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Archive for the tag “self care”

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.

I Want to Scoop Ice Cream in the Caribbean Too!

I have been really intrigued by a woman who has been on the news and all over social media for quitting a 90k salary job in New York City, and leaving it all behind to work in an ice cream shop in the Caribbean.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you will wonder why you are killing yourself in the rat race of everyday life and be tempted to do the same. But you start talking yourself out of it.
You say, that kind of life isn’t for me.
I’ll be far away from family and friends, and airline tickets don’t come cheap.
I’ll miss the mall and all of my favorite places to eat and shop.
People in the Caribbean move too slow, it would eventually drive me crazy.
What would I do? Almost everyone is in the hospitality industry!
I visited the Cayman Islands last year with my cousin and best friend. My best friend is a nurse, and our tour guide happily took detours to show hospitals and new health centers to recruit and lure my friend to work there, because they are always looking for medical professionals.
I half-jokingly asked if she wouldn’t mind driving by the local newspaper, didn’t they need another writer or editor???
My best friend was actually considering it. Who wouldn’t?
I’m jealous of that woman, but not for the obvious reasons. I’m jealous because she had the guts to do what most of us joke and say we’ll do, but never do because of fear.
That woman went out and got exactly what she wanted and she’s happier. She took a risk. She did something outside of what most people would consider the norm. Through a very limited lens, people believe being 31 with a $95,000 salary is having it all. As she explains, in her article, in NYC, that’s a base salary to live a comfortable existence. And I’ve even said, I would never move to NYC for a job for less than $90k. It’s a complete waste and I’d be totally stressed just trying to simply live.

It’s another message to me that success isn’t measured in money, and happiness surely isn’t either. And while we are always concentrating on negotiating for more money, we neglect to negotiate for our happiness. We put hard lines on how much we expect to earn according to our skills and talents, but we don’t tell potential employers, or lovers or ourselves, what our non-negotiables are for our peace of mind and our joy. We don’t ever really take the time to sit around thinking about what truly makes us happy and how to incorporate that into our lives without feeling guilty about it. Why do we equate happiness with friviolity or even selfishness? Happiness is the first thing to go last on the list for some reason, meanwhile the things that make us happy can make us mentally and physically healthier and it should be a much higher priority.
Most of us are working ourselves to death in thankless jobs, for companies who will replace us if we choose to leave or up and die. They just do. A friend of mine told me about a colleague who just dropped dead while working out. This man was in his 40s, and the company wasted no time in finding his replacement shortly after his memorial service. So, companies have goals and priorities and bottom lines, and so should we. Even Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital has to start looking for a new neurosurgeon, post McDreamy… booo.
Stretching ourselves to make it to each weekend or even better, a 3-day holiday weekend is a sad existence.
I think about how hard my parents worked, and how my dad is in his 60s and isn’t even thinking about retiring. He likes working, but he doesn’t feel financially secure enough to stop because well he helped put me and my sister through college, as well as paid for medical bills for my mom.
While I can appreciate the work ethic that was handed down to me, I am not a fan of generational work yourself in the groundness that got passed to me too.
This is why I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in recent years to take what I call “Real Vacations.”
We’re drowned out by the sounds of our bills and things we believe we have to do first, before we can experience… well life. And I’m sick of it.
Maybe I can’t run off to the Caribbean… well I could, it’s just really scary. But, it’s time to take control of the pleasure in my life in smaller ways.
Allow yourself the time to do things you like to do, and take in the beauty of where you live.
I’ve been making more frequent spa trips. I like visiting local parks and botanical gardens, I’d like to check out some of Maryland and Virginia’s wineries. I want to visit some of the beaches in Delaware and North Carolina. I’ve been looking at bed and breakfasts online.
I’m not saying go out and make huge life changes on a whim. This woman did her research, she asked people questions about what kind of transition this would be and then she was realistic about how her life was going to change. Then she went for it.

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