March Madness: Relentless

“Being relentless means demanding more of yourself than anyone else could ever demand of you, knowing that every time you stop, you can still do more. You must do more.”

Tim S. Grover

By: Gabriela Yareliz

People tell you who they are in how they do their work, their dynamics with others, how persistent and “hungry” they are (do they strive for excellence?) and whether they are curious and learners. We tell the world who we are, by the same.

I am reading a fantastic book called Relentless by Tim Grover, who trains athletes and prepares them for championships (most notably known for helping Michael Jordan become who he became: ICONIC LEGEND). I first heard him on The Skinny Confidential Podcast, and I loved his no-BS attitude. For example, he views “trying” as a lame way to set yourself up for failure and a way to excuse failure– a way out. Just do it, he says.

I love his pointers and how he helps others build mental stamina (and how that can be built through pushing the body— bc the mind controls the body).

“Mental dominance is what ultimately makes you unstoppable.” Tim S. Grover

It made me think about how much knowledge so many of us have, regarding: diet, athletics, our work, etc. (this could really be applied to anything), and how poor our decisions are in the light of the knowledge we have, mostly because we want to be comfortable.

I think we all need to reflect more on what it means to pursue excellence and push ourselves beyond what we think is possible. Not for anyone else, but for ourselves.

March is my health re-focus month (it’s also Endometriosis Awareness Month). I take time to recalibrate and set new goals. I want to train more, push my body more, and more importantly, push my mind more.

I want to be focused, in the “zone,” as Grover calls it, and in control of emotions, outcomes, reactions and performance.

March Madness isn’t just for college basketball. Are you ready for it? Are you with me?

The key is not to talk about it and just do it. Off to change into some workout leggings.

“The only way you can light other people on fire is to be lit yourself, from the inside. Professional, cool, focused. If you had a bad night and you can’t show up the next day ready to go, or you can’t show up at all, that doesn’t affect just you, it affects everyone around you. A professional doesn’t let other people down just because of personal issues. If you need to show up, you show up. You might detest every individual in the room, but if your presence makes them all feel better, if it pulls the team together, if it results in better performances, then you’ve helped yourself to get one step closer to your own goal. That’s how you get others to come up to your level: show them where it is, and set the example that allows them to get there.”

Tim S. Grover

Why We Remember

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Call me crazy, but I love slowness in my own solitary moments. Maybe, this is because I strive to be efficient and productive in my work life. A slow morning is therapeutic, and I savor it. I love being mindful in “ordinary” moments, whether it’s feeling water rushing over my hands, as I wash them, or sitting by a sunny window and feeling the rays warm my shoulders. I think it is only in the slow that we see what others miss; that we find pause, in any circumstance.

Slowness isn’t easily achieved in a city like NYC. When you get off of a train, the crowd basically moves you up the stairs and out, above ground. Move or be moved, seems to be the motto. But slow, is lovely. It irritates some, but it is a refuge for me. Slow is a gift I give myself. There is this garden I love in the West Village, where the flowers grow, and no cell phones are allowed, and you can just sit on a bench and hear the wind rustle in the Witch Hazel trees and hear drops of water drip-dropping onto the top of an old trash bin. It’s peace. It’s slow. It’s the Creator’s mystery in nature.

In The Way of the Warrior, Erwin McManus states that we all remember things that others forget. There are memories that stick to us, he says, and the reason is personal. He describes a line in a book that he will never forget, that reads: “There was once a man who was driven to madness not because he could count the drops of rain but because he could count the spaces in between the drops of rain.” (81)

He says that many have read that book, but they don’t necessarily remember that one line. He said that he realized that one line stuck with him because, he writes, “These words strangely created in me a sense of hope— not that someone would be driven to madness because of the spaces between the rain but that someone out there actually understood the madness that raged within me.” (81)

This brought me a memory of a passage that I remember, clear as day, from literature that I treasured, and it made me think of why I still remember it, today.

[From Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf]

I think everyone in my English class hated this book. I read it twice. This was the book that allowed me to discover Virginia Woolf’s brilliance.

When I read the following passage, it felt like the clock stopped.

“Beauty, the world seemed to say. […] To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. […] beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

“Beauty was everywhere,” has always echoed in my mind, even as a child— even before I had ever read these words in a printed book. When I read this, sure, it’s the observation of the shell shocked World War I veteran Septimus on a park bench, but it resonated so loudly with me. I will forever remember these lines. It struck me because I too knew what it was like to feel a deep quietness within, where I could observe the world continue around me. I knew what it was like to feel the exquisite joy of watching the quivering of a leaf. “Beauty was everywhere.” I so deeply believed it then and believe it now.

I have always been fascinated by the concept and science of time, and whether things we do make it feel like it passes or is experienced faster or slower.

I moved a lot in my life. I was constantly adapting to new places, new people, new dynamics, and I always strived to see the beauty, wherever I was.

I would see old walls or a rundown shack, and I could imagine a catalog photo shoot there, even if no one would ever look twice at the shack. Beauty isn’t always superficial, at times it emerges with the passing of time or with the knowledge of a story or history. To me, beauty emerges in the slow.

No matter how ugly life got or how hard things felt, I had this safe place where I would retreat in a solitary, slow quietness. I could always see the beauty. Even where others thought it absurd. I could feel it; I still do, and it always filled me with hope. It still does.

What is something you remember that made the clock stop for you?

Lessons from a Golden Morning

This was written but never shared in November of 2017, from my sunny kitchen. 

By: Gabriela Yareliz

The morning starts with light seeping through the kitchen window. At first, the light just hits the white chairs and my window friendly plant, but then, it seems to escape its rays, and it dances around the room.

On my cooking morning, I usually roll out of bed; I brush my teeth, put on some moisturizer (God forbid my two sunspots get darker) and a hat. I slip on some jeans and a fleecy sweater, and I grab my tote with the sticky note of ingredients I need, which I wrote out the night before.

I walk over to the Turkish store, a few blocks away. The produce is usually already outside, on its stand, golden in the sunlight. I pick out my selected few ingredients, carefully, taking my time. I linger. Then, I walk back to my studio to cook.

My cooking mornings start early. I wash things and lay out the items on the table. I get the cutting board ready and preheat the oven, if it needs to be warmed.

When I sit to chop, it’s a methodical process. It’s usually quiet, and I sit by the bright window. I have a glass bowl in front of me, with an open cookbook. The cookbook is there as some type of moral support, as I barely look at it during my cooking because I read the recipe over and over again the night before. Instead, my thoughts are focused, as I chop and mix. I paint a picture of what I am aiming for, in my head. (My hopes for the dish and the ingredients I prepare.)

Sometimes, I don’t have all the ingredients I need. Sometimes, the store doesn’t have what I need, I mean, we can only pick from what is available. Sometimes, I forget the things I need at the store, or I arrive at certain conclusions, like: No, I will not pay $10 for two bay leaves. In NYC, one must be strategic when grocery shopping, and depending on how hot or cold it is, strategic about where one goes for the ingredients and supplies.

Cookbooks are these majestic books of knowledge, filled with magical creations and art on every page; ideas coaxing us to be brave and to venture into a new dimension of living.

When I cook, unpredictable things can happen. I remember, once, I made this cauliflower dish, and the cauliflower turned the strangest color. The turmeric mixture on it turned into a cough-inducing powder, instead of the cream it was supposed to turn into. Another time, I was trying to make coconut rice, and a chemical reaction happened, where it turned into a black syrup mess.

I’ve cooked in a sports bra and gotten splattered with jumping hot oil, and I almost grabbed a hard boiled egg with my bare hands, out of the boiling water (I was too deep in my own thoughts, at this point). I have had my cooking fails, but I have also made some things I was really proud of. Beautiful and tasty things. Nutritional and complex dishes. I am a want-to-be chef, in the making. I always wanted to be good at cooking, but while I did it before this point in my life, I didn’t have the same passion and excitement while doing it. It was a chore; a necessary evil. I just needed to get through it.

You see, it wasn’t until I was studying for the bar exam, that I would sit in my kitchen with a textbook and think, I can’t wait for Sundays to be mine. Once I don’t have to study, I am going to cook, and make something beautiful. I promised myself that. And when I passed the bar, early Sunday mornings became my cooking time. It’s a religious time, almost. A time of magic (because isn’t all creation a type of supernatural experience?).

One of my favorite films is No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta Jones and Aaron Eckhart. The movie is about an intense and amazing chef, who endures a lot of tragedy and change in her life. At the end of the movie, I love when Chef Kate is speaking to her therapist, and she says something along the lines of, “I wish there was a cookbook for life, you know? Recipes telling us exactly what to do. I know, I know, you’re gonna say ‘How else will you learn, Kate?’

But then, her therapist responds and says, “You know better than anyone, it’s the recipes that you create yourself that are the best.”

Life is as unpredictable as you can get. It’s a roller coaster of changes, deaths and rebirths, losses and blessings, hardships and joys. Everyone has his or her fair share of hardship and heartache in this life. Sometimes, its consequences we brought about, and sometimes, it’s just the price we pay for having this beautiful thing called life on earth. We have dark moments where we feel we are drowning in darkness (and those moments are very different, from person to person), and moments where we rejoice. There are times of methodical monotony, where we feel like we are endlessly chopping. And at times, these periods bring us that all too familiar pain in the wrist.

There are times where what we try fails, sometimes, by no fault of our own. We have to scrap it, and try again. We get burned, and sometimes, we bleed.

No matter how crazy it gets, or how tired I am, I have noticed that the difference in my cooking started when I approached it with passion, curiosity, gratitude and devoted surrender.

There are guides in our lives that serve as cookbooks, such as scripture and/or self-help or inspirational wisdom. None of these includes measurements or precise solutions for everything, but instead they are books of principles and guidance. The truth is that there is no recipe for life or any aspect of it. Each life, relationship, and trial must be met with passion, creativity, gratitude and curiosity that submerges us into it, so we can make art and something beautiful out of the ingredients available.

“Each life, relationship, and trial must be met with passion, creativity, gratitude and curiosity that submerges us into it, so we can make art and something beautiful out of the ingredients available.”

We may have different ingredients than what we thought we needed or different from what our neighbor has, but with humility, gratitude and creativity, we can learn to make something beautiful out of what we have.

Choose to cook early, in life. What I mean by that is that night doesn’t last forever. Get up even while it still may be dark, and look at your ingredients in the golden light of the morning. Sit down and prepare next to the window, and let the warmth and light inundate where you are. Read a guide and become inspired. While you sit there, surrounded by all that you have, make something beautiful. Make your life a work of art. Cook something delicious, and after you make art, don’t forget to share and feed someone else.

“Cook something delicious, and after you make art, don’t forget to share and feed someone else.”

 

Leading Lady

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I am committed to writing more regularly here because I simply miss it. I am here, already dreaming of Easter. Pastel colored dresses, and light trench coats with no leggings. A dream. February is almost over. It’s wild.

Tonight, I read a magazine for a bit. Cherry Bombe featured the lovely and brilliant chef (and writer– let’s be honest) Sophia Roe. Her personal posts about her childhood and her mom’s addiction always leave me so moved.

[Sophia Roe for Tidal Magazine]

After that, I listened to an amazing podcast from Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness, featuring Erwin McManus. It was incredible. Erwin McManus has a special place in my heart because God has spoken directly into my life through his messages and books. I was lucky enough to meet him, this week, at his book launch party, in SoHo.

This season has been an interesting one. There are anticipated changes and uncertainty. Life is constant change, they say. McManus’s messages have helped me find healing and boldness in God and faith, like never before. Sort of like the writings of Sophia Roe. There is an interesting boldness that infiltrates the words of someone who has not only survived life, but thrived in life, despite a difficult and traumatic childhood or beginning. Healing does not come without discomfort, but the greatness that can emerge from vulnerability is unfathomable.

“Healing does not come without discomfort, but the greatness that can emerge from vulnerability is unfathomable.”

There are still things I am, of course, working on and working toward (always)– but I feel like the movie The Holiday can illustrate two things that have been on my mind, lately.

Letting Go and Changing the Narrative

First, letting go.

My favorite character in the movie The Holiday is Amanda. We meet her in the beginning with this horrible boyfriend who is always criticizing her and making her feel like she is the problem (and sure, she had some problems, like picking idiots as partners), meanwhile, this movie trailer voice narrates what is going on inside of her head. She spends essentially the whole movie not being able to cry, but trying to, and she certainly doesn’t cry when she dumps her cheating boyfriend.

It is later revealed that she doesn’t cry because of just how shattered she felt in her childhood, after her parents’ divorce.

Sometimes, I wonder if the occasional stress twitch near my eye is like Amanda’s inability to cry and her heart pills. Maybe, we all need a change of pace, a change in narrative and a good healing cry. Maybe, the act of crying is important, even if it is just a physical release because it is essentially an emotional letting go. Maybe a change in narrative is like what Sophia Roe wrote about as, “Let’s work on eventually solidifying ourselves as survivors, instead of victims. Perhaps even turn our shamed histories, into gilded glowing legacies.” (02.08.19)

Sometimes, our emotions, histories and tensions fill us up so much, that when they flow out, something has to break to let it out, and then, the healing can begin.

Perhaps, there is no cottage in England waiting for us (with that British guy who could be an eye glasses model, am I right? Lens Crafters, if you go out of business it’s because you didn’t wallpaper your walls with ads of Jude Law in glasses)–

—but we can still find moments of solitude, or make life-changing decisions for ourselves, even if the decision is as limited as positioning ourselves in a place where we can receive something we have no control over. Amanda decided her lame partner and pill popping stress needed to stop, and it was then, that her life changed. That one decision set everything else in motion. Lessons to be learned from Amanda: Don’t let anyone tell you who you are, separate yourself from the people and environments that harm you or keep you trapped in more of the same, and cry. Make the time or put things or people in your life that mean something to you. Feel a love, beauty or a passion that is deep enough to bring tears to your eyes.

Protagonist

The second thing is that we must be leading ladies.

So often, we give so much deference or we try to accommodate and be so amenable, and we forget that there are things we can make ours, things we don’t deserve (because we deserve more) and moments where we need to let go (see above).

I see too many women playing the best friend in their own lives. Sometimes, I fall into that trap, too. Be the leading lady. Get that Oscar. You are not, I repeat, you are not the best supporting actress. In your life, you are the protagonist.

Show up and “repurpose” your pain, as Sophia Roe likes to say. Heal. Heal. Heal. And write your story’s new beginning. You aren’t stuck with how the movie began, and you certainly get a say in who you are when it ends.

Several Observations

By: Gabriela Yareliz

These past few days have been refreshing. I have been mounting pieces of furniture that will help add chic storage to my sunny studio. I look forward to no longer seeing the things I will store inside these pieces and to having a more put-together look, in my humble home. I am excited for a proper entrée, for one. Building furniture is soothing to me. Maybe, it’s because I grew up in a house whose furniture my mother and I built during dark power outage hurricane days in Florida, when we first arrived to the hot, muggy and delightfully weather unstable state.

I like this feeling of knowing I made something or at the very least, I built it. Sometimes, it’s painful. You screw and feel the rawness on your palm; and other times, it’s a balancing act, and you learn to hold multiple pieces at once. Law books provide great support for this. (Thank God those ridiculously expensive books are good for more than one thing). Getting more bang for my buck.

Building is also an act of creativity. Especially, when the furniture is cheap and poorly engineered, and they make the holes all weird and unaligned with the piece that needs to be screwed in.

As I am putting together my apartment, my mind often wanders to some things I have observed on social media, which is a new thing for me, as I have no personal social media except the one for my site, Modern Witnesses. If you haven’t checked out the site, please do. We interview amazing Christian women, doing amazing things in the world.

My goal is to have it be an international and diverse collection of amazing true stories and a beacon of hope and community. I want women to feel empowered to share their stories in a secular sphere.

At first, I struggled with making the site diverse. I have a diverse set of friends that I started with, but as I started cold emailing young women, I realized, more and more, that most of the women who were vocal about their faith, from what I could tell, were not women of color, and the women of color I was finding were ignoring me, altogether.

This has been pretty much resolved, as through friends of friends and chains of connections one reaches more people, but there was another theme I saw on the site, recently, that really made me not too excited.

Maybe I am just noticing this, but suddenly, I started noticing that women I had interviewed or wanted to interview were quitting their jobs. They were quitting their jobs to dedicate themselves to “full-time ministry,” which really just meant being on Instagram Live most of the day and churning out newsletters that were popping into my inbox, en masse. I saw someone’s live, and it started with, “I just quit my job, so I could spend time with you and better serve you—” which brought a huge question mark to my mind.

In my mind, true ministry is being out there in the world and having interactions with people outside of your circle. Not staying home to be on Instagram Live to become one of many Christian-for-Christians blogs.

Some women have quit their jobs for “ministry,” while others have done it to raise their children. That is a wonderful personal decision. It is also a phase of life (meaning, not permanent). It is also something not all families can afford to do, and that is a reality.

I say it is wonderful until women decide that this is the maximum of their potential and stop living as the well-rounded humans they are meant to be. The argument that one wants to raise one’s own child as why one stays home seems weak to me. I grew up in a house with two working parents, where a daycare never raised me. I was very much raised by my own parents, every step of the way. That’s as if you decide to never send your child to school because you want to “raise” your child. If the amount of time spent with a child equates the deep act of raising and parenting a child, we are missing something from the big picture. It’s fine if you have other temporary reasons for leaving your job. People have health issues, etc. Not here to judge. And clearly, we live in a society that gives women a lot of flexibility to choose (if their husband’s job or personal financial situation allows). What is right for someone’s life looks different, from family to family, but what I want to say is that staying at home should never mean chucking away your full potential. And I am not talking about any abstract potential I think certain women have– I am thinking about the potential God has for each one of us.

All of this to say, I am concerned that so many Christian women out there are selling themselves short. They are limiting their potential and choosing a comfortable “ministry” of Instagram Live for their friends, rather than the true ministry we are called to do, which is every day, in the workings of the real world with difficult people.

I ask the young women I interview to share their interview in their spheres of influence. Not for followers but because the whole point is that everyone should have a circle of non-religious friends they should be able to share their life with. True ministry occurs in organic and vulnerable relationship with others, who are not like us. Many refuse to share, or to be fair, they don’t have that secular circle to share with. This, I find, to be the most amusing part of all. It’s a work in progress. What can I say? I voice my concerns here partly to express myself and also partly to express my intention with this site and all I am learning. My opinion may be very unpopular, as I haven’t heard anyone else voice it– but that’s fine by me.

“True ministry occurs in organic and vulnerable relationship with others, who are not like us.”

Some of our deepest issues as people, who are growing spiritually, stem from not knowing our identity, dreaming too small, having a comfortable and convenient vision of what religion is and focusing on doctrine and smaller moving pieces and missing the big-picture gospel, altogether.

I have noticed Christian young women place too much emphasis on relationships and what to do with yourself while single.

There are single women doing “singleness” workshops for other women, charging almost $1000 to confused and clearly vulnerable young women— which reminds me of when Carrie Bradshaw, a single 30-something-year-old started a class on how to meet men, yet when the women realized she was single and just like them, her class was left with five people. I understand relationships are important and everyone wants love, but what happens when we spend our lives talking about how relationships should not be an idol and how to meet Christian men, 24/7? It is an idol still, nonetheless. Why do we find our value in things that can be taken from us or aren’t guaranteed to us? We have created an obsessive culture that has landed many of our own in dysfunctional and foundation-lacking relationships that end up cutting our God-given potential. And if it’s clear to us that God doesn’t want our God-given potential to be cut, then why are the things that lead to that ok and common place?

I am noticing, more and more, that women are acting out of desperation, self-centeredness and emotionalism, rather than true understanding of who God is and what He wants for us. Do we pray as hard for our characters to be transformed as we do for a man? Do we repent as hard and search our souls in the way we look for a partner– with the same urgency?

There is an issue when our spirituality leads us to filling certain seasons of our lives with giving money or attention to repetitive seminars/podcasts/emails that are all about ending our current season or what will come after our season, rather than focusing on cultivating who you are and where you are, without expectation and without agenda. And shame on those who decide to exploit this mentality for their own financial gain.

These words are not meant as criticism, they are plain concern. Maybe I am just noticing this now, because I tend to be in secular spheres and not so much in the inner Christian circle. I have been taken aback. I am seeing patterns. I genuinely thought we were past certain things as a “Christian” culture, but we are still very much steeped in a misunderstanding of what God wants to do in us and through us.

I pray women will wake up to their true purpose, which includes caring for their families and loved ones, but a purpose that also puts them out in the world, where Jesus called us to be. (We were not called to be insulated or to insulate our families in some alternative reality.) I pray that we may realize that our identity does not equate whether we are alone or accompanied. Purpose is beyond all of this noise. Someone who joins your life has a purpose, too, and should help you reach your maximum potential in true ministry and life. You should help him/her do the same.

We must learn to discern what really matters. We do it in life. Only a fool would confuse a tabloid piece for a hard news piece.

At the end of the day, life is like building furniture. Except you can’t pay for someone to assemble it for you. You can try, but then, you didn’t build it. It would be a product of someone else’s hands. Sometimes, we give too much space to the noise around us. The truth is, the only one who can help you engineer it the way it really is meant to look is God.

God doesn’t need more women’s clubs looking for single available men or more stay-at-home bloggers, in my opinion. He has a lot more dreamed up for those who dare.

His Power

“I want to live the kind of life that demands the kind power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly realms— whatever that means. […] I want to live my life in such a way that if God does not show up, I am ruined. I want to live a life that terrifies me. I want to live a life so big, it crushes me if I try to do it alone.” Erwin McManus

Something New

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Happy 2019, dear friends.

We have started a new year. Since I was last here, I have read about 10 books, burned a lot of candles, visited family, came back to NYC, tried to go back to my pre-holiday perfect sleep routine (still in progress), been guilt-tripped by my new Fitbit, transitioned more things in my house to non-toxic products, cooked more new meals with my beloved, cleaned out some closets, saved more money, wrote an abstract to see if I can make it to a conference to present a paper– the list goes on. I have been busy. But I didn’t forget about this place. I have been processing so much, I wasn’t even sure what to say to usher in the new year.

Before this year started, I had gotten myself a new planner in the form of Powersheets, from Cultivate What Matters. I set some very specific goals for the year and frameworks for how to achieve them. I have to say this month has been incredibly productive and action-packed, on that end. Just the fact that I committed to writing that abstract and application for the conference was a goal met, regardless of whether the pitch is accepted. I knew that, this year, I wanted to keep trying new things. I wanted to keep daring, and it has been clear to me that God has been nudging me to dream bigger and to get out of the mindset I have had.

I have always been ambitious, but that ambition also came with very “realistic” and cautious limitations. No one wants to be foolish, right? But this year has been different. From the minute it started, I found myself committed to more growth and doing the work that comes with acquiring more knowledge. I have been willing to be seen as foolish to risk getting a seemingly impossible yes.

I am not going to make this post a book, but I have been learning so much about boundaries, dreams, and living intentionally and with an urgent Godly passion.

No matter what is coming next, I want to move into it as a healthy, whole and maturing person. It’s only month one, but I have been so encouraged by the baby steps taken, each day. Inching closer and closer to that edge of something new.

This quote by Erwin McManus has inspired me so much, in recent days:

“Yes, Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun, but he also said that everything is meaningless. But everything isn’t meaningless. Life can be full of meaning. It’s only meaningless when our lives are absent of God. Yet when our lives are alive in God, our lives are full of meaning. Of course, there would be nothing new under the sun if we lived our lives apart from God, but we were never intended to live apart from Him. We were always intended to live our lives with Him, and with Him there is always something new.” Erwin McManus, The Last Arrow

How do we know that God is always trying to give us something new, as soon as we are able to receive it? He says so.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

I hope your 2019 is off to a good start. Healing and growth are not the most comfortable places to be, but there is something exciting in forgetting the former things and forging the new. Let’s brush off our unhappiness or dissatisfaction or the capricious nature that sometimes clouds our judgment. Make room to receive the unexpected. Have your actions prepare the way for the impossible. Be love in action.

What is He springing up in your life? Perceive it now! See, He is doing a new thing. And we know that if it’s from Him, it has to be good.