My Calm Birthday

Today is my birthday.

Last night, I had to pleasure of sitting around a large table, in a restaurant, eating, drinking, and enjoying the company of people I am fortunate enough to call friends.

I also did not have to wash a single dish yesterday or today, which is the beauty of going out to eat.

I love the energy of my friends. I might not see all of them very regularly, but I love them all the same, regardless of the frequency of our visits.

Today was my actual birthday, however. I turned 35. I don’t feel particularly old in my heart, even though I often times feel a little beat up or achy in my body. I am working on remedying that through a better diet and more active lifestyle.

I think there are a few clues to the youth of my heart, however. My mind  and soul are old. My body is getting older. But my heart has the joy and interests of probably any teenager. Here are some random highlights from my day.

I Tried to Help

The first thing I did when I left the house today was to check the mailbox. My mom had sent me a card and I went to get it. Somehow, the door of the mailboxes had come undone. I honestly stood there, in mild horror, trying to figure out how to fix it. I even looked around for an older person, even though, one could argue, that at 35, many people would consider ME the older person.

I thought: maybe if an older person, or a handy looking man (or woman) walked by, they’d know what to do. They’d have tape. Is it ok to put tape on a mailbox? Is that a federal offense? 

Not wanting to commit a possible federal offense by using tape on a mailbox, and not wanting to draw much attention to myself as the discoverer of the undone mailbox, I left it in this state, using some construction materials I found lying on the ground.

It is not the best solution, but perhaps there won’t be mail and sales flyers all over the place by tomorrow, when the real adult, ermm, I mean, the mailman, comes by to check out the situation.

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My Music Tastes are Both Low and High Brow

John Mayer’s “Badge and Gun” is one of my favorite songs, but I say that about almost all John Mayer songs. I mean, really, it’s like he’s in my head sometimes.

The song is about a guy who has tried really hard to do what he was supposed to do, whatever that was, and now he’s just going to go on about his way, both metaphorically and literally.

It’s both joyous and somber, which I know sounds odd, but those are the things I feel when I listen to it. It’s basically an ode to the peace one feels when you can honestly say, “I tried real hard” but in the next breath say, “But I also give up.”

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And while it’s nice and all to be all cerebral and listen to the seemingly deeply personal lyrics of a John Mayer song, of course I also had to listen to “In Da Club” by 50 Cent because there’s literally only one day of the year when, yes, shawty, it is indeed, yo birthday.

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My Fashion Tastes Are De-Volving 

Devolving is the opposite of evolving. For a long time, I was a school teacher. Then, for a longer time, I worked in corporate America. My wardrobe has changed, but just between you and me, I absolutely LOVE fashion with whimsy. I will buy and wear almost anything that is red, any shade of red, from light pink to one of my favorites, a deep, moody shade of oxblood. I love it all.

These shoes make me especially joyous and with the light wind and crystal bright sunshine, they seemed to dance off my feet. A random guy even passed me and yelled: I LIKE THOSE SHOES. He, too, was wearing red shoes.

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I Am Still Working on Other Parts of Being an Adult

I am working on reorganizing my closet and I ordered this thing from Amazon. Of course it came flat packed and required assembly.

It was pretty easy to assemble, but I absolutely hate assembling things, so I had to fight my disdain for 30 minutes and use another 30 minutes to assemble it. But, when I was done, I was actually quite proud. I did something productive on my birthday, and that was nice.

However, I am also a 35 year old woman who bought a $16 fabric thing from Amazon to put stuff in. Shouldn’t I be at Ashley Furniture, buying a proper chest of drawers? Perhaps, when I am 40.

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Over all, it was a beautiful day. I had a very peaceful day and am still reeling from how thankful I feel for all of the people in the world who love me.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Am Not My Hair

“No way it’s not real,” he said.

“Way, it’s totally not real,” I assured him.

He looked at me with those squinted eyes one makes when you’re not sure what to believe. He gazed at my hair again, back at my face, twisted his mouth, and replied,  “No way.”

All those years ago, way back when I was a freshman in college, at the age of 17, I first experimented with changing the look of my hair.

I kept insisting to my then boyfriend, with pride and odd enthusiasm, that I had, in fact, added a few tracks to my hair.

My natural hair, back then at least, was so thick that it blended quite seamlessly with the faux hair pieces. This made me giddy and proud.

Now, when I look in the mirror, both today on the cusp of my 35th birthday and every other day for the past year or so, I see hair that has thinned from the glorious lion’s mane that I used to proudly sport. I remember that once, my mother scolded me for lamenting about my thick hair. “You’ll miss it when it’s gone,” she warned me. As with lots of other warnings about life, momma was right.

I am currently suffering from thinned hair thanks to lots and lots and lots of prolonged stress. According to my stylist, it will grow back. According to my mirror, it’s already growing back. Where once there was a flash of scalp, now there are little hair warriors, returning to the battle, hopefully ready to stay put, on the front lines, for at least a good remainder of my life.

To be honest, I’ve always had a pretty good relationship, at least mentally, with aging. I know lots of people who died violent deaths at a young age. I know lots of people who died when they were good and old.  I know lots of people who died somewhere in between, at the age where one might say, “He wasn’t even that old” instead of “But he was so young.” Aging, and it’s ultimate outcome, has been on my radar for a while.

I’ve been to lots of funerals. When I was a child, my grandmother took me to lots of funerals, in small country towns throughout north Louisiana. I’ve probably seen more than my fair share of dead strangers lying in caskets.

With these experiences, death is kind of normal to me, as normal as it can be to a person who still has lots of desire to live. Aging, however, is deeply personal, it’s something that I cannot disconnect from or interact with by just sending flowers or sympathy. Aging is the part of dying that happens to you personally, and you get to experience it in your own personal way, the same way that you must experience and live your own life.

Although I am not happy about how stress manifested itself on my scalp, I am happy that I have had the opportunity to live this long. Having seen death around me since such a young age, I have always lived with the realistic fear that death is always just around the corner for any of us, at any time. It is a beautiful chaos in which to dwell, both frightening and invigorating.

So tonight, regardless of what my hair looks like, I am meeting with friends. The energy of other people, these people, people I am privileged enough to call friends, provide calm and love on the eve of my birthday.

And regardless of my hair, I am thankful to still have some of it left up there.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

I Don’t Care About You Anymore

I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded person. I have had the great fortune to live in places where I didn’t grow up, go places I never thought I’d go, and meet people I never thought I’d meet. I’m so thankful.

All of these experiences have given me the ability to accept, and admit to, receiving inspiration from almost anywhere.

As you read through my posts, and hopefully continue to read throughout the year, you will see a theme emerge: I AM KIND OF RANDOM.

And thanks to my innate randomness, I receive inspiration and connection in random places, like in the music of the ‘pop princess’ known as Ariana Grande.

I admit that I listen to and enjoy her music. I admit that I am a little afraid to type that and post it on the internet, given my, ahem, advanced age, but, here we are and there it is.

This little stanza gets me singing, horribly and enthusiastically, every time I am in the car alone: (taken from the song “I Don’t Care”

Used to cry ’bout some crazy shit before
I used to feel so obligated to be so much more
I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be
But if I can’t be me, the fuck’s the point?

 

I have actually been singing it wrong the entire time. I have been singing “then what’s the point” instead of that more saucy version, but you get the idea.

This switch, to go from all of the damn CARING I used to do versus who I try to be, for myself and to myself, has really been serving me well.

I am naturally a loner and not really concerned about if or when most people don’t like me. But, I have cared in other stupid ways, like these:

  1. Worrying about other people’s problems when they don’t seem at all interested in their own problems
  2. Thinking I was “helping” by telling grown ass people what to do when they full well know what to do
  3. Listening as grown ass people describe how they took their outrageously stupid, albeit conscious choices, and royally screwed up their own lives

I have spent seemingly countless hours, genuinely worried about what other people were going to do, were they going to mess up, were they going to be ok, were they really going to eat 2 bananas when they know full well that even 1 banana makes them have bad gas.

But now, although it is a hard habit to break, I am working towards NOT DOING THAT. It might seem like such a friendly thing to do, to take on a friend’s emotional burden and store it away in your own mind, but it’s folly and bullshit. Don’t do it to yourself. Now that I am making the conscious effort to stop doing it, I can now do the following:

  1. Devote more time to my own horseshit
  2. Listen in a kinder way as my friends talk or vent (since I am no longer approaching things from a “can I help” point of view, I am now a better and calmer sounding board)
  3. Reduce my own intake of emotional energy

Now, I can really be ME and be authentic while I am listening to and interacting with other people. Now, I am choosing to just be more chill in general, to align my thoughts and feelings with the most authentic version of me. And, the most authentic version of me has her own horseshit to deal with, and acknowledges, perhaps most importantly, that my internal worry has never helped anyone or anything, not even myself.

So, to that end, I graciously tell you, that if you’re my friend, I love you, but I’m just here for you, right where we are and when we are. I’m no longer worrying about you later (most likely) and I would love to JUST listen to you. I trust your own guidance for your own life. I no longer feel obligated to participate in it inside my knuckle head.

Good luck to us both.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

 

Photo by Umberto Shaw from Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-floor-764880/

 

I’m Turning Into Them

There I was, hunched over the left, lower drawer of my desk. I like to call it “the desk” because it is so substantial that it both fills the room and emptied my purse when I bought it.

When it was assembled, the rack for the hanging file folders were put into the wrong slot. I have used the desk this way for almost a year. Tonight, dizzy and nauseated from what I believe is the making of a migraine, I decided to do something about it. I have no idea why.

I held the Phillips’ head screw in my left hand, and said “lefty loosey, righty tighty” aloud before proceeding to unscrew the three screws that needed to move. I was wearing slippers, working diligently and silently, with an air of mechanical confidence that I do not usually enjoy. It was just unscrewing a few screws and moving a bar, after all.

But, right then, I felt it. I felt, for a moment, like an adult, like adult versions of my mother and grandmother.

Today is January 8, the date my grandmother was born way back in 1921. If she had not passed away back in 1998, almost 20 years ago, she would have turned 97 years old today.

It has been a long time since I have seen or spoken to my grandmother, at least in this realm, but I cannot remember a single day, in almost two decades, that I have not thought of her.

Her and my mother represent the parts of me that I wish I could cultivate more. My mother is feeling, empathetic, concerned. My grandmother was stoic, upright, moral, serious. Sometimes she was gentle, but I remember her as being pretty serious pretty much most of the time. I am more like my grandmother in personality, but I admire my mother’s warmth.

Tonight, sitting at “the desk”, I felt a like a little bit of both of them. My mother is so knowledgeable about cars that she could be a mechanic if she had any desire to get dirt under her nails. My grandmother was seemingly so unshakable and confident, it seemed that very few things or people could get her riled up. The stories that I have heard from her life really inspire me, although I am unsure how she was able to still have a hopeful and faithful heart, having grown up poor and in the Jim Crow southern United States.

Both share an affinity for houseshoes and a “can-do” attitude. Perhaps that’s why I felt a connection to them both tonight, as I sat there unscrewing the screws, feet nicely snuggled in a pair of sling-back, fuzzy, striped slippers.

As I have gotten older, I have started to release some of the expectations that I have for myself to be like my mother and my grandmother. It’s a hard thing to do, to let go of the dream of your heroes and realize that your own life is worth living in its own way. And, that things are worth doing YOUR way, no matter who your role models have been.

For me, I realize that I am light years behind the skill set my grandmother had as a baker. I have been rudely reminded of this fact for the past decade, every time I attempted to make a red velvet cake. However, this year, I think I got it right, but in my own way.

I realize that I honestly may never have the high levels of emotion and empathy for others that my mother has. I am beginning to accept this as just a part of who I am. Perhaps I can spread love through the world through cake instead?

No matter how I phrase it, or how I think about it, at least some parts of me are turning into parts of my grandmother and mother. And that’s pretty awesome.

Happy birthday, Lula Bee ❤

Until tomorrow, my friends…

My Definition of Trust

When I was a kid, I went to church services twice on Sundays. I am thankful for this time in my life because I received training and exposure to general life guidance that I continue to rely on, even now.

Tonight, while sitting in the tub, I thought of one thing I learned during one of those many Sundays spent in church: “to trust is to not worry.”

I thought about that quote, and the different ways I have heard it repeated over the years:

  1. Worry is the absence of faith
  2. Worry is the absence of trust
  3. Worry is the absence of hope

You get the idea.

I thought of this idea, and the variations of it, and how I have applied it to my current life circumstances. My current life is a great mix of haves and have nots. The past two years have been tumultuous in many ways. I have been given the opportunity to learn from good experiences, heal from bad ones, and really spend a lot of quality time with myself, rummaging around my overactive mind, searching for and then sometimes rejecting, who Nicole really is.

Through my life’s challenges, there have been many, many opportunities to worry. And I am here to openly admit that I have usually taken every single one of those opportunities.

If I could add to the list above, I might add: “To worry is to exist as Nicole.”

I have always been a worrier. In the past, I have worried about the minuscule and the mountainous. I have worried about everything from how flashy my glasses are, to what classical music album to buy to play for my cats. Many of my worries start out as casual thoughts, then progress to concerns, and end up, right smack dab in the middle of Worry Town. I am, perhaps, the mayor of Worry Town, population me and my imagination.

Nowadays, I am more conscious and I have been able to quell a lot of my worrying, especially the silly things that I used to worry about. To be honest, though, I do still thank myself for the worry that led to research about what music to play for your cats. I have some of the smartest and relaxed cats to have ever lived.

But tonight, I thought about how I do not view my worrying as a lack of faith, trust, or hope. For me, just because I have faith that something will work out doesn’t mean I no longer worry about it. No matter what it is, from landing a new client to overcoming an obstacle in a personal relationship, both of these ideas and behaviors exist, simultaneously, in my mind and in my actions: for me, there is both faith and worry. There is both hope and worry. There is both trust and worry.

With that in mind, and with a newfound acceptance of how I can grow (i.e., learning to not worry about *some* things and accepting my seemingly innate and humanistic tendency to worry in general), I am writing myself a new definition of TRUST.

Trust: (noun) To keep TRYING.

I think worry and trust can actually be good friends, if they’re approached in a positive way. So, for me, if I keep trying, that means I am still maintaining my levels of hope and faith. Sure, along the way, I will most likely worry about how well things are going, if there’s something more I can do, if I need to perhaps change course, etc. But, as long as I am still trying, then I have not lost hope, faith, or trust that things will work out for the best.

Here are some examples that came to mind:

Perhaps you’d like to change careers and things are not taking off as quickly as you’d like. Since you need money for ripe avocados and car payments, naturally, you might worry sometimes. But, did you keep pursuing your dream, despite being worried or even failing at some things? Well, then you still have trust, hope, and faith.

Or, perhaps you’d like to change something about yourself, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Perhaps on Monday you cussed out the guy driving the gray Audi who cut you off in traffic and then on Tuesday you helped an old lady cross the street. You worried about how much of an asshole you are on Monday night and wallowed in your gracious glory on Tuesday. But regardless, did you at least get a tiny bit more aware of yourself?

Or, did you use that gym membership at least one time during the month? You might worry about how you fail, and fail a lot, but, if you keep trying, then you haven’t yet lost faith in yourself. You’re continuing to trust the path that you’re pursuing. And learning to trust yourself!

To trust is to keep trying, to keep going, not to ignore (or lie about) the internal fears and conflicts that we all suffer from.

Just keep going. It’s going to be ok.

Until tomorrow…