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.


Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t, but exercise wakes my body right up. I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.


Full Circle Part III

Here’s something I noticed, I get the most views on my blog from my Facebook followers when I write about my personal life. Either I have some nosey followers, we share a similar story, and/or you can relate, or all three. Whatever the case, I will continue to be as transparent as I feel comfortable because I’ve had ample learning opportunities. Believe it or not, there are some private lessons that I’m not willing to share, especially as they concern others that are close to me and that’s ok.  My first blog post in this series that I’m calling “Full Circle”(you can read it here) was prompted by self-empathy as I reflected on my life experiences after I completed radiation therapy due to breast cancer last month. My contemplative state of mind can also be attributed to the fact that it’s still somewhat the beginning of 2017 (I still have not finalized my goals!).  At the conclusion of radiation treatment in January, I wanted to rid my body of the toxins I’d been exposed to since my cancer treatments began. Therefore, I completed two green smoothie challenges (one of which included a vegan detox meal plan by Simple Green Smoothies). Currently, I feel myself transitioning into another phase of life. I’m in the midst of a metamorphosis. I’ve been thinking about everything. Thoughts that have been buried away for years have resurfaced. I’ve had new epiphanies and perspectives on old situations.

At the end of that first “Full Circle” blog post, I asked my readers to stay tuned for the strategies I used to get through that difficult time of confusion and depression. I was lost. And although I had not consciously decided to sleep my life away as my previous coworker indirectly suggested (you can read about it here in Full Circle Part II), I wasn’t living. I was afraid to make any more moves. I was stuck.

When I think about how I overcame that time in my life, I think about my frame of mind, the thoughts that sustained me, and the actions I took that got me through it.  I attempted to make this list as comprehensive as I could. After rereading, I can very well say that I continue to embody this process as I am constantly evolving. This has worked for me in the past and continues to work for me.

  1. I Didn’t Give up
  2. I Prayed and Believed
  3. I Was Patient
  4. I Had a Positive Mind
  5. I Dreamed
  6. I Had an Honest Conversation with Myself
  7. I Gathered Information
  8. I Created Measurable Goals
  9. I Filled Out Paperwork and Followed Through
  10. I Set New Goals as I Crossed Old Ones Off My List

Some of these items are self-explanatory, but I will give my spin on what they each mean to me.

I Didn’t Give Up

I think by far the most important decision I made was not to give up on myself, especially having felt that some people had given up on me. I want to emphasize that it was a decision…a choice to not give up. I believed that if I gave up on myself, then it was over. Who else would believe in me? I had hope that I would get through it. Sometimes, hope is all you’ve got until you can gather more tools. My hope wouldn’t allow me to give up.

I Prayed and Believed

At that time, I prayed often for God to reveal his purpose in my life. I was very familiar with bible scriptures having grown up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion and Catholicism (long story for another time). I believed that God wanted the best for me. I just didn’t know what that “best” was. Even though I could not see my future, I knew it was laid out for me. I listened to what God was telling me to do. It was not always easy to hear His voice, but I tried really hard to follow his steps.

I Was Patient

And I still am. There were times that I wanted to see progress immediately, but to some degree, I had dug a hole for myself. I wasn’t coming out of that in a matter of months. There was satisfaction in knowing that I would eventually get myself together and the naysayers (a.k.a. haters) would have to give me my props. There was also a time that I would pray for patience, and boy, I kept getting challenges that tested my patience. I’ve since stopped praying for patience. I’m a pro. 😉

I Had a Positive Mind

I read quite a few self-help books on personal development. I mentioned in the initial Full Circle post that, at that time, I went to a therapist once and was too afraid to go back because of the backlash from my family. I was embarrassed and ashamed and actually convinced myself that a therapist wouldn’t be able to help me with the mound of mess that I was in. I thought a more gentle approach would be for me to spend time doing this on my own. I read books on positivity and personal growth. I practiced what I was learning.

I Dreamed

I have quite the imagination attributed to years of being in environments that I didn’t want to be in so I had to do something with my mind. Just as I had daydreamed under those circumstances, I dreamed of the day that I would accomplish my goals. Visualizing myself being accepted into a college, in my graduation robe, or accepting my college diploma helped to keep me focused on my goals. I would also visualize myself having tough conversations with my family and friends. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head. As an introvert, it’s my favorite place to be.

I Had An Honest Conversation with Myself

I messed up too although I didn’t have the best dealt hand in life to work with either. However, I was not going to have a pity party. I was done sulking and sleeping all the time. I decided that I would attempt to change the things that I could control (insert Serenity Prayer here). I didn’t beat myself up, but looked at the situation as objectively as I could. I had some work to do.

I Gathered Information

I love libraries and my favorite was the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago. That is where I discovered many of my self-help books and also where I researched careers. Prior to dropping out of college, I was a business major, but that didn’t feel right. When I worked in downtown Chicago, I would spend my lunch breaks walking over to the library and researching the field of “social work”. I was fascinated.

I Created Measurable Goals

I’m a goal setter. I wrote down on paper what my goals were and systematically took the steps to get accomplish each goal. Smaller goals fed into the larger goals. I remember applying at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago because I had known all along (but didn’t accept) that I would thrive in a smaller university. I would set goals to fill out the application (not available online back then…mind blowing), turn it in, meet with an admissions counselor, etc. SMART goals are the way to go – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Specific (SMART).

I Filled Out Paperwork and Followed Through

Boy, did I fill out paperwork – college applications, job applications, personal journal entries, letters to friends, school writing assignments, etc. I wrote a lot and still do. I also followed up and through with my commitments. I wanted to become a FINISHER. I wanted to complete a big goal and that entailed constant follow through.

I Set New Goals as I Crossed Old Ones Off My List

Here’s where the overachiever in me comes in. That euphoric feeling that you get from achieving a goal is addictive, so you want to have that feeling over and over again. I’m also addicted to learning new things, learning new things about myself, and becoming a better version of me. Hopefully, I will finalize (or start) my 2017 goal list. On one hand, I’m surprised that I haven’t done this yet, but on the other hand, I had a lot going on. I just set the goal to complete this list before the weekend ends. It’s a SMART goal.

This blog post is a little longer than my usual, but my early twenties were a defining moment in my life and I had a lot to figure out at the time. I’m very pleased with how my life is blossoming. I acknowledge that it has taken great courage for me to move forward. That courage gives me the confidence to keep going.

What’s interesting is that I am at a crosswords again. I feel like I am birthing something, but I’m not quite sure what yet. A metamorphosis is happening within me. I will get it eventually. Sometimes I’m a little slow with figuring things out and I don’t always hear God clearly, but I’m patient. Stick around with me on this journey and we could learn together.