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.

Vision

During my minimizing tear yesterday, I found an old vision board from about 3-4 years ago. I took a quick picture of it so I could remember this younger version of myself’s vision for the future. There were no grand fundamental changes. It was full of pictures related to giving, writing, making a living writing, authors like Edwidge Danticat and Maya Angelou, Black women praying together, declarations of love, success and fitness inspiration like runners and Misty Copeland, fruits and vegetables and a small section dedicated to being individual, even if it means keeping it a little weird.

What really caught my eye was a picture of a woman with an afro, eyes closed, sunlight highlighting the peaceful expression on her face. The words on the top left corner: Get Lifted.

It brought me back to a over a month ago when I was in my bed, scribbling notes about how I wanted to describe my upcoming class at Life in 10 Minutes and what I wanted to call it. I knew listening to music and poetry had brought me joy, allowed me to escape for awhile and I wanted to write about it with others. It was my medicine for melancholy.

I thought it hit me out of nowhere: Get Lifted: Using Music and Poetry to Find Your Light.

But peering down at the vision board, seeing a brown-skinned woman, sunlight beaming across her face, framing her afro, the words “Get Lifted” boldly printed on the page, the “out of nowhere” part no longer rang true.

I am slowly becoming her. I was always her.

When I guide the class on December 6th, I will be embracing her, rising from the page and breathing into her future.

If you’d like to join me:

https://www.lifein10minutes.com/writing-classes/5f75fe8b2f8bbc914db4ab65

Team

I have been on a minimizing tear this year. I got rid of a couch, sold almost one hundred books, donated several bags of clothes and kitchenware, threw away kitchen items and today, we cleaned and went through every inch of the bathroom, literally from floor to ceiling, cabinets and all.

I am actually writing this from the car after a quick run to the store for new bathroom accessories and groceries with a jumbo bag of recycling in the trunk. Something hit me earlier while scrubbing the floor and Hubby was dust busting our steps. He said something about teamwork making the dream work which always makes us feel a little lighter when doing tedious work.

He was right but I couldn’t help but think it’s only true when it’s the right team.

My husband and I switched off with scrubbing, dusting, bleaching when the other’s back was aching and when we played the “should this stay or go game”, our habits and needs were considered. We watch out for each other when it comes to being mindful of what we want to eat and who could stand to take a night off cooking or do it together.

I envision many things for my marriage and other relationships, most of it coming down to respect and who’s really there for me.

When I look back on all of it, I believe I will know I picked the right team, those who chose to love, listen and grow with me.

What I Took For Granted

During a (socially distant) outdoor get-together a few days ago, a friend and I talked about what we missed about the pre-COVID-19 world. As we were talking, it quickly turned to what we had actually taken for granted.

  1. Going out to eat indoors at a bustling restaurant. I haven’t gone out to eat anywhere since March–even outdoors. I always enjoyed the occasional long lunch or dinner with my husband or friends. It was our time to shake off the cycle of going to work, coming home, watch TV/read/workout and sleep. I even miss looking over at other tables to see what they are eating, the clang of plates, forks and knives and the multitude of aromas floating from the kitchen.

2. Concerts. I hope I never say “I’ll see him/her/them next time they come” because now I don’t know when “next time” will be. The energy of singing along and rocking my body to a live performer in an arena or club with other fans is the kind of connection I miss sorely. It cannot be duplicated online.

3. Travel. I know some are masking up and taking the risk to fly but that isn’t for me right now. All those times I searched for flights to London, Ghana, to go back to Aruba but dismissed it, just knowing we would go later now seem like missed opportunities. I know there will be a time where it will be a safe reality again but I really didn’t know what I had until it was gone.

4. This one is big for me–time spent with family. All of my immediate family and cousins live hours away from me and out of state. Since my household is immunocompromised, taking the risk definitely isn’t worth it. There is an ache within me I know will only be soothed when I get to see, hug and kiss them safely again. If I could go back in time, I would have been in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, California, New York and Florida more often and never put it off because I thought the time would always be there. This virus has even taken away my husband and I being able to safely pay our respect in person for the loss of my beautiful Auntie in New York. I took for granted that I would see her again at another family function, a familiar and loving presence.

5. The feeling of safety. As a Black woman married to a Black man in America, safety isn’t always a guarantee but I never imagined the feeling of security would be robbed from me in this way. No one did. I can take all the precautions I want but if I don’t feel safe, it doesn’t matter. I won’t have peace.

Nothing is worth sacrificing my peace.

All I can do is watch and wait and work, connect with who and what I love and breathe.

And forgive.

Forgive myself for taking these small pleasures and great joys for granted.