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How the Marie Kondo Movment Is Making Us Rethink Our Stuff

bed bedroom ceiling fan chair

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think I saw the memes and gifs on social media before I even realized that best-selling author and decluttering/organization expert Marie Kondo dropped a series on NetFlix.

I remember hearing about Kondo, the bubbly clutter-buster from Japan, and eventually buying her equally well-edited, straight to the point book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

We overindulgent, down for instant gratification, multiple-trips-to-target-taking Americans were in desperate need of some help. We’ve been buying things we don’t need for a really long time, to address other deeper things. Also, having “stuff” is a big marker of success in these parts, across socioeconomic status.

Armed with her translator, Marie floats into various homes in each episode helping families figure out how to get rid of all of the stuff and find the joy that’s been hiding in their homes and in themselves all along. Her title is right, discovering that is pretty magical and certainly life-changing.

I did engage in this process a few times in preparation for my move earlier this year.

The rules were simple. Start with your clothes. Dump everything out and sort through them, keeping only items that spark joy.

I love that Marie was wise enough to create a criteria of elimination by joy, because sometimes that’s a hard and elusive thing for us. We know pleasure, we know happy, but I think she strategically instructed people to think about how deep and lasting joy is. But when we pick up an item and actually ask if it sparks joy, for a lot of the things we own, instantly know it doesn’t, and so, we have to force ourselves to follow the criteria and let it go. She is a genius for wording it this way.

It’s a real challenge. And for that reason, you’ll see a lot of tears and a lot of a ha revelations going on with each of the families as they break mental contracts they made with the stuff they won’t let go of because, “It was such a good deal.” Or, “This was really expensive.”

Another word that I think Marie expertly uses is tidy. It’s not a word we use often in America. We love the word clean and we will dabble with the word neat, but tidy, to me is more specific and suggests like joy, it is a regular practice. Anyone I’ve heard use the word tidy, tended to be older women, with immaculate homes, and clothing, who were highly disciplined, and followed their cleaning routines religiously and were highly likely to have hard candy in their purses to share with you at church.

Tidy always seemed aspirational to me and highly disciplined. And on the show Marie had guests whose homes were clean, they just had a lot of crap in it. In the one episode Marie complimented a guest for having a really clean home, and the woman admits she hides a lot of things or stuffs them in closets, counters, and drawers.

With some elbow grease, a few tears, and several trips to the Goodwill, we can be tidy and we can have some joy, and save a few bucks reminding ourselves that we really don’t need it.

 

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Bolsters, Blocks and Straps

2018 is about to be over y’all, but one of the best things I could possibly do for myself (besides moving to a great new place!) is practice yoga semi-regularly.

I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve dubbed Monday, “Yoga Monday” where I force myself to go to a local studio, down the street, after work. And when I can’t make “Yoga Monday,” I find myself hitting the mat at home, with my own favorite mix of music, while I’m practicing.

For Christmas, I was delighted to get yoga socks and a block from one of my friends, and I am already eying a new mat, and looking for how to make my own mat spray on Pinterest. I got hit and I got hit with the yoga bug hard, even though I don’t do it everyday.

The most wonderful revelation I got from practicing yoga is, yoga isn’t at all what it seems, in terms of the stereotypes of super, zen people able to block out the worries of the world, while bending themselves into human pretzels, wearing expensive-ass yoga clothes.

In our culture, we like to look for quick fads and fixes. We like to buy a lot of stuff to look the part– I’m guilty: look at all of the stuff I just bought for yoga, and the stuff I want to buy for yoga, as well as paying fees to practice at the studio. That doesn’t even include the cute athlesure clothes. I still love the cute clothes. (Why am I obsessed with leggings now?)

But aside from the cute clothes and cool mats, and towels and essential oils, I like the ways yoga surprises me from time-to-time, when I do something I couldn’t before. And it happens randomly and often quietly during a practice.

Back to my revelation.

Originally, like most people, I thought yoga was about twisting yourself into complicated poses that seem impossible to do. And like most people, when you get the courage to step into a studio, you want to do the complicated stuff first.

For some reason, even if you just got off of your couch, and you have potato chip crumbs in your sports bra, you want to walk into the yoga studio and do a headstand. That is the same attitude as wanting to break a wood board on your first day of Karate. It’s absurd, we know this, but those are the goals we put in our heads when we start these kinds of things. Cuz, delusion.

Or, you find yourself wanting to be competitive. You look at others around you, you judge them based on how fit they appear to be and you attempt to outdo them. Or, you may find yourself pleased at being able to do something others are having difficulty with. By the time the class is over, you are sweating profusely and you couldn’t even enjoy the Savasana (resting pose) at the end. Real talk, I come to class for Savasana. I want to do an entire class of Savasana.

The thing I am loving most about yoga once you start to shed all of those thoughts and insecurities about 5 classes in, you get hit over the head and realize, yoga is ALL about adjustment and support for who you are and where you are.

Great instructors tend to remind you several times, that this is your practice. They are planting those seeds for a reason, to get it through your thick skull that this is really about you!

Which brings me to the thought that inspired this blog post in the first place.

Bolsters, blocks and straps.

Initially, I was pretty resistant to using bolsters, blocks and straps in yoga classes, because, being a competitive person, who played sports more years ago than I want to admit, I wanted to show everyone in class how athletic I used to be.

But the more I attended yoga class, I realized using bolsters, blocks and straps were essential tools that even the instructors and most seasoned folks in my class were using on a regular basis. They’d swap em in and out based on what felt right for them for that pose, on that particular day.

Not only did I realize, they helped me do certain poses more comfortably, but with time, I realized these tools were helping me stretch deeper, and my body was naturally doing poses better when I did want to push myself and try without them.

Days where I was just having a tough time, using these tools came in handy, because if I was mentally tired, my body knew what to do. I could trust myself to just focus on what my body was supposed to be doing with out worrying about completely losing balance, or forcing my body to do something that didn’t feel good out of pride. I wasn’t spending time overexerting myself on a day that I was mentally or physically fatigued, just to be cute. I was still making my practice about me, listening to my body and giving myself a break. Your best for the moment, is your best and it is good enough. Try again later, push a little more next time.

Once, I had a really difficult day and I felt drained. I dragged myself to “Yoga Monday” and I wasn’t feeling as awesome as I normally do as I move through the class. I remembered an instructor saying if at any point, you want to just get into child’s pose, do it. Then, come back in with the rest of the class, or, do child’s pose the whole class.

So, that night, I found myself going into child’s pose several times. I got over myself, I got over what others would think, and I got over the fact that I wasn’t the pet student hitting every pose right with the instructor. That was never the point.

I started getting that my yoga practice is always for me and whatever I need, the class is just a vehicle for me to get it. Stopping and breathing deeply was what I needed more of that night. Cool. Surrendering to that, I had a much better experience.

I love that getting help, slowing down, modifying and adjusting are normalized in really great yoga classes. I love that you can hug a bolster and rest your body while teaching yourself to stretch and breathe. I’m looking for a bolster for home practice.

I was anti-block when I started, and now I love them and use them at home. I notice all of the things I can do with the help of the blocks, and I realize I am still balancing, I am still challenging myself, and with more time and practice, I will be able to do more difficult things.

I have found so much joy in watching my body do things I originally couldn’t do on a random night after going through the same poses day after day. It’s a practice. Duh, the more you do something, the better you get at it.

I’ve noticed how using straps trains my body into doing things like binds. Straps do more than assist with binds, fyi. But that really helps me in that area. I still have difficulty looping one arm under and behind a stretched leg and having it touch my other hand, stretching behind me across my back to meet it. (It’s so difficult describing this). But, I’ve found with using a strap for other exercises, my body is doing the calculations. Those hands are getting closer and closer, almost touching.

So, in 2019, I want to work smarter and not harder.

I want to identify all of the bolsters, blocks, and straps in my life and use the hell out of them so I can grow and get better. We never have to do anything the hard way. We are often moving to fast to recognize what tools are available to help us, or we are too arrogant to use them because we want to appear strong or appear like we know what we’re doing.

Sometimes the hard way is the only way and there isn’t a tool in sight, and we have to learn a lesson from it. And that’s ok too. I am learning in yoga that discomfort is ok, pain is not.

Pain means stop.

Discomfort, we can move through. We can learn how to breathe our way through the discomfort and let it pass.

I want to metaphorically and literally take a child’s pose and pause, and reset myself when I need to, and not be bothered if it doesn’t make sense to others.

So, I’m going to work harder in 2019 to not be stubborn, arrogant, or proud. I’m going to identify the tools and I’m going to use them. I don’t get a prize or something extra for ignoring tools that will get me the same results, and can get me there safer, exerting less energy.

Use the tools, folks. Use the tools.

 

 

29 to Life: The Movie????

I knew it would eventually happen.
Looks like there’s a movie out that share’s the title of my blog.
No check for me. I didn’t bother to buy a domain for the blog, so there’s nothing to fight over. However, it’s very funny to just google my blog and see a movie is out this year!
The good news is, my blog appears right front and center on the google search! Maybe I’ll get some new followers! Tee hee!
Thank you for your service, movie people… But maybe I should watch it, just in case they took some inspiration from this blog and a check is in order…
Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog!

How Prepared Are You Really for a Natural Disaster or Emergency?

I like being prepared or at least feeling prepared.

I can be meticulous about meetings and presentations, especially if I am the one who is leading it.

I ponder and stew on possibilities, I aim to think of my audience, or stakeholders and I try to anticipate how they take in my information and how they can apply it in a meaningful way.

I care about how I look, and that the technology in the room is working correctly. Conference call numbers are given in advance, I edit Powerpoint and ensure I am able to share the visuals with remote participants. I show up early to test the equipment and if I have five minutes to spare, I use it to take the final breath before I dive in.

Usually things work out, and folks are impressed.

I like being prepared when I travel. I print out everything, and I look up restaurants and shopping wherever I’m headed, ready to make a suggestion when everyone else is tired, hungry and indecisive. I make sure I have necessities that are useful to myself and even to my traveling partners. I’m the one who thinks of poopoori (the toilet spray. I’m the REAL MVP), pain relievers, hand sanitizer, feminine products.

But it didn’t occur to me until recently after seeing so much loss, devastation in areas like Houston, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that when it comes to preparation for emergencies, I really didn’t have a plan. And I knew better. I really did. So much so, as a young reporter, when the rain came down harder and harder and Hurricane Katrina was making her presence known along the Gulf Coast, me and other young reporters were having a meal and telling each other to ignore the pages blowing up our beepers from the office for at least five minutes, before we all answered and headed out to cover it. Little did we know what was coming in the days, weeks and months ahead. Little did we know the privilege we had because we were reporters… more on that later.

The U.S. government has a website called Ready.gov and they show a series of commercials that poke fun at families half-assing emergency drills and preparing by not preparing at all, or considering their conversation about preparation being sufficient.

But as people who the general masses may consider conspiracy theorists gear up for God-knows-what November 4, while I hope things are smooth and no electromagnetic pulses, or Antifa wars uprisings start, it got me to thinking about natural disasters, and also times like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. Even being not far from Baltimore and seeing the curfews put in place during the Baltimore uprising where people are told to stay home, I wondered how long could I stay in my home and what kind of rations would I be able to adequately live off of, or do I have a bag ready in case I needed to make a move quickly.

Back in the day, as a reporter, because you were so busy working the story, I didn’t realize how much my parent company looked out for our basic needs. We were safe and had options even if our homes had damage, or no electricity or running water. The newspaper paid for hotel rooms where we could rest and shower, the newspaper offices had generators, and although we got sick of pizza, there was always food to eat and a dry, safe place to be.

We were provided with gas for our personal cars, and rentals to help us get around to report the news. Our minds were generally clear, our personal security in tact as we poured ourselves into meeting people struggling with the devastation and the unknown and being able to accurately tell their stories and help them get help from the rest of the nation and the world. We’d visit makeshift communities set up by FEMA, emotionally drained by the end of the day, but secure in knowing we had someplace safe to go ourselves, not a shelter with strangers.

But now that I’m a civilian, I realize if something does pop off it’s all on me.

I think there’s a value to making sure everyone keeps basics in their homes and that’s why me and my boyfriend are making an emergency kit.

I realized I’m not Katniss, and shows like the Walking Dead started to come to mind. I wondered if faced with disaster and lack of modern conveniences, how would I fare? It made my heart tighten for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands who are still roughing it, thinking of creative ways to survive and take care of their most vulnerable citizens who still need a lot of help. Their new normal is far from the life they are used to. Like those people, when faced with such disaster and uncertainty, they are winging it too and doing what humans are built to do, adjust. I don’t ever want to be in a position to find out.

I don’t think we realize just how fortunate we are and how much we depend on technology to do really basic things. As an 80s baby, I think our generation is the generation who remembered simpler times in an analog world, while we don’t have a problem with technology, we won’t bust a blood vessel if the wi-fi is down… temporarily, of course.

Bear in mind, in the US and in highly developed countries, our dependence on technology and our seemingly inability to function without it, should make us all reevaluate how we think about our needs and wants. I have various friends who have traveled to other countries and everyone comes back saying the same thing, there are healthy, happy people living in places where we would be afraid to lay our heads, thriving and being fulfilled not by stuff and technology, but by human interactions, kindness, ingenuity to make something out of nothing, or out of garbage.

Having clean water is simply a blessing that people don’t take for granted. After studying public health, having a place to use the bathroom without contaminating your entire community is a VERY BIG DEAL. Using fire and making delicious meals for an entire community is not unusual for people living in other parts of the world. Could we do the same, if forced to? Would there be something within us, some instinct that would show us the way?

Sometimes I force myself to carry cash, and the times I’ve been told computers were down, I was relieved I could move to the front of the line, while everyone else scrambled and were literally frozen, or demanding that they try the machines again. And this wasn’t during some kind of disaster. Carrying cash is not like being able to fish, or clean and then cook a fish over a fire, but small steps…. See, doesn’t that sound silly? First-world problems, yall. First world problems.

It makes me think, do I have non-aromatherapy candles? A well-stocked first aid kit? Do I have non-perishable goods, that I’d be willing to eat if necessary? Do I have batteries, and a good supply of water?

I’m not the type of person who likes to dwell on doomsday scenarios, but weather disasters happen. Living in the DC area during 9/11 and being from NY reminds me of the panic of not being able to use a cell phone, and the relief of being able to contact family with landlines.

We live in highly uncertain times, and while I’m not sure if I’d win the Hunger Games our outlast thousands of zombies based on sheer will and learn-as-you-go survival skills, I’d like to give myself and the ones I love a small head start.

So I’ll start with an emergency kit. I hope you do too.

Diner en Blanc Baltimore, We Got In!!!

If you thought you heard a high-pitched squeal anywhere in downtown DC, a little after Noon today, that would be me.

Me and one of my dear friends will be going to Diner en Blanc in Baltimore in just a few short weeks. (Check out the Forbes article that breaks it all down.)

I’m thrilled, I’m amped and I’m excited. I’ve heard about Diner en Blanc which started more than 20 years ago by a Frenchman who basically invited a select group of friends to dress elegantly in all white and set up a picnic in a beautiful public space and enjoy each other’s company. Truth be told, I’ve been starved for an event that requires people to put in some thought and effort. I’ve lamented in this blog how our casual attitude towards our lives, our meals, our going out and our interactions have really just made us a blah society. I can rock with some of the formality and style of the French and Italian and folks in other countries. Joie de vivre. Enjoy life. Enjoy each bite of food and swallow of drink and wear nice clothes and engage and enjoy your company. Put care into the smaller details. Yup, sign me up, if only for one night.

Each year, invitees from the previous year invited other friends, and it grew. It grew so much that the event has been taking place in major cities all over the world. At this point, thousands of people show up to appointed places at appointed times and then are sent by foot, public transportation or chartered buses to the selected spot. The spots have ranged from the Louvre in Paris, to the Usain Bolt Track in Jamaica. DC revelers have even partied at the foot of the Lincoln Monument. The photos are a true sight to behold.

So, when it comes to the inaugural soiree in the Charm City, one naturally assumes, we’ll wind up in the Inner Harbor. But, that may seem like the super obvious choice. So, my guess would have to include outdoor spaces that would make for great photos near iconic buildings or with potential views of the harbor.

If we don’t end up directly in the harbor, my top guesses are City Hall and Orioles Park or any area where ArtScape or the Baltimore Book Festival have taken place where large groups of people are able to gather and streets can be shut down. The Maryland Zoo and Pimlico Race Track are my wild card choices. They aren’t immediately downtown, but there will be enough spaces for buses to load and unload a bunch of folks.

My guesses include:
1. The Maryland Zoo
2. Right in front of City Hall
3. Fells Point
4. American Visionary Art Museum
5. Walter’s Art Museum
6. Oriole’s Park/ M&T Bank Stadium
7. Pimlico Race Track

There’s a lot to do. I’m using all of my strength to avoid purchasing a new outfit and try to find a lovely white number inside of my closet. I’m already against it because I feel it’s more for a power meeting at work. My go-to site is ASOS (every ASOS dress I’ve worn, the compliments pour in) and NY and Company is having a great sale. Those dresses always tend to fit me well and are made of comfy fabrics and are insanely easy to dress up with accessories due to their simplicity and versatility.

As for the shoes, I personally hate white shoes. They make everyone’s feet look like Fred Flintstone. Totally unflattering. White shoes no matter the style, make me think of the usher board and their sensible nursing shoes walking up and down the aisles at church. I do plan to follow the rules. I think gold and silver shoes are allowed, but either way, I’ll figure this out. Moving on.

I was determined about getting to my computer on time to get into the registration period for new folks, better known as Phase 3. Phase one folks are people who have attended previous events and get automatic invites to the next. From what I understand, Phase 2 folks are guests of phase one people who have attended before and Phase 3 are the newbies like me, who have never gone and managed to sign up for the wait list.

I was really excited today about being able to get in, I haven’t been this crazy about logging on exactly at 12 noon since getting tickets to see Prince. I willed Ticketmaster into submission and even went solo to increase my chances. Seeing Prince was a serious thing for me and I’m so thankful I did that. The following year, he passed away. See, good choices?

But anyway, I was amped. When I asked my boyfriend if he’d be interested if I managed to get registered, he politely declined. I let it be. He probably would have been miserable and probably the thought of him pulling together an acceptable head-to-toe white outfit in two weeks was probably the last thing he wanted to do.

My boyfriend was not about us lugging a table, chairs and our own food to a secret location dressed in all white, so this was a mission for one of the local homies who is always down for an adventure. I was able to quickly rebound from his rejection.

This homegirl is the type of homegirl who makes everything fun. Like gut, busting, silly, loud-singing, fun. I could have a bowl of cereal with her, or get lost in some random city with this chick, and shenanigans will ensue. We ALWAYS have a great time whether we are sitting around the house making mini pizzas, watching the Muppets and putting on clay face masks, or checking out an art exhibit. Yup, as soon as I sent the text, “We’re In!!” we’ve been texting and thinking of ideas on how to decorate our table… yes, that’s a thing and there’s even a prize for the best decorated tables.

According to Pinterest, folks go all out. Yes, I’ve stalked Pinterest and read every article. This is probably why my boyfriend wisely passed on attending this with me. While I’ve seen some elaborate setups, we plan to keep it simple, if for no other reason than not wanting to lug around a lot of stuff.

Diner en Blanc vets recommend having a hand truck to lug your goods. I will be investing in that.

So, yes, my boyfriend’s observation is right. He’s the more sensible one of our pair. This is a lot of work. But I’m actually very excited to pull this together and so is my home girl.

Yes, there are articles that poke fun at how much people end up spending to have a picnic in a public park, and even people calling it elitist and super snobbish because of the air of secrecy and the element of exclusivity due to the original invite only premise. There was another honest article from Washington City Paper about how much it really costs to attend one of these things, from buying or renting tables and chairs and linens, buying your own food vs. buying directly from Diner en Blanc to ordering your wine or champagne, because you can’t bring your own. Sniff, sniff. The costs do add up. I did go ahead and buy one bottle of wine through the website after registering, because dang, after all of that, it’s not about to be dry. We will need to toast. That is non-negotiable.

Is it bourgeois? Most certainly. I don’t care. We live in perilous times. I’m desperately seeking Trump-free, non-partisan, fuck-my-student-loan, joy.

It’s a moment to share with thousands of people, on a hopefully lovely night weather wise. Sure, people will be doing it for the ‘gram hard core, it’s a social media wet dream. Serious, google the pics. But, I really am interested in doing something unique this summer and just having a really great time, even if there is a bit of effort that goes into all of this. I’ve been looking for moments to engage in joyful things, and looking at pics from all over the world, I know that this is it.

I want to see other people’s creativity with their tables, what they decided to bring to eat, and then enjoy the entertainment and dance the night away with a breathtaking Baltimore backdrop.

So let’s get it.

Pop Culture Is No Longer for You After 30. Guess What? That’s Perfectly OK

We are self-centered. We are built that way. We know nothing else.
I’m not saying this in a bad or negative way. I’m saying it in the I-only-have-one-life-i-can-never-be-anyone-else kind of way.
Our perspective is the only one we can go on. Can we empathize and sympathize with others? Yes, and we should so we don’t become complete assholes and are able to have successful healthy relationships with the other people we share this planet and our lives with.
So we don’t see it. As kids, our parents usually center their lives around us, and then as teenagers, we know that this world is all about us, for us and eagerly waiting for us to grow up so we can solve all the problems and make this place better, because we have the energy and the heart and we aren’t jaded.
In college, we attempt to equip ourselves with the intellectual tools, to in fact, go out there and make the world a better place, make the workplace a better place and be able to afford the lives we want.
So during those kid through college times, there’s a lot of marketing geared towards us, and towards us nagging our parents to get us the things we swear we need, so we can run faster, be cooler, etc.
The marketplace seems to be for the young. The music, the pop culture, the clothes we see on the racks in the stores.
It’s not until you reach your 30s, you realize that your tastes are changing and that you are looking elsewhere to find the types of things you want to spend your money on. Or based on certain habits, those things are finding you.
Over the years, I find myself in the mall less and less. I’m either bored or outraged with the options.
I look around in the mall, and I see kids who seem so young, but they are in their 20s. Then, I see women my age or older attempting to wear the same clothes, and I feel embarrassed. I try not to look too hard, but I can’t help it.
Then a moment of fear comes over me. When I’m not at work, do I have some ill-fitting clothes? Should I give up on shorts as my 40-something sister has resolved to do?
I wouldn’t take it that far, but I am conscious that I don’t have the same body I did in my 20s, and I think that’s perfectly fine. I actually am pretty glad about it. While there are certainly things I can improve to make sure I’m not cutting off circulation, or I can triumphantly put on certain slacks or skirts without elastic waists, but generally, I’m cool.
Things are going to continue to change, so I need to care about my health and I need to do my part to ease the aging process on my body. Fine.
But, I do notice my distance (ok, complete lack of knowledge of) from current slang and lingo. I gravitate to certain radio stations and certain music, and I don’t know who some of the biggest stars are now, because I hate their music. Me and my friends commiserate over how wack the new hip hop is, and discuss with great affection the old days of the 80s, 90s and 2000s. We gasp that some of our favorite movies are older than 20 years old, or that some of our favorite musicians have been gone for that long too. Some newer artists that I’m giving a chance to, I notice in their lyrical content, or even the style of how they are singing, they are not of my generation. They are something else, they are speaking to someone else. They are speaking to their peers and not to me.
It’s ok that 20-somethings have SZA, because I had Lauyrn Hill, Mary J. Blige and they were speaking and still speak to me on certain levels.
A lot of women spend their 30s wanting to turn back the clock, and we can’t. Even if we did, what we think we’re looking for is no longer there and we won’t fit as we are.
So, we have to embrace the present. We have to champion the things we like, and the things we love with no apology.
Blast the music you love to blast. Play a CD or vinyl if you like. Rock those jeans in the larger size, they look just as good as long as they fit your body correctly. Eat that piece of cake. Take a walk later. Go for a swim. Dance for three songs straight while you’re blasting the music.
We spend our teens trying to eek out who we are based on who we were around, who raised us, who we wanted to be like and who we didn’t want to be like.
We spend our 20s really trying to validate all of those findings.
I don’t want to spend my 30s searching for youth in a time that does not belong to me. I want to spend my 40s free and my 50s in unapologetic truth, bliss and satisfaction with the life I’ve been leading.
So, maybe we’ve passed a time where everything appeared to be for us, be it t.v., fashion and music.
That’s ok.
Because being older means being wiser and it also means enjoying the satisfaction of truly doing you.

The Pleasant Practice of Finding Joy

I’m in a book club. I’ve mentioned this lovely group of former co-workers who I join throughout the year to discuss books. We normally discuss books that are related to race in America as we are a diverse group, in age, race, marital status, children or none.

I love meeting with these women and sharing thoughts on such things, which turns out to be enlightening for all parties. It’s a safe haven, with excellent conversation and amazing treats and goodies to eat. The hugs and laughter is warm and genuine. It’s a respite.

But in reading these types of books, whether fiction or non fiction, I found as a black woman, I was greatly fatigued. I enjoy reading for fun, but dissecting Baldwin and DuBois or even looking at fictitious works by black authors, and the natural, normal pain of generational trauma that shows up in the subtle and overt, it just wore me out.

So, this summer, we are taking a break. I suggested that we find fun books to read or something from the arts, and we share that with one another.

I’m on a hunt for joyous things. I’m quite interested in pleasure. Kicking that off, I watched Julie Dash’s Tour de Force and the rumored inspiration for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” “Daughters of the Dust.”

There was something very beautiful about seeing black women, young and old always wearing white and living lives of simplicity, isolated on an island where they could trace their ancestry back to the Africans who landed on those shores in chains.

Living on that island without whatever modern luxuries of the 1920s were, they worked hard to raise families and feed the entire community, everyone shared, everyone did their part, everyone respected the elders and lavished love on the children.

Even among the young women, there was an air of innocence still, and they played and danced and ran along the beach wild-eyed and free. Even the cousins who may have gone off to the mainland and tease them for being country and isolated and naive, could not deny the ties that brought them back home, feeling familiar, feeling safe and loved, eating familiar foods.

Watching that film, and after reading so many books fiction and non fiction, while struggle is a large part of life, carving out those moments of joy seem all the more important.

I think of how I feel when I hear a great song, or watch a beautiful play or see gifted dancers dance.

I think of what my favorite foods taste like, crab legs on a summer day sitting on a large deck facing the water in Annapolis, or floating on my back in clear waters in the Caribbean.

I think of laying in my bed with the one I love and turning over to kiss him good morning and see he’s already awake and looking happy and serene and I’m the reason.

So, this summer, the idea of joy and pleasure come to mind. What people, places and things make me feel good when the working day is done?

Where can I find moments of joy during my work day and after? I don’t have to wait until the weekend.

Am I making time for pleasurable moments? Can I walk slower from lunch? Why am I rushing all of the time?

Do my sheets smell and feel good when I get in my bed at night?

Did I drive a different way home? Did I use fresh groceries to make my meal?

Did I have a good conversation with someone I love or haven’t spoken to in a while?

Have I let go of some dumb shit from the past that has nothing to do with the present?

I’ve asked my friends on Facebook to share with me things that bring them joy and if it is a book, or recipe or whatever, I’d like to experience that. It can be music, a YouTube video, a restaurant recommendation. Whatever brings a feeling of joy and comfort, I’m interested.

What’s With the Holes In the Shirts?

The $1,625 T-shirt. NY Daily News

Hey everyone. I’ve been having a lot of back-to-back “I’m an old-head moments” as of late.

I’m 35, and I’ve been peeping my very persistent strands of grey hairs from time-to-time and I attempted to watch the Billboard Awards and I didn’t know who a majority of the acts were. Then, on top of that, I was most excited about performances by Celine Dion and Cher and shaking my head in disbelief that the biggest movie of my teens, “Titanic” had turned 20 when I wasn’t looking. This is some nonsense.

Then, I told my sister on the phone to hold because I had a meatloaf in the oven.

I might as well invest in a “Clapper.”

Da party done.

My most recent shopping trip involved key grown lady things.

I had to get a bodyshaping navy bodysuit, because I was wearing a formal dress that had serious sideboob, if I was going for drama. I was not. The navy bodysuit would help me accomplish the goal of remaining tasteful if I happened to raise my arms, without ruining the dress. I had several comments including “regal.”

At 35, being sexy is fine, but there’s something kind of cool about being described as regal.

Then, during this trip, I was bugging out because Ann Taylor Loft had a sale. I swear I really started digging Ann Taylor and Loft and I just don’t remember when it happened, but hey, I’m glad it did. It’s the right lane for me in terms of stuff to wear for work and casual stuff that I can jazz up in my own way.

So, yeah, after buying another pair of cargo pants but in a lovely pale blue color, and a great sweater jacket perfect for work all under $60, I was on a high.

But I needed one more thing. Inserts for the shoes I’d be wearing to the wedding I was going to later that day.

As you get older, you stop making fashion sacrifices for your feet. When your feet hurt, you are miserable. You can’t walk another block, you can’t make it across the dance floor, you beg for mercy. So, proper inserts are a practical and life-altering move that you will be happy you made, because, hey, you are grown.

Speaking of fashion decisions as we get older, I think the cold-shoulder trend looks great, but in my opinion it’s tooo trendy. That’s why I refuse to buy a cold-shoulder dress, shirt, tank or sweater. Once this trend it’s done, it’s so done. I’ve even advised my friends not to go this route. Instead, I offer up off the shoulder looks. I think off the shoulder is a steady classic that always comes back around. Cut outs at the shoulder are past its prime.

Speaking of random holes and things. I’ve been really confused about tee shirts, sweatshirts and whatever else with raggedy holes in them. Ah, the distressed look. Pardon me. Cosmo gives a primer on the stars rocking this trend.

It certainly follows the whole Walking Dead, Hunger Games Kanye Fashion thing, which he will probably take credit for. One really holey shirt is running a cool $1600… Yeah. Hell naw.

I don’t know about you, but our parents and their parents worked really hard to supply us with good clothes. When they had holes in their clothes, they worked hard to patch them up.

So why are people going around looking like swiss cheese? I know, I sound so old. But, I’m genuinely confused.

Ripped jeans or holes in jeans? I’m down for that all day long. But these struggle swiss cheese shirts? They just look really raggedy.

Does anyone else feel old? What current trends have you shaking your head?

A Mother’s Love Will Transcend Mental Illness

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching and for all of us– whether you have a great relationship with your mom, or you don’t, or she’s passed away or still with us– people take the time to reflect on the power and love of moms.

I think that’s a good thing, because none of us would be here without our mothers (we literally couldn’t live without them for 9 months), and I’m told that becoming a mother is a unique experience that infuses you with a love you’ve never experienced before, but can’t imagine living without once you’ve crossed that threshold.

Mother’s Day is emotional for a lot of people, and for very different reasons, and it should be.

It gives us time to be thankful for not only the women who brought us into the world and cared for us, but all of the women standing in the gap when maybe our own biological mothers couldn’t be mentally or physically present.

It gives us an opportunity to show love to our friends who are mothers and to let them know, “You’re doing a great job, keep it up.”

I tend to feel strange about Mother’s Day because of the situation with my mother. I’ve spoken about this before on this blog, but I want to reach out to children of mothers struggling with mental illness specifically.

Mother’s Day can be difficult, but try to be present and show your love the best way you can. Even if it’s just saying to your mom, “I love you.” Or, “Thank you.” She still needs to hear it.

When I was younger, all I wanted was for my mother to be fixed, healed and back to herself. I wondered if there were ways I could give her a push. I wanted her problems solved, her pains eased, and I wanted to go back to having a normal life. I cared about her, but I cared about me. I cared about what I felt I was lacking because my mom just couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t leave the house, she couldn’t put on her nice clothes and be her old self. She was selfish, I was the child. Why was she putting me in this awful position? I still needed her. I was robbed.

Now that I’m older, I can’t imagine how difficult that must be. For your world to change, to know you have a teenage daughter and a husband and a grown daughter far away, but you are out of gas. You can’t keep up with the life you built for yourself, and maybe that life somehow became a prison. What is it like to not feel like you have a support system to start trying to let people know something’s not right before getting swallowed whole.

I think of arguments I’ve had with my mother and they were always about me and my loss and my anger and what I needed from her. I think of moments where I didn’t try hard enough when she was trying to be present, and how much that probably hurt, because on that day, it was probably the very best she could do, but I was still mad, and that effort wasn’t good enough, because only good enough was her going back to normal. But my vision of normal may have been the hell that broke her. Keeping that up for me and for my father and for everyone else, may have just been too much.

I was very jealous of friends who had close relationships with their mothers, and knew it would be a miracle to ever get my mother out of our house to go to a tea, or spa, or fancy brunch.

I’m madly in love right now (it’s about time, right) and I think of marriage often. I think about my wedding day and I also think about feeling a sense of emptiness on one of the most happiest days of my life, because as I’m getting ready, I will have a circle of women friends and family I hold near and dear, but my mother will be missing from another major life event because of her paranoia, depression and anxiety.

I get sad thinking about my father having to support his child in this moment, but not be able to share it with his wife together as happy, proud parents.

Because it’s Mother’s Day, I don’t want to make this post about me and the loss I feel. But over time, I do feel like I’ve come to accept things for what they are. Keep in mind this has taken nearly 20 years. I accept and understand the fragility of all of our emotional and spiritual well being and there are things we may never ever know about the people we love, the past traumas hidden deep, and burdens our loved ones shoulder to protect us.

I do believe that my mother gave all she could give to me prior to her illness and what she gave me was enough. She got me to 16 and in some ways, she still has me. It’s just different now. I had so many women throughout my life step in and nurture me, guide me and cheer me on, no matter what state I lived in.

They may have been older than me, they may have been peers, they may have been mothers or aunties of my friends who I connected with or who saw something in me to give me some special love.

We are a community. So if you are a child of a mother who has a mental illness, or even dealt with issues around substance abuse, or maybe your mother is incarcerated. These circumstances will make you feel self-conscious about who you are, it will make you afraid that you will become your mother and manage to hurt the people you love the same way her circumstance hurt you, it may even make you ashamed or even over protective of your mother and you stress yourself out over what the world may perceive your mother to be or not be.

Having that struggle is okay. Don’t avoid asking yourself all of those questions, don’t ignore being angry about what’s happening to your family. All of your feelings are real and valid. But it is on you to figure out how to heal and it is on you to actually take the necessary steps to heal.

Now as an adult woman and being a friend to other women and hearing the stories of their lives, there’s absolutely no shame in our moms who struggle. Yes, their struggle is more visible, but they still struggle. Part of my mom’s illness is probably directly connected to her wanting to appear strong and in control and I see that in her when I visit.

I know so many women who have dealt with great losses, who have endured mental and physical abuse (almost always by people who should be protecting and loving them– never creepy strangers as we are led to believe), and have suffered in silence for years and years. Then the expectation is that they forget and carry on as if nothing happened.

They carry this pain while fighting off their own insecurities and the ones tossed at them by society. All of this secret pain happening is happening in far too many women. So it makes me think of our mothers and our mothers’ mothers who lived in very different times. They didn’t go to or couldn’t afford therapy or even luxurious vacations or spa trips. They had to really live with their pain. Swallow it, and be expected to smile, take care of children, grown men and not nurture their own spirits.

The neglect of a woman’s spirit has serious consequences to families and to society.

Our mothers paid in pain so maybe we’d at least have a little less. In their deepest hopes lies our happiness and success, even if they never come close to having it themselves. The generational emotional sacrifices mother’s make can’t even be quantified. Mothers can look down the road and see what’s ahead and they sacrifice themselves to make our journey a bit easier. They know what it is to be a woman, they know the burden.

I know my mother loves me. I know she worries about me and I know she wants me to be happy. She always asks about my health, if I have enough money and if my love life is good. No matter her condition, she’s always asked about what I NEEDED.

Gaining this deeper understanding makes me realize that a mother’s love can transcend mental illness just as it can physical illnesses or distance. We may never know the toughest decisions our mothers had to make to save us, to keep us alive and to keep our spirits alive so we could thrive and know something better, even if their lives are a reminder of the importance of our self care and our mental health.

You’re Trippin, He’s Not A Racist. Enjoy Your Vacation, Girl.

I hate to admit it, but I often have myself on high alert in public spaces to see how people treat each other and treat me.

This alert has heightened since using public transportation everyday, where passive aggressive behavior and social/class/racial warfare by way of microaggressions happen as naturally as breathing.

There’s the hierarchy of who goes first, who takes up space and who should make themselves smaller. Empty seats next to other humans on crowded trains and the quiet refusal to just sit down.

I’m particularly interested in how these things play out when I’m traveling. I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Jamaica, I got some rest, I made incredible memories with my amazing boyfriend and I got to experience a culture and a world different from my own. Food was awesome, water and sunshine was a balm to my soul.

I always appreciate traveling within countries that are tied to the Black diaspora, because I still feel at home. The folks working in the hotels and during the tours seem to have a certain familiarity and even if they are playing it up for better tips, they successfully increase my comfort level and I tip generously. I get hookups.

I recently read a story about a black man from Zimbabwe visiting a posh hotel in Uganda who jumped into a pool to enjoy it like the other guests. The white guests left the pool immediately. He posted a pic to social media and said that it was nice to have the pool to himself so it was their loss. Others have lamented that it’s absolutely odd to go to a country of black folks, have no problem with said black people in service roles, but all exit the pool when a black person who appears to be on or above your socio economic level is enjoying the same experience as you.

A moment I had at the beautiful Dunns River Falls totally came to mind.

Like the man from Zimbabwe, I was determined to not let someone’s ignorance ruin the extraordinary experience, and I even waited to tell my boyfriend later.

Our tour group was nearly 40 strong.

The first part of our day, we’d play in the freshwater of Dunns River Falls, take photos then off to Usain Bolt’s restaurant Tracks and Records for lunch and then we’d wind through the highest of hills to visit the home and final resting place of Bob Marley.

Our travel companions collected from hotels all over Montego Bay came from various parts of the globe: Americans, Canadians, English and German.

A key part of ascending Dunns River Falls is forming a human chain by holding hands to make the 600 foot climb. Our tour guides were full of energy, ready to serve as cameramen, cheerleaders and occasional spotters as we navigated the rocks, and shallow pools serving as resting areas and places to pose for pics and play.

The guides arranged us boy girl, boy girl, so men could help the women behind them. Cool. At first it’s awkward holding the hand of a stranger, but we all came for the same experience. So people loosened up, especially if they had a slip or two in the water, the hand you held was indeed a life-saver.

For most of the trip, the gentleman in front of me was a pleasant guy, who was traveling with his girlfriend. They were Americans. He was happy to support me and help me up, while my boyfriend was behind me. We all laughed while taking funny pictures at the different stopping points and all was well.

Somehow the order of our group changed up toward the end. This time, a German couple was ahead of me. There were natural points where the group began to link hands to climb tricky areas, but this new arrangement changed up. The group started to link hands again and I was about to reach forward to take the German man’s hand. Just as I had done with the fellow American ahead of me.

He never looked back.

I waited.

He started awkwardly rubbing his head or stretching his fingers or using both hands to help his lady, until I started climbing on my own or turned to my boyfriend.

I tried to think of every semi logical reason to eliminate what I already knew it was.

Maybe my slim, five-foot-nine, usually pleasant, quiet demeanor boyfriend made him anxious about touching me?

Maybe he is an Orthodox Jew? They do not touch women. Ha.

Ok, I had to laugh at myself for that one. Hell naw.

He continued to avoid looking at me, as I climbed the rocks super carefully. I missed my original partner who was further up the group, oblivious and helping others just the same as he helped me throughout our climb. At this point, behind me, my boyfriend was dutifully helping some other American women who were a bit heavy navigate the rocks.

So, I kept climbing, and muttered to myself that I didn’t need him, or his funky assistance and I was glad not to touch him due to some hideous rash on his back anyway.

And then, I gleefully took more photos and kissed my boyfriend under a waterfall.

I waited till much later to tell my boyfriend, and he told me to not let it get to me and that we were going to have a great time and you gotta let stuff like that roll off your back.

But I’m very interested in social science. I wondered out loud how a white person could go to a country of black people, have no problem with the folks serving them. They smile, laugh and make jokes, but then have cold interactions, ignore or even cut other black patrons in the lines without a second thought? My boyfriend just shook his head.

My boyfriend and I purchased the video of our climb. And we laughed at ourselves while watching it. We bragged that we were the best looking couple and made the video great. But whenever the camera turned to the German man, I saw something that speaks to that phenomenon. The same man who avoided touching my hand, neglecting to offer me any assistance despite the language barrier was suddenly someone else who I didn’t get to encounter. In the video, the German man happily parroted back phrases like “ya mon” and “I love Jamaica” and “No Problem” on que and high-fiving the black tour guide and mugging for the black photographer,  I couldn’t help but feel bothered.

Maybe he can’t touch women.

Maybe my boyfriend was scary.

Maybe I’m too sensitive.

 

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