I got up at 6am on a Saturday morning to do my morning routine (prayer, meditation, reading scripture, etc.) After I finished, I jumped into morning chores because we were expecting guests. My husband and I host a brunch potluck for a small group of young married couples in our home a couple times a month. That meant the house needed to be cleaned, a dish needed to be made, and our discussion questions needed to be solidified by 10am.
After my morning routine, I stared cleaning in a quiet house. No kid asking me a million questions. He was still asleep. No husband making beats while he worked. It was just me and my thoughts. I did that for a little while until I realized my kid was probably awake. I opened his door and told him to start his wake-up routine. He and I cleaned around the house until 8am. Then I started feeling stressed.
My husband was still asleep, and there was still a ton of work to do. Our son got up in the middle of the night to “go to the bathroom” and didn’t. So, he woke us up for no reason. My husband didn’t go back to bed immediately, so he was trying to make up for the lost sleep.
I had a decision to make. Let him rest and prepare for the group myself, or disturb his sleep and ask for help. I chose the latter. “Babe, hate to disturb your sleep, but it’s 8:00am, and we have guests arriving at 10:00am. I really need your help.” His response, “I know babe.” He was a little frustrated. I walked out of the room and got back to work. He came out and said, “You know I didn’t immediately go back to sleep after the boy got up?” My response, “I know.” I walked away and kept working. He was frustrated, but I was relieved. I asked for what I needed and didn’t have to prepare alone. No anxiety. No guilt.
We’ve been married for six years now. Early in our marriage I used to spend most Saturday mornings angry. I would get up early and clean around the house without help. My husband would sleep in and wake up with a smile on his face and wonder why I was frustrated with him. This was before we hosted a small group and before we had a baby. I used to do so much work, never ask for help and get mad when he had the audacity to let me do all that work alone.
First of all, there’s no rule that says you HAVE to get up early on Saturday mornings. I do that because I enjoy it. He doesn’t have to. Second off, we never pro-actively discussed who was responsible for each chore. We just assumed that if someone saw something that needed to be done, they’d just get it done. I’m a little more of a neat freak, so guess who normally ended up cleaning first? Me. Lastly, the hardest grown up lesson I had to learn is that a closed mouth don’t get fed. I have to ASK for what I want. If I don’t like something, I have to ask for less of it and ask for more of what I DO like.
So, instead of playing the “good wife” role and letting my husband sleep in (while PISSED OFF on the inside) I asked him to wake up and help me. And he did. He was a little ticked at first, but I let him have that. I didn’t need for him to have a good attitude. In that moment, I needed help, and I got what I needed. Eventually, he got over it, and he was really happy that I was happy. No hostility. No emotional distance. I was good, and normally that’s enough for him to be good as well.
We don’t have this moment every Saturday. Most weekends we both kind of move at our own pace, and that works for us. But we have shared responsibilities, and I’m grateful that I’ve grown up enough to ask for what I need in confidence and truth. AND I’m grateful to have a partner that gets it
So, remember when I started that six-month noise fast a couple weeks ago? Well, I decided to end it. I don’t have a deep reason really. I was working from home and got bored with the silence, so I listened to some positive music. It inspired me, and I worked better.
A couple days after that I decided to watch tv with my husband. I hadn’t done it in a while, and he loves it, so I gave it a shot. It wasn’t super uplifting, and it felt like a waste of time. BUT it was just one hour out of all of the other productive hours I have in the day.
I haven’t gone full-on back to noise. I have some boundaries. I try not to watch more than 30 minutes of tv a day, and I listen to music in the background when I’m working. Whenever I feel like I can’t hear myself think, I turn it all off until I feel centered again. My morning routine of prayer, reading and meditation are still non-negotiable. Whenever I need a refresh of any kind, I just get up and go for a walk around the neighborhood. It keeps me physically healthy, mentally clear and spiritually centered.
There are days that I may opt to just work and play without noise. It’s easier to be present that way. But I’m learning that I don’t have to go to an extreme to make that happen.
I did pick up a few things from my noise fast that I think are worth sharing though.
I’m proud of myself for trying it out and deciding to stop when it started to feel like a chore. I will keep silence as a part of my daily practice but sprinkle in some noise when I feel like it: keeping everything balanced. If I’m feeling overstimulated again, I’ll just hop back on the noise fast. It was helpful overall.
My stylist blow dried my hair as we chatted. She was getting ready to twist it when she said, “You know, one day you should just wear it like this. You have BEAUTIFUL hair.” She was right. With my hair blown out like that, I looked like a young Diana Ross. I was inspired and was immediately feeling myself. I told her that the game plan was to take my headshots with my two strand twists, then we’d experiment with the big hair later. Then it happened . . . I changed my mind. I said, “You know what? Let’s take a risk. I want to do something different anyway.” She asked, “Do you want to send a picture to your manager to double check?” Me: “Nope. It’s cute. She’ll love it.”
I took a weekend to get used to taking care of the big hair. I was proud of it. I felt like a queen. I got compliments in the grocery store. I took selfies. And if you know me, that’s a huge deal. I only do that when I’m REALLY feeling myself.
We scheduled an appointment for the morning of my photo shoot just to make sure my hair was still cute. I stepped into the salon already feeling fine. My stylist agreed and even took a picture of me walking into a salon with my super high confidence. She did a restyle and sent me on my way.
I arrived to set, and it happened. I stepped into the WORST humidity. I figured it would be fine because we were prepared. My hair was to be pulled back until we were ready to shoot. When I got into the studio, I brushed my hair out and told my photographer I was ready, but after a few photos I could tell that my hair was out of control. I tried to tame it by brushing and combing it between takes, but it was difficult. By the end of the shoot, I saw a few photos I liked in spite of the fight with my hair. I went home feeling accomplished. It was a fight, but I won.
I paid the photographer, got the images back and immediately sent my top pics to my team. My agent got back with me and only liked one look out of the two. My manager didn’t like ANY of them. It wasn’t the makeup, the photographer or the wardrobe. It was my hair.
If you know anything about my journey this year, you know that’s a sensitive topic for me. I’ve been wearing my natural hair for about eight months, and I’m just now really OWNING it. I was so frustrated when I realized she didn’t like it. I felt silly for liking something she hated. I felt silly and small and went to bed mad.
When I got up to pray, I felt like God was telling me to not be offended. It’s my manager’s JOB to tell me if my look is working or not. It’s her job to look out for me. It’s my job to be the wild creative that just makes art. She’s my buffer. I was essentially mad at my buffer for doing her job!
Truthfully, I’m working on a major career level up, and I could use all the help I can get. This time my help came in the form of some feedback I didn’t want to hear. This week I was reminded that feedback can offend me or grow me, so I chose growth. I emailed my manager, thanked her for her feedback and asked her for direction. I never want her honesty to stop, even if we disagree. If what she has to say will help me grow, I’m here for it. And next time, I’ll be sure to send a picture first!
The good news, no, the GREAT news is that I FEEL GREAT! My body has pretty much healed up, and I have a ton of energy. My family and friends now have to deal with my endless need to create, plan, act, dream, talk and make people laugh. The good news is that I feel like myself again.
The bad news is that my forced “sabbatical” introduced me to some pretty dark thoughts. Actually, I don’t know if it introduced those thoughts as much as unearthed deep-seated beliefs that I didn’t know were there. They are impractical fears and ugly beliefs based on experiences that I witnessed but never personally had. My mind is MUCH better today because I was forced to work on it the last three months, but there are some residual thoughts there much like the residual symptoms that let me know my body is strong but still completing the healing process.
So, I decided to go on a thought fast. Basically, for the next six months, I’m giving up entertainment like tv, movies, music (le sigh) in exchange for reading that will enhance my thought life (i.e. the Bible and books on subjects that will help me level up).
Why so long? Well, I realize that most of these thoughts have been dormant in my mind for years, some of them at least a decade. I’ve allowed the circumstances of life to “dump” these ideas into my subconscious mind without evaluation or challenge. This is my way to aggressively acknowledge my thought life while still being kind to myself. Instead of distracting myself from my thoughts, I’ll be addressing them and filling my mind with new thoughts: creating my new life from the inside out.
Why not food? The last three months I’ve basically only eaten fruits, vegetables, nuts. I ate very little meat on occasion to for nutrients, but that’s pretty much it. I’m ready to round out the food groups again, in moderation. But my nutrition isn’t the root issue, my thought life is. I’m doing a “cleanse” for the mind.
What am I hoping to get out of this experience? A stronger mind. I want my knee-jerk mental reaction to be positivity, rather than the absolute worst. I also want to see progress in my professional life, which I’ve hindered with years of my mental negativity. Lastly, I want to see the complete manifestation of healing in my physical body; I want the healthiest, strongest version of my body that I’ve ever had. So, a fast is worth it in my opinion.
I hope the experience is awesome! It might be boring over time. Who knows? I’ve never fasted this long for anything. I’m proud of myself for taking this step to better myself. I just ask that you pray for your girl because six months is a long time. I promise to keep you posted!
I wrote myself a love letter this week. It gave me a little lift and made me smile. I encourage you to do the same for yourself. It’s a beautiful exercise. Here’s mine:
We’ve spent a lot of time over the last three months healing physically and emotionally, and I just want to say that I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for not running and hiding when things got scary. You faced the ugly, frightening parts of yourself and made yourself deal. You cried fear out of your system, said goodbye to painful memories and the need to have total control. You got to know God: presented the most vulnerable version of yourself in prayer and experienced total acceptance. You embraced silence and learned how to fill your subconscious with healthy thoughts. You dealt with a hard season and came out stronger on the other side. For that, I salute you.
I love your commitment to truth,
Your passion for peace,
Your courage to pursue what feels impossible sometimes.
Your smile is contagious.
Your groundedness is enviable.
Your willingness to learn excites me.
Don’t let life’s circumstances define you: you already know who you are. Stay open to love. So much of it is available if you refuse to close your heart. Freely receive it and freely give it. Stay honest, even when it scares you. Keep believing for greater, and it will happen honey.
You will see your dreams come true.
You will end generational curses in your lifetime.
Your children and grandchildren will call you blessed and want to model their lives after yours.
Health, wealth and sweet companionship are yours. Expect and accept nothing less.
I love you.
I see you.
And I’m so stinkin’ proud of you.
Who’s in your five? A mentor of mine asked me that question, and I honestly couldn’t answer. He was saying that when you have a challenge in life, lean into the five closest people in your community.
Over the years, I’ve developed a tribe of very positive, inspiring people. I have a church home, lead a small group for young married couples, live on a street where everyone knows everybody, teach an acting class, take an acting class, participate in a group chat and keep up with family. My tribe looks great on paper; it consists of people I look up to, people I mentor, people I do life with, people that make me laugh, people that show up when asked. On the outside, I’m surrounded by good folks. But my mentor made me realize something: I hadn’t really let any of them “in.”
Here’s a perfect example. On my wedding day, I handed out three plaques to the women in my life who have stepped up as “mothers” in my life after my mom passed. In essence, I was telling saying, “Tag, you’re it. When I need a mom, I trust you will show up and support. In turn, I will show up as a daughter and love your family as my own.” It was a beautiful gesture, and I’ve been in contact with all of these women. But overall, I’ve only really talked to them about how life is going when life was too hard for me to handle alone. That’s not relationship. If my mom was still here, I would show up for dinner and check in just because. The reason I haven’t really done this with these ladies is because I don’t want to be a bother.
So, back to my “aha” moment with my mentor. “Who’s in your five?” I decided for the first time to conduct an experiment. Typically, I go through challenging times in private and celebrate the victory with my tribe after I’ve gone through it . . . alone. I know that’s crazy, but what can I say? It’s learned behavior. So, here’s the experiment. The last time I was in the middle of a challenge, I decided to reach out to my tribe. I mean everybody. I wanted to know what it felt like to be supported; I texted/called my substitute moms, messaged my small group, texted my friends in the group chat and called my dad.
The result was interesting. Some people didn’t respond at all. Some people didn’t know how to respond. Some gave me the basic, “love you, praying for you” response, and they kind of disappeared into the business of their own lives. (I’ve done this before SOOOO many times, so I’m not judging.) I had hour-long conversations with others: people I hadn’t really talked to in years. Some people LITERALLY showed up, which surprised me.
Now that I’m better and on the other side of the challenge, I learned something about my squad. Not every relationship is created equal. Some people, I’m there to serve. Some people are clutch when I’m in a bind and need good advice. Some people are great at just being there. Some people support me well and are safe to lean on. I learned that in order to have true relationships, I have to let some people in. I don’t have to let everyone in, but I need in “inner circle.” They can’t just orbit around my life, they have to be invited into the messiness of it, and in turn, I need to jump into theirs.
So, I chose my five. They’ve always been there, but I’m proud to say that over the last week, I’ve contacted all of them and intentionally let them in. They may change over time, and that’s okay. The point is that I started a journey of vulnerability in my closest relationships, and I’m elated! I’ve had some “just because” conversations. I’ve also had some long, hardy belly-laughs. I’ve had some deeper conversations, with awesome exchanges of wisdom. It’s been amazing. I feel supported. I feel loved. I’m not doing life alone, and it has been life-giving to my soul and body. My friend, I hope and pray that I maintain this practice because it’s just so healthy. I feel a difference already. I also pray that your squad supports you well and that you “belong” somewhere. If not, take the risk and start letting someone in. We were made for that kind of thing.
We were helping my in-laws move. Well, my husband was helping my in-laws move. I was sitting around and catching up with family. I’d just gotten off bedrest and didn’t want to overdo it, so I was just kind of there, hanging out.
On our way back home, I was deep in thought as I watched the trees go by. My thoughts: why do certain areas of my life seem to just fall into place, but other areas feel like a constant struggle? My recent health issues were overall non-threatening but seemed to go on much longer than necessary. What was the hold up? I thought about it, had some light conversation with my husband, realized it was late, and let my musings go.
I woke up at 5:30am the next morning for quiet time and did some reading, praying and meditating. While reading, something popped out at me in a different way. I was reading a Bible passage in Matthew. In the story, someone approaches Jesus, asking him to cast out a demon that his disciples couldn’t. His disciples struggled, but Jesus was able to do it with ease. When his disciples asked why they couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus said, “Because you have so little faith.” Then he went on to teach them that if they have faith, “Nothing will be impossible for you.” I felt like God was whispering the answer I needed to my spirit.
The reason why I struggle with certain areas of my life is my lack of belief in those areas. The reason I win with ease in other areas in my rock-hard confidence.
For example, I never worry about making rent or paying the mortgage. My husband is a contractor, and I’m self-employed. It’s been that way our entire marriage. Before I married him, I was self-employed, so we technically don’t always know where our next check is coming from. We are responsible adults who work, budget, pay bills, save. But sometimes life happens. When it does, I don’t worry. I trust that we will have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, food to eat, and a way to get back and forth to work. For whatever reason, I’ve always felt like those things would just work themselves out. God will provide. And he does. Every. Single. Time.
I’ve also always believed I was worthy of healthy romantic love, so I’ve never been pressed. When I was single, I repelled romantic drama and attracted healthy relationships. Meeting, dating, marrying and living with my husband has been a simple and beautiful process. And I’m STILL not pressed. If he changes his mind and wants to leave, he’s free to go. I don’t own him. He doesn’t own me. We’re both here because we WANT to be. If he did decide to leave, I’m sure that someone else amazing would come along. I don’t worry about it. I almost never think about. There’s so much ease in this department of my life because there’s ease in my heart.
The recent struggle with my health was a result of my mental back and forth. I would have one symptom, then worry for weeks as my body healed. Then, I’d get another symptom, and the worry cycle would start all over again. I was holding the issue too tightly, trying to control something that I ultimately couldn’t. What I learned is that the way I believe really does affect the outcome of my situations. The key to my victory is a sense of ease: releasing the issue and trusting that it will all work out in time.
Where am I with this now? Mentally, I’m in a good place. I finally stopped worrying. I still have some symptoms that I don’t understand, but they are minor, and I’ve prayed for wisdom. While I’m waiting on the answer, I’ve let the issue go. I’m now clear that manhandling my problems doesn’t work, so I’ve chosen to release my problems and just stay on the healing path, no matter how long it takes.
September 1st is kind of my New Year. Every summer I’m working on something that takes up a lot of my focus, and I normally come out on the other side with a renewed sense of clarity. Without fail, God gives me a vision for the coming year right around that time, so I have a fresh set of goals every September 1st. I used to fight the urge to do this mental purge and planning session in early fall because it made me feel like a loner. The rest of the world seems to catch the planning spirit around the actual New Year. It’s kind of fun to see how other people are progressing with their goals the first half of the year. But this year I finally made peace with the notion that my New Year starts in the fall. I create something awesome over the summer, take a short vacation and the planning begins.
This year, my process was as follows:
Created a vision board – This is actually the first year I created a vision board for my life. I’m normally a bullet point goals type of gal, but with my minor health issues this year, I really wanted to see something positive. I’m actually still working on the physical vision board, but I created an inspiration board in IG that’s a pretty good proxy. It worked well enough to get my creative juices flowing for the rest of the planning process. I have images of the following areas on my vision board: spiritual, emotional/mental, health, relationships, career, material (stuff), experiences (like travel). Instead of focusing on targets or accomplishments on my vision board, I focused on how I want my life to feel overall. I think of my vision board as my “big picture” ideal. Whenever I have a free second, I jump on IG and scroll through my inspiration board, and it makes me smile.
Created my one-year goals – I normally start with my five-year goals when I’m planning, but this year I skipped it. That’s probably because my vision board this year scratched my long-term vision casting itch. Also, I have a really aggressive one-year career goal for 2020, and I’ve decided to put a significant amount of energy and focus into manifesting that one goal. I guess I’m on that “dream big, focus small” line of thinking this year. I did create goals for different categories of my life, and they are all specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. It took me about half a day to really drill down on what was important for me to accomplish over the next year, but I’m satisfied with what I’ve come up with.
Created my one-year plan – This part of the process was all about HOW I’m going to accomplish my goals for the year. It’s normally the most frustrating part of the planning process for me because if I can’t come up with an actionable plan for a specific goal, I force myself to take the goal off the table for a time until I can figure out how to make it happen. This is usually the stage of the planning process where I re-evaluate my goals as well. I ask myself questions like, “Am I trying to accomplish this particular thing to boost my ego, or is this really bringing value to my life and others?” “Does this goal align with my purpose?” I try my best to get to the bottom of why I want to accomplish a particular goal, so I’m not wasting my time and effort on a cause rooted in a terrible motive. In this phase, some goals get scrapped all together, so I’m only left with what I feel a deep conviction to accomplish.
Set up accountability – This is the first year I’ve made it a point to be accountable outside of myself for getting ish done. I wanted to join an accountability group, but I got frustrated and impatient looking for something that would work for me. Instead I opted for electronic accountability, and it’s working super well for me! There are some goals that are task oriented and take step by step action to accomplish. I dumped those goals into an online system that helps me track my progress for those goals. But I also have healthier habits I want to implement this year (like taking dance classes regularly) that I dumped into a habit tracker app on my phone. The app has been SUPER helpful with keeping me on track with my day to day work habits. There’s an overall percentage at the top of the app that lets me know how I’m doing, and looking at that percentage everyday is enough to keep me focused. I find this particularly helpful because most of my work freelance, and I don’t have a direct supervisor all the time. I treat that percentage as my boss, and things get done.
Next August I look forward to looking over my year and being proud of the person I’m becoming and the work I’m creating. Until then, I’m putting my head down and getting it done, so Happy New Year folks!
One of the ways I’m working on my mindset is starting my day with gratitude. Making a list of everything I’m grateful for puts things in perspective and elevates my overall mood. Here’s today’s gratitude journal entry:
I’m grateful . . .
For a working car and the money to keep it running.
That every day I get to wake up and do work that excites me.
That I have a clear sense of my purpose in life.
I live in a safe home with people that care about me.
My partner in life cares that I’m happy.
My partner in life is kind not just to me but to pretty much everybody.
My son is healthy, happy and does something every day that makes me laugh.
He goes to a daycare every day with a teacher that truly cares and nurtures his mind and relationships when I’m not with him. She reminds me a lot of my mother. That’s one of those beautiful “God winks” in my life.
I’m surrounded by women who inspire me and model life for me while my mom is kickin’ it in heaven.
ALL of my family and friends support what I’m doing. I’m starting to learn that isn’t the case for everyone, so I’m grateful.
I have like-minded friends that make me want to level-up.
My body is mobile.
My immune system is strong.
I can see, hear, touch and breath.
Every day my physical body is getting stronger.
I feel connected to something/someone bigger than me, and that brings me great peace.
I can honestly say that I’ve healed in a healthy way from major traumas of my past.
When emotional pain comes up, I know how to express it and heal in a healthy way.
I’ve worked with celebrities and felt like I belonged.
I get to do this art thing full-time.
I don’t really have strained relationships in my life. Those who are close bring so much value to my life, and I have boundaries in place to protect me from foolishness.
I am loved, and I’m starting to own it as my life’s foundation.
So . . . a week after my ER visit, my leg started going numb. Here’s the thing. My body had a lot of little weird hiccups after we closed JUMP. Nothing painful. Nothing life-threatening. But it’s been weird. I’ve sat with doctors and tried to explain some of my sensations and literally heard back, “Well, that’s a first.” Then, I’m prescribed little or (more often) no medicine and told to just give it time.
My reaction in each of these episodes should have been gratitude because overall, I’m in good health. I wish I would have thought, “Hmmm, my body’s doing a weird thing. Oh well. I should just give it time to heal.” That was NOT my reaction. Instead, I thought the absolute WORST was happening to me every time. I thought, “Oh no! What if I have (insert life altering disease)?” My mind had no evidence to support these thoughts. It was just my knee-jerk reaction to believe the worst. I found out there’s a name for that . . . negativism.
My particular brand of negativism is the belief that life is out to get me. Now, it’s not something I deal with on a conscious level very often. On the surface, most days, I’m moving forward with the absolute confidence that life is good. But the moment my body started sending me strange signals, I had to fight off some pretty dark thoughts.
So, when my leg started going numb after I JUST went to the ER about my arm, I lost it. I crumbled to the floor and prayed. I told God how I really felt.
I was afraid that something bad was going to happen to me because I watched a very bad thing happen to my mother, and it left a scar.
I kept fearing the worst because that was my subconscious mind’s way of trying to protect me from getting sideswiped by life again, and I needed Him to take away that fear.
I needed to His help getting back my foundation of feeling loved and safe, so I could speak goodness over my body from a place of truth.
The next day I did a follow up with my primary doctor, and we figured out what might be triggering my symptoms. But more importantly, I told her what I was afraid was happening to my body. She gave me all the reasons the “big bad thing” I was imagining was probably not true. Based on my symptoms, I didn’t have a disease. I was triggering the inflammation with my work habits, and I just needed to make a few adjustments.
She said, “Don’t go searching for zebras when you have a horse right in front of you.”
She was right.
Since making some adjustments, I do feel better. But if I look at the big picture of my life, God used my body to show me a deep fear in my subconscious mind that I never dealt with. In true Type A form, I want to jump in there and blast that fear to Hell by working really hard to beat it. But my gut is telling me that I need to treat myself with a steady diet of love and compassion over time. What my spirit really needs is kindness and patience.
For now, I’ll stop “searching for zebras” and take care of my heart.
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.