I was preparing work for an residency application recently. To do so, I gathered up some of my journals and spent time walking myself down memory lane. I leafed through pages of drafts of poems, words and phrases I couldn’t let go of, entries simply dedicated to gratitude interspersed with prayers asking God to save me in the midst of my most trying periods of anxiety and short stories created in my evening writing classes.
As I read, I realized I was going through more than whatever poured from me at the time, more than memories.
I was going through evidence.
Evidence that proved I didn’t want to keep it bottled up inside. Evidence that I have been broken, grateful, loving, miserable, joyous, creative, funny, scared, unapologetic, selfish, giving, a conduit for characters I didn’t know needed to exist, lazy, sexy, prideful, hard-working.
I felt my age in the best way this past week. At work, I was asked questions about my professional experience and my current dreams by a young twenty-something intern. I answered all questions thoughtfully without any apology or excuse for mistakes I have made.
I had lunch with a dear friend over the weekend. We spoke for hours about our next steps, our relationships, families and made plans for a literary weekend getaway. Reconnecting with someone with whom I have a strong bond with, built over many years is one of my greatest joys and makes me a more whole woman.
I went to an event about mindfulness on Friday. We did an exercise where, without our phones and in complete silence, a group of us went outside for five minutes and observed nature. There was power in the silence of people, the wood logs arranged artistically at the entrance, a charcoal gray insect traversing a bright green leaf and my choice to remove my shoes and feel the earth beneath.
Feeling my age did not mean I slowed down. It meant I could speak fondly about the past without a need to sugar-coat. I can reflect, thanking the girl and woman I was who allowed me to be who I am. I did not wish to be a young girl. I like who I have become and still look forward to chances I will take when I am in my 40s.
It is a privilege to own this experience while I am living it. It is a privilege to enjoy it while I am living it.
Last Thursday I went to a book launch for “Traveling the River” a moving book of poetry by my good (and wildly talented friend) Hope Whitby.
After congratulating her and taking pictures as if I was a proud mama, I took my seat and waited for the reading portion of the evening to begin.
A word kept coming to mind as I waited and persisted as Hope told stories of what inspired certain pieces and as she read her work to us. A word kept coming to mind as I took in the beauty of the Japanese artwork around me. A word kept coming to mind as I watched her supporters fill the seats, ready to toast her with cake and champagne.
I have spent many evenings in writing classes with her, around a table in reserved library spaces and cafes listening to her stories and poems and sharing literary dreams. She gave me my first book about haikus and was one of the first people to buy my E-book last year. When I heard she was asked to write this book, the first book by Valley Haggard’s Life in 10 Minutes press, it came as no shock at all. It felt right. It felt as if my friend’s time has come.
When your friend or family’s time has come, you stop and celebrate. You plunk down your money and buy. You gift it.
Someone asked me if I was working out, as a means of self-care.
I immediately started to talk about a work out regimen or whether or not I was making it to the gym.
After I finished, I was told I was asked about working out not as a means to lose weight but as a means of survival.
I have never thought of it that way before. I have never thought of anything I do as a way “to survive.”
Because there has been periods in my life (especially within the last year) where stress moved in to our guest bedroom and snuggled up in the sheets, maybe I will look at moving this vessel of mine and transferring these thoughts onto the page as a means of survival.
Maybe this is my way of using a machete to hack away at the brush in the wilderness. A way to be my own hero.
I was recently asked what I was doing to take care of myself.
I paused and realized I didn’t have a good answer. I am unable to take the writing class I want at this time. The additional work I have taken on is worth it however, I have not yet struck a balance yet. Balancing work, home life, exercise and adequate rest. So I am making time right now to write, with eyes half closed, Sixers game in the background, contemplating reworking the poem I wrote yesterday.
I may have slowed down but not to a stop. I am also not discouraged. Maybe letting go of the pressure to post so often has been the self-care I need. I think there was a part of me that would have felt forgotten and all of my hard work would have somehow washed away if I took the break that I needed.
But that is just clinging to fear which serves no one, least of all me.
I am going to trust myself. Trust the writer I know I am and the audience who will find me.
A co-worker told me she rented studio space recently to begin doing her art again and it reminded me that I had let several weeks go by without writing.
I have added quite a bit of new work to my schedule which (predictably) sapped any creativity from me. There was also a death in my family which despite great sadness brought us together.
But with this death came reconnection. Not just with my parents, cousins and aunts and uncles who I sorely missed. We had the pleasure of staying with Hubby’s cousins in Georgia on the way down to Florida. We stayed with them almost 5 years ago on an anniversary trip to Savannah. They welcomed us with such warmth and exuberance I immediately remembered why I loved staying with them so much the first time around.
After coming back from Florida to their home, they took us out, fed us well and made us feel right at home. I even shared some of my writing with them and I got to read work one of them wrote. They gave us a surprise the night before we left. To honor my Haitian heritage, they gifted us with two paintings and a wooden piece purchased in an artist square on Port-au-Prince in the 90’s. I was and am incredibly moved.
On the way back home, there was another reconnection.
A completely unexpected one.
Hubby and I reconnected. Between work schedules, doctor appointments and life in general, we haven’t spent enough quality time together. I am not counting time spent catching up on TV shows.
The long drives provided uninterrupted time full of conversation, laughter, 80s and 90s music sing-alongs and random comfortable silences.
When we finally came home, he went back out to run a quick errand while I started dinner. While pasta was cooking, I sat back down and an intense feeling hit me.
I missed him. We just spent almost 8 hours in the car together and I missed him. I hadn’t felt that way after just being around him since we first got married.
Although the trip was born out of a painful experience, I recognize and honor the blessings that came from it.
I don’t think I want to write about anything health related these days. My posts seem to read on repeat when it comes to health. I am not the kind of blogger that wants to share everything so I find myself constantly editing my thoughts when I write here.
When I know I am taking consistent action on my health, I will post about it here again. Until then, I will post on Thursdays and the focus will be on writing. I will start sharing pieces I have written, too. I already miss using prompts to write fiction and non-fiction work in class. Why not continue it here?
Making this change is the most self-aware choice I have made in awhile (aside from therapy). I know when I am doing my best, when I am just talking about wanting to do my best and when I have nothing left to say at all concerning it.
This is my season to put up or shut up.
So I am putting the pen down and picking it back up again when there is something real to share.
I have spent the last couple of weeks letting myself just be. I did join a new accountability group for health. I think I have been reveling in the knowledge that all of my tests came back with good news so the anxiety has taken a backseat to relief and joy.
It’s funny the things I am fretting over now compared to even a month ago. My mind is now freed up to focus more on my career and the fun things I want to do with Hubby.
We were at a supper club on Sunday night. The performance was all covers of Anita Baker hits. Besides the food and the singing giving me life, knowing I could be there without a cloud of exhaustion hanging over me was more than I could have asked for.
There are still a few things on the horizon we need to get past but we’re almost there.
Which is enough.
Not only because there is a finish line.
But because now we can breathe a little bit easier on the way there.
I am finding out more about the kind of writer I am. I didn’t know when I started this novel writing class it would happen. The permission I gave myself to play worked. Even on the days (one of which was yesterday) I thought I had nothing to give, I manage an outpouring that is genuine and doesn’t feel strained.
Next week is the last class in this session. I fully expect to get direction on what to focus on until our next session and feedback on my growth. As much as it has invigorated me, I almost didn’t go last night. But something told me, even with my eyes half closed, I would regret it. And I would have been right.
The fellowship with the other writers, the prompts, the sharing and the encouragement gave me a second life. I can’t believe it’s almost over but now I know what I have to look forward to.
I wish I had more to write about tonight. I tried to get ahead of my writing assignments to avoid stress and it worked but it feels weird not to write under the gun. I am not sure if I am giving my best self to the work because I know I have “time.”
Also, how in the world do people still not know it’s rude to point to someone with any ailment (in my case, psoriasis) and blurt out “What’s that?”
It’s been awhile since I have encountered people like that and today, when it was rudely asked of me (by someone who is most definitely an elder), I realized how genuinely tired I am. Tired of the scrutiny. Tired of the stares. Tired of the moments where I hesitate to show a little more skin. Tired of wishing I could go back and appreciate everything I had before this happened. Tired of thinking about whether I am doing the right or the wrong thing based on the state of inflammation.
Four and a half years have taken a serious toll on me.
Today is one of those days where I feel the weight of the toll.
And I will let myself feel it. I am not looking for a lesson. I will let myself be.