Grandmother, the Alchemist.

 

“Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands…’I had my ups and down, but I always found the strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”- Excerpt from Beyonce’s Lemonade.

I have to be honest, I have been avoiding completing this blog post for months. Grief is such a strange thing. There is no recipe for “How to Deal With Grief”, & despite all of the self-help books, articles, etc. the fact remains the same–people deal with grief differently. & guess what that means? You have to learn how to navigate through it in a way that works best for you. So that’s what I have been doing, & I can’t tell you that I have figured it out just yet.

My Granny passed away in March of 2016. I thought I prepared myself for her death, but I was way more unprepared than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even describe the audible sounds that escaped my body when my mother called to give me the news. I immediately felt an immense sadness, & wished that I would be able so see her one more time. Hold her hand one more time. Roll her hair or get her dressed one more time. Watch her say her prayers before bed one more time. Give her something sweet for a snack one more time.

So now almost a year later, I still have those same wishes. I often think of all of the memories I have of her & the things she taught me. I’ve picked 3 pearls to share with you.

  • My Granny taught me the importance of prayer.

When her body was able she would get on her knees & say her prayers before bed every night. No matter what time it was, no matter where she was. Sometimes, because of the disease (Alzheimer’s) she would say them over & over, but she would always pray. One of my fondest memories is just watching her pray & wondering what it was she was talking to God about. She also prayed over her meals, even if it was as simple as “Jesus wept”. But regardless of the twists & turns of her life, her relationship with God remained constant. Her faith & her dedication to Him have inspired me to be much more intentional about my walk with God.

  • My Granny taught me the true meaning of unconditional love & that it is okay to “need” it.

Unconditionally loving someone is a remarkable thing, & I truly loved my Granny. As a child, I used to think that love was based on what people did for me, what they said to me, & even how they loved me. But during the last few years of my Granny’s life, I learned that love is not subject to a condition. When you love someone, truly love someone, you just love them. There were times where my Granny was sweet, I loved her. There were times when she was not so sweet, I loved her. There were times when she needed me, I loved her. There were times where she didn’t want to be bothered, I loved her. Because I loved her, I was willing to do anything to make sure that she was happy & well taken care of. If that meant feeding her, I did it because I loved her. If that meant repeating things to her twenty times, I did it because I loved her. If that meant staying with her all day & spending endless hours in a hospital, I did it because I loved her. There were times when I would get so frustrated with the situation & the things she would do or say, but I still loved her. I would be angry, disappointed, & sometimes even annoyed…& yet my love for her never changed. There was no “if this occurs, then I love her” or “I love her when”. That’s when I realized what love was supposed to be. 

Some of the most precious memories I have are when my Granny would ask me or my mom to stay with her when it was time for us to leave. It would break my heart when she would cry & ask us not to leave her. My Granny was a strong woman, one of the strongest I know, but she still needed love. She needed us, our love, our companionship, & it was okay. I think we sometimes feel guilty for wanting other people to love us. Yes, our love for self should be sufficient; the love God has for us is always more than sufficient…but never forget that it is important to feel love from the people around us. We were made to love & getting love in return, in whatever healthy form it comes, is something that it is okay to say that you need.

  • My Granny taught me how valuable time truly is.

Time is really one of the most valuable things we have on Earth. Once it’s gone, you cannot get it back. It is so important to treat every single day as a blessing, & you have to try to make the best of every moment. There were times where I didn’t slow down to appreciate some of the little moments with my Grandmother, & a part of me probably thought that I had a little more time. But one day I didn’t, she was gone, & all I wanted was a few more moments with her. You have to be present in life. Be intentional. Show up for people & always be mindful that tomorrow isn’t promised. 

What did your Granny teach you? Grandparents are extremely special people, & I’m blessed to have been able to have time with all of mine. We learn so many life lessons from them, some that don’t even “hit” us until maybe years after they are gone. Take some time to reflect on the time you’ve spent with your grandparents or even just your grandmother. I recently wrote a letter to mine that was therapeutic in my healing process. It’s also a great way to exercise your memory & remember some things you may have forgotten. My Granny was remarkable, magical, even. There were times where I was just in awe of her & everything she was. She was beautiful, she was honest, she was loving, she was strong, she was faithful. She lived life to the fullest from beginning to end. & I am blessed to have been able to know her in such a special way. 

 

Take Care of Your Star Player.

 

So this concept of “star player” came from a Katt Williams stand-up skit from the 2008 It’s Pimpin Pimpin tour (I believe). Basically its like everyone around you (I use “everyone” loosely) is on your team & you are the star player. You should watch the skit, its quite funny. I like the concept, even though how I am using it isn’t 100% the same as what he is talking about.

On sports teams aren’t the star players well taken care of? Of course! The MVPs of the team pretty much get what they want. They get the best treatment & all the perks. So as the star player, you must take care of yourself the same way. Give yourself what you want & the treatment you deserve! Have all the perks! You can’t spend all of your time focusing on the people around you, making sure they are taken care of & happy, etc. If you do, you leave nothing left for yourself.

This summer has been a journey for me to get back to focusing on myself after spending my adult life taking care of/primarily worrying about other people. My main focus, for as long as  I can remember, was my Granny. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about her, her health, & how things were at home. A lot of the decisions I made were also made with her in mind. I didn’t ever want to be too far away that I couldn’t go home & see her regularly. In March of this year, my Granny passed away. Her physical absence left me with these feelings of “what do I do now?” & “who do I worry about now”. I was forced to turn my attention back to Anaston.

A part of getting back to focusing on myself was figuring out how to actually take care of myself–physically & emotionally, & spiritually. I had to figure out things I liked/didn’t like, what I liked to do in my spare time, & my goals that weren’t tailored to my family life, etc.

So how do I take care of me? Here’s a list of some of my self-care practices, some of which were mentioned in my previous post about anxiety.

  • I go to church & pray often.
  • I journal.
  • I meditate.
  • Therapy.
  • I walk everyday (or at least try to).
  • I exercise.
  • I get (or at least try to get) a massage once a month.
  • I make sure I am eating enough & drinking enough water.
  • I write out affirmations.
  • I take at least thirty minutes a day for just myself everyday, free of outside distractions.
  • I try to do something fun every week.
  • I try to go to a new place in Savannah once a month.
  • I listen to music again.
Honestly, I believe going to church & really paying attention to my relationship with God has made a huge difference in my life. My spirit feels lighter, & I find that I am more at peace than I have been in a while. There’s something about being in a good church home that just makes me feel good.

Mostly I try to pay attention to me more, & I don’t apologize for it. When I make decisions I think about me first & how the decisions will affect my life before I consider how it will affect someone else. I am excited about learning new things about myself, & I am open to all of the growth that I am experiencing. I accept Anaston in the place that she’s in now, & look forward to the woman she will grow to be. I speak positively to myself & of myself. I’m focused on how I feel about me & how God feels about me. 

My Granny isn’t here physically, but she’s with me spiritually. Knowing that means she is still a part of everything I do, & because I know she’s in a place where she is more than taken care of, I find peace in taking care of me now too. I even try to enjoy some of the activities or practices that made her happy–it makes me feel like she’s here with me.

Do you treat yourself well? If you don’t take care of yourself, it will be hard to function the way you want to in the other areas of your life. Start figuring out what makes you happy. Make a list of the things that you like to do, & make sure you do at least one of those things a month. Make sure that every day you have time to yourself. If it is challenging for you to find time to be intentional about your self-care, try participating in my #TakeCareOfYourSELFTuesday movement. Every Tuesday, challenge yourself to do at least one thing for you. One thing that will make you happy & feel good. If you don’t take care of your “star player”, your team will inevitably suffer. You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself, first.

 

“Don’t just be good to others, be good to yourself too.”

What About Anxiety?

 

In my last post I introduced a new concept/way of thinking when dealing with depression. The same concept can be applied to experiences with anxiety, as well. If you aren’t familiar with the concept I am referring to, read my last post “Hello, My Name is Anaston…” first, then come back to this one. In this post I am going to talk about my own personal experience with anxiety and what it means for me, instead of explaining that concept again.

Honestly, I am not sure when I first started experiencing anxiety, but I realized within the last year or so how it affects my life & that it was time for me to actively deal with it.

So, what is anxiety? Here’s what Google says:

anx•i•e•ty  

noun

“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” 

I guess that gives you a nice, “ice cream” idea of what it can include…but here’s what anxiety is like for me.

Anxiety is over thinking. It is having little to no peace of mind some days about any and everything. Sometimes it is second guessing things that I was originally sure about. It is panic attacks, having trouble breathing, feeling like the walls are closing in on me. It is having trouble sleeping–my brain never takes a break. It is feeling self-conscious in social settings, feeling nervous and out-of-place. It is self-doubt. It is the creation of & asking of questions that revolve around my self-identity. It is questioning if I am making the right decisions, or being worried about my future & the days ahead of me. It is having to know things 100% one way or another & feeling completely uncomfortable with the unknown. There is no gray area for me. It is having to be in control & have a plan. It is feeling anxious at times & being unsure why. It is wanting to be alone & isolating myself, because I cannot juggle both the world and the anxiety I am feeling. It is being trapped by the unescapable–my  own mind.

I think the most important part of dealing with anxiety has been accepting that I actually deal with anxiety. Now that I have accepted it, I deal with it in a healthy way & don’t include it as a part of how I identify with myself. Sounds complicated, but I just look at it the same way I look at depression. The moments when I feel anxious are temporary, no matter how long they last. They are not permanent nor do they consume my entire being. I didn’t choose anxiety, so I don’t have to choose to let it control my life. 

Anxiety does not mean that I am dramatic or that I’m being ridiculous. I can be an extrovert (which most people seem to think I am, although I wonder if I am an introvert, truly) & simultaneously experience social anxiety, which may come off as me being “stand-offish” or reserved with an attitude. Anxiety does not mean that I am paranoid. For someone who is a free spirit, I am also cautious about things, & that is okay. The anxiety that I experience is not the same as the anxiety the person next to me experiences, & that is okay too. Anxiety does not mean that I need a pity party or for “you” to feel sorry for me. Anxiety does not mean that “you” can make me feel like a burden or an inconvenience, no matter how frustrated or irritated “you” may be with me. 

Another important part of my experience with anxiety is how it affects my relationships. I no longer apologize to other people for my anxious moments. If someone wants to be a consistent part of my life, it is something that she/he simply has to accept about me & then act accordingly. It is important that my loved ones possess a level of understanding when I am having an anxious moment. Meaning that, even if a person doesn’t understand or agree with my experience, said person just has to accept that it is real to me. It means looking at me as the human being that I am, not a crazy person or a person with a problem. Said person has to be willing to work though the moment with me, or lovingly give me the space that I need to work through it on my own. I am also learning that I have to take the time to explain to my loved ones what I am experiencing, & that I have to be open enough to give people the opportunity to walk with me through the journey. 

I am learning that I cannot control every aspect of my life–sometimes it is okay to not have control over every single detail. I practice a lot of deep breathing, & I am learning how to meditate. I haven’t had a panic attack in a while, but when I was having them I would breathe through them & then go outside afterwards to lessen the “walls closing in” feeling. I also try to express myself more & let important people know when I am feeling anxious around them. I pray a lot, which doesn’t help all the time, but it does help a lot. 

Do you experience anxiety? It is important that you know that there is nothing wrong with you. More people experience anxiety than people realize…most just don’t talk about it. Take every day as it comes, one step at a time. Develop some self-care practices to take care of yourself in those anxious moments & surround yourself with people who will love you through your walk, not judge you through it. It is important that you have people who will not make you feel guilty for being a person who experiences anxiety; find people who will grow with you. That also means that you have to be strong enough to walk away from the people who cannot rise to the occasion. Recognize that what works for one person may not work for you, but you must stay dedicated to your growth & trust your own process. Remember that God will never put more on you than you can bear.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV