Life Reset

Don’t know what a life reset is? No worries. I don’t exactly know what it is either. I came up with the term when I was throwing around the concept of changing not what I do in my life, but rather my approach to my life.

The infrastructure of my life is beautiful: I have a great job that pays me well and I have fun running a growing business from my house. I’m blessed with a great family and a bright future as a wife, mom, coach, and student of life. I do not want to trade or get rid of any of these things, but I’ve been sort of just, “floating” between them.

I wake up, I go to work, I check in with my challengers and team, I contribute to the curriculum department at my job to create new, cutting edge course material, I exercise, I get other people to exercise, I cook food, I hug and kiss my daughter, I hold hands with my husband…eventually it becomes a really big blur of moving pieces. I love all of these pieces dearly, but I am not truly cherishing them as I know I can. The reason? I’m spread too thin, I’m running in circles, and I’m burning my metaphoric energy candle at both ends most days.

tree photo

I was given this life because I’m strong enough to live it; I just need to start living it now. 

 

This need for change has been evident for a while, but I wasn’t truly moved to make a change until: 1) after my enlightening visit to see my cousin and his wife in Chicago, and 2) I gained some perspective on just exactly what being in my 30s means in relation to my 20s, which are already over, and my 40s which are approaching.

Being around my cousin and his wife last week showed me what potential one could have if they utilize some proper planning, but also leave space for the fun. He’s always kind of been more like an older sibling to me and I’ve watched as he’s met and married his wife, and witnessed as they became parents alongside Fabian and I as their daughter is less than three weeks older than Kennedy. They are not perfect people, but they are definitely the kind of people who you want to have rub off on you because of the cohesiveness of their union, the forward progression of their personal and professional lives, and they still manage to remain relatable, lovable people in the process, which is rare. They also enjoy their life. No, not by base jumping or swimming in diamonds or sleeping on sandy beaches every weekend, but by building simple, yet gratifying activities into their day-to-day. I felt a sense of refresh come over me by staying with them for a week because though they wrangle a lot in their lives – business trips, raising a toddler, paying bills, budgeting, and the woes of living far away from family – they still find the time, energy, patience, and ability to enjoy the life they’ve built. This was eye-opening to me.

The second event that woke me up to my need for change, believe it or not, was Ali Wong’s stand-up special, “Baby Cobra,” which I watched while nursing a cold on the couch a few nights ago. My husband watched it first and recommended it, and boy, does he know me.

Ali Wong had me in stitches. I’ll save the review of her show for another platform, as most readers don’t come here for my commentary on television specials. One reason I enjoyed her candid, vulgar set so much is because I could relate on a variety of levels.

She’s a thirtysomething. She wasn’t swept off her feet when she met her now husband (a graduate of Harvard Business School). She struggled with fertility issues before finally conceiving her first child (she’s actually in her second trimester during the special). She isn’t some dainty, pretty girl with dainty, pretty thoughts – the woman explains her obsession with porn, her envy of housewives and stay at home moms, her feelings about her maturing from a hot, young 18-year-old to a still young, but getting older 34 year old, and her resentment of teenage girls for their effortless ability to be firm, tight, gorgeous, and desirable. While maybe not all of those areas apply to me exactly, I laughed along with Ali’s audience because I could relate.

The broad beacon of reason in Ali’s special was that though she, and many other thirtysomething women in the US, might not have it all together, she’s doing her best to make sure that what she does have is freaking awesome. She spoke frankly about the fact that your 30’s are all about recharge, renewal, refocus, and inner growth as she explained that she and her husband enjoy going on yoga retreats, listening to relaxation podcasts, and taking it easy at home. Funny, because I can relate there as well! Though her journey through adulthood has included some embarrassing moments and heartbreak, she’s fixed her gaze upon looking forward and carving out a beautiful path for herself, wherever it may lead.

Funny, you’d think that the two events that moved me to want to change my life so much would be more massive and significant than one trip to see family and a comedy special, but it really is as simple as those two things that put me in a position to write this blog post today.

I am no longer 26. When I was 26, I had what seemed like endless energy. I could run in circles if I wanted to because A) I probably wouldn’t even notice what I was doing and B) I had the gas to push through something like that without becoming weary. At 32, I’m not old, but I’m certainly not as full of energy as I once was. If I’m going to exert myself, I need to be happy about it at the end of the day.

I used to think that the expectations placed on me by my job and by my friends and by my parents were obligations I’d need to live up to. I’ve learned now that the only people I’m truly obligated to are my husband, our daughter, and myself. Everyone and everything else is accessory, especially with regard to my work. I have never been labeled as lazy because I am not, but I am also no longer interested in being a workhorse. I flat out told my boss that I, “may or may not meet” a deadline when approached with a task last week. The Antoinette of 2007 would’ve worked extra hours to appease the boss, and the Antoinette of 2012 would shake in her heels while trying to take a stand. I’ve dropped all pretense.

The question I’ve had to ask myself: Who am I trying to impress? The neighbors? Some group of girls I went to college with? My coworkers? People at a party? I don’t go to parties, ever, and if I lost stature with any of the other aforementioned groups it wouldn’t make a lick of difference in my life. I’d still live in this bangin’ house. I’d still be Mrs. Oesterlein. I’d still be Kennedy’s mom. Jesus would still love me.

So, rather than throw my New Year’s resolutions down the tube for yet another year, I’m going to attempt to turn it around by truly re-centering myself so that I can better attack my anxiety, get a handle on my time management, be a better wife to my husband, be a better mom to my child, and my favorite of this already fantastic list: add more value to the world around me. I want to live purposefully, intentionally, and fully while I still have the time to.

 

Reset.

This will likely manifest in a series of other posts from me, so stay tuned.

 

 

Wrong Label

I don’t do well at creating analogies most of the time, but I’m going to take a stab at one right now.

Imagine, if you will, the assortment of soft drinks that sit neatly stacked inside a vending machine. If one is lucky enough to have the two dollars and some change these cold beverages cost (seriously – the cost of soda is one of the many reasons I don’t drink it!), as well as the patience it takes to slide their dollar bills into the narrow mouth of the machine, they get the option to select their drink of choice by pressing the corresponding button which usually has a picture of their desired soda on it. Soft drinks have come a long way and run the gamut from sugary juices and teas, to energy drinks, to bubbly favorites like Sprite, Pepsi, Fanta, and Mountain Dew. Now, more than ever, there is a wide variety of soft drinks to choose from.

Anywho, in this scenario we have a young, thirsty soda buyer on a quest for cola. It can be Pepsi, it can be Coke, hell, it can even be that dreaded RC knock-off crap, but cola is the end game. The vending patron purchases her soda from an overpriced machine and hurries off to her next destination, be it a class, a shift at work, or home. The brilliant red hue of the can and the curvy letters on the label appear all too familiar, and condensation even begins to form as the icy can makes contact with the much warmer air outside of the vending machine apartment where this soda had once lived.

When she pops the top and takes a swig, the taste is both familiar as well as surprising. It’s definitely cola, and the bubbles spring against her tongue in a familiar way, but something else is there. She drinks a little more, and can’t quite place the difference, but this isn’t cola as she’s used to it. There’s an unexpected finish to it. It isn’t a bad one; in fact, it actually tastes pretty nice. It’s a different flavor, though, and while she finishes the can, she’s left wondering why those 12 ounces of cola hit her so differently from other servings of cola she’s had in the past. This soda drinker hasn’t caught on that the contents of her plain cola can actually contained cherry cola. The sweet finish was pleasant, but not sought after, and the uniqueness of the cherry cola loses its value by being represented by the wrong can.

A similar tale could be told about my temperament.

As a child, I was always friendly, outgoing, and spritely (since I brought up soda). I had my own bouts with nervousness at giving presentations or being put on the spot to speak in school or extracurriculars, but these didn’t keep me from taking to the stage for dance recitals, performing in choir, pursuing a short-lived career in radio, appearing in two music videos for BET Network, performing at my high school’s first ever poetry slam, pledging a sorority, and even wanting to become an educator in the classroom as an adult. I’ve always been typed as “loud,” and indeed, my voice carries. Meet my mom; I get it from her.

But these traits have always garnered me the label of “extrovert,” and before age 16, I just went along because I didn’t know any wiser. It wasn’t until I was in the throes of puberty that I started to question whether or not I was really as open and outgoing as everyone had come to think I was, or if I was just someone who coped with the pressure of being put on the spot better than others around me. I can remember sitting in my 10th grade English class, hating life, watching the clock incessantly, when we (the class) stumbled upon some names within our assigned novel that our teacher had trouble pronouncing. Because my mom had many Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean coworkers and friends, I learned tricks of pronunciation and was able to spit the names out easily. Suddenly, all eyes turned to me as she asked me to continue reading this section of text. I read it as best I could, and the students around me pressed me with questions about how it was that I spoke so clearly even with words derived from other languages. I shrugged and waited out the final moments of 6th period and booked it.

The next day, this boy I’d had a crush on, who was also my classmate in this class, sat next to me and asked if I wanted to hang out with him and his speech and debate buddies one day after school. They were part of the elitist cool at my high school – not jocks or popular – I wasn’t into those guys. I refer to them as the elitist cool because they were so smart and stuck up they built their own upper echelon. I’d later learn that those types of fake societies matter about as much as two-dollar bills, but when you’re 16 and  have just learned that when you throw on a skirt you have hips, that kind of invitation can make you feel good. But I couldn’t go. Not because mom or dad would object – I could think of a good enough lie to wiggle around them – I just didn’t want to be put on the spot. I didn’t want these people knowing who I was. I couldn’t let him see who I really was. No abuse at home, no bed wetting problems, no Rosemary Kennedy sibling hidden away in my family’s attic. I was just a nerdy girl who liked to play Zelda and listen to music for hours in her own room without fear of someone barging in because there were no siblings to share space with. I liked to research things in my spare time and write poems. I’d spend hours in my room just zoning out after school because my mind was on overload sometimes. So many people and cliques and rumors and trends to keep up on and MTV and people to call and…I didn’t want them knowing any of that about me because it was private.

That was the day my introversion and I shook hands, and we’ve been locked ever since.

Fast forward to now, where I sit in a place where I have nothing left to do but find myself as I live in a still fairly new location, reunited with family I’d been far away from, and still adjusting to my ever-changing role as a wife, mom, career woman, and entrepreneur, and I’m learning to embrace my introversion more tightly. I was always typed as an extrovert because I engage in “outgoing” activities such as socializing with strangers at gatherings and public speaking, but what nobody ever really knew (even I haven’t understood this until recently) was that those activities drained me. I needed my alone time to recover from them, and my home environment was of such where I didn’t have to put forth much effort to get this. Mom and dad were involved, but they gave me my space. I always had my own room and pretty much ruled the upstairs of our house as the guest bedroom had my computer in it. I just thought I was being an only child, and to some degree that may have been true, but as I’m learning, I was also recharging in solitude as introverts often do.

introvert advantage

From The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

[It’s not the introvert bible – I’ve found a few questionable spots in this book and I’m almost through it – but it gives a nice perspective on what it’s like to date, parent, and be married to introverts if you are or are not one. I’m learning that I can actually relate to the world…if I want to.] 

 

Failure to do this can have grave consequences like panic attacks, sudden mood shifts, and unkind words. I hosted a bridal shower at my home in California and had two anxiety attacks trying to keep myself together as droves of strangers marched through my home, passed my 9-month old daughter around, and peered curiously at pictures of my family on the walls. I shoved my postpartum body into a sundress and tried to play hostess, but all I wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor and try to process the upcoming move. I like for people to come over, but I don’t like for them to stay long. I can be open, but I prefer to keep myself hidden. Even the glimpses you see of me on this blog, which are more than any I share on other social media, are limited glimpses. The complex and beautiful web that I’m weaving isn’t for others to behold beyond my spouse and someday my daughter, and they even need a road map to navigate it all.

All of this, in summation, is to say that I identify very clearly with that unique cherry cola that was mistaken for classic and undervalued behind an improper label. I sit on the more extroverted side of introversion, but make no mistake that introversion is where I sit. I’ve been on the wrong shelf for quite some time, and have finally been moved, and I like it here better (there’s more room).

I’ll have more to say on this later.

My Semicolon Project

I’ve been overdue for a new tattoo, but people who know me well know that my body modifications are always tediously planned out. I don’t get inked just for the sake of doing it; my tattoos each have a story that’s tied to my soul and likely represents something more than just the illustration. Meet my newest piece: the semicolon.

IMG_4017

Wow! This photo is packed with symbols for things that all mean a lot to me. Such as ninja turtles. 🙂

Laurel alerted me to the Semicolon Project last year, and while I’m not affiliated with them in any way, I respect the project’s vision and have a personal investment in anything aimed at preventing anxiety, depression, suicide, and self harm to all people. The Semicolon Project is a valuable tool for a world inundated with put-down culture. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that people are plagued with depression in our world because most of the images and messages marketed to us center on death, destruction, criticism, and getting us to emotionally react. Innovators of the Semicolon Project urged people who were feeling suicidal, depressed, or anxious to draw a semicolon on their hand or wrist. As explained by supporters of the movement, “A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to,” empowering individuals to choose another way.

My own experience with depression, anxiety, and suicide dates back to when I was a teenager and my parents were nearing divorce. All of the fighting, stumbling on my father’s plans to move me away from my mother and not knowing how to tell him, being asked who I’d like to live with, witnessing them lying to each other – it was a lot to handle. I didn’t have a sibling to seek comfort from, and the nearest extended family member’s home was 300+ miles away. That was the earliest, and thankfully one of the only, times I felt like dying would be a better option than waking up the next day. I was not suicidal again until I faced postpartum depression after having Kennedy.

Side note: My parents didn’t end up divorcing, but it’s important to point out that even a rock solid marriage like theirs has seen its battle days.

As far as I can pinpoint, depression has been a big bubble in my life, encompassing chaptered chunks of time that happen to be in chronological order. I didn’t know it was there half the time, but I think I was able to disguise it to myself by training my mind to think otherwise. After the third year of my parents living in Florida and me in California, I’d trained my heart to think it wasn’t hurting for them to keep myself from completely falling apart watching my friends all spend time with their families. Coping mechanism? Maybe. It’s been a complicated web to untangle, and that’s the best I can come up with so far. I’m still working on it.

Anxiety is an entirely different bear and by far the one I work hardest to manage. Anxiety is what tells me to worry, tells me to second guess myself, dreams up the worst case scenario and then plays it on repeat, and who shouts ugly things at me when I’m feeling weak. I hate it. I have it. But it does not have me. This tattoo is mostly dedicated to that. I chose my bicep too because, well, it takes strength to pause and decide. Our world values moving fast, but I say we take it slow. Slow down and be intentional. Stop missing things because you were moving too quickly through them. Pause, reflect, decide what serves you and discard what doesn’t, and last but not least: do.

My tattoo is a reminder that though my pace of life can become rapid, I am still in control of how fast it plays, and how many times it gets paused for reflection, for recovery, and for peace.

I’m Not Super Mom.

super mom

Sweet condolences after almost dying during my workout. I wanted to quit, but then I saw her watching me…

I get called a lot of names, many of which tend to roll off my shoulder whether good or bad. My mom has said I’m a “freak” for taking on so much at once, and one of my friends (I only have like 6) told me I was “relentless” when I told her about a possible job opportunity I was considering for 2016. As a coach, some people call me “obsessive,” and others call me “incredible.” I’ve been labeled as both “weak” and “strong.” My students’ descriptions of me range from “strict” to “helpful,” from “Grammar policewoman” to “informative.” I’ve learned to stop tucking every little jab or compliment in my pocket, because ultimately, it’s only me who defines me, not anyone else. That’s why there’s one label that I completely reject, though it’s been assigned to me out of admiration and respect: Super Mom. I am not her, nor will I ever be.

The mere notion of Super Mom is overinflated, prideful, and unnecessarily complicated. Women feel that they need to strive for this ideal picture of perfection, and when you mix perfection with parenthood, all you really end up with is unfair stress and pressure. Super Mom always keeps the house clean, her purse is always stocked with her child’s favorite toy, enough diapers and wipes for extended trips, a change of clothes, tissues for runny noses, antibacterial hand wipes to keep her children clean, and her own wallet and mini makeup kit in order to keep herself looking pleasant. Super Mom gets a ton of things done while her children nap. She’s a well-rounded friend, sister, mommy, and lover. She cooks well-balanced meals 95% of the time. Super Mom never loses her temper. She gives her family the best. Did I mention she also works? She’s a complete myth…

It’s flattering to be compared to Super Mom because the people who do so are usually impressed in some way or another at my approach to being mom. However, the people who see what I do only catch glimpses. Yes, Kennedy ate broccoli, grilled chicken, and carrots for dinner last night, but the day before, I gave her a hot dog because I was too exhausted to cook. I hate sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, and dusting; our house isn’t a total pigsty, but it really only looks like those homes in catalogs right after I’ve begrudgingly done all of these chores. My daughter once went two nights in a row without a bath because my legs were sore from Plyometrics and I didn’t feel like kneeling next to the tub to wash her. I’ve sat my child in front of the TV for hours at a time because it kept her occupied while I graded papers, took a final exam, or counseled clients individually on how to achieve weight loss results. Sometimes I yell at her. Sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom to cry because I wonder if I’m doing it right. I keep a Post-It note on my medicine cabinet mirror that says, “You are a good mom,” because sometimes I forget. Some people do it up for their kids’ birthdays, which I enjoy seeing, but that will never be me – I’m not willing to put forth the effort for handmade favors and goodie bags, and I don’t care if her parties don’t have a distinct theme as long as there’s cake and she’s smiling.

I care about reading her stories every night before bed and that she spends quality time with her grandparents (hence the cross-country move). I care about showing her healthy habits with regard to exercise and having a good relationship with food. I care about showing my daughter that she’s in control of her destiny; presets like race, gender, class, and age do not have the power to exclude her from anything unless she allows them to. Plenty of people assume that black women are irresponsible, uneducated, and uninformed, but I am not…and she doesn’t have to be any of those things either. I care about showing her what romantic relationships are supposed to be: imperfect processes where two people who may not always say or do the right thing have each others’ backs in the long run and work to keep each other a priority. The love story her father and I share isn’t perfect…it’s hardly a fairy tale…but it’s ours. I also care about teaching her to have a healthy relationship with herself because it’s something I didn’t have until after I came out of the tunnel postpartum depression put me in for the first six months of her life. (Oh yeah, did I mention that I had postpartum depression? Super Mom certainly never has any afflictions).

Super Mom is perfect, and I’m discernably imperfect and more than okay with it. Simply being mom is super enough for me, and all I really do is try my best. Sometimes my best is astounding – I once cleaned the entire house, wrote a seven-page paper, updated grades for 60 students, cooked a dinner of fish, kale, and roasted potatoes and had Kennedy in bed, bathed by 8:30pm all in one day. Other days, my best is lackluster, but it’s all I had that day. I may not be the perfect mom, but I’m certainly a great mom to her, and that’s all I care about being.

Quinoa Oatmeal Recipe

Quinoa oatmeal is one of my favorite dishes to eat for breakfast. it’s simple and nutritious and when made in large quantities can serve as a prepped breakfast item for the week.

quinoa oatmeal

Waking up in the morning just got a LOT more exciting!

Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup steel cut oats (5 minute oats are good too!)

11/2 almond milk (I like vanilla flavor). You can simmer your quinoa in water too if you want, but it won’t be as flavorful. I

1 tbsp agave nectar

OPTIONAL 1 cup of fruit (I like to add chopped strawberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries)

Method:

1. Thoroughly wash your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Unless your quinoa package states that the contents has been washed, it should be cleaned! Your oatmeal should already be packaged clean.

2. Simmer your cup of oats and quinoa in the almond milk for approximately 20 minutes. If you decide to increase your quinoa amount, be sure to adjust your ratios of quinoa to liquid, and you’ll need to factor in more cooking time)

3. Your oatmeal is fully cooked when you notice the curled, bloated centers of each kernel of quinoa. Allow to slightly cool before topping with agave nectar and fresh fruit. Enjoy!