I got a reminder that today makes one year since I completed the 75hard challenge. There was a picture of a group strength training class and video of me taking my final–150th workout in 75 days. 75hard challenge comprised of 2 45-minute workouts, reading 10 pages of a personal development book, drink a gallon of water, no alcohol and following a diet of your choice each day for 75 days. It was both hard and helpful that the last 30 days of 75hard fell during bloglikecrazy.
The truth is that the reminder snuck up on me. I didn’t realize it had been a year. I knew it was close but 2020 has disoriented my sense of time and a sense of myself. During 75hard, I was planning on competing in a Strongman, training for the possibility of a Trifecta (three Spartan races) and for the first time, I saw a new thing emerge in me. An athletic me, a physically competitive me, the me who knew she would fall and never come in first, but was willing to shatter those perfectionist tendencies.
I want to find her again. I need to find her again. It would be easy for me to slip all the way back permanently. I spent 39 years never truly competing. Never willing to break down the body. I jogged, belly danced, took Zumba, water aerobics, yoga, hot yoga. I never knew dedication.
Now that I know I want her back, it’s time to do what I can at home or outdoors by my lonesome. Buy (and use) weights, kettlebells, go on walks, stretch and plan for a safe way to compete again (hopefully) in 2021.
I was outside on a walk today. Since the start of the pandemic, the frequency of these walks have decreased. All those walks I took last year while participating in the 75 hard challenge seem like they happened at the turn of the century. Back then, I used walking as a form of exercise and meditation. I used it as my time away from the hectic schedule of work, gym, writing, get togethers, church and endless errands.
I don’t need the time in the same way anymore. I find myself getting too comfortable sitting inside, weighed down by blankets, napping, thinking, daydreaming about the ocean or deep tubs to soak in, reading, scrolling or watching TV.
I mistook all this newfound down time to provide the same thing. But it isn’t. I forgot the power of forward motion in sunlight can change perspective, take away some of the blues and the tendency to self-sabotage.
I can’t sabotage or hide. Movement awakens energy, gives the static a place to go. I become electric in the forward movement. Pounding pavement and weaving through children playing in the streets today reminded me where I am supposed to devote more time.
That is all it took. Throwing on sneakers, a jacket and stepping outside by myself to drown a little of me out and let the quiet in.
I’ve been wrestling with words lately. West African Lutte traditionnelle. Senegalese Laamb. Greco-Roman. Sumo.
Writing in print, needlessly in and out of cursive, striking keys, struggling to fit the words that already told me they don’t belong, deleting, violently scratching out the black ink, the blue ink, erasing the graphite, turning phrases over in my mind, a cycle so dizzying I shut my eyes only to open them again and start anew.
I have worked on 5 different versions of the same piece. I decided to walk away but when my mind wanders it comes back to the same story, waiting to be told. This may be obsession but this also may be necessity.
It feels as if I am on the brink of being bested but a part of me is confident, when the time is right, I will let go.
Allow myself to play on the page and trust what will be is the divine order of things.
Today, I want to do something I haven’t done in awhile here. Shine a light on a poet.
Esther Belin is a Dine writer and multimedia artist based out of Colorado. She is the author of “From the Belly of my Beauty” and “Of Cartography: Poems.”
I chose “Night Travel” simply because of the way it connected me to memory especially here: “we’d be hungry for travel and for being almost home.”
I have been there. If you ever took a long car ride at night, Dad at the wheel, you’ve been there. Even if those are not your memories, Belin invites you to be a passenger in her daddy’s truck, reliving the darkness and the road with her.
I. I like to travel to L.A. by myself My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown indigenous and immigrant haze are healing. I travel from one pollution to another. Being urban I return to where I came from My mother survives in L.A. Now for over forty years.
I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day on the road before CHP one with the dark driving my black truck invisible on my journey home.
The dark roads take me back to my childhood riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home. My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper and sometime in the darkness of the day daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets And they would pray before daddy started the truck for journey mercies.
Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road the long darkness empty of cars Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.
About an hour from Flagstaff the sun would greet us and the harsh light would break the darkness and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.
II. I know the darkness of the roads endless into the glowy path before me lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine. The humming from tires whisper mile after mile endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.
I know the darkness of the roads It swims through my veins dark like my skin and silenced like a battered wife. I know the darkness of the roads It floods my liver pollutes my breath yet I still witness the white dawning.
Time off the next few days without the expectation of going to work, a class or a meeting. I have days off but I regularly schedule appointments, meetings and errands. The only thing I am committed to is posting here until the end of the month.
2. Time to read. Octavia Butler’s “The Parable of the Sower” and “The Parable of the Talents” have been on tables and nightstands throughout my home. Started and put back down to write, sleep, work and binge watch to unwind. I am a better writer when I read and also far more inspired.
3. Taking a few more bike rides before it gets too cold. We haven’t out on our bikes in a while and I want to get back out there. I don’t believe I have ridden my bike through fall leaves since I was a little girl. I am looking forward to doing that again.
4. My upcoming workshop “Get Lifted: Using Music and Poetry to Find Your Light.” I keep finding songs and poems that seem perfect for it. I am hopeful listening, writing and reading aloud together will produce an experience that actually leaves us lighter and ready to try it again.
5. Seeing my family over Zoom tomorrow. It’s been a few months since we have all seen each other at the same time virtually and in person, years. COVID-19 has taken away so much but it cannot take this.
In the mornings, I often work from my bedroom. Sometimes, I play podcasts or music in the background. I was listening to “In Class with Carr”, a conversation between Karen Hunter and Dr. Greg Carr. They were fawning (rightly so) over Stacey Abrams. They discussed her intelligence, her organizational skills, determination and her career as a romance novelist under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery.
Dr. Carr asked “Where does she find the time? Is it discipline?”
Karen Hunter then uttered this profound statement: “What I imagine is that Stacey Abrams tapped into her fullness.”
She noted there’s enough time if we don’t waste it. Some people walk around as if they are waiting for life to crack open. What she observed is what leaves most people awestruck: She steps into the world fully unafraid.
I won’t claim to know the innermost thoughts of Ms. Abrams but she operates as if she left fear stranded on the side of the road 8 states away on a cross-country trip. She does not wait for excellence to descend upon her. She rises to meet it.
We all know that if she can, we can. This “In Class” episode prompted me to search for more material for my upcoming workshop, map out ideas for a new opportunity and create my profile for the See Jane Write Collective rather than scrambling to complete it later.
It also prompted another thought. Tapping into our fullness is our calling.
I watched “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Netflix yesterday afternoon. It is the tale of toy inventor, Jeronicus Jangle, finding his way back to believing in himself with the help of his precocious genius granddaughter, Journey, many years after an apprentice stole his work that led to financial ruin. I knew it would be full of song, dance and Christmas cheer but I didn’t expect it to be the movie I needed to see in 2020.
It delighted me to see a Black cast expressing joy so unabashedly. It allowed me to indulge in this magical fantasy without racism lingering in the shadows. I loved seeing beautiful brown skinned children surrounding their grandmother (played by the incomparable Phylicia Rashad) clamoring to hear this story amid a crackling fire and Christmas decorations. The costumes were gorgeous. The idea of an Afro-Victorian fusion was genius. One of many highlights was a snowball fight and dance between Journey and Jeronicus and set to an Afrobeats song.
The acting was incredible and I would expect nothing less from Forest Whitaker, Keegan Michael Key and Anika Noni Rose but the children shone so brightly, too! I wasn’t taken out of the fantasy even once.
There were many messages delivered centered around believing in yourself but this by far was the most moving from Jeronicus to Journey:”Never be afraid when people can’t see what you see. Only be afraid if you no longer see it.” It’s one of those messages tailor made for everyone, but especially for those who may be on the brink of losing hope. Now that is something I believe we can also use a little more of in 2020.
I am looking for inspiration today. Every year I participate in the bloglikecrazy challenge, I have a couple of days like this. The ideas seems stale. I type a few paragraphs and then delete it all. Nothing reads right and what inspired me only yesterday seems like it never was.
So what to do on a day like this? Where the time and opportunity to write is there but all I want to do is fling pen, computer and phone far, far away to avoid doing it. I am thinking this is when I choose to calm down, take a breath and realize I created and control this space.
If inspiration to write a poem, an essay, a gratitude list or a letter is nowhere to be found, then accept it. By acceptance, I mean write about it just as I am doing now. Making the choice to be consistent with writing anything is my only way through. Each year, I remind myself of this as if it’s the first time I’ve thought it.
I don’t get frustrated with myself because I need the reminder. I figure this is God’s way, on a lazy Sunday, of sending a nudge.
A nudge for me to remember I am only human. That just because it may not come easy today doesn’t mean it won’t come.
After all, three years of challenges have been met and on day 22 of year 4, there’s no reason to believe the moment cannot be met now.
I am waiting for my husband to come home with bunches of greens from his mother’s house. We are going to rinse the earth from the leaves, smash and peel garlic cloves, dice red onions, sprinkle spices and boil and simmer.
Our fingers will be coated with spice and juice. We will stand in the kitchen, keeping an eye over the heat, noses tickled by the aroma.
The chit chat will be idle. I will tell him how delicious it will be, our feast.
Occasionally, I will inch closer to him, crane my neck, pout my lips and his head will bend down to receive