Bananas, Chocolate, and Air

Photo of bananas in grocery store

Lately I’ve been feeling more inspired to write.

I know, I know, I have mixed feelings regarding the word “inspire.”

But if the shoe fits… buy it. 😉

Honestly though, it’s beyond the cliched vanilla realm of  “inspiration” at this point. I’ve been feeling the NEED to write in the most obnoxious way, and when I don’t (which is most of the time), I start to feel like my brain is clogged. It’s tough because I’m a meticulous, somewhat slow worker and a lot of times I feel the need to abandon a given Maya UnMarketed post–or to suppress the urge to even start one–because of the other goals I have right now. I tell myself, “You’re only B Minus level of fast, so why don’t you spend your minutes on something that produces an income, improves your future, or at least gets the apartment clean?”

And then on most days, I take my own advice. On a bad day, I may just get on instagram and bemoan the fact that I’m not as big of a #bossbabe as so-n-so. Because that’s totally productive. *eyeroll emoji*

Recently I said to a friend that part of me regrets spending the 8-9 months we lived in North Carolina on just blogging, with the occasional exception of helping Stephen with his business. I could have worked on this blog and also waited tables three or four times a week. And then moved to St. Pete with maybe $5-10k more in the bank than I did. Is it embarrassing to admit that means I would have had $5-10k total? (Not counting what Stephen had. It didn’t–and honestly still doesn’t completely–feel like “our” money, despite the fact that Stephen very selflessly treats it that way.)

Anyway, since I believe in learning from your semi-regrets (I don’t believe in having full-on REGRETS, because what’s the point? You can’t change the past), I’ve been trying to simply not repeat that mistake / those actions / whatever you wanna call it.

And that has meant putting this blog on the backburner.

That’s all fine and well and good until the brain-clog sets in and I realize I’m not living up to my full potential because I’m not writing.

All of a sudden I realize my eyes have glazed over and instead of doing my freelance digital marketing work or replying to my agency’s casting email or getting to my deepest “shake zone” at PureBarre or even just washing the dishes as quickly as I could be…  I’m narrating a potential blog post in my mind.

Maybe for me, writing is like cleaning a gutter. I’ve got to get the muck and leaves out so the crystalline waters of efficiency can flow freely in other parts of my life. Maybe I need to be more intentional about spending the time I would otherwise be on Facebook or critiquing my thighs in the mirror on writing. In the same way that freewriting about the birth control pill immediately helped me make a confident and clear-cut decision after months of crisis-ing, writing about other things would probably help provide the same clarity.

I got extra inspired to write because I finally finished When Breath Becomes Air after four months of on-off chipping away at the relatively short book. Reading is another thing I want to do more of, but this book presented an extra time challenge because I couldn’t read it at night. Instead of a little reading helping me relax, the fact that the (young, married, male) author was dying often sent me into a state of WHAT IF STEPHEN DIED ….and that’s not terribly conducive to sleep. In other words, my paranoia and extreme sensitivity ate my homework.

Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air while dying of cancer. He explores the topics of life, death, meaning, and mortality, from the multifaceted perspective of a neurosurgeon, patient and literature-lover. The blurb on the back cover tells you that he wrote it during the final months of his life, so don’t worry, I’m not being a Spoiler.

The book is amazing on multiple levels and I would highly recommend it. When I finally finished it in between shows at Home Shopping Network the other day, I thought, “If someone can write this while dying of cancer, I have time to share the moment with the woman and the bananas and the chocolates.”

The moment with the woman and the bananas and chocolates, huh? This sounds like an interesting anecdote, Maya.

Well, I must warn you that it’s not.

Nothing actually happened, so hopefully this won’t be one of those moments like at the end of a movie that leaves it “up to you” whether or not the couple got together. (Yeah, yeah, they’re making you think, hashtag so artsy, life isn’t black and white, etc, but I didn’t come to the movies to feel underwhelmed and mildly dissatisfied; I came to laugh or bawl my eyes out or at least feel DEEPLY dissatisfied. You know?)

Anyway, now that you’ve been forewarned, I will do my best to tell the story.

I was at Trader Joe’s for one of those quick “I need things for the next two days and will come back when I have more time” trips. You know, the kind you make on the way home from the gym or other errands, the kind that costs about $27 and leaves you with one very heavy paper grocery bag that you keep shifting from one hand to the other as you walk to your car.

I was in a good mood as I passed the other registers. My one very heavy bag and my cup were full. I was grateful and looking forward to an evening with Stephen. Life felt good.

To be honest, I’m not usually like that. Though I consider myself a positive and friendly person on the outside, I struggle with making joy and gratitude my permanent internal states of being. My good external nature is sincere; it’s just that being casually nice to others is often easier than being casually nice to yourself. 

So anyway there I was, walking out of Trader Joe’s in my uncharacteristically good mood and I saw a woman lifting a bunch of bananas and a clear container of cubic chocolates out of her basket and onto the register. The two items were suspended by the rainbow arc of her ams, an expression of joyful anticipation on her face.

And for some reason, the sight brought me a robust, bone-deep happiness.

The woman was in probably in her late 50s, with a golden Florida tan and short golden-grey hair and something golden in her presence. She wore light, quirky glasses and you could tell she was looking forward. Looking forward to her bananas and her chocolates, looking forward into the face of the cashier for some friendly banter, looking like the world was her golden oyster and she was grateful to bask in the glow.

Was I projecting all that onto the woman because I was in a good mood?

Did I see my own nutritional healing mirrored in the fact that she was holding ripe, nourishing, vibrant yellow bananas in one hand and plump, luxe, curvy, heavenly chocolates in the other?

Did I really observe the kind and guilt-free nature with which she was purchasing both the healthy item and the treat? Or was I simply feeling an extension of the sense of satisfaction (rather than panic) that my own grocery store trips bring me now?

Did I see a deep sense of contentment in the regal posture with which she carried her normal-sized body? A beautiful body, glowing ever more golden with children and years and maybe cradling the first silk-haired, long-lashed grandbaby against her chest. Or did I simply realize how much my old wounds are fading, and recognize my newfound luxuriation in femininity at its most profound? A femininity that goes into the messy realms of childbirth and aging and no longer craving the waist circumference of a seventeen-year-old cheerleader. Did I actually witness how she radiated this concept of femininity, one that glowed with wrinkles and years of being alive, with glasses and decades of watching and winking and reading and losing herself in her grandbaby’s granddaddy’s eyes?

Was this just an average woman in an average store on an average Tuesday night? Or could I truly feel the vibrations of her mind-body-soul health… all as she lifted bananas and chocolates onto the worn golden wood of the Trader Joe’s register?

Sorry to pull an Indie Movie Ending on you here, but I have to say I have no idea.

It could be that the woman at Trader Joe’s has a heart of gold and spreads sunshine 24/7. She could be that person in her friend group/family who everyone seeks out when they need an abundance of love and positivity poured over them. She cold practice yoga and pray and meditate every day. She could be that woman every baby smiles at and every dog approaches because they sense her purity of heart, her golden glow, her joy over the little things in life like bananas and chocolates.

Or it could be that I was just in a really fantastic mood that evening.

How could I ever know the answer, and why would I need to know it?

The woman held a much-needed mirror up to my deeply improved relationship with food and womanhood and balance.

It can be so easy to get caught up in what more you could or should do.

I could be more of a #bossbabe. Make more money. Be further in my career.

I could have stronger arms. Be more fit. Get rid of that underbutt jiggle-patch.

I could improve my B- in work speed to a B+ and eventually shoot for an A+. I could read more. Like really Maya, you don’t even work a 9-5 office job and somehow it took you multiple months to read a short book?!? Get your life together, girlfriend!

OR

Instead of thinking all of those things, I could give myself a pat on the back.

These days I love going to Trader Joe’s, and I haven’t always felt that way about grocery shopping. 

One time in San Francisco, I had this full-on mental battle over whether to have a snack before my Trader Joe’s run. When you’re not eating much, meals become this Monumental THING. They have to have a ritualistic aspect and you have to honor them and draw them out and make sure every single calorie of that watery veggie soup is respected. Sometimes I would turn dinner into a three-hour event accompanied by lots of Netflix, just to feel like I was doing it justice somehow. And of course to make it last longer and postpone the inevitable “my meal is over and I’m still hungry” feeling.

On this particular day, I was so hungry I was lightheaded. On the one hand, I thought, I could go to Trader Joes, come home, and have my Ritual Meal. C’mon Maya, you can go another hour without eating. Go stalk a couture model’s insta for motivation and let’s get this shit done. But on the other hand, I genuinely didn’t know if it was safe for me to drive a car.

I had a snack, feeling weak and chubby and unsuccessful. I got in the car to head to Trader Joes… and I narrowly avoided not one but TWO potential fender-benders during my 12-minute drive!

I remember saying a prayer of thanksgiving that I decided to have a snack. I remember thinking, If I’d been in a hunger fog, the kind where your brain and body start feeling like molasses, I might not have had the reflexes to avoid those accidents. I remember then wondering if I was being dramatic and wouldn’t have gotten into either fender-bender, even if I hadn’t had a snack. I remember contemplating whether I was spinning tales to make myself feel better about the snack and to flesh out the drama of my perpetual self-pity. I remember telling Stephen the story in a “thank God I had the snack” way… while still feeling a bit guilty about the snack. And feeling guilty about how little money I was making modeling. And honestly it was no wonder, because my size zero ass was huge and I was a terrible model and person. And a terrible fiance’ because I was depriving a lifelong “Ass Man” of a full, bodacious, womanly butt. Not to mention depriving him of shared meals and of shared bottles of wine and of his favorite Nutella walnut toffee chocolate chip cookies. I always ignored the times Stephen hinted about them because I didn’t trust myself enough to make a sheet of cookies without inhaling them like a wild-eyed animal at 2:43 in the morning. And of course I felt bad about that too, because I was sure other models baked cookies for their boyfriends and had enough self-control to not eat them. Other models were delicate wispy fairy creatures who only craved green juice and felt full off of their 130 calories oatmeal packets. I was the only model/human in the entire world who struggled, the only one who would probably never be good enough.

Whoa. 

Whoa because my fingers just flew through all that while my heart constricted in a way that felt good and bad like an unrequited crush.

Whoa because look at how far I’ve come from the girl shopping at Trader Joe’s in San Francisco to the woman shopping at Trader Joe’s in St. Petersburg.

Have I stopped to give myself a little credit for all that healing? Have I stopped to thank my family and husband for their devotion, or stopped to make my man some of my signature Nutella cookies? Have I stopped to thank God for His redemption?

Every now and then, yes. But mostly I take it all for granted, continuously pressing for whatever goal or self-improvement step or *solution to the big crisis* is next.

The woman in Trader Joe’s helped me relish in the glow of perspective. She gave me the golden warmth of nourishment and femininity and vitamin E oil trickling onto fading scars. Paul Kalanithi helped me realized that if you need to write, then writing is important. Even if you’re widowing a loving woman and losing a promising future to cancer in your late 30s. Even if you’re not quite where you’d like to be career-wise and you want to spend your time productively. You always have permission to do something you love. 

To live life fully, you have to make time for the things that feed you and allow you to breathe. You may need to skip the jealous insta lurks of perceived #bossbabes or the moisturizing session that somehow turns into a 17-minute critique of your body. Believe me when I say I’m still working on that, but also believe me when I tell you how liberating those moments of success feel.

Buy the shoes, heal the wounds, write the stories, revel in your golden femininity. You can do all of those things while striving for your “more important” goals. Eat the bananas and the chocolates. 

Love,

Maya

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