I never wanted to be in this situation.

Photo by Crown Agency on Unsplash

Checking my blood sugar each morning is an event.

While it’s a good reminder that I need to watch what I eat, it scares the CRAP outta me to have to prick my finger. I sit there for at least 30 seconds, fearful that the needle will hurt. My hands shake. My breathing becomes shallow. It’s all too much. Every. Damn. Weekday.

When I was younger, I watched as family members took insulin shots, or took medications to regulate things. I told myself: that doesn’t look like something I’d ever want to do. 

Yet, here I am, two years later after being diagnosed with pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, and weighing in at 285lbs.

Those diagnoses are on my mind whenever I reach for a sugary drink or devour too many carbs. I think about them when I see a co-worker down an entire bag of candy.

I’m much healthier now. I have better habits. I weighed in at 248lbs last week. But, I’m on a winding road to recovery. We all are. 

I have my weak moments: finding myself surrounded by empty bags of chips and an empty fry carton. Moments like this leave me full of disgust and shame.

Parties and gatherings are the worst. Too many options, and too many times of me having to control my hunger – whether real or imagined.

Even when I’m on my own, cravings hit me at random. I love ice cream. I love cookies. I love pizza and will chase large slices with buffalo wings and bread-sticks like I’m in a competition. I love all the things that are bad for me. All the things I loaded up on as a kid. We often had our fill in my family. Food was our comfort. But, we overdid it. 

I was featured in the June 2018 Men’s Issue of Essence magazine. I spoke about my challenging health journey. When you open the page, your eyes are immediately drawn to the chart filled with statistics about leading killers of Black men.

My words are juxtaposed to those chilling facts.

I am always almost one of those statistics. The pain from the my sugar checks, the meetings with my nutritionist, the weekly weigh-ins, the daily food tracking, the weekday mornings in the gym, they all me keep alive. But, my ultimate driver is wanting to be a healthy husband, brother, friend, and son.

I’m working to change the narrative regarding who and what Black men can be: alive.

 

I encourage you to share this with a man in your life that needs to read this. We don’t take care ourselves enough, especially us Black men. But, men in general often wait until it’s too late. Let them know they can reach out to me anytime at hello@thesapronextdoor.com 

So can you. 

 

The life changing magic of writing every single day.

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

I wrote a blog post every day this week and published it.

Here’s how I did it.

  1. I’m currently on Day 12 of building a daily writing habit. I’m simultaneously doing a plank challenge (40 seconds today) and a push-up challenge (3 push-ups today).
  2. Austin Kleon posted about using a calendar to keep track of habits. You focus on one thing you want to work on and you stick to it every day. The goal is NOT to miss two days in a row. I got my free printable PDF calendar from Time + Date. I haven’t missed a day yet, but I’m human. It could happen.
  3. Let me talk about how the writing portion of my habit building works. On Day 1, I wrote zero words – gotta be honest. On Day 2, I wrote 100 words and stuck with that for the rest of the week. I increased my daily count to 150 words. Each week I add 50 more words to the goal.
  4. Every morning, I go into WordPress, open a new draft, and start typing. I don’t edit, I don’t look for hyperlinks, I don’t attempt to sound impressive, I just go. At first, I used a random adjective generator for ideas. Now, I’m inspired by any quote I see – I have so many posted on the walls of my home office.
  5. Once I’m done my Sh*tty First Draft (see: Anne Lamott’s amazing and life-changing piece on this), I do a couple of quick revisions. Again, the goal here is to write a certain amount of words, not to be perfect. 
  6. I typically exceed my word count, which is a cool unintended feature of this process. It’s also neat to be able to track my word count in real time, because WordPress has your word count at the bottom right-hand side of the screen at all times.
  7. After the draft is complete, I select the Morning Writing category for my post. This way I can go back and see all my old habit building entries. I select a hi-res + beautiful featured image from Unsplash, and then publish* the post.
  8. This entire process takes 15-20 minutes**.
  9. Once it’s all done, I go back to my calendar and draw an X through the day. I love seeing how much I’ve accomplished after the week is over. I never thought doing something for 5+ days in a row could feel so satisfying. Working out doesn’t feel that way, but writing does.
  10. I’m hoping to keep this up until I get to 1,000 words a day. Then, I hope to remain at that level. Chris Guillebeau does, and he’s written several books among many other amazing things. But, for me, it’s about creating and sustaining a habit within something I care about: sharing love and light with you through the written word. 
  11. Oh, and I was mainly inspired to do this by Glennon Doyle Melton because of her interview about showing up before you’re ready on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast. She talked about how she just writes her honest truth, posts it, and then let’s it be. So refreshing and scary at the same time. But, I feel less afraid every day I do this.

*Note #1: Several of my earlier writing drafts are saved in my Google Drive. I only recently began posting here every day. 

**Note #2: For the sake of productivity, speed, and efficiency, I keep everything I need for this entire process in a bookmark folder on my bookmark toolbar – another reason using Chrome rocks. This also means linking directly to an artist on Unsplash that has a collection of photos I can easily download from. I don’t want to spend too much time on any part of this process. The majority of my creative energy needs to go into the words I write. Not fonts. Not pictures. Not anything else. This post took longer to write because it’s more of a teaching post (I want you to have all the resources), but typically, I’m just aiming to get my words up and out. 

34071734_10100117242432832_8999072626861146112_o

Yes, this is from May 2018. It didn’t make sense to show you only one day crossed off from June 2018, lol. You can get this free calendar by visiting Time + Date.

 

BEFORE YOU GO: I loooove hearing from readers! What’s one habit you’re wanting/working to build these days? Comment below 👇 and let me know. Or email me at hello@thesapronextdoor.com

A few ways to be kinder to yourself today.

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

We can say some harmful things to ourselves. And, no one would ever know.

Personally, I can be extremely grating to myself. You’d never want to live in my mind. I think it’s up to us to be kinder and gentler to ourselves, especially when we drop the ball, mess up, screw up, or just completely fail.

We get to bounce back and be resilient. We are not our failures. They have nothing to do with our self-worth. Though, we often equate all we are worth to how much we achieve or don’t achieve.

Here are a few re-frames I’m going to try today. Pick one that’s useful for you. The original response is my typical first thought to myself (read, mean spirited self-attack). The kinder response is what I’ll work to say instead, after making a mistake.

Original self-talk: Dang, you’re such a loser. Why can’t you get anything right? 

Kinder self-talk: Ok. That didn’t go the way we planned. Where’s the lesson there? 

 

Original response: You really offended them with that statement. You should never talk to them again. Just keep the topics light in general. 

Kind response: If they tell you that harm was done, listen. Apologize. And seek to heal and understand. We all mess up. And, also, seek to learn more about where they’re coming from. Do your homework. 

 

Original self-talk: So, they never called you back. No one wants you. 

Kind self-talk: Looks like we need to seek other opportunities in the meantime. It’s okay to feel hurt about this and move forward at the same time. Rejection has nothing to do with your self-worth. 

 

Often, it’s good to talk these things out with another person. Take some time with someone you can trust, and let them know what messages you’re telling yourself when things fall apart. They might be able to help you with a re-frame as well. Or, just give you the love and validation you didn’t even know you needed.

My therapist is a great resource for me. And, you know I’m all about the power of counseling.

 

What’s one way you plan to be 10% kinder to yourself today? Comment below.

This is what consistency looks like.

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

  1. Waking up every weekday morning to go to the gym. Missing a few days, but going back even when it sucks to. Consistency is not perfection. 
  2. Writing a weekly newsletter full of real talk and hope so that the people reading it can feel less alone. Having to pay $30/month for said newsletter because your list has grown. Paying that anyways because you want your readers to have these words. Consistency is sacrifice. 
  3. Showing up to things even though you don’t always want to: work, family stuff, life. Seeing that showing up builds trust, builds grit, makes you better, makes it all better and worth it. Consistency is love. 
  4. Reading widely and often to keep your mind sharp. Occasionally consuming content that upsets you because you don’t want to live life in a vacuum. You know confirmation bias is real. Consistency isn’t myopic.. 
  5. Taking on speaking gigs even when they don’t pay. Giving your best to audiences of 10 and 100. Learning that it’s not about you, it’s about the content. It’s about what they need to learn and walk away with. Doing this even when you’re losing at the comparison game in your head. Consistency is bravery. True bravery. 
  6. Running up and down the stairs at the gym and doing this every weekday. Dreading it every single time, but doing it anyways because you want to face your fears and lose the weight. Stopping when the pain becomes too much. Consistency doesn’t mean forever if it doesn’t align with your values and what you really want. 
  7. Showing up to this scary world, full of scary things, and realizing that it’s not all bad because there’s a lot of good and hope and magic out there. Consistency brings you places you never thought you’d be. 

Share your truth in the comment section 👇: What’s something you’ve consistently done that’s improved your life?

There’s no secret to achieving things in this life

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

Someone recently asked me how I got to where I am today. That’s a big question. I’ve been on this earth for three decades and a lot has happened in that time. I can’t possibly remember it all.

This makes me think of how often I delve into the biographies of people who seem to be living their best lives. I try to figure out what their secrets are and who helped them along the way.

This type of pursuit, while it makes sense, can be dangerous. 

We each have our own unique path to where we’ll end up. It’s complicated. Winding. Long. At some point, looking into someone else’s life for a guide to how you should live your own becomes unhelpful – especially when we start to compare ourselves to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt defeated and deflated after comparing my own story to someone else’s. Especially when we’re the same age.

Also, there’s no secret to achieving things in this life. Some of it is privilege and positioning – you can accomplish a lot when you don’t have to worry about your basic needs. Let’s never become too self-absorbed that we forget that.

You can get a lot done when you’re not supporting others, raising children, providing comfort for sick loved ones, or rebuilding your life after a natural disaster.

But, as I write this, I’m realizing that all of these things ARE accomplishments. They might not be things that will bring us praise, an Oscar, or a Pulitzer. But do we need those things to validate our living?

I think what matters most is showing up as best you can to who and what you care about. That’s success. What matters is eating breakfast and taking a shower even when you feel like nothing is worth it. That’s success. What matters is asking for help even-though you’ll appear to be vulnerable and weak. That’s success.

It’s the grand and it’s the seemingly insignificant. It’s everything in between.

How did I get to where I am today? By waking up every morning, living with and braving through fear, leaning on God and others, eventually figuring out what/who matters to me, and focusing on that as much as possible.

There’s more to that, but I simply don’t have the time today to write it all down.

Hannah Brencher writes about tiny victories in her latest book, Come Matter Here. What’s one tiny victory you’ve accomplished today? Focus on that. Write it down. Appreciate it.

That’s success.

Dear God, keep me centered on selflessness.

Photo by William Stitt

In her second book, Come Matter Here, Hannah Brencher writes:

STEAL THIS PRAYER: Dear God, I know I cannot do this life alone. Surround me with people who want good for my life, people who will challenge me to another level. Help me to build others up and be an encourager during hard times. Keep me centered on selflessness, kindness, and honesty in all my interactions. Let my relationships always point back to you.”

People often assume that I give selflessly, but my true aim has often been to be loved and to be seen. I’ve often given to others with a spirit of expectancy. You owe me now. Give me likes. Share my benevolence to you with the world. Don’t forget about what I did for you. 

This type of thinking is so unhealthy. My incessant and irrational need to be loved and be cared for gets in the way of me serving others wholeheartedly. There can be nothing in it for me when I’m seeking to truly love someone else.

If I’m to truly serve and have a meaningful impact, then I’m called to give you truth, realness, honesty, and love with no strings attached. This means giving you the imperfect, the raw, and the unpolished.

That scares the crap outta me. I don’t want you to see my flaws – though most I can’t really hide. I don’t want you to know that I’ve given to others with a spirit of expectancy. I don’t want you to know it’s hard for me to serve and show up as my real self.

Alas, telling you all is helpful. I’m tired of lying to the world. I’m wanting to give more. Leave what I have on the table. Give you my best because you deserve it.

The next part is trusting that good will come to me. It always does.

Like Hannah Brencher says, “I am surrounded”.

I am surrounded by love. So are you.