Friday, December 30, 2016

An introverted end to 2016

As I write another end of year reflection post, it would be easy to join in on the laments of how awful the year has been, what with the iconic celebrity deaths and the political climate. I could offer a more positive, upbeat post on the highlights of my wellness business this year. I’m sure I could even come up with lists of 16 or 17 lessons learned, goals to attain, and what to let go of or grab hold of in the New Year. But this year, perhaps even more than in previous, I’m feeling quiet and reflective. Therefore, I want to write from that contemplative space.

I’ve never been a big New Year’s person. I would always much rather watch the “When Harry met Sally” New Year’s party scene than actually go out to one. The thought of being somewhere crowded and crazy like Time Square or Vegas for New Year’s makes me itch a little. Even in the year 2000, when it was finally appropriate to party like it was 1999, I went to a watch night church service with my friend’s family and then slept over. Sad, I know. I wish I could say I made up for it in later years, but that would be a lie.

It’s not that I dislike New Year’s. I’m all for toasting with champagne and singing a few rounds of Auld Lang Syne. I just prefer to do it in the comfort of my home, preferably before 11pm. It’ll still be a new year when I wake up the next morning, right? Again, it might seem kind of sad, but I like it that way. After all, the 525,600 minutes that make up a year are so loud. By the time we reach New Year’s Eve, I generally want to slow down and enjoy a quiet space. It’s the only way I can hear the voice inside and discern my next moves for the new year.

So, what’s on my agenda this weekend while the rest of the world is kissing, toasting, ball dropping, and praising, from one year to the next? I’m not exactly sure yet. But it’ll include some remembering, some thanksgiving, and a chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Soul Trainer

A few weeks ago, I shared this month marks my one-year business anniversary and my three year blogiversary. It’s so weird to look back at my old entries. It’s like re-reading old journals. I’m still kind of amazed that I decided to chronicle my life experiences and observations in such a public forum. As I said before, it’s cool to see how things change and remain the same.

I started my blog after a huge life transition. And in the last three years, there have been several more. I’ve written about career, relationships, hurts, and healing. I’ve written as a (hopefully) wise friend, guide, and co-journeyer. I’ve demonstrated how fitness and movement have become my metaphors for overcoming in life. Basically, I feel like I’ve found myself, healed my heart, and discovered purpose in this blog- to promote health and strength from the inside out.

So, when a life coach friend of mine told me one day, “You’re like a soul trainer,” it totally resonated with me. Yes. I suppose I am. And I’m not a counselor-trainer who will just give you the prescription and rattle off book knowledge without having gone through the process myself. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I have been walking through it all right along with you. It only makes sense then for me to finally settle into a more appropriate blog name. Soul Trainer. Nothing will really change as far as what I write about. I’m just clarifying my focus in a way that captures what I really do. Let us continue to grow together in strength, joy, and wellness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Open hands, open heart

I just started a new journey...a journey toward openness. That might seem weird because many people experience me as pretty pleasant and agreeable. Am I warm and friendly? For sure. Big-hearted? Absolutely. But open? Um...yeah, no. Honestly, I haven't minded my aloofness. It's been very protective and I've appreciated the safety it's given me. But as with most coping mechanisms, they work until they don't. They are helpful until they cost you something or interfere with meeting other needs. In my case, my standoffish demeanor has kept me from the connection I crave. Therefore, I figured it was time to do something about it.

I met up with my yoga instructor friend over the weekend. I just had a simple request. "Can you show me some heart opening poses?" As corny as it sounds, I just wanted to bypass talk and use my body to invite love into my life. Romantic love, sure. But also a deeper experience of God's love...more intimate encounters in friendship love...more work related opportunities to express love. Basically, I wanted to learn how to be a big ball of sunshine radiating love and light...without opening up, being seen, and letting people in, of course. Sadly, you can't have it both ways. Boo!

At any rate, my friend guided me through a spontaneous heart opening flow. I breathed. I expanded my chest. I noticed the areas of tightness and discomfort and moved through them. I noticed my fears, validated them, and then gently disputed them with truthful affirmations. It was just a one time session, so there's lots more practice to do. But I believe making this a regular practice will manifest powerful things in my life. I just had to create space in my heart for it.

It's important to know that I will still vigilantly guard my heart. I care for and want to protect it. Not everyone who feels attached to me will gain entry to my sacred space, just as not everyone that I attach to will grant me access to theirs. And that's okay. You can't say you truly love someone without also honoring their limits. But now I understand that you can guard your heart and still keep it open. If I'm lovingly attending what I need and communicating sincerely with others, I don't need to be afraid. All I need to focus on is giving myself when I'm moved to give and do it with open hands and an open heart.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy Anniversary Gambrell Wellness

There’s something about the last two months of the year for me. It’s almost as if my personal season for change and renewal can’t wait for January 1st. I tend to get a jump start in November and December. I suppose that’s why I launched my wellness business one year ago and my blog three years ago this month. Since it’s a milestone and all, I figured it only made sense to dedicate my posts this month to my babies- my business and my blog. And since it’s Thursday, I see no better way to kick things off than a throwback post. Here is my very first entry. Pretty cool to see how amidst all the change some things remain the same.

Getting in the arena

I guess I’ll begin this blog like I did my very first tweet. This is me getting in the arena. I have long avoided social media. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose I can thank my mom for instilling a healthy dose of paranoia in me- you know, those loving, cautionary reminders that anything you put in writing and on the internet is out there forever. While that is true and I think lots of folks need that reminder, what that message did for me was scare me into hiding. Now, I love my mom and I certainly don’t blame her for my reticence to enter the public forum. There’s a whole host of personal insecurities and life experiences that I can thank for that. What I will say is that it’s taken me a while, but now, as a 30 something year old woman, I’m ready to take a risk and be seen. I’m ready to share my ideas even if they’re critiqued. I’m ready to be my authentic self and hope to be rewarded with meaningful connections to other people.

So, who am I? I should probably mention I’m a professional counselor. That doesn’t make me an expert or a know it all, and no I’m not analyzing you. My profession does afford me a practical skill set of being able to connect, as well as offers insight into human nature. I’m also a Christian. Not a “Jesus on my neck-a-lace, -ace” (Ke$ha) kind of Christian, but a compassionate, sincere one. My faith informs everything in my life so that will be the underpinning of most of my posts. You were warned. 

Lastly, in this blog I hope to speak to soul matters, the stuff that gets us at our core. I'll offer stories and ideas that have inspired me. They might be sad and painful. They might also be funny and joyful.  I want to share ideas from the perspectives of both a friend and a co-journeyer. I want to meet people where they live. Most of all, I want you (whoever you are) to connect with my words and somehow, through the time and space that separate us feel seen, heard, and understood. It’s quite an ambitious endeavor but I’m up for it.

So until the next post, may you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers and gets along well...(3 John 2).

Originally posted December 18, 2013 hence the Ke$ha reference.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stay on the mat

Recently I finished reading "Love Warrior," a memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. In it, she shared personal and relational struggles and the tough work of becoming whole. She wrote with such refreshing transparency. I feel like we could be friends. She shared how healing yoga was for her during a crisis period in her marriage. One day, however, she wandered into a 90 minute hot yoga class by mistake. She had almost made her exit when the instructor greeted her. Now, she was stuck. As everyone went around the room stating their intentions for the practice, you know, stuff like, "I want to be one with myself," or "I want to illuminate love and light," etc., she had something else in mind. When the teacher asked her what she hoped to gain, she kept it 100: "I'm just going to try to get through whatever is about to happen, stay on the mat, and not run out of here." Yep. Totally my kind of woman.

Throughout the rest of her yoga session as well as the book she kept returning to that metaphor. Stay on the mat. It came to mean doing the hard work and not squirming out of it. It meant staying present when tough feelings emerged. It meant remaining grounded in a difficult conversation or emotional moment, rather than checking out, shutting down, or hiding behind your walls. I simultaneously love and hate everything about that. I know intuitively that it's necessary for a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. It's also incredibly uncomfortable and even painful.

I've been reminded of that metaphor all week because this election has been intensely emotional for both sides. Maybe even the mention of the presidential election causes you to tense up and brace yourself for whatever will be said next. But the mere facts that our nation is polarized and the reactions are so visceral speak volumes to the importance of this work- the work of staying on the mat. Try it with me today. I know it's going to be hard, but all you really have to do is breathe, stay present, and stay open. When someone you respect reveals a deeply held belief that opposes yours, stay on the mat. When everything in you wants to rage, wail, or numb your emotions altogether, stay on the mat. When you feel hurt, misunderstood, and invalidated, stay on the mat. Stay present. Stay open. Stay loving. Most of all, just breathe. Now, what if we all did that? I know it's a tall order. Sometimes it's not wise or safe to be that vulnerable with some. But you can at least give it a try with those you truly love. Next time it gets heated and feels hard, remember this. You are a warrior and you can endure. Don't punk out. Stay on the mat.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bougie discomfort

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a client. She is a therapist in training, so in addition to discussing her personal concerns, we usually end up chatting about psychology concepts. You know, because we're cool like that. Anyway, in our last session, she introduced me to a mindfulness practice called bourgeois discomfort. Since I like to colloquial term "bougie" a little better that's what I'll use.

Basically, bougie discomfort is a way of training yourself to cope with unpleasant situations. For instance, if the temperature is not to your liking, rather than rushing to turn on the heat or the AC unit, just sit with it for a while without frantically trying to change it. Another example might be to sit in an uncomfortable position for a short period of time. Sit. Breathe. Notice the discomfort and notice that it either lessens or you just adapt to it.

I practiced this a little during my birthday travels. Most of my trip was spent in the middle seat on the plane and in a cramped back seat of a car. I also had a different eating schedule than I'm used to, so I got to practice whenever I felt hungry or slightly nauseated. I was never in pain or facing any harm, of course. In fact, I imagine it's called bougie discomfort because you're not facing real suffering. You are just practicing being a little less comfortable than usual, definitely good practice for people with first world problems. The hope is that as you learn to adapt to different uncomfortable conditions, then you're better able to cope when things actually get real.

Give it a try. How can you offend your bougie sensibilities today? Can you sit through a boring meeting? Can you breathe through a traffic jam? Can you hold that plank position a few seconds longer? Can you settle into a sensation without rushing to fix or change it? I bet you'll find you can withstand way more than you realize. That, or you'll realize, at least in some cases, the things we desperately try to avoid maybe aren't so bad after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Birthday musings: Celebrate love

Last week I celebrated my birthday. I began my day with a simple prayer. “Lord, let me feel an abundance of love today.” It wasn’t that I’d been feeling unloved. It’s just that with each year that goes by it’s just tempting to look at what I don’t have instead of what I do. I guess I just silently wished for a little extra love so there was no room to feel lack. And boy, was God faithful to respond.

Touching messages poured in throughout the day from friends, family, and even students. Starbucks gave me a free drink. Good looking out Starbucks! I went to a yoga class where we gathered up love and joy and pulled it into our hearts. Then later, I got my hair and make-up done and wore a new dress to dinner with friends. It was a day of reflection, self-care, pampering, and friends. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

While there isn’t anything particularly deep about this post, I wanted to offer a simple reflection anyway. There are a lot of people in this world to love. When some connections transition or phase out, there are plenty more to fill your heart. And as one wise friend says, “One love doesn’t take away from another.” It’s true. The heart just has a way of expanding to make room for others. As you face various milestones in your life, try not to focus on those who are not as present as in years past. Don’t dwell on those who didn’t show up. Give thanks for those who did. There are always more people to love and that’s worth celebrating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I've been up to something ;)

Hey guys,

I know it's been a while since I've written. My bad. I always feel guilty when it's been much more than two weeks since I've posted. I still have no sense of whether my audience is immediate friends and family members or if my audience has grown to thousands and I don't know. It doesn't really matter either way. If you follow me, I appreciate you and that's why I wanted to make sure I kept you in the loop about my silence. Here are a few things that have kept me busy.

Soul Food Sunday

This fall I started a weekly Facebook Live series on my business page. It's a combination of previous blog posts now in video form as well as new content. But basically, the "Soul Food Sunday" series is a weekly chat where I share about the things that affect our soul wellness. It's been really fulfilling to create those talks. I love sharing stories that might help people feel a little less alone in their experiences. Check out the latest post below:

Mailing List

Another thing that's kept me busy is building my mailing list. I wanted to have another way to stay in touch with my followers. A mailing list is great because I share a little bit more personally. It's also a way to give my loyal followers early access to what's happening with the company. If you haven't already joined, please do so. Be the first to know what's coming next. In fact, there will be an exciting announcement in next month's newsletter. Don't miss it!

Book Promotion

And, oh yeah, I published a book in July. It's my personal story of healing a broken heart through faith and fitness. If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you've taken the journey with me in real time. The book pulls everything together in a really cool way though. You can get your copy here and you can continue the journey on Instagram and Twitter:

Twitter @healmovebook
Instagram @healingthroughmovement

So yeah, it's been a busy time. That's why I've been so quiet on the blog. But don't you worry. I'll be back and posting more consistently very soon. After all, this blog has been the foundation of my entire brand. I'm grateful for it and I'm grateful for you. So, I'll be back very soon dear readers. In the meantime, please stay in touch through the avenues above and stay tuned for what's next!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Fill me up

Friday I had the most delightful time connecting with my friend. It had been a hectic week that culminated with a mini meltdown Thursday. Nothing specifically bad happened. I was just overbooked and doing way too much and it finally came to a head. The week's obligations left me exhausted, depleted, with nothing left to give. After a week like that, you'd think that a four hour outing would be the last thing I'd want to do. But, it actually nourished my soul in the most unexpected way. Over drinks and heart-to-heart conversation with a friend, I felt myself fill up again.

I really enjoy this particular friend because even though she's in a relationship, she makes times for me. Props to the girlfriends that can stay balanced like that. Another reason I enjoy her company is because she's a natural storyteller. She can lead a conversation and give my introverted nature a moment to exhale. I don't have to exert energy to draw her out, nor do I feel a demand to match her energy or intensity like I do in some other relationships. There's just an organic exchange that gives both of us gentle permission to come as we are.

As we sat on the patio of an urban winery, sipping our wine flights, with a train periodically going by, time seemed to slow down. We discussed life, love, and relationships. She shared intimately and so did I. We spoke of how easy it is to love, but how much people complicate it. We talked about holding back parts of ourselves so as not to overwhelm others. And, as we've done so many times before, we bonded over having a similar heart, despite cultural and spiritual differences.

Want to know what I felt as we left our 5:30 meet up at 9:30? I felt full and I felt loved. When my head hit the pillow that night, instead of a sigh of burn out and exasperation, I gave a sigh of relief and contentment. A deep thirst had been quenched. I felt seen, valued, and connected once again. I hadn't even realized that my tank was on E...that is, until it started to be filled again.

That's what the remainder of my weekend has been about- filling my tank again. It's been about identifying all the ways I pour out and how few ways I replenish. It's been about reflecting on the relationships that happen easily and the ones that drain and feel like work. It's been about validating who I am and what I need rather than suppressing my deepest needs. I need love. We all do. But extra opportunities for love and connection are vital on the weeks when I have more demands. Basically, it comes down to a truth I've known, but often forget. If we hope to have anything to give anyone else, we need to be filled first.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

No one likes doctors; go anyway

I'm not really a fan of going to the doctor. I guess no one is. I seem to get especially stressed though. I take good care of myself. I know there's realistically nothing to fear. But that's never really the point with anxiety. In the absence of legitimate worry, anxiety will make you imagine the most asinine of scenarios and wear you out with the possibility of them. But since I don't view fear as a good enough reason not to do something, I went to my appointment anyway and was pleasantly surprised by what happened.

Nothing. I went to my appointment and nothing happened. Nothing bad, that is. I suppose a good thing about catastrophizing is that things rarely end up as bad as you anticipate. I mean, sure, there was some poking and prodding. There were some awkward questions. Moments were uncomfortable, but not insufferable. Funnily enough, because I spent my energy worried about the nuts and bolts of the appointment itself, when my doctor expressed actual concern about the prevalence of a health issue in my family, that was the farthest thing from my mind. Even as she educated me on risk factors and possible genetic testing down the road, I wasn't the least bit phased. I took in the information, but the gripping fear was gone.

I share this because I believe in prevention. I preach the value of balanced living and self-care. I can't, in good conscience, say it's for other people and not for me...or implement some wellness practices and not others. It's a lifestyle as they say. Go to the doctor. Make it a regular habit. Push past your fears. Absolutely nothing gives you peace of mind like a clean bill of health.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Better when I'm dancing

If you follow me, you know it's been a little while since I've posted. My bad. Creativity and I have been having some issues. I won't say it's been a block, per se, but it's definitely felt a bit like wrestling with an obstinate young child who no longer wants to cooperate. It hasn't just affected my writing. I've noticed it in my dancing as well.

Anyone who knows me knows dance and fitness have been my happy place. I came to Zumba while recovering from a painful time and it brought my back to life. I loved it so much that I became an instructor and wanted to share my joy with others. But after two years of teaching, it's started feeling like yet another thing on my exhaustive to-do list, rather than the joy it used to be. I even started to become convinced that I'm just not great at choreography because it wasn't flowing...until yesterday.

Yesterday, a Monday, when I'm normally bleary eyed, annoyed, grabbing for caffeine, and begging God to just get me through the day, I started off my week differently. I woke up early enough to meditate and during that time I asked God for inspiration. It was one of a few prayers I offered up and I didn't think much about it...that is, until it was answered.

I was going through my music and putting together a playlist. I came across a new song that I hadn't heard before. I knew from the first few notes that I liked it. I listened to it a couple of times and an entire dance came to me. I didn't even have to try to think of what move would come next. The music ignited me and as a result the dance created itself. It felt amazing. My prayer had been answered. I guess all this time I just needed to ask.

I know this is a simple post, but it's significant for me. I was feeling so dry and depleted. Much of my life is marked my things I have to do, rather than the things I truly want to do. Unknowingly, I guess even my creative outlets were being affected. But the issue was never really with creativity. It was more about finding something that truly moved me in my soul again. I had lost that along the way. So, my new rule is this: every playlist song, every workout, and every dance I create must light a fire within me, especially every dance. Dance is sacred for me and must remain my happy place. Because ultimately, I feel better when I'm dancing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mimosas and soul chats

If you follow my blog, you know that all summer I hosted a book club with friends themed around female-empowerment non-fiction. It concluded yesterday with a discussion around my book, "Healing Through Movement: Getting Back up after a Broken Heart." Of course, it's always an awesome time because I'm blessed to know some incredible souls. But, it was so much more than just mimosas and great conversation. It was a powerful afternoon of heart-to-heart connecting, showing up and being seen, and sharing our stories.

It started with me since my book was the topic of discussion. Let me just say that it is incredibly vulnerable to open up about who you are- not just the polished image that's socially acceptable, but the honest, gritty, not-so-pretty elements of who you are and what you've been through. But even though it's the muck and mire that really shape a person, we are still reluctant to share much beyond the perfectly coiffed public persona. But, you know what happens when you do? Magic. You give others permission to share their true self.

Two friends in the group are especially reserved. Yet, as we discussed the challenges in relationships, they opened up about their pain. It was such an honor to have people who do not typically share, not only make a contribution, but also make themselves incredibly vulnerable. It felt like holy ground. It's truly a sacred exchange when people who had learned not to trust take a risk and trust again.

Let me be clear though. This wasn't a sappy gathering of victims. We didn't commiserate over all the ways we had been 'buked and scorned in love. It was quite the opposite. It was an honest reflection about what we allowed in our lives because of our lack of identity. We talked about the ways we turned a blind eye and didn't want to face the truth in front of us because of our perceived need for someone else. Then a shift happened. Just like I talk about in the book, we all had some sort of encounter moment and we finally awakened to who we are and what we deserve. It was a game changer. But as powerful and beautiful as personal transformation is, it is so much better when you find shared experience with someone else.

If you aren't currently a part of an authentic, open-hearted community like this, I encourage you to pray for it. Ask God to bring you meaningful connections with like-minded souls. Also, be willing to create spaces like this as well. You might have to take the first step of sharing who you are. I can almost guarantee though that when you do, then others will take the courageous leap to do the same. A few mimosas don't hurt either.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Get a life

Do you ever just realize the personal growth that's taking place in your life and want to give yourself a high five? I had a moment like that this weekend...actually, several over the last couple of weeks. I am slowly but surely learning how to let go and not force things, especially in relationships. I can say the thing that's really helped with that is getting a life. It might sound a little harsh, but it really has been helpful. Here's what I mean. 

I have a couple of people in my life whom I love dearly, but who are consistently inconsistent. Even if we make plans, I know that there's at least a 50/50 chance if not a greater probability that they'll blow them off. You see, for me, picking a day to do something isn't a tentative, maybe-we'll-do-it-if-nothing-else-comes-up kind of a thing. It's a commitment. I've learned that not everyone sees it that way though. It used to hurt me deeply because quality time is my love language. When people flaked it wasn't just a disregard for plans; it was like they were saying they didn't care for me. I'm learning though that it's not necessarily true and it's not always that serious.

The reality is that people are busy. People are also focused on themselves and their concerns at least 99.9% of the time. Sure, a little thoughtfulness and courtesy would be appreciated. But, I no longer take it so deep into my soul if someone doesn't come through. Instead, I am learning to get busy with my life. No more waiting and obsessively checking my phone. No more decoding people's intentions or making wild assumptions about why they don't like me. I fill my time doing me.
As a result, this weekend has been super productive. I've not only done all my cleaning, laundry, and errands. I have also made progress on my business and my writing. It's been great. Of course, I would've enjoyed a little more social interaction. But, I'm not in my feelings because I haven't had it. Nor am I upset with my associates, falsely concluding they hate me, and then passive aggressively posting memes about why loyal friends are hard to find. I've just lived my life as they have lived theirs. If and when they do check back in, I'll break from whatever I'm doing and greet them warmly.

I must say, this is a very freeing feeling. I hope to continue in this freedom. It's so much less stress and emotional exhaustion to focus on your endeavors and who else there is to love, rather than what and who you think are missing. So, if you aren't already on this bandwagon, I encourage you to join. Get busy living your own life and make sure it's awesome. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The not so pretty side of healing

Warning. This next entry is a little gross. Sorry in advance. It does a good job of depicting the healing process though.

Not long ago, I decided to handle an ingrown hair situation. I had it for several months and it had started to form a nodule beneath the surface of my skin. It never appeared infected and it didn’t hurt, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I assumed it would take care of itself, but it never did.

One day, I decided it probably wasn't good to just ignore a growth like that, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to uproot the pesky hair that didn’t seem to want to go anywhere. Well, even though it wasn’t hurting before, it started hurting as I poked and prodded it. It began to ooze and suffice it to say it didn’t look or smell very pleasant. Again, sorry for the graphic image. But that’s healing for you.

This image came to mind recently when a bit of a crap storm followed the publication my book. I had viewed the book as my opportunity to find closure once and for all from a painful time in my life. Although a breakup is the back drop, the real message of the book is resilience and redemption. Unfortunately, its release brought to surface some major issues that I had tried not to face. I hoped they'd go away on their own, but they never did.

Needless to say, the last week has been an excruciating emotional process of picking, uprooting, squeezing, oozing, and ultimately, surturing again, so this time I could truly heal. I know I shouldn't have let it go for so long, but truthfully, I was scared. I didn't want to face certain things because I didn't want to hurt anymore than I already was. I think we all do that at times. We let things go and hope that maybe they'll go away or work themselves out on their own. Every once and a while, that can happen. But more often then not, we heal when we intentional pursue healing...when we endure the process of things getting worse before they get better.

Healing isn’t a pleasant process. It usually hurts and sometimes even stinks. But it’s essential to living a free, joy-filled life. And do you know what happened after finally Macgyver'd my ingrown hair area? After it stopped hurting, after it was drained of its disgustingness, after it was cleaned and disinfected, and treated with ointment, it started to look a lot better. It's returning to its previous healthy condition. And from the looks of it, when it's 100% healed, you won't ever be able to tell a wound was there in the first place.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dr. Crista's Girl Power Book Club

I enjoy reading. Fun reading that is. I consider fun reading anything that is not required academically or professionally. Since the summer affords me a slightly slower pace than my norm, I figured it was a perfect time to prioritize reading again. I gathered together girlfriends who live near and far and created an in-person and online book club. I felt like I needed some female-empowered non-fiction, so those were the picks. Here's a brief review from Dr. Crista's Book Club.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
First author up was Shonda Rhimes and let me just say, all of the yeses to the "Year of Yes." This was our first pick and we knocked it out of the park with this one. It was a funny, yet substantive read about how she challenged herself for a full year to say yes to whatever scared her. In doing so, her life turned upside down in the best possible way. It was very inspirational. We've all been afraid. We've all been bored in life. We've all felt like something was missing. This book offered one way to start to turn things around.

Bossypants, Tina Fey
Let me say that I love Tina Fey. She's funny. She's smart. She's feminist. She's a great writer. I was certain all of those qualities would yield another good read. Unfortunately, "Bossypants" just didn't do it for us. We actually didn't even finish it because no one in the group was really feeling it. It's hard to even put a finger on what wasn't clicking. It had humorous anecdotes and an overall relevant theme. Perhaps it just wasn't meant for our group at this time. No shade, Tina. We still love you.

Why not me?, Mindy Kaling
Although this wasn't selected by the book club, this was my second book of the summer. Here we have another comedy writer and woman of color. She shared various stories from her personal and professional life in essay form. Her humor had just the right amount of self-deprecation, while still feeling genuine. Her journey was essentially about becoming comfortable in her own skin. She made it clear she has not arrived, which kind of gave me permission to be patient with myself if I haven't either.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The next book club pick was one I absolutely loved in an equal but different way than "Year of Yes." "Big Magic" was all about creativity and inspiration. It's a wonderful book for any artist or creator, and according to Liz, that's anyone who's breathing. She began by challenging readers to consider, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures within?" This book really lit a fire in several of us to get moving on some things that have stirred within for a while.

You are a Badass, Jen Sincero
The last book of the summer that we're concluding this week is the popular, "You are a Badass." First of all, kudos on the title. I bet the title alone sold copies. Why? Because just like we've all been afraid, we've also felt insecure, insignificant, and less than. This book honored that feeling while still giving a swift kick in the arse to readers to quit pouting, quit giving up your power, and do something to change your life. You can look at it like this. If Shonda Rhimes and Liz Gilbert gently invited and inspired action, Jen Sincero gave the final shove to act now.

So, in a nutshell, this has been the summer of saying yes, accepting the skin we're in, bringing forth the treasures within, and owning our inner badass. This book club has been instrumental in finally doing what's been in my heart to do for a few years now. I have finally decided to share my story in a self-published book titled "Healing Through Movement: Getting Back up After a Broken Heart." It's a personal story of getting knocked down pretty hard when my relationship ended. But more important than the fall, was the process of getting back up. I interviewed women who had also endured painful endings and summarized how we figuratively and literally moved through the healing process. Interesting how it kind of goes along with this summer themes of courage and power, huh? I invite you to check it out at the link below. Maybe you can add it to your own girl power book club.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Family Reunions, Zumba, and Michael Jackson Teach us about Black lives matter

The last eight days have been so incredibly refreshing. I haven't wanted them to end. I made a trip home to visit my immediate family as well as meet a good friend's new baby. Then, over the weekend I had my big biennial reunion with extended family. Not only was it wonderful to get a break from the usual work grind. It was great to get a moment of respite from the week of grief in the news.

It was interesting to gather together and experience so much joy, while the backdrop for the rest of the nation was anger and grief over racially motivated police shootings. Of course, the senseless killings hit home for us as well, as a family who identifies as Black/African-American. I just also think we have a unique experience with race relations because there's so much multiculturalism among us. Interracial relationships are almost the norm in my family. Therefore, we have always embraced white in-laws and any other cultural group, just like our own. Provided they are good people (which they always are) that can fellowship over drinks and off-color stories (which they generally do), then they're part of the fam. We're not color blind and we don't want others to pretend to be either. It's just that once the bond of love is shared, any noticeable differences just don't matter as much anymore.

In thinking about that, there was a moment when I got a little choked up standing in front of several family members. I led a Zumba class as one of the weekend activities. I looked out at my awesomely diverse family jamming out to dance rhythms and music from all over the world. As Shakira's "Waka, Waka" phased out, she said, "We're all Africa." Then, we transitioned to my favorite cool down song, Michael Jackson's, "Will you be there." Towards the end of this beautifully written song, there's a really touching speaking part. It always moves me because: 1) I love MJ and believe he was a phenomenal talent and genuine soul. 2) It felt especially poignant at my reunion as I considered how relevant his words are to what's happening today.

So, I'll close with his words and echo his sentiment. We are all just looking for love and belonging. We are all someone's child and loved one. We are all connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether we realized it or not. We all want to know we are seen for who we are, we are loved and valued by others, and, at the end of the day, there's at least one person in this world who will be there. I'm blessed beyond belief to have a whole tribe of people who are there for me.

In Our Darkest Hour, In My Deepest Despair
Will You Still Care? Will You Be There?
In My Trials And My Tribulations
Through Our Doubts And Frustrations
In My Violence, In My Turbulence
Through My Fear And My Confessions
In My Anguish And My Pain
Through My Joy And My Sorrow
In The Promise Of Another Tomorrow
I'll Never Let You Part
For You're Always In My Heart.

- Michael Jackson, Will you be there

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Just keep swimming and other life lessons learned at the pool

This summer, I decided to take up swimming lessons. It was one of those life skills that passed me over as a kid. I splashed around in the pool when I was younger, of course, but never formally learned how to swim. I did take a P.E. course in college. Unfortunately, because the majority of the participants were deathly afraid of water, it mainly ended up being a class in how to minimize panic and not drown. Since I wanted to actually learn some strokes and get more comfortable with the deep end, I recently signed up. As with any new movement adventure, I learned several lessons that can apply to life.

Think, but don't think
Swimming is tough at first because it's a total body exercise. You have to engage your core, keep your hips at the surface, your kicks must be fast and hard, but not too big or too small. You have to move your feet and arms one way, while your head goes another. It's a lot of coordination. To execute everything successfully, you have to think about what you need to do next. But, you also can't overthink the mechanics so much that you stop moving. Ain't that a word? You have to be mindful and also know when to get out of your head and into action.

Know when to breathe
Now, it's obvious that in order to engage in any physical activity, you need to breathe. But with swimming, you have to breathe at the right time, because humans have this weird thing with not being able to breathe underwater without drowning. Breathe at the wrong time and you could do just that. Therefore, it's all about rhythm and timing. You have to know when to take a big inhale in, when to brace yourself and hold, and when to exhale everything out. What do you need to do in this very moment?

There's nothing there
The first time my coach took me to the deep end, I was a little nervous. I started with a flotation device and then went hands free. Once we got to the deep end, she prompted me to look at the bottom of the pool. I did. Then she smiled and said, "See. There's nothing down there." I laughed a little because I didn't even realize I imagined something was. That must be a common fear for many people. Just because my feet can't touch the bottom, doesn't mean a monster lies in wait to devour me. Not in a pool, at least. Now, in a lake or ocean, who knows. Swim at your own risk. But seriously, what fearful thing do you imagine lies beneath that might not be there at all?

Just keep swimming
Once I got some exposure therapy in the deep end, I've practiced swimming back and forth a few times. You really have to commit to the path once you move from the shallow to the deep end. You don't really have the luxury to freak out in the middle. So, if you don't want to plummet to your death, you should just keep swimming until you get to the other side. I suppose that Finding Nemo phrase was right after all. Much of life is just that, after all. Just keep moving forward and you'll get to where you're going.

There's a thin line between fear and fun
A final lesson I've learned so far took place when I was learning to tread water in the deep end. My coach looked over and said, "Fun, right?" I just nodded and smiled or maybe grimaced, I can't be sure. While I had relaxed somewhat, glad to still be alive, I hadn't exactly gotten to the fun part yet. After all, I was focused on keeping myself up in 12 feet of water. I was still in survival mode. But I've seen people thoroughly enjoy themselves in the water. I know it's possible. I just have to push through a little more fear before I get to the fun.

What ways are you challenging yourself this summer? Are you pushing your limits? Don't let a whole season go by without trying something new and stretching beyond your comfort zone. There's so much to learn when you humble yourself to acquire a new skill. You might even get a new mantra out of it. Apparently, mine for the summer is just keep swimming.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Don't wanna? Do it anyway!

It's been one of those weeks. It hasn't been bad, by any means. I've just felt drained and low energy and haven't wanted to do much. Unfortunately, for me, I've had a lot to do. Blowing things off wasn't an option. I had to push through.

It's been a bunch of small things. I had forgotten I agreed to sub a Zumba class on Monday. That meant I had to cancel my personal swimming lesson, which frustrated me a little. But, I had committed to it weeks ago, and therefore, I had to follow through. I also ended up teaching for just two people for my Wednesday class, even though I hoped we could cancel and I could go home early. But, I had promised a student a special birthday fitness mix and I knew it meant a lot to her. Therefore, I pushed through. I had a few other appointments this week that aren't usually on my schedule, making for longer days and less personal recovery time. And even as I write this, I'm facing some other upcoming obligations that I'm not looking forward to. But once again, if called upon, I have to step up to the plate and fulfill those as well.

Part of the issue is that I over-extended myself. I obligated myself to a bunch of extra things and found myself resenting it later. That's on no one but me. I'll modulate my time and energy better next time. In the meantime, I have to honor my commitments.

I recognized the value of this even more when I was talking to friends on Twitter this morning. We were discussing how frustrating it is when people don't follow through or make good on their word. It not only erodes personal trust; it bodes poorly on your professional brand. All we really have in this life is our name and our word. Why sully them by being a flake?

If courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway, then discipline is not feeling it at all and doing it anyway. Let me assure you that I have not perfected this and I don't always execute it well. I just come from a long line of relatives who instilled a suck-it-up-buttercup work ethic, which has served me well in life. Feelings were seen as a luxury and weren't taken into consideration at all when -ish had to be done. You just did it. It's about duty and honor. It's about maintaining integrity in a world that doesn't seem to require it as much.

I still have growing to do, for sure. I need to not only do what's needed but also be positive about it. And if not positive, at least neutral and not mean mug my way through it. There are no brownie points awarded for doing stuff with an attitude. But hey...progress, not perfection right?

It's hard to do what you don't want to do and to not do what you do want to do. Human nature would rather only do what feels pleasant. It would rather do whatever it feels like doing in the moment, regardless of what previous commitments were made. But a disciplined person, one of honor and integrity fulfills commitments even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4). Basically, he or she intentionally does what needs to be done whether it's easy or not.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Open letter to all the haters

Dear Readers,

For all of you who follow my blog, you know my last post was about the struggle with feeling hidden. It was a relatively benign piece in my opinion. I was simply sharing my experience, for better or worse, with feeling personally and professionally invisible at times. For whatever reason, this piece attracted my very first internet troll. And here I was thinking I'm invisible. Little did I know I am very much being watched and this person felt familiar enough with me to use my first name and offer unsolicited commentary about my character. I was flabbergasted at how insanely presumptuous it was of this person to think they can read one post or even my entire blog and think they know me well enough to comment on who I am as a person. Needless to say, I was shocked.

I immediately called my sister. I called my mom. I took to Facebook and Twitter about it. I just couldn't believe that a complete stranger would take the time to craft two detailed responses that felt like personal attacks. I guess I wanted to check in with people who really knew me. I was hurt and angry. I felt misunderstood. I knew I wasn't going to respond point by point underneath my blog to the anonymous "TC" with no profile picture or identifying information. It wasn't worth it. And yet, I was most upset because this was one of my worst fears about finally putting myself out there. I was scared of being targeted. And honestly, had it been a few years ago, something like this would have silenced me and sent me in hiding. Well, after a few days of processing it I decided I'm not going to hide. I'm not going to be silent. I'm going to address it. So, to the internet trolls, lurkers, and shadow dwellers who feel emboldened to come for people they don't know, allow me to offer you some feedback. Here is some old school wisdom for how to make friends and influence people.

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all
There's such a thing as free speech. I'm all for it. But, you also have a right to remain silent. And I wish to goodness, people exercised that right more often. I see and hear things on a daily basis that I disagree with. What do I do? Ignore it. Keep scrolling. Put it out of my mind. It is of no consequence to me. It goes back to simple truth your mother or grandmother should have taught you. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

If you don't know something, ask questions
If you do want to offer your opinion, try understanding someone's view before you counter it. You can do this by asking questions. Express curiosity. Get someone to clarify their stance before you make assumptions and certainly before you judge them as a person. That really says more about you than them. Like the old saying goes, when you assume you make an ass out of you and me...but really, more you than me.

Fight fair (above the belt)
If in the course of the conversation you realize you want to challenge the other person, the best way to do that is to offer a constructive critique rather than criticism. If you don't know the difference, a critique is descriptive and it's usually focused on a specific topic. Perhaps you are describing a behavior you dislike. If it's in the context of scholarly discourse, you might address your issues with someone's argument or the fallacy with their thought process. Either way, it's focused on the content of what's said and not the person themselves. When you criticize a person, you judge who they are, put them on the defensive, and limit any opportunities for their growth. Maybe you have valid points, but they won't be received if a person feels like they're being attacked.

If you have something to say, say it to my face
If your aim is to be confrontational and call out a complete stranger out about something, have enough gall to make your comments to their face. Post your picture and your full name. Make your contact information available. Don't hide behind an anonymous profile. Say where you're from and what you do for a living. Be a real person. Why are you hiding anyway? Don't you want to have a real conversation?

Treat others the way you want to be treated
My guess is that trolls don't want a real dialogue. You want to feel powerful by tearing down others. You feel invincible with your shield of anonymity. Maybe in your sad, empty life, upsetting others and making them question themselves is your only form of entertainment. Maybe that's the closest thing to any sort of human connection you know how to have. That's unfortunate. Be that as it may, that's no way to endear others to you. I just can't imagine anyone who's a closeted internet troll can have any genuine connections with others. If you were truly happy and well adjusted, you wouldn't incite discord online or anywhere else. The good news is you can choose differently. You are not sentenced to being bitter and isolated forever. You can experience healthy, lasting connections even in the virtual world when you simply practice the Golden Rule.

So, there you have it. These are basic principles I grew up hearing. I thought others were raised by them as well, but perhaps not. Maybe that's why internet trolls exist in the first place. There's a whole generation of people who don't know how to relate and connect to others in a healthy, productive way. That's why for this time (and this time only) I'll extend the benefit of a doubt. I choose to believe that perhaps you had sincere intentions in your commentary and just didn't know how to contribute effectively. Perhaps, now, you can learn from this post and make better communication choices going forward. If not though, if your true intentions were to be inflammatory, passive aggressive, smug, and hurtful, then I'll close by offering you this sentiment by Dr. Brene' Brown: "If you aren't in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."


Dr. Gambrell

*Note: The author of this blog made a personal decision not to respond individually to any posted comments, positive or negative. However, this author reserves the right to remove posts that are seen as inappropriate, erroneous, or vulgar in nature.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hello? Can you see me now?

Have you ever seen the musical Chicago? In it, one of the characters sings a funny solo called "Mr. Cellophane."

Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane shoulda been my name
Mr. Cellophane 'cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me and never know I'm there

It's meant to be humorously self-pitying. If I'm honest though sometimes I feel like that. It's kind of I'm waving at people like, "Hi. I'm Crista. I'm right in front of you. Can you see me now?"

By nature, I'm not an attention-seeker. The spotlight actually embarrasses me a little. That's why I ran from it for so long. I purposefully avoided putting myself out there for a lot of reasons. For the longest time I didn't want to be noticed. Then something shifted. I wanted to be out there more, not for attention necessarily, but in order to connect. I have gifts I want to share with the world. I want to make an impact. I accept now that you have to be seen in order to do that. But for whatever reason, it's like I'm still invisible. I'll give a few examples of how.

Few likes
I know it's petty to even admit this. I'd be lying though if I said it didn't bother me at times when I don't get many likes on my posts. It's so stupid and I hate that it gets to me. But the fact is that so many of us live our lives online. Those that do spend a fair amount of time thoughtfully crafting blog posts and making videos. We edit workout clips and set them to music. We take 19 selfies, select the 12th, and then go back and forth between the best filter to use. We think of witty captions or relevant song lyrics to narrate how awesome we are without even trying. We spend time creating flyers highlighting our fabulous events only to have 5-10% of our followers, if that, take the time to like them. We say we don't do it for the likes. Maybe 90% of the time we don't. Then sometimes, if we're honest, we do. Who doesn't want to be seen?

Few numbers
Another way I feel invisible is when I spend time creating wellness programs and classes and not many people attend. I am always incredibly appreciative of the handful of people that do show up. They always seem thankful and that means a lot. I'm there to serve them and give them something of value It's hard though not to measure success by attendance. It's similar to the number of followers you have or likes you get. It's easy to think the more people who show up, the better something is. That's definitely not the case. I don't even agree with that philosophy. But again, I'm just sharing some of the ways a person can start to question if what they're doing, and possibly if who they are, even matters.

Few dates (ok, NO dates)

And on the topic of mattering, what does a girl have to do to get a cute guy to ask her for coffee? I seriously don't understand what's up with the crickets in the romance department, but it's getting old. What's even more baffling is how I have watched more people than I can count breakup with someone and get with somebody else just a few months later. They don't appear to be rebound scenarios. It's just in the course of living their lives they're fortunate enough to meet a new bae. It just doesn't take them long. That's never been my story. And although I believe I'm a dazzling woman with a lot to offer, often the fact that it's been so long since anyone has pursued me makes me occasionally wonder if and why I'm invisible.
I feel like last Sunday I got my answer. I went to hear a friend speak at his church and the message was "What is God hiding and why?" Talk about timely. He had a few points related to how and why God conceals some things and readily reveals others. The point that hit home for me related to God hiding people. Basically, God will often hide people for their own protection. "God will make you invisible for the sake of your calling. He's placed unique things inside of you. He will protect you from unhealthy influences because he knows relational decisions will have a generational effect" (Pastor Gary Spell). Furthermore, he explained that sometimes we're hidden so we don't get in our own way or ruin what God has for us. "Only He knows what you look like when your dreams come true." To me, that's pretty powerful. We aren't hidden because we're worthless losers. We are hidden because we're special and God wants to lovingly safeguard what's inside of us and what's meant for us. 

I'm not sure if that message is helpful for you, but it certainly is for me. I still don't have all the answers to why I'm hidden and for how much longer. I won't even pretend to act like the whole invisible thing won't ever bother me again. When it does though and when I start to get distracted by likes, dates, or lack thereof, I'll try really hard to remember this teaching. I'll remind myself to be faithful and consistent with the things that are in my heart to do. I'll encourage myself that my value is fixed, regardless of whether or not others affirm it. Probably most importantly, I'll assure my heart that I am seen and I matter to the only One who truly matters. And He has a plan to show me off in His perfect timing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bloated, blah Mondays and practicing non-judgment

It was a rainy day in my neck of the woods...the kind that makes you want to curl up and take a nap after work. I felt like moving a little might be good though. Maybe I should go lift, I thought. Um, no. High intensity interval training? Uh, hard no. I didn't even feel like going to the gym. So instead, I opted to do a yoga-style flow at home.

Before I started, I set an intention of just moving mindfully and non-judgmentally. I didn't have a pre-choreographed routine and I wasn't following anyone's instruction. I was just going to go with the flow and see where my body took me in 45-50 minutes. Here's what I discovered...or perhaps, rediscovered. 

Non-judgment is not about being nice to yourself and it's more than about not being mean. It's about removing any labels or evaluations at all. It's about simply noticing what's there. Instead of labeling it or expressing opinion about it, you train yourself to witness it, observe it, and describe it. It's learning to be neutral and tabling bias. [I say tabling because it's very difficult to be totally bias free]. I'll give you examples of how to neutralize a statement by using a few judgments I noticed throughout today's practice.

I'm lazy. I should go to the gym.
It's important to listen to my body and give it what it needs, even if that means a lighter workout at home.

I really don't like my stomach. I wish I had a six pack.
I notice I am bloated in my midsection today. The skin around my core feels soft to touch.

I'm hairy and gross and need to get rid of it.
I notice the stubble on my legs (and chin for that matter).

My balance sucks today.
The balancing poses feel challenging today.

I wish I could do hardcore inversions.
I am where I am today. 

Get the point? I don't overcompensate and say an affirmation. That's more like self-love. I don't accept a false reality. There's nothing mindful about denial. I just remove the sting of judgment by staying neutral and being present with what is right now.

Give it a try. First, it'll take becoming aware of your judgments. Then once you are, practice removing the opinions and assumptions from them. Take away all evaluations and shoulds. Just notice, observe, and describe. See if practicing this stance as a way of life doesn't transform you and everyone else around you. At the very least, you might find relief in this gentler way of relating.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Negative nelly or positive polly: the choice is yours

Have you ever been outside enjoying the beautiful weather? You take in the sights and sounds of nature. You start to relax. Your lips curl up into a soft smile of contentment. Then, all of a sudden your nostrils are assaulted by the odor of cigarette smoke. Your lips turn down into a frown as you angrily look around for who would dare mess up your positive vibe by smoking. Isn't that the worst? Don't you just want to shake the person for marring a lovely scene with such a nasty habit? This is how I'm starting to feel about negativity. Seriously. I'm starting to have a visceral reaction to it. Sadly, you don't have to look very far to find it.

It's found in the Crass Chris's of the world whose speech is peppered with profanities. I'm not talking occasional curses here and there, or the slightly off color jokes. I'm talking about entire diatribes of needless F-bombs. I imagine at one point it didn't bother me as much. Now, it really does. You also find it Negative Nellys and Debbie Downers. You know the ones. In their world the sky is always falling. Don't dare try to acc-en-tuate the positive to these folks. They almost delight in their pity party and don't want you coming to rain on their parade...or perhaps shine on their parade. And what about the Petty Pamela types that can't hold a conversation for more than 5 minutes before talking badly about someone else. These might be the worst because they generally lack insight. To them, everyone else is petty and awful for not being a good friend or partner to them. All the while, you want to say, "You might be the problem boo!"

Please don't misunderstand. It's not that I think I'm perfect. I can be negative at times too. We all can. There is a clear difference though between a bad day or week...I'll even give you a rough patch of a few months. Life can be tough sometimes and the -ish can really hit the fan all at once. There's that. Then there's a consistent pattern of negative thinking, harsh words, and just a general attitude of bitterness. I can assure you don't nobody want to be around all that!

The sad thing is that most negative people don't even realize how bad off they are. It's a lot like living in a smoky environment. Think about when you go to a bar or bowling alley and everyone is smoking around you. At first, it hits you immediately. Then after a while, you just adapt. The smell doesn't seem as strong. You hardly notice it anymore until you leave and someone else tells you how bad you smell. So it is with bad attitudes.

I get it. I really do. I'm not a Positive Polly by nature and I certainly don't come from a family of them. I can understand and empathize with the perpetual disappointment and deferred hope that cause one to harden their heart in the first place. For some reason though, I'm vigilant about not letting life challenges poison me internally. Joy is a fight sometimes, but one I'll take on any day of the week. The way I see it, my very life depends on it...a happy life at least.

I pose this question to you. Do you have an inkling that you might reek of negativity? Maybe you didn't realize how bad it was until people started covering their noses and avoiding you. You can rid your life of it. It takes time. It takes softening your heart and allowing it to be healed. It takes owning your role in your choices and their consequences. It takes submitting your life and your very soul to the only One who can right all wrongs. When that happens, when you yield yourself to that healing process, something beautiful takes place. The nasty, toxic aroma of death is replaced with a pleasant, alluring fragrance of life. You naturally affect others around you, but this time, for the good. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Many ways of mothering

It's Mother's Day. I just got off the phone with my mom. She lives out of state, so unfortunately, no brunch plans for us. As far as I can tell, it'll be a routine Sunday for me, except it'll include seeing a steady stream of Mother's Day pictures and posts in my timeline. Truth be told, holidays on social media tend to aggravate me because I'm generally not included. I started to anticipate feeling left out again until I realized something very important. I'm a mother too. No, I haven't had children yet. But I am a mother because I nurture. That looks a lot of different ways.

I taught at a Zumbathon event and a few students from my regular Zumba class came out to support. They loved it. And I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my students is truly my biggest fan. Even on my worst day, she sings my praises and feels inspired by me. That's teaching and that's mothering.

I met a group of women as we were all leaving a wine festival. They were clearly lit. After an amusing exchange, I urged these strangers whom I had never met to please drive safely. Then, I said a prayer for them on my way home. That's protecting and that's mothering.

I counsel lots of clients in my practice who have strained relationships with their moms. Many struggle because of their mom's inability to love in a healthy way. While I can't actually be their mom and heal every wound, I can provide a consistent, safe base. I can be an example of a secure attachment. That's role modeling and that's mothering.

I have prayed for one of my friends for nearly four years. For some reason, I've been deeply moved in my spirit to do so ever since I met her. At times, I've wept in earnest petition to God that she would fully realize who she is and reach her potential. That's interceding and that's mothering.

The list goes on. My point is this. There are many ways of mothering. If you've shouted for joy when someone you love succeeds, if you've shed tears of sorrow over someone's poor decisions, if you've poured out your life to others without knowing if anyone notices or cares, if you've loved fiercely and deeply, wishing nothing but the absolute best for another, then you are a mother and this is your day. Happy Mother's Day to all the natural and spiritual mothers of the world.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Social dance for the socially awkward

 Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.
- Martha Graham
Recently, I've had a few opportunities to go dancing. There was the salsa and bachata night hosted by a local Latin studio and then, over the weekend, contradancing at a local beach. Believe it or not, this isn't something I do often. I mean, yes, I dance all the time with dance fitness, but social dancing with a partner is an entirely different thing. It seems much more...well...intimate.

Even as I write, I'm smiling at the irony of it. I'm a counselor. I'm all up and through people's personal lives. I'm entrusted with secrets that partners, relatives, and sometimes not another living soul knows. And I too am intentional about transparency in my closest relationships. Emotional intimacy is all day every day for me. It's the up close and personal physical part that makes me nervous. Charge it to being a busy single girl who doesn't get out much. I plan to work on that.

At any rate, I decided that these sorts of outings are good to do for a number of reasons. When you're out of practice relating to the opposite sex, it can be a little anxiety provoking. If you're anything like me, this meme totally resonates with you. 
Now, to give myself some credit, I'm generally not this obviously awkward...not anymore, at least. But internally, I still fumble, feel nervous, and wonder if I'm coming across like a normal person. So again, social dancing gave me the chance to shake off my nerves and just relate. It did so in the following ways.

1) Eye contact
This is something I generally avoid. Again, it feels intensely intimate. But, when you're dancing with a partner it's nice to acknowledge their existence. Once I got past how weird it felt at first, I noticed how nice it was. People don't really look at each other anymore. It was nice to break from the phone and smart device and connect to another person.

2) Physical touch
It might be a little uncomfortable to admit this, but let's face it...when you live alone, work a lot, and rarely date, you don't get a lot of this. Sometimes it's nice to move with another person without it being sexual. Partner dance allows for that. You can be close, you can touch hands, you can lean in to one another, and that's all it is. It's another safe and non-threatening way to connect.

3) Multiple partners
I know how it sounds, but again, I don't mean this in a sexual way. When you go to dance socials everyone dances with everyone else. It's kind of a relief because it keeps it casual. There's no assumption that if you partner off you'll stay with that one person to entire night. You mix it up and meet a lot of cool people before the evening is over.

Perhaps all of this is obvious and old hat to the gregarious types of the world...the ones who never knew a stranger...the ones who date frequently and relate effortlessly. But to the introverts and reformed awkward types of the world, social dancing is a big step. It's a good reminder that there are real gentlemen still out there. It's a reminder that men are people too. It's easy to forget that. And in my opinion, it's a reminder of the importance of just getting out of your head and into your body. When asked to dance, don't overthink it. Just dance.