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.

You Can Choose Nothing

Because sometimes choosing nothing is choosing you!

bella reese

Last month, I rested. For two weeks. It was long overdue before the pandemic. My need for consecutive days of nothingness became more critical to my being once we were smack in the middle of it. To some, I’m sure it looks as though I do it all so well. Please know there’s a cost for everything, and life is not always Ben & Jerry’s Dairy Free Cookie Dough ice cream for me either. Sure, I may make things happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m built to keep pushing all the time. We live in a society where rest is not valued, celebrated, or equitable. At times, I’ve drank the productivity juice too. However, I’m here to tell you that being means resting. No one should feel ashamed about taking time to do nothing. And no one should have to work so hard and never be able to live because the sole focus is always survival. Rest is not laziness or disregard for your future. It’s a necessary and practical act of self-love that every human deserves. Anyone who knows me will likely tell you that one of my favorite words is “no.” It’s my radical way of taking care of myself and those around me, because I’m fully aware that we’re programmed to never slow down to experience our experiences. For two weeks, I said “no” to everything that didn’t give me room to breathe, sleep, chill, observe, and feel lighter. I said “yes” to what did. My “yes” looked like:

napping on the couch

meeting my move goal (hello, Apple Watch friends)

cleaning the fabric softener dispenser in the washer

walking the trail and listening to my podcasts

putting up a new picture that sat on my floor for weeks

repotting two plant babies

making a favorite childhood snack

sleeping in (i.e., no alarm clock)

watching the sunset at a local winery

bathing with rose petal bath salts

writing thank you notes

checking out a nearby farmer’s market for the first time

writing new content for my business endeavors

making my first charcuterie board that looked too good to eat (yes, we still ate it)

not repeating my boundaries to those who knew them but chose not to hear me

roaming the bookstore and leaving with a jigsaw puzzle

celebrating my bestie’s birthday in her new home

trying veggie burgers

daytripping to ‘The Gem of the Chesapeake’ for crabs w/ Mom

making breakfast in the morning

not checking a single work email

closing my eyes to hear the quietest places of me

Though our individual cups of rest may not look the same, they all must be filled. Rest, my friends. Rest. You won’t miss what’s meant for you.

Water Wins

Someone once said, “Stop lighting yourself on fire to keep people warm.” It stayed with me. And I started pouring water everywhere.

For this trip around the sun, things will be much cooler. I understand that won’t work for everyone. The freeing lesson…it doesn’t have to.

This is the year for my softened desires to beam. I won’t waste this shower of renewal.

Chapter 35.

 

 

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

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!