A little over a year ago I walked into a local hardware store. I don’t remember what I was there for, all I know is that on my way to find it I fell in love with a fiddle leaf fig tree that was on sale for $20. I picked it up, carried it with me to whichever aisle held my required item, and then I went to the checkout counter.
Once home, I quickly named my plant “Figgy Azalea” and she’s been with me ever since.
When I first moved into my new apartment, I stuck Figgy on the floor below my kitchen window. It seemed like an obvious spot that got great light. I also thought it would be easy to track her growth based on her relation to the light switch.
For the first few months, she sat proudly under that window. She stayed green and healthy but didn’t really grow. Then, at the beginning of December, I moved her to a different spot in the living room to make space for my little Christmas tree. I stuck her next to my couch, in indirect light, and wrapped tensile around the base of her pot for decoration. A few days later, a baby leaf sprouted on her stem. Within a week it blossomed into a full blown, bright green leaf. I was so excited! I took pictures like a mother on her child’s first day of school, fighting back tears as she says, “you’re getting so big” under her breath.
After the holidays, I was prompt to take down my Christmas decorations. I still lingered on a few Christmas movies, but I wanted to ring in the new year with a fresh, clean apartment. So I took down the tree, packed up the decorations, and moved Figgy back to her spot under the window.
Within a week or two, she started to lean, reaching for (or away from?) the sunlight. Again, she stayed green and healthy, but it was almost as if she was pointing to the corner where she once sat. She was a kid tapping at their parents’ side as they chatted to a friend at the bank, “I don’t like it here, can we go home now?”
Then one of her leaves fell off.
I moved her back to the spot next to the couch, and again, within a week, a baby leaf sprouted.
Figgy knows what kind of light she likes to grow in, and she isn’t afraid to ask.
Direct sunlight—the spotlight—is not for all of us. Some of us like to be a bit more in the background.
There is a quote from the book Quiet by Susan Cain that says, “The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk.”
It’s not always easy to ask for the lighting we want. It’s not always easy to pursue the lighting we feel most comfortable in—especially if those around us don’t agree. But we each know where we feel we have the best opportunity to grow. And it’s in our best interest to find it. Or to ask for it.
Take it from Figgy, find your light and let yourself grow.
I was recently listening to the Bad on Paper podcast and they raised the following question:
What restaurants would make up your ideal food court?
It’s a great conversation starter, and I’ve found it can draw out some pretty heated opinions.
It’s also tough question, but I decided to add even more of a challenge and limit the number of choices to five.
Here are my answers:
Typically, if I’m craving a sandwich I’ll go to Subway. It’s simple and familiar and I have the app on my phone with my order tee-d up. But there is something very nostalgic and comforting about Quiznos for me. In my early 20’s I worked in retail at my local mall and it was…a lot. There were crazy hours and crazy customers—one of which told me I ruined her granddaughter’s Christmas—and most of the time I went in with a survival mentality. I just have to get through these 8 hours. I just have to finish folding this last stack of men’s t-shirts. I just have to get to lunch. Ah, lunch. The one-hour break where I got to sit in the back room with my headphones on, and just be left ALONE. My store was inside a mall, and thus there was a full food court at my disposal, and yet I only EVER went to Quiznos for lunch, and I only EVER ordered the Chicken Carbonara on wheat bread with no bacon. After a while, the guy behind the counter started to recognize me and would start making my sandwich whenever I walked in. He felt like an ally in my battle to survive retail, and Chicken Carbonara was my comfort food.
2) Bluebell Ice Cream
I am a sucker for an ice cream cone. And sometimes in the summer, when it’s 1000 degrees and you haven’t planned anything for dinner, a double scoop in a waffle cone promises nothing but satisfaction. There are plenty of delicious ice cream shops native to Southern California, but I would choose Bluebell. As of now, Bluebell remains unavailable in California, so I only have it when I visit family back east. As a result, I constantly hold all other ice creams to the standard of Bluebell’s Salted Caramel Cookie, and nothing has come close to measuring up.
I don’t eat fast food often but when I do it is almost exclusively Chick-Fil-A. In 2020, when so many gatherings happened over Zoom, me and a group of cousins did a french fry ranking bracket, where I fought for Chick-Fil-A fries as if they were a constitutional right. I would also choose Chick-Fil-A sauce as my *condiment of choice* and they have milkshakes. So…duh.
4) Coffee Bean
I’m not a coffee drinker, but I understand the need for a shop geared towards surviving the morning. Every time I’ve taken an early flight, I’ve stopped off at a coffee shop to grab a muffin or banana, and if I’m feeling wild (or freezing) a hot chocolate. Recently, I’ve started dabbling in the world of tea which has made me feel less like a coffee shop outcast. So I feel like this would be a good fit for both who I’m becoming and for my friends and family who would boycott my food court if this was not included.
5) Pizza Press
And finally, pizza. (DUH part 2.) There are only a few pizza places that I would actively choose not to order from, as I find pizza delicious 90% of the time. So honestly, this slot could be given to any pizza chain. However, Pizza Press is another one with fond memories and one of my favoritepizzas ever: “The Times” (with no cilantro). It used to be my favorite place to order from when I visited my cousins in Irvine, and a go-to spot after Friday night softball games. There isn’t one very close to me anymore, so I mostly pop around making replicas of the “The Times” at other pizza places, though nothing is ever as good.
One of my favorite worship songs of all time is “Graves Into Gardens” by Elevation Worship.
The bridge is my favorite part, and it goes like this:
You turn mourning to dancing
You give beauty for ashes
You turn shame into glory
You’re the only one who can
You turn graves into gardens
You turn bones into armies
You turn seas into highways
You’re the only one who can
To me, it’s a song about what God can do, and the seeming impossibility of it all.
Just the name “Graves into Gardens” suggests the ability to turn something sad and dark into something beautiful.
But the line that sticks with me most is “you turn seas into highways.”
It’s one that always conjures an image for me.
While I assume the line is in reference to when God used Moses to part the Red Sea, allowing the Israelites to escape Egypt, I picture it differently.
I imagine myself in the middle of huge body of water. I look side to side, seeing no land, no boats, no way to get to safety. I am treading water, and then God tells me to run.
“Run?” I ask, “don’t you mean swim?”
He assures me he means run.
“But I’m in the middle of the water. My feet aren’t even touching the ground. Won’t I sink?”
And so I do.
I pump my arms and kick my legs, doing my best to mime running in the water. And sure enough…I start sinking. The frantic motion no longer allows me to tread water but concede to it. I start sinking and so I start panicking, but I still hear that call to keep running. So I do.
And suddenly, my feet touch the ground. I have traction. My legs still move slow, as the water adds a lot of resistance, but I pump one leg after the other.
And then suddenly, I have breath. I can breathe. I am no longer underwater. But I am somehow still touching the ground. I feel the weight of the water release me, starting at my shoulders and working its way down. The water is draining, the resistance is weakening.
Soon, the water is just a puddle at my feet and I’m running, full speed, on solid ground. I don’t know if behind me the water is parted, like the Red Sea, or if the entire body of water has simply disappeared. I just imagine myself running, free, uninhibited, on an open road.
This is how I imagine God turning a sea into a highway. How he can turn a scary, seemingly inescapable place, into a route towards something good. And while the way there might not make sense, or might seem to take us somewhere lower, somewhere harder, before we get there, God is with us and we can trust Him.
He can turn seas into highways, graves into gardens, shame into glory.
Hello and welcome back to another edition of Favorites, where everything is straight forward and I tell you—you guessed it—about some of my favorites from the last two months.
Let’s get right into it.
I melt for Norah Jones’ voice. It has long been able to put me in a peaceful place and make me feel like things are going to be okay—even if the song she’s singing happens to be sad. So when I heard she had a podcast—Playing Along with Norah Jones—where she interviews and plays music with guests, I was IN. It is such an easy and relaxing listen. I’ll put it in on when I’m on my way to work, or making dinner, or, my favorite, when I’m sitting at the kitchen table doing a puzzle.
I found the Bad on Paper podcast on a best of 2022 list and I am so happy I did! It is a podcast mainly centered around books, but it also touches on a little bit of everything. I especially like the book club episodes that come out at the end of the month.
And finally, Podcrushed, which is a podcast centered around life—mainly middle school life—hosted by Penn Badgley, Nava Kavelin, and Sophie Ansari. Each episode features a guest that talks a little bit about their middle school experience, as well as what they’ve learned since. It’s a relatable and cozy listen that makes the trials of middle school feel a little less scary to think about.
The Villa by Rachel Hawkins was the Bad on Paper book club pick for January, so I was excited to jump in and participate. It follows two timelines, one in the present day, and one in the 70’s. In the present day, two best friends go on vacation to an Italian villa that is famous for a murder that took place in the 70s. It was a gripping read and the ending left me sitting there, thinking about it, for hours.
I heard a lot of hype about Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton so I went in with high expectations…and it met all of them. It’s a memoir about the trials of love (both romantic and platonic), and Dolly does such a great job at capturing the feelings down to the bone. This book made me feel especially seen and so I’m very grateful I read it.
It had been a while since I read a book that I loved but also hated because I was in such a hurry to know every single thing that happened but also didn’t want the book to be over, so I was excited to find Every Summer After by Carley Fortune. It follows Persephone and her best friend Sam as they grow up together during their summers spent in a beach town. I listened to the audiobook, and while I started at a slow, leisurely pace. I quickly began to work my schedule around finding time to listen to this book because I just wanted to know what happened. So I suppose you could call this a recommendation and a slight warning.
Going to come clean with you, I watched The In Between solely because I have a crush on Kyle Allen. They stuck him on the poster, so that was enough for me. I also like Joey King, who stars opposite him in this good but also kind of heartbreaking movie about a couple who is separated by death but finds their way back to each other in the “in between.” It’s a sweet story with a supernatural element that makes you wonder. (find it on Amazon Prime)
As I was writing that last paragraph, I laughed out loud because I realized that this next movie, Rosaline, also features Kyle Allen. I love watching movies that have actors in common. I call it, “theme-ing.” So this is both funny and on par for me. Rosaline tells the “untold story” of Romeo’s girlfriend before Juliet. It’s funny and original and made me laugh out loud. (find it on Hulu)
Unrelated to both of those movies (and, unfortunately, breaking the theme) is TheBanshees of Inisherin. I have been trying to watch all of the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar’s, and this one was on the list. It is a little bit hard to explain, which is funny because it is a very simply premise. In short, two friends end their friendship. It is a slow moving, beautifully shot movie that I loved. It is strange and funny and sad.
Shortly after I finished reading Everything I Know About Love (which I’ll admit I was a bit behind the times on) I found out they’d made it into a show that is streaming on Peacock. Needless to say, it took priority over everything else I was watching and I absolutely loved it. It is a relatable, cozy show that again made me feel very seen and understood. I caught myself nodding along to each episode. (find it on Peacock)
Special Forces: The Toughest Test is the wildcard pick of this favorites post. These last few months I have been in the mood for peaceful, calming, love stories and this show is the complete opposite. It puts a group of celebrities in the middle of the desert to try and endure special forces training. They are given a taste of what our military personnel is put through in order to fight for our country. It is extremely humbling to watch. I sit on the couch cheering all of them on, almost always on the verge of tears, knowing full well I could not do what they’re doing, and feeling incredibly grateful that people do in order to let me live this great life. (find it on Hulu)
I have long been curious about The Mindy Project but had only ever seen half of an episode, on mute, while running on the treadmill at the gym. I love Mindy Kaling so I was pretty sure I’d love this show and I was 100% correct. I think it’s rare to find a show that makes you laugh out loud but this one gets me almost every episode. I am almost sad to be loving it so much because I am blowing through it. But I suppose that’s the great thing about streaming—when I’m finished I’ll just start again. (find it on Netflix)
The People’s Champ by Quinn XCII
Everything to Everyone – EP by Renee Rapp
Rolling Up the Welcome Mat by Kelsea Ballerini
Caleb Pressley and his interview series Sundae Conversation used to pop up all the time on my For You page on TikTok. They are short, witty, dead pan interviews that often make the celebrity guests crack up laughing. I have loved going through the backlog of interviews and am forever impressed by Caleb’s ability to keep a straight face. This interview with Morgan Wallen is one of my favorites
Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know!
It has officially been (a little over) 200 days since my last time capsule blog.
If you are familiar with this phrase, isn’t it crazy we’re here already?!
If you have no idea what this means, I have a little tradition on this blog where, using FutureMe.Org, I send myself a set of 10 questions every 200 days, to act as a kind of time capsule/journal.
I started this project on a whim as I impatiently waited for the 2018 Olympics to arrive, and I’ve kept at it ever since. I’ve always been fascinated by time, and the way it can move both fast and miserably slow. In doing these time capsule blogs I’ve realized that, even when it doesn’t seem like it, time is always moving faster than I think.
Something special about this particular time capsule blog is that it’s my 10th one. TEN!
The first letter I sent with FutureMe was on July 9, 2017 which is 2,052 days ago.
So while I go about the usual practice of a time capsule blog, I also thought it would be fun to compare my answers from my first ever letter to my most recent one, which was August 6th, 2022, just over five years from the first one. Let’s see how things have changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.
1) What day is it?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): July 9th, 2017
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): August 6, 2022
2) Describe yourself today
Note: for my first few time capsules, this question was, “what’s the weather like today” but I got bored of that question so I changed it. It’s pretty funny though, if you read the first part of my answer from 2017 in the context of “describe yourself today.”
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): HOT. AS. HELL. Well, at least it was earlier. It’s actually not bad now. There’s a nice breeze happening and I’m here for it.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I feel good today. Relaxed. Hopeful. Or at least trying to be. There are a lot of pieces out of place. A lot of pieces I’m desperate to figure out WHERE they fit. So I’m hoping that with some patience, diligence, and faith, I can find my way forward.
3) What did you do today?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): Taught in the elementary class at church, went to Quiznos with my mom, then spent the entirety of the afternoon battling the swarm of ants that have taken over our house. #ant-pocalypse2017
As you will soon find out, “Ant-pocalypse” was a huge deal at this time. But what stood out most here was Quiznos. What I wouldn’t do for a Chicken Carbonara from Quiznos right now. BRB while I’ll Google the closest Quiznos. I have said Quiznos in the last three sentences. Quiznos.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I submitted my application to the upper level writing class at UCLA Extension! It’s the first class I’ve taken that needs approval to be a part of, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I’m also getting ready to head out and do some errands with my mom. We have plans to hit the grocery store, dry cleaners and CCC for lunch, then get our nails done and (ideally) tuck in for the night. Maybe even watch a movie. Who knows! It’s a good, sunny, Saturday.
This is why I love these time capsules. I remember this day in flashes and it was in fact a good, sunny, productive and cozy Saturday. A month or two later, I found out I got into the writing class and was very excited!
4) What’s your favorite song right now?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): Thunder by Imagine Dragons
Definitely listened to this song the moment after I reread this. I still love this song.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I recently started listening to Meghan Trainor’s podcast with her brother and have a collective crush on their entire family, so I have been listening to some of her music. My favorite right now is “Ashes.” I’m also sending good luck into the universe that by the time this letter comes back to me, we’ll have new Taylor Swift music. PLEASE.
Still love Meghan Trainor and the fam. She ended up in the top 5 of my Spotify wrapped. Also, I definitely manifested that Taylor Swift album. She announced “Midnights” at the VMA’s 22 days later. 👀
5) What’s the most recent movie you’ve seen?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): I think Broadway Melody. Though if we really want to get into the meat of my television/movie watching ways, LET’S TALK ABOUT GAME OF THRONES. How did Season 7 end? How are we doing with the way it ended? Oh my gosh I’m overwhelmed by all the questions I have.
I have ZERO memory of watching Broadway Melody. Zero. But reading “Game of Thrones” was almost a jumpscare. Past me knew so little.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I saw Where the Crawdads Sing in theaters and loved it! And then I watched TheGray Man and Purple Hearts on Netflix and loved both of those as well.
6) Who did you last text and what did you say?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): A text to Natalee & Rachel in our Roomie group text, in regards to #ant-pocalypse: “they were slowing down pretty good earlier, we found some minor survivors, but applied the appropriate force. I’d hold off on calling for now. Let’s see how the next couple days go.” Follow up question: how DID the next couple days go? Did we win the war of the ants? Did we have to call the Terminix guys and let them take our money?
You did not win and you happily gave away your money. You were also traumatized when the Teminix man said, “you have a huge spider population” and you think about it to this day, even though you no longer live in that house and you *knock on wood* haven’t had to deal with many ants since.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): Incredible timing for this one. I texted my friend Nicole “Hahaha right?! The fish is like, ‘hey guys, I would steer clear of the cove. There are some freaks over there'” This was in reference to a video she sent me where a guy gave mouth to mouth to a fish that was stunned after being caught.
(See below for fish trauma)
7) What is your biggest goal right now?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): Publish a book
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I want to find a great apartment. I want to finish my Creative Writing Certificate. I want to plan this trip to Italy! Love to find a handsome man to add to my life.
Creative Writing Certificate – *almost check* I only have one more class to take.
Italy ❌ postponed, but I do have a fun trip coming up in April that I’m very excited about!
Handsome Man 🔍 found some but not the right one yet.
8) What are you most excited about?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): At this exact moment, this time capsule blog, but in general I’m excited about the possibility of getting a book out there in the world, I’m excited (and nervous) about my brother Troy leaving for college, and I’m excited about all of the possibilities the future holds if I work hard enough!
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I’m really excited about the birthday trip to San Francisco my friends and I are taking at the end of September! I also have a LOT of fun things coming up on the calendar. Especially in October. TBH I’m a little intimidated by October, but also very excited.
Our trip to San Francisco was so fun. I wrote about it here.Also, it’s wild to know that in 2017, my brother had never rock climbed, and now it’s what he does for a living. He was just around the corner from discovering his true passion, and I’m so happy for him.
9) What are you most worried about?
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): Not accomplishing anything I want to. Being sad, alone, and covered in left over ice cream. The ants coming back. The Dodgers never winning a World Series in my lifetime.
A lot to unpack here, past Kim.
-You will be sad to know that the ants DID in fact come back the following year. They showed up every summer at that house to say hello and push your sister to the brink of insanity. Luckily, you found a great pest control guy that always swooped in to save the day.
-You will be surprised to know that you now live alone! And you are not terrified! Anymore! You actually, shockingly, love it.
-You will be thrilled to know that Dodgers do win the World Series in 2020. It is the strangest year of baseball to ever be played but it had a pretty happy ending for Dodger fans.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): I think my consistent fear is things staying the same. Which is funny because I love a routine, love consistency, love reliability and predictability. But I’m constantly worried about not moving forward. About being stuck in the same place, afraid of the same things.
10) What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in the last 200 days?
Note: this is another question that has changed since the beginning of these time capsule blogs. My answer from 2017 refers to the old prompt: “Tell yourself a really bad joke”
My answer from my first time capsule (7/9/17): You know you still like the “outstanding invoice” joke from your book. Just admit it.
Unfortunately, my “really bad joke” from 2017 has been lost to time. “My book” was a collection of essays I believed were ready for publication. Spoiler alert: they weren’t. They were a bit rushed and a bit *not me.* I wrote what I thought everyone else was writing and didn’t quite have my own voice yet. Over the last five years, I’ve turned some of those essays into blog posts and let some of them drift into oblivion. The joke in question here is an oblivion inhabitant. It couldn’t have been that funny if I don’t remember it.
My answer from the last time capsule (8/6/22): Hmmm honestly probably the cookies at my sister’s backyard wedding. I know there is probably a meal in there somewhere that I just LOVED, but I can’t stop thinking about those cookies. I had one every day for like, a week.
I will dream about those cookies for the rest of my life.
At the end of each time capsule, I wonder what life will look like in 200 days. Maybe it will look mostly the same, or maybe it will look completely different. The same goes for life in 2000 days. I love imagining that we are right around the corner from something—something big and life changing, something that checks a box or answers a longstanding question, something you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. That possibility is always out there. I hope it finds you in the next 200 days.
You can check out this page to see the growing archive of all of my time capsule answers. And don’t forget to check out this post to find out how you can create your own time capsule.
Our next delivery date is: Friday, September 8, 2023!!
As usual, I will excitedly await the arrival of this next time capsule and the future it lives in, but I won’t rush towards it. Here’s hoping there’s lots to enjoy between now and then.
Sending you well wishes. Do your best and give yourself grace
I recently came across this story, and thought it was the perfect time to repost. I wrote it in October of 2015, but I still think about it often. It’s a real life love story, one we could all learn something from.
Sending you all lots of love this week!
My Grammie lived with my family for a few years before she was transferred to a nursing home. The adjustment was hard for her, especially due to the new presence of a roommate, but she understood the necessity, as her health had begun to rapidly decline.
Her room was set up with two beds arranged parallel to one another, divided by a curtain. Her roommate was by the door, and my Grammie was by the window, which she liked, because the sun shone in and warmed her cold skin during the day. One afternoon, as my mom walked down the hall, she saw a man in the doorway, sitting in a chair beside the roommate’s bed.
“Hello,” she said warmly as she approached him.
The man immediately jumped up from his seat to greet her, extending his hand kindly.
“Hello ma’am,” he said, “my name is Mr. Day and this is my wife.” He gestured to my Grammie’s roommate. “I just want you to know that I will be looking out for your mom, Miss. Patricia, here. I will make sure she is taken care of and is as comfortable as possible.”
A few days later, when I made my first visit to the nursing home, I took a seat next to my Grammie’s television and watched the sunbeams shine in through the window and across her freckled arms. She said she felt pretty good that day, that her breathing was better and she had an appetite again. My mom asked about her physical therapy, and my sister talked about the talent show our brother was in over the weekend. As they talked, I glanced down at the dresser next to the television, noticing a few cards and a teddy bear holding a puffy, red, “get well soon” heart in its arms. Being nosy, I flipped open the tag attached to its ear and read the kind handwritten note addressed to a name I didn’t recognize. I then inched each of the cards ajar and noticed they too shared the same recipient, though according to the dates inside, some were given four or five years ago.
On my next visit, as my mom and I were en-route to the window side bed, she saw the familiar figure sitting in the chair by the doorway. When we reached him, Mr. Day again jumped up with haste to greet us. It was my first time meeting him, and as he shook my hand he said, “You know you look exactly like your mother.”
That day, as my mom and I visited, I watched Mr. Day out of the corner of my eye. He sat, very content, next to his wife’s bed, watching football and holding her hand. My mom had told me his story on the drive over.
Nine years. Nine years he’d been doing this. Almost an entire decade. Mrs. Day had a stroke in her mid-50s, and was later diagnosed with both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. For nine years he had come to visit her, knowing she would lay there asleep, being fed through a tube. There were so many things he could be doing, so many places he could be seeing, yet there he was beside her, as he’d always been.
What a love they must have had, I thought; though it was clear that to him it did not live in the past. This woman, even while held in the clutches of tubes and wires, was still the woman he married, the woman who held his heart.
I thought of what my Grammie had told my mom the day before.
“Her feet kick,” she’d said.
“What do you mean?” my mom asked.
“When he talks to her. She kicks her feet when she hears his voice.”
Oh what a love they still have, I thought.
He, who has every reason to feel trapped or angry or resentful, looks at her like his own perfect Sleeping Beauty, and she, who has every reason to let go, holds on to hear that voice she knows so well. For even in the worse, they still find a way to keep the vow from the better.
The other day I was listening to the Workin’ On it podcast with Meghan & Ryan Trainor, and their guest, Zach Pincince. At one point in the conversation, Zach said something that stuck out to me. It was a little nugget that made a piece snap together in my mind.
I’m going to expand on the idea that Zach gave.
You are at a party with some friends. It’s nothing crazy. You are moving from conversation to conversation, catching up with people you know, and introducing yourself to a few people you don’t. You are relaxed and having a good time. Then, during one conversation, someone tells you:
“You know you’re a purple unicorn, right?”
You scrunch your eyebrows together, confused. This is a ridiculous question. Obviously, you are not a purple unicorn. You know this to be a fact. So you shake your head, trying not to laugh, and you let the person continue on their merry way.
In the aftermath, you probably tell this story to anyone and everyone who will listen, whenever it pops into your mind, but it probably doesn’t make you question who or what you are. You don’t drive home that day (or any day after) thinking, what if I AM a purple unicorn? You likely just shake your head with a smile and think, that was such a weird thing to say.
Now let’s imagine a different scenario.
You are at that party with your friends. Moving from conversation to conversation. It is a run of the mill social gathering. But then, during one conversation, someone tells you:
“You know you don’t deserve any of the things you have, right? You know you’re not good enough? That you never will be?”
Do you still scrunch your eyebrows together in confusion? Do you laugh it off as something outrageous? Or do you blink your eyes a few times, letting the words wash over you?
On your drive home, are you still thinking about it? Are you letting those words repeat over and over in your head, each time letting yourself believe them a little bit more? Are you rationalizing it? They wouldn’t have said that if it wasn’t at least a little bit true, right?
For me, I would live out these scenarios exactly like this. I would laugh off the comment of being a purple unicorn, and I would let the comment that I’m not enough slice me into a million pieces.
Because the latter is something I’m afraid of being true. It is something that, at least a small part of me, believes to be true already.
Paolo Coelho said, “You are what you believe yourself to be.”
Which means that if I believe that I’m not enough, then, to me, I am never going to be. If that person walks up to me at that party, I’m going to hear their words as the truth—as proof that I’ve been right all along.
But, if I work to believe that I am enough—even though passing thoughts might say otherwise—if I fight to believe THAT as the truth, then it is, and that person might as well be calling me a purple unicorn.
In theory, both scenarios should end with you shaking your head, laughing in disbelief that this person would say something so ridiculous. Because both scenarios should trigger the same reaction, the same red flag, the same scrunched eyebrows.
Instead of waiting for someone to tell me I’m not enough, I want to learn and ultimately believe all the reasons why I am. I want to be able to stand on my own two feet, knowing what’s true and what isn’t, and I want to have the courage and confidence to defend that truth.
I want you to have that too.
So remember, you are not a purple unicorn (unless you want to be).
Let that weird, obvious fact be the thing that actually reminds you who you are—enough, worthy, able, etc.
Let it be the strangest, cutest battle cry against the insecurities beneath the surface, and the enemies that might be waiting around the corner.
I am not a purple unicorn, and neither are you, but we are so many good things, so many great things, so many things to be proud of.
So there you are. You just got home from work after a long day, the sun is still setting early so you only have a couple of hours before it’s pitch black outside, and all you want to do is sit down. To zone out. To decompress as you prepare yourself to do it all over again tomorrow.
Maybe you have kids to pick up from school, dinner to start getting ready, chores that need to get done. Weeknights move fast, and it often seems like there is never enough time to do the things you have to do while also finding those moments to relax. And on top of that, finding the motivation to exercise can be daunting if not outright impossible.
I know I sometimes struggle to find motivation to do anything after I get home from work. I want to become my couch. I want to curl up under a blanket and watch movies until it’s time to go to bed. I want to eat gummy worms and play Spider Solitaire on my phone. I want the world to understand how TIRED I am and to tell myself how much I deserve to keep sitting down, keep scrolling social media, and keep putting off all the things I tell myself I’m going to do tomorrow.
But I also know that exercise makes me feel better. It gives me a solid foundation to deal with everything else. When I exercise regularly, I am calmer, I am more confident, I am more creative. I am probably kinder and more patient. I am more content with my life and my circumstances. I am happier.
Now, I don’t know your schedule, I don’t know the obstacles (both physical and emotional) that you face when trying to make time for exercise, so I’m not writing this post to say, YOU MUST _____ or YOU SHOULD ______ or WHY HAVEN’T YOU _____.
We are also in the latter half of January, the place where many New Year’s resolutions go to die, so you might already be feeling that pressure, guilt or even shame about what you are doing versus what you thought you would be doing, or what you still think you should be doing. So I’m not here to add to that. I’m just here to tell you about one thing that has helped me. One thing that gets me outside for at least 30 minutes.
I call them laundry walks.
I live in an apartment building and we have two washers and two driers that are available for everyone to use. As a courtesy to others, you are expected to move your clothes along as promptly as possible. So, when I find myself with a full laundry hamper and two empty washers, I know it’s time for a laundry walk. I pull on some leggings and my walking shoes, I carry my laundry down the stairs to the laundry room, I press start on the washer, and GO.
I set a timer on my watch and I walk for the entirety of the wash cycle. Sometimes, when I have a little more time and I’m not racing both the clock and the sun, I’ll head out after I start the drier. This is time I might have otherwise just sat on the couch and looked at my phone, or time argued over what exercise I could do while never making a decision.
Laundry walks let you know when you need to be back. They hang up that finish line ribbon for you to cross. They give you a reason to get outside for 30 minutes.
Now, you probably don’t have laundry to do every day so other versions of this walk can include:
-A poultry prance: which is when you set your walk timer for the time it will take for your chicken breasts to bake.
-A takeout trek: which is when you set your walk timer for the delivery window of your Grub Hub order.
-A sunset stride: which is when you set your walk timer for the exact time of sunset in your area.
-A shower saunter: which is when there is more than one person in your house that has to take a shower before dinner, so you offer to take a walk while they shower first.
And of course,
-A dishwasher wander: which is when you start the dishwasher (which in my case is VERY LOUD) and you set your walk timer for the duration of the wash cycle, so you don’t have to feel like you’re inside the dishwasher as it runs.
Perhaps you want to run instead of walk? Great.
Do yoga? Stretch? Dance? Amazing.
Any and all can make you feel like a multitasker and a productivity icon, and they are also sneaky providers of endorphins you might have otherwise missed out on. You don’t have to go far or fast, you just have to get moving. And before you know it, your clothes are washed, your chicken is baked, and you are ready to relax.
In the first few months of fifth grade, as I tried to adjust to being the new kid at a new school for the first time in my life, I became a joiner.
I joined the choir. Something that still amazes me to this day. I stood in line quietly, sandwiched between girls I was too terrified to even make eye contact with, but when I got to the front, I sang a solo and matched pitch with the choir teacher. She pointed at two girls behind me, who kept bursting into fits of laughter, and told them they should be more like me. I was mortified.
I also joined the drill team, though mostly to impress my grandpa. Growing up I’d watched VHS tapes of his time as a drill team coach. I loved seeing the people walk in perfect unison, moving in and out of formation like flocks of birds. I loved the rhythm and the noise of the feet stomping on the pavement.
When practices started, I was slightly disappointed by what felt like juvenile routines. We weren’t stomping so much as we were walking, and our formations were limited to squares, circles, and lines. We felt more like a marching band with no instruments. I was underwhelmed.
To be fair, we were ten, and our limited coordination and body awareness could only have taken us so far. But it was still a bit of a letdown. One of the first times I can remember having reality fail to meet my expectations. Nonetheless, I stuck it out. My sister joined the team shortly after I did, and after telling our grandpa, our commitment was sealed. We practiced multiple days a week after school, ensuring we’d be ready for our first and only public performance: the neighborhood holiday parade.
When December arrived, our drill team, along with many other bands, dance troops and sports teams from other local elementary, junior high, and high schools, as well as local clubs, studios, and businesses, met at a local park to find our place in line. We were wearing white t-shirts, black shorts, and top hats, and were each carrying a large, five-point star that had been hand painted with glitter by one of the coaches.
There were people everywhere, those my age and much older. It was loud and chaotic. It was red, green, and sparkly. Our coach herded us into a circle on a patch of grass behind the library and told us not to go anywhere without an adult. A banner with our school’s name sat beside us and two girls were chosen to carry it to let everyone know where we were from as we marched.
We stretched our arms and legs and stomped in place. Our teacher gave us continual updates—30 more minutes, 20 more minutes—as we started to grow restless. I could hear all kinds of music playing in the distance, and the occasional bout of applause and laughter. I was anxious to start so we could be finished.
In December of last year, I walked out the front door of my apartment building and set up a chair on the small strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk. It was drizzling, and a cold breeze sent the occasional shiver down my spine. I bundled up under an umbrella beside my mom.
Families lined the streets in ponchos and raincoats. Kids clapped their hands and parents held their phones out in front of them, snapping picture after picture.
Marching bands walked in precise step, with the drum major leading the way, calling out commands. Dance teams walked almost silently in jazz shoes, waiting for the boombox carried by one of the coaches to cue the start of their routine. Cars decorated with holiday garb drove by slowly, with members of local committees and businesses waving with friendly smiles.
I kept leaning forward in my chair so I could glance down the street for what was coming next.
In the distance, I could see the park where each team was emerging, and I could remember the small pitter patter of my own feet as my team lined up in the grass, and then inched our way forward to the sidewalk, and then the street.
Watching a group of young dancers, I could see myself, remembering the tentative steps I took as my head darted back and forth, looking for familiar faces on either side of the street. I could hear the startled shrieks and giggles of me and my sister when we saw our dad and his best friend running toward us with silly string. I could feel the sensation of the silly string sliding down the sides of my hat, dripping off the bill like candle wax.
“I was part of this!” my mom said as the group passed.
I smiled as I looked from her to the dancers, but had a hard time imagining my mom so little, so far away from me.
I pictured us walking side by side, our feet determinedly marching up the two mile stretch of street. Maybe we looked at the apartment building we both sat in front of now, waving and smiling and saying, “Merry Christmas!” not knowing we’d be sitting here decades later, waving back.
Some kids looked tired, nervous, or embarrassed. Their eyes glued to the asphalt; their shoulders slumped with fatigue.
Only one more mile to go, I wanted to say. You can do it.
Over the weekend my mom, sister and I got massages. It has become our annual January tradition: a girls’ spa day. While sitting in the jacuzzi, I remembered I had an appointment with my chiropractor scheduled for the following day.
“What a great week for my body!” I remarked.
Come Monday afternoon, I thought, I would be the most relaxed person in the world.
After my massage, I felt relaxed. The masseuse had done a great job. I half expected to get to the chiropractor and have her say, “you are the picture of health. Your joints should win awards.”
But instead, when she put her hands on my back she said, “You’re tense. Like, very tense.”
“Oh,” I responded.
I was truly surprised, speechless even.
“Yeah,” she replied, “you’re holding way more tension than you think.”
I opened my mouth and then closed it, letting this sentence sink in.
She, like my masseuse, dug into my neck and shoulders, finding knots that made me gasp in pain as she worked them out. She got deep cracks out of my back and my neck, and I stood up feeling sore.
You’re holding way more tension than you think.
On my drive home, I sat on the freeway, in torrential rain—especially for Southern California—replaying these words over and over.
I didn’t feel like I was particularly stressed. I’d had such a good day with my mom and sister. Not to mention a week off of work between the holidays. If I was holding tension, where was it coming from? And why was I holding it? And where?
The more I thought about it, the more the word “tension” became other things, like anxiety, stress, fear, impatience, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, bitterness, frustration, pain.
You are holding more fear than you think.
You are holding more pride than you think.
It became less of an explanation as to why my neck and shoulders were tight, and more of a call to action—a reminder to check in with myself.
We all have busy schedules once in a while (sometimes more often than not) and it can result in us skipping over big emotions or feelings taking place underneath the surface. What feel like passing thoughts, worries, or memories, might be huge sources of stress, anxiety and tension.
My mind has been full lately, not just with what is going on in the present, but what is happening in the future—immediate and far—and what has happened in the past. My dreams have been vivid and strange, and my body has been tired.
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga—a lot of deep breathing and slow, meaningful movements—which can be relaxing, but can also stir up what is underneath the surface. The same goes for a new year. It can be a reminder of hard things, a pressure to start new things, and a marker of things lost or perhaps never (or not yet) gained.
We each might be holding more than we think.
We might be hiding that tension (bitterness, fear, anger, doubt, disappointment, pride, impatience) away, not even knowing that it’s there.
What’s strange about the body, is that it can often figure out how to manage that tension—how to hold it—without sounding an alarm. It can shuffle things around, using muscles in ways they shouldn’t be used, filing emotions in places they shouldn’t be filed, in order to make everything feel “normal”. Our body knows how to throw things into a closet and, with just the right force, close that door, so that no one (including us) can tell that it’s too full of everything that doesn’t belong there.
So today, I want you to think about what you might be holding.
And what you might be holding too much of.
Your body is ready to release that tension.
You are ready to release that tension.
What can you stand to let go?
What’s the first thing you can pull out of that closet?