Be Well Message

Dear Guests,

I hope you all are doing well and staying safe with the coronavirus scare. In times like this, it’s not easy to stay healthy, be positive, and find moments of laughter or joy to balance the fear, frustration, or other negative sensations that may rise.

For people who enjoy being active outside and/or interacting with others face-to-face, this is an especially challenging time. Being confined alone or with others for extended periods of time can bring out the best and the worst in relationships or highlight things we’ve all tried to ignore or deny about ourselves and each other. Tempers get roused easily. People react and act to stuff they normally wouldn’t. Maybe out of fear. Maybe out of frustration. Maybe the stressful times are their version of an excuse for behaving in such ways?

Please remember that we still have choices.

We can choose react from a position of fear-based choices.

We can to argue and fight and lose our tempers. Be angry at the world and socialize and continue with our routines like nothing is going on (denial). We can ignore government mandates and health authority warnings. We can let prejudice rule our opinions and influence our interactions with others. We can choose to feel and express anger in ways that hurt ourselves and the people around us.

Or we can choose to to react from a position of love-based choices.

We can use effective communication and compromise strategies. Use Active Listening skills to to ourselves and each other. Check in from a position of love and acceptance. Be kind to ourselves and each other no matter how scared or stressed out we feel. And most important, express our fear, anger, shame, or other negative emotions in healthy ways that support us and the others around us instead of hurting ourselves and those other people.

Sometimes we might not have choices in how we act or react. Instinct and learned behavior (i.e. survival skills) override everything else when we feel overwhelmed or pushed too far.

In situations like that, when “the damage is done” we till have choices to make. We can pretend nothing happened. We can continue to escalate the negativity and cause more damage to an existing relationship until nothing is left. We can acknowledge the situation and try to make reparation and/or amends or listen with compassion to the other party and work out a solution. We can acknowledge our part in what happened, reflect on the situation, and work out ways to prepare for future ones. Maybe preventative actions or a coping strategy?

But no matter what, we humans are a resilient species. And we can survive this. We will survive and learn to thrive in the changed and changing world.

I believe in you. Please believe in yourselves too. 

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

ADMIN: Guest Comments, Evolving FAQ

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Guests,

I’ve been receiving some wonderful comments on the “About” and “Home” pages. Thank you for sharing thoughts, compliments, feedback, etc. The purpose of this “Sticky” post is to address some of the frequently asked questions aka FAQs in an easily accessible place. It will evolve and change as the blog does. If the FAQs get to be too long, I will move them to their own page and keep the sticky one here shorter.

Thanks for reading,
AlterXpressions

Read More »

Writing & Blogging: Excerpts from the Scent Reflections Newsletter March Bonus Booklet

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Dear Guests,

Earlier in March, I wrote a post about newsletters and updates. In that post, I promised that my guests here at Untangled Connections would get access to any writing and blogging content exclusives that I shared in the Scent Reflections LLC newsletters. But only writing and blogging-related content.

The newsletter is coming out on March 31st, so I’m sharing 2 excerpts here for you to preview. One excerpt is the same as I posted yesterday on Scent Reflections. But the second excerpt is different and more directed to the audience here.

No, you will not have to subscribe to the other newsletter to get the booklet if you are interested in reading more. I will, as promised, make the PDF file available here for guests to download for 2 weeks. After that, you will have to subscribe to the newsletter to get current past bonus content.

Exclusive Excerpt from the “Introduction”

This guide started as a conversation between myself and the young woman cleaning my apartment. We started discussing education based on a mutual love of plants, herbs, and aromatherapy. I felt compassion for this young woman and related to her frustration about finding better paying jobs without a college degree. At the time, I was looking into alternative education tools for my team.

~TJ Hom at Scent Reflections LLC

Exclusive Excerpt from “Types of Resources”

Non-profit, Outreach, Community Centers, and Volunteer organizations

Personal Finance

Back when I lived in Massachusetts (2013 approx), I realized I needed help learning about personal finance and budgeting. My life and finances got messed up when I separated from my family and lacked resources to ask questions. But I didn’t want to fall into the debt hole like so many others did because of living expenses and medical expenses being more than my paycheck could handle.

So I looked around for free financial advice programs that didn’t require me to be in a classroom. Many of the free programs were for people within a certain financial threshold. The rest required payment and a commitment of some kind. Or that I attend their in-person classes.

Eventually, I found a non-profit organization whose financial requirements and lifestyle restrictions I did meet and spoke with a tutor for 1 hour a week over a course of several weeks to get help. This person taught me how to understand personal finance, organize my bank accounts and track spending, and create a budget that made sense to me while also building my confidence and encouraging me to continue learning. I really liked the tutor even though I did not like the other people who communicated with me via email as much.

Safety, Security, Communication, and Legal help

But those communication problems were partly my fault too. Around the time I completed these sessions, I realized that I needed more help to start fresh. That included changing my legal name, getting protection from people tracking me via mail, credit cards, and utility bills, and opening up to different trauma recovery resources that appeared closed in the past.

Up until 2013-2014, I struggled with the fact that I was a victim of abuse, especially domestic violence, because I didn’t fit the criteria listed in many of the “warning signs” documents available through other nonprofits and government organizations. Plus, inside my mind was a little voice telling me that I didn’t deserve help and would get hurt worse if I tried to ask for help. But then I stopped sleeping again. And it was on one of those sleepless nights that I finally accepted being both a victim and a survivor. That one didn’t negate the other. And I deserved to feel safe and secure even if that meant putting my pride aside and asking for help.

So I did ask for help. I reached out to a domestic violence shelter who got me in touch with an attorney who helped me go through the legal name change process and get me enrolled in an address confidentiality program that kept me relatively safe for 2 years. Then I walked into the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and asked for help because my life felt like it was spiraling out of control. They assigned me a case manager and helped me get individual counseling too.

Through the case management program, I was connected to a scholarship program for survivors, a non-profit moving service, and limited government disability support that allowed me to pay the required legal fees for a name change, move to a new apartment, and feel safe enough to make future plans. Plans that included moving out of state for a fresh start.

In case you’re wondering, all these experiences contributed to me starting Untangled Connections.

~TJ Hom at Scent Reflections LLC

Thanks for reading

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 7: Dance Like No One's Watching; Sing Like No One's Listening; Laugh Like You Mean It; Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

This is the last day of the challenge. Tomorrow, I will be on Facebook live at 1PM pacific time as promised to do a sensory movement/healing meditation. You can also ask me questions if you feel like dropping in.

Dance like no one is watching

I’ve been dancing just for fun. In my chair. In the living room. Around the kitchen and hall. Unfortunately, my bedroom doesn’t have enough space for dancing; tried it and have the bruises too. But the best times are when I dance in the living room/garden area with my plants.

Yea, I’m not graceful anymore. And I’m definitely not coordinated. At home wearing leggings, a plaid shirt, and a vest, barefoot on the carpet with the blinds up – not the most interesting picture for anyone outside to want to watch. And for anyone looking in? They can always look away.

But they will not take away the fun of dancing. Not this time.

And as I danced, I listened to the music, felt the carpet move under my feet and the air swirl around me, smelled the mint and other herbs, and watched the leaves and stems perk up as the music changed. We all laughed for the sheer joy of dancing together.

Sing Like No One’s Listening

Once in a while, especially when listening to my favorite songs, I sing out loud. My voice isn’t terrible or great. It’s not loud. And I’ve gotten lots of grief over singing in public (by accident) or at home, etc. in the past. So I didn’t sing often.

But I learned to enjoy singing just because I feel like it. And not always songs. Sometimes I sing nonsense words and sounds just because I like the way they rhyme or make rhythm in my head and want to hear it out loud.

Another reason to sing out loud like no one’s listening? It annoys and confuses the crap out of people who might be watching or casing you when you are walking home alone at night. Especially if you walk confident, don’t wear headphones or earbuds, and pay attention to your surroundings when you walk.

I used to do that often when I walked home from the train station. It was one mile through down town and the police station and often quiet. Less often in the daylight because I didn’t want to risk running into someone by accident. Though most people in the neighborhood knew my route and left me alone.

When and where would you sing like no one is listening?

Laugh Like You Mean It

Laughter is not always polite or quiet or (insert word here). Sometimes it’s honest, loud, scratchy, giggly, high- or low-pitched, quiet, annoying, cheerful, sad, fake, authentic, infectious, and accompanied with tears or physical movement.

How do you laugh when no one is listening? Have you ever considered it might be different?

Mine is loud. Giggly sometimes. High-pitched other times. If my alters are laughing, low-pitched and deep. Manic when laced with anxiety. Gross when mixed with sneezes. (and for the record, I’m laughing and sneezing as I write this). I haven’t had to fake laughter in a while, so I can’t remember if it sounds different or not.

But laughter is “the best medicine” and movement. Think about it – chest, lungs, shoulders, breathing, mouth opening and closing, smiles, eyes crinkling, maybe bent forward? – and consider how your body moves, what you feel, smell, see/or not, taste (tears for me sometimes), as you laugh. When I laugh in the rain, I taste and smell rain drops. Same with snow.

So maybe that explains why laughter can be so healing when inspired by joy or peace or humor?

Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Here’s the thing. Times like this make life difficult for everyone. Fear can bring out the best or the worst in people.

Compassion, love, and hope.

Prejudice, racism, and reckless bravado.

And more that I can’t name, did not think of in the moment, or never experienced.

But the COVID-19 threat is real. And people are scared. Some people go to extremes. Others rebel believing it won’t happen to them.

I’ve experienced the prejudice of people giving me dirty looks and moving away from me because I am Asian and walking around without a face mask or gloves. This happened at pubic transit platforms, in restaurants, and walking in my building.

I experienced the same kind of fear and prejudice yesterday afternoon when I left my apartment wearing gloves because I wanted to take out trash and recycling before going down to the lobby to get mail and packages. A group of 20-somethings and a few others were walking in as I picked up my mail and saw the gloves on my hands. What happened next was awkward with the group of people in a huddle trying to avoid me and not look while talking to the two people who came in alone.

Unfortunately we all wanted to go to the same place – elevator banks (them) and package pickup lockers (me) across from the elevators. Being me, I stared them down; then walked away and stayed around the corner until they went up the elevator. The other two people were not as rude, but they were uncomfortable. So I stayed out of the way until only one person was left.

Too bad it was another young person, and he was standing in the way of the keypad. We had some awkward exchanges as he pretended to type or read on his phone while also keeping an eye on me.

What was I doing? Making a show of taking off my gloves and using the exterior to key in the passcode. Then open the door and grab my package. He scooted around trying to stay away from me, but still within sight of the elevators until I spoke to him. Told him he was fine, and I’m just being careful – not sick.

Then I grabbed my package and used the stairs to get to my apartment.

Normally, I don’t go out during busy times of the day. Between being an empath and already struggling with triggers, going during the quiet hours makes more sense and causes less trouble all around. But I decided to listen to my intuition and Spirit’s (yes I use that personally even though I try to be more politically correct here) messages from the healing circle and went during a busy time.

The purpose? To show some of these people that the threat is real, and they may want to be more cautious. Or to be blunt – try to scare some sense into them by seeing an asian person in their building wearing gloves to get mail. Bonus that the girl who walked in with a group of people knew of me from somewhere and was already scared of me. No, I don’t remember the details. Yes, she and her friends have made my life uneasy a few times since I moved in here. That’s why I did what I did. No conversations. NO interaction. They saw me. I saw them. They watched me. I ignored them.

The point being: be careful. Take this seriously. Old people and people with existing conditions are not the only ones at risk. And even if you don’t get sick, you may be a carrier and spreading the virus without even realizing it.

So, as hard as it is, please be careful. Not everyone can or will stay inside. Not everyone has to stay inside.

But if you go out, please use logic and intuition + common sense and take precautions. Maybe you are not at risk, but what about your family or loved ones?

And if you stay home, remember to be cautious there too. The virus can travel in many ways. There are constant updates that provide tips and resources to stay safe wherever you are.

I’m lucky in that my family sends me emails and texts with the latest updates. Same with my friends and loved ones.

Remember to that there are many ways to socialize and connect with people even if we can’t physically be near each other. Technology and I have a love/hate relationship, but I feel grateful it exists to help people at times like this.

Finally:

It’s okay to feel a variety of emotions at the same time. It’s okay to express these emotions and react to what’s happening now. We get to choose how to act and react, how to respond to this new world. I choose, unconditional love, resilience, acceptance, compassion, and kindness. What do you choose?

Thanks for reading.

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 6: Funny Faces, a sleepless night, and dancing plants

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Sleepless Night = Thankful for flexible hours

As always, I tend to do things out of order. Or maybe an order that only makes sense in my head?

No matter what, yesterday was overwhelming. Between work and news updates, coping with life feels harder than normal. The healing circle helped a lot, but it also brought up memories and things I am not prepared to work with right now.

So, I took the opportunity of a sleepless night to finish a work project on deadline and have some fun dancing in the dark. My plants were sleeping. The night was quiet. Groceries came late, so I ate late too. But the Internet was going strong, and I was too high on adrenaline to calm down.

So I worked and danced in my work chair. I smiled and laughed at a kindle unlimited book on another screen. Looked at cute cat photos from an adoption agency (yes I plan to adopt a cat this year). And continued the boring work tasks necessary to create client deliverables on deadline while drinking peppermint tea with ginger-infused honey.

The task took less time than I anticipated; wrapped up around 2AM, so I lay down to rest for a few hours before starting the work day.

Funny Faces – Making and Rearranging of Face muscles

Work finished early, and I was tired, but not ready to sleep. It’s one of those sunny, but cold days where the heat doesn’t always work because it’s too warm outside, but cold inside. So I lay down on my comfy chair in the living room with some blankets and decided to do muscle relaxation meditation.

8 out of 10 times, I fall asleep during this meditation. Kid you not. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t talk about it much here. Nothing to say other than a) it works; and b) it puts me to sleep.

But then it got noisy. Guess the upstairs neighbor came home from somewhere and decided to move around?? So I came back to the present with an achy face. Felt like everything from my eyebrows to my chin was stiff. So I started moving my cheeks up and down. The left side felt different from the right side. So I alternated moving one side up and down with the other a few times. And suddenly, my nose wasn’t so stuffy either.

So then I tried to wiggle my nose (or scrunch it up and down) to see how that felt. Again, it was an unexpected sensation – like when you pull your fingers backward to stretch them – and sound inside my nose as I breathed in and out.

Next I tried moving my cheek bones and muscles side to side (like a half smile), alternating that with puckering and lifting my lips in different positions (grimace, smile, open, closed, bared teeth). I never realized how many small muscles, ligaments, and tendons there were in the lower part of my face before this. As I moved my cheeks, lips, and nose, the sensations occurred as far away as my ears (where my jaw connects to the skull), chin, and forehead.

So I got my eyes and forehead and jaw involved too. All this with my eyes closed as I reclined with my head tilted backwards. Because why not? I was comfortable curled up under my covers and half asleep. Then the noise and cold breeze from the windows distracted me. So I entertained myself making funny faces.

And ended up with today’s movement challenge.

Dancing Plants = happy plants

Right, I forgot to mention this all happened in about 1-2 hours while my mobile phone played music from a classic rock playlist. By classic I mean from the 1950’s to 1970’s. Earlier in the day, I had an audiobook on before the work meeting, and the plants perked up. We don’t often listen to music or other stuff during the day because there’s so much noise from people and cars.

But it was (and has been) quieter than normal. So I put the music on for them while I rested. We all like music (in general), but my plants have some favorite genres. Classic Rock being their number 1 favorite. They like jazz, blues, instrumental/new age, classical, and musicals too. But Classic Rock always gets them dancing.

So what happens when you have a bright sunny day, windows are open, everyone gets a drink of water, and the music is playing?

Dancing plants. I kid you not. They perk up their leaves and branches; then start swaying and moving without a wind. If they weren’t so camera shy, I’d make a video to share. But they are camera shy.

And so while I made funny faces and relaxed into meditation, they danced and laughed in the sun.

Reflection

All in all, it was a fun start to what could have been a tired, stressful day. I got an extra nap. The plants danced. We laughed and played. Got energized to do some clean up. And learned that I really need to be mindful of exercising my face and jaw muscles more.

No, that doesn’t mean I’ll talk more. Or less. Eat more/less. Drink/hydrate.

Yes, it does mean I will work harder to be expressive (express emotions), smile, laugh, and make faces just for the fun of it in my private time.

Who knows what will happen…maybe my RBF will morph into an RFF (resting fun face) instead?

No matter what, I hope you all make some time to laugh today.

Thanks for reading.