Make a Plan

I was listening to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Jericho Brown in a podcast interview with Lewis Howes (The School of Greatness). They spoke of many things: letting go of a poem, adopting the identity of Jericho Brown, their shared history of abuse, paying homage to Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Lucille Clifton and his relationship with God.

But here’s what grabbed my attention more than any of the deep penetrating conversation: He says he makes a plan for laughter. He referred to watching an episode of “The Golden Girls” every night. During the Slant Poetry Festival, he mentioned his nightly ritual with Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia but I didn’t know it was an intentional plan.

I have never heard of anyone making a plan for laughter. Of course, I love to laugh but what would a plan look like? Or is the best part of laughter is when it comes spontaneously?

I will take my spontaneous giggles when they come but I like the idea of making time to laugh. I already enjoy comedic television and podcasts regularly. My husband and I probably goof around with each other more than most. It’s just us so there’s no one around to be “grown-up” for. We are not above dancing for each other, tickling and purposely watching a nighttime soap or two, just to howl with laughter at the over the top antics and tragic acting.

So maybe the plan starts with asking myself each day: Have I laughed today? And if not, what will I do to change it?

After all, what’s so bad about seeking relief from the dreary?

About letting a little laughter in?

Ascension

Last night, I cooked spelt spaghetti listening and intermittently peering into the living room to catch scenes from Solange’s When I Get Home visual album. I love the scenes with Black cowboys, riding regally down Houston streets.

I cut that part of my evening short to virtually attend Brooklyn Public Library’s event #SAYHERNAME, A Public Reading of Audre Lorde’s Need: A Chorale For Black Woman Voices, hosted by Sheena Wilson and moderated by my storytelling sister from University of Alabama, Tuacaloosa, Dr. Jameka Hartley.

There are times where you should be speaking and there are times where you should just listen. Last night was a time to listen. It was not because Jameka and her fellow poets, Keya and Liseli read Ms. Lorde’s work beautifully.

It was because I needed to learn.

During Jameka’s introduction, she mentioned she was moved to do this after the tragic death of the young activist, Toyin Salau, earlier this year. Need was written in 1979 after the death of 12 Black women in four short months in the Boston area. Sadly, we know why this is still happening.

Black women are still invisible. Our pain is ignored. But when we speak up a little too loudly about our pain or organize coalitions, birth movements, we are a threat–to colonized mentality, to governments, to whatever “status quo” is deemed to be.

I found myself typing and then erasing in the chat “Black women are invisible and perceived to be a threat simultaneously. It is infuriating.”

I erased it because I just wanted to listen and for that night to be about these scholarly sisters honoring Audre. Another one of my storytelling sisters spoke up about the adversity she’s encountered in her quest to secure quality mental health resources. This led to a discussion that included solutions in the form of a “kitchen table”, a close knit group of people with whom you can be vulnerable, calling on an ancestor and “dating” therapists until you’ve found “the one.”

There was commentary from the one man in the room about his need to protect his own sister and other Black women. Recognition of the fight of queer women like Audre Lorde and the founders of the Black Lives Matter was discussed.

At the end of the night, powerful poetry was recited for us. It was the perfect closing. After logging off, my husband asked how I felt. He heard my rejoicing and saw my head nodding vigorously throughout it.

He knew how I felt. He knows I want to be in a real room with those people. He knows I now want to close the door behind me with a stack of books written by Black women and do my homework. I want to write and read and shift my perspective.

I want to ascend.

So last night started with a pot of boiling pasta, being awestruck at Black cowboys and transcendent music and ended with Ms. Lorde’s work setting something ablaze inside of me.

5 Things You May Not Know…

I love sharing about writing and growth but there’s more to me than what ends up on the page. Here are 5 things you may not know:

  1. I love the NBA. I was all in watching the playoffs in the bubble, John Starks from the 90’s NY Knicks is still one of my favorite players and I will happily watch commentary on ESPN and FS1 as if they are paying me to view it.
  2. I love how comedians think. I watch and listen to their podcasts. I am in awe of the courage it takes to hit the stage. I have heard many stories of getting booed. I could not do it, especially since that level of rejection may have to happen a hundred times before approaching “good”. I am fascinated by their motivation for wanting to make the world laugh, even when it seems some may be crying on the inside.
  3. Every time I watch “The Sound of Music”, I cry. I don’t know why. When Julie Andrews starts to sing “My Favorite Things”, my voice starts to tremble. Maybe it’s the nostalgia? We watched it every year and we owned the movie growing up. I still have a soft spot for Julie Andrews.
  4. My husband has tried to teach me chess many times but I end up making jokes and getting distracted because I lack patience. I am starting to watch “Queen’s Gambit” and I hope it inspires me to try again.

5. I once sprained my ankle during a trust exercise. That’s right. Trust. I was blindfolded and being led by a fellow leadership camp participant. I tripped over the edge of a sidewalk into the grass when my guide stopped paying attention. There was never a real apology and I stayed on crutches for a few weeks. No thank you to that kind of “trust.”

I hope you find out a few new things and maybe we have something in common.

I Already Have It

I am writing this from my bedroom because my hubby is making me breakfast and he doesn’t want me around, checking in on his culinary masterpiece to be. I am still currently banned from our guest bedroom where his surprise is but that’s fine by me. He mentioned something about hoping I like whatever he’s creating.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter.

I already have my present. Someone I love tooled around town, masked up, picking up items to create a gift for me. This very person made it possible for me to spend a few hours with my pages undisturbed and brought me dinner without asking last night.

I will write it again.

I already have my present.

I can open whatever it is and know I am staring at thoughtfulness from someone who just wants to make me happy.

I am not sure what else I am supposed to be asking for.

Happy Birthday to me.

Halfway Once More

A few minutes ago, I sent the first rough draft of my chapbook off to my publisher. I also connected with a talented artist friend of mine who will work on the cover. I know there’s plenty of work to do but getting this step done, pressing send at this point lifts a bit of the weight. It is fitting that halfway through bloglikecrazy, this part is finished. I made sure the load I was carrying never felt too heavy. I took advantage of the time I had at Miracle Mornings, weekends and a designated writing session with the See Jane Write Collective to get here.

I also have time to reflect on what many consider a big birthday. Tomorrow, I turn 40. I am currently not allowed to peek at our guest bedroom because there is supposed to be a surprise waiting there for me. I have the day off of work. I get to sleep, snuggle with my husband and be grateful to celebrate, even in a pandemic when I am missing my family.

Compared to most of the internet, my idea of celebrating my birthday is low-key at best. But outside of wishing I had a group of close family and friends to safely gather and watch me struggle to blow out my candles, I am happy. I can wait until next year. Maybe by then, I will be flying away from home, ushering in 41 with a new stamp on my passport.

The Rider

I was drawn to reread Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. I had takeaways when I read it a few years ago but this time I read it for a very different reason. It was for the reminder to give myself grace and surrender to the process. I knew I had a self-care writing session to lead, another writing class in December, a bloglikecrazy challenge coming and pages I needed to edit and submit in November. With all of that on the horizon, it would be natural to think I wouldn’t want to crack open a book, let alone something I’ve read before.

Big Magic serves to remind the reader of the sacred nature of creativity and how you must protect it. Protection looks like not putting too much pressure on it to financially support me, engaging with it and remembering it’s part of my gifting from God. It made me laugh, recognize when I was not honoring my gift and that time spent away to come back to my work with new eyes is essential.

When it came to a close, I knew I wanted to commit deeply. Gilbert describes a ceremony where she took a vow to wed writing when she was young. I may never take such vows but my commitment is riding with me, a silent partner who occasionally reaches over to change the music, hold my hand and take over just when I think there’s no more road left to travel.

Moving on

Hubby and I recently started talking about moving. I bought my home 13 years ago. I loved knowing I was a single woman in my 20’s buying property for no one but herself. I wasn’t waiting for marriage or for anyone to save me before making the leap, either. I have fond memories of my realtor walking me through the house, loving the layout, my walk-in closet and getting excited about being less than 10 minutes from work and the city.

I was so proud on the morning of my closing. My family and friends (except for one who was patronizing towards me) were happy for me. I felt like I had won, especially when I gripped the keys in my hands for the first time.

All these years later, I still feel a sense of pride for that young woman but I am also ready to say goodbye. I am at a stage where I know that although Hubby and I haven’t physically grown out of this place, emotionally we have moved on. I also realized there’s no permission needed to no longer hold on. I don’t need a security blanket.

We are slowly but surely making the changes we need. I am in no hurry to go. I am at peace with our decision even if we don’t know where we’ll be in a year or two.

I think this is what is called acceptance.

Boundaries

I took a couple of days to rest so today was my first day back to Miracle Mornings. There was a lot of talk about boundaries. Who we let in our inner circle. Who pours into us? Who drains us? Is there a balance?

I have had this conversation with myself several times over the years. I knew when it was time to slip away or when I simply didn’t have the energy anymore. Sometimes it happened rather quickly or it took years because of my refusal to see what was in front of me. Because I refused to acknowledge the dread or panic I felt when I saw a particular name on the phone. It was easier to be there to listen or lean on than admit it was mostly one-sided and I was tired.

In those situations, I can only point the finger at myself. Asking for what I need in any relationship is my job. It is also my job to discern where people fit in and how my energy is invested. Please understand I know people are doing the same with me. People have disappeared, grown distant and drawn closer over the years and sometimes one person has done all three. That is OK. I may never know why relationships develop or weaken in my life and to be honest, I don’t always want to know. If I hurt someone, I want the opportunity to talk it through. If that person just has outgrown me or we feel each other drifting with no animosity, no words need to be spoken.

This has been the hardest for me to go through as an adult. It challenged my courage, my honesty, my ability to communicate, how I viewed myself as a source of support and my value as a friend, daughter, sister, cousin and wife.

Establishing boundaries, how we choose to protect ourselves and energy is ever evolving. I believe I will be working through it whether or not I am open to growth, open to trust or open to the love people are trying to give.

24 to 40

When I was 24, I graduated from college. Two years later, after a failed stint in a grad program that didn’t fit me, I moved back home and bought my first condo. Five years after that, I got married. A year later, I left my job which started me down a path to figure out what I was supposed to do. Two years after that, I enrolled in a different grad program and left after a successful semester of classes. By this time, every family member I had left the state, I developed fibroid tumors and psoriasis on most parts of my body.

A few months after leaving grad school, I knew if I was going to make anything creative work, I would have to do more writing than talking. I started writing a novel and had one article published. I joined a group of people trying to structure their lives and focus on goal setting. A couple of months later, I pitched said novel to an agent. The pitch went well and she requested pages. I sent her pages she did not love.

I kept writing this novel that seemed to go nowhere. I started a blog upon the suggestion of an agent at the writer’s conference where I pitched my idea. I took creative non-fiction and fiction writing classes, went to book signings and workshops and met other writers. I worked a few more jobs that had nothing to do with what I love most but you know, money.

When I was 37, I had a series of panic attacks I didn’t see coming. I thought working a soul numbing job, blogging three times a week, stressing about my husband’s health, writing a wedding vows journal and trying to keep up with life in general was a lot of things that were no big deal until I couldn’t breathe in the bed and then in front of my computer.

About a month later, I was let go for the first time from this job. I got back out there again and found one that was close by. At this time, I was still writing but not sure where any of it is going. I applied for a storytelling project for women of color. I actually get it. I fly to the University of Alabama. I feel myself coming to life again. My voice seems to be audible where it felt so quiet before. I had spoken a couple of places and published more but this was different.

I could be Black, insecure, awkward but vocal me. It didn’t matter I hadn’t found my footing professionally. In Alabama, I was surrounded by Black women who were excelling in every field from education, activism, music to law and social work. I could have felt less worthy but it didn’t matter. We all had stories to tell.

I flew back home and kept writing. I start working at a non-profit whose values more closely align with mine and eventually start facilitating creative non-fiction writing sessions there. I keep going to counseling and start weight training. I see myself as an athlete for the first time as a Strongman competitor. I keep writing because now it’s 2020 and I can’t hold back anymore of my rage, anxiety and frustration at the state of the world. I need to be free.

My writing becomes more honest.

I become more honest with myself.

I start thinking about turning this honesty into a book.

I receive a phone call. I am offered the opportunity to compile my work into a book by a publisher.

In a few days, I will be 40. I am just starting.

Because my life will always be a series of beginnings and endings.

Word of the Day

My word of the day is rest. My idea of raucous activity today is stretching, sipping everything hot I can find and sleeping. Typically, when I get rundown and the coughing ramps up, I know it’s time to be still. I had to learn the hard way (a few times) if I keep pushing, convincing myself “it’s nothing”, I end up in a worse place, physically and emotionally.

The bed calls on mornings like these and I listen. I have a big day coming next week. The last thing I need is to be ushering in a milestone birthday, sniffling and exhausted. But even while feeling like this, I find myself rolling over, reaching for a pen and notebook on my bedside table. I jotted down thoughts about a possible song to use for my upcoming class and I am writing this post. It was comforting to have my creativity running even while I rest and recover.

It still feels like I am choosing myself.