Capricorn Season

Hey y’all. It’s that time of year again, the best time of every year- Capricorn season! From December 22 to January 19, the world is blessed with the birth and celebration of individuals who are the leaders of the zodiac. Strong, persistent, visionary, and classic are all words that capture the Capricorn mystique. Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Diane von Furstenberg, Denzel Washington, Ellen Degeneres, and the G.O.A.T. himself, Muhammad Ali, are all Capricorns. Not to mention that Christmas and New Year’s both fall during this time. It’s magical!

I wouldn’t say I’m a die hard astrologist– but more than any Meyers-Briggs personality test or Buzzfeed quiz, the Capricorn profile fits me 100%. And this year my energy is different. I don’t know if it’s the Saturn return to Capricorn, turning 30 and not giving a f*ck, or having survived a full year of the worst President we’ve ever had along with peak White Foolishness, but this year my energy is different. I’m trying to elevate myself in every way and I’m prepared to make radical changes to do so. I want to be happy and healthy from now through the rest of my life so I can’t keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. I’m pulling on my goat spirit of motivation to scale my personal mountains because nobody else can do it for me.

2018, you’ve been warned.

#MOOD: Above it all.

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Family Ties

The best part of my recent trip home was getting a chance to see my family without all the additional pressures of the holiday season. Since I was there for a whole week and hubs didn’t come with me (at first to save money, and then because he couldn’t get the time off work) I got to have some in person heart to heart chats with both my parents, and my semi-prodigal brother as well.

I’ve written about previously, my dad and I have gone through a rollercoaster of conflicts ever since the divorce, but I think we have finally come to a permanent detente. He and my brother…not so much. But in talking to them both I planted some seeds which I hope will bear fruit in the future. Fathers and sons tend to have combative relationships, and the issue here is compounded by the fact that my brother has all of our father’s stubbornness but also, all of our mother’s sensitivity. It’s fair to say our dad just didn’t get him. He felt like my brother needed to toughen up.

But Dad lived through segregation and went to Georgia State University just two years after it integrated. There were no Black nerds or internet in his day. The world was much harsher. And in the past couple of years I have learned more about how my Dad grew up. That doesn’t absolve him from responsibility but you can’t do what you don’t know. By any objective measure he did far better for us than his parents did for him. There were times I was disappointed, and my feelings were hurt. But nothing he did prevented me from becoming a fully functional adult so what’s the harm in forgiveness?

Without getting bogged down in the details, suffice it to say that he did some things which were just wrong. But parents are people too. It was weighing me down to constantly be reacting to everything he did that I didn’t like. Once I accepted that it had nothing to do with me, I felt so much lighter. My dad got as close as I’ve ever heard him get to apologizing for past mistakes. He even admitted (not explicitly, but reading between the lines) that he was unnecessarily hard on me at times. He also admitted (without naming specific incidents) that he had done things wrong which he wishes he could do differently, but wants to do better for us now.

The current rift between my father and brother is because, on top of all this past baggage, he missed my brother’s ( planned in advance)  engagement party because he had to work.  Of course, my dad had a seemingly reasonable explanation of how he had a client trip that ran over and had to fill in for another driver who called out that day (my dad runs a chauffeur business). But at a point in time, family has to come first and you need to just refund the client and tell them to call an Uber Black. My brother won’t accept anything other than a hat in hand, abject apology which he will probably never get, and feel like he will cut off our father if he doesn’t get it. I’m a jerk so with any other person I would tell him him to go for it. But this is our dad, and I know my brother will one day regret it if they never make up. Plus, I feel like Dad is genuinely seeing the error in his ways and trying to make up for past mistakes.

I just came to a point where I asked myself, do you want to be right or do you want to have peace? I wanted peace. Dad has messed up before and odds are he will do so again. But I have stopped expecting things from him that he can’t give. He loves me, he is proud of me, and if I need financial support I will get it. But emotionally, there are needs he can’t always meet. And that’s okay. Fortunately I have a slew of other people who care about me. Nobody gets everything they want but I do have everything I need to create a happy life for myself. I’m just praying that my brother will discover he has the same.

New Year, New Me (for real though)

My fitness journey has been interesting. Today I am officially 10 pounds down from my highest weight. In the grand scheme of things, and my ultimate goal, that’s not a whole lot. You can’t see it yet. But I can feel it, and given that this has been my struggle for a long time I feel that I should celebrate my progress.

Some background: My parents weren’t the best fitness role models. My dad has had a potbelly as long as I can remember, although it has shrunk a bit since he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and started watching what he eats. My mom, on the other hand, is naturally slim. Her house is full of cookies and candy and she makes a pie every other weekend. But she can indulge her sweet tooth with abandon because her metabolism is super high. She’s had three kids and had a flat stomach up until her 50s (she’s 66 now and still doesn’t protrude, it’s just soft). And yet she HAS never lifted a dumbbell or done a crunch in her entire life. Guess whose genes I inherited? *eye roll* I’m figuring out what works for me, though.

  • You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it (#noNike). Turns out it’s a lot harder to half-ass something than to fully commit. Consistency wins the day. It’s not sexy, and it’s not fast but it gets results.
  • We have no idea what a serving size is. And it’s not our fault. The nutrition labels lie. According to my dietitian, a single serving of carbs is just 20 grams, which is about a half cup of anything (cereal, rice, beans, corn, etc.). I went back & reread some labels and basically, we’re screwed. We don’t know what a meat serving size is either (4oz of skin on poultry or fatty meat, 6oz of lean meat or seafood). A typical burger is 6 ounces of fatty beef but a typical salad (which costs 2x as much as the burger) comes with just 2 ounces of skinless chicken breast. It’s a recipe for failure.
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A true balanced breakfast.

  • Healthy people spend a lot of time cooking. Now of course some folks are okay with eating nothing but protein shakes, hard boiled eggs and the standard meal of chicken breast/tilapia, broccoli/green beans and brown rice/sweet potato for the rest of their lives. For those of us who require more variety in our meals…put on your favorite show and get in the kitchen. You’re gonna be in there a while. I actually enjoy cooking but I can’t cook ahead as much as I want because our fridge isn’t big enough. When we get a house I need the double wide one and a deep freezer.
  • You’ve got to move it, move it. Some people have just always loved being active. They played a sport for every season of the year, they run 3+ miles a day or else they “just can’t function”. It ain’t me. Yes, the exercise high is real but your mileage may vary. I haven’t yet had one that came anywhere close to the one I get from fresh baked brownies or some adult time with Tex (*wink*) though. I’m kinda jealous of those folks who o.rga.sm when they work out. If it was that good to me it would make getting off the couch a lot easier! My victory is that I no longer dread breaking a sweat. Most of the time.
  • Drink some water. Then drink some more. When you’re eating half the portion sizes you used to, cutting liquid calories is essential for you to not feel hungry. I try to empty a 24 oz water bottle 3 times a day at least. It feels easier than pouring a glass at a time. Is it boring? OH MY GOD YES. I’ve subbed out green tea (with a single teaspoon of honey) for my coffee, but I don’t always want a hot drink. So now I love Topo Chico sparkling water.

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Letting Go

I think my lesson for 2013 will be in “letting go.”

Letting go of:

anxiety

control

fear

 responsibility for other people’s feelings

insecurity

the cocoon of higher education

other people’s expectations

bad habits

 

This year is a paradigm shift. I’m turning 25 this week- a quarter of a century old. I’m graduating in 4 months, getting married in 8. I can unironically consider myself a grown woman now. But even though part of me is chomping at the bit to start my “real” life,  it’s scary too. Will I be able to handle all of my responsibilities for BLSA (and manage my exec board too)? Will I find a job? Will I get all my assignments in on time? Will my car break down? Will I have another dental emergency? Will I be a financial  burden on my fiance? Will my car break down? I swear, worrying is an unintentional hobby of mine and I could create a litany of things to be anxious about. But that kind of thinking is dysfunctional as well as an utter waste of time.

So much of my life has been spent in defense mode- trying not to repeat my own mistakes, or those of others. But even if I fail (and for me that could mean anything from actual failure, to simply not meeting my own sky high expectations) it’s not the end of the world. I’m young, and I will recover. More than that, I’m blessed. I surely didn’t make it this far all on my own. Tex has a job and is prepared for me to move in and support me while I search for a job- and who knows, I may even have one by graduation because I’ve got a couple of leads already! I’ve made a career out of pessimism and the worst case scenario has yet to happen to me. So why do I continue to carry an umbrella on a sunny day? It’s time to let it go.

HSP

Over the summer I read a book called The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. The premise of the book is that some people have an uncommonly sensitive nervous system.

The self-test is in the very first chapter (also available on her website) and I checked off 22 of 27 indicators. Huh. The test included such statements as:

I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days,into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.  <— THIS!!!!

Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me,disrupting my concentration or mood. <— Definitely, and if I put off eating for too long I get a migraine.

I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes. <— Reason #1 why I hate parties and clubs!

I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations. <— I like schedules because I need time to prepare myself for social situations.

I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time. <— One of the main reasons why law school stresses me out so much, and why I don’t want to be a lawyer. Deadlines on top of deadlines on top of deadlines.

I have a rich,complex inner life. <— Absolutely. I get so lost in thought I can completely ignore someone right in front of me.

I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells,coarse fabrics,or sirens close by. <— I can’t wear mismatched socks because my feet don’t feel the same, and I frequently cut the size tags out of my clothing because they itch.

My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself. <— Yes!

All of this rings so true for me. I’ve always thought there had to be a reason why it takes so much out of me to be around people. It goes beyond being introverted, because I had plenty of introverted friends in college who liked to party. They didn’t do it as much as my extroverted friends, but when they went out they genuinely enjoyed themselves. I can think of only 2 parties I really had fun at, and that was because the music wasn’t too loud and they started before my bedtime (midnight, in case you were wondering). Usually I just stay home. For example, Tex went out to a bar for a friend’s birthday Saturday night while I watched Halloween movies on the Disney channel. And I was perfectly fine.

But back to the book. I really loved it because Dr. Aron laid out my issues in a way that de-problematized them. There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just different. “Everyone, HSP or not, feels best when neither too bored nor too aroused. People differ considerably in how much their nervous system is aroused in the same situation, under the same stimulation.” See, I’m not a crazy 80 year old hermit lady stuck in a 23 year old’s body! I’m just sensitive. I pick up on everything and my mind is going 100 miles a minute at any given time. Tex always tells me I think too much, I tell him I can’t help it. For me, everything important happens in my head and the outside world is something I’ve learned to live with.

The thing is, I very much like the idea of socializing. When I get a house, I want to host fish frys, barbecues, tea parties, game nights, and themed dinners. But I also want people to show up on time and leave by midnight so I can recuperate. With people (and by “people” I mean everyone who isn’t Tex or an immediate blood relative), there is so much work involved. I have to smile enough and watch my tone so that they don’t think something’s wrong. I have to talk more than I’d like to avoid seeming rude. I like in depth conversations, but those don’t happen in groups because someone tends to change the topic every five minutes. I like being around people, but the optimal amount of socialization for me is maybe four hours a day. I can deal with 8 hours because I’ve been forced to by the workplace and the public school system. But after that? No. It’s just too much information.

I’m very intuitive with people’s moods, expressions, etc and I like things to be at equilibrium. However, most people are NEVER at equilibrium. That’s why I spend so much time with Tex–I love him, obviously, but more than that he is soothing. Why? Because he is PREDICTABLE. He’s not overly emotional so I don’t have to coddle him the way I did my ex. And when he’s upset, he will tell me why he’s upset and then curse at the tv while playing Madden and that’s it, he’s back to normal. He’s very plain spoken–no hints, no grudges, no prying information out of him, all his cards are on the table. It’s not that way with other people. Dr. Aron says, “What this difference in arousability means is that you notice levels of stimulation that go unobserved by others. This is true whether we are talking about subtle sounds, sights, or physical sensations like pain. . . This greater awareness of the subtle tends to make you more intuitive.” I can sense all these undercurrents of things going on, and trying to ignore them–or alternatively, decipher them–while carrying on pleasant every day conversation is just purely exhausting.

I’ve often bemoaned my lack of a party animal gene. But it’s hard when your HSP tendencies make you loath to go to even regular social events, and you feel like a big fat fail because what’s your excuse for not going to happy hour at the bar/a football game/the homecoming step show/etc? People just label you antisocial and pretty soon you’re reading tweets or looking at Facebook photos of events that nobody bothered to invite you to. Not that I’m mad. It just sucks to be misunderstood. You could have played the Hallelujah Chorus in the background the whole time I was reading this book because it described me to a tee. It makes me wish that basic psychology was a required curriculum in school. People skills are so important, and I think we would all treat each other better if we just knew where we were coming from. At the very least, maybe if we knew more about ourselves we wouldn’t feel so angry and misunderstood.