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!

 

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.