Motivation

Last week, we had a birthday celebration for mi abuela (grandmother). Most of those in attendance were vaccinated, no one had been sick or tested positive for some time before, still wore masks, and tried to keep a level of distancing between everyone. We had, for obvious reasons, not celebrated last year, and she really wanted to have something for this year. Less family in attendance and her being vaccinated was the compromise we came to. Basically, it was a small gathering with family I had not seen for several years.

Unsurprisingly, the first topic of conversation and approach my family took with me was commenting on my weight loss. Now, none of the questions or comments were mean-spirited or ill stated or harmful. Frankly, I expected it to be a topic of conversation because I have lost a significant amount of weight since most of them had last seen me. And, to be fair, it has usually been the first thing mentioned when meeting with people who I have not seen for some time. It’s natural that people would notice and discuss an obvious change. Pretty sure I could find some articles or studies about how it’s a biological, evolutionary trait, so not really a big deal for me when people comment on it; at least, not anymore.

And, that was the biggest surprise for me: the lack of issue. With other attempts to lose weight and regulate my health, comments on my progress would send me into a bit of a tailspin. Whether positive or negative, I would start to question what I was doing or how I was doing and would eventually fall off the wagon and just stop progressing, usually regressing. Obviously, other people’s opinions are not the reason why I ultimately failed in my goals. The blame for that lies at my feet, but these stimuli didn’t help in that process. This time around, however, I just took acknowledged their compliments, answered their questions, took any other comments in stride and moved on with the conversation. No fuss, no muss.

I am not sure what is different this time, but I think a large part of it is that I have internalized a lot of my motivation and process. Maybe it’s partially because I have not had to deal with outside influences as much during the ongoing pandemic, but eating well, working out, and simply being more cognizant of my body has become a habit more so than something I have to actually consider. There are still moments where I have to actively choose not to go for a slice of cake or bag of Skittles (Wild Berry is still top tier junk food), but, for the most part, it is no longer an obstacle for me and not something I think about.

Yet, this has only become second nature for the working out and adjusted diet to the point where I feel off if I don’t do something active in the day or stray to far off from newer eating habits. On the other hand, I still struggle with completing and working on other goals like this website or my reading goals or creative pursuits. It is infuriating at times, but my grandmother’s birthday party might have provided some insight. As much as the commentary didn’t affect me, it was still validating to get recognition of my progress and change. With the weight loss, I have had external evidence of my choices the entire time. Clothes that were tight are now loose. My stamina has improved greatly. My sleep is so much better and restful. I am far less tired during the day. I see and feel my muscles growing. So, even though I have internalized a lot of the motivation and reasons for these choices and changes, I had had evidence of their benefit to witness and acknowledge. Not so much for my other goals.

There is not really a way to gauge if I have grown more mindful or spiritual or have achieved a better sense of self as there is with physical activity and change, or one that is as easy to measure. I can see the books I have read, but have they helped expand my perspective or improve in some way? I have listened to differing views and perspectives from a wide array of voices, but have I truly learned or gleamed anything from them? I am realizing that it is harder for me to internalized these concepts because of the lack of concrete evidence of their usefulness. I am not saying that they are not useful; simply stating that it is harder to be motivated for something that doesn’t have concrete, physical markers to reinforce the chosen actions. Or maybe it’s just me that has trouble with motivation in this manner?

In the end, just like with previous failings, the actual outcome will ultimately depend on me and my choices. I will have to figure out a way to motivate myself and make the necessary changes to fulfill my goals or move on from them. Either way, it’s all a matter of figuring out how to

-Be Better.

P.S. if anyone has suggestions on how to be better motivated and fulfill creative, long term endeavors, please feel free to drop some in the comments. Would love to get some ideas.

Seeing Signs…

I have an illogical prejudice toward the supernatural in its many embodiments and concepts. I understand the oxymoronic nature of the previous statement, but it is nonetheless the best way to state my relationship with such things. Some superstitions and frameworks I believe wholeheartedly while other are unambiguous bullshit to me. For the rest, I approach with heavy skepticism. Even so, there are still moments where I have trouble deciding if an event is coincidence or some sort of sign.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading a great book, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I won’t go into the full synopsis, but the overall themes of choice and active involvement in life were exactly what I needed to read at that moment. I was in a bit of a crossroads as to what to do concerning certain aspects of my life and how to move forward, and that book really gave me perspective. It didn’t answer all my questions nor quell doubts, but it did provide a sort of lighthouse amid the ocean chaos and concerns.

More recently, I got a subscription to Apple+TV to finally watch the much recommended and lauded show of Ted Lasso. It is deserving of all the accolades, and, as with all great shows, I binged all the available episodes. So, to not waste the new subscription, I looked around for other programming I might enjoy which is how I came across Mythic Quest. A comedy show based on a fictional video game company created by the minds behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia starring several great and talented character actors: yeah, that sound right up my alley. And it was, but somehow it was also an interesting meta commentary and exploration of creativity, drive, talent, corporate involvement in art, and the kind of people and personalities that thrive in and make careers and lives around the creation of art.

One scene in particular stuck out to me. In the finale of season 2 (potentially the series finale), Dana (a game tester with aspirations of becoming a game programmer and designer) is rejected from a game design program and goes to her bosses, Ian and Poppy (the co creative lead designers of the titular video game) for advice and guidance. They, very much in character, utterly trash the simplistic game Dana has created (and truthfully it is a very poorly designed “game”). However, amid the criticisms and put downs, both Ian and Poppy directly ask Dana a question: “Would you stop building this game if I told you it sucks and is not worth the effort?” Dana, respectfully, states that she thinks they are both great designers and programmers and respects their input and guidance, but no, she would continue working on her game because she genuinely believes that it could be great. She doesn’t know how or why and cannot come up with any explanation or defense of her naïve belief, but she does.

In response, Ian and Poppy tell her that she still has a job at the company, that they are pulling strings to get her into a game design program closer to the area and her current level of skill, are helping to pay for school, and are offering her a position at the company upon graduation. Dana is flabbergasted by Ian’s and Poppy’s reactions. She wonders if they believe in her and/or her vision. They respond, without hesitation, that no they do not. Her game sucks, and they have absolutely no idea if she will be at all capable of creating a good game once she graduates. However, they tell her that even when her bosses and creative idols told her that her game sucked she still wanted to keep working on it, and that is what separates her from the rest of the aspirational designers in the company. It’s not her skills or talent or creativity that will make her successful, but her innate belief in her vision and willingness to keep working toward making it a reality.

Obviously, that drive won’t necessarily lead to a great final product, the show and characters basically state as much, but it is a necessary component of creation and progress in virtually any endeavor. You will fail; you will fall; you will be diminished, doubted, and demoralized. And in those moments the only thing that will keep you going is the desire to do so and belief that you are actually worthy and capable of accomplishing what you want. Somehow, that was what I needed to see and hear at this moment again.

Now, I’m not claiming to be a full believer or anything, but sometimes there are actual signs trying to guide us. And even if it is all just coincidence and looking for greater meaning, what is the difference if the message and inspiration is still seen and felt? After all, it is still with intention to simply…

Be Better.

Setbacks…

For the first time since I earnestly began monitoring my health and weight since October with the intent of losing weight and improving my overall health, I had a setback: I gained weight back. It was not a tremendous amount. I did not need to buy new clothes, did not need to consider medication, did not need to make any unexpected, huge adjustments, but it was still a bit demoralizing.

Now, to be fair, this latest attempt is not the first to get my health in check; it just has been the most successful to this point. In the past, whenever I hit such an obstacle in the process, I would backtrack, immensely. Usually, I would just kind of throw in the towel, stop exercising with any regularity, and jump back into bad eating habits resulting in weight gain beyond initial starting process.

This time around was different. I was, obviously, disappointed but didn’t give up. I took a moment, observed the circumstances, figured out what didn’t go according to plan, and reset myself. It was an interesting development compared to past actions, and I think having been more conscious and cogent of my actions and goals actually helped. I took a day off and went back on my exercise schedule without resorting back to less than ideal eating habits.

Overall, the last few months of physical, mental, and spiritual (for lack of a better term) have been very helpful in managing my expectations, results, and adjusting when necessary. Not saying it has been easy, but even with the setbacks and obstacles that have arisen, I don’t feel like giving up, nor do I feel like my goals are now some insurmountable mountain off in the distance.

Consistency, discipline, and effort, if done and used correctly, actually work? Who would have guessed? (Obvious sarcasm marker because it is the internet)

Basically, at the end of the day, setbacks suck, but they will happen. Response to those obstacles are what matter. Keep going to the best of your abilities and keep trying to

-Be Better

It’s Been Awhile…

Welp, long time no see/hear/read, I guess…

Like, a lot of people, I had several plans and goals for this year. There were plans, outlines, schedules made, etc., etc., and, as I am sure for many, one of Steinbeck’s seminal works proved true as it is wont to do. I wish I could say there was some great upheaval or something, but, in reality, what happened was simply life.

Work and living through an ongoing pandemic kind of got in the way of what I had planned for the year along with, frankly, just not really knowing what to do. The major setback was this site and updating. Of course, now that I am aware of this setback, I need to rectify it by actively engaging with this idea and site far more than I have been. With that in mind, I need to center and focus what I want this to be, so while I have not reached what I wanted to do with this, I have a better concept of what needs to be done to meet the goals I set.

On the bright side, I have actually kept up, so far, with other goals I set for this year. I have read several books on various topics from diverse authors. I engaged with more diverse media from Black, Brown, Asian, and various artists across the spectrum. My finances are in a better position than they were at the start of the year. I have managed to lose weight, gain some muscle, and have overall improved my physical health. Obviously, there is more improvement to be made and had, but I have managed to keep most of my promises to myself, thus far.

So, now is the time to access, learn, redirect, and move forward for future evolution and development. And as always,

Be Better.

P.S. If it weren’t for potential DMCA and copyright issues, I would have put Staind’s “It’s Been Awhile” as background music on this post.

Sometimes It’s All We Get…

It has been a hell of a week for many in the United States. I am/was lucky that while in a state that declared an emergency, my friends, family, and myself were left relatively unscathed. The worst of it was temporary power and internet loss, but no property damage nor loss of life which is a blessing in any capacity, especially when compared to the tragedy and devastation others have passed through.

Suffice to say, this year has not been going as many had planned or hoped for. While there are undoubtable improvements over 2020, 2021 has come with its own hardships and surprises, and it has only been two months. Frankly, at times it is damn near impossible to just even get out of bed, and that is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes, surviving is the biggest accomplishment we can claim, but damn if it is not a significant one because not everyone can claim it.

So, if during an ongoing, year long global pandemic with a “once in a lifetime” snowstorm barraging the American South and financial recession/depression circumstances popping up, the most you can do is wake up and try to get through the day, take the “win” and splurge, if you can, for the better cup of coffee and grab that glazed or cream filled donut. Let’s face it, the world has drastically changed, and it is unclear what the new normal reality will eventually be. Accordingly, it is difficult to plan for the future and progress on your path because of an unclear, ever changing landscape of what the world is and will be.

I’m not saying don’t plan or act. However, if you find yourself losing steam or taking more time to do things, even stuff you enjoy, don’t take it too hard or punish yourself unnecessarily. This, all of this, will pass, someday. Until then, maybe the best we can do is simply make it to the next day, and that is more than enough.

As well, the last few weeks have shown that the only real change, aid, and hope we can depend on will come from ourselves. So, if you can, please donate time, money, resources to the multitude of organizations that are helping those who have lost homes, loved ones, food, water, etc. Really this is the most immediate action you can take to help and to…

Be Better.

Suffering Truth

There is a recent Netflix movie that I watched called Malcolm and Marie. It’s an interesting film that focuses on a couple arguing and discussing their relationship and each other over the course of a night. While not necessarily a novel idea, the two actors (Zendaya and John David Washington) playing the couple have chemistry and are very talented thespians. Admittedly, I was not initially interested in this film, but found myself intrigued by the discourse around the portrayal of a dysfunctional couple. Most criticism boiled down to Malcom and Marie being a toxic couple with most critics taking a specific character’s side and a handful believing both were destructive individuals with bad habits and worse tendencies. I am of a slightly different opinion: that the characters were toxic individuals to one another but that did not mean their analysis and insults toward each other were wrong. In fact, the nature of their relationship and discontent with one another most likely gave a unique insight and honesty that would not have been available otherwise.

Both Malcolm and Marie are passively and actively aggressive toward the other during nearly the entirety of the movie. They trade insults, barbs, tear each other down, and bring up the worst insecurities and moments of one another to belittle and humiliate the other. Peppered in between these moments are also occasions of seemingly genuine affection and love exchanged between Malcolm and Marie. These moments add to the criticism of toxicity and unhealthy nature of the relationship depicted in the film. However, I see those moments much like the arguments and verbal sparring as honest.

Still from Malcolm and Marie.

There is a belief that truth is liberating. As the adage goes, “The truth will set you free.” And, to be fair, there is legitimacy in that adage and belief, but that does not mean that the truth is simple or pleasant. In fact, facing truths without the shade of shadow under the brightest of lights can be quite harsh and painful. After all, how many truths and facts do we still turn away from now because of the discomfort and disarray that will be caused? How often do we use and turn to the comfortable lie to avoid hardships and arguments? Why is there an equally popular and known adage that goes “Ignorance is bliss”?

It is this discomfort and pain and anguish and embarrassment we witness Malcolm and Marie experience as the uncomfortable truths of themselves are laid bare in front of them by the person they love. And yet, it is because they love one another that they know each other so well and can expose the darkest aspects of one another with such precision.

We have such a person in our lives. Whether it is a family member, friend, romantic partner, or even ourselves; we have someone who knows us so intimately that they could pick apart our lives and spread out our fears, insecurities, and shame as easily as a Las Vegas casino dealer shuffles out a deck of cards. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Truth is not some universal solution or balm. Like most things, it is a tool. It is something to be used and wielded for a purpose and intent. As such, we can decide what our truths lead to and how we react to their illumination. After all if someone knows our darkest impulses, then they are also aware of our truest angels. And frankly, we need to be aware of both and understand how to effectively wield all aspects of our character to truly learn how to

Be Better.

Emotions

I am reading a rather intriguing book at the moment, Hiding in Plain Sight by Sarah Kendzior. Before diving into this tome, I had finished reading Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall and How to be Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. There was not a specific reason for choosing these particular books to read in such secession outside of interesting topics and recommendations. Oddly though, all three works brought out the same reaction from me: rising anger.

Now, on one hand, this is obviously a good thing. Art, in its many forms, is meant to garner a reaction from its audience. It does not have to be an Earth shattering epiphany nor a huge emotional catharsis, but a measure of, for lack of a better term, “bad” art would be utter indifference and apathy to it. Think of it this way, a movie can be utterly terrible, but still entertaining, and that will cause people to still discuss, analyze, and even re-watch it, even if only for schlock value. Same with good or great movies. However, if a film is just okay. Not badly done or nothing technically wrong, but not anything memorable or interesting then it is simply forgotten or rendered moot. Thus, art is meant to draw something from its audience, but that is a conversation for another time.

What I really want to consider is the anger that the books mentioned earlier brought to the surface. I genuinely feel like it was a righteous anger. It was rage against systems of oppression and obvious truths that are ignored by the powerful for the sake of keeping power. It was in response to oppression and forced submission for nothing more than greed and feeling of superiority. Frankly, I was pissed reading these books, and it was not surprising to feel that, but I began to question what to do with those emotions.

Happy and Smiling emoji plush dolls in a metal tin case with various emojis decorating it. Representative of many emotions.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There is a well known quote, “Knowledge without practice is useless. Practice without knowledge is dangerous,” that I believe is applicable to this situation as well. I am unsure if Confucius really stated the previously listed, but the message still rings true. Anger, rage, joy, sadness, and virtually any other emotion should be felt, but still need to be driven toward something. Yes, it is cathartic and euphoric to have an emotional release whether positive or negative just like acquiring knowledge is, at times, in and of itself satisfying, but what is the point if nothing is done with it?

Emotions can fuel us in our paths toward action if they are managed and focused. Otherwise, feelings are fleeting and can be, most likely, destructive. We get angry and lash out and react in an unhealthy way. Or we wallow in melancholy without addressing the root of our sadness. Even with joy, we will revel in that feeling but not necessarily delve into what caused that experience or how to continue or replicate it. Emotions are wonderful but like everything else momentary. As they should be. We need to feel things for the sake of our own psyche and well being. However, they should also fuel us to action.

Every great movement in history began with and because of someone’s passion. But it did not end there. That transient feeling moved that person, group, organization to learn, to organize, and to take action. The rage and anger I felt reading the words of those authors was justified, understandable, even, arguably, righteous, but it will ultimately be worthless if it goes nowhere. Now, the impetus is on me to figure out what to do with those emotions. To see how they drive me to learn, to take action against the inequities and injustices discussed, to actually help the communities and people discussed, and to, essentially,

Be Better.

Habit Forming

I’m pretty sure there is something to be said that when I searched for an image to encapsulate the concept of “habit” or “habit forming” the first few pages were images of smoking and drinking. Whether that says something about myself or the algorithm influenced by thousands of searches, a much smarter person would probably be able to answer more thoroughly. Still, it does seem easier to develop unhealthy or passively negative habits over positive ones at times, right?

Or at least it feels that way. There are several reasons for this perception. For example, unhealthy actions tend to give an immediate positive response. Grabbing a glass of scotch (preferred), eating a slice of cake, ignoring the Netflix warning to watch hour seven of the newest release: these all give us a quick chemical rush that feels, at the very least, pleasant and wanting more. And to be fair, none of these activities are inherently bad, but they are easier to keep doing, even passively or unconsciously, compared to going for the nuts and vegetable to snack on or going for a jog or virtually any healthy or positive alternative.

Still, we cannot just keep watching television while scarfing down Flaming Hot Cheetos (this one might be more specific to me) every day as enjoyable as that may be. Because whatever we continuously do, good or bad, will become our ingrained actions. Well, that is the general convention concerning habit forming, but how accurate is it? Obviously, the more you do something, the easier it becomes, and, theoretically, the more you are naturally inclined to continue performing that action. However, if that is true, why is “yo-yo” dieting a thing? Why do we pick up bad habits weeks, months, even years after ingraining good ones?

It would seem that an active, conscious choice is required to start and continue habits that do not have the immediate dopamine release that our brains and bodies enjoy. I have never experienced nor understood the “runner’s high” mentality. Frankly, I hate running. It is, in my opinion, the worst form of cardio. I would rather do just about anything else. Yet, I know it is one of the best forms of cardio exercise and something that provides an immense amount of health benefits that cannot be as easily done with other available forms of exercise. So, I do it. And while it is not enjoyable, I do like the effects it has on my mind and body. Thus, I choose to keep running because of how beneficial it is to me. I am also aware of how easy it would be to just stop running and do anything else. I have to make myself get up and go for a run.

Perhaps, the choice is the habit I am forming. Maybe it is simply something that I will never develop into a natural, inherent habit. Whether an action becomes a habit or something that has to be actively chosen ultimately does not matter though. What is important is the actual act. Who cares if running never becomes something that I just naturally feel like doing? Or that pizza and chips will always be preferable to fruits and veggies. As long as I still go for a run and exercise most days and eat greens more often than a hamburger, what is the purpose of habit forming other than a belief in ease of experience? Frankly, I would prefer the idea that I actively choose what to do for myself than simply a Pavlovian response of habit. Either way, all that really matters is to…

Be Better.

Finding Sanctuary

I had an hour or so to kill before a medical appointment this week. I know, I know, it’s an odd way to begin, but give me a minute and it will make sense, hopefully. Also, no major medical issues or anything, thankfully, Just a standard, routine checkup with a nutritionist. So, yeah, had some time to waste before adult responsibilities. As well, I was given a gift card to one of my favorites stores ever which just so happened to be in the area of my medical appointment. Yup, you can probably guess how I spent my free time.

There are not really any independent bookstores where I live. There really are not any independent stores of any entertainment kind to be quite honest, but that makes sense for the area. Thus, I have always gravitated and enjoyed the big box bookstores. And once Borders and Waldenbooks went out of business, all that was left is the lone survivor of Barnes and Noble. I have loved Barnes and Noble since first stepping into a store in my high school days. Genuinely, I was used to small public libraries and bookstores that took up about the same amount of space as an Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop in the mall, so seeing and walking around a giant bookstore with a much larger selection than I had ever seen was a significant moment for a nerdy bibliophile. Still is to be perfectly honest.

Obviously, I have not been in a Barnes and Noble for some time. (Reason being: *waves arms around at everything*), and I probably would not have, even this time, had there been more than the 10 people in the entire store present. That includes the staff. Frankly, it was a little eerie being in such an empty location when normally there are several people walking the aisles, examining the shelves, drinking at the café. Still, a bookstore is, and will almost always be, a sanctuary for me. Perhaps, even more so during this time.

A stack of recently purchased books ranging in subject and authors.
The haul from a much needed book shopping spree

Books have always been a balm for me. Educational, entertaining, uplifting: the words on page after page were, at times, everything. Whether it was learning about a person or event that I had previously never heard of, reading random tidbits and factoids about a plethora of subjects, or immersing myself in myths and mysteries and stories, literature has always held significance to and for me. It was inevitable that the place where I would find solace, solitude, and sanctuary would be wherever I was surrounded by words and stories.

Your sanctuary or, for lack of a better term, “happy place” may not be among the stacks. It may not even be a place. Maybe your solace is in a person, Or a long time pet. Perchance, it is found in an object with fond memories. Or it could even be getting lost in an activity or action. We all need our little oasis or two while on this, or any, path. So, whatever your sanctuary may be, I hope you have access to it, or them, and that it brings you the needed comfort, respite, and fortification to keep going and growing to…

Be Better.

Acknowledgement and Learning

Today is February 1st. It is the second month of the year, and, accordingly, the second month for you to continue the work you have chosen to do this year for yourself. Maybe you are continuing a workout program. Or switching to a new routine. Maybe you have a few books you want or need to get through. Perhaps, you are even writing your own novel this year. Maybe you are starting your journey this month and taking the first steps toward your future. Whatever goals you have set on your own path of growth and enlightenment, keep working toward their completion. You have plenty of time left in this year, in this decade, and far beyond that.

February is an interesting month. For many across the world, it holds celebrations of camaraderie, friendship, and love. However, February also happens to be a month of significant awareness and acknowledgement. In the United States of America, February is Black History Month. And in the UK, February marks LGBT History Month.

The words Black History Month written over a blacked out silhouette of the United States of America.

Now, these awareness months were originally meant to highlight, and go in depth, specific Black and LGBT historical figures and moments that should have been discussed in the standard history classes and discussions that were supposed to be happening. Obviously, that is hardly the case, as what usually happens is that all the Black and LGBT history that is taught is shoved into the corresponding awareness months and rarely discussed outside of those given time frames.

So, in the spirit and intention of this site and year, let’s take the time to delve into and learn from these communities and people. Seriously, this month try to find the voices from these groups and lend them your ears and time. Watching something on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or your streaming service of choice? Find the films and shows from Black and LGBT voices centered around their stories and watch them. Prefer books? There are hundreds and hundreds of amazing stories and works from every genre written by Black authors and by LGBT authors. Read them. Any type of fiction or non-fiction you may like, I guarantee you they have written. Music more your style? C’mon, Black and LGBT people pretty much created or influence virtually every major genre and musical movement. You would actually have to put in more work to not find their work.

Image is of color paints arranged to match the LGBT Pride flag.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Not an entertainment fan? Doesn’t matter. Whatever you are into: finance, politics, history, activism, etc., there is a worthy Black and/or LGBT voice in that field that is doing the work and advancing a perspective or viewpoint that is probably not getting the attention it deserves. Go find them. Patronize them with your time, attention, platform and, if possible, money. More importantly, use this month as a starting point and continue to support and learn about/from these communities and groups after this month has passed.

So, that is the challenge or goal for this month. Find Black and LGBT voices. Listen. Watch. Learn. Engage (respectfully). Support. With that in mind, drop some suggestions down below. Which artists should be read, viewed, listened to, etc. this month? Political and social voices and movements? Suggestions for things I have not thought of or mentioned. Please, leave a comment down below, so that we can all engage and attempt to…

Be Better.