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Recalibrating boundaries, redefining happy after a Health Scare:

I had to rethink my daily decisions and as cliché as it sounds, I had to start enforcing boundaries with my time. I started feeling exceptional exhausted one Monday with a headache. The exhaustion was not strange as I often suffer from insomnia on a Sunday night as a result of Monday work anxiety. It has happened for the last three years, I try to cope by ensuring I sleep in on a Sunday and take the day as easy and light as possible. The headache on the other hand was a bit worrying.

I resorted to a Pandol at about 6pm on that Monday evening about 8 weeks ago, when the management meeting I was in for the last 4.5 hours didn’t seem to end nor the headache. I woke up with a lighter version of the headache on Tuesday with pretty much the same feeling. I ploughed through my workday though. I mean isn’t that what we are supposed to do-push through, achieve, HUSTLE. I was convinced I just need a bit of extra sleep, so I cancelled my workout session at 6pm with my trainer and tried to go to bed earlier than normal i.e before 1am. Woke up on Wednesday still not feeling ‘Like me’. I had to do an Instagram live session for work, while navigating the never-ending deadlines and meetings. I pushed through anyway. I remember telling a co-worker friend, I don’t feel well at all, but I can’t say what exactly is wrong with me. Is that weird? She said I think you need to go to the Doc, your body is saying something.

I pushed through the Instagram live, and it ran smoothly. During the session I started feeling lightheaded, at the end I was dizzy, I drove straight to my GP whose office was literally 1 min away. As per the norm, she had me do a COVID-19 test, result was negative.

She did the routine check up of taking my pressure etc-but she paused and asked me to relax and took my pressure again.

She began going through my records and then asked if I would like some water and chatted casually, she took my pressure again and ask are you ok? Is everything ok at home? Befuddled I ask what was wrong, everything is good. I am just exhausted with a lagging headache and I am lightheaded. She disclosed my pressure is significantly elevated and needs to be monitored closely over the next few days, or I would have to start taking medication to manage it.

Tears filled my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. Here I am at 32, with an elevated blood pressure. Father God, have mercy. She added, I have a patient your age who works in the financial industry also who just had a stroke. You have to set firm boundaries and take care of yourself. You need to turn off the phone and shut work out at some point, you need to find ways to relax physically and mentally.

I took the rest of the week off from work, gym- my normal routine. It was extremely difficult. It took me working for most of Thursday and feeling worst to realize I needed a break.

Here I was in bed, drowsy from the prescribed medication to manage the lagging headache in the middle of the day, thinking of my happiest memories. Creating a clear vision of what brought me contentment and joy. Most of those memories brought me back to my childhood-to home-to Dominica. Going to Portsmouth to get Ice-cream on a Sunday evening as a child with my parents and brother, going to the beach. Dancing to Kassav grooving to lucky Dube and Nasio Fontaine blasting in our home on a Sunday afternoon while mom cooked, sitting on the roadside in my community chatting with my neighbours and villagers, creole time, writing my weekly column for the Chronicle Newspaper, speaking engagements, being a listening ear to my friends, climbing mango trees and sitting on the branches eating mango. Lunch with friends at cafes with large open windows- Goosh God knows how much I miss having lunch at CartWheel, Guiyave, Pearls. It is so amusing; we chase after joy and think it is fleeting or it is wrapped in money. It exists in the simple things that allow us to be present, live in the now, feel the breeze, savour the food. Live life the way it was really intended to be lived, at the pace of nature, slow, deliberate, peaceful.

Over the last few months, I became intentional about figuring out what really brings me joy, what makes me happy. Not what I see on Instagram that looks like fun, but what makes Roxanne blush and giggle and laugh deep belly laughs till my eyes water. What makes me excited, content, nervous, giddy? I had ideas but I wanted to be certain for sure. I made a deliberate decision to take note of all the things which brings out the inner care-free happy child within, the things and people who light up my life and give me joy.

One of my closest friends had a baby boy, videos of him, makes me teary eye. I mean, I remind her constantly to send new videos and I watch them over and over, just to hear him coo and see him stretch. Ahhh, my heart strings. I sometimes close my eyes and imagine how delicious he must smell and long to hold him. No matter what I am doing, how hectic work is, just looking at his videos adds a blanket of calmness to my day. I’ve always loved babies, I used to babysit from the time I was 12 years old for free! That’s just how much I love babies. Since I had Abiah, I’ve been so focused on her and us getting through this thing called life, I forgot how wondrous watching a little human coo and stretch and smile makes you slow down and just be present.

I always marvel at how life is so intricately woven and an experience you had years ago is divinely link to a moment that can change your life. The huge argument which led Damion and I to counselling, happened in the car while driving on our way to #CaféBlue in Irish Town two years prior. It was supposed to be my first visit. I love cafés add an extra serving of love, if the café has outdoor dining, large windows local furniture and pastry. Gahh, I miss Cart Wheel back home and the Quiche *mouth watering*. I was more than enthused to try it, well well, life had other plans and Dami and I had the fight of our lives in that car on that Saturday years ago and I yelled Bring me back to my %$&* home. It wouldn’t be for another two years, during the pandemic that we went for the first time and OMG, I was in love instantly. It brough such fond beautiful memories of home. From the winding narrow roads to the scenery and the laid-back atmosphere. I can literally spend all my Saturdays there. Everything about going up to #CaféBlue in Irish Town makes me happy. It also represents for me a symbol of growth and divine timing. Had we continued on our way during our first attempt, I probably would have never wanted to go back, I would not have been able to savour the experience blinded by anger. Whenever we go *every other weekend* I am reminded of how far we’ve come on our marriage journey, the beauty of my homeland and it reminds me just like nature life was meant to be lived deliberately, slowly.

One thing I have never been good at is laughing at myself! I am a type A personality to the T, so I am ever so serious and mindful of the time, even when I should be resting I am mentally planning what productive I can or should be doing. I am the only type A in my home. Dames and Ab’s these two know how to tease you and laugh and just make you laugh even if you don’t want to. They both have this dry, sarcastic sense of humour which will make your holler if you’re not uptight! Damion and Abiah will re-enact my telephone conversations along with my facial expressions and body movements to the wire and get a hell of a kick out of that, I mean eye water laughter. Up till recently I found it silly and annoying, lowkey embarrassing, now when they do things like that, I partake fully, I laugh and I allow myself to be entertained. I’ve even team up with Abi to imitate Dami and we have a ball. Not taking myself seriously at all at home has allowed me to be present in the humor at home. I know they’re funny, but I did not know if I just took out the straight jacket, how much I can giggle and laugh-laugh out loud from the gut. At the end of a long day, that’s my medicine; ‘just a whole lot of hollering over foolishness’ as Abiah would say and that makes me so content.

What I’ve also realized is I can add luxury and glamour to my everyday life. It doesn’t need to be reserved for birthdays or special occasions. I can wear my best dress and heels to go out for lunch because I want to. After a long day, I chose to do a full face with eyelashes to go on a #tuttifrutti week day date with Abi. I want my days to feel like poetry and I am getting so much better with handling feelings of being overwhelmed which we know all too well working in corporate. I stop whenever I start feeling that way and I dance. Working from home has given me the opportunity to have endless dance parties in the middle of the day and reconnect with music I swooned over in my childhood. Believe it, even Abiah is singing ‘Zouk La se sel medikaman nous ni’ by #kassav and she was overly entertained after dancing to Nasio’s Living in the positive album on afternoon I told her I was convinced at 15 I would get married to a Rasta man because I thought Nasio Fontaine sang Herb and Loving for me. Ha! If ever you feel down, tired, overwhelmed, turn your volume all the way up and blast some Kassav or zouk-thank me later!

Learning to be eternally grateful for this life and journey, glamourizing it however I see fit, not taking any of it so seriously, dancing, oh goosh for someone with two left feet I love dancing and it makes me so incredible happy. Laughing big gut deep laughs at myself at silly things. Taking walks outside to feel the glory of the sun on my skin. I am learning to breathe deeply and slow down. Everything still gets done in its divine and perfect timing.

I made deliberate, small, firm decisions, adjusting my diet and exercise, slowly without medicine my pressure went down albeit with the same workload. I have the power to control my reaction to life and set the pace that I want to live, I want to live in harmony with nature, she is never rushed or busy, she is always deliberate and steady enjoying the journey and progressing with divine timing.

We don’t need to suffer and get sick to feel like we earn or deserve the gifts of our labour. I trust myself to continue this path of ease and being present for all the joys meant to make me happy and my life well lived.

I hope you dance!



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