Archive for the ‘wellness’ Category

Under Water

A mortgage is said to be under water when a homeowner owes more than the house is worth. Calamity struck Wall Street and the federal rescue was praised and derided as a bailout, a term that brings to mind steel buckets of sloshing flood waters being passed from hand to hand. Lately I have been reflecting on how appropriate these metaphors are when it comes to my own bank account. I have been struggling with a personal financial crisis for nearly a year now and the all-consuming torrent, the undertow of frustration, worry, and shame can only be described as a kind of drowning.

Credit card debt, student loans, car payments, tax debt, cell phone contracts, daycare, home repair, and just generally living above my means; each dollar owed is a drop in a slowly, steadily-accumulating deluge.

But this post is not intended merely to be a confession. I want to pose a question: what is it about money, the abundance or the lack of it, that has such a profound affect on our state of mind? What – who? – gives it the power to make or break our mood, to shape how we view our self image, our potential, and our capacity to be generous in ways that have nothing to do with economic currency?

I’ve been following the weekly “Do-It-Yourself Bailout” series on NPR’s The Takeaway and one of the early segments asks: Why do we find it so hard to talk about money? Psychologist Stephen Goldbart offers a response:

People feel that when you ask about money, you’re asking them: do you have or do you not have self-esteem? Have you made it? Are you likeable? Are you dressed for success? How well is your life going? In effect in this country, money over-determines who we are, our self-esteem, and what we are as people.

Among the solutions that Goldbart proposes to distinguish “our financial worth from our self-worth” is to acknowledge the discomfort that we have when it comes to discussing money, to begin learning the financial basics, and to consider “the guiding principles that you want to have driving your life.”

The costs of failing to address these issues were brought home for me last month when the Insight Center for Community Economic Development released a study on wealth and women of color. (Wealth = total value of one’s assets minus debts.) Headlines prompted by the study seemed to suggest that single black women were “worth” five dollars. But after taking the time to read the Insight CCED’s study and its executive summary, I was more troubled by the finding that in all types of households, “prior to age 50, women of color have virtually no wealth at all.” The exponential impact of this wealth gap is rooted in multi-generational socio-economic policy and even cultural expectations that, according to the study, encourage women to neglect their personal financial goals in favor of family obligations.

In her forthright commentary on the Insight CCED study and black women’s spending habits, Kimberly Foster at The FreshXpress notes that “mental stability and health are inextricable linked to that of our bank accounts.” Which brings me back to my original question. How can we rise above the paralyzing silence in which we track our dignity in accordance with our debt?

Should we begin sharing facts and figures: our paychecks, our credit balances, our overdue notices? Should we form financial support groups and track our progress the way we count points at Weight Watchers? As convinced as I am that the seas of suffering can, indeed, be crossed “without pushing forward, without staying in place,” I am still striving to become financially literate in ways that unanchor material wealth from well-being.

How about you?

The images in this post are from the magnificent underwater sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor.

Finding Fifteen Minutes

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Yesterday I took a long hard look at my priorities. I’ve become so frustrated, so exhausted with my lousy time-management skills that I’ve decided to get creative with a strategy that I call Finding Fifteen Minutes. Simply put, I have two pretty reasonable goals that I’d like to reach by December and this is how I’m going to do it:

  • Finding Fifteen Minutes to Arrive Early: No matter what the appointment or obligation, I am forever arriving five minutes late. It’s embarrassing. (And no, I’m not gonna go there). I’ve tried all sorts of tricks – there’s not a clock in my house that isn’t set a few minutes ahead – and still I’m running out the door breathless and apologizing to receptionists, colleagues, girlfriends, and even my students for keeping them waiting. So now, instead of trying to finish that one last thing, I’m going to stop and remember that if I can just find fifteen minutes to leave a little early, I will cultivate a more peaceful mind and show a greater respect for the schedules of others.
  • Finding Fifteen Minutes of Activity: Okay, so we’re almost three months away from January 2010 and despite those resolutions I set earlier this year, my Sisyphean-like struggle with my weight continues. I can’t continue to “blame” the baby for this, now that she’s over three years old! I’m a devoted Weight Watcher and yet my biggest challenge is finding time to exercise. I can always find time to answer another email, so why not this? I have to go back to basics and I’m going to tell myself that if I can just find fifteen minutes to be active everyday, I will feel better physically and mentally – and maybe I’ll drop fifteen pounds yet.

Such commitments, while seemingly small, require sacrifice. Finding fifteen minutes to arrive early or to exercise means fifteen minutes less time spent on Twitter or in front of the TV watching President Obama on David Letterman. It means being attentive to the world around me and not the last, forgotten priority on my list. Let’s hope that posting this will help me to hold myself accountable.

What about you? Struggling with your priorities these days? How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming?

Produce!

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Up here in The Bottom, we are enjoying the first tomatoes from our backyard garden this week. And can you believe it, they actually taste like real tomatoes! The jalapenos have come along nicely too, so I’m going to make a small batch of salsa today and some pesto sauce with the bunches and bunches of basil. What a joy it is to grow something!

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Hello 3-0

candle_flameMy 30th birthday gift arrived in the mail today. It came to me sealed in a thick envelope. When I opened it, the contents read:

Intuition

I framed it and had it placed visibly on the wall of my consciousness.

Today, on May Day, I celebrate 30 years of wisdom. 30 years on this earth. 30 years of highs, lows and all of the lessons that have fallen in between.

The 20s have been significant for me. It was the era where I lived independently and on my own for the first time. It was the era where I questioned God and found answers within myself. It was the era where I learned to define my life on its own terms and under my own rules.

It is the era where I began to allow my intuition to guide me.

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The Growing Season

basil_garden

First Sprouts of Basil in the Bottom

Every morning for the past two weeks, including this Earth Day, I’ve peeked out the window to see the garden that my daughter and I have planted in the backyard. This is my first attempt at growing vegetables and herbs; hopefully in the months to come, we will be eating tomatoes, jalapenos, basil, and thyme from the tiny plot of land.

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“The Hamdog”

The tumblr blog, This is Why You’re Fat, is changing my life. Seriously. Its craptacular stomach-turning absurdity has kept me from reaching for another french fry all week.

What’s especially clever is the way the site focuses on the food we eat, devoid of the usual sumptuous marketing presentation, rather than directly condemning those who create or consume it. All of us are implicated as a result. I even like the blog’s crude matter-of-fact title and their motto: “Where dreams become heart attacks.”

"The Hamdog"

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

It’ll make you think twice about super sizing or adding extra bacon – that’s for sure.

Behold, for example, “The Hamdog,” which is described as a hot dog wrapped in a beef patty that’s deep fried, covered with chili, cheese, onions, served on a hoagie bun topped with two fistfuls of fries and a fried egg.” (picture credit)

How many Weight Watchers Points do you think this thing is worth?

A Different Kind of New Year’s Resolution

fireworks3On New Years Eve 2008, I decided to opt out of the French Quarter fireworks ritual that I’d maintained over these past few years and instead, stay home and reflect on my goals for 2009.  In an effort to visualize and truly remind myself of where I’d like to focus my thoughts this year, I made a vision board.

Vision Board 101

A “vision board” is basically a collection of images and/or phrases posted onto a board that you place in a visible area in your home so that each day your are  reminded of your goals, dreams, and aspirations. It can also serve as a positive affirmation to get you through those tough times.  The process of making the board itself is very mindful and purposeful. The best images and phrases can be found in magazines, especially those that cater to women. I’ve got a pretty healthy collection of Oprah, Essence, Newsweek, Time, and Entertainment Weekly so there are no shortages of pictures and images that relate to almost every area of my life – career, health, love – it’s all there.

The beauty of making a vision board is that it’s your vision, so wherever you want to see yourself or whatever quote provides the best inspiration – you get to decide where it will go and what relevance it will have on your board. Now, of course I can’t take credit for this concept.  Big shout out to Oprah! (And this blog also has more information.)

So what are some of the things on my board?

lemon_on_treeAt the center,  there is a picture of a tree with lemons falling around it. The phrase says, “Are you ready for change?” And indeed, I am.  Just below that picture is the statement, “I will pass the February 2009 Bar Exam.” It’s written in fairly large letters so that each day when I wake up, I consciously and on purpose shift my thinking in this direction.

2008 was a pretty stressful year for me. So I’ve got a lot of positive affirmations that I found to help me get through the trials that may come in 2009. They are:

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My Worst Week

scarecrowThe hard drive on my Mac Book died and with it, a very precious document that I had been working on, and NO I didn’t have it backed up (*sigh*). My daughter’s favorite teacher resigned from her school. And my debt to sanity ratio is wildly out of balance so, sorry, Visa, ’cause I just don’t know when you’re going to get your money.

What a crappy week. I can’t decide whether I feel most like Michael Jackson’s Scarecrow from The Wizyou can’t win. You can’t break even. And you can’t get out of the gaaaaame. Or, in my darkest moments of foot-stomping frustration, Mabel King’s Evilene, The Wicked Witch of the West. I want to growl at those creepy winged monkeys…don’t nobody bring me NO BAD NEWS!!!

How ironic that this is the week Frieda and I committed to making “Gratitude Lists” to celebrate the holidays. Nevertheless, what began as a grand cosmic joke has, surprisingly, become an invigorating challenge. Writing this list forced me to look beyond the craptastic circumstances of my present moment and think on those things that bring lasting value.

Kadir Nelson's illustration for "Please, Puppy, Please"

Kadir Nelson's artwork for "Please, Puppy, Please"

And so this year, in no particular order, I am grateful for…

  • my baby girl’s perfect, tiny brown toes
  • the way my husband laughs – loud and long – whenever he watches TV bloopers (particularly those involving dogs)
  • any book illustrated by Kadir Nelson
  • the opening chords of John Coltrane’s “Naima”
  • the daffodils that used to grow in my grandmother’s flower garden.
  • the simple genius of Marguerite Abouet’s graphic novel, Aya
  • corn on the cob (Seriously, can you believe this stuff grows naturally out of the ground?)
  • the vote I cast for Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
  • my first cup of coffee in the morning
  • singing along to HBO’s Flight of the Conchords in my car
  • the salty smell of the Chesapeake Bay at my “Home by the Sea”
  • the personal joy of writing this blog with my best pal
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TBoH Gratitude Project

poinsettia_crocheted-1Dear Readers,

This week Frieda and I are compiling “Gratitude Lists.” The project is a small, simple step in our effort to celebrate the holidays in a more thoughtful, compassionate, and less materialistic manner. We are taking note of all the things for which we are grateful or that make us feel wonderful to be alive in these trying times. “Things” in this instance, refer to special moments, people, places, inspirational ideas, activities, and anything else that does not necessarily come with a price tag. We’ll each post the top 10 items on our lists next week.

Why not join us?

Write your 2008 Gratitude List and email it to thebottomofheaven [at] gmail [dot] com by Saturday, December 20 and we’ll publish your top 10 items, too.

We can’t think of a better way to share our gratitude for all the readers and new friends we’ve found in the Bottom!

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