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And then the storm came …

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Hurricane Florence

Fall semester started off with a bang alongside my commitment to blog at least once a month as I count down to my 40th birthday. Classes were in full swing, committees were assigned, writing projects outlined on my calendar, and a host of identified tasks detailed in between. But then the storm came.

I’ve lived in the south for most of my life. Hurricane Hugo was my first experience with a major hurricane and it’s after effect. That was 1989. Since that time, I’ve watched the impact of Hurricane Katrina and then Hurricane Matthew from afar. Between those years, we’ve received a number of hurricane warnings. Most times these warnings are downgraded as the storms slow or change direction. So, many will understand why I was not in a haste to evacuate when we were notified that Hurricane Florence was headed our way. I planned to watch closely and make a final decision a day or two before the storm was set to hit. After a brief visit to my office and chatting with many frantic colleagues, I decided to leave. One of the best decisions I’ve made.

What followed has been nothing short of heartbreaking. I need not rehash what you can read in a variety of news reports. For 10 days I stayed with a close friend as we watched the hurricane hit and seem to linger in our area. The days following crushed my heart – roads flooded, many stranded, students without a place to return, and many faculty and staff unsure of what they would find when they came home.

I finally got on the road and drove home. For the first time in a long time, I remained in panic mode for the entire four hours it took for me to arrive – unsure of if/when I’d run into flooded highways or newly closed routes. Although my route remained unobstructed, I did not expect to see so many rooftops with homes invisible or to smell the stench of who-knows-what for miles along the drive. I finally reached my city and felt like I’d driven into the Twilight Zone – trees were down everywhere, relief trucks in most of the neighborhoods, and a glooming sadness in the air.

I’ve been home for one full week now. Some parts of town are in a groove of their new normal, while others remain on the long road to repair. Volunteering has been soothing as it has reminded me of the kindness of our world during a time when hatred seems to rampart. People are helpful. People are grateful. People are hurting. People are healing.

I’ve had three weeks to contemplate life, the possibility of losing everything, and the near-reality of starting over. This experience will forever be etched in my mind. I am grateful for my employer – system-wide they have done an amazing job of keeping us all informed. I’m grateful for loving friends – not only my friend who graciously opened her home to me, but those who checked on me before, during, and after the storm. I am grateful for the sparing of my home and opportunities to serve others.

I am still counting down to 40, but with new layers. Life is unpredictable. Every day does matter. Material things can and do fade away. Life is precious. Friends are invaluable. Love prevails.

I look forward to “seeing” you again next month. #ILMStrong #CapeFearStrong #WeWillRebuild

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A Just Florence Recovery

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via A Just Florence Recovery

The Journey to Chapter 40

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I had not thought about my last year in my 30s until a friend mentioned it during my birthday celebration. I then started reflecting – as I often do around my birthday – on my life, lessons learned, and my desires for the years ahead. So in honor of my last year in my 30s and as a celebration of this leg of my journey, I am: 1) recommitting to regular blogging; and 2) creating a series of reflection posts for the next 11 months. I hope you’ll read along :-).

My life has taken some interesting twists and turns over the last 39 years. I have seen and done things I never imagined and I truly feel not only am I am living my best life, but there are so many exciting ventures ahead! I don’t have any anxiety or angst about turning 40; I welcome it (not that any hesitancy would stop it from happeningJ). I don’t feel the weight of any huge life regrets or could-have, would-have, should-haves. My life has been filled with its share of turmoil, but I am grateful for every opportunity, even lesson, every heartbreak, every love voyage, every friend, every shift, every turn, and every realization.

Over the next few months I will be sharing more about my hometown and upbringing; family and friends; my undergraduate college years and time in the Peace Corps; graduate school and finding my professional home; major life changes in my early 30s; returning to school; and a few posts about my life now. I hope you’ll follow my posts and comment. I hope at least one of them will inspire you or encourage you to think about aspects of your own life that have been central to the person you are today. And if you enjoy what you’re reading, I hope you’ll share my blog. I’ll be back soon :-)!

Chapter 39: The Year of Letting Go

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Chapter 39 II

Hello Peeps! I know it has been a long time – nearly 3 months to be exact. Summer came in like a whirlwind with more commitments, travel, and tasks than I anticipated. Now we are just 2 weeks away from the resuming school-related activities and I finally feel like I have a moment to halt, catch my breath, reflect, and prepare for the next leg of my journey. Even with all the movement over the last few months, summer also brought in some thrills. I presented at a few conferences, caught up with friends, traveled to the west coast for a research institute, and worked on a few writing projects. I also started writing Chapter 39!

I’d originally planned to throw a big beach bash, but my budget and energy level said “not so” :-). Instead, I invited my 4 closest friends to my home for a week. This was one of the best decisions I made. For nearly 7 days my home was filled with an extra abundance of love, laughter, reminiscing, and joy! Having my closest girlfriends together again (the first time since last year) reminded me of the treasure of friendship and how I long to be close to those who are genuine. They reminded me of the value of authenticity and why it is challenging for me to spend quality time with those who represent anything less than that. My friends reminded me of how multifaceted life – as well as our personalities – are and the gem in taking time to be with loved ones. As they helped to usher in my birthday, I felt even better about this new chapter of my life.

Like many or even most, I have experienced some bumps along the road. This last year has been especially important as it has granted me an opportunity to recreate my life in all the major ways I desired. With my dream career, a new location, new people, new adventures, and new relationships, nearly every aspect of my life has shifted. But a few things remain the same. I still treasure my family and friends. I still believe in being genuine and honest. I still search for opportunities to create and nurture love. And I still believe in the possibility of even greater things to come. This parallel existence of new and old seat me in my year of 39 with boldness, grace, gratitude, and excitement! I don’t have the same insecurities I had a decade or even a few years ago. Even with the physical and emotional changes that come with 39, I feel like I have become and am still becoming the woman I’ve wanted to be. I am so incredibly grateful for my life – in every way! And I am excited about all that is ahead.

Alongside an overdue update, this blog post and new chapter welcome me back to social media. I took an extended break to reevaluate the people who have seeped into my life or lingered too long, as well as how I’ve been spending my leisure time. I don’t remember how long it has been, but it felt good to be away. Social media has an interesting way of allowing us to become caught in falsehood – a belief in the existence of things that aren’t really there. In an effort to minimize my engagement with this falsehood in every area of my life, I am calling this chapter “The Year of Letting Go” and my time away helped me see why this theme is critical.

I am letting go of things, people, practices …. beliefs that no longer serve me. I have a tendency to hold on to people simply because we have history or share some powerful story in how we met. Even when these relationships are dead or toxic, there I am still holding on. I hold on to beliefs simply because I haven’t taken a moment to re-examine them or admit that things have shifted, as should my thinking. I hold on to practices because I said I would – even when s*(! isn’t working. So in addition to embracing 39, I am actively practicing letting go of anyone or anything that no longer serves me. Here is to another amazing year! xoxoxo

 

All Summer ’18

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Summer 18

It’s crazy to me that I have not written a single blog post since January! Needless to say, life has been busy. I finished my first year as a fulltime faculty member and I am nearing the one year mark of my relocation. So much has happened!

My new location is gradually becoming home in every sense. There are some things I welcomed – less traffic, a lower cost of living, a slower paced lifestyle, and the kindness of my new community. And there are still things I miss about my former home, including my friends, diversity, and cultural experiences. But I am constantly working to adjust my expectations and see the wonderful things about my new home.

In February I adopted a fur baby. The first few weeks were the roughest as I tried to sort out how to provide a safe and secure home for him, while also enforcing the discipline he needs to be a great companion. Three months in and we are doing well. He still challenges me from time to time in relation to following the rules, but overall he is a joy. He loves to play and cuddle. He is extremely attentive. He forces me to limit my work hours and exercise more. And he has brought a great deal of joy to my life in ways I never imagined.

I feel fulfilled in every way in relation to my career. I have worked long, hard, and intentional to spend as much of my days doing what I love. I’ve found that. Being a faculty member is not without difficulties, but I enjoy being in the classroom. I love meeting students and hearing about their experiences. It is exciting to have a career that challenges me to learn each day and stay abreast of current events. And teaching in particular is one career that encourages me to remain humble: I don’t know everything and never will; there is always someone in the room who knows more than me about a particular topic; and being a professor is an ever-evolving craft – you can never perfect it. This I find enriching.

During the spring semester, I participated in the National Faculty Center for Development and Diversity’s Faculty Success Program. I learned a lot from this program and made some new professional connections. There are three primary questions I am taking from FSP that I’m working to incorporate in my life every day: 1) what standards can I lower today; 2) what ways can I treat myself each day; and 3) what do I need to asses and adjust? How can I continue to lower my standards in nonessential ways? How will I reward myself every day of my life for the work I have done and do? And one of the biggest struggles for me – in what areas of my life do I need to take a step back, reassess, and adjust my schedule, expectations, and/or tasks?

Otherwise, I am spending this summer focusing on research tasks, hanging out with my fur baby, and resting. As is typical for me, I wrote an extensive list of goals for the summer. I have since disregarded most of them. The overarching goal for this summer is to enjoy not being a student, not being a person packing up and getting ready to move, and rejuvenating myself enough to be ready for the next academic year. I hope to write more this summer – including on my blog :-). I hope to reflect more, including writing in my journal. I hope to spend more time with family and friends – new and former. I hope to share a little more of me with you. Stay tuned.

Re-blog: 20 MENTAL HEALTH RESOLUTIONS FOR THE NEW YEAR

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Classes resume tomorrow for our university. While I am excited about the hustle and bustle of the semester, seeing bright eye and eager faces, and working with my colleagues again, I am also nervous. I have worked hard these last few months to develop a self-care routine. I have fought to establish a regular eating and exercise routine. In other words, I have indulged in taking care of myself. With the new semester comes the recognition of a new routine, new adjustments, and new challenges. I am trying my best to ease into the semester and be gentle with myself as I do so. Reading Sam’s post from 2015 was a perfect reminder. I hope you enjoy! 

I might be in the minority on this one, but as I’ve gotten older, New Year’s Eve has become one of my favorite holidays.

I am a lover of fresh starts – an empty journal, a big move, a new career – and I thrive on this feeling of possibility. There is nothing quite like the year turning over, and with it, the promise of good things to come.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken the New Year as an opportunity to reflect. With that reflection, I do make resolutions, too – though I’m a big believer that our resolutions should come from a place of loving ourselves rather than trying to “fix” ourselves, as resolutions can so often imply.

For me, my resolutions often center around my mental health. Since bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety are my constant companions, I take the New Year as a moment to check in with myself and decide what I might do differently (and what should stay the same!) to ensure that I’m taking care of myself.

This year, I want to share those resolutions. Here are 20 that I hope will inspire you to prioritize your mental health this coming year (with some f-bombs thrown in here, for good measure, brace thyself):

1. I will only invest in people who invest in me. I will not pour my energy into a relationship that is intentionally one-sided; I will not offer my time to someone who does not value our relationship.

2. I will ask for help when I need it. Fuck this struggle bus that I ride for weeks on end, thinking that I should pull myself up by my bootstraps and deal. I’ll call the hotline; I’ll give my psychiatrist a ring; I’ll message a friend.

3. I will take my medications as prescribed. Someone told me recently that bipolar folks have the worst med compliance of any group. Based on my history, I believe it.

4. I will challenge myself to say “yes” to the things that scare me. Because letting anxiety rule over my life keeps me from pursuing amazing opportunities that could bring a lot of happiness into my life.

5. But I’ll also say “no” when I need to, without judgment. Sometimes saying “yes” to everything can be just as harmful as saying “no.” So I’ll seek out a balance.

6. I will stop putting off that phone call. I avoid a lot of things because, well, anxiety. But in doing that, I end up creating more panic than it’s worth. So when I’m able, I’ll push myself to be proactive.

7. I’ll get enough sleep. Because, let’s face it, sleep is critical and getting an early start to my day helps me to be more productive.

8. I’ll stop placing a moral value on food. Food is just food. No more “this is so bad of me” or “I’m being so good right now” when I’m talking about cheesecake and salads. When we judge our food, we by extension judge ourselves. And I don’t need that kind of toxic bullshit in my life, controlling what I can and cannot put on my plate, letting the food I eat decide if I should feel guilty or happy today (or ever).

9. I will focus on being resilient. I have a history of codependency, and knowing this, I’m going to continue my commitment to building up my self-care practice and expanding my support network to ensure I am not putting too much weight on my partners’ shoulders.

10. I will not punish myself for having bad days. Sometimes when my mental health is suffering, I feel that I am personally to blame, as if I made this happen. But the last thing I need is to guilt myself when I’m already struggling. I’m going to opt for kindness instead.

11. I will find a form of movement that I love and incorporate it into my self-care. Not because I want to lose weight, not because I need to exercise to be a “good” person, but because physical movement can be really good for our mental health and can feel great.

12. I will take a break when I need it. Not “when I finish this,” not “if I find the time,” I will take a fucking break if I need one, as soon as I possibly can and as often as it’s needed, because no assignment or task is as important as my mental health.

13. I will buy the latte or go out for dinner with friends, even if money is tight. If I can swing it, I need to get out of the apartment. Frugality at the expense of my mental health is total nonsense. I won’t let myself feel guilty for spending money on “luxuries” if it means that I’m more stable.

14. I will spend less time responding to negative comments and more time responding to positive ones. I’ve spent way too much time replying to negative comments on my articles and just “liking” the positive comments. Guess what that’s accomplished? Literally nothing.

15. I will spend as much time on social media as I fucking want. There are all these ads and memes about going outside and “living.” But truthfully, my online community has helped me through some of the most difficult stuff I’ve ever been through. They give me life. So if being on social media makes me happy, I’ll tweet to my heart’s content.

16. I’ll stop judging myself based on how “productive” I was that day. Guess what? It turns out that we’re not robots. Who would’ve thought?

17. I will shut down the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. Or I’ll try, anyway. Because if I had listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

18. I’ll indulge my inner fangirl. I’ll watch a new show on Netflix for four hours and spend another four hours reading up on all the existing conspiracy theories about the show. I’ll take up a new hobby and let myself get lost in it. I’ll find a new musical artist and read their biography eight times. It doesn’t matter how silly it seems – it’s okay to geek out on something that brings you happiness (as long as you’re not manic, obvi).

19. I’ll dance more. Dancing is literally the best thing. Why don’t I dance more often? I have no idea, but that has got to change.

20. I will vocalize what I need. Sometimes I’m afraid to ask for the things that I need. This year, I won’t self-silence out of a fear that I might be a burden.

 

If you like what you read, you can view more on Sam’s blog: https://letsqueerthingsup.com/ .

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2018

Happy New Year! I was supposed to post before the year ended and then I was going to post on the 1st of the New Year … but here we are :-).

2017 was amazing! I finished my doctorate program, relocated, and began my dream job. My first semester was full and rewarding. Winter break was refreshing and heart-warming. And here we are, in a new season. This year is the first in a long time when I can slow down – there aren’t many external pressing deadlines, no exams, and no papers to write for other people. It took a while for me to begin settling into my new normal and seven months after graduation, I finally feel myself doing so. It feels nice to set my own schedule. It is a wonderful blessing to actually have a salaried position again. I enjoy having evenings to do what I like and weekends that aren’t crammed with homework or studying. So what have I been doing? Taking care of me …

In November, I finally kicked my butt into gear to see a nutritionist and begin working out again. I have remained consistent for the last two months and just started a 6-week challenge with a few other women. I am stoked! I set up my meditation space and am working to recommit to a routine. I began practicing yoga again – it was has been wonderful for my mind, body, and soul. And I am taking things one day at a time. While I have other mantras for the year, one of my central affirmations is to slow down.

Another affirmation and theme for this year is pushing my boundaries. Attending a boot camp-style class is way outside my comfort zone, but is a constant reminder that I have to do something different if I want different results. I’ve committed to finding one new thing – no matter how small – to try each month (thanks to my amazing faculty mentor). And I have opened myself to receiving all sorts of things – friendship, love, companionship, excitement, and fulfillment – in ways that I have not traditionally accepted.

I truly believe 2018 is going to be the best year I have ever lived and that my life will continue to get better. So here is to me affirming my year and hoping that you have or are in the process of doing the same!

 

 

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