Resilience

My Post (2)The good thing about the COVID-19 madness going on right now is that many people, myself included, are finding ways to reconnect with long lost hobbies (or people). The long lost hobby that I have personally reconnected with, if you can’t tell from the dates of my last three posts, is writing.

Writing always makes me feel better. I have journalled since I was in first grade and in the past when I’ve been especially down, reading the thoughts of a 7 year old version of myself always put me in a better mood. It’s so lovely.

Today, I wrote the following poem about resilience. I hope that reading it makes you feel a little more strong and able to continue on while the world is affected by the coronavirus.

 

RESILIENCE

3/20/20     4:08 pm

I am wind,

Flexible and free,

Present, yet unseen,

Moving, yet sometimes still

I am an energy to be felt.

I am oak,

Strong and sure

Changing,

Growing,

Enduring,

Evolving,

Adapting.

Sometimes, I forget these things.

Sometimes, I don’t remember that I am capable,

That I am resilient.

Sometimes, the reflection in the mirror appears weakened, broken, and sad.

Sometimes, I cannot see because I cannot rest.

I am the whole universe,

Experiencing this tumult, just as everyone else, just as every other universe, just as you.

Together, we are changing, growing, enduring, evolving, and adapting.

Together, we can rest, and remember. 

Caring for Others

The most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life involved doing something nice for someone else.

Many times, the recipient has been not so thankful. But, I still felt good anyway. I think it’s important to not let other people’s reactions rob us of the joy of kindness and good deeds. This is VERY hard for me to do, but I’m working on it.

I thought about writing this today because I made some meals for my elderly uncle. I cannot cook like his late wife (my aunt) but I know that he will appreciate my effort.

Do you appreciate other people’s efforts without being critical or an asshole otherwise?

I think that’s easier to do than we think it is.

When I was a kid, I hated bananas. I’ve grown tolerant of them as an adult because I put them in smoothies and the potassium makes my old body feel a little less old.

But honestly, I could never see another banana again and be fine, even happy.

But, when I was a kid, one of my grandma’s friends used to love giving me bananas. It was her favorite fruit and perhaps she thought that she was really being kind to me by offering me one.

I still hated them.

But my grandmother, in all her wisdom, instructed me to not eat the banana but to always, always take it and be completely gracious and thankful.

Eventually, I went from kind of pretending to be thankful to having a better understanding of what grace is. Eventually, my thanks was heartfelt and not at all pretentious, even though I never ate the damned bananas.

I learned to be gracious when someone thought enough of me to do something. I learned to not take the joy from them for being kind. I learned not to essentially punish people for being nice. I learned a little bit of what it’s like to not be an asshole.

And now, when I do nice things for people, I get to learn how to be on the other side of the equation. Sometimes something that I do that I think is kind is met with welcome and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it’s not. But regardless, I’m working on not attaching my feelings to the behavior of other people. I take the pleasure and reward of kindness from what I can control: only myself.

What do you think of this topic?

Until tomorrow my friends…

It Doesn’t Matter

Do you ever feel like no one understands you?

How you feel? Your humor? Your off putting affinity for skulls? Your not so secret desire to live on an island?

Do you ever feel so alone?

Maybe you share some of those feelings and maybe you have some quirks of your own that make you feel ostracized sometimes.

I can relate. Some days, it feels like “Ostracized” is my middle name.

I don’t regularly do the two seemingly most common American activities: drink alcohol and watch tv.

If I had to guess, I would say that on average, I have about one martini every 8 weeks and watch about 1-3 hours of internet videos a week. I watch no regular tv shows, even though I do plan to catch up on “The X-Files” soon.

Do you know what these facts make me? Well, they make me almost a social pariah.

People are so strangely uncomfortable when I tell them I don’t drink much and I watch almost no television. They think that I’m odd, and technically, they’re right.

I feel odd and I feel misunderstood.

I use the examples of television and alcohol as somewhat light hearted examples, but I’ve also often felt deeply misunderstood, sometimes even telling myself that I will NEVER find someone who understands me.

Well, here’s the thing: IT DOES NOT MATTER. So the f*ck what?

Recently, I was listening to an Eckhart Tolle talk and he addressed the ongoing need that we can sometimes have to feel understood. And of course, when our version of understanding does not come, we make ourselves feel miserable. We tell ourselves horrible things, like no one will ever understand, or we are terrible for being so odd, so on and so forth.

But all of those things are unknown. Maybe you’ll find the jelly to your peanut butter. Maybe you’re just a singular, delicious nut spread.

Regardless, the better focus is on understanding yourself. There’s so much focus that we can develop on what other people are giving us that we neglect to give ourselves anything.

So, maybe your family thinks you’re nuts? You might actually be a little weird. Maybe no one does understand you.

SO WHAT?

Do you, who has the most access to you,understand you?

No?

Then you’ve already got enough things to do.

So many, in fact, that you might not have much time to watch the tele.

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…

Cheat Day #1

I predicted this.

I predicted, before I started this experiment, this commitment, that some days, I will just be exhausted and not have the will to write.

What will I do on these days? Break my commitment to writing everyday? Well, no , not exactly, but kind of.

On these days, let’s call this cheat day #1, I will share something that I have written in the past. The rules are: 1) It can be anything that I have written in the past and 2) I will not edit it to change the meaning or tone of what I meant at that time.

So, please enjoy this strange, one page anecdote that I wrote way back, almost 7 years ago, on 08/24/2011.

ENJOY

 

A day in the life of corporate America (or The Little Leaf that Could)

 

Today at work, I was sitting outside the building, taking what I like to call my non-smoker smoke break. I came up with this idea after seeing fellow smoking co-workers eagerly plod down the hallway past my office, off to take their smoke breaks. I became a bit jealous, admittedly, and decided to simply go outside, too (and not smoke).

So there I sat, on the green, cast iron rocking chairs in front of my building. A young, blond girl from Human Resources, in all of her young and blonde glory, came by and asked what I was doing. I thought the answer to that question was rather obvious. I was obviously sitting in a chair, rocking back forth, hence the name of the chair. That description describes one hundred percent of my activity at that time. But, I knew her asking the obvious question was an attempt to make conversation, so I decided to one-up her. Not only would I answer her question; I would answer it with a bit of wit and humor.

“I am warming up,” I said, referring to the freezing 65°F that is the normal temperature for our office building.

“Ha ha…that shouldn’t take too long,” she replied. She went on to chat for a few more minutes about some topic in which I was even less interested. I was honestly very happy to see her enter the building. I was tired of both envying her gorgeous shoes and feigning interest in her uninteresting story.

So, returned to my peaceful sitting. No iPhone in my hand. No computer in front of me. Just sitting. And just then, I had an epiphany. Instead of just looking straight ahead (into the parking lot full of good ole’ boy trucks parked next to pretentious eco-friendly trash), why won’t I look UP? UP! UP!! How often do adults look up at the clouds? I wondered to myself. So, I looked up. I relaxed my fluffy ponytail and head on the back of the chair and looked up at the sky. My eyes seemed to react…they seemed to wonder what I was doing. I decided to try to find shapes in the clouds, like little kids do (or something).

I looked for a few seconds when from the corner of my left eye, I saw a small leaf fluttering down, seemingly coming from nowhere. It made its slow descent and landed on one of the tables. I was almost shocked. No, I was completely shocked. Shocked because there are no trees around for quite some distance. There are especially no trees on top of the building. And the leaf just seemed to float down from exactly nowhere.

I looked around. I looked up. Not wanting to seem silly or even the least bit un-cool, I casually stood up and stretched. I even faked a little moan when I stretched, you know, to seem like my stretch was the most authentic stretch ever stretched. I sauntered over to the leaf and looked down. I looked up again, to try to see where it may have come from. Still, no idea. I picked up the small leaf and looked into the windows of the building next to me. The dark tint prevented me from seeing how many people were staring down at me and this incredible, appearing from nowhere, little leaf.

I knew that there were probably dozens of people sitting at their desks inside the building, just cheering me on to keep the leaf and one day describe the awesomeness that broke up the monotony of their corporate America lives. This leaf would have to represent all that we wanted to be- free and floating carelessly, not frozen by overzealous air conditioning or fattened by our sedimentary lifestyles. And all of our freedom would have to come out of nowhere, just like the little leaf.

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