Every Moment Has to Matter, but Then They Don’t. June Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

 

The other day I was listening to a Death Sex and Money podcast about different people’s experience with being near death. One woman was in an airplane accident. Another woman was holding her sister’s hand as she took her last breath. Another woman had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The host of the show asked her guest all of the big questions. “Do you fear death?” “Is it scary knowing you are going to die?” “Do you have any regrets?” “Does it change you?”

 

You asked, if it changes you. And for me, it definitely did. And not always for the better. I’d say for me, it’s made me more impatient. Every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t.

 

Something about the line ‘every moment has to matter, but then it doesn’t” stuck with me. I think it’s because of the timing. I recently applied for a national fellowship that I thought I was a great fit for and would have been a tremendous opportunity for me. And I didn’t get it. It didn’t feel like the world was over, but it really, really, really sucked. It sucks just as much today as when I first got the denial letter. It really sucks now. Being rejected from this opportunity only conjures up all of the feelings in which I feel rejected from so many other things. But this letter isn’t about that.

 

I was thinking about the last time something sucky to this magnitude happened to me. I had just gotten the last of several rejection letters from multiple nursing schools and I was stuck at a abusive dead-end job.

 

Every moment has to matter… I don’t believe in wasted time; how you spend your time is either beneficial or not. I don’t believe that life has a waiting period before you get to the important part. There is no magic age to when you have to act like an adult and get yourself together. Today matters. Nothing just gets better simply by waiting for time to pass.

 

…but then it doesn’t. You already know the end of the story. I no longer work at that sucky job (I have an infinitely better one now that reflects my values of being part of the community and serving people who need it the most) and I’m now working on my third graduation from the same nursing school (that is 50x better than the ones that originally rejected me).

Cali Colombia 794 1

I took this picture in Cali, Colombia

I think why that quote has profoundly impacted me is because you can simultaneously encompass a single space with two very opposing viewpoints. I guess it’s because big things and small things are equally important. They can equally shift the projection your life at any moment. I think I (or maybe we) put more value and weight on the big changes and opportunities and overlook the small things. I placed a lot of value on getting the fellowship because, in actuality, it is a prestigious organization that is offering a unique opportunity that very few people qualify for. The intention is to create a think tank of doctoral students from minority backgrounds to help create innovative solutions for alleviating the health disparities in our communities. Apparently they didn’t want me, but whatever. What I don’t appreciate is that my friends and I do that all the time. Not to the same level as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but we are still doing the same thing.

 

Every moment has to matter, but it doesn’t.    

 

It has been all of the little things that have gotten me to where I am. It’s the little things, the relationships, the volunteering, the friendships, the consistency, the  places you show up, the impression that you leave on people, the things you do in your spare time and your reputation that matter. And to some degree, none of that matters. They add up and they subtract. They open and close doors.

 

The big things matter, too. We all know that. But the big things are rarely the end all, be all. Big things matter, but they don’t, because there is this thing call the future that eventually equalizes things out (or at least puts things in perspective).

 

In conclusion, just keep it pushing. This is what life’s all about. You win some, you lose some. Ebbs and flow. Mountains and valleys. There is really no point in over analyzing everything and writing it down in a monthly letter and sending it out to not so random people. I’ll probably keep doing this until I find a therapist who will listen to my first world problems.

Something Beautiful

Hello Family and Friends,

As some of you may know, each month I send out an email to all of you about something that has been on my mind. This monthly expression of gratitude was inspired by my niece’s and nephew’s “Best of 2K14” list. Before the close 2014, they wrote out a list of all that was good in their life; I, on the other hand, was thinking of all the things I wanted to fix and make better in 2015. Their moment of gratitude and reflection profoundly touched me and inspired me to clutter your inbox once a month.

I try to keep each letter linked to this year’s theme: Be like water: Fluid, reflective and always tending towards stillness. I didn’t have much to write about this month, so I decided to share the lyrics of “Something Beautiful” by NeedToBreathe.  

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep/ I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet/ It’s like I know where I need to be/ But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out

Just as there is no clear defining point where the land ends and the ocean begins, there is no clear defining point as we transition from one state of self to another. For instance, I’m not sure of the exact moment when I became an adult (and I’m pretty sure that I’m an adult now) because I know it didn’t immediately happen the day I turned 18. Maybe I have been fooled to believe that there is a rigid dichotomy between “State of Being A” and “State of Being B”. Being grounded and rooted in a firm foundation is, perhaps, not  mutually exclusive from being swept away with dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

Just how much air I will need to breathe/ When your tide rushes over me/ There’s only one way to figure out/ Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

I like plans. I like lists. I like schedules. I like a maximum of 48 hours of vacation away from plans, lists and schedules before being without plans, list and schedules scare me. Of course, sometimes all of that is necessary. Other times it’s an anchor holding me back. For you, it may not be plans, lists and schedule, but it may be something else. Can you recognize your safety blanket.  How do you let go of  trying to control life and letting all of its uncertainties overwhelm you with new possibilities? (In “Christian-ese” what areas of your life are the manifestations of having  “let go and let God”?) I love the line “Just how much air will I need to breath?” I understand it as as important  as air is, you only need just enough. “Air” is the stuff we can control. The “tide” is the good, the bad, the unexpected. The stuff that makes you cry, doubt, and laugh until it hurts. Tides come and go with variable strengths- pushing and pulling your life- determine by the natural rhythms of Earth.

And the water is risin’ quick/ And for years I was scared of it/ We can’t be sure when it will subside/ So I won’t leave your side, no I can’t leave your side

The tattoo on my foot says, “Where Faith is fear isn’t”. I’m not saying I never doubt anything in life. I’m just saying that I always have faith that when the troubles and hardships come I will get through them, relatively intact, eventually.

In a daydream, I couldn’t live like this/ I wouldn’t stop until I found something beautiful/ When I wake up, I know I will have/ No, I still won’t have what I need

What is it that you truly desire? Not a $15 million dollar home. Not a porsche. What is it that your soul truly yearns for? That gentle whisper that motivates so many of your decisions. I don’t think the writers of this song intended “something beautiful” as something tangible. I was just thinking to myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by people I love. There is no malice or ill-will. Yes, there are disagreements, hurt feelings, and disappointments every so often. But, there is not a single toxic person in my life. I rejoice when you rejoice. Many of you celebrate when I celebrate. I may not always be the kindest person to you, but I do feel awful when I think (or know) I’ve hurt your feelings. How lucky I am to have full agency and hope for the future and gratitude for the moment. Now, isn’t that something beautiful.

Hey now, this is my desire/ Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful/ To touch me, I know that I’m in reach/ ‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful/ Oh, something beautiful

I’m curious. What does this last stanza mean to you?

So this letter is getting on the long side, so I’m just going to end it here. As always, this is my way of staying in touch with you. It really and truly does mean something to me when I see an email from you. It also really and truly means something to me to know you read it even if you don’t respond all of the time.
Brianna

You’ve Got Mail

Dear Family and Friends,

 

Each month I write a letter based on the theme for the year, ‘When we make love we make life’.

 

I failed. I missed sending a letter during the month of May. Also, I still have no idea what to make of the theme, ‘When we make love we make life’.

 

So May’s letter (that we are pretending I sent a few days ago) is a short letter about mail.

 

Do you remember when you had dial-up internet and the only internet browser available was AOL? You would have to go to Fry’s or Best Buy and pick up an AOL internet disc. After waiting 3 minutes to connect to the internet, the AOL voice would say “ You’ve got mail’.

 

Today, I got mail.

 

I received a plain envelope in the mailbox. The physical mail box that usually only has junk mail in it. To my surprise, there was a $96.67 mileage reimbursement check that I submitted nearly 3 months ago! It had been so long since I submitted the reimbursement form that I forgot that I had money headed (albeit slowly) my way.

 

It took about 10 seconds from the time I realized that I had money in my hand to the time I picked up my phone to deposit the check. When I went online to check my account I had another surprise waiting for me. Someone got access to my debit card made a $2,800 purchase with my money. Not really my money because I didn’t have $2,800 in my account anyways. But still, someone essentially stole $2,800 from me.

 

This is life. Sometimes 329% of your banking account gets wiped out to pay for someone else’s shopping spree. Bad things happen. We are not immune to unfortunate events unexpectedly happening to us. We can’t live perfect enough to avoid everything bad in life.

 

But this is why faith is so important to me.

 

Faith is like a letter in the mail. Faith is holding on to the belief that something is good is headed your way; that things are slowly coming together in your favor. For my religious friends, it’s the belief that God will never let you fail when you are going through a tough situation. For my non-religious friends, faith is the belief that nothing ends on a bad note. There is always some good, some lesson, some growth, some wisdom, or something that matures you that comes at the end or during the process. Faith is why you hold on through the painful experiences. Faith are the small reminders that the balance of life is always biased towards good rather than bad (no matter how bad bad is).

 

My wish for you today is that something good and necessary is formulating and and headed your way.

Whats Left Undone

Dear Family and Friends,

 

As many of you know, I have a theme ‘to make love is to make life’ that I try to take a moment and ponder once a month. I’ve been struggling to figure out what it really means. I still don’t know. I haven’t had time to think about it because there has been so much on my mind lately. One of the main causes of distraction is kids. Specifically, the clumsy, little kids that don’t tie their shoes. They don’t have the foresight to see that if they just tie their shoes they can prevent themselves from tripping over their own feet in the future.

 

It looks sloppy. Why must they leave their shoes untied? They can take 30 seconds to tie their shoes and go on about their life. You never see adults walking around with their shoes untied.

 

Well, actually…

 

Sometimes adults do leave some things left untied, undone and unresolved. It may not be shoe laces, but what adults leave undone often looks like unresolved apologies, situations, relationships and goals.

 

The Apology. Sometimes we are waiting for an apology for some wrong done to us. Life would be made whole again if only the offender admitted to their hurtful behavior and acknowledged the damage and distress left in its absence. And so we wait. And we wait. And we wait. And we are still waiting. One of my favorite quotes (yes, I have about 100 favorite quotes) for healing and restoration is, “Sometimes you have to accept the apology you will never receive.”

 

This goes two ways. Sometimes you are responsible for asking for forgiveness. There is someone in the world that is waiting and waiting and waiting for you to confess to what you have done. You begin to lie to yourself and believe that everything surrounding the situation will eventually pass. You are hoping the other person will get over it and all parties involved will just move on. But they don’t. They are waiting on you. You can’t move on because you know they are waiting on you. Both of you are awkwardly moving like awkward turtles at an awkward 6th-grade dance.

 

The Relationship. Before Iyanla Vanzant let the celebrity life get to her head, she used to give salient advice full of wisdom. (Now she just profits off of people’s pain. Anyways…) She wrote a book called ‘Acts of Faith’ that has daily personal reflections. Three of her reflections describe three types of relationships that we encounter with every person in our life. The people in our life for a reason will journey with us for a short time, and the relationship will end in such a way that it causes a deep visceral reaction engendering a need to reflect deeply on that experience. There are people who come for a season. They slowly drift away when that season is over. Lastly, there are lifetime people. Iyanla goes on explain that problems arise when we place lifetime expectations on people who were only meant to be in our lives for a reason or a season.

 

Relationships that end with the people who were only in our lives for a reason often cause disruption that leads to unresolved feelings. The relationship may start off fulfilling and usually ends up like a mini WWIII. We hold onto the reasons they wronged us. Conversely, we are ashamed of how we treated them, and we have this longing to go back and make amends. But we can’t. So it feels unresolved.

 

Either way, vestiges of that past relationship appear in other aspects of our lives. It shows up in the way we treat and talk to people that remind us of the relationship. We go places or avoid places because of that relationship. It becomes impossible to get pass invisible barriers that were erected during that relationship and are difficult to destruct without resolving the situation with the other person.

 

The goal. The other day my friend was telling me about the 30-year sprint. By 30 years old you feel the need to: buy a nice home, buy a nicer car, get married, have 2 kids, have a great job, get promoted every year, have a side business, go on vacation out of the country every year, have a 401K and conversations about planning for retirement, and find a unicorn after you spot a yeti during one of your exotic vacations. If you are not approaching 30, this is where you insert the next 10-year mark from your current age and all of the things that would be a nice addition to your life.

 

We all have heard the “that’s not everyone’s story,” or “not everyone takes that path in life,” or “it will come in due time,” blah blah blah blah blah. BLLLLAAAAAHHHHHHH.

 

Don’t be quick to dismiss people’s feelings over an unsatisfied life. They are reaching for a tangible goal that is often the physical manifestation of an emotion need. Home ownership represents security to many people. A good job is an affirmation of hard work and dedication.

 

The trials and hardships. Some of the things that have been left unresolved in our lives are the things that we are actively running away from. It’s the situation that we know is going to cause grief. Instead of facing it head on, we avoid it. It festers in our soul. It runs round and round and round in our mind. It hinders us from being present in the moment because we are physically in place but emotionally running from something.

 

You can’t resolve something you are afraid to face.

 

As always, I don’t know what to tell you what to do about the things left unresolved. The past few weeks I felt like things were off kilter. In the back of my mind, I felt like I had to resolve some things. I was losing sleep. Other things not related to the unresolved issues were not working out for me. Other people’s behavior felt personal (which may or may not have been the case).

 

I guess you just have to figure out what you have left undone. My good advice for this month is to remember tying your shoes means leaving every space, relationship, and encounter better than how you found it. In doing so, you must tie up loose ends and restore what was broken.  Lastly, don’t expect that tying up loose ends is quick, easy and just like they do it in the movies. It’s hard, messy and sometimes you just might not recognize it until you look back and have grown through the situation.
Brianna

In the words of the late and great Langston Hughes:

 

What happens to a dream deferred?

 

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

 

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

 

Or does it explode?

Broken Pieces

’m in the beginning stages of starting a butterfly collection.

(I’ll admit that I have a hoarding issue and everything seems like the beginning of a collection.)

Like I said, I’m in the beginning stages of starting a butterfly collection. I have a set of three matching green, yellow, and orange ceramic butterflies from Panama. I have another set of glass and mosaic orange butterflies from Puerta Vallarta. I just bought two wooden butterflies from Cuba.

They are all my favorite for different reasons. The mosaic butterflies are the most visually appealing butterflies. I love looking at them. I love owning them. I love them.

As I was hanging the wooden butterflies on the wall, one of the mosaic butterflies fell from the wall and shattered on the ground.

My favorite butterfly is now in multiple pieces, but it is not irreparable. I still have 4 big, intact chunks and many shattered pieces. I can see where I need to add the super glue for me to put my butterfly back together again.  Sometimes life is like that. We fall. We hit the the ground hard. We shatter. It’s ugly.
We are not irreparable. It may take a little glue. It may take some time. You may have to throw some pieces away. You will be able to put yourself back together. Or, as Dr. Maya Angelou would say, “And, still, I rise.”
 
 

I don’t love my damaged butterfly any less. Yes, it is deformed and imperfect now. Honestly, it was imperfect when I bought it. I still value it the same.

When you really value something (or someone) it doesn’t matter what it goes through.

You try to revive it and save it before you have to part with it. Even if as a hoarder, I keep old and broken things just to keep things around. However, I will put special effort into the things (or people) I value.

Now flip it around. You may feel as if people devalue you because you don’t meet the high expectations you created in your head. Or, maybe you did let people down or made serious mistakes. You are still valued. Flaws and all.

The consistency of the item matters. Now that I see my beautiful butterfly in its glorious broken state I’m beginning to believe that my butterfly wasn’t made by children in an illegal sweatshop. I don’t think that it would have broken in clean lines if it was as cheap as the other butterflies on my wall.

I don’t have much to say here, but the integrity of things (and people) matter. It especially matters when life gets tough and things shatter.

When something breaks, you learn to do better. The first thing I did when got over the shock that I have a broken butterfly on the ground was remove the other butterflies from the wall. I kind of knew that I didn’t initially pick the most secure method of hanging the butterflies.

Appreciate the wake-up calls. They give you a chance to make better choices.

Life is always about perspective. I could get upset that I have a broken butterfly. But I’m not. I’m relieved that I can restore it. I’m happy that we unexpectedly had to keep the dog at the vet’s office earlier today. If not, there was a good chance the butterfly would have fallen on my dog. She is literally laying in the exact spot the butterfly fell on.

Life happens. Unexpected bad things happen. Things don’t go our way. All things being equal, we can either dwell on setbacks or choose to move on.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: God takes the broken pieces of life and turns it into a beautiful mosaic.

 

Don’t forget, When we make love, we make life.