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It’s OK to not be OK.

I posted this phrase on my Instagram profile last week.  It wasn’t the first time I saw it and it wasn’t the first time I posted it on social media.  Or said it to someone who needed to hear it.  But I felt it was just right for the time – once again.

In the wake of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his beautiful daughter GiGi, many people wondered why they felt such grief and heartbreak over people they didn’t know.  And I’m here to tell you – despite what others may say or think, it’s OK to feel what you feel – period!

It’s OK…

If you feel sadness or grief over the loss of people you don’t know.  If you don’t react to situations the same way other people think you should.  If your show of strength doesn’t match that of the other “strong” people in your midst.  If your modus operandi is to whine and have a pity party before you get up and dust yourself off to march on.  If you choose to go inward for self-reflection after a broken relationship instead of starting the next new one.  If you constantly hear, “why can’t you be more like [fill in the blank of that person you’re compared to] and handle it their way?”  If you’re being told it is selfish to acknowledge how you feel first even though you know deep down inside that it’s okay to put yourself first.

There’s nothing in the book of life that says you always have to be strong.  Or that you can’t ask for help without judgment or pause or desire someone to be there and simply say “I got you!”  And they really do…  

So, for whomever needs to hear this…go ahead and cry, kick and scream or just sit in the silence of your deep thoughts.  It’s OK to not be OK.

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I read with interest this past week that Prince Harry and his beautiful bride Meghan will no longer be known as “royal highnesses.”  My first thought was that while it may be difficult to adjust to not being known as something you’re used to being called (especially in Prince Harry’s case), it’s a step in the right direction in their plan to step away from life with the royal family.  Seemingly never one to conform to societal norms since he was a youngster, this is probably right up Prince Harry’s alley.

I began to think about the many titles we gain and lose in our lives and how the change in status can affect our lifestyles.  For instance, when a woman gets a divorce, she is no longer a “Mrs.” – and losing the title may symbolize a desired freedom.  For other women, it may be the beginning of a long hard adjustment not being known as Mrs. “___” anymore.  Even if you want the divorce, it’s difficult to adjust to not being a Mrs. after a number of years.  In my case, I got married the first time at age 24, was married for about 10 years, divorced, got married again at age 39, and divorced 13 years later.  I’ve been a Mrs. half of my existence, and each time I lost my title, I was thrust into a situation where I had to renew myself.  No doubt a big adjustment; yet growth as well.

Whether or not the situation is planned, now is the time to forge a new life, and such is the case with Harry and Meghan.  No matter what title you hold, no matter how many degrees you’ve earned or how many movies you’ve starred in – you are still you.  A title doesn’t define who the Divine Creator formed you to be.  Nor does it define your character, integrity, level of self-esteem and so on – you are still you.  The growth in losing a title or status comes in because you don’t have it to hide behind anymore.  The ego is being challenged and you are forced to face the new you, in whatever capacity it comes. The same can be said for a title you gain or currently hold – it acknowledges recognition for your accomplishment – but it does not designate who you are at your core.

As Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  You could call a rose a potato…but won’t it still be a fragrant little spud?  It matters not whether Harry and Meghan – or you or me – are known by certain titles.  What matters is the genuineness of our hearts and that we acknowledge and know who we are.

 

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And just like that…we have both feet into the New Year 2020!

What are some of the goals you’d like to accomplish or press the start button on this year?  Do you know what tools you’ll need to succeed? There are a ton of books, websites, videos, podcasts and all that can help you reach your goals, but no matter what information you choose to digest…the real success begins with you.  You are the one who will make yourself a winner!

The Best Possible Self Technique

I’ve been reading about a mental/emotional exercise called “Best Possible Self” – which is a technique to bring about positive thinking.  This is how it works: visualize yourself virtually problem-free and living your dream life at some point in the future, i.e. one year, five years and so on.  Take some time thinking about where you’d like to be in your life by that time and jot down the particulars in a journal. Your visualization needs to be realistic, something you know you can achieve, even if it requires a little work.

The next step is to write down all of the necessary things you need to do to get there — traits you need to adopt or knowledge you need to acquire.  What plans do you need to make to make your dream/goal a reality? At the bottom line, the Best Possible Self exercise allows you to visualize where you’d like to be, make plans to get there, but more importantly, it gives you something to look forward to today, increasing your present level of happiness, hope and well-being.  It also aids in eradicating “rearview mirror” thinking, which is the act of dwelling on past failures, situations and people.  Dwelling on the past will hold you back from forward movement.

The Art of Visualization

Following the Best Possible Self technique is similar to creating a vision board, a popular visualization tool for children and adults alike.  What better pass time at the first of the year to put your dreams and goals into clear focus than to create a collage of cut-out pictures, photos and words?  It’s even more exciting to look back on past vision boards to see what dreams have come to fruition for you. Have you ever created a vision board?

I rely heavily on visualization in my life – for instance, if I’m purchasing a home, I have to stand in the home and visualize myself living there, or else it’s not the home for me.  Visuals and instinct have rescued me from some serious situations, has helped me make decisions, and reassured me “it’s already alright” when my faith was diminishing.

Whether you use the Best Possible Self method of journaling, creating a vision board or relying day-to-day on the dreams and visions that swim around in your head – when you see things clearly in the future, much of what you visualize will materialize.  In these changing times, hope for your own future is just a daydream away.

“Visualize the most amazing life imaginable to you. Close your eyes and see it clearly. Then hold the vision for as long as you can. Now place the vision in God’s hands and consider it done.” Marianne Williamson

 

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First a disclaimer: This post is directed towards my sisters: (a) it’s not intended to bash males or females; (b) it’s not because I think it only applies to us; (c) nor am I trying to be “preachy” because trust me when I say that this message applies to me as much as it does to anyone (maybe even moreso-ha!).  With that said…

Let me bring your recollection to the famous line from the movie A Few Good Men when actor Jack Nicholson’s character says, “You can’t handle the truth!”  Some of us (insert disclaimer) request that men tell us the truth about everything – and there’s not a thing wrong with that!  But some of us (insert disclaimer) cannot handle the truth!

Here are three reasons why we can’t handle the truth:

Number One:  Our overall level of trust is already tainted.
If a man is genuinely telling us the truth, we don’t believe it because so many men have lied to us in the past – our trust level is at ZERO!  

Number Two: We hear what we want to hear.
When a man is telling us the truth, and it is the truth, we don’t want to hear it – we want to hear what we want to hear.  Even as we look directly at his lips as they form the word “No”… even with our good eyeglasses on…we see and hear them saying “Yes”.  I’ve become a firm believer that most mature men will tell you the truth about matters of the heart, etc. and will truly mean what they say.  His response when you ask if he loves you is 99.99% transparent.  If the answer is “no” and you’re looking for love  – he ain’t it!  I’m reminded of the story of the on-again-off-again relationship between CNN political analyst Angela Rye and rapper Common – she wants children, he does not – she moved on!  There’s no time to waste, my sistah, sitting and waiting for someone who may never come around.  Even if he does, let him check in at that time and you just may be available (or maybe not!)  The truth shall set you free!  On to the next! 

Number Three: We are not prepared for hurt feelings or heartache.
Many times when we seek the truth from a man about a not-so-good situation, we already know the answer.  Example: deep down inside, you know that scoundrel is cheating…but you ask him if he’s cheating anyway…and let him know he “betta not lie either”! Lord, when he doesn’t lie and ‘fesses up to cheating…!  But you already knew, Sis!  You just didn’t want to hear him say it and it causes pain you weren’t prepared for.  Because – let’s face it, you really thought he was going to lie, even though you asked for the truth.

“We are only as blind as we want to be,” said Maya Angelou.  In our relationships with others, oftentimes we seek the truth, yet are not equipped to handle genuine transparency.  We also do not give thought to how we will react when we are told the truth – even if in our heart of hearts we already know the answer.

I have learned by my own experience not to seek information when I’m not prepared for the response.  I’ve also learned to trust my instincts – when you feel like something is off, it is!  Finally, I’ve learned that when the truth has been told, although it hurts today, this too shall pass.  You’re better off there than living in an ivory tower.  When you put on your big girl panties and handle the truth that you ask for, you’ll always know where you stand.

“Sometimes the truth hurts. And sometimes it feels real good.” – Henry Rollins

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Happy New Year!  Hello, 2020!

As I say goodbye to 2019 and the decade of the “teens,” I also say, wow, wow, wow.  I learned a lot in “teens” decade; taking a look back reminds me that it definitely didn’t end up as it started out.  All good and all major growth!  Wheewwww!

I read a blogpost written by Shellie R. Warren on xoNecole.com entitled 10 Habits You Should Break Before the New Year Arrives(click on the title link to read).  Although the new year has already begun, it’s still not to late to follow some of these tips.  Some of them really hit home for me and I thought I’d share it with you.  The highlights of habits to break:

  • Saying “always” and/or “never”
  • Breaking promises
  • Eating fast food
  • Getting less than 6-8 hours of rest. Every Night.
  • Investing more in others than yourself
  • Not guarding your heart (in a healthy and productive way)
  • Being consumed by drama
  • Not physically detoxing
  • Not having a personal and professional mission statement
  • Settling

While all of these are very, very good, I’d like to add a couple of my own habits I need to break in this new year and fast:

  • Staying long after you should have made your exit – that means anywhere, a friendship, a job, a romantic relationship…anywhere
  • Not respecting that your gut/instinct is 98.99% accurate
  • Not creating a plan for important goals – a budget for your finances, a nutrition/weight loss plan for your health… you get the picture.  A goal without a plan is just a wish!
  • Not honoring who you are, with your badass self
  • Not finishing what you start
  • Being indecisive and not making timely important decisions
  • Not having an ironclad routine to make sure things get done on a consistent basis

I could probably think of many more…how about you?  Do any of these hit home for you?  In this New Year, 20/20 vision will rule and we are saging all up in the corners of our lives and leaving the windows open so all negativity, insecurity, fear and anxiety fly right on out with the sage smoke.  So…what habits do you want to break?  Let’s do this!

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Happy Day After Christmas!

I hope you had a holiday filled with fun, family, friends, joy, special gifts,good food and LOVE!  I had an amazing Christmas…but I will say, the older I get the more my Christmas Days hit different.

Being a single lady, I spend most of my holiday days alone; my son spends his holidays with his dad’s family.  I miss him on those days, but I also want him to have what I had growing up – a loving connection with both sides of the family.  It makes him happy, so I’m happy.

We had a conversation the other day about Christmas; as he gets older he’s coming to realize that Christmas isn’t the same as it was when he was a little boy.  I agreed with him that his realization wasn’t off, it is different, but it’s also what you make it.  When he has a wife and children of his own (if that’s what he chooses in life), he will notice even more of a difference.

When you arrive at the age when your grandparents and parents and other relatives are gone, it has to become what you make it.  You can create new traditions, or carry on the old ones, or create a mix of both.  Nevertheless, I keep myself grounded in the reason for the season – O, come let us adore Him!  I am so blessed…and although I may feel alone or miss my loved ones who are gone, I rejoice in my faith and what this day really means at the core.

Somehow, I believe Christmas will change and evolve again for me in years to come – as I find my soulmate, as I enjoy the grandchildren I hope to have, and so on.  But for right now, I am so joyful in just being in the present.

Happy Holidays!  Looking forward to 2020!

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Milestones.

The times in your life where you leave little bookmarks; the times that define the rest of your life from that point on.   A new chapter in the book of your life.  Turning the page.  A welcome change, a not so welcome difference, a subtle evolution, a startling turn of events.

According to an article on “The Thought Catalog” website, “The Ten Most Important Milestones in Your Life“, below are the ten biggies:

  • Hitting rock bottom
  • Falling in love
  • Getting your heart broken
  • Realizing what you’re passionate about
  • Getting fired from your job
  • Getting the job of your dreams
  • Losing a friend
  • Getting married
  • Becoming a parent
  • Buying your first home

In my opinion, this list leaves out a few milestones, but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect.  It merely demonstrates that one’s list of milestones is not the same as another’s list.  Which life event to call a milestone is strictly up to the person who experiences it.

I’m talking about milestones because this week I’ve reached one:

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY TO NEW YORK RED!  It’s my Blog-iversary!

I want to thank everyone who has read, commented and shared my blogposts over this first year.  An admission/confession: I have truly astounded my-own-dang-self because I went through each week of this entire year, wondering what in the world I could write about EVERY WEEK!  Somehow, through divine intervention, something I read or heard in a podcast or conversation or something I watched on television became fodder for that week’s post.  And I’m so happy and grateful for all of those moments!

Looking forward to more great times of sharing with you and inspiring you (and me) to #keepgoing.  AND looking forward to all of the great milestones that I know are coming up in the shining new decade to come.  2020!  Raising my glass of bubbly to US!  #cheers #clink

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Mental Health Moment… It’s the holidays, and while it may be a truly joyous time of the year for most; for some, it’s a time when they really may not be feeling their best – emotionally and mentally. 

For one thing, the beginning of the winter months may be a festive time, but it’s also a time when we experience a reduced amount of light – which research reveals leads to SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder (how clever is that acronym?).  The blues, lethargy, sadness, mood swings – all of these feelings are common as the lack of light throws off our internal body clock.  On top of that, dealing with the stress of the holidays, overeating, indulging in alcohol a bit more than usual, financial  and family issues and not to mention grief, can really wreak havoc on our ability to keep ourselves balanced.  It can be the best of times…but it can also be the worst of times.

Check on your people – especially if you know they may be having a difficult time, or if they are prone to depression or blue moods.  Sometimes people won’t admit they are having hopeless feelings, or wondering if they have a purpose or place in the world. They won’t admit they have suicidal thoughts, or can’t quite get past the grief they feel over a loss, etc.  The people you consider to be “strong” may be working really hard to put their best happy face forward.  You never know what emotions or thoughts people have when they’re alone and nobody’s looking.  The tears of a clown…  

If you know someone who is experiencing problems – depression, sadness, grief  – check in on them. Offer as much assistance/love/encouragement as you can. Don’t expect (and certainly don’t ask them to) “snap” out of it.  It’s just not that easy. Everybody needs somebody! Check in on your “strong” peoples!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  Call 1-800-273-8255 (open 24/7)
National Substance Abuse & Mental Health Hotline: Call 1-800-662-4357 (open 24/7)

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I mentioned in one of my previous blogposts that I listen to podcasts quite often.  The other day, while listening to one of Oprah Winfrey’s podcast conversations with Iyanla Vanzant, one phrase I heard in their discussion struck me – “give yourself permission.”  

Remember when you were a youngster in school and you had to get a permission slip signed by your parents to go on a field trip?  It was important to ask permission in this way for many reasons; but essentially it boiled down to, as a kid, you had to ask one adult that was wholly responsible for you to let another adult that was partially responsible for you for permission to go somewhere.  If you didn’t have a signed permission slip, you couldn’t go. Or, as an adult, you may have to ask permission to take vacation time from work.

My initial reaction to the phrase give yourself permission was that it really doesn’t make sense.  Permission is usually authorization granted to you by someone else, right?  Why should I have to ask for permission from myself…for myself? But as their conversation continued, the light came on in my head – sometimes we do have to give ourselves permission.  

Here are 10 things we need to give ourselves permission to do:

  1. Forgive yourself for your mistakes
  2. Have a good time
  3. Carve out time for rest and vacation
  4. Say no
  5. Leave a relationship, job, church (you name it) that no longer serves you
  6. Be happy
  7. Buy yourself something nice
  8. Trust your inner voice
  9. Love yourself for who you are, right where you are
  10. Honor what you need even if it means disappointing someone else

And here’s a bonus one:  Admit that you’re not okay and you need help.

There are many more I can think of and maybe you can too.  The bottom line is – sometimes we let guilt, shame, fear, lies somebody told us about ourselves, mistakes, un-forgiveness of others, failures, false starts, lack of confidence… you get the idea … stop us from living our best lives.   When we don’t let go of the negative feelings we have, or the desire to punish ourselves for mistakes of the past, yada yada – we can’t move on in life. It’s time to let go, my dears, and give yourself permission to stop merely existing – and live life like it’s golden – because it is.

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To most folks, Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy delicious foods or watch football games or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  Or, spending time with family may be the favorite highlight of the day. Or kicking off holiday gift shopping and special deals that come with Black Friday.   It could also be a day of reflection and prayer.  In my mind, if you and your family or friends tend to do the same things each holiday, it’s become a tradition.

On the recent mid-season finale of the television show “This Is Us” (which is one of my fave shows!), Jack and Nicky are brothers whose abusive alcoholic father made Thanksgiving Day not so happy while they growing up.  If you watch the show, you know it depicts parallels between the past and modern day.  In this episode, as young men in their 20’s or so, they decided they’d abandon the family holiday and go elsewhere to celebrate.  They end up at a bar where Nicky bets on a football game and wins big on the bet.  With his winnings, they go to a restaurant and enjoy five pounds of shrimp (which is really a lot of shrimp for two people).  Soon after that holiday together, Jack and Nicky both go off to Vietnam, and life is forever changed.  Fast forward to modern day – Jack is deceased and Nicky is just meeting all of the extended family for the first time at Thanksgiving (yes, there’s a story behind it; you gotta watch!) and he unveils a huge platter containing five pounds of shrimp to add to the family’s other Thanksgiving traditional items.

The story line prompted thoughts about my family holidays and my red velvet cake.  The cake is a special request from my family each year; and a few times I’ve asked “don’t you guys want some other kind of cake?  I can make German Chocolate, strawberry, key lime, blah blah blah…”  Nope, gotta have red velvet.  When I think about it, my red velvet cake on my family’s dinner table for the holidays has become a tradition that I no longer question.  Same with my sister-in-law’s famous Geechie Collard Greens; wooo chile, they’re delicious! A holiday wouldn’t be the same without these items.

So, whether it’s five pounds of shrimp, or a red velvet cake, or Geechie Collard Greens, or your grandmother’s sweet potato souffle, or if that’s the day your family has designated to go out and buy the Christmas tree as the kick-off for the holidays, it’s a tradition!  Something you can look forward to all year, and more importantly, something that can be passed down to your children, in the hopes that they’ll continue it through the generations.  Tradition brings families together, brings about a feeling of comfort and brings a smile to every face.  To continue the cultural traditions of our ancestors reminds us where we came from.  It’s simple and pure love to remember someone who has passed on by also remembering and continuing the tradition they began.

What are your holiday traditions?  Tell me about it in the comments, maybe I’ll steal it! (wink!)  Meanwhile, I pray that you, your family, loved ones and friends have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!

 

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