meandjim

Gratitude is My Attitude

We move through the world constantly making judgments… judgments about ourselves and judgments about others. But we also have the ability to make choices about those judgements and to decide whether or not we’ll allow them to land.

Last night, I attended a grand opening event for a dermatology office in a boujee part of town, which specializes in procedures like Botox and fillers. I went as my sister’s guest, and she was there for one reason: to network. As a new entrepreneur/ owner of a downtown law firm, she was on a mission to get her business cards into the hands of potential new clients.

I didn’t really expect for it to be my scene, but I also didn’t expect for a nurse practitioner to be scrutinizing the fine lines on my forehead under the kind of lights suitable for dissecting frogs in a 7th grade science class. Did I mention I was eating caprese during the forehead inspection also? It was awkward, to say the least.

I’d come straight from teaching a Children’s Fitness class, after pairing my best yoga pants with sparkly socks and combat boots before arriving at the event. I parallel parked my Honda Element between a Tesla and a Mercedes Benz, and upon entry, I immediately felt out of place. Those who know me also know that it’s rare for me to feel uncomfortable in a social setting. I’m very much an extrovert. But, standing next to my sister who was decked out in business professional attire, complete with camel-colored pumps and a custom name tag, I felt uncomfortable. I’m sure she’s felt similarly, surrounded by my friends at music festivals as we chatted excitedly about bands she’d never heard of. Vanessa… my “little big sister.” We joke that I’m the unconventional, free spirit while she’s the ultra-responsible perfectionist… which makes her more “big sister-like” even though I’m her elder.

After the event, I couldn’t help but reflect on the series of awkward moments… the bright lights, my wrinkles being used as an example of “what happens when you don’t get Botox,” the forced conversation, the champagne that gave me heartburn, and the overall uncomfortable-ness of it all. Was it in my head or was I being judged because I looked differently and dressed differently than the vast majority there? Then, I started thinking… this is the stuff that self-deprecating thoughts thrive on. Why do we make assumptions about what others think? The truth is… I have no idea what the other people there thought of me. And, in making my own assumptions about them, I was guilty of passing judgment, too.

Why do we care so much about the way others perceive us? And why do we so often focus on the negative moments but we so easily forget the positive ones? As these thoughts breezed through my mind, I remembered some other things about yesterday… the young woman who stopped me on the street to compliment my outfit; the little girl from my class who skipped through the door with a handmade card that she’d crafted for me; and the two gigs that I unexpectedly booked that same day because my clients appreciate the art I share. Then, I came to this realization:

creativehappylife

Not everyone is going to like me or understand me, and that’s OK. So what if I don’t fit into a specific mold? I may not look, act, or live like your average 39-year-old, and I’m cool with that. I love being an artist and a creative entrepreneur. I also love the life that I’ve designed for myself, and it’s ok if some people don’t get it. I’m choosing not to dwell on the way others may or may not perceive me. I’m also making a conscious effort to avoid passing judgement on them .

So, here’s a mantra that I’d like to share with you today: “Gratitude is my Attitude.” Let’s avoid focusing on the things that bring us down. At any given moment, we have the ability to bring our attention to the things we’re grateful for. In doing so, we also bring our thoughts and feelings back to a place of joy. So, let’s spend a little more time getting better at that and a little less time judging ourselves and others.

be joyful

A Love Affair

My love affair with writing began during childhood…

I was eight years old when my name was called over the loud-speaker at my school-wide assembly. I didn’t even enter the Creative Writing contest, so you can imagine the shock I experienced when I was summoned to the stage. Under the bright cafeteria lights, I still remember the sweaty palms and awkward, shaky-voiced “thank-you” as I accepted my plaque.

Apparently, my third grade teacher submitted the story. My narrative was called “A Bear Who Could Talk,” and it was about a curious little girl who wandered into the woods one evening before dinner. She encountered a young bear in the forest and immediately began to scream with terror.  But the bear assured her that he was friendly, and he promised that he wouldn’t hurt her.  The girl was amazed that the bear was so gentle and kind. A friendship quickly ensued, and every day after school, the girl and the bear met in the woods for play dates… that is, until one fateful day, when the young girl brought the bear home to have dinner with her family.

Want to know what happens next? Too bad, So sad (as my 3rd grade self would say).

I may turn the story into a children’s book one of these days, so I’ll keep the end a secret for now. I hope you don’t lose sleep over it 😉

By age nine, I was gifted my first journal. It was hard-bound, navy blue with pink flowers, and I loved it from the moment I laid eyes on it.

I wrote my first journal entry in big, bubbly kid letters on December 20, 1988:

Communicating with the journal as if it were a person still cracks me up. I also don’t know why Jessica’s birthday on December 24 had anything to do with the fact that she wasn’t Christian. Maybe I was feeling empathetic that she wouldn’t get to celebrate the Christmas holiday. And I can’t help but smile when I read the last sentence, “Grandma Albaum told me to be surprised when I open it.” To this day, my family is THE WORST at keeping secrets.  Thanks to my journals (and subsequent role as family historian), I’m blaming this not-so-great family trait on Grandma Albaum’s influence.

Then there was my ninth grade typing class. My classmates moaned and groaned about how boring it was, but for some reason, I was in my element. I loved learning how to type proficiently. How many words could I type per minute? I consistently tried to beat my personal best. The quicker I typed, the faster I could get the thoughts out of my head and onto the page. I loved the click clacking sound of my fingers moving across the keyboard, too.

Creative Writing Poetry at the University of Florida was the absolute best, though. It was a 3-hour Monday night class, and my instructor was a young, likable man with dark, messy hair and glasses. At the end of each class, we were responsible for taking our work to Einstein’s Notes (a shop that sold cliff’s notes and also re-printed materials for classes). Then, a couple of days later, we’d pick up a bound book with everyone’s work included. Our homework was to anonymously critique each other’s writing before the next class.

When we entered the room on Monday evening, we’d sit in circle and pass the books around. We’d then tear out our page and read our classmates’ critiques. I found freedom in this process. I loved sharing my work without anyone knowing it was mine, and I was constantly surprised by the comments I received. It helped build my self-confidence as a writer (as opposed to Mr. Weston’s infamous Reporting class which did the opposite).

For the next eight years, my creative writing was mostly contained to the private pages of my journals. I worked as a Public Relations practitioner and Marketing Manager, so press releases and marketing copy became the new norm. I enjoyed that too, but creative writing will always be my true love.

No other living creature has the ability to express themselves through the written word. Writing enables us to provide a glimpse into our stream of consciousness, and I think it’s one of the most powerful things we can do, as humans.

As for the journals… well, they became my trusted allies. I have 17 of them now filled with my handwritten words. These pages house my innermost thoughts, feelings and secrets. And when life was at its absolute worst, I consistently turned to pen and paper. Suffice to say that my love affair with words saved me from myself in those dark days.

Now, as I prepare to share my story in the form of a book, the word ‘gratitude’ comes to mind. I’m grateful that I can literally turn back the pages of time. I’m grateful to have captured moments with the written word that I wouldn’t otherwise remember. I’m grateful that writing saved me from myself when I was suicidal. I’m grateful that the fear of failure is no longer preventing me from sharing my words with you.

Thank you for taking the time to read and reminisce with me.

XOXO,
Abby