19
Apr 17

If It Ain’t Yours, Don’t Carry It

If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Simple enough.

If it ain't yours, don't carry it.

Don’t pick it up. Don’t offer to help. Don’t open up your bag and let someone else drop it right in there.

Because if it ain’t yours to carry, you don’t need to carry it.

But what about the stuff that others can’t carry? You know — the things they’ve picked up along the way. The extras and the afflictions and the little nonconformities that make it hard for them. If you know their story, it makes it hella hard not to carry something for someone else.

Whatever it may be.

But you can’t.

You’re supposed to be here, but you’re not here to carry what’s not yours.

Pretend I’m coming at you like an angry mama who found her toddler crawling on the floor of a public restroom, and that toddler also happened to pick up several things and shove them in her mouth.

NO NO NO, I say to you.

Not yours.

Don’t pick that up. Don’t put it in your mouth. Leave it there, it’s yucky.

Because if it ain’t yours, don’t carry it.

Because if it ain't yours, don't carry it. Click To Tweet

(This is as much a reminder for me as it is for you, you know.)

(I’m sure you know.)

(If you’re here, you know.)

But what about when, you ask, brow furrowed in consternation, what about when someone leaves what’s theirs with you? Then, are you not obligated to carry it?

Hell no.

If some well meaning asshole approaches you with with what belongs to them, and drops it at your feet, that is exactly where it stays. You don’t pick that up, and you sure as hell don’t carry it. And if they look at you expectantly and wonder why you ain’t carrying it, you don’t have to explain shit, because it’s not yours.

If they come back later and ask if you’ve got it, remind them that you don’t carry it if it ain’t yours, and they can go pick it up just where they left it.

You have to take care of yourself, because sometimes the Universe is conspiring against you.

The secret is that you’ll gladly carry for some. Some truly deserve it. Those people who are inextricably linked to you by a force that pulls and magnetic coincidence — you’ll carry what belongs to them because you know they’ll carry what belongs to you.

But here’s the rub: You can’t carry theirs if you’re carrying someone else’s. And just imagine how foolish you’ll feel when you realize you’ve been schlepping what’s not yours to carry when you could’ve carried something better all along.

But that’s the thing. If it ain’t yours, don’t carry it. And if you’re going to carry it, best outline the carrier-carryee relationship upfront. And honestly, let them know your policy on carrying what’s not yours.

Oh, and make sure you uphold that policy.


03
Apr 17

Slow Living: What We Have Time for

For me, slow living is all about figuring out exactly what it is that you have time for.

As I write this, I should be grading. Hell, before I started writing this, I was walking the dog. And during the time I was walking the dog, I should’ve been grading too. I’m a college instructor. There are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be grading.

Slow Living: What We Have Time For

And as a writer, there are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be writing. Even if I count every idea scribbled on a Post-It, every notebook bleeding ink, Word Docs filled with rambling prose, and every last stolen minute I took to write, I still wouldn’t write enough.

But that’s the thing of it, isn’t it? Whatever we do isn’t enough, and we always feel like we’re running out of time.

Whatever we do isn't enough, and we always feel like we're running out of time. Click To Tweet

I had this thought on the dog walk, and knew I needed to get home and write it.

For me, I don’t feel like there aren’t enough days left in my life. I’m 31, which is relatively young. I do worry about the hours in the day, though. How is it already 3 PM? How did Tuesday pass me by? I swear, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Even though I still feel like there is plenty of time left in my life, I can easily see how it’s all slipping away, and getting me to a point where there won’t be enough time.

So I slow down. I don’t wish days away. I don’t live for deadlines or benchmarks. And even though I feel like I should be further in my career right now, I’m very content with where my life is.

I think we all see what’s possible and we want it immediately. We all see what others were able to accomplish with relatively little time, and we think we should do that too.

I definitely used to feel that way. I’ve been slowing down a lot lately. I’m obsessed with slow living, especially as I see others scrambling their way through life.

(Slow living, for those who don’t trawl the blogosphere/podcastosphere for content about how to take a chill pill, is living life at a slower pace. It’s taking a step back and enjoying life. It’s refusing to be manic, even when every other aspect of daily life would have you believe that you need to keep up. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out The Art of Simple and No Sidebar.)

I’ve stepped back and realized that I’m supposed to be here. I am embracing the marathon mindset, because I know everything is a slow burn. I’m making time for picnics. I’m saying no to things I don’t need. I’m creating space to breathe when the rest of the world is underwater. I refuse to choose busy. I’m setting my own agenda. I’m living my own damn life, y’all.

This got me to thinking about the things I value, and the things I have time for. It made me realize that the only reason I want to be further in my career is because I want writing to be the day job, not the side hustle. It made me realize that I’ve been valuing that paycheck and health benefits more than I have the very thing I was meant to do with my life.

And while I can’t very well quit my day job (unless some rich benefactor wants to pay for my existence while I hole up in my house and write my butt off), I can focus more on what I have time for.

Even though I know what I want, I haven’t made time for it. I have, however, made time for Netflix, fast food, too much social media, and Tetris. I’m shocked by how much time I’ve spent zoning out while staring at the TV, or poisoning my body with garbage or just scrolling through my phone, or just rotating those little tetrominos. (That free app is killer. I’ll delete it, but add it one afternoon when I want to shut my brain off — usually after grading like a fiend. If there’s a way to completely block an app from your phone, I’d love to know because I don’t have that level of willpower.)

Even though I’m not happy I’ve spent time doing that, I know why I have. It’s easy to shut down your brain. It’s easy to zone out. It’s easy to consume. But that’s the thing about slow living. It’s hard. It’s deliberate. It’s focused.

For me, slow living is figuring out everything that is important and vital to my existence, and letting the other things fall away.

This realization is one thing, taking action is another.

So for today, I’m starting. I’m taking stock of the things I have time for.

I have time to write. I have time for Chris. I have time for family. I have time for dog walks. I have time for daydreaming. I have time for deep conversations about magic and spirituality. I have time to listen to my favorite records over and over and over. I have time to read poems in the middle of the day because that’s what I need to do. I have time to cook a meal made of real food that won’t put me in the hospital or give me a heart attack.

I’ve been taking stock of privilege lately. I have benefited immensely from the privileges I possess. And yet, I’ve operated as if everything I have will someday be taken away from me. I’ve been overly hungry. I’ve been like Smaug the Dragon laying on my hoard. I’ve been manic. I’ve believed that I needed to work myself to death. I’ve believed that I don’t have time to take care of myself. I’ve believed that I needed all the things that were being sold to me.

This is all fairly woo woo and vague. But if you’re here, then I have to believe that 1.) you know that’s who I am and what I write about, and 2.) you’re here for that.

I’m here for that too. This is what I have time for.

Slow living is what I have time for. Click To Tweet

P.S. The whole time I was writing this, Non-Stop from Hamilton was running through my head.

Have you ever stepped back and wanted to slow down? Why do you write like you’re running out of time? What do you have time for?


23
Mar 17

Marathon Mindset: Embracing Life’s Slow Burn

Recently I caught myself getting really mad about how long things take. Generally, I’m a pretty patient person. Even though I would like instant validation, I don’t expect it. And that’s because there’s a long road ahead of me. I embrace the time it takes for things to happen because that’s the marathon mindset.

Embracing the Marathon Mindset

I’ve written about the yoga approach to life before, and the marathon mindset is similar. Only with the marathon mindset, you gotta be cool with how long life takes.

Almost daily I hear someone complaining about how people have no attention span these days. They’re used to the immediacy of information accessed from a pocket-sized computer that we call a phone. And maybe that’s true.

But I don’t think it is for everyone. I think most people know that life’s a slow burn.

Sure, I want what I want when I want it. But I’m an adult. I know that I can’t just take a vacation in the middle of the week. I can’t go out to dinner every single night. I can’t stay up late reading just because the book is good. I can’t keep clicking on the next episode just because Netflix has the whole series available.

I mean, I could definitely do all these things. But there are consequences.

It’s kind of like with running a marathon. You can’t blow all your energy by hardcore sprinting the first few miles. Your pace has to be even and measured. You have to strategize. You have to think about how you’ll not only approach the beginning of the race, but the middle and end too. And should you choose to start the race at a dead sprint, there will probably be consequences. That is, unless you’re a super human who can sprint 26.2 miles.

(Side note: I’ve only ever run a half marathon, and I’ve openly and loudly stated on multiple occasions that it was the worst day of my life. This is a metaphor, though. And metaphors mean that I don’t actually have to run.)

I'm embracing the marathon mindset in all aspects of my life. Click To Tweet

So, rather than feeling impatience take over, I’m embracing the marathon mindset in all aspects of my life. Here’s what that looks like:

The Marathon Mindset at Work

In my career, it’s easy to be impatient. I want recognition and validation immediately. I want to move ahead and make a spot for myself, and I want to do it faster than anyone else. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s not about how fast others run the marathon, because if you try to keep pace with others, you’re going to burn out.

Instead, I focus on doing the best I can at work, and trust that I will be recognized when it’s time. Just like when you get the medal when you cross the finish line, I’ll eventually get recognition for the hard work I put in.

The Marathon Mindset at Home

Have you ever tried to remodel a home? Because holy hell. Living in a house with a person you love while trying to be a normal human being and simultaneously remodeling said house is like running a marathon on an obstacle course that some jerk set on fire. Everything is a hazard.

But by embracing the marathon mindset, I can be patient with home renovations. I know that they take time and money, and they’ll be done when they can be done. Similarly, I like to take the long way round when it comes to chores — doing a little bit at a time. It can be easy to get bent out of shape if your living situation isn’t ideal, but be real. When has your living situation ever been ideal?

The Marathon Mindset with Your Side Hustle

This is definitely the hardest for me. I feel like I’ve been writing my whole life, and it’s easy to feel like a failure when you don’t feel success and recognition immediately. But that’s the thing with writing. It’s naturally a slow burn anyway, because who the hell writes a novel in a day? No one.

Embracing the marathon mindset as a writer means that I have to not only acknowledge that writing is going to take hella long, but that achieving any amount of success from it will take even more time.

What does the marathon mindset look like to you? Click To Tweet

So there you have it. That’s how I embrace the marathon mindset in my everyday life. What about you? What does the marathon mindset look like to you?


09
Mar 17

Create Space to Breathe: 4 Tips to Help You Fight Overwhelm

When the things that need to be done start to pile up, I know I need to create space to breathe.

We’re smack dab in the middle of grading season. Or, more accurately, procrastinating grading season. (Every day I manage to tell my students they shouldn’t procrastinate with a straight face. I have no business doing that.)

Create Space to Breathe: 4 Tips

Normal adult activities like cleaning and grocery shopping have fallen by the wayside because I feel like I don’t have time to do it. And while I may not have time to do it all when I need to get 116 papers off my plate, I know I have time.

I firmly believe that busy is a choice. But I also know that there are times when you have more to do than others. And grading season is definitely that time for me.

In the past, I’ve wasted time feeling like I needed to be cooped up and cordoned off — away from the world and working diligently to get things done. But the problem with staying inside all day and looking at a computer screen is that it very much makes Marisa a dull girl. And if I’m being honest, it makes me hate my job and my students, which isn’t really productive at all.

So, this year I’m taking a more strategic approach and making an effort to create space to breathe. I feel like I have to this semester, especially since I’m teaching 5 classes this time around. I’m also at an age where I can’t be productive when I cut corners. So, fast food isn’t an option since it doesn’t really fuel my body anymore, so much as shut down the whole production while I lay down and attempt to digest. And there are no more all-nighters for me. In fact, I’m in bed at the same time every single night.

I know some of my coworkers can stay up late to get things done and still teach the next day. Or they can fuel up with nothing but coffee and donuts. But that ain’t me.

So here’s what I’m doing to create space to breathe during this busy time.

001: Going for walks.
Through a wellness initiative at my university, full-time faculty and staff received a free Fitbit. And while it’s not he first step tracker I’ve owned (I used to be a Garmin Vivo Fit user) it has definitely made me way more competitive when it comes to getting my steps in. Not only do I see my friends and all their steps within the Fitbit app, but I also see everyone on the university’s fitness portal. Because of this, I know how much more other people are doing, and I want to do more.

Now, there are only so many hours in a day, so it’s not like there is plenty of time for me to walk all over the place. Instead, I’m using my lunch breaks during the work day and walking around campus. Thanks to global warming, it’s been so unseasonably warm, and that has definitely made it a lot easier for me to traipse around campus during the day.

Not only is the walk good for me, but it enables me to take a moment away from the computer. I truly get to use that time to decompress from grading, lectures, and emails. It’s perhaps the most relaxing thing I do all day.

002: Eating my lunch outside.
I’ve got a bad habit of holing up in my office and eating lunch in front of my computer. I know this isn’t good, but it’s so hard to make myself go elsewhere. Plus, it’s not like I want to be the irrelevant old professor who rolls up in the cafeteria and tries to strike up a conversation with students in hopes that they let me sit with them.

I’m a 100% introvert, so I need time in my day when I’m not interacting with people. That’s usually why I eat my lunch in my office with the door closed. But the other day, I walked to my favorite spot on campus after I purchased a sandwich. I was delighted to find that no one was sitting on my bench, and very few people were passing by.

Naturally, I parked right there and enjoyed my pastrami on naan sandwich with an over-sweetened iced green tea. The best part? I could hear a choir rehearsing in Carpenter Hall.

003: One-on-one talks with good people.
I’m very fortunate in that I’m surrounded by a lot of deep thinkers. We can discuss a lot of things, and I never feel like I’m stuck in very surface-level conversations, which I HATE. It may seem counterintuitive, but when I’m stressed out, it’s nice to talk through some difficult concepts. If we stuck to just the small talk, I think that would stress me out more.

Over the course of this past week, I’ve talked about writing pedagogy, race relations and the biases we carry, whether or not a Ph.D. is actually worth it, and why we buy into the systems and institutions that we do. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I live for these kinds of discussions. And by taking time to have them, I feel better through the day because I’ve interacted with a human on a meaningful level, and haven’t stared a screen all day.

004: Turning my brain off by 8 PM.
I’ve found that the best way to be productive and get through a really busy time is to clearly delineate how I will use my time. By that, I mean I need to set aside time for work and time for shutting down and relaxing.

I mentioned that I’m in bed by the same time every night, But I also have to start relaxing and winding down at the same time so that I can get to sleep more easily. At around 8 PM ever night, I put away all my school stuff. I may write or blog or journal, but mostly I’ve been too fried to do that. Instead, Chris and I cuddle up on the couch with Rosie, and we’ve been watching Twin Peaks (I totally hate this series — sorry nostalgia fans) or Desus and Mero (bar none the best late night show on the air).

Oh, and yeah. I’ve had a big ol’ glass of red wine each night.

 

So there you have it. That’s how I like to create space to breathe when I feel overwhelmed. What do you do when you’ve got a lot to do? How do you create space to breathe?


21
Feb 17

Dear Universe: I Need Something Big

Dear Universe,

I know it’s been a hot minute since I asked for something via this ol’ blog, but I got another favor. I need something. Something big. And I don’t even know what it is.

Dear Universe: I Need Something Big

See, here’s the thing: I’m running on autopilot. Everything is going smoothly. I can’t see a speed bump or a pothole for miles. And that’s good, I think. Except, well. Last week I jokingly said to my office mate that every week is the worst week of my life. And joking about something is the first step to admitting that you have hella problems, right?

I’m not asking for a whole lot, dear Universe. I don’t wan’t to win the lottery or to find a bag of unmarked bills at the park when I’m walking my dog. (Let the record also show that I don’t not want those things. I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be those things.) I don’t want anything fancy or expensive. I don’t want some life-changing news. I don’t want to make a big decision.

I kind of just want a sign. I don’t know what for though.

Sorry. I’m trying here, dear Universe. But that’s the thing about this time of year. It’s the third quarter of the school year, and the third thing out of four things is always the worst. Like when you run a mile on a track. It’s only four laps. The first lap you’re fine. Your fresh. Your lungs are full of air. The second lap is okay. You’re doing it. You still have some energy. The third lap sucks because you’ve already done this thing twice and OMG can I just be done now? And the fourth lap is great because you’re almost done.

I kind of just want a sign. I don't know what for though. Click To Tweet

That’s where I am right now — smack dab in the middle of OMG can I just be done now.

So here I am, feeling antsy and anxious. I don’t know why. It’s been a hot minute since something big has happened. I mean, I guess I did buy a car on Saturday, but that doesn’t feel like anything. And if you know me, dear Universe, you know that material possessions don’t mean a whole awful lot to me. I’m looking for something that’s the spiritual equivalent of a marching band tromping down Main Street and playing Seventy-Six Trombones.”

I want big things and little words scribbled in notebooks. I want stories that make me stay up until 5 AM because I absolutely have to read them. I want words pouring out of my head and onto the page like an avalanche. I want to not feel so empty. I want to have thoughts worth thinking again.

I guess what I’m saying here, dear Universe, is that I want a little inspiration. I want to want to do things again.

Help me out here, Universe. Remind me why I’m here.