Love Letter to 2020

2020. It hasn’t been anything short of tumultuous, maddening, daunting, and on 10 whole thousand! And as much as the thought has crossed my mind that we can throw the entire year away after this first half of welcomed and unwelcome pandemonium, I refuse to accept that this is it. I know better than that. And you do too! The first thing we can alter when nothing seems to be on our side is our mindset. To assist with making that shift, I offer this digital space to illuminate a litany of love that has shown up in the cracks of uncertainty, ugliness, and upset. Won’t you stay with me for a minute? You’re already here. 🙂

Dear 2020,

You’ve given us:

Breath. We, those of us reading this, still have it. It’s a symbol of humanness that has been taken from too many of our Black and Brown loved ones and communities. We should feel it, be present with it, and use it to hasten action for those who should still be here.

Children. They keep making us stronger, wiser, and content with the idea that sometimes in the hurriedness of life, less is more. As they grow, hopefully we do too — in openness, empathy, and unity.

Family. It comes in many forms, but the point is that we’ve likely found refuge in the steadiness. For some of us, it’s angelic steadiness because we’ve lost loved ones. Still…we see, feel, and remember the consistency from what’s familial.

Friends. Some have gone to great lengths to make us smile with Zoom parties, snail mail, and daily calls. We should thank them. Keep showing up for them.

Laughter. From conversation or our preferred format for broadcast media. We’ve spent a few moments stepping away from it all and reinvigorating our courage.

Goals. Ones we’ve achieved and others we’ve set. Whether big or small, we’ve made progress and had something to celebrate. In my circle, I’ve seen businesses launched, donations raised, houses bought and sold, job transitions, spiritual wellness, courses started, stories written, boundaries enforced, and much more. Why throw in the towel now?

Partnership. In activism, romance, and business. Because we’re still awakening to the truth that we’re better together. What a marvelous ideal. Perhaps too slowly, but we’re getting in sync.

Hope. Through miraculous recovery, accountability for the toxicity, and even the fragrant florals we’re paying more attention to when we walk. We’re learning to carry it around like we do our phones.

Creativity. As a writer, mine has come as words in cards, emails, letters, blogs, and manuscripts. Others leave space for theirs in watercolor, photographs, thread, speech, cuisine, or events. Regardless of the expression, imagination has not failed us.

Peace. For some, it never seemed to be within reach. Now, we find that the interruption of storms by way of justice, pausing, closure, and need for rapid adaptation has washed away the inauthentic parts of life that weren’t helping us to grow more in love with who we are, what we represent, and how we show up in the world.

So, 2020. You’re not cancelled, and we haven’t lost. We’re here for the promise producing power.

With gratitude and reverence,

Bella Reese & fellow caretakers of presence

Monday’s Mantra: Be.

beto have an objective existence: have reality or actuality: live

I suspect this extended time at home has provided many of us with the opportunity to pause and consider our multidimensional essence. Whether your day continues to move at a rapid pace as you steer your way through calls and content, or you’ve found the rhythm that steadies your stride, remember that you matter just as you are right now.

I’ve learned that when we ground ourselves in our truth and embrace the tiniest things that we love about who we are, we’ll begin to hear the wisp of the softest wind in the present moment that is given to us as a gift. It’s the wisp that will carry us through our longing to rush or our feelings of fatigue from responsibility and the unknown. More importantly, it’s the wisp that will remind us to be…

focused but flexible,

inquisitive and hopeful, and

evolving yet celebratory of the gift we have to be alive, to be here, to be ourselves.

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.

 

 

We’re All Jacked Up!

I believe that much of the dysfunction that pervades our lives is a result of lies that have been perpetuated by society for untold amounts of time.  As an overly introspective person, I tend to keep most of my thoughts and perspectives to myself.  And besides, everything doesn’t deserve a place on the Internet. *shrug* However, several observations over the last few months have ignited a small fire in my soul thus moving me to speak on something I deem as pure shenanigans!  I’m almost mad at myself for accepting this as truth.

How many times have you heard someone say that you shouldn’t look to someone else to validate you? It’s a commonly shared piece of advice in personal and professional discussions.  I do agree with at least three tenets of that argument – 1) your happiness is your choice 2) sometimes you must encourage yourself and 3) you must recognize your worth before expecting someone else to.  But, there are also some gaps in this perspective that I think have been lost in translation and hampered our ability to build and contribute to effective, meaningful relationships.  Here’s why –

In some (not all) cases, we typically desire validation from the people we care about.  Does that mean that we’re obligated to agree on everything or that it’s okay to base decisions on what others think?  No.  But, in a relationship that’s built on authenticity, we can show up authentically and should have the expectation (yes, we should!) that we’re being heard.  BREAKING NEWS: people don’t always seek validation because they’re lacking self-worth.  They’re likely pursuing the intimacy that comes with understanding and presence.  Translation: I’m human, and I want to be accepted. That’s a post for another day though.

Secondly, we might need to reevaluate someone’s place in our life if we don’t have any evidence to show that this person is supportive.  What kind of ideals are we propagating for future generations if we’re teaching them that it’s okay to not desire subtle or even sometimes bold affirmation by other humans?  I think this can come in different forms, but it’s important that we leave ourselves room to tell people through words and actions that we value their existence, that they did a good job, that their small steps toward a big goal are monumental, and that it’s okay to express our feelings and sit with them for a while with the people we trust.  By doing this, we are communicating that we are available and we value the opportunity for this exchange.  Translation: I am present for you, and it’s okay to be vulnerable.

The point is that we all need each other.  And I believe it is our responsibility to validate each other if we want to be the best versions of ourselves.  I’m tired of us pretending like we don’t have emotions and rationalizing that we’re less than great if we seek to be understood or want to be recognized.  I get that there are levels to this, and I’m only hitting the surface.  Hell, I can even admit that I don’t appropriately validate others the majority of the time.  I see posting this as a step in the right direction to undo how I’ve chosen to interact in my own relationships.

We’re killing ourselves by ignoring our emotions and legitimate desire to be connected.  Instead of operating in a place of aversion and silence by choosing not to expect validation by others, I propose that we all demand it.  Perhaps then we wouldn’t continue living as though it’s every woman or man for her/himself out here in this lukewarm world.  We may come in and go out of this life alone, but we don’t make it through without someone else acknowledging that they see us.

Monday’s Mantra: Do More Little Things

IMG_5965Two years ago, I became an independent jewelry designer for a company that’s built on doing more of what you love with the people you love.  As a charms based company, there’s an extensive selection of charms that represent family, hobbies, seasons, sports, and much more.  But, my favorite charms in the collection are the engravables, because they can be customized with dates, initials, names, and quotes.  These are particularly appealing to me, because they’ve given me the opportunity to wear my values on my wrist.  Each time I look down I can be reminded of what I believe and stand for.

My most prized engravable is my hematite geo bar that reads, “little things.”  If you’ve been following my posts over the years, you probably know that I base my life on the little things.  For me, the small gestures of kindness toward myself, my presence for the celebratory and even non-celebratory moments for loved ones and friends, and the thoughtful gifts that I curate or purchase is what brings me the most happiness.  I try to be intentional about the way I care for myself and those in my life by not being consumed with flashiness.  Instead I purposely choose to invest my time, energy, and being into what makes my soul smile.  Some days that might mean that I stand outside and listen to the whistle of the wind, go to the library to see if my knowledge of Dewey Decimal System is up to par (yes, I know what that is!), or randomly mail a card to someone letting them know I’m proud of what they’re doing.  I do this because I’ve recognized that it’s the small things that we often take for granted that bring delight to our days and a boost to who we are as human beings.  When we remove our focus from the little things it’s easier to become overwhelmed, overworked, and overly consumed by materialistic or shallow things and feelings.  That instantly robs us of the ability to appreciate our blessings and privileges.

If I could give one piece of life advice, I’d say do more of the little things.  That could come in the form of saying “no” when you know you’re not really committed, finally booking the plane ticket for the vacation you’ve never taken because you don’t want to get behind, not feeling guilty for leaving work on time so you can grab dinner with friends, devoting a portion of your day to pursuing your passions, calling the family member you haven’t heard from in a while, or eating the slice of cheesecake because you want to celebrate an accomplishment.  The truth is that all of those little things will be the peace that you’ve likely searched for in other places.  Everything we do doesn’t have to be big, bold, and witnessed by the masses.  But, everything we do should be a collective representation of every little thing that makes us stress less and cherish more of what we love while we’re here.

Basic & Proud

My mom always says that my kids are going to have to come to her house to eat the “bad” foods because the only things I ever have are carrots, crackers, and broccoli!  While there may be some truth to that, let it be known that the odds of me ever parting with French fries or chocolate chip cookies is pretty slim.  Therefore, I’m quite sure they won’t go their entire childhood without “bad” foods!  In my mom’s most recent attempt to IMG_2913jokingly point out my preference to buy healthy and sometimes organic foods, it inspired me to share my desire for the “good” stuff.

I am not that woman who buys EVERYthing organic and always remembers my reusable shopping bags.  I need my grocery budget to go the distance.  I don’t grind my own peanuts in the fancy machines to produce peanut butter on the spot nor do I always have the discipline to bypass the donuts on the way to the cash register.  But, I am the woman who loves food.  And I am the woman who has started investing more time and energy in reading labels and caring about what I eat.

The real reason I have less of the “bad” and more of the “good” in my pantry and fridge these days is because much of the food that’s available to us is made with ingredients I can’t even pronounce!  Have you ever picked up a loaf of bread and actually looked at the label?  First off, if it says “high fructose corn syrup” I’m definitely dropping it like it’s hot.  Most of the time if you keep reading, it’s a chemical alphabet soup.  I thought bread was supposed to be basic??  Flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water?!  Of course the reason why all of these preservatives are in a typical loaf is to increase shelf life.  But, umm it’s bread.  And I like basic bread!  So, I spend the extra few bucks to get basic bread!  Oh, and let’s talk about oatmeal.  Again, I am that woman who has to take shortcuts sometimes, so I buy instant oatmeal packets.  I save the hearty oats in the canister for weekends.  #winning   There was a time when I never cared about the ingredients in these packets.  I just knew one packet was enough sustenance until lunch.  One day I flipped the box over and read the label.  Let’s just say I never bought those same packets again.  I switched to the organic oats because I wanted a basic and fast oatmeal breakfast.  You know…whole grain oats, sugar, and salt.  Why are we overcomplicating this?  And trust me when I tell you that the organic version tastes completely different than the regular one.  What a novel idea that real food tastes better.

Although I would love to spare my wallet a few dollars and get back the time I’ve spent trying to find healthier alternatives to the foods that I like, I’m becoming more invested in what I choose to consume.  I’ll spend 30 cents more on organic bananas and strawberries if it means less pesticides swirling around with the cells that constitute my anatomy.  And I’ll buy the organic chicken breasts for my stir fry if it means the pieces aren’t full of antibiotics and as big as a toddler’s arm!  The truth is that every day I’m learning more about “organic” versus “natural” and our country’s food standards.  I don’t ever intend to be a farm girl where I have more control over what I grow and eat.  But, for some things, give me the basics, because the overabundance of processed food and our contaminated environments are slowly deteriorating our bodies.

I can’t promise that I won’t eat an Oreo before the night is through or grab some waffle fries for my next lunch.  Let’s face it…I do like to indulge and be happy, so Mom can stash a few “bad” foods for me too when I come to visit.  However, I will balance it out with some foods that are whole and foods that should never be anything more than basic!

Eat, drink, and splurge on organic when you can, my friends!  It does your taste buds and body real good!