Taking the First Step

Yesterday I tweeted this quote: “‎The first step to somewhere new is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are.” ~JP Morgan

Surprisingly enough, I came across the quote while cleaning out my desk at work.  No, I haven’t switched jobs or anything like that.  At my job, it is common to move buildings or offices, and this is one of those times.  Our floor is being reconfigured and my team is moving to a new location (across the floor) next week.  But, I digress.

The quote was on a stack of cards I found at my desk, and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed (AGAIN).  I mean really, who keeps repeating this experience?  I’m over it.  Like my Pastor reminds us often, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  Well, it’s not that I’ve never had a calm, underwhelming life.  I just sometimes get in over my head and don’t do a good job of managing things.  So, this weekend, I tried some things that I hadn’t done before.

First, I deactivated my FaceBook account.  Not impressed?   I am.  I have over 750 fb friends, and yes, I do actually know all of them.  In fact, I periodically did a purge of my friend list.  Don’t be impressed by the numbers, I’m not.  FB friends are mostly acquaintances and family members.  My real friends, like those closest to me, can be counted on two hands, and that’s intentional.  In any event, I felt like FB was becoming a time suck, and I needed to do something about it.  So. Saturday morning, I posted a status warning my fb friends that I would be deactivating the account by the end of the weekend.  Here’s what’s crazy:  an hour later, I wanted to pull the trigger.  But, I waited.  I waited a whole 8 hours.  Then I pulled the trigger and hit deactivate.

It’ took me a couple of days to get used to not having a Facebook account.  It has now become very freeing.  Like REALLY freeing.  Which also tells me I spent waaay too much time on fb.

Second, I cooked Sunday for the whole week. This doesn’t sound eventful to most of you, I’m sure, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the woman who works all day and wants to cook dinner for her family when she comes home.  The thought alone wears me out.  And yet, I have a responsibility to do something. So I opted to find a balance.  Sunday afternoon, I invested about 3 hours of my time into either fully cooking or prepping meals for the week.  Some meals were frozen, others put into the refrigerator.  Granted, the week is only halfway through, but there is still food in there and I’m feeling really good about the lack of stress I feel in the evenings.  I don’t have to do anything but take out what was prepped and cook it (which takes SO much less time), or my husband can start dinner (or warm it up) before I get home.  Do you have any idea what a stress relief that is??

Lastly, I’ve cut back significantly on the television watching.  Why?  Another time suck.  Granted, today I’ve been posted in front of the tv because of the earthquake here in Richmond (can you believe we had an earthquake???).  But I’m committed to this very limited television thing.  I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity, and that makes me happy.

I think I’m on my way to moving out of the zone of overwhelm.  What’s funny is it has only taken a few tweaks.  That’s it.  A little advanced planning, a little discipline, and voila, less stress!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need to make some changes, I encourage you to take an assessment and then take some basic steps to make changes.  After all, the first step is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are, right????

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It Starts With One …

When I was a child, my parents enrolled me in Friends Association for Children.  Friends was a place that I remember fondly.  It was founded by Lucy Goode Brooks, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, as an orphanage for colored youth.   Friends opened its doors in 1871, and is still open today, with multiple locations and resources for young people of all ages.

A few years ago, Friends began selling the Lucy bracelet, a beautiful sterling silver bracelet that has a simple saying engraved on it, “Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”  I’ve been thinking about this statement for the past couple weeks.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m working on a project that is very near and dear to me. But I recognize that, while I believe the project will touch many lives, it isn’t a work of mine alone.  It is truly the work of “one woman and her friends,” because it takes some of my friends to complete the project.

I’ve thought about this as I watched the movie, “The Help.”  I read the book, albeit reluctantly, a few weeks ago, and saw the movie over the weekend.  I was glued to my seat, because it took “one woman and her friends” to step up and share their story in the midst of very real, very dangerous threats.  But it was through the sharing of that story that they gained freedom, freedom of self and freedom of mind.

And today, I thought about this quote as I watched, through teary eyes, our local news channel do its weekly “Acts of Kindness” story.  I was glued to the television because I knew the recipients of this week’s “Acts of Kindness” award.  They are #TeamBolton, who I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  They have spent this year, and the entire summer, dealing with their 4-year-old daughter’s diagnosis of severe Aplastic Anemia and enduring long hospital stays, a bone marrow transplant and many other challenges.  Yet, through it all, they’ve remained strong in faith, strong in spirit, strong in family and strong in love.  What was also touching, though, was that they were nominated by another friend, Frazelle Hampton, a single mother who had just gotten out of the hospital dealing with her own health challenges.  But she wasn’t thinking about that, she was thinking about how she wanted to be a blessing to #TeamBolton.  Frazelle did something amazing, with her friends.

“Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”  It doesn’t have to be a lot.  You just have to take a step.  Make a phone call, lend a helping hand, reach out.  There are so many opportunities to give to others, it’s hard to justify why you wouldn’t.  After all, you never know what impact you will have long term.

“Isn’t it amazing what one woman and her friends can do?”

Acts of Kindness Video

Smile

As you can tell from last week’s post, I’ve got a few things going on right now.  Work is busy, life is busy, and it is a little overwhelming. Tuesday night was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually rested, meaning, I wasn’t just sleep.  I got to close my eyes and rest, without random thoughts and dreams popping into my head.  I’ve taken a few days off from work this week, and was excited that my night of rest was a sign of better things to come.  I got up Wednesday morning, got in a great workout at the park, and thought, “Oh, yes, I’ve got endorphins, life is good.”  I even began to invoke my inner Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Legally Blonde”) and found myself saying, “Exercise gives you endorphins.  Endorphins make people happy.  Happy people [aren’t mean, they just aren’t].”  Sidenote:  the quote actually ends, “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”  I always change it to suit my situation.

Unfortunately, Tuesday night’s restful sleep was not night a sign of more restful nights to follow.  Correction:  it wasn’t followed by a restful sleep on Wednesday night.  Admittedly, this is my own fault.  While I am off work for a few days, there are a number of things going on, and I can’t let the ball drop on them.  Yes, this is where my workaholic tendency comes in.  I’ve been . . . monitoring . . . my BlackBerry.  Responding to the items I deem as urgent that no one else is in a position to answer, and skipping the rest.  I really should be putting the Blackberry away completely; I’m working on it.  It’s quite draining to plan a memorial service, and, frankly, my few days off are more about needing to focus on that than they are about needing time off from work (but I am in need of a vacation, honestly).

Now, I’m not here to whine or complain.  In the midst of my not so restful sleep Wednesday night, I had an interesting revelation.  Sometimes, in the midst of everything going on, you just have to smile.  You know, like the Kirk Franklin song says, “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”    So I’m smiling. And one of my favorite things that makes me smile popped into my dreams Wednesday night:

Yes, sometimes I dream in YouTube.  Don’t judge me.  But my YouTube dreaming made me smile last night.  Not just in my dream, but I woke up with a smile on my face (before I fell back asleep).  The video is cute, you know you laughed and probably watched it more than once, but it isn’t just about being cute.  It is a reminder that you have to take time out and just enjoy the special moments in life, the ones that make you smile.

My week isn’t all about sadness and stress.  Yes, it’s hard to know that my grandmother is gone, and even harder for me, who has spent my 33 years of life blessed with 4 living grandparents yet, in just 9 short months, I’ve lost 2 of them.  Work can be stressful, but I do enjoy what I do (most days, we all have “those days.”).  But I’ve laughed a lot the past couple weeks, I had a BLAST hanging out with my mom yesterday while we ran errands in preparation for the memorial service.  In other words, I’ve found the moments to make me smile in the midst of what can be a trying time.

What are you going through today that makes you feel down?  Don’t let it get you down.  Find your favorite thing, and make sure you Smile.  “You look so much better when you smile, so smile.”

Consequences

I was raised to understand that life has consequences, be they positive or negative.  If I lied, I got a spanking and some sort of punishment.  When I did my part in school (kept my grades up, no behavioral issues), I got rewarded with privileges and opportunities.  Well, Monday I had a lesson in consequences that, well, frankly, I’d like to forget.

We all know I think of myself as a professional traveler.  I know what to pack, how to pack it and in what order to pack it.  I had a business trip this week, and packed my things very carefully. When I arrived at the airport and went through the security gate, I was feeling very proud of myself, because I had put everything in such perfect order that I was about to go through a flawless security experience.  The TSA agent asked me, as I put my things on the belt, “Do you have any change?”  “No.”  “Do you have any liquids?” I pointed to my durable quart sized plastic bag already in the container.  “You’ve got it all covered, I see.”

I walked into the full body scanner thing, placed my feet in position, put my hands up and stood until I was told I could step out.  I stood at the end of the carpet confidently, knowing I had passed the security scan with flying colors.  “Ma’am, do you have anything in your pockets?”  “No.”  “Do you have anything in your left back pocket?”  I reach back, thinking, “I just said no.”  There was nothing in my left pocket.  In my right rear pocket, though, were two quarters.  “Okay, they’ll pat me down and I’ll be on my way.”

The TSA agent pats me down, then sends me to another woman who swabs the palms of my hands with a little cloth and runs it through the machine.  The screen lights up red and reads, “Alarm.”  I’m standing there thinking, “Really?  Their machine must be broken.”  I have a seat in the chair as they ask if I have on lotion.  “Of course.  I don’t like dry hands.”  “Lotion will usually set off that machine.”  As I sit in the chair, they proceed to go through my very carefully packed suitcase and purse.  Every nook, cranny and article of clothing was searched and re-run through a scanner.  It took 10 minutes to complete.  The TSA agent then asks me to follow her.

We go into another room that has frosted glass, where there is another TSA agent waiting.  They frisk me from head to toe.  I stood there, helpless, as they literally rubbed my entire body to see if I was carrying contraband.  I could feel tears behind my eyes, but refused to cry. Instead, I stared at the blank wall in front of me, praying it would all be over soon.  The only thought in my head was, “All of this for 50 cent?”

They finally released me.  I put my shoes back on, repacked my suitcase, and proceeded down the hallway towards my gate.  Never in my life have I felt so frustrated, helpless, and treated less than a person.  I get that these are TSA rules.  Rules are in place to create structure.  And the agents didn’t do anything wrong, they did their job.  I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.  I was supposed to check my pockets and make sure I had removed everything.  Not assume that, because I always get it right, this time would be no different.  The result?  A humiliating experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Sometimes, we need to listen when we have an opportunity to get things right.  We just need to slow down, and stop being a know it all.  Had I bothered to check myself when the first TSA agent asked if I had any change, none of this would have happened.  Every action has a consequence.  The question is, will it be something you want or something you wish you had gotten right the first time?

Clean Your Closet

This past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  Now, I know, that sounds like something uneventful.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  It took me a total of 8 hours to clean the closet.  I went through every article of clothing, every purse, every item hiding in the closet until I had purged it fully.  I left no stone (or item) unturned in that closet.  And, in the midst of my 8 hour cleaning spree, I had a revelation.

I realized that I had been allowing others to define things for me, without defining them for myself.  Take my closet, for example.  It was full of clothes that were given to me by other people, or things others thought looked cute on me but I had never really been quite sure.  In my closet were items I was holding onto for nostalgia sake, and waaaay too many t-shirts.  I had several “I’m going to fit into these again one day” dresses, suits, etc.  And as I kept working, I wondered where the clothes were that expressed who Rasheeda really is.

Well, 8 hours later, the results were in.  Here were the clothes that represented me

And this is all that I purged, or rather, donated to Goodwill:

Now, this may all seem silly to you, but it was a pretty significant moment for me. I’ve been going through a lot of growth and changes this year, and particularly in the recent months.  I took everything over to Goodwill immediately (well, the next day), because I didn’t want to change my mind on anything.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take some time to figure out what I like, what I really like, and rebuild my closet with those things.

For me, it really was my closet that needed the purging.  But for someone else, it could be anything:  your career, your spiritual life, your love life.  Take some time, hours, days, whatever it takes, to do a very thorough inventory, clean out the things that you need to, and purge them for your life.  The “closet” may seem empty, but that emptiness can be the most fulfilling emotion you’ll ever experience.

How Do You See It?

Whenever something happens that bothers me, my husband always reminds me that it is all about perspective.  Now, admittedly, this usually just irritates me, but not because I think there’s wisdom in what he says.  In fact, I do.  But usually, at that moment, I want to wallow in whatever is bothering me.  It just so happens that my wise husband doesn’t really allow me to do that.  Go figure :-).

He does make a good point, though. When things don’t go your way, how do you look at it?  Is it a learning opportunity, or just something else to upset you?  And if it’s the latter, are you missing the lesson?  We had a situation occur over the weekend that really upset me.  I had an unintentional emotional reaction, in spite of my best efforts to hold it in.  But once I got that out of my system, I took a moment to step back and look.  The situation, frustrating though it may be, was simply a challenge.  From my perspective, it was the physical manifestation of a spiritual attack.  So, taking that into account, I did the one thing I know to do in spiritual matters:  I prayed.  I prayed for the situation, I prayed for those involved and I prayed for myself.

There was a time where a situation like that would have shook me for days.  It would have left me in a funk.  But, as I’ve learned, it is all about perspective.  I can’t change what happened, but I can change (and control) my reaction to it.  There are things that take place every day that frustrate you.  You can wallow in it, holding on to the past, or you can change your perspective.  Identify what lesson or opportunity you may take from the situation.  Alter your perspective, I guarantee it will alter more than just your thoughts, but also your attitude, your behavior, and possibly even the outcome of the situation.

Spring Cleaning

I like to think I’m a fairly self-aware person.  My desire is to be aware of my feelings, my surroundings and my life balance.  Over the years, I’ve really gotten the hang of this self-awareness thing.  When I’m out of whack, it usually reflects in my daily life:  eating habits, my house (how clean it is reflects what’s going on inside of me), and my attitude towards others.  When I start getting snippy and lack patience, eating greasy junk food constantly and my house looks like it hasn’t seen a broom or vacuum in a while, it’s time for some re-evaluation.

Re-evaluation for me comes in the form of “spring” (or summer, winter or fall) cleaning.  It’s a very simple assessment for me.  I make a list of the things I think I’m supposed to be focusing my attention on.  I try to be very prayerful about it, and genuinely seek God on the items on the list.  It changes every time I do this exercise, because my focus this year may not be where I need to put my attention next.  I then make a list of everything that I am currently doing that takes my attention.  (It can get long.)  Then the real work begins.  I look at the list of everything I’m doing against the list of priorities, and scratch off anything on the “what I’m doing” list that doesn’t help me reach one of the priorities.

That usually means I have to step down or away from an organization or activity I’m involved in.  And, 9 times out of 10, it’s something that I enjoy, which makes it a very difficult exercise.  The decision to make the change is easy, it’s a matter of scratching things off my list.  But the execution; well, that’s the hard part, because I don’t like to disappoint people and, unfortunately, I still do some things because of others’ expectations of me, and not because of my own or, more importantly, what I believe are God’s expectations for me.

I’m in the middle of spring cleaning.  My list has been made, items have been crossed off, and now it’s time for execution.  Admittedly, I’m a little nervous about the execution.  There are some people who will be disappointed.  But, ultimately, I know it is the right thing to do.  Every time I’ve done this exercise it has opened up doors that would not have been available if I hadn’t been obedient.  So I understand the greater purpose, but it doesn’t make the process any easier.  Just necessary.

I believe we all need to “spring clean” our lives.  Maybe it’s our list of friends and associates (Facebook is a great start), or the activities we are involved with.  Or perhaps it’s simply habits that you have.  Take some time to re-prioritize and take inventory.  You may be surprised with not only what you find, but also what space you create for the next chapter in your life when you do this one simple exercise.

Happy Cleaning!