, then you’ve succeeded in eliminating any barriers that will hold you back from being who you truly are. Because honestly (in the words of the great philosopher, Jayz), they can “…either love [you], or leave [you] alone. Be you. Be real. Be alive.

Purpose of Life

When in Rome…

As many of you know (or previously read, hopefully!), I recently moved out of the state that I was born in, raised in, and pretty much where I thought I would retire in. I haven’t had time to post, because of my type-A personality to make sure everything in our new home was situated in, I don’t know, a week. Needless to say, it’s been a pretty stressful time. I woke up yesterday morning, trying to determine if it’s all been worth it. I’m kind of a results-now type of person, you know? So far, the negatives have far outweighed the positives, but I always try to turn every negative into a learning opportunity, regardless of how much I seem to complain about it. Verbalizing how I feel is just my way of trying to figure out how to deal with whatever issue I’m stressing over. Of course, I love to share all of my learning with you, and I’ve narrowed my teaching moment to just five things I’ve experienced and am learning about myself and life.

1. Every DMV sucks, no matter what state it’s in.

Atilla the DMV Employee

No like, seriously. When you get there, and take a number, and they call in in about ten minutes, you think you’re all set. You get excited. You can’t wait to brag to people how quickly you got in and out of the DMV. That is, until you get to the counter, and they tell you they just called you up to tell you that you have to wait. Or you need something additional. Or they just hate you.

2. Basements are actually more useful than you realize. 

Basement

In the northeast, everyone has a basement. Even apartment buildings have basements. You move down south, into a house or apartment that’s bigger than your current home, and you’re like, yeah, I got it made. Look at all this space, and all this money I’m saving! And then you get there, and realize that your basement back home, which was the size of your entire living space back home, had stuff in it. And now you have nowhere to put said stuff.

3. If you need it, it’s probably still packed away in a mis-marked box. Under several other boxes. In storage. 

Moving Boxes

I’ve only been here about a month, and I’m already sick of not being able to find stuff I need. We had the privilege of having our things packed by “professional” movers. They packed stuff, labeled it, and then sealed it up. Problem was, they labeled everything in my house as “kitchen/pots and pans”. Guess what 85% of the stuff in those boxes AREN’T? Yeah.

4. Don’t depend on your phone’s GPS feature. 

Droid GPS

It’s a new place, you’ve never driven in it before, and you probably don’t have a mount for your GPS. If you’re like me, you’re holding the wheel with one hand while you’re holding your phone with the other (because someone is too cheap to get a dashboard mount). Hey, did you know that was dangerous? And did you know that your phone can frequently lose the GPS signal, and send you turning into something that’s not even an exit? Go get a Tom-Tom. 

5. You’re not the only non-native out here. 

The New Kid

I’m your typical New Englander that doesn’t like to make small talk with strangers, for the most part. However, since I’ve moved here, I’ve become a regular old Chatty Cathy. I talk to the man at the small bakery, the cashier at the Publix, and the barista at the local cafe about how new I am here (hopefully all of this over sharing won’t cause someone to follow me home). What I’ve learned though is that practically no one that lives here is actually from here, so don’t be so nervous. Kind of gives it that “we’re all in this together” feeling. Until you cut me off on the highway.

It’s Really Not That Serious

I am a notorious reactor. I tend to get very emotional, very easily (it’s usually the anger emotion!), and it can hinder progress, and mare how others perceive me. It’s nice to feel that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, but in the real world, your reputation is 80% of who you are (there is no statistic for this; it’s just an arbitrary percentage I placed on self-worth). I like to think of my intensity and my responses to situations as a testament to my passion about the particular circumstances; unfortunately, it can be often seen as immature and insecure.

Immaturity

At my age, and at this point in my career, I would rather the impression I make be seen as positive, rather than a hindrance. It’s been said that it takes at least 21 days for a change to become a habit; so for the next 21 days, I’m going to actively start changing my behavior so I can quit being so damn confrontational. If you have a similar problem, I urge you to start your own 21 day change, and let me know how you fare. In the meantime, I’ve come up with three tips to jump-start you on curbing your emotional impulses.

Anger

1. Keep your mouth shut. I hate when I feel that something is unjust, not fair. One of my favorite things to say is “fair is fair”. I even say it when I don’t have all of the facts. Maybe if I just kept my mouth closed, and um, listened, I would fully understand the situation. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t speak up. More so, take a moment and actually think before you speak. Because honestly, life isn’t fair. Deal with it.

Zip It

2. Keep it to yourself. Not everyone needs to know how you feel about a particular issue, especially if it’s not impacting them. They’re just going to think you’re a whiner, and start to avoid you. Don’t stew on it; go take a walk, talk to one non-judgmental or impartial third-party, but that’s it. No blabbering, no yelling, no violent sign-language. People will think you’re psycho. The last thing you need is people going, “Uh oh, here he/she comes. Make yourselves scarce!”.

The Shining

3. Let it go. Not every situation is as big as you’re making it. There are so many times where something seemed so life-altering, when in hindsight, it was just a small blip in the grand scheme of things. Choose your battles. If not, you’ll exhaust all your energy and resources on the miniscule fights, and not have enough for the wars.

Let It Go

Obviously, these tips aren’t earth-shattering or anything you haven’t heard before. Common sense, yes, but apparently, common sense isn’t as common as we think. You can’t control what comes out of someone else’s mouth, but you can control what comes out of yours. And ultimately, how you react to it.

What Is Going On???

Ok, so, you woke up this morning, and what’s the first thing you did? Reached over and looked at your cell phone…probably checked Twitter and Facebook to see what everyone else is doing with their lives, right? Maybe got a little envious, because it seems like everyone else is doing great things without you. And then you showered (hopefully), got dressed, ate breakfast, and went to that job that you’re always complaining about. You know, not really contributing, just spewing useless negativity. And then you went home, went to bed, and it started all over again the next day.

I’m not throwing stones or judging, because it can get like that for all of us at some point. We stop trying to live our own lives, and instead settle for vicarious living via social media and crappy reality shows. When’s the last time you had a Joe Schmo moment about your life, and just asked, “What is going on???” No, like, honestly. What are you really doing with your life?

Joe Schmo

I’ve been reading a lot of books on leadership lately, so obviously, I’m kind of an expert (I mean, I didn’t get it from the internet, right?). The most valuable takeaway I’ve ascertained from all of these books is whether or not I’ve discovered what my mark on the world is/will be. We are so much more connected than we think we are, kind of like The Butterfly Effect.  Your words, your actions, your beliefs, they all have an impact on those around you, whether you realize it or not. The things you’re complaining about – like public policy, the demise of television, bullying, whatever – are you actually doing something about these things? Are you actively trying to be a positive force? In other words, are you a burden or a blessing?

The Butterfly Effect

I don’t know about you all, but I’m a little sick of being just an observer. I’ve determined that one of my gifts is helping others, and I’ve been trying to live out that life of service ever since. I encourage you, no, I challenge you to be more than just a burden. In Steve Farber’s book, The Radical Edge, he quotes Ronald Perricone of SKATE!, stating, “Act as though every action has a direct impact on the world…you should perform every deed as if it will either improve the world or damage it”. I’d kind of rather you pick the former and work on improving it. Think about the kind of world you’d want to live in; what can you do right now to make that happen? What blessings do you have to offer the world? Wars aren’t won in a day…start small and figure out your purpose.

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Hood, But…

I’ll be the first to admit, I grew up pretty ‘hood. Never lived in the PJs, but I definitely wasn’t vacationing in the Hamptons either. Things like sugar-water, quarter waters, looseys, mattress trampolines, and food stamps were pretty standard phrases in my vocabulary. I always told myself that I would get out of the ‘hood the first chance I got, and I did, through hard work, perseverance, determination, all that good stuff. The thing is, even though you can escape the struggle, there will always be that part of you that holds parts of that struggle dear to your heart, and you can’t let it all go. I started thinking of the things I still do, and I realized that there are five key things that I experienced in my upbringing that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.

1. I always save the plastic containers from my takeout.
I know, I know, I make enough money now to buy actual Tupperware products, but nothing beats getting something for free. It’s almost like I won a prize. You mean I only paid $5.99 for Thai, and I still got this free container?! And most “non-‘hood” people don’t really understand the value in these items. I brought in some soup I made for lunch at work, in one of those containers, and I spent the greater part of my lunch convincing people that I did make the soup, regardless of what I transported it in. The idea that I had the container just about boggled their minds. They still don’t believe me.

2. I still drive to my old neighborhood to pick up hard-to-find items from the corner bodega.
C’mon, where else are you going to find a bag of canapes for $1, 6 for $1 green plantain, sour puss candy, and Now and Laters? Not to mention those yummy sandwiches they make with just cheese and French bread. And in CT, the liquor store is closed on Sundays, but you can always count on the bodega to get you your six-pack fix.

3. I have to remind myself to turn down my music before I pull into my company’s campus.
Nothing gets me going in the morning like a hip-hop song with crazy bass. And in order to enjoy it, I have no choice but to turn it up as loud as I possibly can. I usually resort to my “Go Hard” playlist-a mix of my favs from ’96 to now. I mean, if you haven’t enjoyed the way Fab’s “Can’t Deny It” sounds in the whip, then you really just haven’t lived. I also have to remind myself to wipe the mean mug off my face that automatically occurs when I rap along with the songs. And trust and believe, I know Every.Single.Lyric. This always reminds me of when a few of us got our own cars and would parade around the neighborhood in them, bangin that new Jay-Z. Some things never change.

4. I secretly go ape-shit every time a new pair of Jays comes out.
I was a huge tomboy growing up, and a sneaker fanatic. This means my closet was full of boxes of Jays, ’95 Air Maxes, and white on whites (well, maybe not THAT full, since obviously, I couldn’t afford too many). I won’t buy any of them anymore, because I’d feel kind of silly, being a grown woman and all, rocking a pair of Jays, but the appeal is still there.

5. I just can’t let go of hip-hop music.
I love Adele and Ledisi as much as the next girl, but I just can’t let go of my hip-hop music. Growing up, we would joke around like, yeah, we’re gonna be hitting up MSG for Jay-z concerts when he’s like 40+, as if the sheer thought of it were outlandish. Well, guess what? He is, and we still are. Some days I try to abstain, telling myself, it’ll be a Mariah Carey day. But if I hit that shuffle button, and Cam’s “Violence” off that S.D.E. starts to play, all bets are off. Before you know it, it’s all hip-hop, all day. And at that point, there’s no reverting back.

Point is, you can try as hard as you can, but you’ll never be able to completely erase the experiences and habits that made you who you are today. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want to.