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Leaning Into Time & Mindfulness

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Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

~Groucho Marx
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Coming Closer to Ourselves

If I had one word, to sum up, this week it would be the word ‘Time.’ Just this morning I shared the above quote to social media but before doing so I had to read it three times before I ‘got it.’ The first time I read it I was like huh? What does that even mean? The second time I read it I’m like but bananas don’t fly. Thankfully on the third round, it was so ridiculously hilarious to me my reaction was overkill. What made it even funnier is I thoroughly detest fruit flies, like I’m obsessed over their purpose and why they creep me out but I digress.

A few days ago I celebrated my 59th birthday and it was the best one in recent memory. I was feeling so good, I shared a post with a line that said: “Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.” There goes that word Time again. This line is from the chorus of I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack and I simply wished everyone that given the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance. I finished the post with “As long as you’re still on the clock anything is possible.”

Time Spent On My Big Day

My birthday began with the arrival of a small parcel a few days earlier. In my continual effort to make my life simpler by downsizing, I’ve persisted in discouraging gifts so I was pleasantly surprised to find in my small package CDs of Pema Chödrön’s “Coming Closer to Ourselves: Making Everything the Path of Awakening.” What made this gift so special was I dared greatly this summer by showing up and being present which put me on a path to self-discovery. In the past few weeks, I’ve learned more about myself than I have in all my combined years of being on this earth.

Learning about the importance of vulnerability and shame resilience in Brené Brown’s books “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly” were a great segue way to “Coming Closer to Ourselves.” What was even better was the overlap in themes from these books and I couldn’t wait to dive into my newest acquisition.

The second gift was with whom I chose to spend my day. Several weeks prior, a producer/filmmaker from The Grotto Network contacted me to see if I’d be interested in sharing my story about Bold Blind Beauty. After a few email exchanges and a followup video conference meeting with Tony, we agreed to film on my birthday. Tony would fly into Pittsburgh from New York in the morning and we would meet up to begin filming.

I was so excited yet scared-silly to be the focus of a video, my armpits were itching. Even though I’ve been vulnerable for years by sharing my story here on Bold Blind Beauty, for me, this was taking it to another level and I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.

Lights Camera Action

From the moment I met Tony in person, he had the sweetest disposition. He even brought me a surprise birthday gift: Kenyan coffee!!

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Java House Coffee

In preparation for the filming, I had a blog post ready to be published some of which was captured and I’m hopeful it makes it into the final cut. It was so gratifying to share my thoughts on the mission of Bold Blind Beauty and most especially how I feel about beauty, empowerment and making the world more inclusive. Sadly, try as I might, I won’t ever be able to remember some of my more powerful comments as my memory is practically nonexistent.

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A couple of topics I do recall had to do with simplification, organization, and perfection. While sight loss is a challenging experience to go through, I know without a doubt that being organized was a huge bonus for me. When you take a systematic approach to life most things fall into place. When your eyesight begins to deteriorate so much of your being is focused on being present. The simplest things like misplaced objects can trigger a panic attack.

Panic attacks arent only reserved for misplaced items. They can be triggered when my senses are overwhelmed like in large, noisy crowds. Or in situations where I’m in a familiar location like a store, mall, etc. and one-second I’m fine only to feel lost and disoriented the next moment.

Creating and sustaining a simple lifestyle by living with less brings me joy. Now that I’ve also begun the process of restructuring how I work I feel even more joyful. Reclaiming My Life by putting boundaries in place is a critical piece to this process.

Letting Go Of Perfection

For a large portion of my life, I strived so hard for perfection it was an obsession. Today, not so much. My recent journey to self-discovery and choosing to live a wholehearted life doesn’t leave any room for perfection—thank goodness!

One of my favorite parts of the filming process was when Tony asked me questions about beauty while I was putting on my makeup. As a youngster, my grandmother instilled in me the idea that real beauty had nothing to do with appearance. When we talk about people and real beauty, for me, its more about substance and authenticity. The problem is we live in a culture where there is so much pretense it seems like people struggle with being themselves. Lord knows I’ve struggled mightily with the whole illusion of perfection and I’ve had enough.

For me, I’m finding it easier to draw back, disconnect, and discover myself by doing those things that are meaningful to me. It may not be the trendy thing to do but I feel like my sanity is returning and I really enjoy my quiet moments. Doing and being my best is enough.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my birthday was fantabulous!! Even though Tony recorded several hours worth of content the final video will only be 2-1/2 minutes in length. I give kudos to all you filmmakers out there because it’s got to be very difficult combing through everything you’ve recorded only to scrap most of it. Thank you, Tony, for sharing my big day with me shooting my story! I’m honored that you chose to spend it with me. While an actress I will never be this was great fun!

I’ve been taking a long look at how I spend my time and as a result, am restructuring how I approach my life/work. Meaningful connection is important to me which is why I’m putting boundaries in place to allow for real engagement. Becoming more mindful of my intentions and subsequent actions will, I hope, be helpful for myself and others. This weekend will be my third without social media and I’m hoping I can continue the practice.

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

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Reclaiming Life By Taking A Stand

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“Time is priceless, yet it costs us nothing. You can do anything you want with it, but you can’t own it. You can spend it, but you can’t keep it. And once you’ve lost it, there is no getting it back. It’s just gone.”

~Allison DuBois, Medium

Recently I accidentally found the above quote. Well, it wasn’t really an accident since I was binge-watching the Medium series. In my opinion, I felt like this is one of the most accurate statements I have come across about time. For me, just thinking about time is mind-bending. While I understand I only have this moment in time I sometimes get caught up in the past and future.

Time, or rather my use of time these past few months has been very challenging for me. The majority of my time is spent working on social justice issues as it relates to people with disabilities. Because it’s unrealistic to take on every cause, even so, my passion can take me down a rabbit hole of mass confusion. Thanks to stretching myself way too thin I’m now a former scheduling stickler. What this means is I reassessed where I am, tossed my content calendar and I’m starting fresh in September.

Life, Times Three

While there is some overlap, looking at my life today I can break it down into three categories:

  • Home Life
  • Work/Virtual Life
  • Real Life

Home Life

In the following two recent posts, I touch on my feelings of self-worth and work:

  1. Juggling Perfection and Efficiency
  2. Max Peterson Scholarship Gives Joy, Love, and Wholeheartedness

For way too long I’ve confused ‘who I am’ with ‘what I do.’ This formula worked for me most of my life if I felt my work was satisfactory. The problem, however, was two-fold: I had unrealistic expectations and there wasn’t a clear separation between work and worth. When things were going well it was good but inevitably when they didn’t go so well I’d beat myself up. Beating myself up was only the beginning. The guilt of feeling like I wasn’t good enough or flawed sent me spiraling out of control.

Since I was my work and my work was my worth home life was practically nonexistent. I’d gotten so good at controlling my environment, that being a single mom and working full time was a piece of cake. The downside? I spent most of my time at work and never learned the value of self-care. As a matter of fact, my first of two vacations was 14 years ago. Needless to say, even when I had downtime I felt guilty because you know, worth and work. If I wasn’t working I wasn’t worthy.

Today, my youngest son lives with me and my grandson stays here four times a week. Then there’s my 81-year-old mother who requires attention, my dog, condo, and myself. While it’s a necessity, things like grocery shopping, gym, doctors, fall by the wayside because you know, worth and work.

Work/Virtual Life

The majority of my work is done at home where my laptop is connected to a large monitor. As an introvert, I work best in a quiet solitary environment with no distractions. Setting up and managing a website isn’t the easiest thing to do if you’re only semi-skilled but I’m doing it.

Cultivating relationships, networking, conference calls/meetings, researching, writing, editing, and scheduling posts can be daunting. Communicating with people on multiple social media platforms along with speaking engagements leaves little time for anything else.

When I closely examine everything I do I really don’t know how I manage. What I do know is when I’m in the zone I get annoyed with having to take bathroom breaks, I know—pathetic. Keeping up with email and text messages can nearly push me to the brink. And let’s not forget all the latest and greatest technology designed to make our lives easier.

Real Life

One of the best things about social media is meeting meaningful virtual connections in real life. When I say this I don’t mean every connection, rather only the authentic friendships that have developed over time. Two examples of connections I’ve met in real life so far this year were:

In October Chelsea, Max and I will meet up once again at the Disability InSIGHTS event hosted by another friend Amy Bovaird.

Real Life isn’t just limited to meeting virtual connections but it involves all those activities outside of the home. Get-togethers with friends, going to the pool, movies, shopping, art festivals, casual strolling or a car ride. Since I was able to travel a little this year I’ve participated in far more activities than ever before. Right now and in the future, I hope to continue experiencing real life.

The Way Forward

After my awakening at the Daring To Own You Story retreat, I knew I had to make some changes. Since I now know I had the whole work/worth thing backward being compassionate with myself comes first. I had already taken some steps a while ago to downsize possessions and tasks.

Social media is a great tool to reach many people but it can become addictive. It also contradicts the reason why I do what I do which is to create meaningful connections. Here are a few steps I’ve taken:

  • eliminating social media apps on my cell including WordPress
  • muting all cell phone notifications
  • not answering then blocking cell calls from unrecognized phone numbers
  • turning off my cell when working on a project that requires focus
  • limiting/canceling email subscriptions
  • sending salesy emails to my spam folder
  • not accepting friend/conversation requests from everyone
  • scrutinizing and eliminating automatic tools “to help make my life easier”
  • no longer use any social media during the weekend
  • limiting the number of social media posts Monday through Friday

For me, the solution to my time quandary comes down to self-preservation. And it’s pretty simple when you think about it, if I haven’t asked for it I don’t want or need it.

To some degree, I think we’ve allowed technology to control way too much of our lives. Am I saying technology is the big evil/bad? No, not at all and I actually love it. What I am saying and it’s something I’ve spoken on before and that is we have the power of CHOICE. We get to choose what we let into our lives. I don’t want technology making my decisions I want to reclaim my life.

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A monochromatic look with shades of beige/tan. I’m sitting on a blue outdoor bench wearing a cream-colored skirt with a slightly darker tank top and suede flats. My ball cap is metallic gold and I have on a denim jacket while posing with my black slimline #WhiteCane.

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Juggling Perfection and Efficiency

Juggling Perfection and Efficiency Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Thinking of a career change. Does anyone know the going rate for jugglers? I’ve got tons of balls in the air and just may qualify.

Not too long ago I laughingly shared the above post on Facebook. At that time I was gonna look into prospects of becoming a juggler, because, you know, balls in the air. Then l had to admit that I was dropping more balls than I was catching because I had too much going on.

Juggling Perfection and Efficiency

Juggling Perfection and Efficiency image is a selfie of me (Steph), in my bald glory, wearing a white open back top and my grandson is peeping over my left shoulder.

There’s a thin line between perfection and efficiency both of which I struggle with constantly. I know perfection is highly overrated yet I still become paralyzed when I feel I haven’t given my best. As a life-long abilities crusader (fancy title for advocate), I understand how important it is to be selective. Focusing my time and efforts where they will do the most good is an essential skill. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, desiring to do too many things makes me less effective because I become overwhelmed.

I love the following quote because it reminds me:

  1. my efforts are fruitless when I’m overwhelmed
  2. it helps me to refocus on my ‘why’

“If I stop to kick every barking dog, I am not going to get where I’m going.”

~Jackie Joyner-Kersee

While advocacy is around the clock, work, a friend reminded me that we should plan our work around our lives. Advocating for Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation is why I do what I do. However, to be effective, I have to reassess, narrow my focus, and let some things go. Afterall there are over 7 billion people on the planet and none of us have to go it alone. There are many great causes in the world and plenty of opportunities for everyone who so chooses to make a difference.

The Internal Struggle

I cannot be the only person in the world who thinks there is way too much of everything around us. A simple example that comes to mind is light bulbs.

Not too long ago I was looking for some bulbs on Amazon—simple right? Wrong! A quick search returned over 50,000 results. Of course, there are options to narrow the search and even options within the options like:

  • brand
  • color temperature
  • usage
  • wattage
  • size
  • shape
  • brightness
  • features

Geez, all I wanted was some bulbs to illuminate my home and it ended up becoming a research project. I learned far more about light bulbs than I ever expected or desired, not to mention the time wasted. At one point I got so frustrated I had to take a nap and resume my search later.

Anxiety over buying light bulbs sounds silly, I know. But, when I multiply this one choice by all the others, made within one day I can easily feel paralyzed. The simplest tasks become complicated burdens and losing focus because of overstimulation rules the day. As a result, clouds of guilt, shame, and a sense of unworthiness smother me and I feel like a failure.

Placing way too much value on my work and not enough on myself is destructive and I have to change. I love what I do here on Bold Blind Beauty and I love the connections I’ve made. This community means the world to me and I’d be lost without you so I’m evolving by taking a stand.

Taking A Stand To Create Meaningful Change

When clarity begins to fade due to trying to maintain a frenzied pace something has to give. Because I’m adaptable and very low maintenance it’s easy for me to declutter. Self-compassion however, is a more challenging process that requires an overhaul. Here are some of the steps I’m taking to reclaim my clarity and overall sense of wellness:

  • Self-compassion: Being kind to myself is the only antidote to self-hatred and unworthiness. Craving acceptance is what led me to believe that my work was the only measure of my worthiness. A recent reassessment of my life revealed the cause of this toxic thinking. Practicing self-compassion and mindfulness are the keys to restoration.
  • Flexibility: Embracing flexibility has been one of the best gifts I’ve given me. Changing direction at any given point is a welcome escape from being so rigid and it feeds my creativity.
  • Adaptation: Life is constantly evolving and so are we. Recognizing I am not the same person today as I was yesterday means doing things a little differently. Being low maintenance along with the ability to adapt breeds contentment and balance.
  • Simplicity: Like my light bulb example in the “Internal Struggle,” I do not need lots of anything. Cutting the cable a few years back was so liberating. Limiting time spent in other areas like, say, social media can also be freeing. With the exception of Instagram, I don’t have any other social media on my phone. I don’t want to be connected 24/7.
  • My Voice: Remembering my values while remaining true to who I am and what I stand for sets me apart.

The Way Forward

I’ve begun the process of shifting my workload to restore my sanity. Some of this involves asking for help from others and some of it means letting go. While focusing on self-compassion will be my primary goal, for Bold Blind Beauty there will be a renewed emphasis on:

Kindness, compassion, and a deep desire for social justice are central to who I am; these are my values. Bold Blind Beauty was born out of a personal need for empowerment that I wanted to share with others.

I began this post in a lighthearted way to help anyone who is feeling overwhelmed. When you add the need for perfection into the mix it can do a number on your psyche. Please know that if you do feel this way from time to time you are not alone. Sometimes the best course of action is to drop some balls to improve our juggling skills. Here’s to ball dropping perfection! 🥂

Juggling Perfection and Efficiency Featured Image:

A woman in business attire is juggling a house, alarm clock, cell phone, sippy cup, and laptop.

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Selfie of me, in my bald glory, wearing a white open back top and my grandson is peeping over my left shoulder.

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Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

AIR is vital to sustaining all life. For people with disabilities, AIR is equally important to our survival. AIR, in this case, symbolizes Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation 3 key elements required to break down barriers.

Why We Need AIR: Accessibility Inclusion Representation

Capitol Crawl

July is Disability Pride Month and today is National Disability Independence Day. On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law.

Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation matters. As a person of color, over 50, female, and living with an acquired disability, I know how exclusion feels. Exclusion is one of the reasons social justice has always been important to me.

When you’re born into several marginalized groups there’s a certain amount of uncomfortable familiarity where discrimination and exclusion is concerned. There is a whole other level of discrimination when becoming a member of the disability community that makes day-to-day living a bit more uncertain. Well-meaning friends and family try their best to understand our experience and we try to help them by inviting them into our world. Living with a disability is a uniquely personalized experience for every. single. person. None of us, even those who share the exact same disability will live with it in the exact same way.

Many people aren’t aware that the disability community is the largest minority group in the United States. What makes our minority group different from others is anyone, at any time can become a member. Our community doesn’t care about your social status, education, sexual orientation, age, etc. ANYONE can acquire a disability during their lifespan. As we get older the likelihood of acquiring a disability increases significantly.

While we’ve made strides towards increasing accessibility, inclusion, and representation we still have a long way to go. The fight for equal rights in housing, education, employment, transportation, and more continues as we still face many barriers.

The Fight For Disability Rights

“The “Capitol Crawl” protest for disability rights on March 12, 1990, might have been the single most important catalyst for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 25 29 years ago. The law aimed to end segregation of physically and mentally disabled persons and promised them equal opportunity to participate in society, live independently and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

See Capitol Crawl Image Description

PBS did a moving documentary in 2011 on the Disability Rights Movement called “Lives Worth Living.” The first time I saw it I felt sadness, anger, and the need to act. People with disabilities share many of the characteristics of our non-disabled counterparts, we simply do things a little differently.

In “Observing 25 Years of the ADA” I found this bit which I’ve edited: Our lack of understanding, fear, and inhumanity towards people with disabilities I believe, promotes continuing injustices. It’s no wonder when a life-altering event occurs and we acquire a disability, we have a difficult time adjusting. Coming face to face with our prejudices, then navigating a still-flawed system to protect our new status, can be a difficult transition.  

Sadly, some of us take the stance that disability rights are ‘not our problem,’ that is until we are disabled. However, being ‘temporarily abled’ as the majority of us are, makes it our problem.

Air is free yet there are some who believe not everyone is deserving of AIR. Disabled lives are human lives and all human lives matter.

We’ve come a long way since the ADA became law however the fight for Accessibility, Inclusion, and Representation continues.

Why We Need Air: Accessibility Inclusion Representation Featured Image Description:

A bright blue sky with puffy white clouds is in the background. In the foreground is a big red sign with white capital letters that says “No Problem.”

Capitol Crawl Image:

A group of handicapped people led by 8-year-old Jennifer Keelan, left, crawl up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 12, 1990, to draw support for a key bill now pending in the House that would extend civil rights to disabled persons. The group of about 1,000 people or rode in wheelchairs down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jeff Markowitz)