Sweet Sides of Simplicity

Over this past year, I’ve had large chunks of time reflect on my life, contemplating what I want, what makes me happy, and whether the actions and choices I take and make each day are leading me to contentment. Suffice it say, my goals and expectations for my life have dramatically shifted over the past 12 months, but rightfully so. So often in the past and even now at times, I can become easily swayed or distracted by all I see on social media or in everyday life, convincing myself what I see someone else having and doing is what I, myself, want, when in fact, if I take a step back and truly think about it, is not exactly what I want at all. Truth be told, we can see and admire what someone else has and does without wanting it ourselves. What others have, no matter how desirable it looks and may be or may not be what works for us, as an individual.

What I notice more and more as I grow older is the recurrent insistence that more is better; more personal belongings, more money, more possessions, more clothes, more makeup, more jet setting; a general excess and surplus of materials and experiences. Though I noticed a thought the other night that deeply resonated with me and forced me to think about being content with what I have, or even being happy with less. It posed a notion: what if a simple life could lead to contentment? What if what we already have IS enough? A house over one’s head providing warmth or a cooling zone, a bed to sleep in each evening, food to keep oneself nourished, an area to relax, the ability to freely walk outdoors and explore nature. It often feels as though we are taught in some way to always want more, without considering that what we already have COULD be enough. Sometimes I think about this when I am at home, curled up on the sofa covered in a warm blanket, watching TV or reading, petting Daisy, and feeling safe and secure. In that moment, it does feel like enough in a world where so many are struggling to even have a warm place to rest, or nourishment. During these times, it makes me think that maybe a simple life is what I long for most; a comfortable life, a life that makes me feel at ease, a life that makes me feel at peace with what I have and appreciative of what I’ve been given and worked hard to achieve. If I am given more, it is a bonus; something to accentuate what I already have. There is a quote that reads, “If you aren’t grateful for what you have, then you’ll never be happy with more.” It goes without saying, there is a lot I could say I long for and hope to achieve or have someday, but for now, I am choosing to focus on the upsides of simplicity, in the moments and belongings that mean more than I realize each day. The calm of the early mornings as I sip my warm coffee in a favorite mug, the quiet moments I sit petting Daisy or strolling with her through my neighborhood with the sun and a cool breeze as a backdrop, the comfort of my bed as I page through the many books lining my desk and the understanding that I am exactly where I need to be, as I work hard to achieve the goals I still uphold.

What it comes down to, is that it is perfectly acceptable to be content with the simple in life; to not want or long for more wealth, materials, or the need to constantly acquire more. It is okay if weekends and days aren’t filled with dramatic moments or revelations, but rather moments that are relaxing, peaceful and energizing in their own right. There is beauty, strength and growth to be found in the calm, simple moments and days and in leading a life that is customized and personalized to what each individual wants. A favorite quote of mine reads, “Admire others’ beauty and talents without questioning and doubting your own.”

Pen to Paper

For so long, the words and idea were loose in my head, loosely rolling around like marbles on the floor. Then, it happened. With abundant time on my hands and having weathered through a torrent of emotions, I grabbed my notebook, favorite pen and fleece throw and began feverishly writing as I sat curled up on the sofa. As Daisy curled up on the chair on the other side of the room, I finally put my pen to the paper.

A loose idea still in the works, it is a story I’ve thought about for months, but for whatever reason, resisted writing. A classic notebook and pen is my choice of materials, feeling a closer connection to the words on tangible paper and so with both in hand, I let the words flow.

There is no way of knowing what will come of it, or if I will continue or even finish it, but the most important part is already accomplished and in the books; beginning. As the infamous quote reads, “To begin, begin” and I am proud to say today, that is complete. There was never the perfect moment for me to begin, but today I took the leap and for that I am proud.

A Wisdom of Reminders

Yesterday, I stumbled upon the quote/affirmation posted below and it reminded me to my years as a high school student; years where I often sat in class, filled with ideas and opinions, but hid them and remained silent, choosing to write my thoughts in private instead of voicing them aloud. In high school, from what I’ve been told by others and how I was treated, I was often “the girl with the hair;” the hair that was (and still is!) both difficult to style and manage. The girl whose hair was thick, coarse and plentiful, much to my chagrin. Setting me apart from others, it was a source leading me to quiet my opinions, believing my personal appearance determined whether I was worthy enough to voice my opinions. Meeting friends at the local mall one day in my early teens, as I approached them, one of their faces twisted into an expression of both horror and embarrassment, “Your hair…” she began, “It’s… big.” In minutes, my “friend,” ushered me into the local Claire’s accessory store, urging me to purchase a hair clip so I could diminish the puffiness and once again become acceptable to her. Sadly, I acquiesced, forking over several dollars for a hair clip I didn’t want to wear, but felt I needed to in order to become “worthy,” accepted and desirable. A couple years later, becoming enamored by a teenage boy I’ll refer to as “M,” once again, he fixated on my hair, telling me that it “looked a lot better when it was up, versus when it was down.” His words charged at me and so whenever I would arrange to see him, my hair, no matter if I, myself, wanted to or not, my hair would make it’s way into a ponytail, fearing if I didn’t, he would find companionship elsewhere. Whether my hair had just been cut and styled by the salon, or I simply didn’t want to wear it swept off my shoulders, when I would meet with M, my hair was always assembled into a ponytail or some other type of updo. Back then, I didn’t realize, lacked the insight, or perhaps I did know what I was doing, but chose to ignore it. My self-worth and credibility was solely dependent upon the words and how I would be received by others. My own sentiments were pushed aside and/or repressed and I was silenced into accepting the mold “friends” or “potential suitors” wanted me to be.

Your worth is defined by you, and you, ONLY.

Years later, in college, many of my sentiments started to shift and I began to raise my hand in class. No longer did I worry what others would think, or how my words would be received; it was my time, my money I was spending and my own efforts. This was my chance to begin again, to become the person I always was, but struggled to allow myself to BE. WHO is the me? The me, is someone who is opinionated, who wants to speak out and make my voice and feelings heard. All of us, no matter who we are, deserves a platform to speak and a chance to express ourselves in a way that is still respectful to ourselves and others. Our ability to speak does not and should not be diminished by others’ perceptions of us, if we are respectful and simply sharing our perspectives. Back then as a teen, I wished I’d known or felt comfort in respectfully speaking my truth. Back then, I wish I’d had the confidence to own the uniqueness of my hair. A couple years ago, an acquaintance, whom I was lamenting to about my hair told me, “Your hair is your crown.” Prior to hearing this, I’d never thought of my hair in that way. To me, my hair was nothing but a source of frustration, disgust and anger, demanding hours of my time, an amass of hair products and tools and never appearing or feeling the way I desired. Taking in her poignant statement, I started to shift in the way I perceived my hair. Today, when I become frustrated with my hair, as I often do, I hear her words and in time, learn to become more accepting and see it as being proud of what I have, because so many have lost theirs and so I learn to be grateful, realizing that no one’s hair is perfect or always ideal and there is always something that can be frustrating, but that’s okay, I still be thankful for what I have and what makes me uniquely me.

We may not always know where we are going or what the end result or destination will be or look like, but that’s OK, we can still be on the right path without knowing what the destination or journey holds.

Seeing our own worth is quite possibly, to me, one of the most important things we can do for ourselves throughout our lives. The way we perceive ourselves is rooted in most things we do; the way we speak/behave, the chances we take or don’t take, the people we associate with or choose not to. As I grow older, I realize that more often than not, there is always someone who is likely to question or not see our worth; albeit a boss, a friend, a family member, a neighbor, etc, but their perception and words only matter and have value, if we choose to believe it. If we choose otherwise, realizing their words do not possess merit, we let ourselves assume the credibility and worth we are deserving of. Though it can be easier said than done, the importance of letting ourselves have the credibility we deserve, lets our true selves shine. Why hide the talents, intelligence, thoughts and ideas lurking within, simply because of another person’s callous words or actions?

Foster connections that feel good to you and enhance your life, not detract from it and remember, ONLY you, have the the ability to define your worth – others do not hold the keys to your happiness or worth.

There has never been a better time to take ownership of who we are and of recognizing our worth. Seeing the reminder I did yesterday, was a conscious reminder and tap on the shoulder, that our words and thoughts always matter, no matter who sees or hears them.

Honor who you are, what you want and what makes you feel most alive and confident.

Give to Gain

Yesterday, towards the end of a calm, uneventful morning, I finally did what I’ve been wanting and saying I was going to do for many months, maybe even towards the upwards of a year. Realizing each time I opened my upstairs linen closet or opened the cabinets in my kitchen, I would take note of items I, myself would never use, I’d then make a mental note to donate to those who could get better use out of them. Though, each time I’d remember, it would quickly fall to the wayside and background, becoming a spot on a to-do list.

With free time on my hands and moments to spare, I knew there was no better time than to finally take on the task of taking inventory of all I had in order to give back. Tackling my linen closet, I quickly located the numbers of personal care products I’d either received as samples or had accumulated, knowing I wouldn’t use, but realized someone else would and could. Similarly, nestled in a bag were several spools of yarn. Not a sewer myself, I quickly had a flashback of friends from my teens and early 20’s, who would spend much of their free time sewing, finding it therapeutic and peaceful and also enabling them to provide their final product to a friend or loved one. Immediately, I knew many of these items I located, especially the personal care products and yarn could be given and enjoyed by neighbors and/or those in need. As a member of a local community group on Facebook, I was convinced that within moments of listing these products, especially the yarn as free items, they would be claimed and as expected, they were. Many messaged, overjoyed at seeing the free yarn and other items. Though I may never know how these items were used, it brings me great joy to think that the yarn may be used to create blankets or scarves for their loved ones or those in need, or perhaps that yarn will give the knitter a means to relax and enjoy the process of sewing, as I know so many do.

The other items I gave to others, which included light bulbs, shoe inserts and more, were items that for years sat unused, but in brand new condition, within the confines of my closet. At first, at seeing them collecting dust, I felt guilty, astonished and ashamed of myself for keeping them confined when they could have been put to good use by others who would be overjoyed to have them. It’s like the saying says, “Another person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” Though, I also came to realize that there is nothing to be gained by nursing guilt, berating myself or feeling ashamed for holding onto them as long as I did; the most important thing to remember is that it has been given and that another is now enjoying it or making good use of it.

When I made my way into the kitchen and hauled all the items for donation into the rolling totes for distribution at a local site collecting food items and other products, I did so with the hope that these items will make a difference as I presume they will. As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, it is a struggle for me to feel as though I am helping or making a difference in the ways I wish I could. Absent is the advanced graduate degree that would enable me to counsel others, or serve as a social worker providing therapy; absent is the significant wealth to be able to donate funds to those in need, but there is still much I CAN do and all of us possess. We all have something to give, as I’ve noted in the past. Whether it is a comforting word through an in-person meeting, phone or video call, text message, letter, email or a simple physical presence, embrace, or even combing through our closets and donating the clothes, foods, or other items that no longer or never did serve us; all of can give and what we give does matter. Though I may never have an amass of money to donate or a degree allowing me to professionally counsel – time, words and items are something I can always choose to give back and provide to another.

For me, I’ve experienced the true meaning of the saying, “When we lift up others, we also lift up ourselves.” From a young age, I remember my mom teaching me the importance of giving back, as I would tote the shelf-stable foods to school during the food collection drives and also by volunteering at a local Red Cross and other organizations when I was a teen. It is true that we may never exactly know what our donations do or how they are used, but we can take pride and comfort in knowing our intention was kindhearted, well-meaning and meant to give and to serve others – for me, that is often the greatest form of currency and comfort of all.

Last year, around this same time, I made the choice for the new year to donate the certain articles of clothing lining my closet and merely took up space, as it no longer served any other purpose. It was perfectly good and wearable clothing, but for me, it simply no longer worked. Instead, it took up space and served as a reminder that I was holding onto something that was ready to be passed on and could benefit someone else. Though I delayed taking the time to sort through and finally package these items, when I finally did, not only did I feel good about being able to give back, but I also felt a release at clearing out items that no longer brought me happiness.

We never know what the next minute, hour, or days ahead will bring, but we can always make a vested attempt to believe in the beauty of new beginnings and prospect of tomorrow. Maybe that shirt hanging in our closet that is donated to another will be the shirt that brings the new person who receives it a great sense of confidence and ends up being the shirt they wear to a successful job interview. Maybe that package of cereal taking up space in our pantry that when donated to another, is the breakfast bringing nutrition, nourishment, satisfaction and flavor to children in need. Sometimes, these actions can prove to be a catalyst to make a bleak or “just ok” day, a better one.

All of this reminds me of the one resounding quote I often choose to live my life by, “When you do something out love, you don’t count the cost.”

Life as a Semi-Colon

For the past week or so, I started to notice or become aware of the importance of semi-colons. It might sound strange to think that punctuation has been at the forefront of my mind, but when I started noticing them appearing as tattoos, or symbols representing something significant beyond grammar, I wondered why and was determined to find out. For me, as someone who identifies as a writer, grammar and punctuation is important to me, though as you’ve most likely seen, when I use it, it may not always be in the appropriate form, or it may be absent where it is needed. With that being said, I can recall being a journalism student in high school, learning about the impact of punctuation in understanding and conveying what one has written. Beyond writing though, unbeknownst to me until days ago, it’s symbolism spans well beyond the written word.

Upon searching, learned that back in 2013, Project Semicolon was enacted by Amy Bleuel, ten years after the death of her father, by suicide. It is identified as a nonprofit movement “dedicated to presenting hope to those who are struggling with mental health, suicide, self-injury and addiction. Learning this, my interest was piqued and I became quite taken with its initiative and overriding meaning. As someone with my degree in psychology and a vested interested in mental and emotional health, this movement was of particular intrigue to me, realizing the impact it could have, especially now given the current climate. The website of Project Semicolon powerfully reads, “A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. To me, this is symbolic and a metaphor for life. So often in our lives, when we encounter difficult situations, pain, disease, or any type of struggle, it can appear easier to dismiss it, push it aside, or surrender, but like when using a semicolon when writing, we can choose to apply a semicolon to our lives and continue on. No matter the struggle, we can make the choice to bravely reach out to others through the written or spoken word. Maybe it is self-expression through writing, art, acting, or whatever outlet piques one’s interest.

During this time and in life in general, it is often easy to feel discouraged when what we feel and see is painful, or uncertain. The tagline Project Semicolon uses is “Your story isn’t over,” and like the semicolon, itself, it represents that there is a continuation and whatever is continued is of importance and value. Their initiative has a poignant meaning and one I feel is necessary to mention and emphasize.

Below you’ll find some thoughts and quotes I recently noticed and have served as inspiration and as a catalyst for this post. In sharing them, it is my hope, as it usually is, that it may resonate or help those who are reading. If you are struggling today or know someone who is, I hope you will take comfort in knowing your story is not over and like the semicolon, you can choose to continue on, be honest with yourself and others, and ask for help when you need or want it.

Sometimes, the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is to engage in a conversation and/or walk with a friend or family member.
No matter your struggles, faults or quirks, the person who loves you will continue to love you in spite of them and encourage you to be your best self and pursue wellness.
Just one word can be the beginning of a beautiful story.
The dreams we have can serve as the road map or compass to happiness and a fulfilling life.
However you heal or traverse through difficult times and challenges, is yours and yours alone. We all heal and thrive in different ways. Honor who you are, your strengths and what makes you feel whole.

Freedom to Remember

Looking back on my life, some of my fondest memories are rooted in the family vacations we would take during the Summer months. They weren’t simply a week or so of relaxing, though that was appreciated, also, but more so an adventure and the chance to immerse myself in another culture, way of life and putting a face to all I would previously read about the locale. Many years ago, my mom asked my sister and I if we would like to visit Washington D.C., or perhaps I’d asked, my memories are fuzzy on how we actually settled on the locale, but I know I’d always longed to visit. Reading about the significance of Washington and learning of the museums and ultimately, the history of our nation was enough to inspire me to visit and explore. That Summer, in the blistering heat and humidity, my family and I made 2.5 or so hour trip south to explore our nation’s capital. Upon arriving, I recall it was late in the evening. Checking into the Doubletree Hotel in the heart of D.C., we were welcomed with open arms and directed to our rooms with the large, infamous “Doubletree Cookies,” filled to the brim with chocolate chips, walnuts and a flavor like no other. Excited to explore the city and thrilled with our sweet treat, my sister and I cheerily consumed cookies while chattering about where we wanted to visit first, the subsequent days. For me, it was history personified and in real-time. Seeing the tall buildings, museums and the manicured lawns intrigued and captivated me. What I recall most was feeling safe and at ease as we perused the streets, took public transportation and delighted in the spots I’d only read about, previously. One morning, my mom, herself, rose before all of us and made her way to the White House to stand in line for tickets, so we could tour together, as a family, later on that day.

The experiences we had and enjoyed together as a family on those trips meant more to me than perhaps I knew back then. They were not only vacations, but adventures, chock full of learning, recreation and also relaxation. It was always the goal of my mom to make each of our trips special and filled with memories, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Many years later, as I sat at the kitchen table, just two days ago, watching history transpire on the TV, the beloved city I’d visited as a child suddenly was under siege. Watching in horror, I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the screen as I watched the historic spots I looked to with respect and honor being destroyed, tattered and disregarded. From a young age, I was always taught by my parents to respect my own belongings and the belongings of others, even if I didn’t particularly like them. The fact that these belongings were mine and others’ meant they deserved to be respected and preserved.

Today, as I take in those photos of the havoc wreaked on the city, it still makes me shudder, examining and observing the faces of those who chose to embark on the city and it’s landmarks in such a way, baffled as to why violence was chosen. There is much we can do with our words, much we can convey and many ways we can be heard. For me, I’ve learned the hard way by communicating with my body and behaviors, as opposed to my words. Watching those dramatic scenes, all I could think about was my 10-year-old self happily munching on Doubletree cookies with my family, as I stared in awe at the historical landmarks before us. Looking at those landmarks once again, as a 32-year-old woman, my heart seemingly dropped, wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me. Laughing, chanting and behaving as though we aren’t all human, as though we aren’t all breathing, feeling and experiencing. Watching, I thought to myself, what can I take from this? What can I LEARN from this? Is there anything, any good I can really derive from watching a moment like this unravel?

In the hours to follow, I learned there WAS in fact, something, or actually, multiple sources of good emerging from these horrific events. The chef and restaurateur by the name of Jose Andres, who made headlines in recent months for his willingness and ability to feed, nourish and support those in need during the pandemic, once again made his presence and heart, both known and felt. This article, https://people.com/food/chef-jose-andres-delivers-120-pizzas-to-police-national-guard-after-riots-at-u-s-capitol/?utm_campaign=peoplemagazine&utm_content=new&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_term=5ff73d2d224979000124d752, details how Andres and his team made it their purpose and mission to deliver pizzas to both the National Guard and Police force, following the tragic events. Realizing the need and importance to nourish and support those helping to protect the rest of us and our nation’s structures, Andres mobilized and came to the aide of those in need of care, themselves; in other words, “helping the helpers.” As the article notes, Andres captured a video of himself, stating, “”Hi everybody … what can I say … today was a tragic day for America. I’m here in Bethesda, picking up 120 pizzas to bring to downtown DC to the heroic women & men keeping our city safe tonight. I’m meeting my team which is also bringing our kitchen truck to support … ” As the early morning hours continued, Andres went on to note, “they were now using the kitchen of his famed D.C. restaurant Jaleo to dish out more food like hot stews and egg sandwiches.” He concluded and summarized his mission through stating, “I know it’s a lot of controversies and everything, but we feed people,” Andrés said in the video. “We feed anybody and everybody, and we activate when there is need.”

Reading about Andres and his mission, it gives me hope and the assurance that there is good, that there are GOOD, altruistic people out there, people who want to help, people who want to hear, people who want to meet others’ halfway no matter their disagreements. We can all agree to disagree, we can compromise and hear each others’ words. We don’t always have to agree, but we can still be respectful, we can still give people a safe place to voice their thoughts and opinions in a way that is sound and harmonious. Yesterday, I was even more convinced in the existence of the good of others, when I learned of a NJ Representative by the name of Andy Kim, who made it his mission to do his part in helping to clean and preserve the Capitol after it was violently stormed. In this article, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/what-else-could-i-do-nj-representative-helps-clean-up-capitol-after-protests/2819328/, Kim’s efforts are detailed, noting, “Rep. Andy Kim was walking amid the mess shortly after a long, harrowing day at the Capitol when he noticed police officers putting pizza boxes in trash bags, so he asked for one, too, and began cleaning up.”

For Kim, that day, no job was too big, too small, or beneath him. He simply acted, as a human, as someone who saw himself as an equal and as someone who wants to help, not hurt, in any way he could. Sometimes, we can become caught up in the titles of our jobs or positions, but that day, Kim saw another side of his position in government, not solely helping verbally, but physically, in actions.

Taking in both Jose Andres and Representative Andy Kim’s actions, I am reminded of the poignant quote said by Fred Rodgers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.” When I was a child, myself, I first heard this quote and since that time, I’ve always looked for the helpers; during this most recent occasion of violence and unrest, in both Andres and Kim, I found them.

Wisdom in Pieces

Even before I emerged from my bed this morning, a quick scroll through social media reminded me of a significant event from 11 years prior. On this day, back in 2010, my senior year and final semester of college, I reluctantly boarded a plane at Newark Airport en route to Europe. To some, it may have appeared to be the trip of a lifetime, studying abroad for three weeks, but for me, it was nothing but a pile of worries and uncertainty. The choice, ultimately, mine, didn’t always feel that way. Knowing my physical and emotional state, I abandoned what I knew the consequences of such lengthy and significant travel could be and allowed myself to be persuaded by someone I erroneously believed was my close friend. Upon arriving in Europe, I quickly realized my decision to travel was a poor one, encountering many snafus right from the very beginning, including significant hours trapped within the airport, various weather delays and snow, in addition to feeling poorly, both physically and emotionally. Though what I most realized was not everyone who we believe is our friend, truly is. In the subsequent days, I made the costly, but imperative decision to fly home, believing health and wellbeing was paramount over all else. Wheeling my suitcase out of the hotel room, the only feeling I nursed within me was a sense of relief and confidence in my decision.

In any case, in addition to the reminder of my prior travels, I also noticed the affirmation and thoughts below, shared by prominent TV anchor/journalist and personality, Hoda Kotb. Seeing and internalizing it, I knew I needed to share it with others, who may also need to see or could benefit from it, as I did. Below is the image/contents of this thought:

Our lives can change in an instant, in a single breath, in the bat of an eyelash; this compilation of pieces of wisdom lets us in on the reminders of how we can take steps to improve or change our lives, or the chance to change our perspectives. Sometimes the time to try something new is now, no matter how small it may be. Small changes can lead to the biggest decisions or pose the greatest impacts of all. Whether it is simply taking a different route on an afternoon walk, taking a nap when you feel weary and exhausted, or choosing to pick up the phone and call a friend instead of texting, small shifts in our everyday lives can give us the energy boost we need to feel rejuvenated, or the confidence to take on something new and unfamiliar. As a final note to today’s post, below are some additional quotes and thoughts I hope will serve those who are reading and find and derive a bit of comfort or recognition from:

“Incognito” Influence

When I saw the quote/affirmation detailed below, I couldn’t help but think back to an insurance commercial I’ve heard played countless times on the TV. It is a commercial where the CEO details how most of not all of us will never truly know the significance our behaviors had on others, such as through distancing, wearing a mask, donating time/resources/food and other items. Sometimes and often times, we simply may never know. While watching the commercial and also reading the affirmation below, which easily sums up how I feel verbatim, I thought about all the people currently in and who were in my life previously, who will never know how much they affected or impacted me. From the professor in college who sat with me until 9pm in her classroom detailing her similar struggles and encouraging me to seek help, to the friend’s mom who sat with my friend and I in a parking lot, sharing her own experiences and offering advice and wisdom, to my own mom who followed me with her car when I was a teenager as I walked and walked in an inconsolable state, encouraging me to let her take me home. It also makes me think of the dear friend who would talk to me for hours during the day, as she knew what a rough time it was for me. Even my math tutor in high school, whose calm presence and understanding often made a challenging subject for me a lighthearted one, often ending in laughter. She symbolized one of my favorite quotes which reads, “Always leave people better than you found them.” When I would walk into her home for my tutoring session, settling into her table and beginning to look at the mess of numbers on the paper, I would often feel defeated and devoid of energy. However, minutes later, we would often chat while we worked, joking and making a stressful subject an easier and more manageable one as she saw me as a capable student, simply in need of some extra help and reassurance.

There are so many things, albeit a friendly smile, thoughtful text message, a simple drop-off of coupons or small items on a doorstep, or a friendly post on social media that can dramatically change someone’s day or mindset, letting them feel seen and acknowledged. Maybe during a rough day, we may think we have little, if any impact on others, but truthfully, we’ll never know just how much a “small” gesture or our words changed someone’s life. Maybe that word or gesture pulled them out of bed, or gave them the momentum to try again. Maybe that word or gesture inspired them to seek the help they needed, or inspired them to nourish their mind and body. In any case, what you do, say, and believe matters, not only to others, but also to your own self.

Your story, experiences and wisdom can change or impact someone’s life and though it may feel “safer” or easier to hide your story, or push it aside, believing others won’t care, or want to listen, from my experience, there is always someone who needs to hear that story. Maybe the person who will be helped by you sharing your story, is your own self, seeing it on paper, or on a screen, letting yourself release the pain, anguish, or challenging thoughts.

A laugh, a smile, a small gift, a phone call, a voicemail, a text message, an email, an in-person meeting; they all matter and while we may very well never actually know how much, the effort is always worth it. In my mind, there is no way to be “too kind,” because our kindness is not dependent upon what we receive back, but rather is telling about us and who we are. We can give without expecting anything in return and hope that what we give can be impactful upon another, as it is often is.

The Rocking Chair

Last night, having completed the vast array of holiday movies queued up on my DVR, I settled on a Netflix movie I’d heard about, based on a book I may or may not have read in the past. Watching it, I was riddled with an amass of emotions, some pleasant, but many leading to contemplation and reflections about my own life. Though the storyline of the film was very different from what I could personally relate to, there were certain elements that spoke to me and represent areas in my life.

The movie, titled, The Lost Husband, takes place on a goat farm in rural Texas. In the film, the title character maintains the farm and farmhouse, a comfortable-looking home, with a large wraparound porch and wooden rocking chairs. In the film, the title characters often settle together on those very rocking chairs, carrying out difficult, but meaningful conversations and reflections. It is in those rocking chairs that connections are maintained and fostered and revelations are made. Since childhood, I’ve always had an affinity for rocking chairs. From the old, nostalgic rocking chair that used to sit in my childhood bedroom, from the rocking chair that became my birthday present when I turned 18, it’s always been not only about how they look, but also what they can do and represent.

In the years preceding my 18th birthday, while on vacations, my family and I would occasionally stop during our travels at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was well before there were any local locations in my area, so when we visited, it was always an experience and an adventure in itself. Typically, we would eat and then take time afterwards exploring the country store. While walking through, there were countless items that would stand out to me, but none more than the handcrafted, wooden rocking chairs lining the front porch of the store. I’d take my time admiring them, sometimes aloft one and letting my body ease into the rocking movement lulling me into a peaceful, reflective state, as I envisioned living in a large Victorian home with a wraparound porch, sipping lemonade.

On the day of my 18th birthday, following my assisting at the preschool where my mom was employed as a teacher, my dad and sister arranged to meet us at a local restaurant, where it was revealed to me I was now the proud owner of my very own rocking chair from none other than Cracker Barrel. At that point, a Cracker Barrel restaurant had just opened in my local area and still enamored with the rocking chairs, my parents took notice and purchased one for me, a white wooden one, flawless and ideal and ultimately, the one I always longed for since childhood.

Watching that movie last night, I wish I could say my own rocking chair, the very one I described was still here and well, but it is not. When I received the rocking chair, it was the beginning point of my struggles, both physically and emotionally and so similar to how I treated myself, I neglected the rocking chair, barely, if ever sitting on it and failing to take care of it. When my mom, sister and I moved out of my childhood home, the chair came along, but it sat outside in the small back patio, experiencing and battling all the elements of inclement weather, bird droppings and countless other damaging challenges. The neglecting of the chair I so longed for, aligned with how I treated myself, a blatant disregard for my health and wellbeing and disregard for maintaining a costly and beautiful rocking chair.

It came to my realization last night as I watched the film of how so many of belongings, the state and condition of them, can mirror our own lives and how we treat ourselves. Like the rocking chair, I neglected who I was, ignoring the pains, agony and hurt I nursed internally and externally. Ultimately, when my mom and I moved again, the battered chair followed, but only for a short while, before it was disposed of. The chair had rotted; a direct result of my lack of regard and care for it. When we love something or someone, it is natural to want to care for it, nurture it, ensure they or it is safe, though I did none of those things for myself or the chair I longed for so deeply.

Maybe it was my young age, maybe it was my lack of understanding, or maybe it was my thought that I, myself, didn’t deserve the care, time and attention to nourish and respect my body, as all of us ultimately DO deserve. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I could have let that chair diminish into something unusable and destroyed. Equally, I wonder how I could have treated my own body, similarly.

With the new year upon us, there has never been a better time to make the commitment to nourish, care for and respect myself and also the belongings that are of meaning and significance to me. It is my hope that others, maybe many of whom are reading this, will also take the time to nourish themselves, both mind and body and also care for the belongings they maintain and want to persist in a usable state.

Remember, YOU are worth the time it takes to invest in your health, body and mind.

An Unwritten Path

Welcome to the last full day of 2020! For some in other nations, the new year may already be upon them, so to whomever is reading, I wish you the most prosperous, healthy and gratifying year, yet! When I take the time to reflect back on these past 12 months, there is much to be accounted for. None of us could know the way the year would unravel, none of us could know the importance of seeing a smile sans a mask from a neighbor, passerby or our loved ones and friends. What I have learned is how much I can do with less, albeit, less makeup, less time spent fighting to style my hair or select the “perfect outfit,” less time worrying about what I should wear or what I should be doing.

This year solidifies my belief that anyone can start over at any point in their life. There have been countless times where I’ve felt at a loss of where to turn next, only to pause and pick myself back up again, realizing all I could do, instead of what I couldn’t. Years ago, taking on a new job in a different field, one I thought I never would, several weeks into the job, my supervisor stated, “If you think working is here is going to make a difference in someone’s life, then you’re in the wrong place.” Taking steps back, I internalized his words, realizing that each day I left feeling an emptiness, feeling unfulfilled and longing to help others, as I decided I want to when I opted to major in psychology in college. Several days following his declaration, I made the choice to abandon that role and pursue one where I could help others in the way I desired to. Though his words might have initially come off as harsh, I appreciated them for how candid he was and realistic, knowing that there was someone, somewhere else who needed me.

Suffice it to say, in different ways, sometimes the people we meet and interact with, become the miracles we need. Maybe it is a neighbor who leaves a card or small token of appreciation on one’s doorstep. Maybe it is the interaction with a store employee coming to one’s rescue with an item we thought was no longer available or that a loved one needed. Maybe it is the video chat with a friend or family member who makes us realize hearing their voice and seeing their face was all the medicine we needed. Or, maybe it is the supervisor at a job who encourages their employee to make a choice that will ultimately set them on a better path, no matter how many obstacles it could bring.

What’s important to remember as we conclude this year and begin another is one’s value, no matter who you are, what’s happened in your past, or what you’re currently battling. As people, each of us deserves connections with ourselves and others that are genuine, authentic and free of chastising and belittling. Now more than ever, I realize the importance of honesty, not only with others, but also within ourselves, saying yes only to the things and people we want to and saying no to the things and people we don’t; choosing to take paths or roles we want to, instead of what we “think” we should, what society says we should, what “looks good” only on the outside and not internally, or what others say we should.

This new year, choose you. Choose to be the one who cares for you, who takes time to rest when you need you, who takes time to enjoy what makes you happy, and who is kind to themselves. Be the person to yourself you may have needed when struggling, or if you’re currently struggling; the person who deserves the quiet, calm moment and the person who is deserving of a life and career that feels as good on the inside as it looks on the outside.

Again, as I have before in my preceding posts, this new year, as all new years are, is a blank slate and only you hold the pen and paint brush; paint it and write it as you see fit. Be you, bravely and as Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”