Welcome to June. We’re halfway through another historic year!
In light of young tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dramatic (and courageous) decision a few days ago to put her dreams on hold and practice self-care, I share the sentiments in this post as a reminder to all of us that what matters most is not material gain nor worldly success.
It is what flows into and from the heart that can make you or break you.
Let us live and lead with more empathy, truth and love, because everyone, at every level, needs it.
You never know what someone else is going through behind that smile, that frown, that fear, that anger, those actions or that attitude. So give everyone grace, because they don’t know your full story either.
Regardless of whether you thought Sunday’s bombshell Oprah+Meghan TV interview was worth your time, one of the revelations Meghan Markle shared during the two-hour conversation offered some wisdom:
As we pass the one-year milestone of pandemic living, we do indeed know that everyone is going through something, and wherever you find yourself on the pendulum, be intentional about judging less and caring more.
Nearly two months ago, in mid-January, I celebrated the Big 5-0. Like many people do as a milestone birthday approaches, I’d begun pondering months earlier just how I would celebrate.
I was super excited about this birthday, because 2011 – the year I turned 40 – had also been a big year of a big change in my family dynamics. I spent the decade between then and now leaning into my new role as single, co-parenting mom of two adolescents, making sure they had the nurturing, the education and the extracurriculars that would help them thrive and be prepared to discover their purpose. The choices and sacrifices I made during that season were more than worth it; but I was looking forward to launching this new decade with a special trip somewhere in that world that would serve as a kick off for more opportunities to explore never-visited American cities and states, and places around the globe.
Then came COVID. The world stopped, and along with having to help my son celebrate his high school graduation virtually and my daughter celebrate her college graduation without a formal ceremony, I had to abandon my looming 50th birthday plans.
Trust me, I know how minor these and a few other very disappointing setbacks were, given the tumult and loss unfolding every single day. I couldn’t complain (then or now), and I continue to seek ways to offer help and encouragement to friends and many others who are in need.
My past 12 months of pandemic living have been graced with many blessings, including a new job filled with meaningful work; settling my son into a college where he gets to run track; watching my daughter practicing “adulting” in a way that has made me proud(er) to be her mom, and everyone in my immediate family remaining healthy.
I know this hasn’t been the case for many people, including some of my closest friends and loved ones, and I don’t take it for granted. So, being the optimistic person I am, I turned my attention to creating a Plan B. For me that is my 50 While 50 List – i.e., a list of 50 things to do while I’m enjoying my 50th year.
I asked readers of my author newsletter to chime in with suggestions, and boy, did they answer. Between the 30 or so ideas I already had on the list and their wonderful ideas, I’ve now got a lineup of 67 things to do! Lol And if you know me, you know I’ll fit at least 50 things in during 2021 and “carryover” the other 17 into 2022, if necessary.
I promised my newsletter readers that I’d be sharing periodic updates on my progress in this space and this is my first 50 While 50 installment.
I’ve spent January, February and some of March keeping promises that are fun, practical, fulfilling and maybe a bit uncomfortable enough to stretch me, including:
Treating myself to a few favorite “non-everyday” foods whenever the whim hits me, including calamari and German chocolate cake. I haven’t gone overboard, but I’ve enjoyed leaning into those “why not today?” urges when they’ve randomly occurred.
Getting a colonoscopy. Not a fun task, but not a necessary one! It was uneventful, and it gave me peace of mind to check this off my list of responsible things to do.
Sitting in silence more than usual. As a writer, I often ponder and create in silence; but these particular quiet times have been filled with more intentional journaling, meditating, letting my thoughts roam free, praying, and envisioning some of my goals and dreams as reality. The process has helped me refine my goals and know myself even better.
Buying two instead of one. I’ve bought myself a bouquet of fresh flowers every two weeks, just because, for years. Since January, I’ve sometimes made it two – one bouquet graces a vase on my dining room table and the other is placed where I choose – my living room or family room or bedroom.
Taking time away. I spent a few days on the Chesapeake Bay, leaning into long walks, prayer time and socially distant meals and laughter with two of my closest sisterfriends. The experience was fun and gave me the clarity and courage to say yes to a few new things.
Spa-ing. I treated myself to a mid-week facial with a fun millennial esthetician, whose chatty style and excellent work left me refreshed and renewed.
I sat in on a virtual masterclass about the book-to-movie process, with goals of learning how to someday see my novels on the big screen.
I secured three sessions with a life coach to help me refine my short-term goals and to create an accountability plan. This has been a worthwhile investment!
These are just a few things, and it’s only mid-March. I’m enjoying this process and along the way asking myself a question that a professional acquaintance posed to me in a recent conversation: What will you do differently?
I’ve been leaning into that query in every area of my life, to ensure that I’m not just going through the motions or simply checking things off the list to say I’ve gotten them done. Either I am leaning into doing things the same as always because there’s a reason this way is best, or doing them differently because making slight changes will get me closer to the joy, the journey and the results that I want to be most impactful and lasting.
What about you? How’s your start to 2021? What are you leaning into? What are you willing to do differently? Regardless of whether this is a milestone birthday year for you, this can be a year that you set and reach new milestones, just because you’re worth it.
Share your plans in the comment section, and thanks for reading and cheering me on. As we all move forward and evolve as best we can, may we also remember our simple and significant blessings and pay them forward as best we can.
A message I watched on YouTube this week reminded me that just because we’re pursuing our passion doesn’t mean we’ll coast. In fact, living out our passion often requires sacrifice, late nights, elbow grease, and fits and starts. But because we love it, it’s worth it, right?
The story I’m writing these days is kinda like that – it requires digging deep, sitting in silence, answering the hard questions and embracing the authentic answers.
Yep, I’m talking about the novel I’m penning, but real life, too. For isn’t this how it’s supposed to work? Fiction is a reflection of life that’s meant to help you better understand yourself, and others. I’m excited to be in this “creating magic” phase.
Whew – if you’ve been following the news at all this past week, you’ll probably agree with me that we’ve had some kind of start to the New Year – the kind that has left me at a loss for words, while alternatively holding onto what I know to be true: The reality that even when darkness or mayhem gains a foothold, goodness will find a way to shine through, and inner peace is still possible. I’m clinging to that belief in 2021, and especially on today (Sunday, January 10) – my 50th birthday!
There are so many sappy cliches about this milestone that would be fitting to spout; but the simple refrain coursing through my mind, heart and spirit is that I am grateful, excited and feeling abundantly blessed.
My 50 While 50 Challenge One of the ways I plan to commemorate this special year is to challenge myself to do 50 Things While 50 – from simple delights such as treating myself to a few at-home spa days to achieving big goals like finishing my current manuscript-in-progress to lofty plans like preparing for a big trip abroad that I hope to take once it’s safe to travel again.
I’ve started a list of simple and significant experiences that will allow me to rejuvenate, reconnect with myself, have fun and reflect on my life’s next chapter, but I’m stuck at 35! Can you help me by suggesting a few pandemic-friendly things I can enjoy, learn from or find meaningful during this very special year?
Post your suggestions for me in the comment section!
Everything I choose must bring me some measure of joy, growth, peace or pleasure. I’ll write a brief update about each thing I check off my list as I plow through it throughout the year, and you can follow along by subscribing to this LifeUntapped blog.
I know that I’ll be thankful to have these memories to look back on someday and finding more ways to savor as much of life as I can, while leaving others feeling empowered enough and worthy enough to do the same – whether it’s through your reading something I’ve written or recommended; in our one-on-one dialogue; through social media, or any other means.
We can’t change others or the world around us; but we can protect the good within us and find the courage to share it broadly, come what may. Celebrating with you is one of the ways I’m turning up my joy.
As I focus forward, consider joining me! Why not create your own To Do list of simple and significant adventures for 2021, just for you and just because?
And if this is a milestone birthday year for you too, please accept my congrats and let me know how you’re commemorating it!
Recently I was invited by multi-published author, speaker and podcaster Suzanne Eller to join her in an online chat about what it means to live “Life Untapped” and remain steadfast in pursuing your dreams.
Listen in, then share your goals, desires and hopes – for the New Year and beyond. For our dreams are usually intertwined with our purpose, and when we lean into purpose and heed the calling in our soul, we are on the path to fulfilling some part of our destiny.
Be encouraged and either stay the course or start anew!
I’m honored this week to be a featured guest on Earrings Off!, a podcast focused on the journeys of women and men of color and how we are navigating this world with hope, authenticity, daring and candor.
Thank you to Earrings Off hosts Lou Ali and Teresa Vaughan for featuring me in Episode 35! I share how my love of writing developed as a young child and has been nurtured throughout my life by family, friends, mentors and readers.
Listen and be inspired to chart your own course from dreamer to doer, whether you’re a writer or passionate about some other endeavor.
Whatever your gift or talent is, you’re meant to share it with those in the world around you, so that in their joy of experiencing you, you too are rewarded.
Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.
In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.
So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.
There’s no excuse for random violence or senseless looting; they aren’t the same as peaceful protests, which are a means of visibly showing pain and rising up together. As I take a few days away from social media to reset, I’ll leave you with the 5-minute video below as some form of explanation for what many citizens of this nation are feeling and fearing. Please watch and listen. More than once, if you need to. Let your heart break with ours. See us as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, spouses, partners and friends that we are and summon your courage to empathize. For authentic caring does indeed take courage; and even if you don’t get it right at first and even if it feels uncomfortable, reach out and extend it to a colleague, friend, neighbor or relative who may be hurting. Then speak up, stand up and say their names with us. More importantly, help keep more names from being added to the list. Watching a man die on live TV/video broke our hearts – hearts that already had rips and tears. It was a form of secondary trauma. A tiny measure of healing may come (in time) by helping make real change, tangible and positive change, for the better. Can we all – every human being reading this – take on the challenge and do just that?
My husband and I have three boys. They are ‘all boy’ as the saying goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They call each other “brothers of another mother.” They’re adopted, you see.
As a young married woman 20-plus years ago, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us, we made $18,000 a year in stipends. Can you say “poor house?” I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.
Growing up in the swamp lands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage, that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart, with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.
Knowing how much money my husband and I had (or rather, didn’t have) between us, I knew that having a child while we were both in school was not wise. So we maintained our ‘family plan’ (kids after college) and I clipped baby pictures from magazines, secretly claiming them as my own.
I soon graduated and tried to replace the yearning with a full-time job, community volunteering, church involvement and writing. But the emptiness persisted.
My husband was still in grad school, but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997.
On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer, managing a $2 million grant program for the state.
On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.
At one point, someone at church suggested that we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the fertility treatments, basal thermometers and all of the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like an appealing option.
We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, and especially the kids. What if they’re not black like us, what if they’re developmentally challenged, what if they’re violent?
God answered all of those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
As I internalized that scripture, I realized it didn’t matter what the child He gave us looked like or acted like. What God had for us, was for us. I had peace with His plan.
Adopting was not easy. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today, I have three boys through three separate adoptions.
Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons.
Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.
Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her 10 works of fiction include three novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on the following social media platforms: Linda’s website, Linda’s Facebook page and Linda’s Instagram feed.