Mind Your Own Business

Often when we hear or use the term, “Mind your own business,” we orient it to a scenario where a person is snooping around in territory where they do not belong. That’s not what I’m choosing to focus on with this entry. Instead, I want to look at the very literal breakdown of the phrase, as this gives it a whole new meaning that I feel is too often overlooked.

With “mind” being a noun referring to the brain and its processes, doubling as a verb meaning to keep watch over; “your own” being possessive and personal; and “business” referring to affairs, daily dealings, happenings, and in simple terms, “life,” I translate this common phrase to mean that one should keep their focus on the happenings of their own life. Keeping careful watch over one’s own dealings all the time is hard to do – our minds and eyes like to wander. We see what others are doing, what they have, how they approach certain situations, and we allow it to spill over to us. Sometimes this is a good thing. In the classroom and on video I work to motivate people to believe in themselves, to try harder, and to keep going even when they’re on the cusp of giving up. Some people have told me before that this motivates them, and I’m happy that I can inspire someone else to do something just by doing what I do. But not always does watching others work out. Often we can see what others have, what they do, how they approach things, and feel jealousy, sadness, or anger. Far too often, people allow someone else’s actions affect their own when in truth the two events are isolated and independent of each other.

Here’s where the whole “mind your business” mentality is most valuable. I can only speak for my own life, but I can say with 100% certainty that at no given moment is everything in my life completely and utterly harmonious. If it’s not a school crisis, it’s a work crisis. If it’s not a work crisis, it’s a marriage spat. If not my marriage, it’s usually my child’s toddler antics complicating things. If not my child, it’s finances. If not finances, it’s car trouble. If not car trouble, it’s a lack of spirituality, and so on and on and on. My point: there is ALWAYS something for me to focus on in my tiny bubble of existence, and lately, that’s all I’m consumed with. The result? I’m a lot more content.

How can THAT be?

Well, for one, it allows me to stop focusing on other people’s actions and instead keep my focus on my own. Many of the people around me are progressing and receiving blessings and if I gazed upon these events with tunnel vision, I might feel pity for myself. Instead, I’m happy for people being blessed with what they want; I know my own blessings will unfold when they’re due. Some of the people I know are in constant opposition with others and happy to fight about it. The world is one big giant fight over money, oil, power, religion, who’s right, etc. Some of it is meaningful, but most of it is futile. I’d rather just stay in my corner with my beliefs. All in all, shouting from the rooftops about which candidate I’m planning to vote for, my views on Iran and Syria, using social media to purposely offend people, and wearing an anti-abortion T-shirt (when indeed I am not “anti” abortion…) doesn’t really push me closer to the goals I have for myself and my family. My time can be better used.

So you may be wondering why I’m dragging you through some long ass blog post to tell you all about how I basically don’t give a care about the actions of others. Here’s the reason:

Because lately a few other people have shown and told me that my life and actions adversely affect them in some way…and I think that if those folks knew how to mind their own business, they wouldn’t feel this way. My ability to work out has no bearing on anyone else’s ability (or choice?) to do the same. The way my family operates has nothing to do with anybody else’s family. Me being in school has nothing to do with anybody else but me (well, it affects Fabian and Kennedy too, but they aren’t complaining). I’ve chosen lately to talk to God over talking to other people about my troubles, and that, yet again, has nothing to do with anybody but me.

For all the folks out there who have taken it upon themselves to make me their emotional scapegoat in the past year: Mind your own business. And no, I don’t mean quit snooping around in my life, but instead, this is my emphatic plea that you just try concentrating on your own affairs. I’m certain there’s a lot happening in your world that you aren’t paying attention to and you should. Do you…

“You make this look so easy…”

I don’t like to talk on the phone, but today I got to connect on the phone with a really close friend of mine who is a lot like my little sister. She updated me on how life’s been since we last spoke, and when I explained to her how things were on my end she asked, “How do you do all of this? I have a hard time handling my own responsibilities, but you do so much more.”

It’s the echo of what many people have asked and said to me in the past seven months, and as I near the anniversary of my departure from California, I see clear evidence now of just how much my life has changed since I left there. I will always have a California soul right down to my core, but I’ve grown a lot since August 25, 2014.

I do manage a lot. As a wife, it’s my job to stay on board with my husband with regard to finances, parenting, caring for our pets, caring for our home, etc. As a mom who works from home, I juggle my responsibilities to work with the joyful obligations I have to my daughter and her well-being. I’m also a coach and fitness motivator through Beachbody as well as a full time MBA student, so I study, I connect with people, I work with my growing team of coaches, I hold myself accountable, and I work hard every day to boost my business. I also try to make time to do the things that really keep me going such as keeping God first, exercising, dancing, making music, and even being all around lazy on the couch or in bed with Netflix. I maintain this lifestyle and I love the life that I have, but it’s not easy…

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When you’re a new business owner, everything falls on you. Vacation time? Sure! You can take as much time off as you want, but don’t get mad when your profits reflect the lack of effort you’ve put into your work.

Sleeping in? Pretty much a luxury at this point as your child will likely be up around 7:30 or 8am, and I’ve learned as a parent that it’s just easier to wake up before your kids do.

I work a lot. From the time that I wake, until I fall into bed to zone out to The Boondocks or American Dad at night, I work. It’s often a 10-12 hour day, despite my attempts to keep office hours, because even when I’m not “open for business,” I’m still doing business stuff like posting grades or setting up challenge groups. I’ve forced myself to embrace being a morning person so that I can get more done. I don’t leave the house, but I put in hours just like any commuting, office chair occupying, conventional employee at a typical firm.

My jobs pay me back in much more than just paychecks or benefits. It’s a balance, but I like that I can rock a sleeping toddler in my arms and also read over student work. I like that I can set up shop in the living room as Kennedy plays with blocks not even a foot away from me. It makes me happy that I can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my family on days Fabian has off. My very full life also has very positive perks, and for that I am so grateful.

I get to make some more room on my plate come February, as school will be over for me then. Until that date, I’m just going to keep going. It may look like it’s a breeze, but I promise it’s not. What it is, though, is a very full, very fulfilling and blessed life.

On Women and Friendship: The Girls’ Locker Room Mentality Never Really Falls Away

I can remember being 12 years old and full of fear on my first day of middle school. It was a whole new environment for me with new classes and new teachers and new experiences. However, the most daunting and intimidating aspect of the leap from 5th grade to 6th grade, for me, was having to change clothes in the girls’ locker room for physical education class.

The girls’ locker room was one of those unofficial battle grounds similar to the lunch room – people self-segregated based on social groups, meaning if you were alone it somehow signified that you didn’t belong anywhere, and social groups were somehow expected to be at odds with each other for one reason or another. Never were they allies. Only, in the locker room, new elements were added to make things even more awkward – changing clothes and letting other people catch glimpses of what your body looked like when you weren’t wearing your favorite dress, or your overalls, or your smiley face t-shirt, or your flare jeans. Some girls wore bras and filled them out. Some of us just wore bras. If you forgot to shave your legs that day, and your gym outfit included shorts as the bottoms, be prepared for some comments. Ever present were the locker room comments, and laughter, and gossip, and ridicule. Overall, the experience was nerve-wracking for me as an adolescent.

Even as I progressed from 6th grade to 11th grade, though I became slightly more comfortable with the process, I still kept my time in the locker room short and to the point. I would talk to my friends, but I didn’t like the idea of sharing conversations with people in an area where the amount of ears per square foot were quadruple the number that’d be listening when we were walking home or through the halls. And one detail still remained in high school: the social lines of who was friends with who were clearly drawn, and rarely crossed. Out on the blacktop it’s a different story. You may get some high fives from girls outside your circle for your killer rebound during the basketball game, or for having great form while serving a volleyball, but in the locker room, those blurry lines become clear. The pretty girls were in the mirror refreshing their makeup, while the so-called sluts (who barely broke a sweat) were rushing off to meet the boys as they left their locker room. The athletic girls all changed and affixed knee or wrist braces and grabbed large duffle bags full of equipment, and the overweight girls usually changed in a bathroom stall to avoid embarrassment. Everybody stays in their place.

But it’s our “place” and staying in it that’s killing us.

Much of my fear of the locker room was that I didn’t want to be judged. I didn’t want to be looked down upon because my body looked different, and I didn’t want to be cast aside for being different. Friendship is born out of putting yourself out there, but most people don’t like to put themselves out there for reasons similar to why I loathed the locker room. But somehow, friendships are formed every day and we don’t live in a world full of loners. The fear of judgment doesn’t stop, though, even after you take off your high school cap and gown.

Women judge other women for forging friendships outside of their designated social circles, and they use a mob mentality for controlling the actions of their friends. It’s just like the locker room cliques.

Even in established friendships, women in particular withhold being honest with each other because of fear of repercussion or fallout. I believe this is what leads to much of the passive-aggressive behaviors that have taken place in past friendships of mine, which are direct opposites of assertive and honest communication. It takes courage to be honest with people, and to stand up for oneself. I’ve seen that many people don’t have the level of courage that I’m seeking in my friendships – at least not with me. If you can’t be yourself with a person you’re supposed to be friends with, then why are you friends with them? Conversely, if you aren’t willing to invest the same amount of time and consideration you see someone else doing in your relationship, why stay in the relationship?

I’ve said it so many times before, and I truly mean it now more than ever: if you have someone in your life who you claim to be friends with, but you avoid spending time with or communicating with, you’re doing that person a favor by simply telling them full out that you don’t want to have them in your life. You don’t have to give them an explanation (though it’d be nice), but saying that is enough. Does it sound hurtful? It is! But trust me, that’s going to hurt so much less than if you continue to lead them on and give them false promises of support, companionship, and integrity. When you reach the point of doing that, you’re nothing more to them than a liar – useless and faulty.

It’s taken me a long time to find my way to a place where I can stand firmly and comfortably in the truth that not all friendship is for me. That I am not a woman of multiple close friendships that date back decades, that can be relied upon to fill a banquet hall at my surprise birthday party or homecoming. I only have a handful of people in my life who are capable of friendship as I understand it, and the rest are acquaintances to me. Ultimately, it wasn’t me who chose, but rather it was them, and I honor every person’s right to choose. I also appreciate straightforwardness, and reciprocate it as a policy. I just wish the rest of the world would do the same.

Mirror, mirror…

I’ve been reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I’m almost half way through it and I can appreciate her candid and honest approach to feminism. Essentially, Gay is proclaiming that she doesn’t have all of the feminist answers, and that she’s not a perfect feminist, but feminism and being a feminist don’t have to mean the perfect, inflated, capital F stature that we often raise it to in our culture. It’s refreshing to read stories about her life as a young professor, about moving to a small town to take a job, and about growing up being a social outsider; I’m finding comfort in this book.

The most glaring of reasons for why Gay’s book is so comforting to me probably has to do with the fact that I recognize my own feminist discrepancies as they play out in my lifestyle. A few months ago, Colbie Caillat released the single and music video for “Try,” and I was moved. After hearing it a few times, I began covering the song on my guitar and singing the lyrics as I watched my daughter hobble around the house, curly coifed, stubby toed, chubby cheeked, and bright eyed. Of all of the lessons I will teach her, embracing all of her gifts is one I hope to succeed in. As suggested in Caillat’s lyrics, all she and any other women really have to do is make their best go at being smart, aware, and happy. Perfect hair, nails, faces, and waistlines are trivial.

At the same time that my heart hopes this, I find myself maintaining carefully orchestrated regimens for my own hair, nails, and body. I don’t go without makeup. I check myself in the mirror before stepping out. I enjoy wearing clothes that flatter my body.

Holy crap, I’m a bad feminist, too.

Last week, as I flat-ironed my freshly washed and dried hair, my daughter peered into the mirror, looking at me in fascination. I let her continue to watch as I started spreading foundation onto my face, the strokes of blush, pats of eye shadow, and as I combed mascara through my lashes. She was mesmerized, and smiled at me with a sort of curious admiration. I felt really lucky in that moment, because having a daughter means getting to show her how makeup works, and shopping for dresses, and cute shoes, and bows, and sweet perfume.

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At Auntie Allison’s wedding. We were both told we were beautiful that day. Yes, we were in dresses, but I think the fact that we were having fun is what drew most people to us. I pray we always have fun.

But do those things make me a bad feminist mom? Am I a hypocrite because I guilt myself into running three miles three times a week in order to keep my waistline at what I consider to be an acceptable size? Should I be ousted from the feminist club for wanting to be sexy? According to Roxane Gay, no I shouldn’t, but wow is it hard to make your feminist case if you’re not some butch, braless amazon.

I plan to teach Kennedy to love herself as she is, but I still waver on how to also profess a message that cosmetic upkeep doesn’t make a woman a sell out. In a world where appearance has the power to influence everything from how approachable you are in public to your likeliness at getting a raise at work, it’s actually in a woman’s advantage to do her hair and makeup. It shouldn’t be, but this truth is undeniable. Men, on the other hand, can achieve success regardless of how they look (Donald Trump).

I guess the professor in me should start planning my lessons on this now. Oh, the questions she will ask…

You Betta’ Work, B*tch!

Since the move, I’ve been working from home. Because I also have a child, this makes me a work-at-home mom (WAHM). I’m a WAHM. Wait, I’m a WAHM? Well, yeah, I guess I am! This reality has certainly hit me like a ton of bricks.

It’s not that there’s anything bad about WAHMomhood at all – in fact, I admire women who can juggle the tasks of their jobs with the needs of their children, who are often present under the same roof while they complete their tasks for work. I’ve always respected StayAHMs and WAHMs alike because it takes a lot of patience to stay at home with a baby, toddler, or child all day long, and even when your kids grow up, at least for WAHMs, your main environment for everything really is your home. You sleep there. You cook there. You entertain there. You relax there. You work there. It seems like a closed off existence to me, which is why I was never really that fond of it. SAHMs and WAHMs have to put in more effort to have social interaction; whereas the rest of us who hold jobs outside of the home have it built into our routine of seeing others at our places of work, those moms have to seek groups to spend time with in order to socialize. It’s not automatic. Through that, these women also work hard to maintain their own identity outside of their status as parents. I can imagine this is challenging, and I commend those who live this lifestyle happily and confidently.

Doc McStuffins sets the perfect audio background for grading papers.

Doc McStuffins sets the perfect audio background for grading papers.

Just after having Kennedy, I never imagined I’d be an “at-home” anything. I knew I wanted to have a job with flexibility so that I could easily be near her, but I didn’t envision being a stay-at-home mom. After all, I have too many clothes, and shoes, and purses for that.

Despite my reluctance to fill the role, I’m not finding it to be all that bad. The most challenging part is scheduling my day so that all of my tasks get done, but I have my family helping with that. It’s easy to get wrapped up in playing with your child, then suddenly you realize they’re probably hungry, you feed them, you clean them up after feeding, you change a diaper, you get a bottle ready to put them down for a nap, and finally you lay them down. Just like that, two hours have vaporized off your clock. This happened to me plenty in the beginning. I am still learning to optimize my time while also keeping my baby fed, rested, and occupied with things that are not my computer, mouse, iPhone or iPad (when I’m using it).

I had previously thought of WAHMomhood as something that was all or nothing; the day I decide to start working from home, I will work from home for every job I hold in the future. It seems practical, especially as we discuss the possibility of having more children. However, I can’t say at this point that I’m ready to give up working outside of the home. Let’s face it – with an economy as unpredictable as ours is, most of us don’t have the luxury of saying there’s anything we will or won’t do to make money. Jobs are still hard to come by. I’m just grateful to have one right now.