Think - Speak - Inspire

SJC

Samantha Jill Cote
11.27.92 – 5.29.11

I’ve been staring at this screen for quite some time.  Each year as this day approaches, I wonder what will come to mind, and what I could possibly write that could be much different than the previous year.  Regardless, I know nothing will ever fill the void of her absence. 

Do I sit with the grief and sadness? Should the day be filled with tears or laughter? Do I celebrate her life and the time we had together?  Do I swipe through old photos and reflect on the eighteen and half years she was here?  Do I think about everything that has happened in the past ten years since she’s been gone?  What could I possibly do to honor the person that she was and all that she would have become? 

I’ve grown to realize that whether you have someone in your life for 18 days, 18 weeks, 18 months, 18 years or 80 years, the power of the impact that the person has on you is not always dictated by the duration they are here with you physically.  There are events in life, especially the ones involving those leaving and entering this world, where we are transformed as individuals.  When we part ways with someone as they depart our lives, in any aspect, our very essence is often transformed. And when we bring new life into this world, we are in a sense reborn as a new version of ourself.  

Over the years, I knew that it would not necessarily get easier, and at times, things would actually seem even more heavy.  Seeing friends and family members, or even complete strangers move through their own loss and heartbreak would reignite the feelings and emotions.  Always wanting to empathize and be there for them, but also recognizing that each person moves through things differently.  And then, all the other loved ones I’d say goodbye to and navigate not having them here. 

Not having Samantha here for the big moments, like holidays and birthdays hurts, but more often it’s the ordinary moments when I miss her the most.  With everything that has happened over the past decade, one of the most difficult things has been experiencing life with Braylon without Samantha.  I think of the bond they would have.  I see so much of her in so many things that Braylon says and does.  

If you knew her, you know “how lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.  If you didn’t, here’s a portion of what I wrote ten years ago to try and capture just a tiny piece of all that she was and will forever be: 

“If Samantha wanted to do something, she would find a way. Being told she couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t was not an option. In a paper she wrote this past year at Worcester State she mentioned, “Some fears are worth taking the risk, meaning they can make you happier if you face them.” Samantha was not afraid to face her fears. That is, if she even had any. I can’t recall a time in which she was scared to try something new or was hesitant to take a risk.

As a young child, Samantha had her infamous “funny face” that would always bring joy to those who were with her. Over the years, she continued to find ways to make people laugh through her crazy ideas and creative mind. To some, she may have appeared as shy. Always remaining humble about the things she was good at, often left people pleasantly surprised to see Samantha’s talents and achievements. I remember when she decided to quit both dance and piano, because she would rather write her own songs and make up her own dances. Why should she have someone else tell her how it needed to be done when she could pave the way for herself? Always excelling academically, she also was a very skilled artist. I couldn’t believe how beautiful her drawings were, and that was just like Samantha to brush it off as if it was no big deal. 

Most recently, she decided she wanted to join the Nursing Program at Worcester State ensuring she could assist in bettering the lives of others. Her plans and dreams didn’t stop here, she tossed around the idea of opening a business together one day, because then we could do things our way – not having to answer to anyone else. Again, this was just like Samantha – she always had her own plan in mind.

Samantha has made me a better person. I’ve learned more about life from her than I could ever imagine. I know we all have our own stories with Samantha – stories of laughter and tears, successes and failures. All of these memories captured a special moment in time and now tell the story of the beautiful woman that Samantha has become. I will never forget any one of these moments and I ask that you all don’t either. 

Because Samantha lives on through all of us and I know she’s somewhere laughing at all of us, with that beautiful smile, thinking we’re foolish for crying. Because that is the way of Samantha – not allowing any time for being sad because she’s too busy living life to the absolute fullest and planning the next adventure.”

Think - Speak - Inspire

Ch-Ch-Changes

What I think about when I can’t sleep. 💤 💭

How could change not be necessary, when the systems and structures in our country were built by people to protect the people that looked and thought like them? 

How could change not be necessary, when entire industries profit at the harm and expense of entire groups of individuals? 

If it’s a learned behavior, then you can unlearn or learn a new one.

If it’s an entire way of thinking learned over years and years, then day by day one can continue to evolve and learn an entirely new way.

It isn’t always about “not knowing any better” People know what happens when you question and challenge people who hold power and authority. 

“That’s just the way it was back then”? That’s just the way it was back then because that’s how it was built and meant to be, and was passed on from generation to generation. 

Change isn’t often easy. It’s often met with resistance and failure despite persistence and determination. Change often comes with a lot of give and take, and the unwillingness to risk or lose so others can be seen, heard and valued.

Change means unfamiliarity and uncertainty. It’s scary and messy, but it is constant. 

Our mental and physical self changes every day. As kids we can’t wait to grow up and get older. As adults we reminisce on the way things used to be, but often still yearn for the future where things will be better and in turn, spend little time living in the present. 

We are sold products and services to help do anything possible to fight the aging process and prevent our bodies from changing. 

People can change because of pressure, shame, blame and guilt, but lasting change seems to happen when it comes from a much more positive place of inspiration, one with hope, vulnerability and empathy.

Something is ignited from within. Maybe it’s a single instance or a series of events. It may be from an incredibly low place, a breaking point, perhaps at a crossroads, where something gives that extra nudge to make the change. 

Change is inevitable.

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Weight of the World

I hit a wall yesterday. 💥

The day before, I was non-stop from 6am-10pm, which isn’t uncommon for me, but guess it finally caught up. 😴

I always feel guilty about complaining because I know there’s SO many people that have it so much worse. I’m not necessarily referring to their situations with work, partners, children and society… but, what’s going on in their head – the sometimes dangerous expectations they set for themselves, accompanied by all the thoughts that they have. 🧠

I read an article this morning from Jeff Valdivia entitled Don’t Carry the Weight of the World of Your Shoulders, Just the Weight of the Moment. Spoiler alert, it concluded with:

“So, stop killing yourself by trying to carry the weight of the world. Instead, carry the weight of the present moment. All it demands is we be brave, be honest, be compassionate, and be kind. And these actions are always available to us. If you can do them in each moment, you have won, not just a better life, but a better world.” 🌎

On a lighter note, “A good conversation always involves a certain amount of complaining. I like to bond over mutual hatreds and petty grievances.” – Lisa Kleypas 🤣🥂

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It is Twenty Twenty One

Comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And there we have it. The first week of 2021. 🙄

Last year, I tried to find ways to slow down when I felt like I was going 100mph. To find piece of mind amidst all of the things that were out of my control. To lean on my people when I felt like falling apart. Learning how to ask for help rather than convince myself I could do it all myself. Trying to find patience as I realized I brought a mini version of myself into this world, and he’s already learned how to push me to my limits.

Perhaps, most importantly, becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Asking more questions, having difficult conversations and taking it upon myself to educate myself in new ways. Knowing the work is never done, and that the power lies in my own hands to stay informed and make a change.

Recognizing my privilege, specifically my white privilege, and rethinking everything that I was ever taught or told.

Once again, as I find myself rambling, knowing I won’t quite get it just right, the scale tips more towards saying something rather than remaining silent.

By not saying anything, you often say a whole lot.

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I Bet You Think This Post is about Ice Cream

A cinnamon bubble waffle with cookie butter ice cream, hazelnut drizzle, toasted fluff, and a biscoff cookie.

There are more days than not where I feel like I’m going to snap. And for most of those moments, I can almost always look back, and admit that it wasn’t that serious. Then, come the feelings of guilt, knowing how grateful I should be (and am) and telling myself that next time will be different. 🥴

And here I am. An hour or so ago, I quickly got Braylon out of the house (only after ordering curbside pickup of ice cream – I even got a second one “to go” for tomorrow), hopped in the car and immediately put on the remainder of the most recent “Unlocking Us” episode that I hadn’t finished yet. 🍦🔐

I (and for many people I talk to, especially women) have GOT to find the time to reset. For everyone whose home became their work, and you spend all sleeping and most waking hours there… yikes. I had already been working from home, but there’s obviously something quite different about this version, with the heightened stress, uncertainty and continued regulations for the “outside world” 🏡

Speaking of outside. Being outside has become such an outlet, even if it’s in my own backyard or walking around the neighborhood. As the colder weather approaches, I know I can’t let that go, especially with there being no end in sight for being able to have in person time look anything even slightly like what it used to. ☃️🎉

So, eat the ice cream. Listen to the podcast that makes you laugh until you cry, then makes you actually cry. Move your body. Get outside. Scream… or do nothing at all, and just breathe.💥🧘🏻

Do what works for you. When you can. How you can. Where you can. 🗓

And most importantly, remember your why…and what keeps you going. 💞

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I Need a Hug

I have so many amazing takeaways from the recent episode of Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast where she has both Emily and Amelia Nagoski on to discuss Burnout and How To Complete the Stress Cycle. 🔓🔥

I can not recommend it enough (PS – Brene Brown’s brand new podcast, Daring to Lead, launched yesterday — I can not get enough of this woman!) 🦸🏼‍♀️

For some reason when they were talking about the power of hugging, it was as if I had never heard it before. 🤷🏻‍♀️

That led me to reading an article on Healthline “What Are the Benefits of Hugging?” 🤗

  • Hugs reduce stress by showing your support
  • Hugs may protect you against illness
  • Hugs may boost your heart health
  • Hugs can make you happier
  • Hugs help reduce your fears
  • Hugs may help reduce your pain
  • Hugs help you communicate with others

Of course, the article details scientific evidence to back each of these, and I highly suggest you check it out!

What blew me away, was a quote from family therapist Virginia Satir who said, ““We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” 😮

The article was written in 2018 and notes that, “most Western people today — especially people in the United States — are touch-deprived. Many people live solitary or busy lives with reduced social interaction and touching.” 💯

WOW. This could not be more true to what so many people have encountered over the past 6 months or so. 🏡🔒

It got me thinking about how many hugs (and general contact) that I have with this little guy.  While I may be lacking in the sleep department over the past two and half years (with no end in sight), my oxytocin levels sure must be surging. 💞

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Trapped

Do you ever feel trapped, mentally and / or physically? 🙋🏻‍♀️

Maybe it’s in a physical space, a job, a relationship, thoughts in your head or emotions and feelings in your heart 🧠💞

Sometimes I spend so much time overthinking and running possible scenarios through my head that I become uncertain of what has actually even happened. 🤯

How do you sort through all of the noise from the information that’s thrown at you just about everywhere you look? 🗣👀

How do you find the balance of filling the yearning to stay connected (with minimal physical options available) and embrace all the positivity and promise that still exists and block out the rest? ⚖️🙅🏻‍♀️

If you’re still reading these ramblings, that most likely do not make complete sense… know that on days when you’re feeling all of the things or maybe nothing at all that that is exactly where you need to be – where you are meant to be. ✨💫

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Summer Has Come and Passed

Actual photos of me all day today. All day? Who am I kidding, this is me more days than not. ⚖️

Feeling all the feelings, thinking all the things and maxing out with all of the “over”s. 🙂☹️🙃🤪

Overwhelmed. Overworked. Overreacting. Overachiever. Overprotective. Over-thinker. 🤬

But, also… Overjoyed. 💞

Dancing along the fine line of acceptance and guilt, patience and losing my cool, and always saying yes until I’m finally forced to say no. 🛑

Being ok with not always being ok. It’s ok to feel and be real. *wait, is it?!*🧍🏻‍♀️

While I (and maybe you) may feel more disconnected than ever before, in some ways it’s allowed for a new type of connection, a different appreciation and some really real conversations. 📱💻

Every time we leave the house, we’re surrounded by people in masks. Yet, we’ve been surrounded by people with masks, and many different ones at that, for far longer than just the spring of this year. 😷

I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m learning a lot about others. I’m learning more about the person I want to be, the kind of mother, wife, daughter, friend and coworker I want to be. 🦸🏻‍♀️

It’s a process. It’s a journey. And one that I am beyond grateful to have so many amazing people, both near and far, a part of. 🌎

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My Privilege

Continuing to try to accept that I can’t do all of the things all of the time and can’t be everything for everybody. 🤹🏻‍♀️

I want to change the world and have a positive impact on as many people as possible in all that I do. 🌍👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

When you set your expectations too high, you may be more likely to be disappointed, but I’m willing to take the risk. 💫

I’m tired, but there are far too many others that have been tired, in a way that I can not even fathom, for as long as they can remember. 💤

We talk about going back to normal. For too many people normal is injustice, discrimination and living in a country where they have never been given the same opportunities or have been continuously deprived of basic human rights. We can not go back to that.

As a white heterosexual female, I have spent more time than ever diving into what this privilege truly means. More importantly, how I can use this to be a part of what the world needs to help use my resources, use my voice and refuse to be silent. 🗣

We need to be ok with asking questions, having uncomfortable conversations and accepting that even small steps and little changes are still moving things in the right direction. We must make it a part of our lives each and every day. ☀️🌙

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I Will Never Be Satisfied

More often times than not, I can not seem to get my thoughts on paper and even more-so, articulate exactly what I want to say. So much so, that I often just hold most of it inside, settle with a watered down version or continue to overthink what is on my mind.

In an attempt to hold myself accountable, become comfortable with things feeling imperfect and knowing that the timing will never be just right… here I am.

After listening to the latest episode of Michelle Obama’s podcast this evening, I found myself listening to the Hamilton Mixtape. Yes, again. I have REALLY overplayed Andra Day’s Burn, and I am still determined to dream about the perfect choreography for a dance to Andra’s out of this world vocals and mind-blowing rendition. Then there’s Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah on Satisfied, and I can’t decide which artist I want to commit to, so I find myself taking all three. “and she is helpleeeeeess” “doesn’t mean I want him any less

“You will never be satisfied
(I will never be satisfied)
(I will never be satisfied)”

And then, I paused. You will never be satisfied. 

Unsatisfied Dani in her early days.

So many times, I am the one that has set the unrealistic expectations for myself for all of the various roles that I carry. No matter how much I do, I always always feel like I could have done more or have done better. While that is great to always strive to improve, grow and move forward, there should also be a balance where grace is given, accomplishments are celebrated and that I am not so hard on myself. 

I know that I, along with many people that I know, especially women, rarely put ourselves first.

While 2020 has not been the year that I planned for, it gave me a much needed reminder to take a step back, but also a closer look at so many areas in my life, both personally and professionally. While all aspects are still a major work in progress, day by day (some more than others), I am beginning to see and feel small (and sometimes big!) changes. Too often though, I am still focusing on where I fall short, and completely overlooking the positive impact that I may have had on making steps forward in the right direction. 

“When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career,” he said at the time. “Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.” – Chadwick Boseman (November 29, 1976 – August 28, 2020)

If you have not yet watched the full video from the Commencement Speech Chadwick gave at Howard University in 2018. I highly recommend you check it out here.

Almost six years ago, on October 20, 2014, I had shared a “note” on Facebook which included the following:

“I remember being at a networking event about a year ago and had someone ask me, “What is your passion?”  I had just met this individual and found myself without an immediate response.  When meeting people I’ve gotten so used to being asked “What do you?” or “Where are you from?” but had never been asked “What is your passion?” I had plenty of things that I was passionATE about, but what was MY passion? The more I started to think about it I realized that my passion was to be able to make a positive impact on other people’s lives.  I am so grateful that I have been able to combine my passion with my job.”

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an article from INC Magazine, “To be Successful, Chase Your Purpose Not Your Passion“. For some reason, maybe because it was 11:50pm, it left me feeling more confused. 

Which then led me to stumbling upon (gosh, the Internet is truly something) The Difference Between Purpose and Passion where the author writes:

“Passion and purpose are distinct. Passion is about emotions, the motivation and what makes us feel good, i.e. “do what you love”. Purpose is the reason, or the why behind what we do, primarily for others, i.e, “do what contributes”. Where passion can be all over the place, wild and exciting, purpose is much more focused.  Passions can also come and go, whereas purpose tends to be longer term. Finally, passions are inwardly focused whereas purpose is outwardly focused on the greater impact you have on others and on your surroundings.”

Then, what caught my attention even more:

“Passions seem relatively easy to identify, but how does one find their purpose? Similar to Dweck’s research on passion, John Coleman, author of Passion & Purpose, says that you don’t find purpose, you build it. It is an evolutionary process of reflecting on your gifts, your values and what you want to contribute. The four reflecting questions I’ve found the most helpful are:

  1. How will the world be better off, thanks to you having been on this earth?
  2. What are your unique gifts and superpowers?
  3. Who have you been when you’ve been at your best?
  4. Who must you fearlessly become?

I look forward to truly reflecting all four of these questions (hopefully not at midnight) and really diving in. 

One thing is for certain, I know that I will be a part of the beyond overdue changes that will take place in our country to break down barriers, amplify voices and ensure every single aspect of our society has the appropriate representation. There is still so much work to be done, but I want and need to continue to be a part of it. 

More to come.