I had wanted to write lots of fluffy, funny, filling words for you. . .but every syllable I typed felt forced and forged. So I figured:
WHAT THE HECK
STRAIGHT TO THE PUNCH LINE
SHORT & SWEET
What’s the stop & what’s the wild thing?
For me? Plain & simple: I need to stop avoiding my times of journaling, reading my Bible and praying. Long story short, I’ve avoided doing these intimate things because I’ve been scared to face my own heart.
Jesus Christ has always been my wild thing; has always been the wonder, the adventure, the root that’s kept me grounded and, yet, free. And I miss that. I miss Him. And I WILL stop running away and I WILL do the wild thing of pursuing His untamable mysteries.
And you? I do enough talking & typing around here. It’s you I want to hear—your words I want to see on this screen, these pages.
What is one thing you need to stop doing in order to be able to START doing the wild thing you know your soul is craving?
I WAS THE GIRL IN HIGH SCHOOL WEARING THE HOODIES 3X HER SIZE.
I did the whole, messy-bun-slicked-back-tight thing. Always had a headband on and my hair sprayed hard and still. I had hand-me-down makeup from the boxes of Mary Kay in my mother’s closet—wore Etnies one day and Nike Air Force 1 the next.
I strived to be preppy and perfect, punk rock and straight hood all in the same week, when really, the truth is that I was just a confused mess hiding away beneath the layers.
I WAS A PILE OF SAGGY CLOTHES THAT NEEDED TO BE WASHED, DRIED AND IRONED OUT.
I was insecure & lost. I was every bit of the high school stereotype.
And my life was nothing but one big desperate plea—not to fit in, but to find myself because, there really is a difference between the two.
AND MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING THE GIRL THAT WAS NEVER REALLY JUST WHITE OR BLACK. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH THE CONFUSION THAT SEEPED INTO MY MIND ABOUT HAVING LIGHT SKIN AND POOFY HAIR. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING AFRICAN AMERICAN AND NATIVE AMERICAN AND DUTCH AND IRISH AND GUYANESE, ALL IN THE SAME BREATH. BEING ALL THINGS AT ONCE AND YET FEELING LIKE I WAS NEVER REALLY ANYTHING AT ALL.
The confusion followed, basically paved the way for me in college. Along with the trend of trying to be everything all at once, never really being anyone ever. Never really being me. Just wearing and saying and doing whatever everyone else did. Until…
That is what broke me out of the mold. Real, deep, gut-honest conversations.
With people that looked like me. And people that didn’t.
People that had light skin and poofy hair. And people that didn’t.
People with red hair and people with gray hair.
People colored in shades of ebony and people colored in porcelain hues.
People who listened to Hip Hop and R&B and metal heads who listened to rock.
EVEN NOW, THE CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE. WITH PEOPLE AND FRIENDS I’VE SCOOPED UP ALONG THE WAY.
People from Atlanta and people from Maine.
People from the sticks in North Carolina and people from LA.
My sisters from New York and my sisters from Germany.
People from places I’ve never set foot on—virtual friends that I’ve yet to embrace.
People like my husband, who looks nothing like me. His darkest black hair, those thin Korean eyes.
Conversations that cut right down deep to the heart of me, curing me—beyond the outside layer of cotton, that flesh we call skin.
Conversations posed as questions that ask who are you?
WHO ARE YOU?
Yeah—as in, what makes your heart dance like raindrops on pavemnt?
What makes your gray brain dream in color?
What makes you sing in highest falsettos?
When we can answer those questions, that kind of conversation—that is when we wear the Etnies, not because we’re trying to find out what fits but because they fit what we’ve already found out about ourselves. That is when we embrace the hair that we’ve been given, the skin that we live it. Be it white, black, purple or green. That is when we find the grace to be grunge and rock and boho-chic, all in one breath.
Without the comparison, the competition, the self-hate, the insecurity. Without apology and without hesitation.
That is when we find and embrace and own who we are.
And, yes. Yes it does feel good to finally let my hair down.
Drinking coffee seemed to awaken the deepest dreams that were locked up inside me. I loved the high it gave me—how ready it made me feel; how alive and unstoppable I felt.
I would feel ELATED, ENERGETIC & OPTIMISTIC.
Only to crash + fall, feeling RESTLESS, ANXIOUS & DEPRESSED.
The crashes started getting worse—they got stronger, the depression grew darker and the headaches lasted longer. I’d lay down at night, unable to go to sleep—my mind was like a roller-coaster, soaring through racing thoughts and lofty visions.
SAVE THE WORLD.
FEED THE CHILDREN.
GET THAT JOB.
FIND A MAN.
10 at night turning into 11 at night turning into 12 midnight turning into 3 in the morning and there I’d lay, frustrated, obsessed and broken over the fact that I had so many ideas and dreams and not enough time to accomplish any of them.
THIS IS WHEN I KNEW.
HANDS DOWN, WITHOUT A DOUBT, I KNEW IT WAS THE COFFEE; I KNEW IT WAS THE CAFFEINE.
I used to be a Dunkin Donuts girl—you know, the whole “Iced Caramel Latte with a croissant” kind of girl. And, when I had a homemade cake or pastry, I’d also take my coffee black—no cream, no sugar. Just black. Just to wash down all the goodness of dessert. And to be cool. I secretly think people (like my husband) who drink black coffee are cool.
But, once I knew the caffeine was affecting me, I quit it—cold turkey. Stopped buying the lattes, stop brewing the beans. I talked it through with my mother who, so wise & inspiring, encouraged and led me onto tea.
AND I’VE YET TO LOOK BACK.
My junior year of college was when it all changed for me. I started work at a tea store and began to learn a lot about different teas. White teas, green teas, black teas, oolong teas, puer teas and herbal teas. I fell in love with tea because of its deep & wide variety of origins, flavors and health benefits.
It was at this time when I decided to fully step away from coffee and to drink, and enjoy, teas in its stead.
I’m thankful for the passion I have for tea and how it has helped me throughout the past two years of me struggling with various health issues—from gastrointestinal, to menstrual, to musculoskeletal, to mental and everything in between.
When I got sick in 2015 (and water was the only thing I could eat or drink), even tea was unbearable to me—any and every potent & gentle smell or taste. Though teas can be healing and soothing, my body was just not ready—even with something gentle like peppermint or chamomile, I would get nausea, tremors, abdominal pain, tingling sensations on my head and migraines that lasted for days.
But, as the months passed on, slowly, I was able to bring teas back into my diet—both the old ones that I’d loved and been so accustomed to and new ones that I had learned about and wanted to try.
Lavender Buds – If I really need a good night of sleep, I’ll sprinkle a few buds in my night time cup of tea. The aroma helps to relax me and the lavender itself, being a sedative, puts me into the deepest sleep.
Also, this post is not meant to bash coffee, and here’s the proof: my husband is a barista.
I love coffee—love how it creates community. I love how it grows and how it smells and how it brews and even how it tastes. But, for me, it’s about what you put into your coffee, how much coffee you are drinking and being honest about the reality that you might be making your body sick by drinking coffee.
Not eliminating coffee (or any other caffeinated drink or snack, for that matter) from your diet when you are aware or are inclined to believe that it may be adversely affecting your health in any way, big or small, would be like licking a spoon of peanut butter even though you know that you’re severely allergic.
WHY MAKE YOURSELF SICK?
WHY MAKE YOURSELF SUFFER?
Why continue to spoon-feed yourself the restlessness, the anxiety, the roller-coaster, the headaches?
My closest friends know that, I only have coffee (or caffeinated teas) about five times a year, tops. And, when I do CHOOSE to have that coffee (or tea), I am fully preprared to deal with whatever consequences that might follow.
Not in a guilt-trip or self-shaming way. And not in a blaming way, either.
I cannot blame the barista for my bloated stomach and weeklong headache. I do not get to rant and rage at my husband because I’m overly anxious and restless, two cups deep and straight up drunk with frappuccino breath.
We must take responsibility for the things that we put into our bodies and we must take baby steps towards improving the things we put into our bodies.
Always for the better.
Always for the healthier.
There’s so much more I could say; so much more I’d LOVE to say. But if all this post ever does is teach you one thing, let it be this: drinking teas and infusions (an infusion, simply put, is a steep/brew of tea leaves and/or other natural ingredients, such as: nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs and plants) have been around for centuries and have been told & known to help ease AND relieve ailments such as:
Thought I would bring up my kids in New York—you know? Kind of forever live there.
BUT, NEW YORK IS NO LONGER HOME FOR ME.
It is now only just a place I go when the holidays come. It is a city I visit when those twinkling lights call me. It is the streets and roads that I’ll forever know by heart, forever hold by heart. It is the place that I adore with all the people that I cherish.
And I will forever love it.
Forever celebrate it.
This past weekend, I flew back to New York for a wedding. The husband and I started out in Queens—sat around a big glass table, drinking bottomless cups of Chinese tea and Korean burdock root tea (to be shared in my next detox post!) with our Umma and Appa and little brother.
Then we went up to Mom and Pop’s house, over the bridge and tucked back by the mountains. There, we talked about life and love and every other crazy thing in this mad, mad world.
In my hometown, we snuggled up warm with my Mom and brothers. We woke to a snowy Saturday morning with sleepy eyes and tired bones, so Mom went into town and got us some New York breakfast bagels—poppy seed with bacon, avocado and home potatoes. And then it was New Jersey for the wedding—the wedding of one of my best friends.
She was beautiful.
JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AND AS GRACEFUL AS SHE’S EVER DREAMED TO BE.
And it brought tears to my heart to celebrate her—to celebrate her special day: the closing chapter to her old life and the dawning sunrise to her new life.
I wish her love & dreams, one thousand times over.
The bride was my deliver. The ceremony, seeing old friends, laughing and posing for pictures outside in the bitter and freezing cold. Kissing my husband on the lips and thinking back on our special day. That was all my deliver—that was the filling that my heart & soul needed.
The detox is this: I ate some things I wouldn’t have normally eaten. I ate some portions I know I shouldn’t have eaten. The bagel sandwich, the pizza, the Shabu Shabu…
Yeah—sometimes you live & you let loose, a little.
But, gosh dang it, if it weren’t for someone special keeping me in-check about the donut on my plate at the wedding, I would have eaten the whole thing—I would have scarfed it down without a sober, second thought.
So here’s the thing:
You surround yourself with loved ones. You eat food you don’t normally eat. You LIVE. You celebrate. You JOIN. You commune.
AND IT IS ALWAYS SO WORTH IT:
FORGET THE GUILT, FORGET THE SHAME, FORGET THE REGRETS.
BECAUSE, HERE’S THE THING: YOU CAN ALWAYS START AGAIN.
Doesn’t matter the New York bagels, or the New York pizza, or the donuts or the carbs, or the chocolate or the pancakes or the biscuits, or the soda, or the In-N-Out fries. Whether it’s the day after Thanksgiving, the week before Christmas or the night of New Year’s Eve.
You can start again. You can come back to yourself, your goals, your plan, your rhythm & your routine.
Our journeys will not be perfect. We will eat things we know we shouldn’t.
But oh, how we can start again.
I want to hear your side of the story—your imperfections and the bangs ups you feel you’ve made over the weekend. Sometimes laying it all out there is the first step towards letting go of the guilt and taking hold of the goals.
Three days into my five-day prescription antibiotic
I found myself unable to eat, unable to walk, unable to think and shaking with tremors. I could not count. I could not add numbers. I could not feel my muscles and
I did not have health insurance.
The story is long.
I will tell the full of it another time and I won’t leave out any of the gushy details on the incoherent conversations, curses spewing from my mouth and confessing life sins in the ER room, like I was going to die or something.
But the story I want to tell you right now is about the ER doctors who would not listen to me—the ones who thought me either drunk, high or pregnant. They were not hearing that I had already taken 5 pregnancy tests for the nausea and that I’ve never swallowed an ecstasy pill, never rolled a joint, never inhaled that white dust, never shot thin needles.
They sent me home with no explanation, no answers. Just a crap ton of prescriptions for meds and more antibiotics that I was too paranoid to take, anyway.
Doctor to doctor,
test after test.
I gave up. Eventually stopped signing my name on the long waiting room lists and started playing connect-the-dots with whatever wits I had left—called my mom, talked it through, read labels, researched facts, until…I found it.
It was the antibiotic that made me sick.
I had experienced the rare, but very real, adverse reaction that is ever-so-carefully printed on the labels that no one EVER reads.
Oh, how I would have done it differently. So differently.
Research became my friend. My lifeline.
Through research, I was able to make the connection between my blood tests, which showed that my potassium was severely depleted, and my inability to walk. Though the list was LONG with symptoms, sensations, pain, sickness and triggers, at least I knew that I was able to start somewhere: my muscles.
Through research, I learned that potassium is a vital mineral used by our bodies to carry out the cellular processes that regulate nerve & muscle function. I grew convinced that my deficiency in potassium was directly related to my muscle weakness and inability to walk. I also learned that magnesium, another mineral vital for the body to carry out cellular processes and functions, was crucial and closely related to regulating levels of potassium in the body. I figured that my weak muscles were lacking potassium and that, to get my potassium up, I’d also have to get my magnesium up.
So I took baths.
At first, the baths only seemed to aggravate the muscle weakness and bouts of tremors. I would come out of my baths a stumbling mess and feeling worse than I did before—unable to walk and needing my husband’s help to get from the tub to the bed. But. I had to believe that the Epsom salt (rich in magnesium) was not hurting me; I had to believe that it was helping me.
Over the course of a few weeks, the twitching and the tremors began to lessen until, eventually, they subsided. This was the first symptom in my health battle to heal, although the recovery of regaining my muscle tone and strength was a longer process, which is another story that I will tell later on.
Soaking in hot water raises the body’s temperature. It’s like working out—you get everything pumping and flowing inside. When the body heats up, it begins to sweat. You can think of sweat as the body’s built-in AC unit.
How do we sweat? Well, our skin has pores. Remember those little guys? When we sweat, the body’s pores open up in order to release the sweat. With the cells working so hard to get the body sweating, there are all kinds of things going on—blood flowing, heart pumping, water & waste (no matter how trace the amount of waste) releasing. This is good. Our bodies were made to work, to push, to be in process, to circulate—to flush.
Picture this—a child with outstretched arms, hands facing up and palms open. This child is in the perfect position to receive a gift. This is like the body’s pores—open, like the child’s hands, to take in whatever is readily available.
This is where salts & soaks come into play. Bathing with pure Epsom salt, sea salts and other bath soaks can deliver naturally occurring minerals (gifts!) that the body is not able to produce or obtain otherwise.
Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Calcium, Sulfur
just to name a few…
Though we were created to and are recommended to obtain these minerals through natural foods, it’s helpful to know that receiving them through a bath is an option. Example: when I was unable eat or drink ANYTHING (except for water and crackers) due to nausea, heat/cold intolerance, allergic reactions and triggers that took months to wade and wander through, it was soaking in Epsom salt that gave my body the magnesium it needed.
. . .
Along with delivering minerals, a bath also delivers so much more. Mentally, it can deliver peace, as it can be a quiet space for you to detox bad thoughts and moments from the day or week, and a place to take in truth and soak up healing.
I have grieved in the tub. Mourned in the tub. Dreamed in the tub. Released lies in the tub. Wrestled with myself and with God in the tub. Laughed in the tub. Accepted and forgiven myself in the tub. Prayed in the tub. Closed my eyes and found rest in the tub.
There is nothing magical or spiritual about a bath or a tub. But — there is something powerful about the act of making time & space with the specific intention of releasing and letting go. It is like journaling, or going for a walk or a hike — you go into it knowing that you are going to leave something behind.
SALTS & SOAKS TO TRY
Pink Himalayan Sea Salt & Black Lava Salt » as with all sea salts, these two contain naturally occurring minerals. Black lava salt is just a fancy name for salt that is mixed with charcoal.
Epsom Salt » not really a salt, rather it’s a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. It gets its name, Epsom, from the spring in Surrey, England that it is named after.
Baking Soda » a common household product, so even if you don’t have a fancy sea salt, you can still get yo’ bath on. Baking soda is not only a great cleanser for the home, but it’s very cleansing and soothing for the skin, too.
Witch Hazel » a natural remedy of the Native Americans—it is useful as a topical for burns, insect bites and bruises. It is also a gentle astringent which makes it a great toner for the skin and face (I use it everyday!). When used as a bath soak, it can be healing and soothing to inflamed skin.
Ginger, Mint, Rosemary » common herbs & spices that everyone has lying around the kitchen. When added to a bath, these herbs & spices can warm, soothe and invigorate the body. They are also aromatic, which can be clarifying to the mind, too.
I only take detox baths 1-2 times per week. I sometimes also bath with lavender buds and I always try to drink a cup of water before and during my bath.
Note: This blog post is solely based on my personal health experience. I am not a doctor, nor is the above post an attempt to diagnose, cure, or treat any condition or to provide professional medical guidelines for any person. Spices, herbs and salts are powerful agents and should be treated as such. Be safe, be smart: always seek professional medical assistance before using salts and other ingredients/recipes as soaking aids, especially if you are pregnant or have circulatory or heart problems.
TRUTHS TO MEDITATE ON
It’s not enough to try to take care of the body; the heart has to be taken care of, too. The heart is where our daily battles take place. It is home to our thoughts—it is home to who we are. To clean and beautify ourselves on the outside without doing the same on the inside is as effective as spreading thick a coat of paint over muddy boots:
you’re only covering up the mess; you’re never dealing with the root.
The following bible verses are powerful truths. Instead of mindlessly thinking (or dreaming, like I tend to do), try meditating on these verses. Break them down, repeat them over and over again, use them as points of self-searching. Check your heart, your motives, your thoughts, your anxieties and insecurities against these verses. And after all of that mindful thinking and meditating, ask God to help you to believe these truths and to apply them to the areas of your life where you lack belief in these words.
My next heart & soul detox post will come out next week, but I’d love to hear your heart and where you are in your health journey. Have you ever used salts or soaks in your baths or is it something you’ve been wanting to try? Do you think that a detoxing bath would help you more mentally or physically or both?
and I am going to share something with you that has been on my heart
for the longest time.
For years, I’ve tap danced my tiny little fingers across the keyboard of my computer, telling you stories about my heart and dreams that I’m chasing. I’ve encouraged you, tried to reach deep down into the heart of what you were feeling, the messiness of life and everything else it brings along.
Together, we’ve struggled over big fears and broken faith.
We’ve struggled together over life, over stress, over change.
But never over health.
. . .
The crazy thing is that, health is my story—it has been ever since 2005 when I was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever—an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks itself. Health even became my story again, recently, in 2015 when I landed my incoherent and feeble self in the emergency room.
Health has been my story; but I want it to be my testimony. And I want it to be your testimony, too. Don’t want it to be a struggle anymore, a book with chapters that never seem to close, no matter how hard you try and slam shut the damn thing.
Depression. Sickness. Anxiety. Weakness. No more.
I’m doing what the enemy of my soul does not want me to do—I’m speaking out. I’m speaking out about my health journey, even though I haven’t got it all figured out. I’m speaking out about what I’d like to see happen in my heart, mind, soul and body and in my life, even though the story isn’t finished being written yet. And I’m speaking out about what I want to see happen in your life, too, even if your story isn’t my story—even if it looks like me free-falling without a parachute to break the fall.
I’m gonna hope you’ll be right there at the bottom saying,
“Is it my turn yet? Can I jump—can I try, too?”
The heart & soul detox: it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while—it’s something I’m starting right now. Yes. Right now. It’s time. It is so time. I’ve got some posts lined up to share a little bit about my journey through health struggles and some tips & truths that I’ve learned along the way.
Food as Medicine
Body Care + Fitness
The Art of Caregiving
Christ Our Healer
I want to share these things, not because I’m perfect and not because I have it all figured out. But, I figure, if I’m trying to figure these things out — then someone else must be, too.
Let’s do it together then. Let’s do this, let’s get & be & stay well, together.
I will share my first story tomorrow — stay tuned!
I’d love to hear what you think about this mini series. Please share with me if you have or currently are going through some kind of (big OR small) health struggle.
Sometimes wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is like asking, “How are you?” in passing without ever stoping to really hear the “how” part.
You know them—those “How are you?” greetings. The ones that leave you heaving up a heaping mess—the ones that pull your strings only to let the yarn unravel a looping mess, twisting and knotting everything in sight, with no one lingering, no one to listen how, really, you are doing.
The problem, sometimes, with “Merry Christmas” is that it’s only ever been a command, but never a question. It has only ever been a hope and a sincere wish, but never a conversation, never the standing still long enough for the deep heart tugging to listen to a soul in need, in want, in hurt, in hope.
Always a greeting. Never a listening.
The wondering and the waiting around for a heart-full answer, a response of some sort—the honest kind that paints stories filled with grace and pain and poverty and heartache—every kind of heartbreak, right outside your door, behind the cash register, at the red light.
Behind the smile of the face hearing your holiday greeting is a mother bearing the weight of her child’s diagnosis. Or the persevering husband caring for his wife who cannot, for the love of God, remember his name. Or the wife grieving the memory of her husband. Or the daughter miles from home, missing the place with the fire cracking and grandma’s cherry pie.
So I will make my “Merry Christmas” a question and not some cute command.
I will make it a lingering and not just some wooden sign on the door or embellished script on a pillow.
How are you, this Christmas? Really. Where in your heart is there hurt?
Where in your heart is there missing?
Who in your family is suffering?
What, in this season, is not so merry?
Spill the bucket of your heart by the galloons. Let the good out—and the sweeping hurt out, too. And I am listening. Not bustling out the door, hurrying home to wrap gifts. Not baking, not sweeping the floor. Just here. To listen—tolisten hard and good and long.
And then, and only then, to remind you of the Babe and why he even came and why we sing the songs and light the trees and wrap the boxes and hug the world a little tighter.
Because he was a miracle come to bring miracles into this world.
And you, my friend, your Christmas – be it merry or not.
There will be miracles.
Miracles of joy, of salvation, of goodness, of comfort, of hope, of Him and His hereness.