I Never Said We Weren’t Human

It has been almost three weeks since my original post detailing how some of us introverts are fairing in these weird and scary times. You may be wondering if we’re still singing the same tune given that people have lost track of what day it is and now find that checking the mail is a welcomed relief. Well, I’m here to tell you that many of us are likely still doing okay, but we’ve had to double down on showing ourselves kindness. Humans aren’t particularly good at that. We have to make an intentional effort to halt the negative self talk, relax our personal criticisms and judgment, and stay aligned with the present.

I know many are craving the opportunity to resume face-to-face interaction and to move around town, which is all for good reason. I can’t wait to go to a restaurant again whether it’s a local spot without the frills or a place with menu items I’ve never heard of before. It’s simple…I like food. And I like dining. I don’t need cloth napkins, but I do need a break from my kitchen! When world order is restored, I’ll be at somebody’s restaurant! Before I descend into my sustenance rabbit hole, here’s what I’ve had to do to level my love of solitude with these eerie circumstances and reconcile the fact that I am indeed still human:

I’ve started to temper my angst to create with coloring. I have a propensity to devise new ideas and ride the waves of my imagination. Some of these ideas I’ve executed in real time. You’re now viewing a site of what started as an idea. But, I’ve found that more reflective time has initiated undue pressure about a need to produce. Instead of allowing that anxiety to go too far, I circled back to an old pastime where the only thing I decide is the color pattern I’ll use to bring someone else’s sketch to life. Color. Sharpen. Repeat.

I read a few pages of my book in the middle of the day. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay motivated and focused as the work day progresses. I find that when I put it all down and channel energy toward something that takes me out of a monotonous mental space, I can hop back into what I’m working on with a new attitude. This is likely the way I’m coping with increased work video conferences. Sheesh. That’s a whole thing.

I try especially hard to curb negative thoughts. Several years ago I took a class at my church that was modeled after Joyce Meyer’s book, Battlefield of the Mind. That class and that book changed my life! I remember our instructor saying, “no thought should go unchecked.” I never forgot it, because I recognized how much I criticized and judged myself harshly with my thoughts. If you were to look up “overanalyze” in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of me cheesing. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve played out in my head with the worst endings almost as if good wasn’t possible. Nowadays that’s easier to do because there’s more time for inner dialogue. The minute I find myself going there, I try to shift my brain to gratefulness. That can be in a prayer, a mantra, or even a message to someone saying what I appreciate about them. Moral of the story…even if we don’t share the same religious or spiritual beliefs, how and what we think matters.

I accept when it’s a hard day and do what I want. That part of doing what I want has meant that I’ve curled up on my couch all day watching HGTV, slept, made an extra cup of coffee, or drank a glass of wine. Let’s be clear….not being able to go anywhere is hard no matter if you’re an extrovert, introvert, ambivert, or simply put…human! There have been times when I don’t have much to give besides gratitude for a safe home, my health, and resources. And in case no one told you, that is okay. Why guilt ourselves and each other into believing that every day is butterflies and rainbows? Nope! It’s challenging. It’s disheartening. It’s annoying. It’s unjust. And I still want to go to a restaurant with my friends and leave home without feeling like I need to rush back although I recognize both are privileges. I wrestle with my reality in comparison to others who are risking their lives every day and can’t stay home because of their work, lack of housing, and so much more.

I spend time talking to people I love. Some have been quick phone calls and others have been 2+ hour FaceTime chats. I’ve seen everything from Badu hair wraps at 10 a.m. to the making of vegan mushroom pasta while chatting with family and friends. Nothing tops my godson using my cousin’s body as his personal jungle gym while also trying to show me his loose tooth. Because kids…will be kids! I can’t say that I’m participating in regular virtual happy hours, however I’m still making space to be present in people’s lives.

And because water is life, I’m drinking more of it…with lemon. And occasionally with mint. Not because I’m trying to be fancy…mainly because I need a citrus catalyst to keep my skin glow and curb my snacking antics. Plus, it tastes better! #hydrate

When I consider it all, I’m hopeful…alive…blessed. Together, we will persevere no matter our personality traits or how we generate and restore energy. Keep being you. Keep being human. And keep being safe.

Hope: to expect with confidence

 

 

 

Find Yourself An Introvert: We Are Okay

I never thought I’d be living in a time when being an introvert would be valuable. Most people move about every day without noticing how loud the world really is. Because let’s be honest…society was built for extroverts. We construct events, gatherings, workplaces, curricula, sports, and basically everything to help our fellow extroverted friends thrive. Meanwhile the community that fancies quiet, solitude, tranquility, and whatever corner we can find to reflect must figure out how to keep our sanity in tact when we’d rather not talk, brunch, network, or video conference. But, during a time when we’re all being called to “social distance” for the greater good, I feel like my introversion prevails! Despite the horrible circumstances, the introverts are winning out here right now, because most of our friends have no idea how they’re going to make it through consecutive days of little to no in-person human interaction. Because I’ve been practicing how to engage only as necessary for a good chunk of my life, I thought I’d share how I maximize and enjoy my alone time on a daily basis. A few tips from your forced extrovert but seriously introverted friend on getting through:

Be thankful. You’d be amazed how much you have that you haven’t taken the time to acknowledge or appreciate. Whether you pause to think about it or write it down, there’s peace that comes with the act. It’ll stick with you when you’re able to stroll the streets again among your fellow extroverts and must refrain from addressing irrational behavior. Get some peace on reserve now! I have a grateful jar that I add to throughout the year. I read them all before the start of the new year.

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I’m the one with all the Post-its!

Be still. Sometimes I’ll sit on my couch and close my eyes. I love to be one with silence. I’m also known to ride in my car in silence…with eyes wide open of course. Stillness awakens you to your surroundings. It’s also an opportunity to commune with your spirituality. I often use these moments to talk and pray to God. That fosters wholeness and alignment within my soul. Plus, when you stop you can also hear nature. All of this helps me to appreciate the experience of existence.

Cut off social media for a day or two. The noisiest place we visit every day is the Internet! Picking up our phones, tablets, and laptops is such a habit that 20 minutes goes by and we’ve consumed a heap of information, memes, GIFs, and philosophical declarations from our high school and college classmates that we probably haven’t had an actual conversation with in a decade. The Internet is not all bad, but in our current times, it’s probably not ideal to constantly remain connected. It’s. too. much. Give your mind, eyes, and worries a break. And in the sage words of Congresswoman Auntie Maxine, “reclaim your time!”

In a similar vein, stop watching the news repeatedly. While I value freedom of the press and knowing what’s going on around me, the amount of good news you hear in a news cycle is almost nonexistent. Imagine someone coming to your house every day just to tell you that nothing is right and nothing is ever going to be right. That’s the narrative you’re consuming every time you tune in. It’s heavy. It’s depressing. And it’ll make you eat far too much cake, cookies, and chocolate. I do love a sweet, but health is wealth. The point is that you become what you consume. If you don’t want to feel negative and uninspired, then limit the news watching and listening, especially before bed. Since when do we request nightmares? I read The Skimm every morning. You can too. You don’t need hoursssss of all the bad. A daily digest will do.

Watch a show, movie, TED Talk, or YouTube video. I can watch HGTV for hours and never get tired of seeing lackluster homes transformed into something that I can only afford to recreate on my Pinterest boards. It’s an obsession and therapy for me all at the same time. “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Intern,” and “Hitch,” are on regular TV every other week and a few of my favorite movies that never get old. There’s also no shortage of TED Talks to pique your interest or expand your perspectives. Similar to how you can watch one video on YouTube (like James Corden’s Carpool Karoke) and then have a never-ending list of related videos, TED is with the algorithms too. Luvvie’s talk is so good and one that I was fortunate to see live! It still blows my mind that God made a way for me to be in that theatre! God also knows I love her life message and spirit, so He later created the opportunity for me to meet her in-person at a local event! Ahhh..inspiration. But anywho…discover your digital delight and get lost in it for a while. Know that you probably won’t have expert detective skills because you’ve seen every episode of “Law & Order.” You will know the show’s instrumental though. Dun dun.

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Me with the NYT Best-Selling Author and Side-Eye Sorceress

Write. A letter. A card. A poem. A list. Your book that doesn’t yet exist. A note in your journal. A blog post. Write something to get what’s in your head and on your heart outlined on paper. An iPad or tablet also gets the job done if you’re too technologically cultured for the basic writing tools. But, if you’re in the office supply fanatic club with me, consider this an opportunity to use your overwhelming colorful pen collection. Fun fact: I once spent 4 hours in one of the biggest stationery stores in the world! My happy place on Earth! You can see some of it here.

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Me standing next to a giant pen

Organize something. It can be a folder, a drawer (you know…the one where you stash all the mail you never opened), your work bag, or if you’re feeling really ambitious go for a closet. While this isn’t necessarily a task that all introverts enjoy, it can spur motivation in small doses. Even if you’re a neat freak, you can find a project. I’ve already rearranged my bathroom cabinet and cosmetic containers. Next up is the t-shirt drawer! Why do we still always have so many?

Curate a playlist of your favorite artists and songs. Too lazy to do that, listen to someone else’s. Music has a way of centering you. It speaks to all of us in different ways and also awakens the creative side of the brain. You’re one song away from creating something we all need and producing generational wealth. While I do believe in miracles, the odds of you winning the lottery are minuscule. Exchanging playlists sounds more feasible. Let me know what’s on yours! My forever first lady has one with more than a few jams. And my president until the end of time does too.

Read a book. Need suggestions? Join the The Little Things Book Club community. We pick a new one every other month. If you don’t like books, read a few articles. There’s always something to learn, and you’ll shock yourself the next time you can answer the Jeopardy clue. If you like magazines and you’re a Prime member, you have access to those too. Knowledge and stories are everywhere.

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March/April 2020 Book Pick

And finally, take a nap. When we were kids we never wanted to take them. As adults, there’s rarely an opportunity. That just changed. If you can find 20 minutes to curl under a blanket, catch your zzz.

I’ll admit these are unpredictable and difficult times for everyone. We must continue  to support, love, and extend kind gestures to each other. To all of my well-intentioned extroverts, please know that this won’t last always and us introverts are available by video appointment to shorten the social distance. Be well. Help someone who doesn’t have your privilege. Take care of loved ones, neighbors, and friends. And be in tune with thyself and our seen and unseen blessings.

 

 

What’s in a Year?

What’s in a year? Usually more than what we remember. My way of recounting the year’s journey involves me scrolling through my photos. I chronicle my experiences through window seat, food, and selfie snaps. After all, it’s the digital age! Smartphones were a gift to photo lovers who made regular trips to the pharmacy or local camera shop to drop off film. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time I used to wait a couple days to see if my eyes were closed or the lighting was right in a picture! Sheesh…God smiled on our lives with iPhones and DSLRs! In my Tupac voice, “I ain’t mad at cha!” And I’m also not mad at myself for saying “yes” to going where I wanted to go this year and packing at the 99th hour for a few business trips. The bills don’t pay themselves!

So, what’s in a 2019 trip?

The blue bridge. 99 islands. Matcha…so much matcha. Shrines. A traditional kimono fitting (it’s layers on layers on layers). Ramen…oodles of ramen. Waterrrrrr. The largest stationery store I’ve ever been to in my entire life! I was lost in there for about 4 hours! It fulfilled ALL of my art supply dreams! Japan was my first trip of the year, and I shall never forget its natural, foodie, and penmanship wonders!

Oven grinders (think huge pizza in a bowl). Art. Colossal pancakes. Virgin Hotel hospitality with waterfall showers. And the Bean! I made it to the Bean…also known as Cloud Gate. It was raining so hard that night too. I posed anyway!

Rolling hills. Mountain tops. Fermented grapes. Clinking glasses. Did I mention fermented grapes? Sisterly love. I checked out a somewhat local winery with dusty pathways but serene views. So much for my car wash. But, grapes…fermented! 🙂

Snowballs. Po’ boys. The cutest tiny tots. Fleur de lis. Cajun catches. Another baby for TT to spoil. I surprised my Bayou sister just after giving birth. One of these days she’s going to figure it out before my arrival. Louisiana holds my heart.

Cool closet quotes. Delectable fried chicken. Community murals. Dedicated doctors. It was another successful year for our national awards committee as we learned how our medical schools are making a difference in their communities in Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Scores of yellow erratic taxis. Late night pizza. Mellie from Scandal sitting next to me on Acela (I understand the value of peace. I saved her the selfie inquiry.) Color wheels. Paintings. History. It had been a while since I was in NYC. It’s still the city that doesn’t sleep. There’s no shortage of culture and overstimulation.

Clean air. Picturesque mountain scenery that doesn’t end. Nature photography wins. Serenity. Major flight delays (all the private jets now make sense). Mountains and money all around me. Cool conference swag. That was Aspen. The place is breathtaking. I may have been there for a conference, but what I actually remember is the equanimity every time I looked up.

Childhood friend reunions. Acai bowls. Fireworks. Family ties. The longest I’ve ever waited for shrimp and grits at OLG. Trap. Makeup and music by my godsissy. Because forever I love Atlanta!

Big bus. The needle. Distilleries. A Niagara shower. Cute and cozy towns. Yup, fermented grape tours. Food tours too. Fun house. Street art. Escape room. Extra fancy celebratory birthday dinner. Visiting Canada has been on my list for a while. This year nothing was going to stop me! The #Blackgirlglow crew hopped on a plane with me to Toronto!

Dinosaurs. Uber ride. Ocean creatures. Incredibly energetic kids. A butterfly garden. Lobster on a buttery roll for lunch. I sometimes take for granted that I live next door to a city with world-renowned museums. Thank you to the Smithsonian for the educational day.

Stacks on stacks of cha gio. THE yummiest pho made by the matriarch. Boisterous laughter. New friends. Special green drinks. Wine. Loving family. I took another local trip to the home of the woman responsible for my amazing nail designs. It was a Vietnamese immersion of love in so many ways. I treasure that invitation from her and her family.

Lily pads. Affirmations. Coffee chats. Lake views. Fermented grapes yet again…for some of us! Priceless memories. Highway overlooks. A road trip accompanied by a miracle baby. Frederick, Maryland. It represents love. And that’s why it made for the perfect day.

Cacti. Car snacks. Red rocks. PJ Morton. Medical education excellence. Dream catchers. Indigenous beauty. The vastness of God. Family dinners. The GRAND Canyon. Wrong trail directions. Naps. I worked an unknown amount of hours at our largest convening of the year in the name of tomorrow’s doctors, and then took a 6 a.m. road trip with friends through the peaks and valleys of Arizona. Beautiful! That state doesn’t owe me anything except sleep!

Baby giggles. Cranberry crostinis. “iPack” viewings as declared by my god baby. Meche’s. Surprise birthday cookouts. A Creole Thanksgiving. Cypress trees and leaps. Daiquiris. UL apparel updates. Presence. Po’ boys…always! I capped off my 2019 SkyMiles back in the Bayou. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s really no surprise. It’s my happy. It was the fitting travel wrap-up for this decade.

My life motto, “Joie de vivre,” is a nod to my Acadiana affection. It means “celebrate the joy of living.” And I surely did just that with my 2019 treks. So, I ask again, “what’s in a year?” Might I suggest it’s wherever you have the heart to go.

Mental Mazes

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As an accumulator of words, I tend to randomly record my thoughts as I’m moving about and navigating the labyrinth that is the DMV commute.  Oddly enough, these colloquies that I have with myself in my head and then jot down in a frenzy to avoid forgetting and to clear some space for more mental capital, will often surface in one of my online repositories at what seems like a very relevant point in time.  The story you will read below is an example of one of those moments when the discovery of things I’ve written on the go and the context of a personal experience align and seem appropriate to share.  And although this is something that occurred several months ago, it’s still so relevant in light of our current state of affairs surrounding mental health and wholeness.

I saw something on the train this morning that found a cozy seat in my mind for the remainder of the day. As we whizzed past the trees and buildings and I attempted to focus on my morning ritual of reading, I happened to glance up and noticed another young woman reading too.  Ok, what’s so surprising about that?  Well, she had her e-reader open that was shielding what she was actually reading – a book on depressive illness.  I can still see that title in big, blue text with the image of a person holding the world on her back.  And in that moment, my world literally stopped because I had so many thoughts swirling.  First off, this was the same woman whose curls I had just finished admiring as we climbed the escalator.  The curls were poppin’!  I remember saying to myself, “I wish my curls were that cute!  Go girl!”  But, then I started feeling sad and wondering why such a young, beautiful, and Black woman was trying to hide from a train full of strangers that she was reading a book about depression.  Now, she could’ve easily been reading it for a class, to help a loved one, or for her professional development.  I shall never know.  But, I do know that it troubled me that she didn’t feel like she could be free.  And then, it was like wow, how many of us are riding into the city every day to do work that we like but aren’t passionate about while also trying to juggle emotional scars, financial woes, racism, and/or relational drama?  Or how many of us don’t feel like we quite fit where we thought we would?

Those are heavy questions that are coupled with elaborate situations and complex answers.  But, no one should ever feel as though they have to carry it all alone.  The load is always lighter when there’s help.  I hope that one day we can all experience the freedom of riding through this life with genuine company and some consolation that we are not our insecurities or fears, or the misrepresented labels that others have deemed appropriate for characterizing our being.  My hope is that we also figure out how we can freely rise to…reach out to those around us and reach deep within ourselves to embrace our individuality.

If I Can Help Somebody

I had quite the number of “firsts” over the last several days.  I’d love to spend the next few paragraphs documenting my safari adventures in Africa or grape smashing in Italy, but then you’d be walking in my imagination instead of reading the truth.  Part of me struggled with the idea of sharing this story not because I have anything to hide, but because I like to keep my personal life…personal.  I choose not to spill tea on my timeline particularly about my own life. *shrug* However, I decided to write about my experience this past week because it may save someone’s life.  It’s an assignment that’s bigger than me and any feeling I have about being private.  Here’s some context…

I can now say that for the first time in my life I’ve had a biopsy, CT scan, been transported in an ambulance, been admitted to the hospital, and seen what an operating room actually looks like all within a week.  And yes, the room really looks like what you see on TV!  It feels like a freezer, the doctors scrub in, and they even listen to music.  But, save yourself the visit and just take it from me.  I think all of these “firsts” are starting to sink in for me now that I’m home and feeling like myself again.  But, just a few days ago, I endured several agonizing moments.

I had a scheduled liver biopsy about a week and a half ago due to elevated LFTs (liver function tests) that surfaced some time ago during a routine physical exam.  After being tested for everything under the sun, the biopsy was the last course of action to determine the reason for the elevation.  I was freaked out about the entire thing since I had never had any similar issues and was otherwise a healthy adult.  I spent about a month contemplating if it was the right decision.  After much thought and prayer, I decided to have the procedure done, because I didn’t want to be in a position where there was something I could’ve done about a potential serious issue that I avoided simply because I was scared.  Sometimes you have to do it afraid.  Plus, I knew this was one of those times in my life where God was testing how much I was willing to release control and not allow the fear of the unknown to lead me into a state of worry and defeat.  Why?  Because I worry…a lot.

The procedure itself was relatively painless and went well.  I was back to my daily activities within 24 hours and awaiting the results.  The preliminary report indicated there were no issues with my liver, but they also still didn’t have an answer for the abnormal LFTs.  I was a mystery.  And I was willing to accept that.  Sometimes you don’t get the answer you want in the way you want it.  That doesn’t mean that’s how the story ends though.  I was willing to take a backseat and continue to do my best to take care of myself even if everything wasn’t adding up.  I expected that one day it would all work out for my good.

Things quickly took a turn though.  The day after I received my preliminary biopsy results, I started having excruciating abdominal pain.  It was a type of pain that I’ve never felt before that literally brought me to my knees.  The pain was episodic and would dissipate after a few minutes.  Honestly, I thought I had taken one too many bites of a food that causes flatulence until the pain returned at least three other times.  I knew my body was trying to tell me something.  I went to Urgent Care, and my doctor sent me to have a CT scan given the fact that I had had an intravenous procedure a few days before.  Again, they found nothing, and I went home thanking God but also praying to God that the abdominal pain was a thing of the past.  Unfortunately, that same night the pain returned.  I spent the early morning hours sleeping on a bed in Urgent Care with my boyfriend at my side as an IV pumped pain medication in my body and we awaited the arrival of a technician to take an ultrasound of my abdomen in another attempt to determine what was causing the pain.  You don’t know intimacy until you’ve had to share a twin-sized hospital bed with your significant other for four hours because you don’t want him to sleep in the chair that’s only made for temporary sitting.  Somehow we managed to get some shut eye despite the beeping heart monitor and nurse station chatter outside the door.  But, even after the ultrasound, they still couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my abdominal pain or find anything that demonstrated I may have been having complications as a result of the liver biopsy.  I was sent home with instructions and pain meds.

Before we could even make it out of the building, I found myself in the restroom vomiting blood.  That instantly changed the game.  To make this long story short, I had to be transported to the hospital so doctors could perform a procedure called an arteriorgram to ensure one of my arteries or blood vessels hadn’t been punctured during my biopsy thus causing me to bleed internally.  While this was a procedure my doctors could’ve performed in the outpatient setting where I had been all morning, they preferred that I was in a hospital in case there were any other issues.  I didn’t want to go to the hospital of course, but I’m grateful to have had people around me who cared enough about me to do what was best.  They were my “hidden halos”!

They found no internal bleeding during the procedure, and I stayed overnight for monitoring.  Thankfully, my blood levels were stabilized and I was able to return home after one day.  It all happened so fast that I’m still internalizing what I’ve been through yet I have a considerable amount of gratitude for everyone who took care of me, prayed for me, and checked on me.  My KP physician team (Drs. Nguyen, Oh, Mathur, Camba, Brown, Truong, and Stone) demonstrated what it means to provide team-based, quality care, and I’m sincerely grateful for their professionalism and kindness.  The KP nurses and technicians and the Holy Cross Hospital nurses (Nurse Terri, Tonya, and Lissa) were extremely patient and gentle.  I know there were times when I probably wasn’t the nicest person (I was “hangry” and nauseous lol), and so I’m just thankful they didn’t take my frustration personally and made sure I was taken care of as directed.  My boyfriend was my rock throughout this entire ordeal!  I know I probably scared him, but I’m so very thankful for his comfort and love.  My mom was right there as always in Mama Bear mode!  Love you, Mom!  To everyone who thought of me, I thank you for helping me to endure.

I can’t deny this was one experience in my life that created much anxiety.  From the very beginning, I never knew what to make of it.  But, I thank God for the unknown and the fact that I had no choice but to take everything in stride, because it reminded me Who is always in control.  Ironically, I learned a song about three weeks ago by Mahalia Jackson called “If I Can Help Somebody.”  The song says, “If I can help somebody, as I pass along, than my living shall not be in vain.”  So, I tell this story hoping that I’ve helped someone to be brave enough to take whatever next step that’s needed to face your affliction head on.  I made it out, so that you could make it to the best days of your life.  Take charge and cherish your health, because it is definitely your wealth.  As for me, I’m doing well and hoping my next encounter with the OR is on Thursday night at Seattle Grace.