You Got What You Settled For

In between body aches, coughing fits, headaches and all the other joys of the flu, I’ve been watching TV and I came across a line that made me evaluate my life. That’s right, even when I’m jacked up, I still like to get deep. Just excuse any typos, ’cause TheraFlu is messing with my mind.

I decided to wath the ultimate chick flick movie, which is Thelma & Louse. Anyway, Louise told Thelma, “Well, you got what you settled for.” Of course, she was referencing her friend’s choice for a husband, but the sentiment applies to other things as well.

What if we didn’t settle? What if we demanded more out of our lives than the ordinary routine of the mundane, allowing life to carry us along, rather than the other way around? I happen to think that far too many of us settle for an unsatisfactory life because it’s easier than doing what it takes to create the one we really want.

Notice I’m including myself in that category as well. I’ve been known to take the easy way out of things on more than one occasion. But something about that line from a movie almost 30 years ago jolted me out of my routine and made me want to do something different.

I’m done settling. I’m done doing things the same way and expecting things to magically change. I’m making some changes and I think you should join me.

Because the bottom line is, we get exactly what we settle for.

What are you planning to do differently today? This week? This year?

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Sometimes We Fail…

Sometimes we fail, y’all. It’s a fact of life I was reminded of when I set out to survive a green smoothie cleanse. Let me explain. I had high hopes of emerging from a long detox regimen with glowing, flawless skin, a flattened stomach and relief from the joint pain that plagues me do the inflammation in my body caused by chronic disease.

I went to the store with my mother, who generously offered to pay for half of the groceries in my cart that was loaded with spinach, frozen fruit, almond coconut milk and kale. I ordered some plant-based protein powder off Amazon, and busted open the box my sister’s Ninja blender arrived in well over a month ago. I scheduled several posts in advance for this blog and completed my school work so that when the detox symptoms set in, I wouldn’t have to try to think with brain fog. I was all set, and prepared for overwhelming success.

Until day 2.5 on the cleanse. Let me tell you something; days three and four of any sort of detox program is meant to separate the strong from the weak. It’s where heroes are born and you get to see exactly what you’re made of. Apparently, I’m made of the desire for something to chew!

I tried to hold out, you guys. I sat in my bed, watching Friends and noticing how borderline racist and outrageously fat shaming it is, willing myself to be satisfied with the herbal tea that was supposed to help my detoxing efforts along. But, I wanted a boiled egg so bad I could taste it. The salt, and the instant satiety called to me.

I made every effort to talk myself out of it. I told myself that I had all the nutrients I needed in those darn smoothies I had been drinking. Fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Any desire to eat an egg was not based on actual need, but rather on desire.

Logically, I knew that all of the above was true. But deep down, where my intuition dwells, I didn’t give a hoot! So…I boiled some eggs and ate them. They. Were. Phenomenal. Absolutely everything I thought they would be, and they satisfied me in a way that nothing had in days.

Then the guilt set it. I’d failed. I’d set out to do something, and I didn’t do it. I found myself spiraling down into the black and white thinking that used to make me binge eat at times like this, because I’d already blown it, so I might as well go to town. But, therapy taught me to arrest that kind of thinking, and understand that an all or nothing attitude hadn’t helped me in the past, so it wouldn’t help me then, either.

So, I counted it as a lost, but not the end of the world. Then I re-evaluated my goals for starting the cleanse in the first place. To lessen my pain, clean up my diet, and get a hold of my sweet tooth. I realized that I could accomplish all of those things while eating whole food, so that’s what I’ve decided to do.

I have a smoothie and eggs for breakfast, another smoothie for lunch and a nice dinner. It’s been working. My sugar cravings are almost non-existent, and the ones I do have can be solved with a Larabar. I’ve been sleeping better, I can do squats again without excruciating joint pain, and my energy is off the charts.

So I failed, that much is definitely true. But you know what else? I learned some things about myself along the way. Besides that, I also reaffirmed how much I’ve grown in my relationship with food, and the practice of self-love. I hope that you can see by my little anecdote that even when we fail, if we learn something along the way, it’s not a total loss.

Our failures do not define us. How we respond to them does. I’m choosing to respond with compassion and grace towards myself. I really hope that when, or if, the time comes, you’ll do the same. ♥

When’s the last time you had a goal that you didn’t quite reach? How did you respond?

Focus On the Good…And Watch It Multiply

Last week we talked about how to avoid negative people. Today, let’s talk about what we can do to not become one of them. I’m a big believer in having an attitude of gratitude, which most of you know. Gratitude can take you places skill never will. A wonderful side effect of gratitude is that you’ll begin to automatically focus on the good. When that happens, the good in your life will grow (or at least your awareness of it), thereby giving you more to be grateful for. It’s a beautiful cycle of cause and effect.

We become what we think we are. Whatever our heart is full of, whatever we focus our thoughts and attention on, becomes bigger in our lives, because it becomes bigger in our perspective. The bible advises us to think on whatever is good, whatever is holy, whatever is of good report. That admonishment is not just about getting the feel goods. It’s about a simple premise: what we focus on changes who we are, and who we are is built upon what we believe in. In other words, focusing on the good increases our faith.

I’m not saying we should walk around with our heads in the clouds, totally unaware of what’s going on in the world around us. I’m saying that we should be mindful of how much negativity we take in on the daily. The world won’t end if we turn off the news, put down our phone, disconnect from social media. In my personal experience, I’ve found that it keeps right on turning. The difference is that I’m a better person for guarding my heart, mind and spirit from negativity and opening up to the good around me. I think you will be, too.

I can feel some of you thinking, “But what if my life isn’t full of a lot of good right now?” I hear you. I totally understand that feeling, especially when your gratitude muscles aren’t that strong. So I’ve got a little story for you.

When I was a young girl, I used to sit in testimony service at church. Inevitably, various members of the congregation would rise to their feet and proclaim, “I thank God for waking me up this morning and clothing me in my right mind. I thank Him for the activity of my limbs.” And so on, and so forth.

This is the part where I would roll my eyes. Because how can a mind be clothed? And what, exactly, are limb activities? I’m older now, and just a little bit wiser. You see, I now understand those turns of phrase for the traditions they are. I come from a long line of Southern born African-Americans. I don’t need to go over the history of what that means for my historical lineage. Suffice it to say that we were no strangers to lack, and fear and injustice. And so it makes sense that in a world where many did not wake up in sanity, nor with the full movement of their limbs, that my ancestors’ version of focusing on the good was to call out the basic human rights that many take for granted.

So, if they found a way to focus on the good, what’s our excuse?

Choosing to focus on the good has less to do with your circumstances and more to do with the way you view them. There is always some good to be found. Train yourself to see it, cling to it and watch it spread. What would happen if you spent a little time every day listing three things you’re grateful for? No matter how big or how small? You’ve got nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain.

What are you most grateful for today?

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Brokenhearted on Mother’s Day

My Dear Sweet Friend,

What I have to say isn’t for those on a sentimental high of celebratory accolades and recognition. This isn’t your typical Mother’s Day blog post full of ironic humor and adorable pictures of frazzled moms and food smeared chubby toddlers. I’m pretty sure you won’t have a hard time finding something like that elsewhere, if that’s what you’re looking for. But, you won’t find it here.

This is an open letter to the brokenhearted. An acknowledgment of those who may feel as though they reside on the outskirts of society on days like today. Who think that they are alone in their pain. This is for those whose mothers have passed, and the only way they can give them flowers today is to lay them on their graves. This is for the women who have made their homes in the valley of barrenness. This is for those who look into the beautiful faces of their children and still see the ghosts of what could have been, what they feel should have been. This is for those whose arms ache with the emptiness of loss and hope. This is for those who have piles of home pregnancy tests stashed all over their homes, waiting for that confirmation of life. This is for those who are haunted by the guilt of choices that can’t be undone and wonder, what if? This is for those who gave their children away long ago and wonder what became of them. This is for the children of mothers who gave less than they needed and are still left with the void. This is even for those who shrug and think, it’s just another day when, in the space of truth that lies beneath, they know that it’s not. This is for the woman who puts on a brave face and smiles until her cheeks hurt, only to steal moments alone with her head tilted back, fingers gently patting away tears before her concealer breaks and her mascara runs.

I’ve carried a burden for you. Yes, you. I thought of you and your pain and laid it along side my own burden of brokenness, before hoisting it onto my back and wearing it for the last week. I counted down the days till Sunday, sadness tinging each moment, sighs escaping my mouth at will and without conscious provocation.  As I sit here snuggled up on my couch in a velvety soft blanket, my stomach is in knots at the thought of going against the grain and speaking to a population that many people would rather pretend don’t exist. I guess I’m unique in that I belong to both groups. There have been times when I would rather not deal with the messiness of sadness and loss. When I found it easier to pretend. But that’s exhausting and tiresome and debilitating and any other number of words you can think of to explain that it’s no longer worth my time.

I am the mother of a stillborn. An oxymoron of an existence. Do I count as a mother? Do I ignore the pain that fills me like air on days like this? Do I pretend that I don’t feel the undercurrent of pain that my eyes were opened to the moment tragedy struck?

I won’t do that. I won’t pretend that I don’t see you. I see you, I feel you and I care for you. For lack of a better way to put it; it sucks to be us right now. The truth is that if we’d had a choice, none of us would have joined this club.

But we’re here now and I found myself asking God, “What do I say to them, Lord?” I didn’t feel that I had anything to offer until I remembered that we don’t have to keep carrying our burdens . It’s a choice we make. I’m not going to give you a Christian cliche and advise you to lay your burdens down. I prefer to think of it as simply letting go. That’s what I did.

I gave birth to my deceased daughter, and had her cremated. Then, I had no choice but to learn how to live in The After. Some things forever change you, without fanfare, quietly and totally. This was one of those things. I railed against God. I was consumed with a simmering rage that only seemed to grow as, even in my grief stricken state, I realized that I needed Him. And the whole time, He was right there. Through my rage, my numbness and my years of insidious resentment. He was right there.

Because you see, the Lord is near to the brokenhearted* and binds up all their wounds**.
I know this, not because I read it, but because I lived it. He was faithful to walk with me through sorrow, and I came to know Him in the fellowship oLetting Gof His suffering. My point is that I never had to lay my burden down. I eventually let it go because it’s hard to hang on to your stuff when you’re constantly in the presence of the Almighty. It really is darn near impossible. Trust me, I tried.

He bound up my wounds, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still hurt. Pain is a part of the healing process. I had surgery months ago, and I still hurt at the site of the wound when it’s going to rain. I’m still healing, and those twinges are part of that healing. I might feel those twinges for the rest of my life, but that’s OK. The pain that led me to the surgical table was far more excruciating than the twinges I feel now. The same is true for the emotional and spiritual trauma we can’t see. Over time, you will still feel sadness. You will still shed tears.

But, you won’t be broken forever.

When the pain is overwhelming, when you can’t see past it and wonder how you’ll go on, just remind yourself that it won’t be like this forever. Shed your tears, remember the good, take a few deep breaths and know that you can go on.

He said, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

XoXo,

Faith

*Psalm 34:18, **Psalm 147:3

Somebody Pass the Zzzquil!

insomnia

Last week I was an unproductive zombie. For the first time in my life I suffered from a persistent bout of insomnia. It sucked. I’m a gal who needs her z’s. Like, REALLY needs them. Without some good old mouth-hanging-open-calling-hogs sleep I become cranky and paranoid, not to mention overly emotional.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there’s a name for what I was experiencing. It’s called an energy crisis. I stumbled across a quiz in the chapel at my job outlining all of the different areas people tend to overlook and/or neglect in an effort to save time. The irony is that in our attempts to save time, we often end up losing energy. I’m sharing the quiz in the hopes that it will help some of y’all if you’re also seeking to balance your energy and time more effectively.

Click here for a link to the online version of the quiz provided by Harvard. (Yes, Harvard darling). For my old school readers, I’ve provided a printable version below. Just put a check next to each statement that rings true for you and tally up your score when you’re done!

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time (Schwartz and McCarthy)

BODY

___I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired.

___ I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious.

___ I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week.)

___ I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch on the go, if I eat at all.

EMOTIONS

___I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient, or anxious, especially when I have a lot of things to do.

___ I don’t have enough time with my family and loved ones, and when I’m with them, I’m not always really with them.

___ I have too little time for activities that I most deeply enjoy.

___ I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savor my accomplishments and blessings.

MIND

___ I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day,

___ I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crises and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer-term value.

___ I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing, and creative thinking.

___ I am busy in the evenings and on weekends.

SPIRIT

___ I don’t spend enough time doing what I do best and enjoy the most.

___ There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy.

___ My decisions are more influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose.

___ I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world.

Number of checks in each category?

Body___               Mind____

Emotions___        Spirit____

Guide to category scores:

0: Excellent energy management skills

1: Strong energy management skills

2: Significant deficits

3: Poor energy management skills

4: A full-fledged energy crisis

How is Your Overall Energy?

Total number of statements checked:____

Guide to overall scores

0-3: Excellent energy management skills

4-6: Reasonable energy management skills

7-10: Significant energy management deficits

11-16: A full-fledged energy management crisis

Thankfully, I was able to catch up on my sleep over the weekend. Hopefully, the quiz will serve to help you pin point which areas of your life you can work on improving for optimal energy and time management. So what’s the next step? Click here to explore The Energy Management Project in greater detail.

Have you ever struggled with insomnia? How do you re-center yourself when you have a stressful week? Do you think there’s something to this energy management theory?

Photo credit: f1uffster (Jeanie) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND