consistency

I awoke this morning to a gray and rainy day. It is my last day of spring break before another eight weeks of school ahead and truth be told I am not feeling it. I just lay awake in bed with absolutely no desire to do anything; get up, shower, or put on clothes. And while the next day should not fuck with today, reality is sometimes it does. I know what depression is and it is not where I would like to return.

I am still unsure what compelled me to move, but I managed to concoct a smoothie and prep vegetables to be eaten later whenever. Then, I started with the binge watch streaming. Midway into episode three I realized I was watching other people pursue their dreams and it reminded me that during the past week while I rested, refreshed, and refocused, I knew for things to change I have to remain consistent.

Although there are quite a few things that need to change, I can only tackle a few at a time to ensure success. Physically, work out daily. Whether it is at the house or in the gym. For fifteen minutes or sixty. Eat cleaner. Emotionally, write daily. It could be a sentence, paragraph, or an essay. First thing in the morning, before bed, or anytime in-between. Spiritually, meditate and study. Start the day with gratitude and end in reflection. Focus.

For several months now, I have been incorporating ayurveda practices into my daily rituals. From a warm cup of lemon water first thing in the morning to abhyanga before bed, tongue scraping and dry brushing; slowly introducing a bit at time until now many things are just routine. Not tedious, but essential and invigorating. I desire for more of that and more self empowerment in my life across the board, starting immediately. My sanity necessitates that I maintain the boundaries that protect my inner sanctum. Growth, healing, and elevation, one baby step at a time, navigating this thing called life.

Onward.

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tattoos

I believe I may have always been attracted to and interested in tattoos, so after my biological dad passed away I was compelled to get one. However, I decided to first see if I could handle getting one, thus I got a simple Capricorn symbol with my birthday centered on my upper back. Ironically, my first tattoo coincided with my epic, life changing decision to relocate to Chicago and the rest is history.

Within a month later, obviously able to handle the pain lol, I acquired my second tattoo. On my back right shoulder are four birds on a branch with the words “build your wings on the way down” inscribed around them, taken from a Ray Bradbury quote that was shared with me. That quote, “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down”,  definitely motivated me to leave Atlanta. I did not have a plan or a job awaiting me, but I knew I wanted to move to Chicago. This tattoo signified figuring it out in motion with my two sisters and two brothers having my back every step of the way. Since then it has definitely motivated many a decision to take leaps.

About a year later, a proud first time passport recipient bitten by the travel bug, I decided on tattoo three during a return visit back to Atlanta. A compass with the word wanderlust on my right shoulder. Discovering tattoo artists in Chicago necessitated  tattoos four and five. In another attempt to see if I could handle it, I decided on a side rib tattoo. Ladybird, a given nickname (and I do not do nicknames) when I worked in a kitchen under a female head chef, written in my mother’s handwriting. Needless to say, I could barely handle it and do not foresee any sidepiece tattoos in my near future.

Next, inside my inner arm just above the elbow, “take every chance, drop every fear”. This one was my first debate with the tattoo artist about orientation. He made me sign a waiver because I wanted it “upside down” – people would not be able to read it. I explained to him that this tattoo was not for anybody else, it was for me as a reminder and encouragement, especially when jumping off cliffs lol.

A couple of quiet years later, an unexpected trip to New Zealand provoked me to start collecting tattoos on my travels (which was an ideal choice since I did not get a passport stamp in New Zealand #sideeye). Researching and contacting studios before I left, I had an appointment booked for the second day of my trip. Desiring a traditional Maori design without cultural appropriating, I chose a kiwi filled with Maori inspired symbols. I now knew the process of insuring I collected travel tattoos planfully.

Obviously relocating to South Korea opened pandora’s tattoo box since I am traveling Asia extensively. Too (re)laxed to even bother in Thailand and knowing it would be a repeater anyway, I have time to think about that one. After Taiwan, I returned with the Taiwanese tiger god and two days ago I finally got my first South Korean tattoo. Since I reside on Jeju Island, I wanted something water related. After first considering fish or octopus, I decided on a haenyeo inspired one. The haenyeo are women divers who collect various sea life creatures without underwater equipment. Armed with only goggles, a tube for balance, and a basket or net, they are truly badass. During my recent trip to Busan, I was introduced to a Japanese tattoo artist who created a beautiful mermaid like representation of the haenyeo for me.

It has been said that tattoos can be addictive; four years and eight tattoos later, perhaps. A late bloomer at 38, I like to think there is meaning and significance to each and every one, for a reason. Tattoos teach me that pain is temporary. Literally just hours after, you can forget it is even there. Moreover, the healing process illustrates how sometimes things have to get real, real ugly and uncomfortable to undercover the beauty and artistry underneath it all. Like sometime you gotta go through shit, literally shovel through manure, to reap the harvest.

Though still undecided about the dad tattoo, I have plenty of other ideas occupying my mind. Like since I have focused completely on the right side, heavily on the arm, do I complete my sleeve before I start on other areas? Will I ever get tattoos on my legs? Will I ever press through the pain and get a tattoo where I already know it will be excruciating painful? What other significant people or things in my life need to be documented, on my body . . .

Stay tuned

naked

I was first introduced to the Korean spa, jjimjilbang, by my friend Sarah as a birthday gift several years ago. I am fairly sure my level of comfort then was minimized by my prior Austrian naked sauna experience years before and so in relocating to South Korea, I have been looking forward to going again (and again). As well as the realities of not having a bathtub at home . . . Finally, on my recent spring break excursion to Busan, I found one!

Jjimjilbangs are large bathhouses, separated by gender, furnished with all kinds of goodies from snack bars to saunas and salt to sleeping rooms. For the mere price of 10000 Won (the equivalent of 9.28 USD) I spent almost three hours in a state of most necessary heavenly zen. Although more apprehensive than ever before, I got naked.

In the locker room I encountered a first timer with her swimsuit in hand asking me about the nakedness. I told her although I was unsure about the swimsuit rules, in my experience everyone just goes naked. A little more reassured myself, I got naked, showered and headed straight for the high temperature tubs. Shortly thereafter, as we met again in the bath, properly introducing ourselves and chatted, our now nakedness started being less of a concern for me. Maybe no concern as my next stop took me to the outdoor open space bath.

From there, as I transitioned to the sauna and steam rooms, I began to fully embrace the experience. Each room is unique in both theme and healing properties. Depending on the characteristics of the room, I purposefully proceeded to be both reflective and intentional. Under the pink Scorpio full moon, I got really real naked with myself. I started releasing shit that no longer serves me. I made vows and set intentions to things that serve only my highest good, from people to places. I got honest with myself about the last six months – the parts where I was contributing to me own misery and stunting my own growth. Without pen and paper or Apple Notes, in prayer and invocation, I conjured up plenty of things.

Ultimately, I realized that you do no have to bare it all for people to “see you” My nakedness became a metaphor for uncovering the parts I do not want anybody to see and know. Nevertheless, similar to not needing to step on a scale to gauge weight gain, you also do not have to take off you clothes either. Similar to the realization that clothes in your closet are no longer fitting “right” can be cause for concern; the changes in your voice, demeanor, body language, etc also ring the alarm. Just a little over six months into my relocation, I do not believe my clothes have fit right since arrival, but neither has my attitude. Since then a lethal combination of stress and apathy have packed on the pounds, literally and figuratively. My locker room conundrum mirrored my concerns around not just getting naked, but legit concern about how I looked naked. And yet, I think that is the thing about traditional bathhouse – nobody cares, but you.

After over two hours of bliss and reckoning, I finally weighed in. The scale merely confirmed what I already knew – shit has got to change. I am in no position to continue gaining weight physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually without dire consequences – not interested. Furthermore, being more comfortable in my own skin is personal, not about anybody else. I believe it Nakedness begins in the locker room as you change from your street to sauna clothes. In retrospect, I suppose one could go to the washroom to change, however everybody’s doing it, so when in Korea 😊 First I was nervous about my tattoos, as culturally there association with crime gangs (and who else knows), are frowned upon in the bathhouse. I may have to chalk this one up to my darker hue of melanin actually giving me a pass. However even more significant than my maybe objectionable body art was the current physical state of my body genuinely all starts mentally first, so I am grateful for the jjimjilbang initiating the necessary change to not only get naked, but take full advantage of it!

To be continued . . .