Have you heard? (No, not about the bird)Zima is back in stores on limited release!?! #LongLiveThe90s
When you go out with friends or family, how often do you fidget with your phone? When you have to wait or sit physically still – such as at the doctor’s office, the DMV, waiting in line at the grocery store, awaiting a teller at the bank, etc. – do you take in your surroundings and wait patiently? Or do you search frantically for a distraction or force for speeding up the experience?I don’t normally aim to interrogate in these blog posts, but I’m hoping that anyone else reading this might learn some things about themselves by providing honest answers to these questions. I had to answer these questions honestly, too, and I didn’t like what I saw. When I was still on social media, it was often the first place I would go when the day started, and the last place I would touch base before ending the day. I would give half-interested “Uh-huhs” as people I loved, like my child, husband, parents, and/or friends would attempt to spend time with me over a meal, an outing, or even just a simple conversation. I found myself looking too far into the future and becoming concerned over situations that hadn’t developed and likely never would. I was constantly distracted, which for me is a lot like creating the busy bustle of noise and stimuli of Grand Central Station inside my brain.
This was the equivalent of giving 40%-60% of myself to the people I claimed to care most for.
The life reset I enacted in June of 2016 was kicked off as an effort to correct this. I didn’t want to be a drone wife and mom. I didn’t want to be the inconsiderate cell phone person. I didn’t want to miss out on the precious moments because I was too busy trying to create moments in a separate, alternate reality that existed on the internet or in my mind.
This is called living in the present. It’s also often referred to as being intentional.
Even since the life reset, I am not always 100% intentional, but perfection isn’t practical. However, I would say that I’ve increased my ability to be present, mindful, and intentional to the benefit of myself and those around me since I made the decision to try.
Since my son has joined us, I’ve been working hard to maintain this level of intention. My kids deserve all or most of me, as does my husband. I was chosen to live this life with them – to care for my two babies, to grow through challenges and obstacles with my husband, to set the best example I can, and to learn as I go. I am grateful I was the one God chose for this, even though I sometimes question whether or not I am right for it. I’ve had to unwrap my presence in order to be the best that I can for them. It’s simple, not easy, but I like this practice for its ability to make me feel as if I am living my life more fully for myself and the people around me. My sense of purpose and awareness grows through this practice.
And so I challenge you – if you know you can pay more attention, give more of yourself, do a better job of listening, or simply dial down the phone/app addiction…I challenge you to take the steps to do that. Your steps may not look like mine (an entire exile on social media, and a general pullback from most social circles) but I encourage you to still take them. The people who love you will probably appreciate it.
I have devoted chunks of this blog to my anxiety, that it only seems appropriate to start detailing my battle, and triumph, at gaining the upper hand over it.
Though I’ve worked at this for well over a year, I see the story really starting in September 2016.
My dad had just set off for San Diego in his truck to take care of some business with the home he and my mom still owned there – the house that I grew up in. The minute he told me he was leaving, I became terrified. I thought of all the turmoil being reported in the news with police officers seemingly shooting Black men for being simply that: Black. I thought of how far the trip was and how though he’s a youthful man still, my dad was indeed 60 years old. The surge of hormones happening within me as my first trimester came to a close wasn’t helpful. I tinkered on nauseous and paranoid, depressed and anxious – a real cocktail of instability. But life pressed forward despite my internal cries to just make everything stop.
A few days after my dad took off, the first hurricane to come in off the Gulf coast in decades formed, and its projected path was set to hit our area. This would mark the first time my husband and I would experience a hurricane warning for where we lived. So, not only was my dad gone, leaving my mom alone at their home, but now a hurricane was headed for us and I had no idea how to cope.
I called some friends and freaked out on the phone. I stayed up waiting for my husband to come home from work in the few nights before the storm hit. He shipped me off to my mom’s, likely for two reasons – 1) because he knew I would do better with her and 2) he was probably growing tired of witnessing my chaos but not being able to do anything whilst also working to secure our home and pets for the incoming storm.
Once the storm hit, I remember my heart pounding, my stomach being in knots, having hot flashes, and feeling like I was failing my children – both my unborn and my toddler. It was at this moment, I remember clearly, that I heard a distinct voice. The message verbatim is a little foggy, but overall, it said to me, “Antoinette, how do you expect to progress as the mother you want to be if you crumble at the slightest onset of trouble? If you think you’ll be strong enough for childbirth at the end of this pregnancy by acting this way, you are wrong.”
The voice then went on to say, “I’ve commanded your father to leave for now. When have I ever let you down? Would it be like me to let something happen to him when I have called him to take on this challenge right now?”
I sobbed in reply and stated, “no…”
It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to get a grip. I’ve always wanted to be seen as strong, powerful, fearless…but I wasn’t being any of those things. And it wasn’t just one day of weakness – it was a week long of weakness. Not my finest snapshot in time. I’m almost embarrassed to write these words.
But it was this embarrassing psychological intervention that fortified my resolve. Not only was I going to stop letting myself be a victim to my thoughts and circumstances, but I was also going to start actively working to pass them.
The first lesson I had to learn was that thoughts are simply that – thoughts. They are not reality. Like one might pick up and examine apples at the market to find the best ones for purchase, thoughts may come in, but that doesn’t mean they must then shape the narrative of my life at the time, or even ever. I can pick up a thought, and just as quickly, put it back down. So, thoughts of bad things happening to me or my family don’t have to take over. They’re just thoughts. If nothing tangible is playing out in front of me to support these thoughts, why go there? Stopping the late night/early morning rumination has been most helpful on my journey.
The next lesson I had to learn was that I indeed am enough. We hear that phrase tossed around all the time, and I feel it means different things to different people, depending on who you ask. For me, it’s the notion that I don’t need to work any harder or be anything more to be worthy. Anyone who doesn’t see me as such when I am who I am isn’t worth it.
And that contributed to the drastic drop in my overall social circle. I stopped paying attention to others and started focusing on myself and my family first and foremost. To them, I will always be more than enough, even on the days when I am barely at full capacity. I had to emotionally release myself from feeling responsible for certain relationships and prioritize the relationships I truly was responsible for, mainly, the ones with the people with whom I share a home, and the ones who raised me. That’s it. Everything and everyone else became peripheral with the understanding that the change was not personal, nor aimed at anyone in particular, but that this is the new normal for me. I can’t uphold the expectations of others when I’m too busy meeting the expectations I have of myself (which mostly center on making sure I’m the best mom and wife I can be). Anyone who couldn’t get down with that was phased out.
I changed my number. Lots of folks didn’t get the new one. Oh well. It’s been a nice measure in breaking away.
Lastly, I had to remember the true meaning of the semicolon I had tattooed onto my arm – a reminder to pause.
I can press pause as many times in a row as I want or need to. And though pressing pause sounds like a cop-out on the surface, it’s truthfully one of the best forms of self-care I’ve implemented. Self-care doesn’t have to mean spending tons of money on spa treatments or gifts for yourself. Self-care can simply mean carving out 30 minutes of silence to be still, meditating in the morning/afternoon/evening to re-center yourself, taking a walk alone, listening to some good music for 15 minutes, or taking a tub bath. I used to feel guilty for doing those things because my daughter might need me, or what about my husband, or look at all the chores that need to be done. But what about me? What about the internal housekeeping that we all must do to keep ourselves from becoming work-obsessed, stressed out monsters? I am worth nothing to my family if I am burnt out, and in these last few months, my husband has gotten to see what burnout can look like for me. He doesn’t like it. Neither do I. He told me thanks for always doing for he and our daughter even when I am past my limit. It wasn’t until he said that (about a month ago) that I realized I have changed. I have grown. I am stronger…
I used to think strength was something that had to be bestowed upon you; someone would have to show up and hand me “strength” in order for me to be strong. No, you’re strong the moment you decide to not succumb to your circumstances. You’re strong the minute you decide that though things may not be ideal, you will deal. Strength doesn’t always show up as being stoic or hardened – many people cry through strength. They feel themselves falling apart. But they don’t give up. I’ve faced a lot through this pregnancy alone and had to learn to toughen up for myself and for my son. It’s come with hard moments, but those hard moments have made me so much better. I’m even a better manager at work now. It’s almost over, and though I will be glad to not be pregnant anymore (seriously, it’s been a blessing and all but just gimme dat baby already!) I wouldn’t trade a single trial or challenge that’s come with it. I am propelling past my anxiety by remembering all that I am and forgetting all I do not have to be. I am enough. And I am ready.
Ran across some old photos and videos. I sure am anxious to get back to being active. I’ve had to learn to take it down a few notches in the last 9 months, which has been humbling, challenging, frustrating, and also refreshing. All in all it’s made me a stronger woman, and I’m grateful for how much I’ve had to transform through learning my own limits. Yet, I can’t help but anticipate the possibilities when I see these:
President-elect Trump will take office tomorrow. I’ve already written on this blog about my feelings regarding his election…which are really more like non-feelings because I can’t seem to muster up any enthusiasm either way…but I do want to address a trend I see still going strong among voters, particularly women and minorities. Many are claiming that they feel fear, angst, frustration, or restlessness over this changing of the guard. I will not fault anyone for having those feelings even if I don’t share them myself. However, you cannot simply decide to live in those feelings. This is not a time to be weak. Choosing to get angry and just stay angry, to cry and continue crying, or to be scared and just stay scared is NOT the way any of us needs to go right now. Doing so makes you into the awful things Donald claimed you were on his campaign trail, and I, for one, will not allow he or any other misinformed man or woman to define me like that.
I can’t afford to.
I have worked FAR too hard to become the woman that I am. I’m not perfect, but I damn sure am better than I used to be. I had no choice but to grow up and toughen up because life happened. I didn’t get everything I wanted. I had my ass handed to me. I was disrespected and taken advantage of. I had to learn to fight for myself. And not so I could claim some title of “badass” or “bad bitch” or bad “whatever is trending out there that women are glomming onto currently.” I had to do this so that I could become the wife and mom I was destined to be. I can’t expect to keep my household running if I fuel it on fear and anger. I can’t move myself forward as a leader in my personal and professional life by allowing other people’s inaccurate labels to stick. I can’t raise my babies in this broken world by being weak.
I KNOW that I am smart. I KNOW that I am capable. I KNOW my worth.
Donald being president doesn’t change any of that.
Of course, I never viewed Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as my saviors either, so you might say I just don’t have much faith in the presidency in general.
I think I’m sadder that the uneducated Melania Trump will now be my First Lady. That…is a downgrade.
I always recap the year on New Year’s Eve or some date close to it, so here I am again…but I don’t have nearly as much time to be as detailed as I’d normally be, so I’m going to do my best at summarizing my takeaways over the last 365 days.
The first thing I have to say is that 2016 has been a monumental year. One of my best. I’m ending it in a different place than I started, which is always a feather in my cap, and while my life has taken a dramatic turn from what it once was, it makes me happy that this year I finally found the courage to be myself.
1. I kept my faith first this year, and as a result, I got some of the things I’ve been longing for. No, it wasn’t always easy to choose Jesus first, to not act and wait for His word, and to stick to what He states for us is right. But I did. I chose the hard path. And He rewarded me for it by helping me grow by leaps and bounds.
2. My family is growing! I thought we couldn’t have more kids. I thought something was wrong with me. Something was definitely wrong with me, but it was my thinking, not my reproductive system. Our son will be here in March. Though Kennedy is a fantastic kiddo, she doesn’t deserve to be an only child, and as it’s looking now, she won’t be. (I’m so, so happy for that)
3. My marriage is on the upswing, after a long period of downswing. We have no fairytale romance or whirlwind story to speak of. We’re just two imperfect people who like having each other around and tend to do some great stuff when we stick together. I don’t speak for him, but I will go so far as to say that we both learned this year how to put aside the bullshit, and dial up the realness. I’ve enjoyed abandoning the periphery in favor of growing closer to the person I said a vow to grow with almost nine years ago.
4. My career moved in a positive direction this year. I was finally able to move away from teaching in favor of something else related to education. I love the field, but I wasn’t in love with teaching anymore. I’m currently in love with curriculum, though.
5. I stuck to my biggest New Year’s Resolution for 2016 by abandoning Facebook…as well as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Yes, it did mean I had to give up being a Beachbody coach as well, not because it’s impossible to work that business while not on social media, but because I wasn’t willing to invest the time to learn to do so. I walked away. Certain people are still mad. That’s okay, I left on a good note and have nothing bad to say. People’s opinions of me are really none of my business or concern.
6. I got the upper hand on my anxiety this year. I did this through a variety of measures including prayer, meditation, journaling, speaking to a counselor, subscribing to The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, my semicolon tattoo, setting new boundaries, being wholly honest with others about my feelings, and what I view most important: practicing emotional detachment. I found the courage to release myself from the weight of things I was under and didn’t need to be. Don’t ask me why I felt like I had to assume these burdens; in some way, I think I thought I was being a good friend or person by doing so. But no more. Especially when referring to the phenomenon that was #5 of this list, I have learned to confidently view myself as being in control of my life and its direction. I cut my obligations to others by cutting people out who only expect things of me but offer nothing. I toughened up. I’ve learned how to say no, how to stand up for myself, and how to not care about pleasing others. Did it cost me anything? Yeah, I suppose. But what I gained? Priceless. I have clear perspective on who I am. I recognize that my feelings are not my reality and therefore I don’t need to be victimized by them. I’ve learned how to pick up a thought and also put it down so that I can live in the moment. I was never like this when I was a Facebook user. I’m a better wife and mom now. I love who I am. And I’d rather love me and be hated by others than do things the other way around. My husband and daughter seem to love me for this too, and they (as well as our impending arrival) are the only ones I’m interested in making happy. (Mom and dad too, but we’re all 32 years deep, so they can’t really get rid of me. Did I mention they celebrated 35 years married this year?!)
Okay, well, I’m off to take K to my parents’ house for a bit. I can’t effing wait to see you, 2017. Many thanks to 2016 for everything it brought. I couldn’t have written a better year for myself if I’d tried.