Monday’s Mantra: Give Yourself Some Grace

A broken printer inspired this post.  I was grabbing papers from another printer that actually had toner available to create my pages when it occurred to me that I’ve repeated the same phrase in multiple conversations over the past week.  As I’ve listened to stories from close friends and acquaintances or been asked to give my opinion on a few things, my parting words were the same…”Give yourself some grace.”

For much of our days, we’re battling against ourselves.

We try something new.  We question it.

We put action behind our idea.  We doubt it and whether what we’ve produced is worthy of recognition.  

We use our voice in a space outside of our comfort zone.  We think our contribution isn’t valuable.

We achieve goals that we’ve set.  We fear that we’ve still missed the mark.

We never honor the energy we use to prepare, produce, and present the skill or gift we’ve been given.  This is negative self-talk, and it inhibits the ability to operate from a place of confidence, love, and power.  While life may constantly feel like a race, it’s not.  I can’t even dress that up, because it’s a fact that doesn’t deserve a few extra minutes of my time scrolling through an online thesaurus to make it sound eloquent.  We’re not here to race each other to the top (because really the “top” is subjective and doesn’t even look the same for everyone), and we shouldn’t go to war with ourselves every time we attempt to do what represents who we are.  So, when I say “give yourself some grace,” I mean:

Release the thought that your work has to be perfect for someone to care or enjoy it.  If you gave it your best and showed up authentically for the task, anything you think is an error will probably go unnoticed.  And besides, we’re all entitled to a mistake.  Get it out there, and fix it next time.

Recognize that conflict is part of life and you won’t agree with everyone on everything. Have the dialogue, respect the differences, and don’t feel guilty about your stance.  The keys to resolution are respect and communication.  We can all learn from each other and expand our isolated views.

When someone or something is draining you, be okay with walking away to protect your peace.  This doesn’t make you a bad person.  It actually makes you smart, because you’ve demonstrated self-awareness by establishing personal boundaries.

Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments.  It’s easy to feel like you haven’t done enough when you’re comparing.  The reflective part is whether you pursued and achieved these things for yourself or the approval of people who weren’t going to clap for you anyway.  Clap for yourself!  There are many people who could only dream of having some of your opportunities.  Don’t discount where you’ve come from by getting so focused on doing more that you question whether you’ve done anything at all.  I’m sorry, but that certificate, that community event, that home you wanted, that promotion, that (insert achievement here) is something!

The moral of the story is that the next time your thoughts are teetering on the ledge of crudeness and compassion, choose to give yourself some grace!

 

Accept Your Humanness

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 they’re 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.

We’re All Crazy!

So, let me telIMG_5481l y’all about this thing called love!  It’s big.  It’s scary.  It’s hard.  It’s exciting.  It’s work.  It’s fun.  It’s forgiving.  It’s work.  It’s passionate.  It’s breathtaking.  It’s kind.  And it’s work.  Did you get that?  It’s work!  I think somewhere between a Disney princess story and ratchet reality TV, we’ve embraced an illusion that love is flowers, hearts, name brands, and shiny karats.  But, if you’ve ever loved another human being with your whole heart, then you know it’s so much more to it than that.  In no way am I suggesting that love doesn’t feel like sunshiny days.  It does.  And it can certainly produce those butterfly feelings.  However, it’s not perfect either.  And it’s what?  Work!

I’m sure most of us have learned by now that humans are very special creatures.  We’re beautiful, but we’re annoying.  We’re kind, but we’re stubborn.  We’re compromising, but we’re selfish.  Basically, we’re all made up of a hell of a lot of contradictions, and that’s why loving each other is hard and somehow in an oddly glamourous way also rewarding.  While I’ve yet to understand the complexity and rationale of such a formula, I know that embracing the crazy and unlovable parts of one another is what makes love worthwhile.  Because there are going to come times when romance is the center of your desires for the one you love, and then also times when you want to poke your eyes out because this same person has gotten on what you thought was your last nerve!  Like can someone pass me a mountain so I can stand on top of it and scream?  Woosah.  Yet and still you’d rather have them on the mountain next to you so you don’t have to camp out alone under the pitch-black sky.

There will also be times when your love shows up in sacrifice.  You’ll watch his favorite sarcastic comedy, wake up early to iron her shirt, double back to the store because you know he ran out of something, eat enchiladas instead of pizza because she loves Mexican, or take a personal day to make him endless cups of tea until he feels better.  None of this will ever be about you not being true to yourself or doing things you really don’t want to do.  Let’s face it…if you didn’t want to do it, you wouldn’t.  It will simply be a small gesture of adoration to say, hey, I see you and in this moment you are greater.  Because when you’re comfortable in your own skin and love wholeheartedly, putting someone else before you isn’t a sign of weakness or diminishing of self – it’s a demonstration of humility.

Love is an exquisite form of actively showing, giving, and committing yourself to being the best friend, supporter, and partner you can be.  It’s looking at his flaws and still saying, yup, he’s the one.  It’s declaring that no matter how she sees herself today, you’ll still think she’s worth it tomorrow.  It’s reveling in that state of human contradiction with someone you thought you could live without, but now recognize you’re stronger when you’re together.  Love is probably going to be your toughest challenge and your best example of meaningful work.  You won’t be able to sit idly by and hope it all comes together.  With that posture, it won’t.  There are requirements, and one of them is you.  That’s part of the reason why “love” is my word of the year, because I want to give more love, receive more love, and watch love manifest into my wildest dreams.  So, yes, live in the fairytale and keep chivalry alive, but when the pixie and chariot dust settles, be about the work!  Only then will you benefit from love’s magic.

P.S. These words are a representation of my perspective and experiences.  I am not and likely will never be a professional love doctor.  I’m out here every day trying to balance love with logic and emotion with reality.  #thatisall

New Year, No Resolutions

"Living" - 2016bestnine

“Living” – 2016bestnine

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a few years ago.  It seemed extremely counterintuitive to keep setting lofty goals that I would likely abandon before making it past the first 30 days of the year.  There I was thinking that resolutions were supposed to get me pumped and excited about all that I was convinced I was going to accomplish while not once considering that perhaps the ingredients to this particular life recipe wasn’t something I would be good at cooking.  I stopped making New Year’s resolutions and started taking on my dreams and joys in Twix fun size pieces (fitting of course since it’s my favorite candy).  No longer would I subject myself into believing that on this one day out of the year was I required to critically think about how to make my life better.  Was I not equipped to do this on a regular basis?  Is champagne and confetti somehow supposed to ignite an everlasting superpower that will make me want to run to the gym, open an IRA, eat more carrots, save my change from a Hamilton, sail the ocean blue (yeah right, I’m all about the Boeing), tell people who are simply taking up space to go fly a kite…I mean you get the picture.  In my mind, that was a puzzle with a ton of missing pieces.

My “one day at a time”/nix the resolutions philosophy couldn’t have been more real than in 2016.  Sans a whole lot of details, I can tell you that you begin to understand the  multitude of privileges in each day when you wake up with pressure cuffs on your legs in the hospital, lose teammates to reorganizations, have to let go of relationships, get awakened by a phone call from the paramedics, and see a loved one intubated in the middle of a room that’s inhabited by professional strangers on a routine schedule.  All of that was my 2016.  And it reconfirmed my personal need to take each day in stride while taking on tasks fitting of the success for one specific day.  So, whether that has meant slipping away to write one page for a multi-chapter book, buying enough food to cook meals for three days of the week as opposed to five, or spending 20 minutes catching up with a friend between meetings instead of listening to Alessia’s “Wild Things,” I’ve opted for the celebratory factor of crushing the small tasks to get me closer to the fulfillment of my own happiness.

It’s funny because on my 2016 vision board I had pasted the word “living” that I’m sure I cut from some fashion or home and garden magazine (I swear those things are magnets for cobwebs, and we all know spiders ruin my life).  I wanted to see those six letters every day so I could get about the business of embracing my sometimes ordinary yet often unpredictable journey that I had the power to fill with some of what I hoped for.  Little did I know what meaning that word would take on throughout the year literally and figuratively.  But, through the highs and the lows, I can say the days were more bearable and/or exhilarating because I chose to consider what I needed to do or how I could be better for the very moment in which I was breathing.

A new year will happen every 365 days whether we have new year’s resolutions ready or not.  And the “new you” intimation that gets thrown around like that brown thing on Sundays happens in all of those days in between.  Because it’s the tiny victories in a single day that are resolved into a living, thriving, and happy being whose inscription will sparkle well beyond the stroke of midnight.

Happy New Year, friends! xo

Monday’s Mantra: Don’t Take It Personal

I think I deserve a pat on the back for growth.  Rarely do I ever toot my own horn about anything, but nowadays I have to celebrate the fact that I’ve made some strides in a rewarding direction.  There used to be a time when I would take everything personally.  The weight of a conflict, letdown, or confrontation was a burden that I believed had everything to do with me and how I may have initiated or reacted to the disturbance.  I often proceeded to carry the blame for things that I should’ve let fall away like the leaves from a tree on a brisk autumn day (is it just me or did this season waltz in quickly like it’s ready to put on a show stopping performance?).  While I may not have held any grudges toward the parties involved, I allowed myself to be far too consumed with the ways in which things had escalated and why someone could be so discourteous with little regard for my feelings.     I think one of the reasons why I’m not too fond of merry-go-rounds is because I had one that was constantly spinning in my head.  I’d go round and round with myself only to feel irritable and drained once I decided the ride in my brain was closed for the day.

It only took a few years for me to learn that a surefire way to exhaust your peace is to walk around being angry and offended.  I’ve lived long enough to know that there will be people in life who will do and say things that will make you scratch your head or want to let out a few expletives (again, God is not finished with me yet!).  There will be words that sting and actions that hurt.  But, you can’t take it personally.  The truth is that most of the time people’s responses have nothing to do with you.  This is why you’ll find yourself in situations with people where the apology or discussion you want will never come.  You’ll be told a lie before they realize you would’ve respected them more with the truth, and you may even have to settle with being wrong when all the evidence says you’re right.  And guess what?  You can’t take it personally. People respond in life based on their individual experiences and perceptions.  Some responses will be favorable and some you’ll wish they had been counseled on before you crossed their path.  Either way it’s not something you can control since God works on all of us in different ways and at a different pace.  Why give energy to what you can’t control when it’s a battle you were never meant to fight?

I can assure you that the less you take personally, the more years you’ll add to your life.  So, stop being mad and start being mindful of what you allow to rest in your spirit.  Everything and everyone isn’t meant for you to handle.  And something tells me you weren’t meant to slay other people’s giants!

 

Full Plates Fortify Futures

It’s something about the twinkle in their smiles.  The way they can make a long, monotonous day into one of the best of your life with a simple stick figure drawing of the family that they enthusiastically request that you hang with all the others on the refrigerator.  Children.  They restore the gray areas of our once colorful imaginations and give us a reason to want to be the best versions of ourselves.  But, what happens when children dream in black and white?  What happens when the best they have to give is being a consistent classroom attendant but not an active participant?  What does it mean when the last bell of the day rings and a child goes home unsure whether there will be enough dinner to go around for the entire family?

In America, over 13 million children are lacking one of the basic necessities of life – food.  They walk along our sidewalks.  They swing on our playgrounds.  They sit in our classrooms.  They play with other children we know and love in our communities.  Some may have even sat at our tables.  In the most industrialized country in the world, one in five children are unable to access nutritious food on a regular basis.  While federal food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have attempted to close the gap, there remains an ongoing need for food assistance in this country.  Poverty plays a significant role in food insecurity and continues to perpetuate a cycle of inadequate access to food and other resources.  I encourage you to read this article about the way the U.S. Census Bureau measures the poverty rate and this one about the reasons it hasn’t really changed.

We know that in order to strengthen bodies and develop our minds, we need nutrients, particularly in the early stages of life.  I don’t think I need to present any scientific or psychological findings to convey the fact that when you’re hungry, you’re not focused or productive and in many ways you’re disengaged.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever been “hangry!” This is reality for millions of children who without food assistance programs and other community initiatives to combat hunger, they would not be able to sustain much less excel in their learning.  I wonder how many times a child has been labeled a “problem” at school for performance or behavioral issues, when the root of the problem was a growling tummy.  Things that make you go hmm…

LKO - Snack Packs

LKO Social Action Committee & Volunteers

Fortunately, there are organizations that have made it their business to address childhood hunger.  You may be familiar with several national organizations and initiatives, including Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, and Childhood Hunger Ends Here.  Often times in your community, there are opportunities to get involved and support local efforts.  My chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Lambda Kappa Omega, is one of many service organizations in the D.C. Metro area that partners with local agencies, food banks, and pantries to increase access to nutritious food.  I have personally had the privilege of donating my time and money to assemble after school snack packs for elementary school children.  These snack packs become critical when a child might not receive another complete meal until breakfast the next morning at school.

We’re all here to help shape the future of the children who will become the next leaders in technology, education, business, medicine, music, sports, arts, politics, and beyond.  After all, we’ve only come this far because others have assumed responsibility for our growth and success.  So, on this National Childhood Hunger Day, I encourage you to share your heart, lend a hand, and take a stand by donating food, money, or time to initiatives in your community that ensure our children grow up with full plates that will help feed their imaginations and empower them to be extraordinary.

Snack packs for the children of Fairfax County