365 Days in the Bay: Get Your Mind Right

Still month 4. Totally geeked about completing my 6 day juice cleanse (7 lbs down). Cleanse finished on Wednesday. Today is Sunday– and 5 of those 7 pounds are back.

What the royal DUCK (with an F.)

I was talking with a family member tonight about eating 3 rice krispy treats without even noticing and then burst into tears. I was trying to explain how I think there is a food devil that lives in my head that just makes me eat a bunch of junk without my even getting a chance to enjoy and or noticed it! As I was trying to explain, I realized that I was officially off my rocker and just needed to stop talking for a second. After a series of questions, We came to terms with a few things.

My body is SO ready for me to get my shit together; my mind on the other hand?

I have some work to do.

If you follow my snapchat or insta, you’d see that I’m pretty transparent about my food choices and gym routine. When I’m locked in, I’m locked in. You could put 10 rice krispy treats and chocolate chip cookies in front of me; if I’m on a juice cleanse? I’m not touching them! Fascinating to me that I have such unwavering commitment when I’m following some type of strict regiment, but give me freedom? No meal plan? I’m eating allllllll the rice krispies. All of them. In one sitting, and won’t stop to blink.

WHY? Why, God. Why do I feel like a total food addict!!!!

I don’t have that answer. Nor do I really think God has anything to do with my relationship with food. What I did realize today? It’s a control thing.

I like being in control. Relationships. Work. Food. Give me the reigns and I will run with it.

When I’m on a cleanse– there’s control and I’m leading- for myself– with some given guidelines. When I’m at a gym and doing some serious fitness regiment– there’s control and I’m leading for myself– with some guidelines.

When I’m going to the gym occasionally and “trying to lose weight” there are NO controls. Which means I do whatever I want. Which means I typically achieve the exact opposite– less gym time and more free-for-all food time = MORE WEIGHT #ugh.

So what’s the solution? Some would say to stick to strict regiments! They work for me, right! The problem is I end up losing weight to prove a point, not to be healthy. I end up losing weight to win a competition, or to make my trainer look good, or to have some super inspiring story.

The hang up has been this (getting back to my discovery from tonight). I don’t want to lose weight. I don’t want to just watch numbers decrease on the scale. I actually want to be healthy. I want to have a healthy relationship with food. I actually want to love my body and not punish it by excessive workouts and obsessing about a quarter cup of carbs being too much.

I actually want to learn how to cook things I actually like to eat. (Like healthy chicken fingers and french fries—don’t judge me, yes they do exist!!)

Is this possible? Am I so much of a black and white thinker that I keep sabotaging myself? This is all me. I know what to do….so why can’t I do it. What’s changed!?

My mind.  4 months time and my head is spinning. Sure things are settling, but this self-critic would be lying to you all if I said I’ve actually given myself time to process some of the stress I’ve been creating and carrying:

  1. Roommate search: I have been obsessing over this and completely neglecting that I chose a place I can actually afford. Sure a roommate would be helpful; but the stress I’m putting on myself to find one is just not reasonable. Let it go. There is purpose in all of this.
  2. Work responsibilities: lately I have worked myself up so much about what I don’t want to do that I haven’t taken a second to just accept some of the things I cannot change. Like the fact that I’m new and everything is different and I work in completely different functional area right now. Let it go. There is a much greater purpose in all of this.
  3. Making friends: I watched Netflix and Hulu all weekend feeling sorry for myself without even recognizing that I’ve been going non-stop for the past 3 weekends…WITH FRIENDS. A weekend at home was needed. Let it go. You are meeting people at your own pace.
  4. Missing my dog: I hear my neighbors walking their dogs in the morning, or I’ll have a low moment where Ruby would climb up next to me a snuggle…and she’s not there. I’ve been stressing and feeling guilty about her not being here with me. Let it go. She’s with the two people who arguably love you most in this world– your parents. She is fine. You are fine. You will be reunited…it will be okay.

I’m clearly not typing all of these out for your benefit– but mainly to remind myself that some of this stressing has to stop. Particularly if it’s health I’m looking for. Sure stress is a part of the daily life grind; excessive stress, however, serves no one well—particularly not me and my long term health journey.

Don’t get me wrong. The juice cleanse was everything. My taste buds are rewired, my body feels clear, and I’m getting clear signs of what makes me feel good and what things are triggers (i.e. sugar and caffeine now = an INSTANT headache). Now it’s a matter of taking the time to recognize what my body is telling me, listen, and move forward.

My body is telling me it’s ready to let go of this weight in exchange for health. My body is also telling me that getting my mind right is the first step that I’ve spent a good chunk of weight loss journeys ….skipping.

Not this go-round. I’m not doing this for a trainer. I’m not doing this for the ‘likes’. I’m not doing this for a boyfriend or life partner to think I look stunning in backless Olivia Pope gown rockin’ my natural hair (although I wouldn’t be opposed) My focus isn’t on weight loss anymore…It’s my dream to be healthy. This time, I’m okay with being the tortoise. I’m done sprinting. If I lose 1 pound this whole year working through all this junk I’ve created in my mind. Well so be it. Lord knows once I can connect back to knowing without a doubt how beautifully unique, and wonderfully-made I am….just as I am right now…despite size and fitness capabilities….

there will be no stopping me.

#hydration.nutrition.fit.sound.

mind right

365 Days in the Bay: 4 Months in and a Juice Cleanse

I knew I was ambitious with thinking I’d be writing everyday, so then I switched to every week…and then every month…and then well, yeah. Here I am 🙂 lol

What a whirlwind. You all were reading first hand the initial transition woes. The emotional roller coaster days and the unbelievable amount of self-doubt in my ability to call California home.But by GOD alone.  A LOT has happened in 4 months.

-I moved to my own place.($$$$$ Send me a roommate immediately, Brian you movin’!?)

-Went on my first road trip to Santa Cruz (Hello weekend getaways just because!)

-Hosted my first visitors: My big sister and my nephew– doing SF tourist highlights (got punched in the nose by a 2-year-old and it really hurt!!!)

-Went on Yacht Day Party with allll the trap music (YAAASS!)

-Entertained the idea of dating (then realized I was too overwhelmed and introspective at the moment to give energy to anyone else)

-Re-downloaded SnapChat in an effort to recapture some of my adventures (mainly because I spent most of the time on the Yacht party trying to remember my snap password to capture the ultimate turn up…and I failed! #damnyouvodkatonics)

-Walked the full Lake Merritt perimeter with some friends (without peeing my pants, yes I have bladder control issues– leave me alone)

-Refurbished a dresser someone was tossing in the midst of their own move (and tricked a friend into helping me carry it in to my place 🙂 )

-Started (and hopefully completing ) a 6 day juice cleanse.

Sure there are many other highlights of these past four months (i.e. my parking ticket record) but these are just some of the things that remind me of how far I’ve come. The tears have slowed, the fighting has ceased, and the growing continues.

The juice cleanse being the most recent of activities (currently on Day 4), coming out of a need for a reboot or hard reset. A fresh start. I’ve been so quickly moving through this transition that I hadn’t looked up in a while. I looked in the mirror a few days ago (4 to be exact!) and couldn’t even recognize the person staring back at me. In all the good and hard ways, I’ve been changing and haven’t taken a second to look myself in the eyes.

My hair is short and I get a line up at barber shop in Palo Alto where I’m the only black female ever present. I keep a line up…when did that happen?!

I have braces and my teeth are actually straight now– like I think it’s time to take these things off!! I hadn’t even noticed that these brackets have been doing their job amidst all the random food pieces I continuously am picking out of them.

I look JUST LIKE MY MOTHER. I mean it’s creepy guys. I looked up one day and I scared myself. I am no longer this little awkward rolly-polly 10 year old. Although I feel that way, my body has matured in ways that remind me that I am a full blown adult.

All of this has happened, or maybe has been happening and I just haven’t noticed. I’ve been so busy being soooo hard on myself that I lost track of everything I am doing right.

I am an aunt to 3 nephews and 2 nieces. People were telling me happy mother’s day and I couldn’t wrap my head around why! My sister is a new comforting presence in my life…2 years ago she and I barely knew each other…let alone spoke to one another…and yet she was the first member of my family to come out to see me. She and my nephew…

So much has changed in 4 months.

He and I closed our chapter.

So much has changed in 4 months.

A new chapter in my life. I find that I’m still writing, just not here. I’m writing my first book about transparency and vulnerability…and weight– how they all interact and can completely muck up self-love and self-esteem.

I’m brainstorming how to get my business off the ground and gambling with what it means to be your own boss. It’s sounds cool right, but by God- it’s a ton of work.

I’m drinking 6 juices a day– starting and finishing with a thicker dates/almonds based pressed juice with Chlorophyll and Aloe Vera Water and other green juices throughout the day. As I fight through what I thought were hunger pains, I realized that my brain was trying to calculate why I was no longer stuffing my body endlessly just to feel…

This juice cleanse has removed food as a distraction and really opened me up to what keeps me up at night…what I’ve been hiding from, and what I want most out of this life.

It’s also reminded me to do things that I love and learn to appreciate food in ways I had forgotten. This cleanse has given me time to pick up some of the books I have beautifully placed as decor and read them. This cleanse has helped me look in the mirror everyday with a little grace and little damn girl #hairflip all at the same time. This cleanse has reminded me of the importance of sleep, and nutrients, and metabolism pacing, and what it means to love myself RIGHT NOW… not just the “already healthy me” but rather the “I’m working on it” me.

hydration.nutrition.fit.sound.

I feel God_s presence as assurance, comfort, and love.

 

365 Days in the Bay: Weeks 5 & 6-Playing in the Rain

It’s been raining since my arrival. Everyone keeps telling me I brought Ohio with me. I keep reminding them that if I truly brought Ohio, it would be snowing 😉 

Weeks 5 and 6 have been full of house hunting and navigating what are the essentials. One of my colleagues gave me a book to read- Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The premise was getting to what is absolutely necessary in our lives and leaving the excess behind. A daunting task for a low key hoarder. 

Up until this move I have kept absolutely everything. Door decs from being an RA, text messages, the socks from my first time at Girl Scout camp… lol okay not really, but you get where I am going. Everything. When I accepted this job opportunity I knew I didn’t want to bring all of my past with me. Nor could I! Not if I was really setting out for growth. A big reason I took this leap was to make some sense of why I had allowed things...items…collections…to be so valuable. Why was I so committed to having excessive space and and things to fill it with?

This move involved packing, and repacking my suitcases several times. Selling all of my furniture.  Sorting piles and lots of “did I really just throw that away?!” Lots of Plato’s Closet adventures and Goodwill donations.  All to arrive in CA with 3 suitcases and a few boxes I shipped. Pretty unbelievably adult-like of me! Hm! #forthewin 

In looking for somewhere to live, I have become continuously more grateful that I listened to God as he urged me to purge. All of the spaces here are super tiny and emoji big eyes expensive. OMG!

I can count on one hand the places that I have found that meet my essentials:

1.Ruby (pet-friendly; LARGE dog friendly is whole other beast!)

2. Safety (relative of course)

3. God’s Blessing (i.e. gut feeling)

4. Affordability (also relative)

5. Kitchen (no kitchenette or microwave business; yes people are paying lots of money to live somewhere with no kitchen! Smh)

6.Parking (designated being ideal)

Finding all 6 of those has been damn near impossible. Either I’d meet a great group of roommates and they’d say no dog, or I’d find a place I love that was 3,000+ per month. No bueno. I still haven’t found all 6; however, I have most certainly discovered what is a must while recognizing that I’m still figuring some of this out along the way…

I read my daily devotional this morning which reminded me of this:

Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.—Matthew 6:33

I suppose that if I swap my list around and let God lead as number one, the remaining 5 essentials will fall into place.

The rain continues. House hunting and rain have occupied weeks 5 and 6 which means I’ve had less time to emotionally exhaust myself. The sun pops up intermittently,  I’ve eaten some fantastic food, met some insanely awesome people, and even got a little twerk team night in (totally impromptu!)  all things I needed and graciously appreciated. (Thanks, God… and yes, I just thanked God for my dance-sesh/twerk team adventure… he knows my heart!)

I’ve found myself missing my grandmother which is a little overwhelming. She died nearly 2 years ago now and for whatever reason she is walking with me every day of this transitional roller coaster. Overall I’m getting better at dancing in the rain, knowing that it won’t last always. I’m dancing and moving right along. Taking a second to splash in the pot holes, while being mindful that at some point, I need to step out of the hole, out of the puddle, and move forward.

It’s so encouraging to know that even when I lend down the path of feeling nervous or scared of doing this all alone, a still small voice graces me with the reminder that I came into this world with Christ,and I will walk through every phase of life with Christ…even when I fight disbelief and resentment. There have been so many times in my adulting life that I have been convinced that God was a figment of imagination that helped people manage the craziness of life. For every moment I doubted, I literally could feel a spiritual presence hugging me just a little tighter.

Sometimes I think us believers are just a group of hopeless dreamers…but then I remember that even if that proves to be true, I’d much rather continue life as a dreamer and believing in the spiritual presence of life than to believe that there truly isn’t any”Disney magic” in this world. 
When I am in doubt, and the “rain” overwhelms me, something spiritual reminds me that all is well, and that Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

“When we recognize that what is visible must first come out of what is invisible, we might find ourselves getting out of some pretty rough jams…”- Gregory Barrette (Daily Word)

Cheers to rain that hides tears while giving me a reason to lean into faith, remember to play, and to not take myself so seriously. ❤

                 hydration.nutrition.fit.sound.


365 Days in the Bay: Weeks 3&4:The day I broke.

That day was today. Well it was Friday Feb 10th. A complete and utter break. The lowest of lows. The bottom of the barrel. I knew it was a new low because I cried soft tears. Then loud ones. Then no tears. Just numbness.

Today (Friday) was the day my heart gave in to giving up. And then I found my ID.

It was that kind of day. The day where slowly but surely, every decision I made had some type of fall out. The day where you spent the evening before dreaming about being at home and woke up to remember you have no idea where the nearest Target is.

 The kind of day where I went to the post office without my wallet, I couldn’t find work letterhead for official documents, people are continuing to ask me questions that I don’t know the answer to, I can’t get a hold of my best friend…and then I lose my work ID. 
Cue the waterworks. Snot bubbles.

I mean honestly…  I reread this now for edits and all I can think is “What makes those collective things feel so big? So overwhelming? So defeating? 

I hear this inner record playing. Reminding me that I chose this. That God presented this blessing of a west coast opportunity and I opted in. I hear people talk through their own situations and I think about how blessed I am. How dare I allow a lost ID to derial me?! The shaming starts, the depression rolls in, and I get that “it could be worse, and here you are, complaining” feeling and verbal confirmation in the pit of my stomach. 

The reality of this moment is that I have been battling me vs. me. No one else. At this point I have a decision to make. Are you going to embrace the severely challenging  work required of living a great life or are you going to freeze and go home? 

I see why people give in to giving up. I see why people take their lives. If you aren’t mentally prepared  or if you haven’t spent any time or been forced to build your resilience, life can seemingly have these moments of aggressive carpet pulling from beneath your feet… my feet. 

It’s the collection of the little things that make for the big meltdown moments. For me it’s the scale creeping up, or another failed housing search, or another email task as soon as you’ve completed one. Or crockpot meal failures that turn into pizza night that turn into food guilt, that turn into financial panic. WTH! Does anyone else’s brain seemingly kick into overdrive analysis out of no where?! I literally have to say STOP out loud sometimes to bring the spiraling to a halt. 

It’s these little things that pile up, and then you (I) lose your (my) ID and somehow that equates to I am a total failure. #lies

I shared this because these are the days I am in the boxing ring fighting with myself, no one else. 

It’s in these moments that I have learned that if I get still enough, stop sobbing enough, and listen close enough, Life seemingly and suddenly turns a new leaf.

I am able to think clearly and remember who I truly am.

I officially started my own business. I am a business owner and have an opportunity to build on something I absolutely love. Believe in the Journey is a real dream that I have actualized. It’s been my dream since I was 13 y/o. 

Dreams take time…commitment…and patience, Cierra.

I have a support system. All over this great world I have friends calling to check on me, friends and distant family in the area making sure I know I’m not alone. 

My Columbus pastor texted with information on a church family to reach out to. God stirs my spirit with hope…. right when the wheels fall flat off the wagon.

You are not alone, Cierra.

I have a chance to read these books I keep moving with me every time I move. I have a chance to practice everything I tell everyone else. I have a chance to dig my feet into this earth and breathe.

I am growing you, Cierra–helping you find your roots so that when the real storms come, I know you are planted firmly in who you are, and who I created you to be.

Today would’ve been my grandmothers 84th birthday. She cleaned floors on her hands and knees at my age so that my mom and her siblings could have a shot at more.

She fought, at 82 and a full 95lbs, for me to hear how much she loved me, how proud of me she is, and how much pride and joy I brought into her life.

Life is a choice. My grandmother chose to keep fighting for as long as she could; she was in awe of how life evolved from her scrubbing floors for a living to watching her granddaughter walk this earth with two degrees. From how her life  transitioned from barely getting by,  graced into her peacefully passing away in the comforts of her own home.

  My grandmother chose to keep fighting through addiction and through pain, and through lost. She fought for 82 years. How dare I think about letting go now. 

My mom misses her mother every single day. She keeps fighting because she believes in me and she believes that despite current struggles, her greatest battle is the one she is facing with herself. The one I am facing with myself. 

We are not alone, mom.

Mama would poop her pants to know I had the courage to move across the country; I hear her voice in every moment along the way…..You can do this, Cierra.

It’s time for me to fight for myself. So that at 82, or 92 or 102, I can reread this blog and remember that I didn’t give up. I fell hard. I busted up quite a bit of broken skin in some tough places…

But I didn’t give in to giving up. Not today. Not ever.

Rest easy Mama. I’m going to be okay…we’re going to be okay. 

             hydration.nutrition.fit.sound.

365 Days in The Bay: Week 2-Decision.

End of Week 2. Midway through week 3. Completely over-stimulated about the number of decisions I’ve been considering within such a short amount of time. I miss my dog. So I decided to dog-sit. I needed to eat healthier. So I decided to go to the Farmer’s Market. I needed to get out of the ‘house’. So I decided to drive to Mountain View for a movie.

Those being some of the simple decisions I made; that weren’t quite as simple when you (I) don’t know where anything is. ha!  I’ve found myself in this interesting space of talking about Maslow a lot lately. I am experiencing, so clearly, the need for basics needs being met.

The work environment is charged with my needing to make the decision of how I work best. Or quite possibly– me making the intentional decision to articulate how I work best. My past few jobs have shown me the importance of teaching people how to work best with you, or rather how to mange up. I’ve finally given up on trying to mold myself into someone else style; I know only myself and I’m going to go with what I know best. All to say– 2.5 weeks in and I am deciding to set my own pace {despite the fire-hose full of work I’ve been drinking}.

This past week has been full of lots of tears. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t second-guessed myself. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that by day 3, I was wondering if I made the right…decision. It’s hard to know, right? We live in a world where we (I) are often chasing the next best opportunity. I live in a space between my own two ears that strives for purpose and value driven work. By Day 3 I was so viciously searching for meaning and clarity that I had made the right choice, meanwhile I was being placed in a space of deciding and actualizing all the moving parts of my new role.

“Can you do this? I mean truly, Cierra, can you do this? Are you going to make the decision to commit to all the discomfort, all the sleepless nights, all the tear, all the feels that come with change and transition? Are you going to embrace everything you are experiencing as a part of your journey…your story? Are you going to remember how your best friend helped you prepare for this moment? He said to you, ‘Only you know how change impacts you, and only you can prepare yourself for how you can be successful amidst so much change.’– Are you going to embrace any of that?

Are you going to apartment search? How many roommates can you live with? What can you afford? What are you giving up based on affordability? What do you value most? Do you want to drive to work? bus? train? Do you even know how to use public transportation? Is your privilege showing? Are you being a wimp? Are you thinking too much? YES!!! Okay you are thinking too much, how do you just be? but wait…that requires thought too!?”

Ongoing decisions and ongoing questions. Things that have challenged me to get to know myself on a much deeper level. Forcing me to gain an understanding of what I am afraid of– what I need in order to be successful, and what am I ready to embrace as a growing space. I cannot do it all at once. I just cannot and I am going to stop asking myself to. I am going to stop expecting that by 2.5 weeks in, I should have it all figured out. I am also going to rename failures. Haven’t come up with what that’s going to be yet, but that word must leave my vernacular…asap.

I spend a lot of my down time on the phone. Talking to friends I haven’t connected with in a while. Family members encouraging me to stay prayerful and empowered. I still hear the sting of distance so clearly in my parents voices…little do they know that nearly every time I hang up the phone— I cry.

Big tears. Big weeping ugly snot bubble tears. Tears that are connected to how much I love them– how much family means to me– and how hard it is…it was… to decide to be this far from them. All of them. Life is tough and I recognize how fortunate I am to be the product of two people I love so much it hurts. Loving and missing them as also charged this completely other conversation with myself about what having a family of my own means to me…questioning whether or not I see or want to be a mom, wife…’nuclear family’ person. Those are big questions {and decisions} for a different day…I just know I miss them more than I can truly articulate.

Decisions have been the current for these past few weeks and I’m all in. I’m all in to making decisions based on what I know is best for me–my goals–my peace–my sanity.

My anxiety has been on a new level and it’s because while I’ve been on the phone asking advice; it’s the first time in my life that at the end of the day, I truly have to LIVE in whatever decision I make. Just me.

I can ask as many people as I want about the CA commuting and neighborhoods, safety and social aspects, roommate vibes or solo living– I can ask and ask and ask and ask– and people are happy to talk it out…and yet ultimately…It’s up to me to decide what’s best for me. How liberating and terrifying at the same damn time. #ohvey

All of the complexities of identity discoveries, work environment vibes, personal preferences– all of these ‘things’ end up defining us and truly shaping how we interact with the world and with ourselves. In all the anxiety I am feeling; I’m most excited for the courage I’m gaining in being authentically me…snot bubbles and all.

hydration.nutrition.fit.sound.

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365 Days in The Bay: Week 1- Wearing My Skin

Last Saturday I left my best friend in Ohio, Ruby. My four-legged daughter/best friend/life-companion. One week without her has taught me a lot about myself. Starting with I’m a dog person. That’s just who I am. As exhausting and expensive as having a pet can be, I’ll likely always find myself snuggled up next to a furry friend. This week has also shown me how humbling and freeing it is to have time with just you. I’ve been transitioning into a new job, yes, but what’s been the most shocking is the complete unveiling of self. My self.

No TV. No social life. No distractions….just me. I tried deflecting and my human best friend (not Ruby) reminded me that my inaugural California frustrations had everything to do with me. Things I’ve been able to pack down deep inside and put on a mask and hide behind in lieu of being well-received and liked. For years my priorities have been all jacked up. I’ve been silencing myself in order to people please. To be the brilliantly successful kid I hear my parents telling all their friends about. I buried the brokenness and took the ‘high’ road. Acting. I’ll just pretend everything is fine and maybe eventually everything will….be fine.

Faking it until you make it isn’t working for me. 28 years later…end scene. Camera fades.

Pans screen to reality.

No TV. No social life. No distractions….just me. This strange space of realizing, feeling and being. This first week has been a great training ground for authenticity. For the first time in my life, I’m being honest with myself. Telling folks what I need to be successful, openly identifying my intentions of working style and saying no. Do you know how hard it is to say “No” in your first week of work? 

And here I am…saying No. Not because it feels great or because it’s liberating. I said ‘No’ because I ultimately know who I am or at least I’m beginning to– I’m just un-burying everything I’ve hidden in order to fit in, but I know, that I cannot afford to hide anymore. My mental health and self-love has taken too many hits on the back of others’ happiness. No. More. I have to say No to anything that threatens my ability to be my best me.

So what does that mean? How do you transition into a new role–into the trenches saying No? Let me tell you– I’m no genius, but I’m learning that no isn’t the problem. People don’t freak out about no– it’s how you say it and how your provide a solution to what you are saying no to. No requires solution-oriented thinking and a commitment to proactive versus reactive work-flow. That’s a true art that I’m embracing. It’s also about letting people know who you are up front. Setting clear expectations and recognizing that although those expectations may be challenged– you have to be honest with yourself and and only YOU can truly take YOUR best interest at heart (please re-read that Cierra, that line is from you and for you!).

I love being in a work environment that respects that. That respects me being me, and my being honest about it, and I’m grateful that God continuously places me in environments that are a training ground for helping me to become everything He designed me to be.

Aside from work, this week has been quite profound in reminding me of the color of my skin. In Ohio, I rarely took notice to my differences. Primarily due to the privilege of growing up around forward thinking families and continuously being in an environment where my name proceeded my identity. Small town privilege or something of the sort. I could have it all wrong. Maybe it’s just that I was truly a color blind kid until the world reminded that I couldn’t afford to be. That my skin was too dark and my hair was too tight to not be aware of how my melanin and crunchy coils would impact my interactions in the world–outside of my comfort zones or pockets of “safe”ish spaces in Ohio.

Being pretty alone in a new environment brings to life a constant reminder of a statement I’d regularly hear from my mom, “It’s okay that you are comfortable, Cierra; just know that you must always be aware.” My mom use to say that to me all the time and I’d roll my eyes. I’d say “Okay, but Mom it’s not like that anymore!”

My bubble burst when I looked myself in the mirror one day and said, damn. Not the good kind but the deep reality kind of ‘damn’. It literally doesn’t matter how nice I am, how qualified I am, how insightful I am– fill in the blank– I will always have to be aware in a way that non-brown people may never understand. And then I felt dumb. Naive for being such a late bloomer….dreamer maybe, I don’t know. I’m still working through everything; I’ve always had culturally sound and profound people in my life, and somehow I just so resisted my blackness as something that could work against me and as something I truly needed to understand.

It’s a strange feeling– looking yourself in the mirror and feeling all the bubbles you’ve been allowed to live in, burst. Not because someone popped them. Not because anyone has called me out of my name (to my face anyway); but just because for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing people treating me different due to the color of my skin. Looking at me a little longer, being off-put from my smile and genuine exuding of goodness. People giving me advice on different communities to be in touch with out here, or neighborhoods where I’m most inclined to be comfortable– based on my brown skin. Oh mom. Yes. I must always be aware.

I went to see Hidden Figures today so I’m not sure if that’s what’s triggered such a level of awareness. I also watched President Obama’s Farewell Address– the first presidential address I’ve watched in entirety. I also, for the first time, took some time today (MLK holiday) took some time researching how and why we have this holiday. I think all of these experiences combined helped me feel comfortable writing or talking about everything I’m processing. I’ve always hid behind my blackness– hoping that my Cierra-ness would be enough to take the color component away. I wanted that so badly, but as I entrench myself in truly knowing myself, I have to be honest in acknowledging the blackness I carry and all that comes with it.

So. A heavy first week, but an enlightening one nonetheless. Here’s to more self-discovery, honesty– authenticity, and self-love.

I use my powers of faith and strength to face and overcome difficult situations. I use my powers of love and understanding as I pray for myself and others. I use my powers of wisdom and guidance when I question my life’s direction.

I am a spiritual being, gifted with unlimited power and potential.

‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.’—1 Corinthians 13:11-12

-Daily Word 1/17/17

 

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Write.

I’ve been thinking of a creative title for the past 3 days. I knew I wanted to make myself sit down and blog about my first morning waking up in the Bay Area as a newcomer. I wanted some profound catchy title. I thought about writing first thing this morning–but since I woke up at 5am bright-eyed, disoriented, and starving, I was distracted by my buddy Maslow reminding me of the basic needs I needed met immediately…FOOD.

I then quickly learned that west coast football = morning football; my Pittsburgh Steelers were playing at 10:00am so no time to write #gametime. With an afternoon quickly filled with answering check-in phone calls, making sure folks knew I was alive, and hitching a ride  with a new colleague to do my first Californian Trader Joe’s run (please note: Bring your own bags!), I walked back in to my sleeping stomping grounds feeling a bit outpaced.

Day. 1. Maslow: Basic Needs met… the reality of the move starts to settle in…time slows…heart rate sky rockets…thoughts racing…

You came here dear Cierra on a one-way ticket. You left the comforts of your 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment, your dog, your family, your friends, and you now are shacking up in dorm-style room  with whatever happened to fit in three rolling suitcases. What in the actual hell did you pack that you truly needed?? Have you ever arrived some where and try to make sense of why you packed certain things over others?  I have enough clothes to avoid laundry for 3 months… but no toothbrush case or deodorant *rolls eyes*. I have enough shoes to change my outfit 5 times in a day, but no rain boots or shoes that can put up a fight to wetness…nope..tennis shoes…and “dress boots”…it’s been raining since I arrived. You have 8 bottles of perfume but no blanket {you want to go night night, *****? Kevin Hart reference…} WTF!

I’m fine. Truly I am, lol– I literally just laughed at myself as I re-read my post lol, but really guys I’m okay 🙂 I have my basic needs, but it’s funny what we think we need until we realize what we truly need. I need time. Me time. I need some down time of adjusting. Time to mentally work through all that has happened in the past 24 hours, and what will happen over the next few weeks…months…years?  I need time to cope with no dog–no Ruby laying her head on my lap as she sense my anxiety. I need time to sit in silence, hear the rain, and wrap my mind around being patient with transition. Silent time to remind myself that I am just fine and that I have hit my quota of “figuring out” for today; my brain needs a break.

I’m a Virgo, so naturally one of the first things I did after situating my basic needs was starting to organize. Make list. Write goals. Perfect my living environment (everything has it’s place!) In my “perfecting” I was swept with the overwhelming reality of no matter how exciting and life altering and guts-y this move is… there is no way I’m master overnight perfection. There’s no way I am settling in to the reality of this decision in less than 24 hours. You can, however write. “You need to write, Cierra.”

Write. That’s the title I came up with for my first big day in The City. So I’ll continue to write…and write…and process…and write. I’ll continue looking forward and stepping in to all the discomfort and allow myself to feel everything I’m feeling. I’ll look forward to continuing to find all the little nuggets of encouragement my mom secretly packed within my luggage…because she is the best and she knows that I was unpacking the moment I got here. ❤

What a blessing to have an opportunity to experience a fresh start. What a blessing to look at myself in the mirror and say “Here you are, Cierra. You have actualized your vision board….it’s time to create a new one and start living the life you were designed to live.”

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A Letter to God.

Dear God,

Help. Seriously…help. I’m trying here. I wake up every morning. Three days out of the work week I head to a hip hop fitness dance class at 5:45am. I’m packing something new daily. I’m meeting with people to say goodbye. I’m posting my life as a giant for sale sign, but  I’m not praying… I can’t do it. I just can’t talk to you right now.

I have no idea why I’m feeling so overwhelmed. I mean, Yes, I am moving across the country in less than a month. Yes, I am selling practically everything I have ever owned. Yes, I am walking away from my ultimate comfort zone. And yet, in the strangest way, I cannot bring myself to talk to you. I know that everything that’s happening to me right now is a part of your plan. I know that. I also know that you know that I can’t talk to you right now. I just can’t. 

Talking to you will unleash how totally petrified I am to leave. Talking to you will send me in to this spiraling of tears– guilt– and frustration for how your logic doesn’t match with mine. Talking to you will make me angry because I feel ungrateful and imperfect, and a let down to this gift of change you’ve given me. I don’t get it, I don’ feel worthy of where I know you are taking me in this life, and so I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t understand how something I wanted so badly, something that felt so spiritually sound, is currently causing me an immense amount of distress. Why am I so negative?

…I’m scared. that’s why. It’s easier to be negative, passive aggressive, and short-tempered, than it is to admit that I am flat out terrified of failing this mission you have for me. I feel like I am being slowly stripped of everything I know. Good things, challenging things, and situations you’ve called me to move on from. I have death grip on this life, and you and gingerly, yet purposefully, calling me to let go.

The last time we talked I prayed a big prayer; I asked you to remove anything from my life that wasn’t for me. I asked you to transform me into who you made me to be. I had no idea that the transformation process would be so shattering to my current identity.

I look at myself and I see, deep in my heart, everything you created me to be. A woman who will transform into this beacon of hope to people who cannot see beyond the immediacy of their circumstances. A voice of reason to other people who share an identity of being smothered by depression and anxiety in world that calls you to be at your best at all times. I see that you created me to be an example of dreamer who actualized everything you have planned for me. I see it all. And I’m scare d…

I think this is one of the greatest misses in all the success stories people share. Either I’m a total nut, or people just don’t get into the weeds with this part…

The thing is, I know what I am capable of. I know that I’m unique and wonderfully made. I know that I will literally set this world on fire with everything that lives within me. I know that my purpose is so much greater than I could’ve ever imagined. The hard part is stepping into that. The hard part is knowing that my strengths can quickly become my weaknesses if I over do it…and that in the same breathe, overthinking everything will keep me right where I am. The hard part is turning my back on the crowd to lead the orchestra. My entire life has been so centered on appeasing the crowd. I’ve always wanted to fit in.

This mission you’ve given me, God, is scary, because it’s a reminder that you never intended for me to fit in. You didn’t make me to be like anyone else in this world. That’s scary for this small town girl who’s primary goal in life has been to have a boyfriend and a dog to go through life with. You haven’t called me to simplicity– you’ve called me to greatness…and to whom much is given…much is required…

So I write this letter to you, God, because I can’t pray, I’m scared. I write this letter to you, God, because I hope that writing will help remind me that you have given me so much. I write this letter to remind myself that everything I am fearing is a reaction to leaving my comfort zone. I write this letter to remind myself that I am covered, despite my fear, and despite my resistance to pray. I write this letter to remind myself that it doesn’t matter how far I think I’m running away from you…you are right here and you love me…and  I can’t run away from you.

Love always,
Cierra

Believe in the Journey

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It’s Within You…

“You have the power to climb out of the darkness and reconnect to the part of you that is worthy of everything you want. You have the power, but you have to realize that it’s within you. It’s not out in the world. It’s not in the words of this article. It’s not in your yoga practice. It’s not in your therapy sessions. It’s within you.”-MBG 10/17/16

Life is tough. Everyday is mixed with such a plethora of emotions, i.e. weddings, babies, new jobs, to deaths of family members and friends, scary diagnosis, and reminders that it could all change for you in and at any moment. It’s a gift, life- but it’s tough. It’s hard to wrap our human minds around the concept of spiritual guidance/acceptance. Whomever you pray, for me it’s Jesus, there’s at least some part of you that can’t escape the human nature of worry. Some days present themselves and you have all the faith in the world…get some news from a friend or family member and that unwavering faith may start to wobble.

At least mine does. I use to be real embarrassed about that. How one morning I could wake up and post something super inspirational about moving forward and then in the very next moment, end up crying the entire way home from work. Why? Because something happened in that day that shattered my faith. How does that happen? How can I be so faithFULL and faithLESS at the same damn time ? (Song pun intended).

One practice I’ve picked up is silence. I wake up in the morning and make every attempt to spend 2-3 min awake, but in silence. I try to hear what’s causing to me feel anxious, or excited, or nervous,or upset. Focus on what’s triggered the emotion and then just sit in it. The other day I woke up in a panic fearing I’d lost information I need for creating my business. I was so certain that I had lost it and was sadden and pissed off at the thought of having to start over. Before my feet had even hit the ground I was spiteful and angry. I sat still. Embraced everything I was filling–laughed at myself a little for being so uptight, and gingerly said, “Cierra, if God wants you to have this, you will find it, and if he doesn’t, he needed you to be okay with a fresh start.”

A friend talked to me last night about “the wisdom to know the difference”. The serenity prayer is a good one…but I had never really taken the time to work through this part of it. The prayer reads, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The wisdom to know the difference is the trickiest part of that prayer. I have a piece of art a friend and business owner made for me that says “Feel the fear and do it anyway” my therapist in grad school would say that to me when I would come in to see her bottled up with fear and anxiety about a decision I needed to make. Most recently I’ve struggled with two perspectives on that… feel the fear and do what’s in your GUT anyway or your HEART anyway or your HEAD anyway? If you are anything like me, it’s a rarity that these three are in alignment.

God sent a carrier by way of a friend yesterday to help me work through that… he said that God greets us through his love, guides us with his unconditional love, and shapes us through love…the heart…the heart is the single organ that keeps us alive. Yes, it works in tandem with all other parts of our bodies, but it’s the heart and when it stops beating that determines when earthly life has come to an end. God speaks to me through my heart. He speaks to me through a quickened heartbeat, a flutter, and then a short small whispered voice. I know how God speaks to me and I hear Him when I get silent and still enough to truly listen to my heart.

I write all this as I have woken u with a lump of anxiety on my chest. I woke up with a big giant fear of the unknown– curious to what God’s plan are for my life. Curious of what hardships and celebrations will be apart of my story. Fearful for wrong decisions and misunderstandings of feel the fear and do it anyway…am I hearing God? or am I hearing myself?…the wisdom to know the difference…

Silence ( and writing to share my story) helps provide me with the wisdom I’m seeking. Find yours…it’s within you, I promise.

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A Birthday to Remember

10, 21, 25, 28. My most memorable birthdays. 10th was a pool party at my high school’s public pool. Double Digits. I vividly remember asking my mom if this could be my last birthday. I didn’t want to get any older.

21 for all of the obvious reasons. Sloppy drunk at Ugly Tuna with my dear friend Theresa. She was determined to have me out at the stroke of midnight. Particularly because I was the last of my friends to turn 21-always the baby of the crew. Rolled down a hill in front of my residence hall and passed out. A friend hosted a house party for me too somewhere around that time. That’s when Sophia and I’s RA relationship started. I got broken up with the day after the party, not truly broken up with- we weren’t formally dating. He liked someone else more. Went to Bob Evans that morning- borrowed his Kid Cudi CD, and later that day he said he “just wanted to be friends”. Something of the sort.

I had a mental breakdown and didn’t leave my dorm room for several days.

25th birfday was the last one I remember spending with my grandmother. I went to Steubenville to get my new license and then to her house to hang out. We watched Steve Harvey re-runs…maybe some Gun Smoke? Went to lunch with my mom, dad, and cousin Julian. The waitress spilled hot coffee on my dad. We haven’t gone back there since. They didn’t even comp. us at all…oh steuby.

28. Took my first totally solo trip to the city of my dreams. Rode a bike 9 miles from Pier 41 down pass Crissy Fields all the way around to the west entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge. My eyes welled up with tears and I literally just paused to try bottle the moment. I didn’t want a picture. I wanted to remember with everything in me the extreme sense of accomplishment that comes with packing a single backpack, looking myself in the mirror and saying- I’m doing this. No matter what. I took a picture just in case.

If I die on this trip so be it. Okay, I know that’s a bit extremist; the point being I refuse to sit still any longer waiting for the world to make sense. It’s just not going to. I’ve lived a successful 28 years, and I vividly remember 4 birthdays. Probably a few more if I really sat still long enough (sleepover with 21 girls at my house in middle school where one of my closest friends had peanut butter spread all over folks… She’s severely allergic… 😶 I have the best mom ever.)

4 birthdays. This 28th birthday my momma told me the story of my coming into the world. Everything that was going on around her. I listened on the phone and silently cried. I was her dream come true. A baby girl. Her girl. She would give her life for me to live- she almost did.

I refuse to allow her dream to be a waste. Sept 16th is the day God chose to bring one of her greatest dreams to life. 28 years later I know exactly why He created me. To live, to travel, to share, to experience near death moments and survive in His light to tell the story. To challenge the world built with suffering and fear. To step in faith with Him as my companion. To understand why I’ve never feared death and always struggled with the choice to live. Not to breathe, but to live. To have moments where it doesn’t make sense, cry through it, and move on…at my own pace.

When I die I’m going home. I’ll be with my Aunt Alexis, my Nana, my Mama –all my previous pets and whomever else God takes that way between now and then. I’m not looking forward to it happening any time soon. I hope the plan for me is beyond year 28, but here’s the thing, I’m not afraid of that. I’m afraid of sitting still–breathing and not living.

What an experience. To have your heart flutter with the unknown. To step on to public transportation with a slight tinge of am I absolutely crazy/ will I get shanked today, and how freeing it is to know that I have no control over what happens next. May as well, live.

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