Home is Your Heart

If someone had told me that the only way I would be earning miles in 2020 was by taking steps around my neighborhood, I likely would’ve smiled and laughed it off. But, here we are. Sometimes smiling. Sometimes wincing. All the time wondering. A year and counting of no travel has been quite the adventure. I could’ve wasted time complaining about my first world problem, but that’s empty on some many levels. Instead I seized the opportunity to make the most of our global hardship. What’s life without some improvisation? My sky miles may have stalled, but my discovery desires did not. Come along with me in my little trip down 2020 Stay Home Lane.

My last trip of 2019 and first trip of 2020 were surprisingly to the same place…the bayou. I always say incessantly pursue your happy. A big part of my happy is in the Magnolia State. I’m even happier as “TT” to my bayou babies. I’ve reminisced about these trips so much over the past year. I’ve never been so excited to have another moment to eat Cheez-Its with a toddler! He shares with TT too!

Before the pandemic officially shut down the world, I stayed in a pretty amazing Airbnb for an abbreviated sorority conference. Our favorite part was the porch. Too much fun was had! We literally had no idea that all of our #roomiesforlife antics would vanish for a while. However, service and sisterhood persists.

Then, it got real. No movement unless it was to look out the window to confirm that for the first time since I’ve lived here, there was no noise from the streets. An occasional walk around the neighborhood to feel the sun on my face and get entranced by nature was the farthest I went for months. I slowly emerged in the safest ways possible…

I found a “Love” sign on a road trip with my mom to bring my dad supply reinforcements. Because…Navy life. Those care packages matter. Please support our troops in any way that you can.

I went daytrippin’ with my mom to a place we like in Annapolis. Because 2020…that same week I also found myself in the ER with an IV after a gastrointestinal episode that literally brought me to my knees. There was nothing fun about being in that room alone in the middle of the night while my mom waited in the car for hours. Again…pandemic. Facility restrictions. While I had great nurses and doctors taking care of me, it’s not a good feeling to only have strangers to lean on when you’re ill. I was more than grateful to be able to walk those cobblestone Annapolis streets with my bestie after all that.

I quieted my mind in a huge open field in a park. I also simultaneously lost my mind when I found a spider in my sandal. Nothing like a good scream after doing sun salutations guided by your extraordinary yogi sister.

Before the pandemic, I spent a good amount of time doing life with my cousin. She’s everything that I’m not; that makes our relationship one of the greatest things ever. While we avoided indoor meet-ups for a long while, that didn’t stop us from socially distanced backyard blasts. It was a lot of crab legs, charcuterie boards, and citronella (I made my own candles and spray! Woot!). When dusk rolled in, we pulled our chairs up to the fire to roast marshmallows on several occasions. You might recall from a previous post that everything was all good until she told me about the neighborhood bear. I’m officially adding extremely vigilant, marshmallow roaster to my resume!

I’d call myself a part-time oenophile (lover of wine) and full-time flora guardian. Wineries helped fulfill both of these roles. Family, friends, flowers, and fermented grapes. All wasn’t lost.

I went to OBX for the first time. I stayed in yet another superb Airbnb and did the coolest things with my mom and best friend’s family like ride bikes, conserve paper towel squares (haha), and let my nephew bury me in the sand. We even caught a rainbow. When I look back at that trip, all I can think about is how much happiness those days brought me. It was the scenery I didn’t know that I needed.

My trips to the city were few and far between over the course of the year. I still chuckle at that considering I used to make the short but extra long trek to the city via Metro several times a week. On the rare occasions when I visited in 2020, I was reminded of everything that the nation’s capital represents for democracy and culture. I didn’t realize how much I missed the monuments, the art, and the many symbols of life with streets abuzz with people, cars, buses, and scooters. Oddly enough, it was in this city that I took my Nana to her first theatre production at the top of the year having no idea that it would be an unknown amount of time before that could happen again. The name of the production was “The Amen Corner.” A powerful gift of song, expression, and truth. I shall never know when I’ll be able to see my Nana sing along to those gospel hymns in a theatre again. A blessing to count numerous times over. Amen.

As a native Virginian, I grew up hearing about the Shenandoah views. Though I’ve traveled many miles through and around the area, I never stopped to look around. I changed that with a day trip to check out the fall foliage. A park ranger that was directing the ridiculous traffic into the main park provided a tip of a lifetime. I skipped the dreadful line of cars and caught beautiful views with a minimal amount of people. An introvert’s dream!

A llama, or something that resembled a llama, was almost a passenger on my trip to the Zoofari with my cousin and godson. I have video footage. I will neverrrrr forget how hard I laughed and cussed. *shrug* Waffles the giraffe also photobombed us. That’s certainly a cherished moment since I recently learned that a zoo fire claimed Waffles’ life. Thank you for gracing our presence, Waffles. We shall always remember you. Rest peacefully.

Some COVID tests and extra masks later, I closed the year at my home away from home…Nana’s house! Apparently, Lenny Kravitz knew I’d be there. That was glee!

A few things I’ve learned on 2020 Stay Home Lane: Home is a place that I’m fortunate to have. Home is a place that I shall continue to embrace for its warmth, protection, and offering of stillness. Home is a place that you create whether you’re inside or out. Home shall forever be in the openness of your heart.

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

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.