Happy Missteps & Glorious Mistakes

Have you ever lost a job? Lost a love? Lost your mind and tore your world apart to “get right” again?

Did you get a little distance from the situation and think, “Oh, THANK GOD!”

You’re my people.

There are several events I look to as pivot points for my life. Situations where – to my liking or not – I had to pivot and find a new path, a new outlook, a new way of doing things.

I won’t lie – in the moment, those events left me awash in waves of hot, dark hell crying for mercy.

But I did what I do best. I took the next breath . . . and the next . . . and the next.

Eventually all those breaths added up to minutes. Minutes turned into hours. Hours, days. Then, one day, from far away, I could look back at the man, the job, the meltdown, the (fill in your own blank) and say, “Damn – I didn’t like it in the moment, but that really changed me for the better!”

How do you navigate the change that comes from tough times?

Do you let it mold you and sculpt you into something better or do you get bitter?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about overcoming my Bitter-B tendencies:

I have to stop myself from making up a different story. I’m a writer and I’m southern, which means embellishment is one of the things I do best. So, when I’m going through a tough time, I remind myself to recite the facts, only the facts – without any “supporting details.”

Once I get my story “straight” I ask:

What am I REALLY upset about?

A lot of times, it’s not the actual thing that I’m upset about. It’s the ideas/dreams/stories I told myself about the thing that I’m upset about losing.

Now that I’ve reframed, do I want what I lost? OR, do I want a different/better version that’s more in line with my dreams and ideals?

This is where I’m able to gain footing. Most times, I don’t really want the actual thing I lost. I want the version of the thing that I had in my head.

What action steps can I take to bring me closer to what I REALLY want?

I’m a list-maker, so I pull out a pad and get to listing. Some of my ideas are shit. But, sometimes, I come up with something brilliant. (PSA: If you’re applying these steps to your breakup – stalking, whether online or in person, is NOT an action item. I repeat, stalking is bad, m’kay?!?!?!)

Of course, sometimes, I continue spiraling. And, when I look at it, it’s because I’m ruminating. That’s when I make a deal with myself to step telling myself “the story.” (Yes, read that again.)

I’ve noticed that it’s worse when I’m in the car. I’ll be driving down the road and my monkey-mind will be on chattering away going over and over and over what happened, what I did wrong, what they said, what I said, what I could’ve done differently, what they should’ve done differently, what I wished I would’ve said . . . and on . . . and on . . . . and on. Seriously, it’s like the crazy train pulls into the station and blows the whistle for all the nutty thoughts to come aboard!

So, I redirect my thoughts when I find my mind winding up the story box. Even if it’s just 15-minutes at a time. I’ll sing along to the radio or put on a podcast – I’ve noticed that when I engage with words, I disengage my internal monologue. But, if you’re in a story spiral, you’ll have to experiment until you find your key to stop the self-talk.

Finally, I seek forgiveness.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an apology – or even a conversation – to forgive someone. I simply get quiet and picture them in my mind and I say to them, “Person’s Name, I forgive you and release you. I wish you nothing but the best.” Then, I picture them getting lighter and lighter and lighter until they turn into a fine mist and they’re gone.

This isn’t a one-and-done practice, though. Sometimes, it takes several forgiving and releasing visualizations for me to let peoople go. But, that isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is to forgive and release myself. I let go of the ridiculous expectations I had for myself, I let myself off the hook for saying horrible things, I just let it go and feel the freedom from being released. When I’m able to do it, it’s quite a remarkable experience. I urge you to do the same.

Finally, I take responsibility for my story and my life moving forward.

Yes, that last chapter wasn’t so lovely, but I can turn the page and start penning something marvelous now! After all, I’m in charge of my experiences and you are responsible for yours! That’s why I’ve started making plans – both professionally and personally – to be active in drafting a bright future. Grab your calendar and put some fun outings and challenges on there! It’ll give you something to work toward and look forward to conquering.

Of course, if you’ve tried everything you can think of to get out of your own head and can’t stop the cycle, consider talking to someone. Do your research and choose a life coach or a counselor to help you identify some strategies that will get you through this roadblock and on the path to a better life.

At the end of the day, though, what matters most is that you’re able to learn and grow from your experiences. Life should make you better, not bitter! Let’s drop our sad stories, let’s stop being victims and let’s embrace lasting change and renewed strength.

Cheers, dears, to the happy missteps and glorious mistakes that make us our most glorious selves.

5 “Things” About Going Back to the Gym

Three weeks ago, I decided to start using the gym I’ve made monthly donations to for the last year.

Yes, monthly donations. I figured that my charitable contribution might as well help others support their health and fitness goals. Except that my accountant didn’t see it that way at tax time. Whoopsie! Time to get off dead center and use what I’ve been paying for.

I’ll admit – it wasn’t an easy. I’ve worked out in different gyms on and (mostly) off since my 20’s, but the first trip in ALWAYS intimidates me. BUT, once I get inside and begin cardio, I simmer down.  Mostly because I look around and realize that it’s just a bunch of people of varying shapes and sizes sweating their way to some version of improved health. That’s not so scary, is it?

Here’s what’s happened so far:

  1. I feel proud! When I walk in, scan my card and actually complete a workout, I leave with a sense of accomplishment and give myself an inner high five – woooooo wheeeeeee – I did it. Yay, me! I do not, however, get a “yay” if I walk in, scan my card and walk back out. This day hasn’t happened yet, but I can see it . . . especially on days when I’m all full up on “Oh, hell naw.”
  2. I wake up earlier without an alarm and feel more alert. I’m not sure what this is about and it’s certainly not what I expected when I started “using what I pay for.” But, I’ll take it.
  3. I actually like moving my body! I don’t dread going to the gym – mostly b/c I’m not obsessing and acting like a crazy person. I’ve been that chick in the past and LCE this time around. As I get older, I appreciate the hell out of moderation.
  4. I’m getting stronger. Each time I go, I can do a little more. Am I the fittest chick in the gym? No. Am I on my way? Also, no. But I’m on my way to being a better me and THAT is what counts.
  5. I continue to make deplorable choices about what I eat and drink. Look, going back to the gym is a big enough step for me right now. And, as a result, I’m drinking more water. That’s enough healthy box checking for this day. Maybe I’ll tackle “better choices” in the weeks to come. For now, I’m just happy to be eating cheese in stretch pants covered in sweat.

What about you? What healthy things are you trying? Are you reviving some healthy habits you let go of? Have you decided to shake up your routine and received positive results? Share your good news in the comments section below.

K.I.S.S.

In grade school, we used to seal our notes with acronyms . . . LYLAS (love you like a sister), K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) and so forth.  We were 8 – side eyes – I don’t know how much simpler we could’ve made it. Get up, go to school and let someone else make your decisions, do your laundry and put dinner on the table. (Now that I think of it . . . can I go back?)

Anyway, this idea of keeping it simple haunts me. Yes, we have bills and jobs and kids and responsibilities – but shouldn’t it be . . . simple? Maybe effortless is a better word for the synchronistic flow I’m attempting to describe.

Haven’t you had those moments when everything just seemed to go effortlessly along a path?

I find that when I’m in those moments I’m most connected to God/Spirit/Source. When I’m tapped into that Supreme Power, things seem to go a little smoother. However . . .

In conversation with one of my best girlfriends from college about maintaining a spiritual mindset, she said that she just doesn’t have time to devote to a spiritual practice.

So, I started wondering – can our everyday lives BE a spiritual practice? Can’t we walk and talk and breathe and BE the light? And if that’s a possibility, what would that life look like?

During a completely different and unrelated conversation with a different friend I had an Oprah “a-ha moment.”

She was lamenting some relationship troubles and I asked her what she thought about ending things with this particular man and she said, “That doesn’t feel good.”

That doesn’t feel good.

The words rang through my soul and vibrated every nerve ending in my body.

What if I were to apply this concept to everything in my life? How revolutionary would that be!

The scratchy sweater? Get rid of it.

That relationship that leaves me drained? Part ways.

The job that doesn’t fill my soul or my bank account? Upgrade.

Simple.

And, yes, there are certainly things that we simply must do even if they don’t feel good – like a pap smear. But, if we can tip the scale to a 51/49 way of being, that would be nice, right?

Now, I’m practicing this super simple philosophy and smiling that, sometimes, our most insightful moments come at unexpected times from unexpected people.

That doesn’t feel good.

That does feel good.

And if God is good, doesn’t it make sense that living in a state of “feeling good” means I am in connection with the Greater within? Perhaps it’s an oversimplification. But maybe . . . just maybe . . . it’s a gentle reminder of something I think we all already knew in our souls, long ago, and chose to forget.

K.I.S.S.

EgoTripping

As I celebrated the beginning of my 4th decade I found myself in a most unimaginable situation. Single, jobless, alone and adrift. I felt like the universe wrapped a midlife crisis up with a giant bow for my milestone birthday.

Sitting with my ‘gift’ as the day came to an end, I thought back to the beginning of my adventure. I started this journey with certainty, passion and a heightened sense of direction and purpose. Things weren’t firing for me in Charlotte and I “just knew” this opportunity would be just the kick start I needed.

Turns out, it was a kick in the teeth.

As my world unraveled – a sick aunt engaged in her last battle, energetic turmoil at work, and an unsettled environment – my friend and soul sister called to check in. She could “feel” how frazzled I had become. “How did you know?” I asked.  “You are a vortex,” she said.

Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t realize my vortex was pulling negativity in on me with the energy I expelled.

It was only after the ball of yarn completely unraveled and lay in a gnarled and knotted heap did I take a long, hard, painfully honest look at my situation: no man, no job, no home that I wanted to go home to.

I checked my pride, broke lease and embarked on the life of a wanderer.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” became my theme song – with a refrain that sang, “This isn’t how my life is supposed to be!!!”

And that’s when the larger Voice I call God said, “But this is the way it is.”

This is the way it is.

Sitting on a dock, beer in hand, my utter exhaustion gave way to absolute acceptance.

This. Is. The. Way. It. Is.

Let me not lie, it took two weeks of wandering before my brain started to work again. My first day as a gypsy, I literally sat at a red light and had the conversation with myself as it changed, “Green means go, right? Yes, green. Go.” (BLESS!)

One of the most interesting things happening as I explore rock bottom is a reinterpretation of self. A revised definition of who I am. Because, how easy is it to say, “I’m Brandy, XYZ with ABC company.” How often have I relied on my career, wins and successes to create my identity? How long have I hid behind my job rather than relying on my most authentic self?

So the question became, “Without a label, without a job title, who am I? What do I do? What are my goals? Where am I going?”

When my brain started to function again, ideas came flooding through. I started having lovely conversations about great opportunities. My energy level keyed up and I went on a great walk where I was having the internal dialogue with myself, “Omigosh . . . I could do this and this and this and I talked to so and so and so . . . and just WAIT until I tell LMNOP that DEF wants to work with me . . . he’s going to be so proud and . . . “ [screeeeeech] HOLD THE FUCK UP.

I stopped mid-stride. This is the ego I read about.

Yes, it’s great to have amazing partnerships and projects on the horizon, but these things do not define who I am.

And I damn sure shouldn’t be using them as a worth-bait for catching the interest, respect and admiration of other people. Let that sink in . . . worth-bait.

Stop.

Breathe.

Disengage the ego.

Ask, “Who am I without the labels?”

While I would love to wrap this story up with the tidy ending of a hallelujah choir, I can’t do that. The only answer I have is, quite simply, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know who I am, where I’m going or when. But, I’m learning. I’m observing. I’m growing through confronting the stories I’ve told myself for so long that they’ve become my truth.

I’m reconsidering. I’m re-imagining the story of me . . . and the rewrites are in pencil.

It’s scary as hell.

In religion, there is a period of darkness that precedes an awakening or rebirth . . . a dark night of the soul. So, is this my path to enlightenment? Perhaps.

Is rock bottom a kickass place to rebuild a strong, redefined foundation for a brand new life? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Now, it’s time to get on with it.

Has anyone seen the map for navigating around this ego trip?!?!?

 

 

 

 

Beach Blessings

I went to Girl Scout camp. I hated it.

I love NOT camping. Give me a comfy bed and electricity any day of the week!

So, to go away for a week in the middle of summer heat, sleeping in an XL tent with spiders and a communal shower was my idea of hell. Absolute hell. Even as a kid.

Naturally, the homesickness set in. And, being a resourceful little shit, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I plotted, lied and schemed to make my big break via a single wall phone outside the nurse’s office.

And it was a phenomenal success . . . until I got home. Then, I had chores as my punishment for lying to grown-ups. Oooooopie doooooo.

Homesickness is a funny beast. I visited family for weeks at a time, I had marathon sleepovers with my girlfriends, I went on vacations with and without my parents – without event. But, when I was outside of my “comfort zone,” (aka: Deliverance) my psyche absolutely rejected the experience.

“Danger, danger Will Robinson . . . abort mission . . . abort, abort!!!”

Naturally, when I found myself among apocalyptic storms and the daytime hooker, my psyche gave a similar response. I desperately longed for a yard full of lightning bugs and my ears ached for the sound of katydids, tree frogs and crickets. The difference this time, however, was recognizing the source of discomfort and the consolation of knowing my ability to weather all with a little sidewalk therapy.

I set my morning alarm for 6 and sought to re-embrace my morning walk. I figured getting back into a routine would be the best thing for me. I needed something that felt familiar.

When I got to the beach, I heard the most amazing sound . . . a southern accent. I almost burst into tears.

I started a conversation and we fell into step. As it turns out, he was from Charlotte. Sparkles and stars and happiness!!! He shared the details of his work function and I told him I just moved away from North Carolina.

As we were chatting, a lovely woman with dark chocolate skin, light brown eyes and a head full of beautiful braids came up to us. “Excuse me, this is going to sound strange, but I felt called to come over here and speak a blessing over the two of you. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence we’re all on the beach together this morning.”

I almost burst into tears because I, too, stopped believing in coincidence.

I cupped my hands to receive her words of love, health, happiness, peace and abundance. I poured the words into my heart and thanked her for her generosity of spirit.

On my way back to the little pool cottage, my feet were lighter and my heart beat with a noticeable fullness.

It’s funny that, sometimes, it’s a tiny hit of home that helps ease homesickness – like an accent that wraps around your eardrums like a cashmere blanket.

And, other times, it’s a whole lot of God working through a wonderful Haitian woman speaking blessings over strangers on the beach.

The Daytime Hooker & Other Encounters

I moved to Florida sight unseen. Admittedly, not my best choice in the history of ever.

After a 10-hour drive, I got out of the car and burst into tears because I managed to land right in the middle of a “neighborhood in transition.” (Pro Tip: If anyone shares that phrase about an area you’re considering, run. Run like hell. Don’t look back.)

The house itself, gorgeous. I found a lovely compound that consisted of a main house, a pool cottage and the most charming tropical garden hugging the patio and pool area for wonderful privacy. As long as I stayed inside the fence, life was sweet.

However, living inside the safety bubble isn’t realistic. One must get out and about. So, I did what any good southern girl would do . . . I went to church. A 90-minute sermon and an overly-enthusiastic hug from a stranger later, I fought the urge to stop exploring.

Get out and try, get out and try, get out and try rang in my head. I wanted to learn to love the place I was planted.

Along the streets, rehabbers, junkies and dealers danced a dangerous waltz between sobriety and addiction.

At the grocery store, broken souls in shabby clothes shuffled outside, asking for money and help.

For the first time in my life, I looked around and realized that I was the minority.

These encounters served to illuminate my simple abundance – a place to live, a car to drive, a closet full of nice clothes and a wonderful job to fund it all. By comparison, I have nothing to complain about. I am not greeted as “different” or an “outsider” when I walk into most places . . . and most of these people have been labeled nothing but since moving to this country.

I tried out shops and restaurants, my friends and family came to visit and I took walks to soak it all in and figure it all out . . . but I wasn’t ready for the reality I had coming.

One Saturday morning, I woke up early with the distinct need for sidewalk time. I laced up, grabbed a bottle of water and popped in my earbuds. For the first time, I was a bit more at ease. I walked over to the beach and took in the salt air, smiling at faces of every age and heritage.

Then, she happened.

As I approached the drawbridge on my return home, a slip of a woman emerged from underneath and shimmied through hedges onto the sidewalk. She wobbled on weak, pencil-thin legs a few yards ahead of me, yelling over the guard rail to the man below. I slowed my pace and tried to assess what was happening in front of me.

Was she a junkie? Did she fail recovery? Was she yelling to her husband below?

When I got close enough to hear the words, she was definitely not yelling at her husband below. She was working.

Approaching, I tried to make plenty of noise so I wouldn’t startle her and be shoved into oncoming traffic.

Clothes-hanger shoulders balanced a mass of gnarly knotted hair . . . not quite colored, not quite not. It was evident she hadn’t had the luxury of a shower in several days, if not weeks. And, just as a deep-seated sympathy began to dance with fear of the unknown, I announced “Coming by on your left.”

Her head whipped to face me. I met the hollow blue eyes that earlier spilled tears which turned her mascara into water color rivulets, pooled and puddled into the lines of her worn face. Red lipstick smeared from mouth to ear, temporarily distracting from the black and yellow snarl of rotted teeth.

Compassion and terror clashed at my core as a guttural growl escaped her sunken cheeks. On one hand, I wanted to take her for a Clorox shower and to feed her a decent meal. On the other hand, self-preservation urged my feet to take flight.

But not without paying a mental price.

What defined the desperation that drove her decisions and landed her there? How old was she? Who taught her her worth? And how far away are any of us from doing the things we think we would never do?

In my world of non-answers, I know one thing for sure . . . none of these people – the junkies, the dealers, the homeless or the hooker – none of them asked for this. Not a single one of them said they wanted to be these things when they grew up. They had dreams– to be teachers, astronauts, firemen and parents. Then, somewhere along the way, life happened.

Life happens.

And the life that happens outside the bubble is starling in contrast to the life of friendly neighbors, new cars and unlocked doors that I left behind in North Carolina.

Since my initial arrival I made another move to a town that gives me a greater sense of security and safety. But, those initial encounters will linger forever.

Where are you today? Have you offered thanks and shown your appreciation for the people and circumstances that brought you this far?

After all, you never know when the tide might change, running you into the rocky shore that bursts your safety bubble. And maybe having your bubble burst isn’t such a bad thing. Because seeing life, people and circumstances from a vulnerable perspective has a sneaky way of opening the heart and softening the mind.

So, to my family and friends – all of you who cheerlead me, listen to me and love me in spite of my truest self – I appreciate you. To those of you who let me swim in the bottomless pool of your sweet fellowship – thank you. I love you, I need you and I want you in my life. I know without doubt that I can’t do it solo.

The Tortoise Wins Again

People typically stereotype the South with sleepy little towns, Maw & Paw, sweet tea and drawls. Sure, there are stereotypes for a reason and those places do exist.

It’s just that Charlotte isn’t one of those places. And I’m not one of those people. (Well, okay, I have the drawl.)

I want things now, Now, NOW, dammit! When the light turns green, I drive like I mean it. North Carolina IS the home of Nascar, after all.

Back home, waiters and waitresses want to turn tables, so we’re greeted with water and back to the office in less than an hour.

And, on occasion, a trip to the grocery more closely resembles an old episode of Supermarket Sweep (or an MMA cage match, depending on the holiday).

Point is, I was surprised – strike that, gobsmacked – to move to Florida and go slow. Not just slow . . . slllllooooooooooooooooooooooowwwww.

The speed limit is slow.

The people crossing the street are slow.

Chick-Fil-A is slow. (And, by the way, they don’t even say, “Thank you,” much less, “Our pleasure to serve you at the window.” Side eyes.)

Regular restaurant service is slow.

Even the wind is slow.

Is it the heat? Does the sun melt everyone into a syrupy stupor this close to the equator . . . arms and legs dripping and heavy with humidity, making it impossible to move with the quickness?

Or . . .

Is it me?

Moving to a new town shines an interrogation light on your personal attributes in a much brighter way than travel ever does.

I look around and don’t see other people yelling, “Oh for fuck’s sake, go!!!” (Maybe I’m just missing them???)

I also don’t see other people obsessing about schedules. It seems there’s just an, “I’ll get to it when I get to it,” attitude. And that might not be so bad.

Is it a small town thing? A beach town thing? A retiree thing?

Their faces are relaxed and body language easy. No one seems to be in any particular hurry to get anywhere. Where they are is just fine. And, upon consideration, that really doesn’t seem so bad.

Is it contagious?

Will I catch some of it if I start licking people’s faces? (Is that bad manners???)

The collective THEY say that we must be present in the present to truly experience joy and embrace happiness. That said, I should (perhaps) take a page from the Tortoise and retire my inner Hare.

Maybe I need to stop worrying about where I’m going and at what pace I’m getting there. Maybe I should learn to slow down and enjoy my current station.

Maybe I should park my car, buy a bike and some flip flops . . . and let life unfold gently.

One thing’s for sure, this move is changing me. I believe it’s for anything other than better. Otherwise, that would be a waste of time. (wink)

Even so . . . I want my nuggets now, Now, NOW, dammit!