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…

Kicking it at the Houston Ballet

I like to challenge myself to learn from mundane things that happen. I love the mundane and how things that don’t blatantly have meaning can be connected to big ideas and even bigger emotions.

I even love the word “mundane.” Say it aloud as you read this: MUHHHNNNDDDAAYYYEEENNNN

Yes, it’s it a fabulous little word?

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary (don’t you just love to start a sentence with that phrase? It’s just like being back in college and writing a freshman level essay, right?)

Where was I?

Oh, right, yes, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the word “mundane” means: of, relating to, or characteristic of the world; characterized by the practical, transitory, and ordinary. Mundane means ordinary, but when you describe something as mundane, suddenly, it is much, much less ordinary.

Take this recounting of a mundane event last night at the Houston Ballet:

Last night, I attended the fabulous and glittery production of “The Nutcracker” at the Houston Ballet. I am a pretty serious patron of the arts here in Houston, well, the arts that I can afford, which typically include a show or two every quarter.

I took a deep breath as I bought those pricey, but completely worthwhile, center aisle seats, only a few rows back from the stage. I am glad I did. I’m glad I did because without being that close to the stage, I would have missed out on a little bit of professionalism and casual elegance that one of the dancers performed.

During one of the dances, the dancers were costumed in lovely, bright green suit jackets, with the gentlemen sporting, large, bright pink flowers on the lapels. As they danced, with the vigor and grace that only a ballet dancer seems to achieve, one of those huge pink flowers went flopping to the ground, falling from the lapel.

GASP! THE HORROR! Although I could have thought of much more troubling things to be happening at that moment, I could not think of a single thing in the world that was more important than that flower lying there in the middle of the stage, unattended, unpinned, and downright unwieldy! What if someone was to trip and the whole production be ruined?!

I did not have to wonder for long, because one of those muscle legged gents soon danced his way over to the flower, and with no fanfare and with almost tactical like precision, he kicked it from off the stage. The move looked flawless, like the stitching on the flower was actually designed to fail, so this one guy would, on cue of course, saunter over and gracefully kick the flower off the stage.
Later that night, thinking back about how the dancer had nonchalantly kicked the fallen flower off the stage, I thought about often times I have let hiccups throw me off course. And, I thought about how those hiccups eventually worked themselves into masterful little triumphs. I thought of these three things:
1) Screw ups are often not as noticeable or as impactful as you might think
No one around me gasped aloud when the flower fell. No one cared. Everyone was still in awe of the dancers’ abilities and performance skills.

2) People find mistakes to be a genuine (dare I say, mundane) part of being human and are quite forgiving of others mistakes
I found it to be a fun little part of the show that a small thing went wrong. I was also very entertained by how the dancer solved the problem, if we could even call a flower on the floor a real problem.

3) Just keep on dancing
No one fell on the floor, or cussed, or stomped the flower. It found its way to the backstage and the performance just went on, of course.

My connection to this mundane thing is my tendency to let hiccups get the best of me and take a big ole dump on my goals, dreams, and creativity. It’s the curse of perfectionism: I sometimes cannot see all the good in what I am doing if there is just one little thing going wrong.

But, I’m learning to not let those little hiccups get me down or slow me down. I’m learning to do as the graceful dancer did: when all else fails, just keep dancing and kicking, whether that kicking means kicking yourself in the pants, kicking your problems to the curb, or kicking someone’s ass if they’re in your way.

*Disclaimer: I do not publicly condone violence of any kind.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

Kale and Change

This morning, standing in front of my Vitamix, half-awake, having just gotten out of bed after a raucous night of watching YouTube videos and waiting to reply to “Happy New Year” texts, I realized what I wanted to write about for the first day of my New Year resolution: CHANGE.

I tore the three stems of kale into small pieces and fluffed them into a delicate arrangement before turning on the blender. I do not know why I do this; I know that in a few seconds, all of it, the kale, the banana, the protein powder, will all be blended into a cheerful sludge that can be sipped through a straw. As the blender ran, I thought of how change happens constantly, and inevitably, to everything and everyone around me. I thought about how even though the kale went from its original state to an almost microscopic chopped version in less than a minute, its values remained unchanged. I thought of myself, and how even though my core values have not changed, life has taught me many valuable lessons over the past two years of my life, even though I often felt as helpless and beaten as I am sure the kale did whirling around a high-powered blender.

Change has been both my best friend and my worst enemy. Change challenged me to see myself in a new, brighter light. But, sometimes change crept into my relationships with others, and dimmed the light, leaving behind heartache and disappointment. Change has made me feel so powerless, and then over time, taught me the power in letting go.

What will this new year bring? I have no idea. I no longer speculate about the future very much. I no longer try to manipulate every moment of today into what I think will be something great tomorrow. So much is unknown to me and out of my control. Life is full of things that I can’t even fathom how to control. The prevalence of change in the past 2 years of my life has taught me how silly it is to even participate in the illusion of control.

After watching the blender whirl around for a few moments, I smiled that very slight smile that your face does when you aren’t really thinking about anything, and I decided that this is what I’d write about today. Perhaps this isn’t the most eloquent thing I will write all year, but it is honest, authentic, and a little strange, like me.

Happy New Year

See ya tomorrow!

P.S.

In my opinion, this is one of the best songs written about change. Tupac talks about how change affects different people in his life, including himself, and the repeated line, “I ain’t mad at cha” conveys his easy and accepting attitude about how change is going to happen, whether we like it or not. Rest in Peace, Tupac, and thank you for sharing your life and poetry with us. Enjoy the song by clicking the link below:

2Pac “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” Video

Portland Day 2

Part of my goal in travelling to Portland was to not have goals, to not over think, over plan, over anything. I wanted to give chance the chance to interact with me and my life, something that I don’t usually embrace.

This is also a long and more eloquent way of saying that I didn’t plan anything to do, other than the tour to Haystack Rock and along the Oregon coast.

On Friday, October 20, 2017, I slept in (thank goodness) and met up with Rachel, the friendly British girl from the tour yesterday.

I should say that one of my “soft goals” for visiting Portland was to attempt to experience it as if I lived here. If I lived here, I wouldn’t search “what to do in Portland” everyday and check off things off the list. I would do regular, stuff, like meet a friend for lunch, sit in traffic, etc.

The sitting in traffic bit has become more familiar than I’d like, to be honest. So, on Friday, I drove from Beaverton in to downtown Portland. I wanted to be a cool kid and act like a local, so I tried to look for street parking.

Between the terrible traffic, journey from Beaverton into downtown Portland and searching for somewhere, anywhere, to park, I was 30 minutes late meeting up with Rachel. Tardiness is the biggest of my pet peeves, but, I am happy to say that I did not get into a mental frenzy over it.

Lesson learned: Even when you try or do your best, there is still a good chance that things won’t work out the way you planned or hoped.

Thanks, Portland traffic and downtown parking, for reminding me of this important lesson.

I finally found a parking spot that required me to pay $4 for two hours. I had to parallel park my huge rental, a 2017 Chevrolet Impala, into the spot, and I am proud to report that I was able to do it in one try. The Impala isn’t a limousine, but it is quite larger, in both length and width, than the Honda Accord I typically drive.

After walking in the light rain for a few blocks, I arrived at Powell’s bookstore. Powell’s is a Portland institution and is a lot of fun, but I had no interest in going back inside to wander around, since I did so a couple of years ago, and didn’t want to lug around the several pounds of books that I would buy. Going to the bookstore is a treat for me; I absolutely love it and it’s hard for me to control myself when I am in one. On more than one occasion, I have gone into a bookstore and left with $100 worth of stuff and no idea how it happened.

Rachel seemed completely unfazed by my tardiness and even more uninterested in my polite attempt to explain what happened.

Lesson learned #2: People are usually a combination of quite forgiving and loosely uninterested in you.

This lesson is hard for me to learn when taught in the context of tardiness. I absolutely hate when someone is late, but aside from that, I, too, am generally quite forgiving of people and their shortcomings, whether intentional or not.

Rachel and I walked 10 minutes in the cold, wind, and rain to the Portland City Grill, a lovely and swank restaurant on the 30th floor of an office building. The tour guide told us about it and it did not disappoint. The views of the city were spectacular.

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I love the pacific northwest because the trees here somehow speak to my soul. I am not an outdoorsy person. I am quite chubby and I don’t typically do much of anything related to the outdoors. To me, “outdoors” is where I keep my car and where the roads are where I drive my car.

However, there’s something that warms my soul about the transition that trees undergo in the Autumn…well, trees in places that are not as close to the equator as we are in the southern United States.

Once you leave the South, where everything is warm and green seemingly year round, you are able to experience Autumn in a visual way. I have seen the most beautiful colors ever, just existing, for free viewing, on the trees here in the Portland area.

The food at the Portland City Grill was also very good. I had steelhead trout, which looks identical to salmon (to me), but the flavor is a little less pronounced. I also had the New York style cheesecake. It was ok, but not terribly memorable.

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After hanging out with Rachel, I walked back to my car. I knew that the meter had expired, but I made no particular hurry to get back there. I would usually have rushed through lunch, with the impending deadline looming over my head and invading my thoughts. Instead, I thought, “It’ll be ok” and when lunch was over, I carefully walked back to my car, in the wind, rain, and cold, and observed the dashboard. NO TICKET.

Another full 30 minutes late.

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Now, this experiment in “low worry, low stress” is not a doorway into tardiness for me. No, absolutely not. I still abhor tardiness with a level of hatred that I can’t describe. However, this mind experiment is a way for me to curb some of the ongoing and pervasive anxiety that typically fills my mind every day, all day. To sum up:

  1. Did I try to be on time for lunch? Yes. Did factors beyond my control and knowledge prevent me from being on time for lunch? Also yes. Should I beat myself up about it? No.
  2. Did I know what time my parking meter expire? Yes. Did I rush through an encounter with an actual human to get back to my car? No. Did the universe reward me for breaking my anxious patterns by not giving me a parking ticket? Perhaps.

All in all, it was a good day. I began to not feel so great, like a cold was coming on, so I went drove back to the hotel room for some rest.

I am also learning that one of the most important things that you should give your mind and body is A BREAK. Give yourself a got damn break. Take a nap. Go to sleep. Stop doing stuff, all the stuff, any of the stuff. So, that’s what I did with the remainder of the day.

Until the next adventure…