I Wish the Monsters Would Stop

For the second night in a row, it happened. This time, I was standing in my kitchen consulting my Google Home on how long I could safely thaw raw meat at room temperature before bacteria began growing. The moment the shrill, public alert alarm broke through the locked screen of my smartphone as it sat in the living room, I felt my heart sink and my eyes shut involuntarily. Oh, no, I thought, and inched towards the living room as if through wet sand. Oh, no. Oh, no.

Natural Ingredients My Hair HATES (Yours Might, Too)

Okay, okay–so this isn’t the most exciting or dynamic blog post to come back into the flow. It is, however, extremely relevant for me right now. During this time when staying at home is helpful to both myself and to everyone else, I’ve have a lot of time to reflect on the way I’m living. My friends and family are all going through their own levels of life changes, whether it be with job situations or just the realization that they are better made for a more extraverted lifestyle. For myself–and living by myself–it has been an opportunity to look…

2020: Year of Resolves and Transformation

Click here to go straight to my 2020 New Year’s “resolves”!

It’s an interesting revelation to realize well into your adulthood that you are pretty much unchanged, personality-wise, from when you were a child. If you were neat as a kid, instinctively putting your toys away after playing, you probably still find sweet pleasure in maintaining that cleanliness in your home. If you were a bossy kid, always telling the rest of the neighborhood how to manage the kickball league in the street, you’re probably just itching to become manager in your current department at work.

As a child, I always appreciated the quiet and intimacy that nature and my closest loved ones provided. For example, when my family and I lived in Illinois up until I was nine, my mother would take my older sister and I into St. Louis, where we would visit one of the city’s most notable landmarks, Forest Park. I couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time (I could still fit in my stroller, though goodness knows my mother should have kicked me out by then), but I remember the long strolls we took through the winding pathways beneath ageless trees. The inherent silence of the area (my mother preferred off-peak park hours) as our footfalls padded upon the wide pathways and the wind nestled into the lush crowns above our heads, created a sense of security that I wished could last forever.

At the time I began this post, I was sitting before an artificial fireplace with a cat dozing to my right and my older sister crocheting in an armchair to the left, and I found the sentiment rising in me again. Over thirty years have passed since I last set foot (or stroller) into Forest Park, but the silence of my current stance and the company kept have not diminished my adoration for quiet moments. No TV blaring in the background; not even the pleasing trills of music. Just…quiet and good company.

2019: Last Looks

Reflection into the past naturally brings me into reflection of this year alone. Though I did set a few resolutions to give me structure and a sense of stability, that is a far cry from having any control on the outcome. I can be a very emotional, stress-influenced person: if I don’t set a plan or a schedule on how my life is supposed to proceed, I freak out and shut down. This results in no progress being made, sending me further into a panic.

That’s why my primary resolution for 2019 was to spend time with the people I love. Though the emotional toils of 2018 drove this decision, it could have been easy to make this priority almost mechanical. Hanging out with friends and calling family on a regular basis seemed simple enough.

But when the lives of your friends and your family are just as real and complicated as your own, you can’t simply tuck time to talk to them in whatever gaps are available. I also learned that just hanging out or talking more didn’t make me a better friend or daughter.

And then, something else happened that I didn’t expect.

My own life started to break down.

And then I broke down.

For a few months in, I tried to ignore my own physical symptoms–the exhaustion, the lethargy, the insomnia, the anxiety, the brain fog, the migraines–and forced myself to keep going.

Keep working. Keep giving. Keep helping. Keep nodding yes.

When Winston Churchill said famously, “When going through hell, keep going,” I’d like to think that he didn’t mean until you physically can’t get up. I certainly don’t think he meant stand at your desk, take a look at the To-Do List–filled with tasks you’ve done over and over again for years–and burst into tears because your head has been throbbing for nearly six months and you’re just so sick and tired of being sick and tired.

It’s a shame that it took half a year and a point where I was dizzy and near-fainting before I realized why. I was paying attention to everything but my own well-being.

The Turning Point

By mid-summer, I was visiting doctors, counselors, and therapists at least three times a week to figure out what was wrong. I was on heavy medications and getting bloodwork and CTs to find a deeper meaning to my ailments than simply psychological. It wasn’t until September that I finally received some kind of answer.

“Surgery?” Numbly, I held the phone to my ear as the physician’s assistant provided me with the vague results of my head CT. “It’s bad enough where I need surgery?”

The PA wouldn’t expand on her original instructions. “Just come into the office. You can discuss the procedural options with your surgeon then.”

When I arrived later that week for my appointment, the surgeon explained that most of my symptoms were a results of increasingly severe inflammation in my nasal cavities that had been growing worse over the last year–“and probably longer,” he said. This was the reason for many of my physical symptoms: my brain and body were literally being deprived of oxygen it needed to function normally. “Sounds like you just only started feeling the severity of everything this last year.”

Since I was no longer responding to any of the medications they were giving me, endoscopic surgery was the next best solution.


One month later, I lay on my couch with gauze strapped to my bloody nose. I was fully congested but forbidden to sneeze, blow my nose, or even sniff. My mouth was parched from hanging open every night in my attempts to sleep through the pain. Sufficed to say, I felt like all my symptoms of the last year had multiplied tenfold.

But even through my recovery, my 2019 resolution rose to occasion on its own in a way I hadn’t expected. Though I had felt too miserable to remember to check on my friends, they had been kind enough to check up on me.

In fact, they did more than just check up on me. As I lay prone, eating nothing but rice, bananas and chicken broth every day, so swollen internally I could only breath through my mouth, my loved ones came to me. My father stayed with me for a few hours after surgery while the anesthesia wore off, taking the “day shift” while one of my closest friends (who had volunteered to drive me to the hospital) took the night between her shifts at work. Friends dropped off groceries at my front door when I was too sick to even text them.

On my birthday, while I was still too nauseous and dizzy to even wear my glasses, the well wishes poured in through texts and Facebook notifications. I held four-hour phone calls with my mother. I even heard from old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years.

By the time I returned to work, even my coworkers–some I hadn’t thought even noticed that I was gone–lit up in smiles when they saw me enter the office. This notion surprised me–I had spent years living under a radar and assumed that not many people noticed me. I assumed that even less of them cared.

Appreciate Them, Appreciate You

After seeing the amount of people who reached out as I dealt with not only physical problems, but mental and emotional ones, too, I was struck with the amount of damage my low self-esteem and dismissive attitude has possibly done. How many friendships had I lost by assuming that people didn’t like me? How many people’s opinions did I unintentionally disrespect because it was faster and easier to believe that they were just being nice instead of actually saying something out of love?

If I wanted to truly show loved ones how much they mattered to me, I also had to believe how much I mattered to them.

Sound a little self-serving? It certainly did to me.

But, think about it like this:

How many times has someone complimented you, your clothes, a solution you gave in a meeting, or who you are in general?

What was your knee-jerk reaction to the compliment?

Did you wave it off in embarrassment?

Did you say, “Oh, I’ve gained so many pounds; it’s not fitting like it used to”?

Did you defer it to another person: “Oh, Joey mentioned the word ‘bootstrap’ earlier, so he was really the brainchild for it.”

Why did you blow the compliment off? To sound humble? Because you don’t feel like you deserve it?

Look at it from another angle. Instead of questioning why you said it for yourself, recognize that you just blew off someone’s verbal positivity in your direction. Someone literally tossed you a lovely gift, and instead of catching it, you slapped it away. Or, you caught it and immediately began criticizing the gift itself. Or, you caught the gift and, right in front of the person who gave it to you, gave it to someone else.

Accepting a compliment isn’t just allowing yourself to feel good. It’s receiving the person’s kindness towards you, letting it sink in, and appreciating to the full extent.

2020 New Year “Resolves”

Which brings us–finally!–to my 2020 resolutions.

Or–as I have determined to call them–my 2020 resolves.

As I do every year after Christmas day, I consult with my family and encourage them to set goals as we all march into the New Year. Years ago, they didn’t take this ritual nearly as seriously as I did. I don’t know if I had a direct effect on their changed minds, but they have commented on how incredible and fun-filled my last few years have been–and how they seem to be getting better and more fulfilling as each new one rolls around. Though 2019 was…a smidgen rough, I certainly can’t fault it on the level of activity or the lessons learned.

Regardless of the reason, I was immensely pleased when, as the New York Square New Year’s clock chimed past midnight on the TV, my family nestled themselves into a makeshift circle and took turns sharing our resolutions and goals for 2020.

Since I felt I had to pause my progress halfway through 2019, I’ve decided to stay on the current path of internal work and well-being. Though I do have New Year’s resolutions (concrete goals like achieving the splits or taking a dance class or finally gaining a voice-over agent), my main focus will be on my resolves–adjusting lifelong habits, emotional hangups, and overall life perspectives into more positive, assertive, productive, true-to-self manifestations. Focusing appreciation on my loved ones will continue, of course; however, I am also going to focus on improving my own self-esteem, well-being and mindfulness.

Novel, ain’t it?

In summary:

#1: Take Yourself More Seriously

For years, I often felt like not much was expected of me. This I felt on both a personal and a professional level. When I was busy victimizing myself (which I applied throughout my adolescence and 20s), I blamed my parents, my teachers and managers for this point of view–everyone but myself. Even worse, instead of choosing to defy this stigma, I played it up. I was loud and bouncy and perky all the time. I bumbled and pretended I couldn’t do things well, especially not the first time. I laughed at myself and acted like a silly ten-year-old well into my twenties.

Until I thought–why?

Why did I keep selling myself short? Why did I act like some silly, ditzy little girl all the time? It wasn’t me–at least, not all of me.

It’s been a defense mechanism I’ve used for years, but it’s not one that I want anymore. It no longer serves any purpose. It’s not fun. It’s annoying.

I’m ready to start blaming the one person who perpetuated this behavior in me–and I’m also ready to hold her accountable so that she never makes excuses for herself ever again.

The way I want to truly be will require me to cut the crap–something that should have been said and done a long, long time ago.

#2: Self-aware, Self Care, and Self Prepare

Funny what you notice once you start feeling better mentally, emotionally, physically.

What are a few things I noticed after my nose surgery?

  • Huh. My house is really dirty.
  • When did I accumulate all this clutter in my house?
  • Why am I nearly 40 and still never had a long-term romantic relationship?
  • When did I gain all this weight? Why do I feel so old?
  • Omigosh, I cut off a LOT of my hair last year.

These are all small things by comparison, but when you’re trying to succeed in the world of “adulting,” it’s when all the little things build up that can really make you feel out of sorts. So, now is as good a time as any to begin sorting through it all–both with the internal work and the external work.

I’ll touch on a few of the changes in future posts, but in the meantime–changes will definitely, definitely be made.

Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself, that brings you peace of mind.

#3: You Have a Choice

As I said in my last post last year, it’s easy to go through life on autopilot, living each day in a reactive way. But what would happen if we lived proactively? Just because we’re used to waking up and climbing out of bed on the right side, doesn’t mean we can’t try climbing out on the left side for once. What about the art classes or the dance classes you always wanted to take but never did? The smile you chose not to give the cute guy or girl, because you assumed they were out of your league?

When you choose not to do something because you assume you already know the results, that’s just it. You are assuming. You don’t know for sure. You assume you’ll be a horrible dancer. You assume your art will suck. You assume you aren’t attractive enough and will make a fool of yourself. But you don’t know. And you will never know the actual results until you freakin’ suck it up and try.

You have a choice to live life exactly the way you want to live it. You entered this world with yourself, and you will escort yourself out. Don’t you two deserve to have conscious control with what you want to do with it?

I certainly do. After 37 years of ignoring myself and assuming I was not pretty, talented, smart, good enough to do or be anything, I finally had another thought.

“I’ve spent enough time feeling like I’m not worth the time or energy. How would it look if I spent less time focused on my endless ‘faults,’ and more time turning my life into one that makes me feel happy, empowered and fulfilled?”

I don’t know the answer to this. But it sure will be interesting to find out.

Happy flippin’ new year, ya’ll. 🙂


Want to recap on my 2019 resolutions? Read my old post below!

Back to My Roots: (Re-)Growing My Natural Hair

Sooooo….

Remember when I said that I was done trying to grow my hair to epically long proportions?

Well…I’m still doing that.

HOWEVER…a few days ago, I came across a vlogger that I used to watch religiously circa 2010-2013. Her name is Whitney, but she goes by the user name Naptural85. Basically, for those who don’t know her, she did what was initially deemed near impossible, especially for an African American woman.

She grew non-chemically altered (aka natural) curly/coily hair from a few inches to all the way down her back.

With over 1 million subscribers on YouTube and appearances on multiple high-level media circuits, she is not someone to simply shake your hair at.

African American (and curly/tightly coiled hair in general) hair has several variables that count against its ability to keep and maintain length, strength, and moisture:

  • Its hair structure (as explained in this Helix Magazine blog post and shown in this adorable little gif).
  • The amount of sebum/natural oil coverage it gains, from root to tip (imagine natural scalp oils easily sliding down straight hair vs. navigating the curly hair pattern. Yeeeaahhh…).
  • Its tendency to curl around and through itself (aka knot) and break at each fragile bend.

I could go on and on about the history of growing tightly coiled hair and the struggles that African American women have worked through the decades to conform their hair to societal norms of beauty and acceptance…

Buuuuut, I will save that rant for another post. 😇

Naptural85: Type 4a Hair Guru

As I was saying before–a few days ago, I chanced upon one of Naptural85’s latest hair posts. I’d stopped watching her videos regularly years ago; however, since this post was so recent (posted in August), I was curious to see what she had to say about the latest 2019 hair-growing practices that she was sticking to and what continued to give her the best results as far as healthy, enviable hair growth.

Let’s take a listen below, shall we?

Video Tips Summary…

  1. Clarify your hair and scalp regularly (mainly, your scalp) to keep your follicles open and healthy.
  2. Keep your hair moisturized from roots to curly ends. Drink enough water, and spritz and seal your hair to keep moisture locked within each strand.
  3. Trim your hair on a regular basis. If it’s knotting a lot, it’s definitely time for a trim.
  4. Style gently, style lovingly. Don’t go tight!
  5. Use protective styles.
  6. Recognize the power (and pain points) of your shrinkage. Stretch to avoid breakage.
  7. Choose healthy hair products–no matter where you go.
  8. More water, less sugar.
  9. Get that blood pumpin’! Exercise, massage–the works!

Got it? Spiffy.

One thing that I will say about Naptural85’s hair videos is that, while she has tested the occasional trend and gimmick just to see if the hype is real, her actual focus on growing her hair and keeping it healthy has never been hokie. She has never been afraid to pioneer her own methods, especially when the wave of natural hair-styling wagons originally rode through in the mid- to late 2000s.

Not only that, but she’s consistently posted her progress from her TWA (teeny weeny or tiny widdle afro) to what it is now. She is literally walking proof that a black woman with short 4a hair can, with patience, dedication, and determination, grow long, healthy hair.

Back to Reality

However, I have to be honest with myself. Her hair length was actually very close to mine when I big-chopped in 2009/2010ish. I was, perhaps, a few months behind her. I watched her videos, kept my hair clean, bought shea butter to seal, the works.

Her growth took off. Mine did not–at least, not to that extent.

Was part of the equation something else? Genetics, perhaps? Nutrition? Environment? Stress levels?

Abso-freakin-lutely. The list of impactful variables knows no ends!

But that is one reason why I “gave up” on a near-fanatical desire for long hair. I had to stop comparing my length with someone else’s. I also had to stop equating hair length to personal quality and beauty.

For example, my older sister’s hair is the 3b/3c hair type. Since her big chop to remove the chemical relaxer from her straight hair about four or five years ago, she can now simply put leave-in conditioner on her hair, then Eco Style gel, then let it air dry–and that’s it.

Her hair will behave from that single wash for up to three weeks. Not only that, but when stretched, it is well down her back.

Me?

My scalp is a sensitive mess and demands washing/clarifying twice a week. My curl pattern is so 4a, it’s astounding. My hair and/or scalp loathes nearly every popular natural ingredient out there:

  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil/milk
  • Aloe vera
  • Glycerin

Seriously. I could not be kidding less about this list. If I use products with any of these ingredients, it has to be low on the list of ingredients or mixed with a heck of a lot of other stuff.

Am I complaining?

Actually…not so much anymore.

Instead of turning haircare into a chore, I turned it into an adventure–which is what most African American women have done. It’s also why you’ll often read about a black woman’s natural hair “journey.” If we want our hair to look good, we’ll never not be able to think about it.

What Prompted My Re-Growth Revival

I’ve been going through some various levels of…”events” over the last year. Things were changing at a speed and a debilitating level that I did not expect. I felt like I’d lost control over a lot of elements. My health, my life–and many relationships.

I needed to know I could control something. I needed to know I could change something, make something different so that, as the world around me warped, I wasn’t remaining static.

Due to time and energy and wellness (or rather, lack thereof), I grew lax on my hair care. Then, I became bored.

Then, I got everything else with it, to the point that I just didn’t want to–and couldn’t–deal with it.

This is circa April of this year, before the first cut:

B with longer hair
Freshly dyed and flat-ironed.

And this is after it:

b hair after cut

And yes…I did say “first cut.”

Now, don’t get wrong–I adored this cut. Like, a lot. I’d needed some kind of change at the time and really wanted to look in the mirror to see a different side of myself.

That…and it was a hot spring. I wanted the hair off my neck.

However, when I sent the above pic to my family–you know, for the fun shock value of it all–the response I got was lack-luster.

  • What’s the change?
  • I don’t see anything different.
  • It’s not really that dramatic, is it?

And…of course…we all know what happens when we (i.e. I) get egged on (or, in my case, ineffective responses from our families).

BACK into the bathroom I went–along with the grumblings:

“Oh, nothing’s changed, huh? I’ll show them. I’ll show them all!”

…I might have gone a smidgen extreme.

B lying on a walkway

Too much, too soon?

Or, not.

I’ve adored having my hair short again. Wash day is faster, styling is more convenient, and it’s kinda fun to have strangers marveling over the fact that my natural curl pattern is literally the size of a pen spring.

But…I do miss the fun of having more hair.

It wasn’t easy to take care of, but…it was a fun hobby. And when I was putting all the necessary work into it–I saw my own level of results.

Once I’m able to return to regular life, I’ll add a few of my favorite DIY hair recipes that have remained tried and true for the last 10 years. Items like the good ol’ fashioned mud wash, the mango-cupuacu butter sealant, and my morning apple cider vinegar-cayenne pepper-MSM-raw honey drink.

Mmmm, nummers.

And so, with a decade of knowledge behind me, a set of fairly well-proven tools and practices, and a refreshed Naptural85 video to “reinforce” that my techniques are/were on the right track 😛, it’s time to reembark on my Natural Hair Re-Growing Epic Journey….Extravaganza.

[ahem…cue fanfare!]

Noice.

Hold Our Hands: Fighting Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This blog post addresses heavier mental health topics than usual, including discussions of depression and self-harm. I am not a psychiatrist or a mental health specialist. I’m writing purely from an emotional standpoint–and because I just want to send out love and hope to anyone who happens to read this.

I apologize if this falls into an incoherent rant–but I don’t know, at this moment, how else to share.

But I am one human being–and it shatters me to know how many people I love are hurting in one way or another.

In May and June of this year alone, I learned that two people whom I admired and cared about took their lives. As recently as this week, I learned that more people that I care about are suffering from heavy mental issues.

It seems as if in the last few years, a terrifying epidemic continues to grow and spread on a global scale. The more and more I turn around, the more I learn that nearly everyone I know has had someone that they lost to suicide. It shocks me to see how…regular self harm has become, and that we as a culture are not pushing mental health–and the education of mental health–to a higher precedence in improving the varying levels the human condition.

It’s not just the education of outsiders’ behavior towards those with mental illness. It’s also the education of those who are struggling with mental illness themselves.

The latter part is where my current frustrations lie–because despite the American Psychiatric Association declaring mental illness should be taken as seriously as any other medical illness–we still don’t.

Mental illness is probably one of the cruelest illnesses of the present day. It is not a new illness (goodness knows it manifests itself under different names for centuries), but in a time where information about it is more prevalent and available to the masses than ever, many of us still try to fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have any problems. It does not manifest itself in a way that can be immediately recognized, let alone treated.

If we can stand, walk, drive, smile in the public eye–we are fine, and we should keep going. We have families to raise, children to support, parents to care for, lives to live. If there is nothing wrong physiologically, then there is no need to worry any of our loved ones.

Or worse–even if we told someone how poorly we feel, we wouldn’t be taken seriously. Because, after all, we “look okay.” We “sound” okay.

The longer the illness lays untreated, the darker and more warped the thoughts within our minds become.

You’re not sick. You’re just faking it to get some sympathy, or pity, or attention.

What are you complaining about? Nothing’s really wrong with you.

You’re not the only one with problems. Stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change.

You’re whining about nothing. No one cares.

The cruelest part about mental illness is what it makes you think about yourself–absolutely nothing.

But you are absolutely everything.

I won’t say any more cruel points.

I wrote this post, because I wanted it to be a proverbial hand reaching out for those who are struggling with the depths of their own mental illness.

I can tell you right now—whatever your mental illness is trying to feed you, it’s not true.

If you feel lost or disenchanted or alone, left behind–you are not. Beyond the darkness that is the illness, you have people who are holding you tightly, begging you to stay, begging you to fight against the cruel isolation that the illness can cause.

It is one of the toughest battles you will ever engage in, and it is a battle that you will have to fight every second of your life.

Please don’t let the negativity win.

Fight. Please fight. Fight against every cruel thought that tells you you are worthless and/or alone.

The illness would have you keep your eyes shut so that you can’t see the people in your life who love you dearly, who are reaching out to you.

  • The ones who invite you to lunch every day, even when you say no over and over.
  • The ones who stay on the phone with you at night, not saying a word, just so you can fall asleep.
  • The ones who text you silly memes just so you have something you have to reply to, and they know you are still there.
  • The ones who wave you over to their table, even if you just sit silently with the group.

The moment when you can open your eyes, you will see them right there, standing in front of you, smiling.

And you will realize that they’ve been there all along. They were just lovingly, patiently, happily waiting for you to see them again.

It hurts to know that I can’t stretch myself rice-paper thin and spread myself across everyone I love, shielding them from the cruelties of the outside world–and the darkness in their inner worlds.

I can’t be everything to everyone. I wish I could be. The whole nature of being human is to find the balance of taking care of yourself and caring for others.

No one can be “everything” to anyone. Nor should anyone try.

But I never want the people I love so much to not know how much I love them, and how I wish I could hold them all, always.

Depression is a cruel, selfish illness. It creates words and images to seduce its victims into thinking that every negative thought passing through their minds is the truth.

Here is the truth.

You are a life.

You are a beautiful, breathing life.

You take a breath, and therein is the proof that you exist for a reason.

You have skills and talent, and there are people who are excited and looking forward to seeing you remember just how much you enjoy engaging in those talents.

Mental illness would make you believe that those people and those talents don’t exist. It is wrong.

I wish there was a quick fix. I wish there was a way to make tomorrow the cure to mental illness, where today would be the last time the feelings of loss and hopelessness ever wash over you.

Crawling out of the darkness may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But you can. I believe in you. So many people believe in you.

Please, fight. Keep fighting. Don’t let mental illness win.

If you are struggling with thoughts of self harm and other symptoms of mental illness, please reach out to a mental health professional in your area or call The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Tidying Up the KonMari Way

Not gonna lie: when I think about the term “tidying up,” I think about a stray toy on the floor, an open book on the coffee table, or maybe some excess paper on a desk.

What I don’t think about is the endless black hole that I’ve managed to amass somewhere in the center of my home.

I’ve lived in my current house for a little over four years now, and at the time I moved, I was more in a rush to get out than I was to throw anything away.

At one time during my single living, I was quite organized and methodical in my…well, cleaning methods. Perhaps it was the five tenets of taekwondo I was practicing at the time that kept me on track.

Or maybe it’s because I’m so freakin busy now, I hardly have a second to breathe!!!

Ahem.

Regardless of the reason, I’ve finally decided to take a stand. It didn’t happen on my own, though. It took three four different friends and family members to interject themselves into my house last year and help me clean. I felt awful that I couldn’t keep a clean house, but I felt even worse that they thought I needed help cleaning in the first place.

Enough is enough. It’s time to stop making excuses and start regaining a hold of my clutter.

2019 Resolution: Clean Up, Organize, and Redesign My House

My mindset and levels of stress are easily swayed by the state of my home. Seeing as how my home SUCKS at this moment…you can only imagine the current state of my mind.

Or, rather, don’t. You might hurt yourself.

Last Friday (it’s always last Friday I get these revelations, isn’t it? Ah, well), I mentioned to a friend that I was finally tackling my house. Instead of going room by room–which got me nowhere nearly every weekend last year–I decided to start with a different tactic. First on my list: wading through my clothes.

“Wait!” my friend yelled.

“I mean, I’m not gonna start it right now,” I said, my right foot frozen in mid-air over the top of my descending stairs. “It’s Friday. I’m still on ‘don’t do anything for one afternoon per week’ of my Creative Change Challenge.” [Shameless plug]

“Oh, okay,” my friend said. “In that case, I recommend you watch some of Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix before you start cleaning anything.” [Mildly shameful plug, though I’m not getting paid to plug it. …Be kinda nice, tho–sorry, got distracted!]

“Sure, why not,” I thought, going downstairs and plopping on the couch. “I was trying to find a show to binge watch, anyway.”

(…okay, so I fell asleep two and a half episodes in, but that was only because it was late-ish. The point is, I got the point.)

Marie Kondo: Expert of Tidying and Sparking Joy

To quickly summarize (because I think the Netflix trailer above speaks for itself), world-renown “tidying coach” Marie Kondo developed a method to organize and clean any mess. This method, called KonMari, arranges clutter into five categories:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Miscellaneous (Komono)
  5. Mementos (items of sentimental value)

The optimal technique Mrs. Kondo recommends tackling each category is by compiling them into an open space, where you can view everything at once. By doing this, the shock of realizing how much “crap” (my word, not hers) you’ve accumulated over the years should also make you realize what’s actually important to you, and actually makes you smile. She calls this realization “sparking joy.”

From what I have researched about Mrs. Kondo since Friday, her philosophy goes so far beyond just cleaning a house. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, purportedly teaches the reader that, by respecting his/her property, you can take time appreciating what you have instead of going out over and over again to get more. It’s about finding spiritual balance and internal peace.

As above, so below. As within, so without.

My brain likes joy and peace and balance. So do I.

Ergo, if we could live in a house that sparks all of this, I think we would very much enjoy that.

Tidying Up A-go-go

On Saturday, I began stage 1: Clothing. According to the tidying rules, I now have 8 days (well, 5 days as of this posting) to get my “spark joy” clothes back in the closet and my other clothes stuffed away in industrial-sized trash bags, set for Salvation Army.

Let me slow down. It’s not as simple as picking and choosing what stays and what goes.

Mrs. Kondo states that with each article of clothing you review, search inside yourself and assess how that item makes you feel. Does it still make you smile? Does it make you feel good when you wear it? Then, keep it.

If the article does not make you feel good, it is probably best to let it go. However, as you are releasing your attachment, don’t forget to thank it for the times that it did give you joy. After all, you owned it for a reason.

So far, I like this technique. Sorting through the pile Monday afternoon, there were articles of clothing I found where I thought, “I can still wear this!”

Even if the question was “Will I still wear it?” I might scoff and shift and say, “…Maybe!”

But…does it bring me joy? Does it make me smile?

Accepting the Truth

I sighed at one dress, a jungle green turtleneck I’d owned for 10 years that I’d adored in the beginning. It’s been about four years since I’ve even tried it on. It was still good as new.

But…it didn’t make me smile.

Gently, I air-kissed it, thanked it for the times it made me feel truly beautiful, and tucked it into the give-away laundry basket where the other “goodbyes” were nestled.

I’ll confess, I’m excited to continue this new method of organization. I can’t help but think about the clutter and the mess that I’m currently not touching, and how well the KonMari method will apply to them. Nevertheless, I’m going to be patient. If this method allows me to mentally return to the way I used to be nearly 4 years ago (color-coordinated closet, meals prepped for every day of the work week), I would be absolutely ecstatic.

I just have one question:

WHAT HAVE I DONE?

Training Begins: 90 Days till Action Star!!!

Have you ever felt like your body was literally and figuratively itching to do something?  Like, if you had to sit for one more second and NOT do it, you just might burst out of your seat and…I don’t know…do it twice as hard?

(I know, I know–I could have come up with something better. Bad blogger.)

For some, it’s parkour and free running.  For others, it’s gymnastics or dancing.

For me, at this moment, it’s combat training.

Yeah, I know.  Kinda out of left field.

Friends and family have told me that I’m the last person they would expect to be interested in physical combat.  I’m considered the “runt” of my family at 5’3″, as well as the little girl who always chose skirts over pants.

And yet, the moment I realized that I couldn’t fully sprint in a skirt, I chucked them from kindergarten till college. But no one notices that, now do they?!?!

I also forgot to tell people that one of my hidden dreams had always been to learn a martial art. Aaand, I’ve watched wrestling since I was 9, sooo….

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Come, children, sit around the nice, warm computer/smartphone monitor while Auntie M.o.B spins you a tale of the days when she used to be quite the spry and skilled fighter.

A Tale of Taekwondo

From 2009 – 2016, I trained religiously in taekwondo. I won’t say that I was good at it, but I managed to win a few tournaments, get a black belt, and become an instructor in my dojang.

During sparring days, I would fly through my opponents, dodging their combo kicks only to slide in during a pause, sneak in a roundhouse or lifting (axe) kick to the shoulder, and slink out before they noticed.

Our master instructor would point at me triumphantly (and occasionally begrudgingly when I’d out-score his younger prize pupils) and exclaim, “She doesn’t have skills, but she’s got that kick!”

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Yep. Those were good times.

2019 Resolution: Take Acting Classes

Though I had to ultimately step away from the full-time lifestyle that taekwondo can become, I’ve never stopped longing for the clarity, focus, and confidence that training in martial arts gave me.

Which brings me to the main point of this post.

Along with voice acting and writing, I have another love that I have been neglecting since my high school years. From first grade to graduation, I dabbled in the performance art world that is acting. I’ve had varying roles in school plays and ensembles, and even won a few district’s choices in my day.

(I sound like I’m reliving my football years. …star quarterback, btw #ftw)

Am I any good?

Heck if I know.

I am, however, an everlasting proponent of the universe sending me messages…and I have certainly noticed myself very recently surrounded by people who very casually say certain things in passing.

Things like…

“Oh, the director flew me out for this new Netflix series.”

“Filming doesn’t wrap up until Sunday, so I can’t make it.”

“Can I borrow this for my wardrobe? The theme is Nuclear Zombie Housewives from 1923.”

Dagnabbit, maybe want to be a Nuclear Zombie Housewife from 1923. Did anyone ever think about my needs?

Ahem.

The point is, I love acting. I love dressing up. I love pretending to be somebody else. Ergo, ifso facto, we can only reach one conclusion.

Acting + dress-up + make-pretend + combat training =

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Sorry. Lemme try that again.

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Style’s on point, but lemme up the complexity…

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Whoop, too much too much too much…

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YEAH THAT’S IT!!!

A couple of nights ago, I met with a friend who is coming with me on this acting journey, and we laid out the first quarter of 2019 in performance-based classes. Voice acting, improv, intro to acting, and–oh, yes–combat training.

3 Months and Counting

If you’ve visited this blog in the last three days, you’ve already noticed that I’ve stuck a timer on the side of my screen. On Saturday, April 13, I will be attending a workshop on how to perform combat effectively yet safely at The Neighborhood Studio. According to the description, the workshop should be fairly comprehensive.

Combining notions of stunt work, martial arts, and fitness to explain the ideas and concepts of what the body is capable of, you will be taught how to take a punch, how to throw a punch, how to fall, how to behave on the ground, and many more aspects of what makes Action convincing.

From “Action for Acting” workshop page

*cue me hopping up and down, squealing*

Now when I take this epic ultra mega action star training class, I want to make sure that I am limber and fit enough to keep up with the crowd. I want to look sexy, stylish, badass, and cool.

…Alright; I wanna make sure I don’t cough up my lungs.

To prepare against such an event, I have, as of today, put myself back on the same exercise, nutritional, and physical mindfulness that I was on when I trained as a taekwondo student. It’s not extreme, but it’s a lot smarter than what I was doing:

  • All home-cooked meals, including any “junk” food I want
  • No soda or fruit juices
  • MORE SLEEP (I know; that should be a given)
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week
  • 30 minutes movement every day

I’m starting lightly to give my body time and patience to recognize and understand what I’m doing to it. As the weeks go by, I will gauge how I’ve adjusted and shift as needed.

But I’m not just leaving it up to these vague parameters.

My Back-into-Shape Secret Weapon

When I was in college, I gained 15 pounds my first semester. During the last semester of my four-year residency, I lost all 15. How, you ask?

With this bad body–I mean, boy!

The Truth, written by Frank Sepe, has not only gotten me back on track multiple times with my physical fitness, but it’s also a great read. The advice on choosing daily meals and how to space out your weekly physical training is comprehensive, yet flexible. It even details how to gauge the amount of calories you should take in based on what you want to lose, maintain, or even gain in weight and/or muscle.

What I love just as much about The Truth is that it serves as a partial autobiography. Frank Sepe recounts the extreme, excessively unhealthy ways that he worked to gain muscle during his bodybuilding days–ways that nearly killed him. He shares that it’s not necessary, beneficial, or smart to take on fad diets or drugs–looking good arrives from simply taking care of your body in the way it wants you to naturally.

It’s doable, and it’s logical. I can work with that.

Action Star, Away!

I will be re-cracking open my copy of The Truth in the next few days to complete my resolve towards April’s workshop. In the meantime, I just finished a lovely dinner of grilled shrimp with brown and wild rice, washed down with a warm glass of lemon water. The time of slumber has arrived, and I am off to greet it kindly.

In the meantime, I will do my best not to randomly yell “action star” after everything I do.

….

…as soon as I finish this blog post

ACTION STAR!!!!

The Creative Change Challenge

Several years, ago, while moving into my current house and unpacking the multitude of boxes that I’d brought with me from my apartment, I came upon an interesting piece of paper called “Creative Change.”  On the paper was a list of 12 commandments of sorts, each instructing the user to gently modify her life through small adjustment to her standards of existing.

Here’s the thing.

I have no idea where this list came from.

I’d never seen it before that day, and I certainly don’t remember where I picked it up or who might have given it to me.

The paper itself is highly yellowed and obviously dirtied.  I have a lot of paperwork that is old and should be thrown out, but the only documents I have that look as worn as this list are my kindergarten report cards.

…Yes, I still have my kindergarten report cards.  Let’s stay on task here, shall we?

The Creative Changes

As it is cited at the bottom of the list, the 12 Creative Changes stems from a book called Living Your Life Out Loud: How to Unlock Your Creativity, by Salli Rasberry and Padi Selwyn.  Again, I’ve never heard of the book–but, as my creative side has been severely lacking lately, I’ve decided to get the book and see what else it entails.

As for the Creative Change list itself…I’ve been meaning to put it into effect for a while, now.

Alright, alright–four years’ worth of “awhile” now.  These days, however, it’s becoming more and more mandatory, as I’m feeling something deep inside me shift.

I haven’t spoken much about how my mental and emotional well-being have been faring lately, because I haven’t been able to pinpoint the actual trouble myself.  The truth is, though, that I have become extremely run down.  It if were just lethargy, I would tell myself to snap out of it and walk it off.  But it’s not as clean-cut as that.  And until I get a better understanding…I’ll just leave it and say that, these last few months have been a little tougher than I’d care to admit.

Body Breakdown

Actually, let’s put it this way.  Last Friday, I took the day off to catch up on folding some laundry, prepare my office space for actual office equipment–you know, really take 8 hours to tear down the house and build it back up.

You know what I did?

I folded two loads of laundry, then fell asleep on top of said laundry, still standing but leaning on my bed.

Not even kidding.

My daily living habits are shot and have been shot since at least the end of summer.  I know I’ve been busy, but who hasn’t?  So many of my friends are juggling what I feel to be so much more than I am.  If they can do it, why can’t I?

Creative Change–the Challenge

I’ve also had to be more honest this year with myself and some bad behaviors that I have perpetrated.  For the longest time, denial and victimization worked to put these behaviors off.  However, if I want to evolve and be a better person in order to help and take care of those who mean the most to me, that all has to change.

Cue the improvement montage!

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Now that I have effectively hypnotized you or made you pass out, let’s begin with the Creative Change Challenge.

On the Creative Change list, the first three actions are as follows:

  1.  Set aside one afternoon each week with absolutely no plans.
  2. Learn to pause, taking mini-breaks throughout the day.
  3. Meet stress head-on through relaxation, meditation, and contemplative prayer.

My goal in this personal challenge is to integrate three of the list items into my life every month, until I am effectively incorporated all 12.  At three a month, I should be full immersed by the end of March 2019.

Do I have high hopes for this challenge?

I do.

Why?

Because when random pieces of paper that say exactly what you need them to say, show up a-knockin at your door–you listen, dagnabbit.

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The Creative Change list, from the book Living Your Life Out Loud.  A book I’ve never heard of, but am very intrigued.