Jealous.

Looking back, I realize I used to be a very jealous person. The way I thought of people was influenced by my desire to have things that other people had whether that be confidence, love, money…Then one day, I decided that was wack!

You can’t spread joy and have a jealous mind at the same time. What’s unfortunate, though, is you have to be extra careful about your interactions with people of the same sex.

As a woman, I know I should work twice as hard to uplift other women, but it’s not always my reflex. Consider the two types of women, other women meet when they go out: the women who come up to you and say, “you look so cute!” and mean it and then, the women who look at you, frown, and then look past you. While we can agree the latter is a hater, we don’t always try to act like the former.

But I’m here to say now, it’s worth the effort.

Now, when I see someone being awesome, I remind myself that we’re not in competition–we can all win together. I try to compliment others when I can, I smile at other women, and congratulate them when they get opportunities–even if I would have loved the same opportunity.

The best feeling is when I disarm someone whose reflex is to be on the defensive. They get this look in their eye like, “Word? We’re cool?” and I get super geeked, because I’m about to force them into friendship.

Actually, this is the best feeling–when someone you would’ve envied, challenges you to be a better person. When you look at someone and say, “Damn, they’re doing good,” but then you learn from them. And then, something else magical happens. You realize how much you have to offer yourself.

The National Anthem.

Once upon a time, I went to a baseball game. It was early in the game so I had to stand for the national anthem. No biggie to many. For me it made my back itch.

This was after Colin Kaepernick was called a mouthful of disgusting names for kneeling during the National Anthem, but before the media noticed that he went unsigned due as a result of his peaceful protest.

On this particular day I was in the standing section, but happened to be sitting when they called for everyone to stand. I played the odds and stayed sitting. I imagine the percentage of African-Americans at a baseball game is lower than the percentage of African-Americans at my alma mater, Miami University, but I still took a chance that I would escape trouble by minding my own business. One of my friends noticed and reminded me to stand, as if I forgot.

What’s frustrating to me is that the same people who rally for the flag, veterans, police officers, and dogs, can’t do the same for everyday people. It puzzles me that there’s so much honor in serving one’s country, but so little value in the people in the country. It’s unfathomable to look away when the flag is waving, but killing a child within less than a minute of encountering him with a toy gun is sufficient grounds for his death.

I wish more people could stomach Michael Eric Dyson because he may have said it best. He says there’s a difference between nationalism and patriotism. He describes nationalism as “the uncritical celebration of one’s nation regardless of its moral or political virtue.” Patriotism, on the other hand, is “the belief in the best values of one’s country, and the pursuit of the best means to realize those values.” If you can agree with these definitions then you have to consider the possibility that Kaepernick is more patriotic than than the man who blindly says salute the flag and all law enforcement, even when the law is used to neglect, disenfranchise, or oppress its own citizens.

So often we elevate symbols above values. A flag, a badge, a declaration, a constitution. What about freedom from oppression? What about ‘deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’? What about the ‘right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances’?

I can’t lie and say I wasn’t motivated by resentment when I sat at that baseball game. It almost felt like a dare – will you hate me for disrespecting your symbols? Do you really expect me to hold holy a song that was written when my ancestors were considered less than human?

Under my resentment lies a genuine belief that there are things more honorable than false worship: the kind of checks and balances that empower you to investigate your nation’s President, the priceless value of a human life, religious freedoms and the protection of said freedoms, using your power and influence to promote positive change. I can honestly say I’m grateful to the men and women who risk their lives everyday enforcing the freedoms we enjoy in this country while also admitting that there are many things that do not and have not made this country great.

On Memorial Day, I went to a baseball game and I stood for the national anthem. On that day, the gratitude I felt for the men and women who serve was greater than the point I needed to make about injustices in this country. That doesn’t mean I’ll continue to stand without question.

The other day I saw a wonderful post deconstructing patriotism, written by a German man named Jens Böttiger. It read as follows:

Germans ARE patriotic.

In American you show patriotism by attaching a full size US flag on your pickup truck (Or confederate flag for alternative patriotism), singing the anthem before every baseball game, and sending 18 year olds to Iraq so you can later thank them for their service when they roll by you in their wheelchair in Walmart.

In Germany we show patriotism by voting for higher taxes on ourselves to make healthcare and college tuition universally accessible to our less fortunate fellow citizens, and by picking up after one another to keep public spaces clean and nice for everyone.

I guess it gets lost in translation.

I guess I could’ve skipped my whole post and just shared his words. It’s amazing how others can see so clearly what we cannot.

Vanity or…?

Today I looked in the mirror for the gazillionth time and asked myself if I was pretty. Not out loud in the obvious way, but subtle in the way I checked my legs, my stomach, and the broadness of my shoulders. In my mind I wondered if my upper body was getting too masculine and if my weakness for food was going to overwhelm my figure.

Reality says I’m 5’3″ with long legs, a shorter torso, and a weight that puts me in a BMI range that almost counts as underweight. But I’m human. I drink, I fight (and get defeated by) cravings, I battle the bloat, and then compare myself to celebrities on their best days.

There’s a part of me watching myself criticize myself. It’s like watching a train coming, but just sitting on the tracks thinking how great it would be if you just stepped on the gas. I want to stop, but years of conditioning has made self-criticism a reflex and self-esteem hard work. In some ways, it’s paid off – I make sacrifices to stay in shape so I don’t have to look in the mirror and really hate myself. In many ways, it’s been totally destructive.

Sometimes my mom catches me looking in the mirror and feeds my insecurities. “You could tighten that up.” “You need to work on that area.” Or simply, “Get out of the mirror.” I’m sure she doesn’t realize that what appears to be vanity is practice. I’m practicing affirming my self-worth by facing the mirror and taking pride in what I’ve accomplished instead of criticizing what I can do better.

When I look in the mirror I’m noticing the dark circles under my eyes, the split ends haloing my head, and the lack of curves from my hips to my waist, but I’m telling myself I look stunning when I smile. Or that my legs are beasty. Or that my abs are really coming through. Maybe people think those are the things I think about naturally. I wish that was my actual soundtrack.

I’m trying to figure out where the line is between self-love and self-hate. Two things that seem so very different actually work together like pedals of a bicycle. The things I hate in myself motivate me to becomes slimmer, healthier so that I can feel more confident and in love with myself. But what if I was motivated by my confidence? How much more could I accomplish?

 

Plain old bullshit.

You know what’s annoying and overused? The expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Just stop it.

Along the same lines, fuck the expression, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” I will eat my cake and still save all the parts that have my name written on it if I damn well please.

But this is a post about lemons. Let’s take a moment to dive into what’s really being said here.

For one, it implies that lemons suck. First of all, lemons are fucking awesome. I love lemons. Lemons in my water, lemons in my tea, lemons on my chicken. What’s so bad about lemons? If you need a food that accurately embodies all the shit that life throws your way, you’ll have to try harder. What about mushrooms, artichokes, or olives? Or something that we can all agree on: liver? *Shudder.*

The reality is lemons are easy to dress up. If my life’s problems were as easy to make awesome as lemons are, we wouldn’t need a bullshit expression to feel better about them.

The phrase also suggests that there’s an upside to every situation. Now, I have heard many inspirational stories of people using their personal trauma to testify and uplift others in similar situations, but let’s be honest for a moment. Ideally, the shitty shit never would’ve happened. If a shark eats my arm and I survive, I’m still gonna think, “Damn, it would’ve been nice if I got to live with both of my arms.”

Okay, let’s dive even deeper. What does it take to make lemonade? First, you have to juice your lemons which requires a lot of manual labor or an electric juicer. That’s already a red flag. If you have an electric juicer, life’s already easier for you, you lucky motherfucker, you. Then, you have to get a lot of sugar. Where is the sugar coming from? What if I have diabetes?

You know what’s better than making lemons into lemonade? Wine. Wine is better. If you’ve got lemons, just throw them away.

 

Be still.

Today was a rough day. The usual stuff, you know. Not enough sleep. Not enough sun. Constant rain. Bullshit problems at work. By 10am I was frazzled, by 2pm I was pissed, and by 4pm I was ranting and leaving work early.

When my mom gets like that I tell her she should meditate. Today I had to laugh, because I realized how wild the idea of meditating is when all your nerves are jumping.

The hardest thing about meditating is convincing yourself to be still.

I wanted to rant. I want to rave. I wanted to punch. I wanted to do anything and everything to release energy rather than sit on my floor, close my eyes, and listen to a soothing stranger’s voice. But you know what? I did it anyways.

I think about this one book I read, The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein, and think that’s what motivates me. There’s one part of the book where she describes feeling anxious and snappy and all types of out of sorts. But then she tells her husband, “I’ll be back in a bit,” and she goes somewhere out of the way, meditates, and comes back feeling easy breezy. Some might read this and be like, “Oh, that sounds like some bullshit, but I felt nothing but curiosity. Could it really be that easy?

I had to try it. The very next time I felt aggravated beyond recognition, I decided to sit down, turn on the Simple Habit app, and do nothing else.

That. Shit. Worked.

So today when I thought about skipping the meditation, I said, “Nah, let’s do this.” I sat down in the middle of my living room floor – my pup Cleo sat next to me – and I turned on the app. There was a convenient meditation for that “after work” feeling. I hit it, and the breathing began.

Mind you, this meditation was only five minutes, but two minutes into breathing in and breathing out, I started to feel real distant from the day’s earlier bullshit. Midway came the part where the teacher acknowledges that you’re probably still thinking about what happened earlier in the day (and some of what you have to do later). That part always irritates me because it’s true, but I try really hard to pretend it’s not happening. But then I actively remind myself to focus on breathing instead of reflecting.

If you get really, really serious about the breathing part, it’s a bit difficult to focus on anything else and you’re left with just this “present” feeling. Like, “I am me and you are he and you are we and we are all together.” That feeling.

The last couple minutes are my favorite. That’s when I get good at imagining myself floating on a beach with the sunlight warming my skin. Sometimes, at the end, I picture myself getting filled with light – that’s supposed to drive out all the dark feelings – and I just start cheesing. I think that what they mean where they use the word exalted.

So, yeah, I’m doing pretty good right now. Tomorrow’s another day, yesterday is gone, but I don’t have to deal with either right now, so I don’t. Maybe you’ll give it a try. 🙂

Garden on fleek.

Happy Tuesday! In case anyone was wondering, I finally got some plants in the ground. Yes – a row of spinach and a row of cabbage! I am geeked beyond explanation and I just want to take this moment to thank my ninjas, without whom this wouldn’t be possible.

For those used to disappointment (myself), asking for help can be like scheduling a dentist appointment (something I’m getting better at); often we’d rather suffer and exacerbate things instead of taking steps to make things easier. Why? Mostly because we’re afraid of what will happen when we ask for help. Will I have to hear how terrible I am at life? Will it cost money? Will it require splitting my gums open with a sharp instrument while my jaw is clamped open? Maybe, but in the end it’s for the best. In the case of my gardening project, absolutely for the best.

First, I’d like to thank the lady from the productivity workshop who made me write down all the tasks in my little gardening project and set deadlines. Because I wrote it down, I had until the end of the weekend to buy my gardening supplies. Do or die. At 5pm Sunday, the pressure was on. Unfortunately, I reaaaaallly didn’t want to drive to the store…

Which brings me to the second person I need to thank: my mother. Instead of driving to the store, I spent 15 minutes whining to my mother about how I didn’t feel like going to the store. Surprisingly, my mom was sympathetic (yes, this is a surprise) and told me to get dressed so we could go. She drove me to Home Depot, walked me to the soil section, found the organic stuff, and then – here’s the really good part – walked to checkout. For me this is huge. I totally expected to spend an extra hour looking at dishwashers, refrigerators, cleaning supply or some other shit we didn’t need, but that my mom suddenly found really interesting. For not doing that, she’s the real MVP.

The next person I need to thank is my work friend, Mike, who totally took one for the team. Monday after the shopping was done, I went into work like, “Anyone wanna help me garden later?”. My one friend (now a former friend) started looking at his feet, but for some reason Mike was like, “Sure,” and I was like, “OMG. You’re amazing.” Later that day, this sucker– I mean– great guy helped me carry tools to my raised bed, got his fingers dirty digging holes, and taught me how to spread potting soil. I had asked the right guy too, because he’d actually done it before; he wasn’t just bullshitting.

Fifteen minutes later, it was done. I couldn’t fucking believe it.

Well, it’s not actually done. Now I need someone to help make sure my plants don’t die. One step at a time…

Wonder woman.

My favorite bit of advice to give people is “you can’t do everything.” Unfortunately, there’s also an accurate saying that goes, “those that can’t do teach.” Knowing this, you should “do as I say and not as I do.” Even though I try to be all things at all times, realistically, you’ve got to prioritize your life and allow the lower priority things to fall into place when they’re meant to. As in, later.

The other day my brother was listing off all these things he needed to do and I got dizzy just listening to it. He listed about seven different non-occupational projects and almost forgot to mention being a husband, father, son, and brother. I can honestly say that I have full confidence that he can do everything he sets his mind to, but I had to tell him to chill. Do it all, rule the world if you want, just not all at once, right now. At least if you want to stay sane. Eventually everyone reaches a point where they realize they’ve been stretched too thin to do any one thing well and if you can’t do it well, why do it?

As I say this I’m thinking that I really should’ve backed out of this whole gardening thing I got going. I was trying to be an engaged team member and participate in the garden at work, but I don’t know shit about gardening. A little voice in my head said, “this is a great opportunity to learn” and another little voice said,”it’ll be fulfilling” while the teeny tiny voice going “abandon ship now” got drowned out.

So, there I sat in this gardening meeting, learning about all the things I would be responsible for, tricking myself into thinking I could handle it all. Now I am only filled with regret. I don’t know which side of the farmer’s almanac is up, what the magic tool is to turn on the water faucet, or what to do with the plants once I tuck them in a warm dirt embrace. The last time I had a plant I couldn’t tell if I was watering the wrong part, watering it too much, or watering it too little. Long story short, it died.

There’s a certain amount of unnecessary stress and strain that comes with feeling obligated to do something that’s low on your list of priorities. I think three is the maximum number of things that you should prioritize each day. Three. Naturally, I have five things: exercise, meditate, read, write, and be happy (a special category for cooking dinner, watching baseball, milking happy hour, and going to the movies). It’s basically like being in college and wanting to get straight As while also enjoying “the experience,” except there’s no expiration and your friends are all far away. Sad face. The point is, gardening doesn’t fit into my list!

Don’t be like me. I repeat, don’t be like me. Say “no” a few times a day. Take a “sick” day before you get too sick to enjoy it. Start a business while still getting eight hours of sleep. Change plans when you don’t feel like it. Because life is too short to be wonder woman all the time.

 

 

Be a bitch.

I have a friend who always feels bad when she’s “being such a bitch.” If you’re like her, I want you to open yourself up to receive this message: being nice is fucking hard. Being a bitch or an asshole means letting how you feel just roll off the tongue. Being nice is exercising the self-control to bite back how you feel in favor of the greater good.

For example, I invited my friend to go hiking with me. He told me there was no reason he shouldn’t go. The very next day I sent him a message, I said “Coming hiking?”. (The fact I even had to ask means I knew what it was.) And this dude says, “No I had a rough day.”

Do you think my first thought, was “Awww, what’s wrong, buddy?” Nah. My first thought was, “Well fuck you then, this is why I don’t invite people places.” Fortunate for him, we were messaging so I had time to stop myself, think about what I should say, and type a nice message. “Hope your day gets better.”

Now he probably thinks I’m a nice person because I invited him and acted gracious when he dumped me, but no. Now you know the truth. I’m a bitch and I have to work really hard to make sure people don’t know it.

I’m not the only one though. I’ve met people who seem nice as pie and manage to endure bullshit with this face that seems to say, “Yes, I really do care.” Their lips are curled just enough not to seem robotic, their expression is clear and their eyes don’t even twitch. But then later you talk to them and they’re just like, “Man, that was some bullshit. I was pissed.” I love when this happens.

Sometimes I just amuse myself trying to determine how big of an asshole a person truly is. One of the higher ups at my job gets bullshit tossed at her on a regular basis and she just sits there. You never really know what she’s thinking, but I’ve gotta imagine that there’s a place she goes to be honest with herself and lose her shit.

Therefore, I feel that we should embrace our inner bitch when it doesn’t hurt anyone. I invite all my friends to tell me about that thing that pissed them off, that person they were about to check, or that petty revenge plot they daydream about when the going gets rough.

We should be awe-inspired when someone says we’re nice because not being an asshole is fucking hard. We should pat ourselves on the back for these times and then shrug and say, “it is what it is” when we fall short. Sometimes a “bitch” is the realest, motherfucking thing you can be. And as Shakespeare would say, “To thine own self be true.” Or as DJ Khaled might say , “They don’t want us to be real.” Or as I say, “Be true to yourself.”

If I had a million dollars.

What would you do with a million dollars? Have you really thought about it? Don’t worry, this isn’t a sales pitch, I’m just thinking. My thoughts used to end at “bomb ass house and a couple vacations,” but today I decided I’d do the same I would do in the event of the zombie apocalypse, fund a library.

Yep, I basically want to be the new Andrew Carnegie. I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the past year. In the event of the zombie apocalypse, half of my skills and possessions will become obsolete, but I’ll have to offer my neighbors something in exchange for space in their basement. I love my dog, too, so I can’t let them eat her or anything. I’ve gotta share my books. This can be the only reason why I feel compelled to spend so much money on books instead of just borrowing them from the library.

Besides, when the apocalypse comes, all the legit libraries and bookstores will be the first buildings to fall to ruin. They’ll need my knowledge. It’ll be like the Book of Eli where everybody wants the Bible, except I’m not memorizing shit. All the knowledge you seek will be in my living room.

I only buy the dopest books anyways. The ones with the bright covers that make you feel like you’re one with the Universe because you see them everywhere and everyone says good things about them. The books that are on the must read list for every legitimate reader you know. When you go on Goodreads, the book is just like “all 50 of your friends have rated this five stars.” Those books.

In the event of the apocalypse, my bookshelf will look like a collection of rare and priceless artifacts, but in case that never happens and I instead make a million, I’ll need to make a bomb ass library to have a similar impact. I need my collection to look like the library of Alexandria, except flame retardant.

So maybe I’ll be like Ptolemy. I just want people to learn and catch good vibes from good books.

My seven truths (sat nam).

This manifesto is a work in progress as am I. There are certain things that I know to be true, at least for now.

First, I believe in a higher power. I haven’t determined whether that is God or the Universe, but most of my teachers haven’t decided one way or the other, so why should I?  I believe what matters, though, is that we have faith and strive to connect with it everyday whether that be through prayer, meditation, or simply being a dope ass individual.

Second, I believe that the most important thing I learned in school was how to learn. School doesn’t prepare you for half the shit you have to do on a day-to-day basis and you know what I mean: writing emails, filing taxes, asking for a raise. I don’t remember half the dates, data, formulas, or vocab words I was taught, but “I bet I can add up all the change in your purse very fast.” But seriously, the one thing my brain did pick up on was how to think critically and that’s gotten me everywhere.

Third, money can buy you happiness. This is a complete 180 from who I was three years ago, and if you disagree with me, I won’t argue with you. I’ve been there, I get. But the person I am today needs to supply my own basic needs, and food, shelter, and peace of mind all require money. I have a pretty awesome job and a roof over my head, but there are still some days when I go into work like, “why the fuck do I have to do this?” The obvious answer, is because, “I don’t have the money to make my own schedule.” When you’re financially free, the answer changes.

Fourth, positive thought will get you everywhere. An idea paired with desire leads to action which leads to results. There are no impossibilities, just things you don’t want badly enough. I want to be like Henry Ford or Thomas Edison – so confident in my dreams that no amount of hardship or failure can keep me from attaining them.

Fifth, I’m my own best friend. I used to say this repeatedly ages ago and it was completely void of meaning. I would proclaim that I loved myself and then seek validation from others and get upset when I didn’t receive it. I’m not at a point where I’ve completely shaken the desire, and I’m not sure I ever will be, but I do know now that I’m responsible for my life. If I want something, I have to go get it. If I’m afraid of something, I have to conquer my fear. If no one else will believe in me, I will.

Sixth, the key to a long, healthy life, is conquering the mind, body, and soul. Every day I strive to eat a balanced diet, exercise, and connect with my spirit. One of the craziest things to me is that I went from hating yoga to loving it. I wasn’t always in a place where I could enjoy yoga, but now I find myself using words like shavasana across the conference table at work. Then again, shavasana is the best thing since child’s pose.

My seventh truth is perhaps the hardest to practice – stay true to yourself. This is extremely difficult for me, and not because I’m a complex individual (I’ve accepted this). What I can’t figure out is if that voice in my head telling me to stop or go is my heart, my brain, my ego, my inner child, my subconscious, conscious, ancestors, or God. If I figure this out, though, I’ll probably be one badass motherfucker. I mean I am already, but imagine the things I could do!

If you want to get to know me, this is a great place to start, but to stay up-to-date you’ll have to keep reading. 😉