The Subtlety of Stories

It’s true when they say time will sail beyond if you don’t stop to look around. With less than 30 days left in this year, I find myself stopping in moments a whole lot more to witness the day’s wonders and live through the breaths I have the opportunity to take. In doing so, I’ve recently felt the subtle joy from

Bubbles escaping the window of the car next to me at a red light…that made me smile

My angels speaking to me through repetitive numbers on the clock, speedometer, receipts, and off ramps

A colorful flower dancing from side to side in the wind

A canopy of the fall season draping over my car as I looked up to the sky on a country road less traveled with sister company

Surprise packages on my doorstep at times when I wasn’t looking for anything but needed a heart

The friendliest welcome and big smile from the Trader Joe’s grocer who bagged my flowers with an extra touch of kindness

The happiness in my friend’s voice when introducing me to mochi donuts and durian…the latter that made me twist my face in unpleasant shock (try for yourself though)

My grandpa’s usual reply that “he’s knocking along for an old man” when I ask how he’s doing

Traveling along a familiar road and suddenly noticing a sign of my grandma’s presence

A case of the FaceTime giggles during homework time with my bayou babies

Walking the cobblestones in a new city and expecting to discover a gift shop or snack to remember

Rotating holiday lights on someone’s wheelchair as we eagerly awaited the Christmas parade featuring a famous mouse

A new mug with pretty perfect colors or a witty phrase calling my name from the shelf in a store I frequent more than I’d like to admit

Works of art depicting the vastness of the color wheel and a nod to discovery through books

It’s so easy to think everything in life is supposed to be a long story to tell. But, the length matters not as the takeaway shall always be that the author is alive to be a part of the story.

Stop. Notice. Look for the stories. They’re in the subtly of what can easily sail by.

Clap For Yourself

To land on the other side of an intense year unscathed is nothing short of a blessing. I was tried on every side and certainly had moments when I thought I’d fold. But, I didn’t. My word for 2021 was “thrive.” Little did I know when I chose and meditated on that word that it would require me to be strong when I had little to give and that I’d have to ride a ton of waves of uncertainty all while believing that I wouldn’t succumb to volatile drifting tides. To thrive is “to grow or develop vigorously.” Take that a step further and you recognize that “vigorous” is characterized as energetic and forceful. I’d say that this year’s experiences lived up to the description with many lows and highs.

I did things and moved in the ways that made me step up and step out. None of it was to have a boastful story to tell. That’s not how I roll. But, all of it was to refill the cup that I have successfully managed to drain over the years by overdoing it with compromise and choosing one time too many to diminish my desires. I am an unconsciously selfless person. Now, you might think that’s admirable. And in a way, it is. However, if you’re not careful, it also means that it’s easy for imbalances to go unchecked. When that happens, you can sometimes place less emphasis on what works for you because you’re in a perpetual state of being there for everyone and everything except yourself. Well, I made it a point in 2021 to choose me and not feel guilty or weird about it. I’d like to profess that it was a rather simple personal order, but that would be a laughable lie. I had my moments when I slipped back into my old patterns of it’s a small sacrifice or you know what I can say less and wait a little longer on that. However, I had more moments when I was like nah, I choose me or go big or go home, girl. In fact, it makes me think of a GIF that I sent to a friend to symbolize my declaration to self that I wasn’t playing small or with people about my feelings or pursuits.

Here’s to doing me!

I dedicate this year’s manifestations of prosperity in my thoughts, my home, my career, my relationships, my sorority life, my cooking (I came. I saw. I killed it with more than a couple recipes.), and a host of dope experiences to my silent prayers, loyal friends, pools of tears, countless calls to my mom, supporters who carried me, and God’s winks. I thrived because of it all. And for that, I’m not entering 2022 with a list of resolutions. Those never worked for me. Instead, I’m here with a chilled glass of La Marca clapping vigorously for myself because what was supposed to stop me only helped me to level up in the best ways possible. Cheers!

If you do nothing else this year, do you for you! And then clap for yourself about it! Happy New Year, friends! xo

A Note of Thanks

Thank you. There are a million other sites where you could spend time perusing content, but you’ve chosen mine. I’ve had this blog for several years. Though it has changed over time, I’m still always surprised and humbled when people inquire about it or follow it. Some of you have been with me since the beginning and know me pretty well in real life. Others found me among the creative seas from the opposite side of the globe and decided to take a chance on someone new. No matter who you are, I want you to know that I’m a real person behind the computer who cares deeply about the words I post here. More importantly, I’m a person who cares about you. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded and distracted with content representing every facet and genre. Some for good. Some for bad. But, you can always count on this being a place of calm, light, and love. Because that is literally what I strive to be in my waking moments and desire to put into the world. I send you my sincere gratitude for your embracing energy and positive posture about life that continuously renews my confidence to have this exchange with you through this medium. Whether near or far…friend or stranger…you are the nutmeg in my writing recipe…my most important and forever favorite ingredient. My inspiration.

Love always,

Bella Reese

Resolution Rebel

Three years ago, I wrote about my ceasing of New Year’s resolutions. I’m happy to report that I still don’t make them. I also don’t judge anyone who does. In fact, I celebrate one’s willingness to use it as an opportunity to be intentional. It takes guts! However, I’ve simply chosen to be honest with myself about what works for me. We weren’t meant to be and do the same things in the same way; that’s the beauty of humanity. My mindful alternative is mantras. Sometimes I’ll set mantras that I may stick with for a day, a week, or the year. I give myself flexibility, because I create my own rules. After all, mantra setting is about shaping the narrative in one’s own mind. There are so many things firing off up there on a daily basis alongside life’s real-time shenanigans that applying somebody else’s rules is unreasonable.

A recurring 2020 mantra for me was “You matter.” I leaned on it heavily and all the special beings who ensure that I never stop believing it. Since you’re here, it’s also my not so subtle message to you. Your attention to this post is not an accident. May it bring you unspeakable warmth that you didn’t know you needed.

Whether I devote my energy to a mantra or establish small, realistic goals for a specified time period, my focus continues to be on presence. I think 2020 empowered many to prioritize how we define living and identify those spaces that needed oxygen. For some of us, that may have been self-care or family. For others, it may have been boundaries or business. Though there’s much we’re glad to leave behind, I hope that in this new year you don’t forget everything that helped you breathe.

Happy New Year, friends! xo

Beary Grateful To Be Here

I only know today’s date because we recently hit reset on the calendar year. Like many others, I stopped tracking dates months ago. Although I have technology to remind me, I still find that I don’t retain it. Perhaps that’s a coping technique or a depiction of my desire to save mental energy wherever I can. Who knows. But, in some of my welcomed quiet time, I’ve noticed that the initial pressure I felt to create at the start of the pandemic has substantially increased over the past several weeks (to be fair, silence is totally my jam though isolation in a public health crisis like what we’ve been experiencing for almost a year gives it a much different meaning). I’m still uncertain where this is coming from and some of my earlier strategies to deal aren’t completely viable anymore. However, even as more “new year, new me” mottos continue to cloud every social space, I think I’m rounding the curb for a shift in my anxious creative thoughts. Reflection has that effect. Here’s what I know:

My original plans to “create” over the last year look nothing like I mapped out. I bet yours doesn’t either! Guess what? That is okay! Life is sometimes that rollercoaster that doesn’t allow you to catch your breath before the next hill. Still, we roll on. But, more importantly, we pivot.

I hadn’t paused to appreciate it before, but I did create many things though few were wrapped up in a new website, social media account, or something of monetary value. Most of my creations came in the form of recipes, flower arrangements, and social distanced gatherings. I made pie dough from scratch for the first time. I beautified florals in a cheery turquoise vase gifted to me by a close friend. I roasted a ton of marshmallows hoping that the neighborhood black bear didn’t emerge from a random corner in my cousin’s backyard (yes, a whole bear was caught on multiple cameras getting into trash cans)! If we’re talking academia, I guess I also created a new work in the medical education literature after yearsssss of writing. My point is that everything you create doesn’t have to be for the masses. It can be for your serenity. It can be for your personal enjoyment. It can simply be because you felt like doing it. *shrug* No shade to extra income and business ventures. Those are exceptional and necessary pursuits. But, not having those things on a specific timeline doesn’t decrease your human value; that’s a message we must learn to share in our capitalistic world.

I also started learning to accept that creating space for rest and not feeling bad about it is a sacred gift that I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve given to myself. Truth is, some days I’ve felt like I have nothing left to offer, promote, persuade, or pursue. And guess what? It hasn’t mattered if I needed time to disengage. At all.

Why?

Because my existence on this day and every day, but especially after a trying year and intense expectations to do everything under the sun, is enough. I began writing this post some time between November and December. It seems more fitting that I didn’t get around to posting it until now when we’re in a new year; it’s another opportunity to relay to someone out there that you as you are in this moment is the creation that makes a difference. If you’re reading this, that means you have had the privilege to live another day and can bask in what you represent. A switch in a calendar year isn’t going to automatically make you an affirmation seeking, plant-based food and marathon lover who always has something clever and innovative to showcase. It also isn’t going to make you an overnight celebrity or millionaire. Well, that might be true if you won the lotto, right? Please know that there’s no magical switch that you can manipulate to quickly make all things “right.” Contrary to popular belief, we don’t get microwave ready lives. We also don’t do ourselves any favors when we force our creativity because we feel pressured by a world that is built on consumerism. As we move forward in this year that eventually won’t be “new,” I hope that we invest more of our energy into giving of ourselves creatively not because it will pique the interest of more strangers. Instead I hope that we will unlock more ways to fully embrace what makes us special. If you remember nothing else, let it be that you will always be greater than your output.

Physically Fit…Exercise Not Included.

It never fails. I’m headed into the office, and I have this moment of energetic glee as I begin thinking of what I’ll accomplish for the day. It’s typically a combination of work and personal projects, because I like a good balance. Most recently, I’ve found myself on the bus when this happens while taking in the lyrics of my R&B, gospel, or ratchet tunes (because we all know it can vary). I get incredibly excited about the goodness that will come from the productive use of brainpower on the horizon. I’m trying to discern whether this sudden elation is the result of the perfectly ground coffee beans in my purple travel mug or if I really love doing work. I may or may not be easily convinced that it’s the coffee since it does make me happy. But, for the purposes of you reading this, we’ll go with the work!

As I was pondering about this odd yet joyful experience, it occurred to me that by the time I get to my office, that impromptu spark of enthusiasm to do work has a tendency to fade. Somewhere between the bus depot and the always lit Chinatown, that cheerful feeling about the day’s forthcoming success is commandeered by some unknown force that doesn’t want me to be great. As the analytical overthinker that I am, I took my morning mental acrobatics a step further to try to figure out why.

My office isn’t a place that I dislike. The people that I work with to support our mission and constituents are the reason I get out of bed and embark on the sometimes adventurous commute. I consider myself blessed to be a part of the fabric of a mission-oriented organization. I do what I do in medicine and public health because I believe in the power of potential and the necessary exposure to the possibilities for young people everywhere. But, then it hit me…the incredibly basic aha moment about my struggle to maintain merry momentum. It’s about as basic as Rice Crispies with no sugar. It’s summed up in two words…physical environment!

I’ve always been aware of my preferred working style and motivational requirements, but I’ve become more cognizant about the effects of the space around me and what I need to maintain my coffee-infused happiness without the extra cups. Here’s what I’ve recognized and how I’ve made small changes to reclaim and extend my workday thrill:

  • No matter how many bells and whistles are put in an office building, it’s still a building. This means most things look identical and 95% of the walls around you are white.
    • So, what did I do? I became a plant mom! Seeing green things around me makes me feel alive. I also feel like a superb human because I’m able to keep temperamental species thriving in a stoic environment. I have several plants, but there’s a particular one on my desk that sleeps at night and looks like it’s waving at me every morning since the leaves expand. It’s the wildest sight, but it always amazes me! Have a look!Happy morning!
  • One of the best office perks is human interaction. Some might disagree with that, and I totally understand as I’m 97% introvert and love quiet. But, the other 3% must be devoted to the relationship management that’s necessary for my recurring paycheck. Yes, money matters! Occasionally, we all want someone to talk to, and being around colleagues is a good remedy. However, somewhere along the way someone decided that an open office environment was a grand idea, and it has now taken over industries and partially ruined lives (or maybe just mine…shrug).
    • So, what did I do? I invested in noise cancelling headphones. Here’s a trick…you don’t even have to turn them on to block out chatting, coughing, chewing, and anything else that keeps you from focusing. Bose, take all my money or else I might not make it! Of course there’s also alternative work schedules, telecommuting, mobile workstations, etc. to assist with this environmental challenge, but dare I say that sometimes I do want to be around other humans. I just do better when I have the option to control my desire for interacting.
  • I’m generally an organized person, which is evident in my desk organization. Clutter makes you crazy and thwarts effective decision-making. There’s nothing more distracting than an abundance of papers, doodads, spills, and useless folders from prior meetings and engagements.
    • So, what did I do to further my need for order? I acquired a label maker and disinfecting wipes. My colleagues think I’m ridiculous. What they won’t tell you is that my neat habits are slowly rubbing off and they’ve stopped collecting items they don’t need, hoarding papers as if they’ll ever look back at them, and going the entire season without at least trying to attack the germs that frequently lurk in offices and even more in an open office environment. No clean shame here!
  • I’ve always had a “one box” office rule. It means that I arrive at a new workplace with one box, and I depart with one box when it’s time to move on. The contents of this box are meaningful photos, postcard art, decorative office supplies, and a few awards. I know we’re moving toward mobile friendly environments, but I produce better work products when I have the smiling faces of my god kids and grandparents looking back at me throughout the day.
    • So, what did I do? I displayed mementos in prominent places on my desk. These often represent the many facets of our lives. Being surrounded by the people, places, and things that remind you of good times keep you motivated. Most importantly, it’s a constant reminder to save your leave for quarterly vacations. I love a good two for one!

I have noticed a little more pep in my step since being intentional about improving the physical space I inhabit for the bulk of my day. I can’t promise that this is a one size fit all solution to your office woes. But, if you can do anything to adjust the space where you devote your time, energy, and presence each day, you might find that your sparkle expands into a blissful burst of impact in your work, life, and community that doesn’t ride to the next bus or train stop without you. You make space for your happy when you’re performing in a space that fits your happy!

 

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!