I See You

I See You

I wrote a poem the other day as an attempt to vocalize the undercurrent of emotions swirling beneath my surface. And while it helped to isolate and identify my feelings, as time has passed I realize I’ve only scratched the surface. I wanted to take a moment to not only honor what I’m feeling but to also connect with you as you might be experiencing some of these same emotions. 

I see you

First of all, can we all take a deep breath? I mean a legit, deep-belly breath that makes sound as you exhale all that built up tension right on out of your body. 

Breathe in and out…

It’s interesting how noticing something as routine and ordinary as your breath can catalyze such a shift in how your body physically feels. Let’s talk a little more about our breath, the life giving necessity that our body does on autopilot. Of course our breath is vital to our existence and like a well oiled machine, our bodies naturally breathe in and out. But the breaths we take are efficient; just enough air in to function and just enough air out not to wind ourselves. Our natural state of being runs on self preservation…essentially we operate in the realm of just enough. But if I take a conscious moment, or several, and reprogram what comes so naturally, I can feel a physical response. My heart beat slows, my chest rises and falls more slowly and my muscles truly relax. 

Let’s take this a level further and circle back around to my water analogy. If you’ve ever been in the ocean before, you’ve felt waves. Now if you’ve ventured out further than where your feet can touch, chances are you may have experienced an undercurrent. If you haven’t, consider yourself fortunate because getting caught in one is a scary scenario. 

When I was 12 my family took a vacation to Hawaii, so naturally we spent the majority of our time at the beach. This wasn’t my first experience with swimming in the ocean, so I ventured out. Deep enough where my feet were nowhere near able to touch or even find the bottom. I was enjoying what you would call body surfing, or letting the waves propel you forward while you float. I was thoroughly enjoying myself until I was caught between two crashing waves. 

Water rushed over me, sending me down beneath the water’s surface. Several full body tumbles later and I was completely discombobulated. I began swimming towards what I thought was the water’s surface only to realize I was in the middle of the ocean, unsure which direction was up. Frantically, I began swimming in the other direction trying to navigate the tumultuous waters. 

Another dead end. 

My heart was racing, my arms and legs were coursing with muscle tension, my breath was running on empty and my mind was terrified. 

What if I can’t reach the surface? 

What happens when my breath gives out? 

Can you still be revived after your lungs fill with water? 

After twenty more seconds of swimming in circles and what felt like my final few breaths, my mind stilled. I stopped thrashing and fighting the current. I relaxed my body completely. And you know what? I began floating towards the surface. 

I emerged still slightly panicked, but relieved to have survived. Feeling out of complete control of your life is chilling to the core. I eventually paddled my way back to the sand and collapsed in exhaustion.

But my adolescent self learned a valuable lesson. The waves are going to come. And keep coming. They’re not worth fighting against. Better to be still and ride them out. In a panicked state, I only hurt myself and almost jeopardized my energy and breath. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been back to the ocean, but I remember that experience like I’m still covered in sand and saltwater. Yet during a time in our country, where the waves are crashing hard, our bodies naturally go into survival mode. We operate from a panicked and frenzied place and only further succumb to the waves. And I’m writing this from a person who learned this lesson the hard way, and even now has sunk beneath the waves. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been anxious. Felt the physical, invisible weight sitting on my chest, making it difficult to take in a full breath. Felt the haze that’s settled in over my mind making it difficult to think clearly. Felt the swirling of thoughts and emotions tumble in the emotional undercurrent; tossed around so viscously that I find it difficult to sleep at night. And then when the exhaustion takes over, finally, I’m not able to fully rest. I feel the overarching web of grief that we’re all collectively experiencing in one way or another. 

But I’m here to tell you, everything you’re feeling and experiencing is valid. But I don’t want the initial fear and panic to sit with you long-term. When we are in our survival mode, we are limiting and hindering ourselves. We are not able to process and receive information in a clear headspace, therefore our reactions/responses will differ and stem from a place of fear.

Don’t feel pressure to respond to this situation in a particular way. Don’t feel guilty for reading a “how to be productive from home” guide only to realize that none of those tips and suggestions are helpful. Don’t feel less than for not doing a daily at home workout. Don’t feel shame for not shopping completely healthily. Don’t feel embarrassed for snacking more than usual. Don’t feel lazy for slowing down and watching (or binging) a new Netflix show, I’m talking about you, Tiger King.

This time that has been placed in our laps does not have to be more productive, more purposeful, more creative, or more anything. In fact, I would encourage you to use this time in the opposite manner. For me what has felt the most beneficial and healing has been slowing down. Less hustle and bustle, less time on social media, less time in front of the television, less time rushing from one event/task to the next. Less time planning and more time being in the present moment. 

If painting is what helps you cope, then by all means, but don’t feel like you have to produce art daily for your day to count. If going for a run gets your heart pumping and makes you still feel connected to nature, then go for it, but don’t run because you’re afraid of putting on weight. If watching an episode or three, of mindless television helps your mind stop reeling, enjoy it, but please don’t use it as a bandaid to ignore your thoughts and emotions. 

There is no right way to respond. However, I truly believe that if we slow down our breath, encourage our bodies to relax, and choose to fill our days with at least one choice or activity that brings us joy, we’ll all come out of this on the other side in a better place than where we started. I also recognize and acknowledge that I’m writing this from my living room with working electricity and internet. I’m not diminishing the severity or ferocity or suggesting that times are not difficult. I’m merely sharing a life shaping experience that helped to reshape my perspective when responding to struggle. 

It’s my hope that this message is able to bring you peace and hope, even if only temporarily. You’re not in this alone. I see you. 

xxx

Sig
P. S. Since most of us are confined to our couches, I figured I’d upload a photo of me sitting on one of my favorite couches. In a field. In my wedding dress. Just a little different from what my daily routine looks like now, right?!

Radical Love

Radical Love

Every year, on MLK day I’m left in a reflective mood. We learn about who Martin Luther King Jr. was in school and see the same few quotes shared across social media platforms. As a white person, I’ve heard lots of remarks growing up about how white people “love MLK.” And it’s easy to look back at someone’s life 52 years after the fact and comment that you liked what he was doing because it was non-violent, it wasn’t as “radical” and he preached “love.” Yet these same people get outraged at a phrase like “black lives matter.” Responding with bigotry, lack of understanding and ignorance. “All lives matter!” is shouted back in retort instead of meeting hurting people in need with the same love MLK advocated and demonstrated and you post on your Facebook wall.

In general, I think as people we tend to stay in our own lane. If we don’t experience something first hand, we tend not to believe it.

Racism is dead.

I don’t see injustice.

It’s not like that in my neighborhood.

I’m not racist, I have a black friend/acquaintance/co-worker/neighbor/celebrity crush.

I love MLK.

I listen to rap music.

 I love watching football/basketball/(insert other sport here).

We compartmentalize an entire population and generalize their experiences and struggles and try to say that we have a grasp on reality. If we don’t see something, then it just simply doesn’t exist.

I was raised extremely sheltered. My life experiences were very controlled and I was not exposed to much going on in the real world. If it happened between the years of 1992-2010, then I didn’t have much awareness of it. My parents chose to limit my worldview with the intent to protect and shield me from all the pain, injustice and brokenness. And as an adult, I can appreciate that they were doing what they felt was best for me. However, because of my sheltered life, I had a very skewed worldview upon entrance of college. I grew up in a middle class, hardworking white family, and while of course we experienced struggles, my childhood was pretty close to perfect. It wasn’t until I made friends with people that grew up differently than I did that I began to truly open my eyes to all that was around me.

How many people have felt like the minority? Have you ever been the only person with your skin color, surrounded by people that look differently than you? Have you felt out of place because of your skin? Been looked at, or more so looked down on simply because of your genetic make-up? To be treated differently and worse because of how you look? I have. And let me tell you it was eye-opening. I’ve never really taken pride in being white or really given it much thought other than wishing I was tanner. (Welcome white privilege; I’m glad you finally decided to show up in the mix and call yourself by name). In Longview, where the population is much different than the places I’ve grown up, especially in certain areas I experienced a tiny miniscule drop in the bucket compared to what some individuals live with on a daily basis. I don’t know what it feels like to be profiled. To be viewed as frightening. To be presumed guilty even when innocence is proven. To be counted as less than, inferior, less intelligent. To be valued for what you can offer only athletically and nothing else.

Flash forward to dating and ultimately marrying a black man. You want to see how people really feel, be a part of an interracial couple. The comments I have heard on both ends of the spectrum are mind blowing. The racist comments certainly come from both ways. And while our love tends to magnify what was already in people’s hearts: either love, understanding and support or fear, ignorance and bigotry, I appreciate both outcomes. I’d rather know how you really feel than be friends with a façade.

From personal experience and experiences I’ve gained and learned through my husband, I can share that racism is not dead. It is just as destructive, hateful, deceitful and fear-based as it ever was. But now, it has evolved and learned how to hide better. It hides in complacency. It hides in affluence. Lurks around corners of mis-education. It burrows under lack of empathy.

So you share your MLK quote once again, one day out of the year. What have you done to put that quote into action? Have you taken the steps toward acceptance? Done your job as a free American citizen to attempt to understand a perspective outside your own? Watched any of the ground-breaking media shedding light on these stigmas that continue to be stifled?

Contrary to white-washed perception, Martin Luther King Jr was radical. The quality of life and the level of injustice during his time on earth was shameful. And in response, he radially and recklessly loved others. He spoke out for those who couldn’t. He marched for those unable or unwilling to walk forward towards progress. He shed light on the deepest and darkest ugly parts, exposing them with no regards for what it might cost him. All the while holding himself to the highest standard, when so many others would have complained, resorted to violence, acted out of revenge masquerading as justice, felt sorry for themselves and the list goes on.

It is because of MLK’s valiant efforts and the continued efforts of those after him that my husband and I can be husband and wife. Were able to obtain a residence together. Not be arrested and charged for loving and continuing to love one another. While some may categorize our choice to be “more difficult,” I count it an amazing privilege and responsibility. In the hollowed wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

You want to honor MLK day, do your due diligence and educate yourself. Start by viewing these necessary and illuminating pieces of work.

-When They See Us

-Fruitvale Station

-Just Mercy

-The Loving Story (Documentary and Film)

-Rosewood

-A Time to Kill

-Mississippi Burning

Consume this media for what it is. These are not just movies and episodes. These are TRUE stories. People’s lives and experiences and realities. Not 100 years ago. Today. In our country. In our home cities. Open your heart and your eyes and see what happens.

I’m not claiming to have it all figured out, or that the answer to eradicating racism is as simple and contrite as watching a few movies. But why can’t the start be that simple? Once you have the awareness and understanding that we still have so much work to do, what you do next is up to you. As for me, I will continue to live my life in a way that puts this concept into action:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

  I plan to continue forward with love and light.

xxx

-Sarah

 

 

No. 51 – Your Cup

No. 51 – Your Cup

Kendrae and I had a fight the other day over something so stupid. I’m embarrassed to admit that it started over a Mason jar lid. Yeah… But as any couple knows, it’s never about the lid. The lid merely served as a catalyst for what had been there lying dormant, unaddressed.

So we had our little “fight” if one could even call it that. We don’t often have fights so neither of us are very good at them. My feelings were hurt, and so were his. And we spent the rest of the afternoon in tension but weren’t able to discuss it further because we were around others. Which was fine, it didn’t give either one of us the opportunity to sit and stew in the fight. We had to get over it for the time being and go on about the rest of our day.

After an initial 15-minute car ride of awkward uncomfortableness we both moved on. We could either make our friends feel uncomfortable while we carried our personal fight into their time, or we could let it go. We didn’t forget the fight, it happened. We both apologized, but the interaction we had with each other didn’t quite leave the back of my mind.  When you live with a person, you’re eventually not going to agree about something. You may even grate each other the wrong way from time to time. But after the emotions settled down, I realized how trivial the entire argument was. Welcome to most arguments.

Today, my yoga teacher shared this beautiful metaphor. And it’s an explanation that I’ve heard before, but didn’t make much of an impression until now. It reads:

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you, making you spill your coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? “Well because someone bumped into me, of course!” Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. The point is whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you (which will happen), whatever is inside you will come out. It’s easy to fake it, until you get rattled. So we have to ask ourselves… “what’s in my cup?” When life gets tough, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, peace and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions? You choose! Today let’s work towards filling our cups with gratitude, forgiveness, joy, words of affirmation, kindness, gentleness and love for others.

I sent a photo of this text to Kendrae and asked what was in his cup. He replied, coffee, then water. Coffee representing self-reflection and rejuvenation. Water representing life. You need it to live. “I don’t have tea because I stay away from gossip.”

I smiled because he gave the question deeper thought than I intended. But then I was befuddled when my own question was posed back to me. What’s in your cup?

Sure, I’d like to think that my cup is overflowing with sunshine and good times. But what about when I’m driving and I miss my exit? Not much goodness spilling out there. Or what about when a student of mine sneezes all over my face? Yeah…not my shining moment either. Or how about when I feel let down by my family? Yikes…forgiveness doesn’t quite flow so easily.

Or how about a few days ago, when I got into a fight with my husband? Did I emulate compassion, understanding and open ears, or was I merely focused on proving my point?

After some thought, I’ve come to this conclusion. Proving a point is not worth more than loving my partner. Coming from an exceptionally competitive person, this was tricky to admit. You don’t win an argument with your spouse. In trying to prove the other one wrong, you both lose. You win, by trying to understand where your partner is coming from. You win in trying to share your feelings in a way that doesn’t point blame. You win in being open to apologize if you’ve caused pain. You win by not trying to win.

Alright so my cup may have some gunk in there, but it’s not all bad right? Maybe I do have water in my cup, but it’s still a little murky. Needing some major filtration work to eliminate those impurities. Or maybe it’s deeper than selecting one metaphorical beverage of choice. Maybe what I choose to fill my cup with today, will not be the same drink I select a week from now. Maybe what’s filling my cup will change. Sometimes my cup is filled with wine. I’m sure not letting a single drop of that spill over! Maybe the parts of me that are more refined can constantly be spilled out and refilled over and over again. Because we’re all called to pour out our gifts in some fashion.

But maybe to rid my vessel of the ugly parts, they must first be exposed. I can’t refill my cup with gratitude if I haven’t first dumped out my selfishness. Which is bound to spill out at some point. I can’t replace bitterness with kindness if my bitterness hasn’t been emptied out of my glass. While it is beautiful to want to only pour out the good, I am also realistic. I am human. I will never have a cup full of only goodness and love. But I can work on dolling out those drinks to as many people as often as I can. And anytime I find my cup is dry, I can be intentional about what I’m selecting to hold in it.

Life, relationships, other people are always going to come along and shake you up. It’s inevitable. The moral of the story is not who bumped you, or how hard or for how long. Or how much coffee you had in your cup. We all have our own messes. What is important is that we work towards filling our cups with things that are lovely and pure. A more eloquent painting of the platitude, garbage in, garbage out.  You can only pour out into the world what you already have inside. You can dress up your cup with the most beautiful shell. But you can’t hide what spills over. No matter how pretty the dressing may be. So if you don’t like what spills onto the floor after a good hard shake, clean up your mess and refill.

xxx

Sig

 

No. 42 – The Key

No. 42 – The Key

Two weeks ago, I dished on my first Valentine’s Day and how it was so perfect. It was easy to write about because it had a happy ending. But the first 21 years did not all turn out that way. Life was not a cake walk in the romance department. And consisted a lot of impatiently waiting for my other half to complete me.

After a rough break up, with a boy I wasn’t even dating, I had reached my tether with romance. Fed up with gauging my happiness through others. The male species specifically. It was the summer of 2013. I was out running errands and stopped at Panera Bread for lunch. I debated for several minutes in my car about whether or not to order my food to go or eat solo. I imagined all the glances and judgement my solo escaped would warrant. Until the irony of my inner debate while sitting in my car trumped any potential dining embarrassment.

I swallowed my pride, lifted my chin up and walked through the doors, determined to dine alone without fear or shame. After ordering, I selected a window-side table. Not too centrally located, but not ducked off in a corner either. As I awaited my lunch, I couldn’t help but notice a high-school aged couple that settled into a booth slightly to the left of my forward gaze. And as the girl went to slide into the booth, a shimmer on her finger caught my eye. Her hand slid across the top length of the booth as she scooted inwards. All the while my eyes fixed on the ring that bejeweled her finger.

Mug (1 of 1)

Being a James Avery fanatic, I could spot their pieces anywhere. This particular piece being no different. I had been ogling over this ring for some time. It was a key and heart intertwined together, signifying in my mind that the giver of the ring symbolically held the heart of the receiver. A concept that existed only in my day dreams. But one that frequented quite often.

An instant twinge of jealousy and disappointment constricted around my heart. This young girl was living my dream while I ate alone with absolutely no boyfriend or prospects on the horizon.

When would a boy buy me that ring?

Would I ever have what she had?

What was wrong with me?

Almost as soon as the thoughts came tumbling out of my brain, an arrow pierced my heart. And my common sense kicked me in the rear. You do not need someone else to buy you that ring, Sarah. In fact, you are completely capable of purchasing that ring yourself.

The server interrupted my train of thought as she brought my food to the table. I thanked her and smiled as I stared out the window. My eyes lost focus as I overlooked the parking lot and embraced the sunshine. Even in my state of what felt like hopelessness, the sun was still shining. I was only 21, with no clue how my life would play out. But I did possess a newly discovered revelation. My heart was not a commodity to be out in the open. My heart, precious and sacred, deserved safe guarding. It was not an item to be handed away so freely. All the energy I misplaced in holding my heart in the palm of my hands and hoping someone would find it worthy enough to pick up. When all along, it had always been worthy. And it was already in someone’s hands: mine.

Enough! I shouted in my head. From now on, I was holding the key to my own heart.

There was a James Avery store not too far from Panera, and I was going to drive straight there and buy that ring for myself. I was already worthy of that ring, and I didn’t need to wait on a man to give it to me.

Key (1 of 1)

Author’s Note: While this miniscule moment was perspective altering for me, it required and still requires quite a bit of ground work on my end. The ring wields no actual importance, but what it represents does. And much like a tattoo, serves as a visual reminder to recognize and embrace my own worth. To guard my heart and stop believing that I needed another person to complete me or feel valued.

If you’re at all familiar with my personal love story, you’ll note that while I recaptured my own heart in the summer of 2013, it was about a year later that my relationship with Kendrae began to bloom. Which leads me to point out two important items. The first being that I had to appreciate myself and nurture my inner dialogue before I could ever be ready to healthily add in another person. One of the reasons Kendrae and I were able to make our relationship work was because we understood the importance of vetting a potential partner before fully letting our guards down. We had both suffered heart-break in the past and learned to respect our own hearts in new light. 

Which brings me to my second point. Because I hadn’t practiced treasuring my own heart for very long before delving into a relationship, my learning curve continued. I was so wrapped up in the idea of being someone’s girlfriend, that I forgot to water myself. I submerged head first into this wonderful new relationship, but lost myself along the way. Consumed with tending to Kendrae and nourishing our relationship, that I neglected myself. I wanted to spend all my spare time soaking up Kendrae. So enraptured by him that I just handed him my heart after a few weeks. A gesture that Kendrae was not ready for, and quite frankly neither was my heart.

Just because I met this new person who I believed was better than any Prince Charming, did not mean that he deserved access to my heart so soon. And with time, and a lot of patience I did place my heart in Kendrae’s strong yet gentle hands. But by reclaiming the key to my own heart, I encouraged myself to be more careful with whom I allowed it to be held. So I want to encourage you to be cautious in matters of your heart. Treasure it and be selective of whom and what can gain access. You are a rarity and should treat yourself as such.

xxx 

Sarah