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Sunset Over The West

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Western United States (In The Air)

Featured

The Power of Saying ‘No’

“As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.”

There is nothing wrong with saying ‘No’ to someone else. Saying ‘No’ has a negative connotation but it can be worth its weight as much as saying ‘Yes.’ There is a main reason why we have both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in English language vocabulary. There are times in our life when we can say ‘yes’ but we also have to moderate our impulse to say, ‘yes’ to things, people, and other commitments by balancing it out with the ‘no’s.’ As much as we like to say ‘yes’, it’s important to know that saying ‘no’ is just as important and even just as powerful.

When it comes to saying ‘no’, you do not want to overdo it either but it’s best to moderate your ‘no’s and to pick when and where to use that word. As you get older in life, the ‘no’ should be more often and the key hump to get over is to have any shame or remorse for saying ‘no.’ Psychologically, it’s much easier to say, ‘yes’ than it is to say ‘no’, but I would argue the ‘no’ needed to happen rather than a false ‘yes.’ Often, a truthful ‘no’ will be much better for you and other people than a fake ‘yes’, which could do much more harm. People don’t like to hear ‘no’s’ but rather than to embellish people with false yes’s, you must be firm with them and make the ‘no’ part of your vocabulary with them, even if they are friends or family of yours.

While others would not like to hear ‘no’, it is best not to lead them on when you’re not interested in anything related to business to doing favors to getting into a relationship. Honesty is part of the power of saying ‘no’ and if that person truly values you, they won’t be bothered by hearing the ‘no.’ A good litmus test for knowing how much someone cares about you is their reaction when you are bound to tell them ‘no’ at some point for one reason or another. If they give you a hard time in giving them a sincere ‘no’, it may be best to not be around them as much. The person(s) you say ‘no’ to, even if they are family or friends, should be mature and responsible enough to take the ‘no’ well and to understand that the ‘no’ itself is not a reflection of them as people but what they may be asking or telling you to do. If you disagree, have reservations about, don’t find it appealing, or don’t have time for it, it is best to say ‘no.’

When you tell other people ‘no’, you should always be firm but also do be as gentle as possible. It does not have to lead into a confrontation or an argument either. A good ‘no’ can be followed up with ‘that’s the way I feel’ or ‘sorry but it’s not possible, or ‘that is not something I’m interested in.’ Saying ‘no’ should never be seen as being disrespectful, rude, or condescending because it does not need to be as such. If you want to still be on good terms with someone like a friend or family, you can express your regret or disappointment on having to say ‘no’ depending on the ask or request. You don’t have to do that, but it can soften the blow, which may be important in salvaging the relationship or friendship for the long-term. In that relation to the other person or people, if the ‘yes’s outweigh the ‘no’s, the ‘no’ won’t be as big of a deal too. They should balance each other out but it is good to mix them up in order to have no ‘no’s at all or too many ‘yes’s back to back.

Most importantly, having the power to say ‘no’ not just every now and then but whenever you feel like it is crucial. You should not feel nervous or anxious about saying ‘no’ and to be ready to do so at any time. As we get older, we must be prepared to say ‘no’ more and more often. Time is limited as well as the chance to foster relationships, friendships, or job / business opportunities. If something does not sound that appealing to you at first, it’s best to have a firm ‘no’ for it rather to waste either your time or your money.

It’s likely in life that you’ll regret the ‘no’s you didn’t say rather than the ones that you did say ‘no’ too. There are plenty of charlatans, liars, scammers, fakers, and crooks out there and you need to be ready to say ‘no’ to them. Instead of saying ‘yes’ too many times, be more comfortable in saying ‘no’ especially if your heart, mind, or body are not into the idea. Unless you are enthusiastic or thrilled by the idea, thing, or even the person, a preemptive ‘no’ will make you better off in the long run. There is a power in saying ‘yes’ but there is also an equal if not more important power of saying ‘no’ especially if you are worried about losing precious time or valuable money or other resources.

Most of all, you should do your best to think deeply or weigh the ‘yes or no’ decisions as much as possible. Lose the impulse to give either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ quickly unless you do not have the time or place to think it through first. Not controlling your impulses when it comes to saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can cost you both in the short-term or in the long-run. Be sure to have the power to say ‘no’ but remember to think it through carefully first before giving the ‘no’ to someone or something. Also, as I mentioned before, please be sure to phrase the ‘no’ in a polite or respectful manner. It’s not so much that you said ‘no’ at all but if you do it in the wrong way or with the wrong tone, you may risk losing that person or thing you care about forever.

The Urban and The Natural

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Washington, District of Columbia, USA

The Cigarette and The Mask

“Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.”

While I walk back to my apartment with bags full of groceries under my arms, I stop at the cross section waiting for the walking signal to light up, seemingly unaware of the bike screeching by me. “Hey, watch out, man!”, the bicyclist yells as he peddles past me almost knocking into my groceries. He speeds by just narrowly missing oncoming traffic as he heads downtown. Just as I catch my bags and see if I’ve been clipped, I noticed that he’s wearing sunglasses on with his surgical mask pulled down below his chin and has an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

Now, I would hope that he was not getting ready to smoke while biking, but it sure looked like he had smoked a few or more cigarettes. We were both outside at the time, of course, and I could assume that he maybe just likes to wear a mask indoors and would rather smoke a cigarette while he biked or afterwards to enjoy the rush while getting some needed fresh air. The confluence of events of almost getting hit by this biker along with the scene of him having an unlit cigarette in his mouth, a mask under his chin, and no helmet on as he sped through foot traffic without regard for anybody else was so laden with irony that I couldn’t happen to notice all the ironies afoot.

If a commercial could be made about this bicyclist, it would be quite entertaining. “Protect yourself from COVID in the short-term, but don’t forget about the long-term risks to one’s health!” In that commercial, it would show the bicyclist being transformed from having a cigarette in his mouth to having none with a nicotine patch or gum if it’s anti-smoking or if it’s pro-safety to have him properly wearing a biking helmet rather than not having one.

These kind of public health or public safety campaigns are quite common in our culture especially when it comes to the dangers of smoking and the dangers of not wearing a helmet while cycling or biking. Now, after almost two years, we now have quite substantive public health messages around wearing a face mask or adequate face covering, especially while indoors, to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus. The same public health messaging was quite prevalent at first when it came to social or physical distancing before the arrival of tested and approved vaccines.

Undoubtedly, these public health messages have saved thousands of lives and done much to further the progress of the current vaccination campaigns. We now know society-wide how masks can help prevent the spread of viruses just as we knew starting in the 1980s and later in the 1990s the harm that smoking can do long-term to one’s health. It took a few decades but now smoking is much less prevalent than it used to be, and the risks are well-known. The same could be said about wearing a protective helmet when biking or riding a motorcycle. It took a while for these messages to be ingrained in our society, but they protect not only our health long-term but also our safety in the short-term.

The advent of mask wearing in a pandemic has not fully set in for some people but for most people, the public health messages had a massive impact and after some initial confusion and the lack of supplies for protective gear, almost two years later, that public health messaging has set in across society. You could argue if the advent of mask wearing in public will have the same longevity or the same need years from now as anti-smoking campaigns would. While virus and diseases can become endemic, they can also possibly burn out much quicker than the long-term health risks that will remain with us after the pandemic such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

While the public health and safety messages around mask wearing, helmet wearing, and not smoking especially near a building have made people healthier and safer, I fear that other health warnings or messaging has been rather lackluster especially during the pandemic. Wearing a mask and not picking up a cigarette are easy enough for society to adopt, but the messaging should not end there.

In the age of the Internet, social media, and seemingly endless modes of messaging mediums, I have not noticed any uptick in making the public aware about the benefits of exercising daily or multiple times per week. I also have not noticed an effort to educate people on what a well-balanced diet looks like or what foods to avoid that are both addictive and unhealthy. Smoking is a bad habit but so is not having a proper diet. I am not saying that people should be told what to eat and what to drink but I don’t see the harm in sharing more messaging about what a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner looks like or to give examples to adults, especially young people in college or in their 20s.

In addition to a proper diet, bringing to people’s attention the need to exercise has never been a real part of public health messaging. The lack of public and/or outdoor gyms provided by towns and cities has contributed to other health issues that have reared their head during the pandemic. COVID-19 may be with us now but other health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are not going away anytime soon.

For the almost two years of the pandemic, there was a real opportunity that was squandered for the public to hear about other ways to stay healthy and well. Viruses make people fearful and anxious but instead of just saying “wear a mask!” and “be socially distant!”, other messages about sleeping 7-8 hours a night, reducing our time staring at screens, maintaining a healthy diet, and making sure to exercise each day or most days was rarely ever thought of to be entered into public consciousness.

Even something as simple as telling people who were mainly indoors to take their vitamins each day especially both Vitamins C and D, which some people are deficient in especially in wintertime was completely neglected. I usually refrain from commenting on matters of public health but having done all these things for myself as many others do on their own accord, I don’t see why this kind of public health messaging hasn’t caught on. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two to discuss proper habits to build such as having more hours of sleep, what goes into a healthy diet, why exercise is important, or what are the benefits of vitamins.

I am not sure of how much money has been spent on anti-smoking, anti-drunk driving campaigns over the years but I’m sure it’s much more than what could also been address to the public. Now, in addition to the ills of drinking, smoking, we know now why mask wearing is important during a pandemic with an infectious virus that spreads easily. I don’t think that we should stop there and to keep trying to advocate for other commonly known public health matters that sadly still go largely ignored in terms of messaging campaigns.

From the local to the national level, after the pandemic is over, I would strongly recommend investing much more money, time, and even public infrastructure (outdoor gyms, for example) in building awareness of different public health matters that have remained largely unaddressed. From sleep to diet to exercise to even how to manage anxiety and stress properly, these important messages will affect people’s long-term health positively.

We know messages have worked in the past as I mentioned with wearing a helmet, not smoking in public places, and wearing a mask when others are near you. Lives have been saved and society has been improved because of those messages. When it comes to everyone’s long-term health, I would ask us all to think bigger to improve messaging around other public health needs, so we don’t end up only receiving advice on protecting the public’s health during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.

Stunning Sunsets

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Delaware and New Jersey, USA

DC United! DC United!

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Audi Field; Washington, District of Columbia, USA

A Pleasant Vision

“The cool, ocean breeze blows the wisps of water onto my face and my hair with the soft rustle of the wind refreshing and relaxing me as the sunset envelopes the bright horizon leaving just one solid line of distinction on the horizon to separate the sea from the sky.”

The sand beneath me is coarse yet soft as it envelopes my feet and legs whole as I begin to pull myself up after admiring the waves lapping up to cool my body and soothe my worries as if I were in a welcome trance. Looking around at the vast sunset before me, the canvas of colors from blue to yellow to orange to pink, light up the seascape village I find myself near to but still so far away from. The cool, ocean breeze blows the wisps of water onto my face and my hair with the soft rustle of the wind refreshing and relaxing me as the sunset envelopes the bright horizon leaving just one solid line of distinction on the horizon to separate the sea from the sky.

I am wearing all-white as I pick myself up out of the sand and I see the shimmering lights behind me of a picturesque village where there is laughter, unknown music, and the smell of delicious food cooking over an open flame. After the sun sets over the village, I feel the distinct urge to go towards the village where everything and nothing seems familiar to me at the same time. The shimmering lights help me as I climb from the base of the beach up through the rocky hillside feeling at ease even as my bare feet climb over the rocks and shrubbery covered boulders.

As I climb higher and higher to the top of the hillside that juts out of this mountainous formation, the sound of people in different languages laughing heartily, the sounds of beautiful music playing in a sweet symphony as to not clash with the people’s joy. The smells of enticing foods, which become more and more familiar to me that come either from a distant past or of a future yet to come. The arduous hill climbing causes me to stumble and rest prematurely but I am undeterred. I do not bleed and while I tire, I do not fall back. Eventually, I make my way to the entrance of this pristine yet unfamiliar village with cobbled streets and stucco walls. Each of the village homes I walk past have large windows but no one’s inside, the walls are white or pastel-colored, and the arches speak to a grandeur of which I immediately fall in love with.

The windows and doors are arched with beige or dark red clay roof tiles with outdoor space with gardens likely filled with lush tomatoes and other plants to grow one’s own food. Surprisingly, I encounter women and men dressed from different eras on these cobbled streets who greet me in the languages of my ancestors. They have carriages and horses with them and exchange pleasantries with me as I pass them by on the way to the party. While I do not know them, they know me and perhaps they’ve known me my whole life. Even though I am tired from my journey, my hunger and thirst apparent to them all, they whisper words of belonging and encouragement in my ears and tell me that, “everyone is waiting for me.”

Who is everyone? Is it my friends? My family? My loves of past, present, or future? Where am I? Questions wash over me, but I am not anxious. It’s that strange sense of anticipation that comes after a fortuitous journey where my last destination is not known but I have no doubt of where it is that I am supposed to go. I am here for a reason and while I do not know when, where, or how I got here, I finally know that I have a destination in mind that may be what I was looking for all along.

Once I get there, the high, wooden entrance of a pure white village house made of solid brown doors swing wide open for me as an honored guest. There are sturdy, mahogany tables filled with known faces who have known me throughout my life and unknown yet familiar faces who I may be related to by blood or folks who I don’t remember as a child or baby but have also met them at one point or another. The tables and chairs seem to go on forever up to the edge of the hillside looking out on the moon, the sea, and the stars as gloriously bright as can be with no way not see hundreds or thousands in the night sky. Ornate dining sets have been set up with wine goblets and delicious foods with peaceful music playing in the background and it seems everyone is waiting for me to arrive to begin the meal together.

Everybody at each table is dressed up in their own regalia from the era they lived in and are at the age that they most would like to be remembered by. Surprisingly, while each person is exchanging languages with each other that they themselves may not speak, they are somehow being instantaneously translated so everyone can understand one another even while having not been from the same century or same continent.

It dawns on me that this is exactly where I’m meant to be. The food is as delicious as can be, the wine and other drinks plentiful, and everyone is enjoying each other’s company with pure joy and happiness lighting up the evening. They all know me as if I were a family…which I am. Many hugs, kisses, and handshakes are exchanged as each of my ancestors and family members encourage me to join them at the table through a night that seems to stretch across time like a flowing river.

I am the latest to arrive to the celebration here, but it feels like they’ve all been waiting a while for me to join them here at this heavenly setting. There is no mention of anything negative in the conversations I have. We don’t highlight my or their own Earthly failures, setbacks, heartbreaks, and tragedies. There is just happiness, joy, warmth, and discussing the fine setting and meal we find ourselves enjoying together after having been apart. There are no hard feelings, no pain, no remorse, no odd person out, as we are a whole family again united after all this time, which feels like just yesterday we were all together but may have been decades, centuries, or millennia since our paths have crossed. If this is heaven, I ask myself, it is certainly a pleasant vision of it.

The C&O Canal and The National Cathedral

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Do A Good Deed Every Day

“The easiest way to feel a bit better, a bit happier, and make time fly by a bit more is to go out of your way and do a good daily deed.”

It can feel natural to want to go through each day wanting to keep to yourself and go through the motions to make the week go by quicker. However, having this kind of mentality can isolate you, make you feel lethargic, and time can crawl more the less you interact with the people and the environment around you. The easiest way to feel a bit better, a bit happier, and make time fly by a bit more is to go out of your way and do a good daily deed.

Doing a good deed every day may seem like a lofty goal to achieve but when you really think about what a ‘good deed’ is, it would usually only take you a few seconds or even a few minutes to accomplish. A daily ‘good deed’ is very rarely extravagant, or expensive but rather good deeds are often simple courtesies, pleasantries, and small acts of kindness that have a large impact on a person’s life. You can really make someone’s day especially if they’re feeling down by lifting their spirits with a good-hearted deed that is genuine. To go out of your way for someone else will not only make them feel better but it will make you feel better as well.

I am a believer in karma and having the awareness to do a good deed for someone else, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, can cause ‘a ripple effect’ in sending out something good in the world, which will hopefully cause other people you help to do good deeds of their own in ‘paying it forward.’ As the saying goes, ‘kindness begets kindness’ so if you do a good deed, I believe that person will then be more cognizant of doing a good deed for someone else and that ‘ripple effect’ will cause many more good deeds to be done. Karma, both good and bad, spreads like a raging wildfire, so if you put good deeds out there, I am optimistic in believing that the world will pay you back with more kindness and to have others help you out in return.

You may be asking, well, there are so many good deeds I can do; how do I know which ones I should do? Good deeds don’t have to be planned out and they rarely are so just mindful of your environment in terms of what kind of good deed can be done spontaneously but is also pertinent to the situation that you find yourself in. For example, if you see a homeless man on the street looking for some food to eat, it doesn’t cost much to buy him a sandwich or a hot meal to help him stave off hunger.

That is a good deed that takes not much money and not much time if you can afford it. Other deeds aren’t about money so much as courtesy such as giving up your train or bus seat to an elderly person or pregnant woman. You can also help the elderly or handicapped by carrying their groceries for them if they ask or by helping them with the door or the elevator. Giving a small amount of charity every now and then whether it’s at a coffee shop or at an organization you are part of is also a good way to do a good deed. A good deed is about doing what you would normally do as a human being without being prompted to do so by other people but if you can’t find such impromptu experiences, giving charity or volunteering an hour of your time or helping a friend or family member in some ways are all good deeds that would qualify.

In a world where it is often difficult or near impossible to control the events and conditions that we experience on a day-to-day basis, doing ‘good deeds’ is a great way of responding to our environment in both a healthy and positive way. Good deeds are not flashy, they may not be recognized, and it can be hard to find them every day but it’s about looking out for your fellow man or woman with no expectation of a reward. Doing a good deed shows that we are all part of the same community, the same society, and the same world and that when we look out for one another on a human level, we all benefit as a result.

Good deeds are a start but that’s just one part of being a good human being. However, doing a good deed daily will exercise our empathetic core, heighten our awareness of relating to others, and to be more aware of how we can positively influence our environment. It is also a healthy way to feel good about ourselves and to brighten our days a little bit more. I find that my day improves a whole lot if it’s been a bad one when someone helps open the door for me or will help me with my heavy groceries if I need a hand with them (while opening the same door), or just looking out for me as I would do for them.

If you can do a good deed daily, that is ideal for it to become a consistent habit but if you can’t, aim to do a good deed at least once per week. You’ll find that it becomes second nature the more you do good deeds and that you’ll recognize those same chances to do them when they appear to you. If you really want to prepare yourself to do good deeds, be aware of your immediate environment as much as possible. That may mean putting your phone down, putting the earphones away, and looking around you instead of down to the floor, but you’ll be more likely to do more good deeds if you’re aware of others rather than the technology that increasingly is around us and on us. The biggest good deed you could do also is to be kind, courteous, and respectful of people you meet and people you know. If you can do that most fundamental good deed, I have no doubt that other smaller good deeds will follow.

Fireworks on the 4th

Camera: iPhone 12

Location: Ocean City, Maryland, USA

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