Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's all a matter of spoons

A month or two back one of my clients who has a rare autoimmune disease gave me a handout on Spoon Theory. Anyone who suffers with chronic illness is probably very familiar with this theory. It’s a simple analogy that equates spoons to energy reserves. Every daily activity requires a certain number of spoons. On tough days with the illness sometimes you have to make choices about what gets done because you simply don’t have the energy to do it all.

I immediately grabbed hold of this analogy because I think it has application for everyone.
I know I am extremely privileged because of my health and able-bodiedness. Therefore, I would never want to seem like I’m trivializing the plight of those who are differently abled than I. As a burnout and compassion fatigue preventionist, however, I think we can all be mindful and better stewards of our energy.

Do this for me. Spend some time today making a list of everything that requires your spoons this week. It’s not just tasks. Your relationships and even some of your self-care practices require spoons as well. Then, at the beginning and end of each day assess your spoon reserve? Maybe you’re blessed with physical health like me and you don’t have the added challenge of managing chronic pain or illness. Be thankful for that. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something valuable from Spoon Theory. As the saying goes, success in life is more often about managing your energy than it is managing your time. It’s all a matter of spoons.

Monday, April 10, 2017

That time I got my sexy back

OMG, I am still thinking about how much fun I had over the weekend. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday and rather than just doing my boring routine to prep for the week, I took a day trip. I met a few friends in a neighboring town to attend a dance class with a well-known choreographer. Her brand is known for empowering women and improving their confidence through dance. The whole afternoon was way out of my comfort zone, but I loved every minute.

The first thing that made it awesome was someone else teaching. As a fitness instructor, I’m used to leading. Sometimes it’s nice to follow someone else’s lead. Secondly, I liked challenging myself to do a style that’s extremely different than what I usually do. I guess some might consider Zumba sexy, but the floor work we did in this class was several levels up. Whereas the sexiness of Zumba sneaks up on you, the sexiness of this class was entirely in your face. But what made it safe and non-threatening was the fact that each woman there was on her own journey. We were challenged from the beginning to not focus on what significant other we might perform for later. We were told not to compare ourselves to the woman next to us. We were instructed from the jump to connect entirely to ourselves in the mirror and move in our own unique way.

So, for a little over two hours (the class ran over a bit), I was able to get lost. I was loosed from the male gaze (and the female gaze for that matter). I was loosed from the rules of decorum or what’s “appropriate.” I could just flirt, move, and have fun. It was so freeing.

Don’t get me wrong. I was still probably one of the most conservative attendees present. I won’t act like I wasn’t in my head at times. But I will say that it was so beautiful and liberating to explore my sassy, sensual side with a room full of other women who were doing the same. There aren’t many safe places to just relax and be free. I’m so grateful to that choreographer for creating a space for me.

What about you? Are there parts of your personality you’ve been wanting to explore? Maybe it’s not your sensuality. Maybe it’s your spirituality or your creativity. Maybe it’s your spontaneity. Maybe it’s a part of you that’s been dormant for whatever reason and it’s time to get reacquainted. I challenge you this week to make room for this part of you. Let her out and give her room to breathe. What if embracing all that you are is the very key to allowing someone else to do the same?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Time for a reset

The realization came from navel-gazing- literal navel gazing. I was inspecting my stomach and wondering how someone so active and otherwise fit could be so "endowed" in the midsection. Stress? Probably part of it. PMS? I’m sure. But then I recalled the extra 250 calories I consume each time I treat myself to a Starbucks grande vanilla latte. Oh and then there's the red wine too, but let’s not go there.

The second observation was my blah mood. Thankfully, I think I’ve turned a corner and the persistent, low grade sadness for no reason doesn’t plague me as much anymore. But I was feeling down this weekend. I didn’t end up having any plans. I found things to do to get out of the house, but without company to enjoy them with it wasn’t quite the same. In my boredom, I found myself passively and compulsively scrolling on social media. That, of course, only led to comparison and loneliness. I could’ve and probably should’ve gone to my church’s Saturday night service. I wasn’t up for it though. Sometimes church is just one more place to feel lonely and disconnected. I just wasn’t up for faking a smile, making pleasantries during the greet-your-neighbor portion, and then leaving to go home by myself. Instead, I stayed home, started a new series on Netflix, and took in more needless calories.

Then, here it was, another #SundayFunday, and all I had to look forward to was laundry, meal prep, and hair washing. I decided that didn’t work for me. I still had to do all that stuff, of course. But I needed more. I needed to reset. I’ve never been one to diet or to get jazzed about a new workout plan. I can see why people are excited by those things though. They give you structure and accountability. They give you daily action points and help you measure progress. In a world where things are vague, it’s nice to have something concrete.

What exactly is my reset you might ask? Well, there are a lot of moving parts. Suffice it to say, my focus for the next 30 days is more of what I need and less of what I don’t. I hope to improve the way I nourish myself physically, relationally, and spiritually. Maybe this will be a deeply transformative experience. Maybe it’ll just be a subtle but necessary realignment. Either way, I know it’ll be good. What about you? It’s the second quarter of the year. Are you in need of a reset?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A little Sunday school lesson on peace

Last night on the phone with my mom, I confided in her about a situation that had been weighing on me. I hadn’t realized it was upsetting me so much until I suddenly started to cry. I realized that it came down to grief; it was grieving my heart to witness someone close to me make poor choices for their life. As I continued to reflect this morning, I believe I got some perspective and I’d like to share it with you. Pull up a chair, boys and girls. It’s time for Sunday School.

As I was meditating, I recalled one of the accounts in scripture where Jesus wept with compassion.

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42, NAS)

The Amplified version expands to say:

Would that you had known personally the things that make for peace (for freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin and upon which your peace- your security, safety, prosperity, and happiness- depends)! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (v. 42, Amplified)

Think about that. How many of us say we just want to have peace? We just want to be happy and live in quiet enjoyment. Well, the Lord is saying we can have all that and more. Yet, our eyes can’t see what’s been freely given.

When I wept last night, I was weeping for myself and for all of us. Why do we insist on choosing the hard way? I believe some suffering in this life just comes and doesn’t give us a choice in the matter. We just have to endure it. But then some suffering enters because of our choices. Why add needless pain to an already challenging life?

That’s my reflection today. Instead of focusing on what’s happening with other people, I will examine myself. I will recall the times when I’ve wandered down my own path and created drama and pain that could’ve been avoided. It’s not about shaming or judging myself. It’s about preserving the ability for sin to grieve me. It sounds strange, but I don't want to lose that tenderness of heart. Besides, when you realize that the outcome for any choice is either pain or peace, you’ll devote yourself to understanding the things that make for peace.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On being a woman

Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. Because of this, I feel compelled to write about being a woman, mainly because the experience of being a woman is so complex. It’s complex because there are so many demands placed on women to be a certain way. There are so many times I second guess what I’d naturally be inclined to write or post, all because I’m afraid of what others might think. I never wanted to ostracize a segment of my audience. But I’m slowly entering a place now where I just want to be authentically me. It’s never my heart to offend. At the same time, I realize, I can’t please everyone. Therefore, I want to highlight all of the dialectics (seemingly opposite truths that exist simultaneously) of who I am in no particular order. You may take them or leave them, but this is who I am.

I’m a feminist
I wholeheartedly believe that women are equal to men, intellectually and socially. Therefore, women deserve equal rights. I’m not rah-rah and extra about being a feminist, but I am.

I’m pro-life
I believe that life begins even before conception (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13) and God has a destiny for every living soul on this planet. But I would never EVER judge a woman who struggled with the difficult choice to terminate a pregnancy.

I drink
I love wine! Growing up, drinking was a normal part of family fellowship. It generally wasn’t in excess. It made life celebratory. So, if I drink with someone, it’s almost like a familial exchange. But if, by chance, drinking seems sinful to another, I’ll abstain in their presence. Why become a needless stumbling block for a brother or sister for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15)?

I’m celibate
I’ve never acknowledged this publically, because it’s extremely personal, but I am. It doesn’t make me a prude by any means. I believe I can still be sexy and sensual. It also does not mean I am judgmental of others who are sexually active. I just choose to wait until committed love enters my life and I’m certain I’ve found my partner in purpose. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice, but I know it is.

I’m a democrat
Again, this has to do with upbringing. My heart gravitates toward the underdogs. As an empath, I naturally want to stand up for those without resources or a voice. If that makes me a bleeding heart or a snowflake, liberal, I’m totally okay with that.

I’m Spirit-filled
Believe it or not, I’m one of those evangelical, tongue-talking Christians. I know how to exercise spiritual authority, bind up demonic forces, and break you off on some scriptures. It doesn’t make me a perfect human. It just means I lean on the Holy Spirit a lot when things get real.

I cuss (sometimes)
I’m not proud of this necessarily because I recognize how divergent it is from the previous truth I mentioned. But yes, if I’m truly speaking authentically in the moment, you’ll hear an expletive sometimes. Don’t worry though. I try to reserve the F-bomb for truly special occasions.

I’m black
This is a reality some forget or overlook at times, but it’s a salient identity for me. Yes, I’m of the suburban, middle class, straight hair, light skin variety. But, I'm a proud black woman nonetheless. You’ll hear it in my inflection sometimes when you catch me code switching.

I’m a PhD
This is another important thing to mention that I’m usually weird and embarrassed about. But yeah, I’m super-duper educated. I generally downplay it so as not to make others feel inferior. I don’t think degrees make people better human beings. But I will break out the Dr. Gambrell as needed if I’m dealing with a jerk.

I’m 34
I realized that throughout my blog I’ve been vague about my age. Why? I wasn’t in my 20s. Why should I hide it in my 30s? Depending on your season of life, 34 might seem really young or really old to you. But hey, it’s where I am in this season. Either way, I hope you’ll converse with and experience me before limiting me to just a number.

I’m sure there are dozens of other identities or tendencies I could highlight, but I’ll close here. Why am I sharing all this, you might ask? What does this have to do with my whole wellness “brand?” What does it have to do with being a woman? Everything! When people have to put on different personas and ignore other identities to be accepted, it drains the soul. When I go before the Lord, I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am. Why should I switch it up for other people? My hope in sharing all of this is that you will be courageous enough to explore and celebrate all of your dimensions. All people, but especially women, are beautifully diverse creatures. Let’s honor all the idiosyncrasies and celebrate difference. Yes?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Love Boot Camp

Today I just wrapped up a month long Love Lessons series on my Facebook Live page. Per my usual pattern of the last few years, I wanted to offer whatever wisdom I could to the couples of the world. I absolutely love love and I want to do all I can to promote goodness and health in every area, including relationships.

I concluded with a love boot camp. I gave different strengthening exercises people could do to increase emotional and relational fitness. Apart from being a little corny, there were great ideas for enhancing relational satisfaction. For specifics, check out the replay.

As I reflect on the series and look at this image of my friends (yep, these are real people I know and love, not just beautifully diverse models) I am reminded what a gift love is. It is one of the biggest miracles of life to find your person. Despite the earth’s population being around 7 billion, it’s still a rare thing to find someone and vibe. Then to not only vibe and be compatible, but for both of you to be ready and available to be together, well...that can take a while to find. When you do, cherish it. Don’t you dare take it for granted.

Look at relationships like anything else worth having. Look at it like your physical health, for instance. It requires maintenance. You’ll have to put in daily effort. If you slack on putting in the work, you’ll see the effects of your neglect. You might not notice right away, but eventually things will atrophy. At that point, it might seem impossible to rebuild and get back to where you were. But just as the body is amazingly resilient and can repair itself, so can the heart. If both people are willing, you can have the relationship you always wanted. The question is will you put in the work? If you appreciate what you have and what you stand to lose, then the answer should be a no brainer.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Surviving the worst Valentine’s Day of my life

I’ve been thinking about you, readers. I know there are some of you who are nursing a fresh heartbreak. Maybe you braved the holidays and the new year relatively fine. But the idea of facing your first Valentine’s Day without the person you love, is just too much for your heart to bear. Let me just say that I know the feeling and I totally get it. It’s been several years for me, but I remember the pain of loss well and I thought I’d share it with you. I wanted to share how I survived the worst Valentine’s Day of my life.

I scheduled a physical on Valentine's Day that year. It was reminiscent of Tina Fey's 30 Rock character, Liz, scheduling a root canal and personal protest to Valentine's Day. A funny show and a funny character. Except real life isn't nearly as funny as TV. I took the day off from work because I wanted a total day to myself without any triggers of that godforsaken Love day or “Michael” and his new girlfriend being intimate. Instead, the doctor seemed like a reasonable place to be.

I got a full work up for no other reason then I wanted to make sure I wasn't dying. It sounds dramatic, but it seriously felt like I was dying. It's weird. When the very worst thing you imagine actually happens to you, then anything awful enters the round of conceivability. Nothing feels safe anymore. Excerpt from "Healing through movement: Getting back up after a broken heart"

At that doctor’s appointment, I learned (at the time) I had high blood pressure and appeared pre-diabetic. Other than my body’s extreme reaction to the emotional stress of a horrible breakup, I was relatively fine. I was heartbroken, but fine.

I left the appointment even more anxious and tense. I picked up an orchid for myself. I wanted to look at something pretty and exotic. I went home, relieved that I had taken the day off. I made a tasty dinner, had some wine, ‘cause duh, it’s me. I watched a movie. I cried a few times. I had to redirect negative thoughts almost constantly. But, I made it through Love Day. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I share all that because so can you.

Here I am several years later and I actually like it again. I like Valentine’s Day. I enjoy writing love themed posts for singles and couples alike. I’ve been doing a love series on Facebook live that’s been well received. I’ve found peace and joy again. Most importantly, I believe in love again. That’s probably the biggest miracle in it all. My hope has been restored.

So, beautiful reader, if you are hurting right now, be encouraged. You might be bracing yourself for the worst Valentine’s Day of your life. Maybe you’re anxious about what the day holds or how you might be triggered. I can assure you though that if you just breathe you will endure the moment. It might take time, but one day the pain will be gone and will be replaced with joy. And your heart will be so full of love (with or without a mate), that you’ll be moved to reach out and encourage others that they can make it through. I promise you. I’m living proof.