My gift from nature this past weekend was “meeting” a turtle on my morning walking route. The encounter was a reminder that whatever our destination or goal, slow and steady can still win the race.
After I passed the creature I began to worry that the cars zooming down this neighborhood road might crush it.
But when I looped back around to check, I saw that the turtle had somehow scurried out of harm’s way and found safety alongside a curb – providing another nugget of wisdom: that even as we persist, it’s vitally important to practice self-care.
I’m sure that turtle will get wherever he or she was headed, and the important thing will be doing so as whole and strong as possible.
Over the past two weeks several friends that I hold dear have lost loved ones to the coronavirus. My heart goes out to Helena, Robert, Pam, Gwen and Teresa. And also to other friends whose relatives are fighting to recover or to live.
While I pray for them and the millions who are suffering in some way due to this virus, I also pray for those of us whose impact has thus far been limited to having to shelter in place and sacrifice our norm. For let’s be real: This right here isn’t normal.
There’s the surrealness of it all. In may ways, it feels like we’re living out a sci-fi movie.
There’s the surrender required during it all. This is when the best place to be is at the center of the storm, wrapped in the Almighty’s embrace, due to what we can’t control.
And certainly, there’s the shifting of it all. Those of us who survive will come out of this indefinite period of disruption changed, no matter what.
If we’re intentional, perhaps this era will leave us wiser, more gracious, more authentically ourselves and more focused, connected and settled – ready to live our purpose or lean into discovering the next phase of our life’s unique calling. And many will be like my friends – forever touched by the losses this difficult season has wrought, fighting to forge ahead.
Wherever you land on this spectrum, be gentle with yourself, yet determined not to let this time of shutdown be a blur.
This doesn’t mean you must write that book, build a new business or “boss up” in some other way, although if you’re up to it, you can. What this season does offer is a chance to do the deep work to polish the gem your life already is.
Be courageous and love more deeply – yourself first, so you can truly love your neighbor.Look within and be real about the state of your soul. If you’re good, remain steady and firm and pour out from that full well. If you’re shaky, use this time to brutally self-examine, forgive yourself and others, and do whatever else it takes to transform into a person you’re proud of and gracious toward. We all have room to grow.
Challenge yourself to avoid self-numbing to the point of missing the lessons you’re meant to learn or the blessing you’re meant to be to others. Be okay with everything not being okay. And even so, still find a way to live, love and laugh your way through as much of this as you can.
That’s what the doctor’s and nurses on the front lines are doing with the dances and songs they’re flooding social media with, between their calls to loved ones of dying patients.That’s what so-called “ordinary” people around this nation and globe are doing as they find time to help a neighbor or stranger, or celebrate someone’s birthday while social distancing or make an extra phone call to say hello, or share a meal or buy someone’s groceries. That’s what every essential worker is doing every time he or she leaves home to do a job that could be putting him or her at risk; and every teleworker who is pouring into others online, via email and on calls, keeping systems in place and processes moving forward.
I heard on the news (which I watch sparingly) today that social distancing and sheltering in place is slowly but surely making an impact. Certainly, we’re not out of harm’s way. There are more waves of valley moments seemingly ahead. But what this proves is that the one thing we CAN control during this time is our choices.
Choose to continue being a ripple in the proverbial ocean. Your sacrifices and prayers, virtual hugs and words of encouragement, dollars and donations, and other acts of kindness, are making a difference. For those who are grieving, we grieve with you.For those who have something to celebrate (birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, end of cancer treatments) we celebrate with you.For those who are struggling, we see you and are helping however we can. If you feel unseen or unheard, don’t go it alone. Reach out to a friend or relative or even a stranger; for right now, we’re all family.
For those who took time to read all of this, please receive my virtual hug and smile. Know that I am praying for you, and for our world.
Also hug yourself and think about things that make you smile. Cry if you must; curse if that helps. Then, rise up and resolve to push through. Let your faith edge out the fear, and conquer the battle for your mind and your sense of hope.
Embrace this sober wisdom that my late mother shared with me in our last conversation in 2005: “Sometimes you have to lose to gain.” We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but If we’ll endure through this night, morning will come, beauty will replace ashes, and hope and healthiness will reign through the land once again.
Sending a virtual hug and heartfelt encouragement your way today. Take a few minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Take a walk or engage in some other type of exercise for just 15 minutes. Read or utter a prayer and an affirmation of hope and healthiness. Love and be kind to yourself. Love and be patient with others. Find a few reasons to laugh, if you can. We are going through a global traumatic event; but rather than give in to fear and panic, may we all more readily lean into the faith and the peace that come with trusting God. Through thick and thin, when we understand and when we don’t, He is there. Let us continue to be His hands and heart and listening ear in human form.
Don’t let the truths about yourself scare you; let them grow you.
If you had no work to do, life wouldn’t be called a journey.
It’s your choice whether to risk the messiness that comes with living fully or play it safe and end up with a pile of “What ifs?”
Be willing to do the work and create a masterpiece. This will be your legacy, and perhaps, the memories you someday cherish most.
I slid the balcony door open, walked to the end of the railing in front of me, and stood there. Soaking up all of the beauty. To my left was the sun rising as it peaked through the palm tree leaves that swayed from left to right. In front of me was a picturesque view of someone parasailing over the aqua blue water beneath them. To my right was a middle-aged man wearing earbuds and walking a trail in the 70-degree weather that would peak at 90 degrees by midday.
I sat down and reflected. I was on vacation. I could finally stop for a few days and do nothing. No emails to check. No meetings to hurry to and no numbers to crunch. No football practice to scurry a child to. No choir performance to slip in the back of the auditorium to hear my baby’s alto voice melodically come through. Nothing but me, God’s creation, and the fears I had decided to toss into the body of water in front of me.
Back home in the U.S., where I was a leader in my community and at work, I often had to be mindful of eyes watching me – which made me as cautious as the seasoned woman I observed wading in the beach water in front of me, holding the arm of the person who walked beside her. My trip to paradise allowed me to throw caution to the wind, however, as I boarded a catamaran and sailed with the native who guided the vessel to the furthest part of the blue horizon that I could see with my naked eyes. As I sat there on the open vessel, I realized that I had conquered a fear.
You see, I had pondered that boat ride for a few hours, afraid I would drown like I almost did at 10 years old. Only this time, it was not a pool. I was surrounded by water so deep I was sure that if I took a plunge, the life jacket would not save me. At this moment, on the catamaran, I felt superior. Fear no longer controlled me.
Traveling exposes you to many sites and experiences and provide opportunities to reset, regroup and refresh. One could choose to go thousands of miles away from home or simply a car ride down the street. The idea is to get away and do things outside your norm. I’m glad I did, and I encourage you to do the same. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.
DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of a novella, The Metamorphic Journey, about three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement she founded to provide individuals with opportunities to foster personal growth. DaNika has served as a higher education administrator for more than 20 years and is currently the CFO of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. A recent graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, she holds several other degrees and uses that knowledge, coupled with her expertise in transformational leadership, to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at www.themetamorphicjourney.org.
Vacations are great for many reasons – they give you a chance to do nothing if you want; to savor each moment without rushing; to be fully present in your here and now.
What I’ve learned over the years is that this even applies to breaks from social media. (According to a recent Washington Post article, a Pew Research Center study shows that 68 percent of Americans have either temporarily signed off of social media this year or left various platforms for good.)
I took time away from my social media pages last week and part of this week to brainstorm a few writing projects; to connect with fellow writers and authorpreneurs, and to strategize/envision my first quarter of 2019.
All good stuff and worthy of the focus I gave.
But equally important was the time I took to enjoy each day and each encounter – from leisurely reconnections with longtime friends and the meeting of new ones, to an empowering luncheon with amazing women leaders to the simple yet heartwarming phone chats with two of my 20-something nephews, who (unbeknownst to each other) called me out of the blue last week to shoot the breeze. Both of them made my day. 🙂
So my point? Consider taking your own social media break (whenever and however long suits you best) to enjoy your family and friends in real time. Focus on some goals away from the hustle and bustle of the internet highway.
It can be refreshing and revealing, and perhaps you’ll return ready to appreciate – all the more – the good that comes from connecting online, as well as the good you rediscovered within.
Bring your best self to life today by reminding yourself that you’re a gift.
Only you can grace us with that smile, that laugh, that funny story, sweet song or moving prayer.
Only you can lead that tribe or love those lost ones or help others find their joy.
Only you can live the purpose that is tucked inside of you, and often straining to be birthed.
No one else sings with your tone, writes with your voice, walks with your style, hugs with your heartiness or lights up a room in your uniquely perfect way.
So just be you today, and be grateful for others around you who are being their authentic selves, too.
Here’s a resolution most parents should consider making a habit: practicing self-care, and viewing it as a gift to their families.
Many — in particular moms, and especially those of young children — tend to feel guilty if they take time away from their sons or daughters to focus on themselves. However, research and anecdotal evidence show that when parents are fulfilled and balanced, that contentment permeates their lives, including their interactions with their families.
So while they may have taken time away to pursue a career endeavor, hobby or some social time, for example, if they return invigorated or restored, that joy adds to the quality of time with their beloved youngsters.
With this in mind, I encourage my fellow parents to take off your superwoman or superman capes in 2017, and neatly fold and tuck them away for special occasions.
Because day to day, the person you are is the person your kids will emulate.
If your goal is for them to honor and value themselves while treating others kindly and generously, you must remember their best and first teacher is you.
Taking some “you time” gives your children a chance to watch you thrive at something you enjoy or that simply makes you smile, and it gives them a road map for how to someday support the goals and interests that are important to anyone they value.
During this resolution season, consider finding a few minutes of quiet time to reflect on what you most enjoyed “BP” — my newly coined phrase for “Before Parenting.”
If it’s helpful, write a list of five or 10 things you once considered fun or meaningful, but put on the back burner.
Depending on the season of parenting you’re in, you may or may not have time or interest in revisiting the things that once held your attention, but even if your list feels dated, it can serve as a reminder of who you are and what gives you energy.
Simplicity usually yields success, and here are some suggestions:
Commit to getting more exercise, whether that means joining a gym that has a kid-friendly playroom or finding a neighborhood walking or running partner with whom you can forge a friendship and fitness accountability.
Check in regularly with your friends by phone to stay abreast of their lives, or invite them over for dinner or a game night, and allow their kids to come. It’s great for your young children to see Mom and Dad have “play dates” or for your older ones to see you enjoying life beyond parenting.
Trade babysitting with a trusted friend or relative, and use your free time to visit your favorite bookstore for a few hours, go to a movie or hang out at your favorite coffee shop or eatery.
Informally pick a parenting mentor (or two) a few years ahead of you, who can help you navigate decisions and ease your worries during certain developmental stages. If you know that middle school is an awkward time for most kids and how that plays out for each gender, for example, you may assess your child’s behavior from a calmer place.
Try something new, and don’t be afraid to let your kids see you struggle or fail. Show them the right way to handle new opportunities or to withstand their own challenges by managing yours with grace, maturity and responsibility.
Commit to being the best version of yourself possible, and watch yourself and your children blossom as a result.
Editor’s Note: A variation of this post first appeared in Stacy’s Richmond Times-Dispatch parenting column, Life Notes, in January 2017.