Big Picture Time

It’s snowing today. I decided to go for a walk in the woods for inspiration. The excursion turned out to be more illuminating and instructive than expected. I walk through those woods all the time, and I realized today that I have a tendency to look down at the ground while I’m walking. Part of that is just my nature and a bit of a defense mechanism. I tend to curl into myself, but I’m also looking down for stumbling blocks, pitfalls, obstacles. Shit.

While it’s important to be mindful of the details of each step, you can’t solely exist in that place. You miss a lot that way—everything else going on around you. I recognized that I tend to move through the world a lot of times in a kind of tunnel-visioned fog.

That seems counter-intuitive for a writer. One would think I’d notice everything. When I’m paying attention, I notice a lot, but mostly how things feel as opposed to how they look. On today’s walk, I noticed how the dip in the center of my top lip was colder than the rest of my face. My right big toe gets cold before the rest of my toes. When I went to lick my lips, I could taste the moisturizer with sunscreen that I put on before I left, and zinc oxide tastes like soap. Gross.

At one point I looked up and was almost startled at what I saw around me. Some of the trees seem to be stricken with this weird green coating that made me think of aliens. When the tress get wet, the bark is a richer brown than when they’re dry. Wet snow sounds different than dry snow—more like the patter of rain than peaceful stillness. And the landscape can be grey, dreary, shiny, and sparkly all at once.

I also saw three young swans, which reminded me of how another of our local swans was killed by a car a week or two ago. It tended to take its sweet time crossing the road from one part of the marsh to the other. I wonder if the guy who hit it was looking down or if he saw the swan in the distance. I’m choosing to believe that he wasn’t looking ahead because it would be a pretty shitty thing to see a creature ahead and hit it anyway. A discussion for another day.

But the importance of the bigger picture and looking ahead instead of watching each little step goes beyond speaks to knowing when to do each, because there is a time for focusing on the details, and there’s a time to trust in your ability to navigate the landscape and just move forward.

An illustration of the point is cross country runners. In high school, my daughter was racing at a pretty high level of competition. At the speeds these kids were moving at, they really didn’t have the time or space to watch each step. They just had to go. They did need to be aware of the competitors around them—how close were the footsteps or the breathing of the person coming up on their backs. How much room did they have to take the twists and turns of the course without hitting a tree. But more importantly, they had to focus on the person right in front of them and keep closing the gap between them. If they got out front, they had to keep their attention on the finish line.

This isn’t to say they ignored the details, but there was a time for that. Before each race, they took a jog through each course. This was the time to notice where the roots were, where they could turn an ankle, where the choke points were. That was their time to plan and think about how to navigate. Once the gun went off, they had to trust in those plans and throw all caution to the wind. They had to fly.

I remember one race at our home course. It had been raining, and the course was a muddy, disgusting mess. There was one hill, which really was just about a fifty foot, steep incline that they had to go down. It was slick, and it was dangerous. And not one girl slowed down in the slightest. Amazingly, most of them stayed on their feet. A couple wiped out, and those who did, got right back up without breaking stride and kept going.

So the short of it is, there’s a time for caution and planning and thinking about the details. But much of the time as we navigate the world, we have to look ahead at where we’re going. We have to trust in our preparation and our ability to bounce back from setbacks. Some of those obstacles are better detected by looking at the larger landscape than at the little patch of ground at our feet. When opportunities arise—whether it’s the opportunity to absorb the beauty around us or if it’s the chance to race towards our dreams, we won’t accomplish much unless we’re looking up.

Holiday Struggles and Illumination

Unpopular opinion: I really dislike this time of year. My favorite holiday is Halloween because it’s just strictly fun, no pressure. Thanksgiving starts to bring in drama, usually of the family variety, but it’s still enjoyable. But by the time the December holidays roll around, they come with relentless messaging around gift giving, family, indulgence and merrymaking, with subtle hints of obligation. These days, you can’t walk through any store without experiencing the big corporate holiday pressuring, and so I find the season to be a lot more stressful than joyous. I recognize that I’m not alone in struggling through the holiday season, but this year as I take stock of what is working in my life and what isn’t, I’ve come to some unsettling realizations about what the holiday season brings out in me. I recognize that while some of my gift-giving and my accumulation of material crap are often rooted in fear of lack, shame, and poor boundaries, awareness of these patterns will allow me to head into the new year with healthier habits.

I started pondering these questions a few days ago because it occurred to me that I was going overboard with my spending—both on gifts for others and on myself. I legitimately enjoy giving gifts to my loved ones. If I see something they will enjoy, I’ll get it for them. In some cases, I’ll take the time to make gifts, which is again something I enjoy. Usually not a big deal because the intentions are pure. But at some point, I found myself stressing over making gifts for people adjacent to the ones I wanted to make things for or agonizing over sending things because I had to. If I give a gift to this person, that one might feel offended. This person sent me something, I should give them something in return. It’s called exchanging gifts for a reason, right? But giving out of obligation doesn’t feel good. If anything, it becomes a weight. I finally came to the conclusion that this type of giving is really about trying to gain or maintain acceptance. It’s selfish and fear based. And neither party wins. The recipient will likely on some level feel that the gift wasn’t given out of love and the gift may end up being just more meaningless stuff to clutter up their lives. There’s nothing wrong with gift-giving if it’s done in love and a real desire to bring someone else joy, but if it’s just an obligation, the impulse needs to be curbed.

I tend to impulse buy and accumulate lots of stuff, and I had to examine what was driving that behavior. That was more complex, but I narrowed it down to two things: fear of lack, which goes back generations, and cultural messages about lack, wealth, class, and even caste. The generational piece comes from being raised by a single mom who lived during the Depression. In other words, there was a constant condition of not having enough in a person who spent their formative years not having enough. Now I find myself stocking up on things due to the constant worry that we will run out of the things we need. I bought wrapping paper the other day thinking we didn’t have any when actually we had way more than we needed in addition to numerous gift bags of various sizes that I always save and reuse. That type of survival mentality is reinforced by retailers who lead us to believe we’re getting a better deal buying larger quantities. Technically we do, but we also spend more than we need and have to store more than we need.

Then there is the constant messaging around status and class that seems to require proof of status by consuming the symbols of that status—big homes, cars, electronics and smart everything. There’s a constant race to keep up with the next person as a sign of value. This isn’t news. This attitude can work its way into gift-giving during the holidays—did I spend the same on each kid? Did I balance out the numbers of gifts? What was less obvious to me was how caste rules play a role in the accumulation of material possessions. People of color in this country are told in subtle and not so subtle ways from day one that they are less. Lacking. For myself, I think part of my accumulation of stuff is an attempt to feel just as good as my peers who exist in upper caste stations. I think it’s partially about fear of not having enough but just as much about fear of not being enough.  

Probably the biggest revelation I had was that these things I accumulate end up adding to the clutter in our home, and the clutter has become like a fortress. I’m very introverted and highly empathic. So that makes me very protective of my space and who comes into it. There have been people who have come into this place that should be my sanctuary. My safe space became the opposite. And so, I’ve allowed my home to become—cultivated it—into this cluttered, uninviting mess. That seemed easier than standing up for myself and enforcing my boundaries.

I’m not sure when I stopped being able to say no and set boundaries for myself. When I was young it wasn’t an issue at all. I remember the end of seventh grade, a friend came to my house, and we planned to go hang out. When we got to my house, I had a message from my mom that I had to get rid of all the stuff from the school year that I didn’t need and generally clean up before I could go anywhere. This friend got bored and started tearing pages out of workbooks I was throwing out. She was adding to what I had to clean up. When I told her to stop, she escalated, and I seem to remember at some point her throwing water. In hindsight, I get it—she was just playing and trying to have some fun. Obviously, she watched too many afterschool specials that glorified that nonsense. My patience quickly ran out, and I kicked her out of my house.  

I think the difference there was that we were peers and equals. There was no perceived hierarchy. But when it comes to families or elders that changes things. Caste training also plays a role when someone in a typically privileged position crosses lines. It becomes a little harder (for me anyway) to put a stop to unacceptable behaviors. That, however, is a different topic and a story for another day. The point is that the pattern of building walls of stuff instead of just creating healthier boundaries has come into question because it’s been out of control this holiday. Almost like insurance against anyone coming here.

Going into 2023, in addition to the motivation playlist and vision board I plan to create, I definitely have some work to do on these issues. I need to work on self-acceptance so I don’t feel the need to seek external acceptance. Likewise, I need to break the mental chains that tie worthiness to material objects. Last and most importantly, I need to stick to my boundaries so I can enjoy a comfortable and uncluttered home without fear that it will be overrun and that I will be trod on in the process.

Redefining My Own Beauty Standards

Image by Infrogmation of New Orleans

Recently, I’ve been thinking about standards of beauty, specifically what I find beautiful and attractive in myself and others, what I find unattractive in myself and others, where my beliefs around beauty originated, and whether the original beliefs still ring true. For at least a couple of years this has been something to grapple with because the aging process has drastically changed my appearance, but honestly, I had issues with it even when I was much younger. Coming to it now from a perspective of observing my actions and reactions is enabling me to do some internal restructuring, getting rid of that which simply isn’t true and redefining my standards according to my own truth.

Most of my beliefs, like those of many people, come from conditioning and having unrealistic beauty standards imposed upon us by different external sources like society or different influential industries. For a long time in our current culture, women in particular have received messaging that being super skinny with young, supple, unblemished pale skin, large breasts, and small hips were the only paths to being considered beautiful. Those messages are changing, but honestly, it’s too slow and there’s still a lot of discontent around appearance. Similarly, the male ideal has been tall, white, square jawed, and ripped, but not too big.

Societal standards have traditionally excluded entire races, ethnicities, and age groups from any hope of being considered beautiful. Even with the changes and the increased diversity that has emerged in the fashion and entertainment industries—the main influencers—there’s still an emphasis on thinness, paleness, and youth.

Being of Caribbean and Latina descent further complicates matters for me because of the added messaging around body proportions, colorism, and hair. And now I can add the effects of gravity and shifting body composition due to hormonal changes into the mix. Much of this dogma about the “wrongness” or undesirability of certain traits was filtered through the gaze of colonizers who were invested in dehumanizing those they oppressed and has been internalized and reinforced for generation after generation. This isn’t news. But until now, I never sat down to think about how it impacts me daily.

Weight and body image have been huge issues for me, especially after having kids. I went from fitting that super skinny ideal to the extreme opposite, which has left me at times feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, lumpy, and unattractive. I remember when I was around twelve or thirteen, someone drew a picture that was supposed to be me—a stick with a bubble a third of the way from the top and another bubble facing in the opposite direction just below center. While some people teased me, and I would later start actively trying to gain weight by chugging protein shakes (regrets! Hindsight!), for the most part, I could embrace my body and know that I had a body that others wanted. By my twenties, I was still thin enough to wear sexy outfits, but I was thick where it counted. That was when I lived in a more urban area surrounded by people who looked like me.

That changed when my environment did. Moving into predominantly white spaces, my thick thighs and heart-shaped booty suddenly seemed freakishly big. I felt fat for the first time. Little by little I started hiding in oversized clothes under the guise of being “comfortable.” Except I never was. Aging and hormonal changes pushed me to a weight where I was in physical pain and emotional misery over how big I had gotten. Despite what my doctor was telling me to the contrary, as recently as two years ago I saw myself as borderline obese. I think a lot of that had to do with being around people who had the similar proportions to me and thought that they were ridiculously overweight.

I also never saw myself as pretty. I would typically describe myself as cute, reasonably attractive (my body was the big gun in my arsenal before I got married), decent looking. Never pretty and beautiful? That would get a laugh from me. There were things I liked about my face, mostly my eyes which have always been big and kind of sleepy. I always liked my dimples, which is ironic since they’re technically a deformity, yet some rando decided they were cute. But I have a crossbite, which would have required breaking and resetting my jaw for six weeks to fix it. That makes my face appear asymmetrical and I’ve never felt comfortable with that part of my appearance. As I’ve gotten older, I notice that my face has changed too. My jaw seems squarer, and my nose seems larger, neither of which motivates me to enter any beauty contests. My skin is still pretty smooth, so there’s that.

Lastly, hair is always a big thing for black women. I didn’t even learn how to manage my hair in its natural state until I was in my forties. I relaxed it constantly until I was in my twenties and then had a few brief breaks of other styles—I had a high-top fade in college and wore dreadlocks for a few years until I chopped them off because I was pissed off at my stylist. (Because that would definitely show her!)

I find it interesting that my hair was typically the thing I struggled with the longest, but it was the first area where I was able to shift my thinking and standards. While it took me a while to learn and understand my natural curls, it wasn’t that hard to accept their beauty. I still have days where I cringe, but we all have bad hair days. Overall though, I love the different curl patterns and I’m even getting over worrying about frizz because as my hair turns grayer, the texture and curl patterns are changing too. For a while I dyed my hair purple because I didn’t have to bleach it, and it actually helped to minimize the frizz. However, I want it to turn all white. I think a head of all white hair is beautiful and elegant. So, I finally stopped dying it about a year ago. I love where it is these days, and I will refrain from bleaching and dying it white. I’ll just have to be patient.

Weight was the next area where I was able to embrace a new paradigm. What really got to me was that at my heaviest, I was in pain every day, and I felt like I couldn’t move. I was running, but the extra weight made something that was already challenging feel so much worse, and then I started injuring myself. Even training for half marathons wasn’t taking the weight off. As I process them now, my views on weight and the attractiveness of bodies are less about aesthetics and more about health. Numbers are less important than vitality, strength, and the ability to breathe, to move freely.

To me freedom of movement has always been beautiful. It’s why I’ve always loved to watch dance. And so, what I find beautiful now might be a thin lithe body, but it might also be a larger body. Once I changed my mindset to wanting to be healthy, it made shifting habits and changing lifestyle a lot easier. That was much more motivating that just wanting to fit into some old jeans. As my weight came more under control and reached a target number, other things started to change, and I became more intentional about what I consume, how I take care of this mobile home known as my body, and what I wear. I changed to a completely plant-based diet. I take care of my skin, which I never made time for. I am seeking clothes that feel good, not just look good.

I wonder if part of the reason society is so down on people who are overweight is because we somehow equate that with being unhealthy when that’s not necessarily true. There are plenty of skinny people who are unhealthy and plenty of bigger people who are quite healthy. Likewise with aging—it’s a reminder of our own mortality. No one wants to think of themselves as unhealthy, weak, or moving closer to death. So does that kind of fear-based thinking factor into our acceptance or rejection of someone as attractive? Beautiful? Our view of the world reflects ourselves, including our fears, so many of societies standards may very well be based on fear. At the very least, someone is feeding and profiting off the general public’s fear.

Now that I’ve find beauty in myself in these areas, my last hurdle is to find it in the image staring back at me through the mirror. That’s the hardest one, but my beliefs about my own appearance have taken fifty-plus years to sink in, and they won’t be driven out overnight. I’ve started by focusing on preserving and caring for the parts I like—taking care of my skin, especially around my eyes. The other day, I invested in a toner, eye serum, and revitalizing moisturizer with sunscreen. I’m not a fan of the moisturizer at the moment—it feels heavy and makes my face itch. Probably because I’m not used to feeling anything on my face. So, I’ll need to find something lighter. But it’s a start to what will be a trial-and-error process. After that, maybe I’ll start exploring some lip colors. And daily affirmations. Going into next year, I’m optimistic that someday, I’ll find beauty looking back at me.

Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Nati’s First Heartbreak

Coming out of eleventh grade pre-calculus, Nati turned to look down the corridor, searching among the sea of bodies for the one face she knew better than her own. Rhonda, her best friend for the past ten years, was Nati’s opposite in every way. Ebony skin contrasted with Nati’s honey complexion. Rhonda wore goddess braids that hung to her full hips, while Nati was athletically built and wore her silky hair in a pixie cut.

When she spotted Rhonda, Nati groaned inwardly. Isaiah was in his soccer uniform and slides, cleats in one hand. He leaned in to say something. Rhonda laughed in that way Nati could hear in her mind even over the hundreds of voices and footsteps of the other students in the hall. She spotted Nati then and waved wildly like one of those crazy windsocks that enticed people into car dealerships. Plastering on a fake smile, Nati waved back.

Outside the building ten minutes later, she couldn’t take the whispers and giggles any longer. She started towards home.   

“Nati, wait!” Rhonda came running up behind her. “What are you doing?”

“I have things to do. Standing around watching you giggle at Isaiah isn’t on the agenda.” It came out harsher than Nati meant it to, and she silently kicked herself.

Rhonda stopped and grabbed Nati’s arm, forcing her to turn. “Okay, what is your problem? Every time he’s around you start acting like a bitch.”

Nati glared and wrenched out of Rhonda’s grip. “No, you’re rude and I’m not your third wheel.”

Rhonda crossed her arms and squinted one eye, which meant she was studying Nati like a math problem. “Nah, fam. That ain’t it. Oh my God, do you like him? That’s why you’re mad?”

“What? No!”

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? I’m you’re best friend! If I knew—”

“I don’t like him.”

“It’s not a big deal, Nat. I’m not that into him. I’ll back off.”

Nati huffed out a breath and covered her face with both hands. She’d known for months now that this moment was coming, and she’d dreaded it every day. When she pulled her hands away, her face chilled where the remnants of her tears remained. “Rhonda, I don’t like Isaiah, but yes, seeing you together makes me jealous. There, I said it.”

Rhonda’s shoulders relaxed. “Come on, girl. It’s not like any dude will come between us. Chicks before—”

“It’s not that,” Nati mumbled.

“Well then what? I don’t und—”

“I have feelings for you.” Nati looked Rhonda in the eye. “More than friendship feelings.”

Rhonda’s mouth hung open, and she stared at Nati, speechless. Nati felt her own face crumple and pressure built in her throat as if someone were squeezing her windpipe. And her heart—cracks were splintering through it. Little by little pieces fell away until it was just a pile of rubble in her chest.

Nati ran.

~*~

The next morning, Nati buried herself under the covers and pillows when her brother Asim knocked on the door.    

“Nat, let’s go! We’re gonna be late!”

If she ignored him, he’d just barge in, and she didn’t want him to see her all red-eyed and swollen-nosed. “Not going. I’m sick.”

He came into the room. “Bullshit. I’d feel it if you were sick—twin privilege. And how come Rhonda’s not here? You two have a fight?”

In her haze of humiliation and misery, Nati forgot to factor in that Rhonda always picked her up in the mornings. “No.”

The blanket was ripped out of her grip, and Asim wrestled the pillow away from her. “What the hell, Nati? What’s wrong with you?”

“Asim, just leave me alone, please. I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t…” Her throat seized up as a new wave of tears began.

Spindly arms wrapped around her, and her head was pulled to the crook of Asim’s neck.

“Sis, what happened? Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

Could she? If losing Rhonda was devastating, the same reaction from Asim would strike her dead on the spot. This was the only secret she’d ever kept from him. Nati cried for long moments, anticipating what Asim might say. If she couldn’t trust him, there wasn’t a single person on the planet she could. “I told Rhonda… that… I… have feelings for her.”

Nati waited for Asim to tense up, to pull away. He kept hugging her and rubbing slow circles on her back. After a minute, he said, “I guess she didn’t take it well?”

“What? I don’t know. She didn’t say anything and then I kind of ran away.”  

She felt Asim shake his head. After a while, he said, “Okay, stay here.”

“Why?” Her voice rose an octave. “What are you about to do?” Nati clung to Asim’s wrist as he tried to get up.

“Nothing. Just stay here.” He left the room.

Had she been wrong about being able to trust him? But that was impossible. The main reason she hadn’t told him before was because she hadn’t wanted to accept the truth herself. With no hope left, Nati pulled the covers back up and curled into a ball.

A few minutes later, the door opened. When she peeked out, Asim was kicking it shut. He had a tray with two mugs and two foil packets that looked like toaster cakes. His laptop was snuggled under one arm. “I told Jaddi we both ate something bad at school yesterday. You know he doesn’t trust the lunches. And I brought cocoa and strawberry cakes. Scoot over.”

Nati’s eyes began to leak again. “You didn’t have to—”

“Shut up. What are we watching? Netflix or anime?” Asim sat and swung his legs up onto the bed. “And don’t worry about Rhonda. You probably just caught her off guard. She’ll probably be knocking on the door after school.”

She hoped he was right as she lay her head on his shoulder and accepted one of the steaming mugs.

Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Jesse Down the Rabbit Hole

Spirit of the Wolf

Jesse hung up when Asia’s phone went to voicemail. Maybe she was somewhere loud and didn’t hear the phone. But she’d feel its vibration. She could have been in one of those lectures and couldn’t pick up. She’d probably text back.

The second call went unanswered. Keeping his tone casual, he left a message to call him back. What if something happened to her? What if she got mugged and her phone stolen? Or stabbed? All those horror stories about the crime rate in New York City had to come from somewhere. He tried texting.

Half an hour later, there was still no word from his girlfriend, so he tried her again. He thought back to when she’d said she’d be in the city. He’d reacted like a little bitch—whining and begging to see her afterwards. Of course she didn’t want to talk to him. He was weak, and Asia had seen it. Pathetic. She would probably dump him the minute she got back to campus. What girl in her right mind would want such a loser?

He went for a short run to clear the hateful voice in his mind, and then went to lift weights. He ran into a few teammates in the dining hall. Jesse fought against himself to leave his phone in his pocket and not look for a message but once back in his room, desperation won out. And still Asia hadn’t returned his calls.

“What the fuck, Asia? I could be lying half dead in a hospital, and you can’t be bothered to spare me two minutes to see what’s up? Girlfriend of the fucking year!” Jesse wished he had one of those old-fashioned phones that people used to be able to slam down. That would have been much more satisfying than aggressively hitting the END button.

It was dark out the last time he called. “I’m sorry. I was being a dick, but I just miss you. Please call me when you get back?” Now his own negative mental coach was joined by the voices of his former brothers. Weak. Loser. No one will ever want you, piece of shit.

He was curled on his side on top of his bed when the notification finally chimed. Asia said he could come by if he wanted to. After ordering a pizza, Jesse threw on a cap and grabbed his laptop. He would apologize, be the man she deserved. He’d be such a perfect boyfriend that she’d never want to leave him.

Not ever.

Spirit of the Wolf Character Short: Asia Arrives at School

Spirit of the Wolf – out now!

Thick forests flanked both sides of the road as the car sped over the rolling hills. Envisioning herself barreling through those trails, Asia held her hand over her chest, heart racing. The campus was close.

In the front passenger seat, Mom tapped long, glittery gel nails on the arm of the minivan’s bucket seat. Her braids piled high on her head, she turned to look back at Asia, a slight frown on her face. The driver’s seat was pulled all the way forward, and Asia could only see a glimpse of bright red sunburn across the back of Dad’s neck.

Slowing, the van’s signal lights ticked, and Dad pulled into the turning lane. Ahead a giant cut stone had the words Chinook University carved into it. They had arrived!

They found the dorm and parked, unloaded some of her duffels and boxes. Two sets of doors stood open with a small vestibule between them. To the left, the glass window to the security office was darkened with a blind pulled down. Next to the window, a box hung on the wall. Its label read Free Condoms-Be Safe! The box had cut-out images of diverse couples stuck to it.

“Disgusting,” Mom said. Of course, she’d be the first to see the box. “They shouldn’t be promoting that wickedness. This is environment we’re leaving you in?” She had been in the US for much longer than Asia had been alive but had never lost her Bahamian accent.

Asia bristled, knowing where this was going. “Isn’t it better for students to take precautions, Mom? Most college students are active.” That wasn’t exactly what Mom was referring to.

Dad stifled a groan and fingered the crucifix he wore around his neck. Asia shook her head.

Mom tutted and went through the second door and started up the stairs. She wasn’t done with the topic. “I meant those pictures of the gays.” She curled her lip. “They shouldn’t be filling young minds with those unnatural ideas.” Her voice echoed through the stairwell.

A couple of girls passing them in the opposite direction gave Mom sidelong glances. They had to be athletes. Could they be Asia’s teammates? Great—she was already starting off on a bad foot.

“There are no children here, Mother. Can you please lower your voice?”

Dad briefly laid a hand on Mom’s arm. She sucked her teeth and grumbled under her breath, but she stopped embarrassing Asia for the moment.

It didn’t take long to unload all of Asia’s things and organize her side of her double within the suite of four rooms. Her suite-mates wouldn’t arrive for another couple of weeks.

When they were done, Asia walked her parents back to the van and hugged them goodbye. She had a team meeting in thirty minutes.

Mom kissed her forehead. “Behave yourself. You focus on your studies and on your running. Stay away from any funny business.”

Asia pulled away, laughed, and rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mom. I was thinking of planning a bank heist and then maybe starting a campus drug cartel.”

“Don’t put ideas in your mother’s head.” Dad gave Asia a squeeze and then held out his fist for the private handshake they’d made up when she started running back in seventh grade.

She watched the van depart and took several deep breaths.

Finally.

Freedom tasted good.

Launch Day

Today marks my initiation as an indie author with the release of my novella Spirit of the Wolf. The process has been fun, instructive, and a little scary at times, but also exciting. There have been some mistakes, but I’ve also learned a lot about the process. The biggest lesson has been to push past self-doubt and second guessing. So it’s definitely been a growth process.

Please check out the story! And if you’d like to support my effort, sharing the link and leaving nice reviews are always more than appreciated! Thank you, and enjoy!

Connection, Entrainment, and Healing

A few months ago, I came across a free course on sound healing. On a whim, I signed up. It was mostly just to get people to sign up for a more in-depth paid course, but I did learn a couple of useful things from the free course. One lesson had to do with the concept of entrainment, and this has served me very well recently.

The third definition of entrainment in Dictionary.com is “the synchronization of different rhythmic cycles that interact with each other.” Meriam-Webster defines entrain as a transitive verb meaning, “to draw along with or after oneself.” In the course, it was compared to how women’s menstrual cycles will sync up, and in that context, it had to do with how vibrations naturally entrain towards each other.

To be a bit less esoteric about it, another example would be how someone with a radiant or sunny personality can walk into a room and immediately, palpably, lift everyone’s spirits. Conversely, someone with a negative vibe—I think of the character Eyeore—can really bring the vibes in a room way down.

So what does this have to do with healing, and why has it been on my mind lately? The most obvious answer is that surrounding oneself with positivity and higher/brighter vibrations is healing for oneself. But on a larger scale, putting out that higher/brighter vibration is healing to everything and everyone in one’s immediate sphere. Thinking about all the darkness in the world these days, I see how attending to my own vibration—staying positive, hopeful, optimistic—contributes to brightening my own little corner of the universe. And the same goes for every being who brings their own light into their own environments.

I’m remembering the scene from the 6th Harry Potter movie where all the students are holding up their wands to banish the Dark Mark from the sky. Each one is just a tiny pinprick alone, but in unison, they eradicated that darkness.

For my part, I’m trying to be more mindful about sharing my process and lessons in a positive and optimistic light in the hope that something will light a spark in whoever comes across my words. There’s even been a shift in my horror stories (not giving those up & not sorry) because I find myself leaning more towards empowered, lighter outcomes as opposed to the bleak endings I used to gravitate towards.

I feel like this is the way we move the world towards healing—one light at a time.

Firsts and A New Journey

Is it just me or do most people think of sex when they’re asked about a first time for something? Even if it’s just my gutter brain, first sexual experiences are a great showcase of all the terror and wonderfulness of any other “first.” Terror because leading up to the event, there are all these thoughts:
What if it hurts? What if I do something wrong? What if I hate it? And recently, what if the condom breaks and I get knocked up and have to travel to another state to get an abortion and hope my spying neighbors don’t call the police on me? Firsts can fraught with vulnerability, literally laying yourself bare and hoping for kindness at least if not love.
But even thoughts of wonderful results can be scary.
What if it’s amazing? What if do everything right? What if I love it? What if the condom breaks and I get knocked up and live in a state where I have options and I decide I’m cool with having a baby right now?
How can those positives induce fear? Because they lead to expectations that may be challenging to live up to. And even if the expectations are met, the bar might keep going up to a point where the expectations might be unreachable. That’s a huge “maybe” however, and usually way to far in the future to be worth worrying about before you even get the initial act out of the way.
I am currently preparing to take a leap to do something for the first time, and it is honestly terrifying. Instead of just jumping in I slowed myself down and did some planning and preparation, but that also has allowed for a lot of time for all those fear-based questions to arise. Funnily while I thought I was moving forward, I realized the other day that I had left a major component of the project undone. A bit of procrastination goes a long way toward self-sabotage.
I am back on track now, and I set things up so that even if I get cold feet, I’m committed. No backing out now. No matter what the outcome is (which I expect to be good anyway), just getting it done will already be a win.