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Face your fears Part Deux

Last week, I wrote a blog post about facing my fears by finally getting my wisdom teeth removed. In case you’re wondering, I’m healing very well. Thank you. Although a significant experience, it proved to be less dramatic than I imagined. This past week, I’ve mulled over the lessons that can be learned from dealing with our fears head on. I found myself recalling my upbringing and experiences.

Fear was a big part of my life growing up. The mindset of fear was imposed on me. My point isn’t I’m a victim, but that fear is powerful. You don’t just unlearn fear. It can creep into your thoughts and seduce you with misinformation without you realizing what’s happening. Fear can cripple your mind. It can make you freeze. And there may be legitimate reasons to be fearful, but I don’t think we are meant to live in a state of fear. It takes a great amount of conscious, hard work to train yourself as an adult to overcome the damaging effects of fear. For some, this work may entail therapy, which is ok.

Fear started in my life before I was born. My parents were born into poverty in Haiti, an island with a tragic history of government corruption and civil unrest. I don’t know much about my grandparents on either side, but they were no doubt born into poverty in Haiti. My father physically and emotionally abused my mother. My siblings witnessed and internalized the abuse. Although I was too young to remember, there is no doubt in my mind that I internalized the atmosphere (terror, shame, secrecy, inadequacy, sadness). I was raised in two different, opposing religions, inundated with strict rules that created fear. My family were immigrants to the United States, and in Haitian culture, there is fear of Haitian children becoming Americanized and abandoning their roots.

Those are the big ticket “fear” items that I contend with…there are more. Each scenario manifests fear differently and in countless ways, but it’s all fear. For example, when I was little, we literally moved around a lot to escape my father. Divorce didn’t stop him from terrorizing my family. He would get on drunken rampages, find out where my mom lived, then would obscenely bang on the door and harrass until eventually my mom found another place to escape. We were fine as long as we kept our distance, but there was the constant fear of him finding out where we were and then what would he do.

I feared people in my Catholic elementary school would find out that my mom was really a Jehovah’s Witness. My uncle’s family thought it best that all of the children attended Catholic school. It’s common in Haiti for children to attend private, parochial schools. I believe my mom’s fear of what could happen to me based on her status as a single, immigrant parent in the United States caused her to make decisions based on loyalty and familiarity. She didn’t have anybody else.

How do I contend with generational fear? I consciously work to break the cycle. Awareness is an important first step. Next steps included learning about who I was through soul searching and education, determining my purpose through prayer, implementing my vision for my life, and living as God had intended for me. I don’t think God wants us to live in fear. I don’t raise my children to live in fear. There is so much GOODNESS and fortune on the other side of fear.

By no means am I completely absolved of fear. It’s a lifelong struggle. Thoughts creep up that I can’t control. However, awareness is still that important first step. Then, I go through a process of determining the source…the reason behind the fear. When I come to an understanding of what the fear is, then I challenge it. I face it. If I’m brave enough, which I usually am, I move towards it. I keep moving towards it until it has no more power.

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Face your fears

It finally happened. I literally faced my fears and got my 4 wisdom teeth removed on Thursday morning. I’m here to tell you that I not only survived the experience, but I’m healing better than I thought.

The anxiety had been building up since Monday, and before I knew it, it was Wednesday night. I was on this mad dash to make a bunch of green smoothies and healthy snacks since I was in the middle of a vegan cleanse and didn’t want to totally undo my progress. I’ve done this cleanse before, which you can read about here in a blog post I wrote named “Glowed Up”. In “Glowed Up”, I go into more depth about what the cleanse is and what I gained from it.

For my recovery, I knew I could only eat smooth and pureed foods the first week or so. I already had planned to mostly drink my green smoothies and some pureed soups. It hadn’t occurred to me to do an online search on recovery foods until a couple of people at work told me I should plan to be eating ice cream, jello, pudding, and milk shakes. Sure enough, those foods popped up as recommended foods for recovery from wisdom tooth removal. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you my jaw dropped and my eyes grew bigger in disbelief. OH NO NO NO!!! The devil is a LIE because I’m not messing up all the work I’ve done on this cleanse for 11 of 21 days. I was laughed at and told I picked the wrong time for a cleanse. We’ll see about that.

Because I slightly panicked, I did go to the grocery store when I left work and bought some no added sugar organic applesauce, coconut yogurt, and a pudding with the least amount of sugar I could find. I looked at the ingredients in jello and just couldn’t do it. I spent a long time in the ice cream section reading labels and finally landed on some organic fruit popsicles with low added sugar. “I can do this!”

I was up late Wednesday night prepping my green smoothie army and other comforting foods. I made 3 different smoothies, two of each, and I chose kale as the “greens” because of its powerhouse nutrients. A member of my cleanse Facebook group gave me a recipe for avocado mouse. SWEET! I didn’t want to waste my avocados. I pulled out my hand mixer for that one because I wanted an extra creamy texture.

I strained the broth from a zoodles recipe. The reserved broth is full of nutrients from all the vegetables steeped in the liquid. I was looking forward to drinking that one. All in all, I had pretty solid options for healthy eating while recovering from dental surgery. I have yet to eat the applesauce, yogurt, or popsicles. I’ve mostly been eating my green smoothies with a spoon, vegan soups, and some pudding. On Day 2, I had two chicken meatballs my husband made and some mashed potatoes.

Day 1 was the most traumatic, judging from the picture, but it wasn’t even that bad. I took my medications and slept off and on all day. I only used the ice cubes once when I was supposed to do it every hour for the rest of the night. I had soreness and some swelling, but not what I imagined in my mind. One of my sweet cats, Beignet, stayed in the bed with me most of the day and my husband Bryan took care of me by switching out the gauze, getting my medications, and food.

Day 2 was more of the same in the morning, but it turned out to be such a beautiful day, that my husband and I went out to run some errands. We even did a 30 minute walk. My appetite increased throughout the day, but there is only so much I can eat. I did sample some products at Costco (LOVE this place!) like macaroni and cheese and lasagna. The lasagna was a mistake….a little more difficult to swallow. I found a recipe for pureed asparagus cauliflower soup and made that once we got home. I was really tired last night and thought I could get away with taking only 1 of my pain pills, but I was wrong. I ended up taking the other eventually. I could feel the pain building up.

Day 3 is today and I feel a little groggy, but I’m up blogging. I plan to do some dancing and may start on meal prep for next week. I can’t really partake of the snacks from the cleanse because they’re mostly crunchy and chunky. I will make more green smoothies and soups.

Overall, after all the horror stories I’ve heard, and fear built up in my own mind, this experience hasn’t been that bad. Sure, there was the IV, blood in my mouth, and some pain, but with following doctor’s orders, resting, and eating well, I’m getting through it. I do believe my healthy choices in foods are helping me heal faster.

Light lesson: Sometimes, we make FEAR bigger than it actually is, giving it more power. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t put off things because of fear. You could be shaving more time off your life than necessary. You will find yourself asking why you put something off for so long and allowed it to take up so much space in your life.

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Never too busy to go to the doctor

I’m back. Listen, this lady (ummm…me) has been busy! What else is new? You know that about me already. Despite my busy life, I really strive to be as grounded as I can by doing the things that bring me joy, make me relax, calm my nerves, and bring me peace. As an introvert, I need to recharge often. Yesterday, I got in the bed as soon as I got home and stayed there for the rest of the night. My husband was kind and warmed up my dinner (I’m on a 21 day vegan cleanse). I ate, scrolled through my email and social media, drank tea, and pretty much stayed in the bed until it was time for “bed”.

For the past month, I’ve had a couple of health issues that have been begging for my attention. The first had to do with my teeth. I’ve decided to schedule the appointment to get my 4 wisdom teeth removed. I had another flare up that I couldn’t ignore. As I was discussing my pain with my team members one day, one of my employees kind of jokingly said something to the affect of “You, of all people, should be attending to this as part of self-care”. The blogger who writes about self-care has been putting off dental work for a year. Touchet…touchet, mon frere!

The thing is I’ve always hated going to the dentist. I’ve never really needed anything major done to my teeth. It’s a miracle that I’ve kept up with teeth cleanings all these years. Last year, I started getting some specialized cleanings as a result of some wear and tear from low levels of calcium.. probably as a result of getting older (as “they” like to remind me). I had been able to get away with keeping my wisdom teeth because they rarely bothered me, but one got inflamed last year and I was told then, to get it removed. I did not.

Next week, I have an appointment to get all four wisdom teeth removed. I’m not excited about it, but I’m proud of myself for finally making it a priority. I’ve had another health issue creep up that resulted in me calling my gynecologist yesterday and leaving work a little earlier. I’ll spare the details, but let’s just say my menstrual cycle has gone “rogue”. I have to be careful because as part of my breast cancer treatment, I’m on cancer medication that may increase my risks for other cancers. It could be the medication. It could be perimenopause. It could be my uterine fibroids. It could be stress. Whatever the case, I’m not taking any chances. I have an appointment to see my gynecologist and to do some testing next Tuesday.

I admit I don’t necessarily like that my work takes up a huge space in my life, although my job is rewarding. I mostly work long days. I don’t have as much time to do simple things like check my personal emails and voice mail like I used to. I don’t talk to my family/friends as often as I want. I usually have to spend my whole Saturday recovering from the work week. However, I have limits, especially when it comes to my health.

I will continue to take care of myself by eating well, exercising daily, praying, and socializing with the people that mean the most to me. I’m on the vegan cleanse for the health benefits and I enjoy participating on the Facebook group. My health is very important to me and my family, so I’m not going to ignore it. I’m never too busy to go to the doctor when I need to.

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Live Your Life

Here’s an idea…it’s your life, so why not live it unapologetically…full throttle, without all the explaining? How about you check in with the people who depend on you to make sure you don’t leave them in the dust, but aside from that, it’s your life for the taking, so LIVE it.

My LIGHT lesson for this post is to do whatever you need and want to do to live your life to the fullest….your “best life” as often phrased today, in our American culture. However, also spend a good amount of time “being” rather than “doing”. “Be” for the sake of “being” and not to prove to friends, family, coworkers, haters, society, or who ever. Be the change, inspiration, advocate, enthusiast, peace, love, etc. Stop seeking other people’s approval and/or permission.

I remember years ago, my male boss at the time asked me what I was trying to prove. Granted, I believe he was threatened by me, but I did have an aura about me that took on the air of having to prove something to the world. I was in graduate school at almost 40 years old, worked full time, had a family, and was a first generation college graduate after having previously been a college “drop out”. My mother was a single parent from a different country who cleaned hospitals for a living. My father was abusive and did nothing to support us. The odds were stacked against me, for sure. I remember my aunt saying to my mom in creole when I was about a pre-teen, “what are you going to do with her?”. The “her” was me. So I thought I had a lot to prove to everyone. That pushed me to crush goals, but I could have possibly gone farther had I focused that energy to prove on myself. I don’t know. Nowadays, I have nothing to prove to anyone, but myself.

I type this like I have it all figured out and I don’t. However, I know what I’m striving for and I’m tired of setting limits on myself. The beauty of getting older and being a breast cancer thriver is I care less, but there is room for me to care to a lesser degree about what others think of me.

One step I’ve taken to get more clear on my goals is to reduce my time on social media. As much as I love catching up with family and friends and getting updates from my favorite pages, my struggle with social media is the many competing messages about most everything and everything seems to be taken out of context. You see the constant self-promotion and borderline narcissistic posts. There’s the danger of getting into the “comparison” trap. All of these factors, and more, are counterintuitive to how I see myself “being” in this life.

As I process this message, I’m sure I will find other areas I will want to work on to get me where I want to be. In the meantime, I will strive to live unapologetically and in full throttle.

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Reoccurring light lessons

How did that happen? January breezed by with me posting not one blog post. It was busy. Now February is in full swing. No, I didn’t make a list of resolutions. However, I have been fulfilling my commitment of ramping up my self-care. I completed a 30 day green smoothie challenge (simple green smoothies), got back to going to the gym and dancing with my Zumba fitness buddies on Saturdays, and reconnected with some special people. My husband and I got baptized. I hit a milestone with being in 2 years remission from breast cancer. You can read about how I first learned of my diagnosis here. I’m generally more optimistic this year than this time last year when we were dealing with my husband’s health.

I’m living, being, moving, doing, and am overall feeling good about 2019. However, as I’ve been minding my own business, trying to live my “best” life… BOOM!!! I’m hit with another familiar challenge. I blame it on the work culture where I’m employed because there is constant change and turnover. I’m faced again with the external pressure of moving up and deciding if job advancement is what I want. What bothers me about it is that I love what I do and I spend most of my work time out of my comfort zone, but I’ve gotten comfortable with the level of discomfort I’m in right now, if that makes sense.

Listen, no one is telling me I have to do anything. No one has assigned me to anything. However, as I observe people advance in positions, I have a moment, which could be a day(s), week(s) or month(s), of internal questioning. Why wasn’t I picked? What will others think of me because I wasn’t picked? At the same time, as a working mother that solely financially supports my family, I have to think of my family first and how my job impacts them. I can’t just pick up and go to another agency because three people depend on me. As the keeper of the insurance, I know we can’t have a lapse in medical coverage either given our combined health issues.

I’m not sure how many women can relate to my exact experience, but I think it’s a common experience to deal with multiple pressures. The tug and pull of being a working mom and the sole financial support for my family can feel overwhelming at times. I love my family, but have a demanding job. People have expectations of me at home and work, and I have expectations of myself. I work with very ambitious people, not that I’m not ambitious too. Thank God my husband, Bryan, is a constant presence for our kids during the week. I’m actually glad he isn’t working right now so he can be here for the kids and attend to his health issues.

I’ve been processing my thoughts on this topic in my head for a couple of weeks now. If you’ve been following me, you’ll know one of the most instrumental tools I use to process is writing. Putting “pin to paper”, so to speak, is a sign I’m ready to make some decisions and move past this. I’m also meeting with a mentor for tea this morning and I plan to talk it out.

The LIGHT lessons I need to re-eaxamine are evaluating my work goals and what I want, in my due time. I need to not let external pressure cause me to make moves that I don’t want to make because it looks good to someone else. A pivotal question is what do I want which can be blurred when raising a family that depend on me. Bottom line: I need to stop worrying about what other people think of me and do what’s best for me and my situation. I need to stop being so hard on myself.

What reoccurring issues present themselves in your life and how do you handle them?

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Pottery Fun

Let’s see. How shall I describe December? A few words that come to mind are crazy busy, borderline ridiculous, and exhausting. I’m happy to report my Christmas break started with a pleasant surprise from my boss. She arranged for her direct reports to partake in an intimate, creative activity: pottery painting at Cafe Monet. The evening included wine, hors d’oeuvres, pleasant conversation, and painting. What a fabulous idea!

This was my first time doing pottery painting and it was just what I needed. I enjoyed spending time with our small group of five. A few hours later, I was relaxed and the stress edge had subsided.

I’m very pleased with my product. Once we were done, we left our creations with the Cafe Monet staff so they could finish the masterpieces with what I call a “glaze”. It took them about a week. I must have had spring on my mind due to the colors I selected, but the “glaze” (picture to the left) made the colors a little darker. I love it!

I will definitely be doing more of this activity in 2019.

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Age is nothing but a number

I’ve heard the expression “age is nothing but a number” at least a thousand times. I have so much going in my life that I don’t usually have time to think about my age; however lately, I’ve been thinking about my age. It could be because I feel more aches and pains in my joints, which can lasts for hours, especially after a good workout. I’ve been more tired due to long work hours and managing my family. I can visibly see the changes in my face: the forehead wrinkles, drooping eyes, under eye dark circles, and smile lines. I also have one gray hair on my right side burn (I’ve had it for years). This is what my 45 looks like sans makeup.

Here’s the thing…I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t mind having the smooth skin of my twenties. Does this mean I don’t like the way I look now or that I wish I could go back in time or that I don’t want to get older??? No, it doesn’t. In fact, I actually appreciate the way I look now more than I ever did when I had the glorious skin and body to match. I also love my confidence in my forties. In my twenties, I was very insecure and had a lot personal growth to do. In my forties, I know who I am and have learned to care less about what other people think about me.

I’m simply processing how I feel about the fact that there is no mistaking I’m a woman of a “certain age”. What does that mean anyway? For years, I’ve been told I looked younger than my age, which was an ego booster, for sure. I think when people tell you that often enough, you can trick yourself into thinking, “aging isn’t that bad because I don’t even look my age”. However, what about the day when you actually start to look your age or look older? How do you deal with that? I’m not a shallow person. I’m acknowledging my tension with aging is likely because I’ve internalized society’s rules to some degree: beauty equates to youth. The message is everywhere. I need a detox from that message and different definition of beauty.

I intend to age beautifully with a full appreciation for all of my experiences, capabilities, accomplishments, failures, idiosyncrasies, my body, mind, and spirit, and the people who mean the most to me. Some of what I do to take care of myself as I get older are habits I actually started in my twenties such as exercising most days of the week and having a solid skincare regimen. I learned a lot about skincare when I used to sell Mary Kay products. Other things I’ve incorporated over the years are drinking green smoothies daily, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and drinking more water. What I’m working on now is reducing my sugar intake and losing a few extra pounds.

The truth is the voice inside my head doesn’t have an age, so for me, it’s true: age is nothing but a number. In fact, I have to remind myself to slow down; otherwise I’ll suffer the consequences later (i.e. exercising too hard). I strive daily to be the best version of myself I can be. Inevitably, we’re all getting older and sometimes it feels scary, but it’s okay. Here are a few light lessons I hope you embrace:

  • Acknowledge and process your feelings about aging
  • Talk about it with someone you trust
  • Things you can do to age beautifully are:
    • Guard your mind, body, and spirit from negativity
    • Eat healthily
    • Exercise regularly
    • Do activities in nature (ex. walking)
    • Take care of your body (ex. stretch, doctor’s appointments, massage)
    • Practice gratefulness
    • Apply makeup and clothing that accentuate your features
    • Do things you enjoy
    • Learn new things
    • Keep setting new goals
    • Keep in close contact with the people who mean the most to you
    • Laugh A LOT

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