The Kind of Writer I Want to Be

The rest of my year is shaping up to be full of writing activities, time with family, work and moving regularly. I am actively exploring Kemetic Yoga and dancing around in my own house for these options. I also decided to spend more time reading. One of my current reads, “Rockaway: Surfing Headlong Into a New Life” is about a 40-something journalist and divorcee who challenges herself to become a surfer. It reminds me of my goal to continue competing as a Strongwoman. This is no surprise as reading has always made me want to dip my toes into worlds I have yet to explore be that with travel, athletics or activism.

I have a tendency to pile on but letting reading take me somewhere else never leaves me feeling like that. It inspires me to write better, look for the detail and cultivate understanding. I attended James River Writers Conference over the weekend and served as a ShopTalk expert with the topic “How to Own Your Story: Getting Your Truth on the Page.” It was invigorating to listen and dispense advice to other writers and part of me wished I could jet off to the future to hold their finished works in my hands.

Right before my first ShopTalk session on Saturday morning

We were told at the conference that being a literary citizen is writing, reading is writing and good conversation can be writing. I believe this to be true because when I am engaged in any of these things, I find spirit lifted and I feel nudged to get to a pen and jot these experiences down.

I am hosting the second session of the virtual open mic poetry series “From the Page to the Mic” with Henrico County Public Library this Saturday and the last on November 13th. I am attending a showcase at my sister’s pole studio next weekend and an author’s signing in December. I will be bending, stretching, dancing, writing, reading, listening, supporting and watching others’ art. I can’t think of a better way to grow into the kind of writer I want to be.

They were waiting all along…

These past 2 weekends have been filled with some of the most beautiful people, poetry, truth and art. I had the honor of co-facilitating a writing and yoga workshop entitled “Our Whole Black Selves” with my dear friend, poet and yogi Kisha Hughes on September 12th. We had planned this event for well over a year. When COVID hit, our plans came to a standstill but they were not forgotten.

We held it at The Baresoul Yoga studio with the Well Collective (gorgeous space!). Because it was a BIPOC yoga only event, the space created was void of the tension that comes with having to explain yourself and of apology. There is such a special freedom in spaces like that and I am proud Kisha and I facilitated it. The event was 45 minutes of yoga (which I desperately needed to focus and center myself) and the rest of the time was devoted to journaling, sharing and witnessing the truths spoken from each of the women who attended. Each participant was given a copy of my book “She Lives Here” and two of my pieces were read and served as inspiration for journaling prompts. On the drive back home, I felt many things but this overall: an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Throughout the week, I held onto small moments of the event: the sound of our collective breathing, knowing smiles from one woman to the other and the smell of the herbs and flowers wrapped in twine gifted to me and Kisha.

I held on as I prepared for the next event—a vision I had since early spring—to bring an open mic poetry event to my local library. In March of 2021, celebrated poet Brian Voice Porter Hawkins reached out to find female poets to honor Women’s History Month during his event “Bards and Brews” with Birmingham Public Library. I answered the call and my exchanges with Brian and the lovely experience of the event inspired me to forge ahead with my idea to bring an open mic to our library. It was of the highest importance to me to have poets (both novice and veteran) share their art in an open, supportive, uplifting and diverse environment.

After the library said yes and months of planning, our first session in the series, “From the Page to the Mic” made it’s debut this past Saturday. This was my first time hosting an open mic so the nerves were present but I trusted all the work, prayer and good intentions. It surpassed all expectations for me. All of the poets were celebrating one another and read personal, powerful pieces. I now have an even deeper understanding of how vital it is to bring a beautifully inclusive community together to honor the art of poetry.

Now that the first session is over, my excitement is only building for the next 2: October 16th (amplifying BIPOC voices) and in November 13th (work reflecting our origin stories) with Henrico County Public Library.

In the midst of this, I am also honored to participate in the James River Writers Conference for the first time answering questions about “How to Own Your Story” as a ShopTalk presenter. As I give all of you these updates, I am remembering a shyer, slightly quieter and less confident version of myself who chose to only dream about these realities. I am not reaching that far back. I hope this serves as inspiration to stand in the truth if who you are, who you want to be and rest with the knowledge there is a community of people who were waiting for you all along.

Pine Needles

It’s been awhile.

I hope the next post I write here doesn’t start off the same way. The last 3 months—which I believe is the longest break I have ever taken from writing here—have been a whirlwind. Some of the biggest things that have happened are this newly redesigned website, I am partnering with my local library to host a fall poetry series, more interviews for my book of prose and poetry, She Lives Here, I was featured in Richmond Bride Magazine, (first magazine feature) for my E-book, What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal, traveled to see my family (vaccinated, double-masked with goggles on the plane—not playing with COVID) and I have taken some measures to address my physical and mental health.

At the beginning of June, I took a couple of days to visit my niece in PA which ended with me in the ER dehydrated and panicked. I was already on the road to addressing how to handle taking better care of myself but I did not realize how working, planning for more non-stop and still stressed about keeping me and my husband safe had taken a toll on me. I think when you are lying on an ER bed with your heart feeling like it is threatening to leap out of your chest, it’s time to make all the changes. It is time to slow down, abandon the shame that creeps up when you sleep too long, spend some time in the sun and stop pretending like you can push through everything on your own. My norm had become work, panic at any given time, planning for writing events, endless breathing exercises, and cleaning up after my psoriasis riddled body on every surface in the house.

In Florida with Hubby
My first magazine feature!

I was accepting all of THAT as my norm. It wasn’t until I read in the literature provided by my dermatologist that a study found that psoriasis can contribute to anxiety and depression by sending certain messages to your brain that I decided to stop the madness. If I thought I could make it as a raw foodist who does yoga and swims in saltwater pools everyday, maybe I wouldn’t have decided to make the changes I did. I am on new medication that has started clearing my skin, reducing inflammation and I can finally make it through the day without fearing I am approaching the edge.

I also went to a couple of Strongman training classes. I have hurt my back and my wrist but I will hopefully be back next week. It was a shock to the body to be back deadlifting such heavy weight but if I keep at it, I know it will feel like me again.

While I was at one of my lowest days a couple of months ago, I took a drive. I started to have thoughts I can’t bring myself to write here but they were not healthy. What I realize now is that I couldn’t see it for what it was at the time but I remember something that snapped me out of it—the smell of pine needles. My windows were down and I could smell something natural, strong and real after cooping myself up in the house for days. It reminded me how much I love being here, awareness and how much I wanted to fight to always feel that way. Outside of the ER visit, that was the turning point for me.

I spent so much time afraid of taking chances with doctors that I wasn’t giving myself a chance.

I was robbing myself of choice.

This past year and a half showed me that my world could be bigger. I could unapologetically share my truths. I am grateful that I realized I was limiting myself by not taking those chances.

I don’t think God made Kristina a limited being. A flawed one—yes but not a fearful, limited being.

That’s what I hope to express more here—an expansion, curiosity and exploring more of what’s to come.

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.

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.

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

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.

My First 5:00am Post

I am up at 5:00am for Miracle Morning. This morning is my power hour which means it’s my time to work on whatever I choose. Through heavy eyes, all I can think is another group of ladies: See Jane Write Collective.

I rejoined the See Jane Write Collective last weekend after being away for a couple of years. In an effort to be stricter with the household budget, I left it with the intention of coming back once I got my house in better order. I have and even though it’s only been a week, I already noticed a difference.

Here’s where leaving me up to my own devices to just sit down and dedicate time to my writing projects fails me: I never follow a specific writing schedule!

I have had designated days where I posted here over the years and moments where inspiration hit but never a specific hour where I said here is the time. Here is the quiet space. Plant thy buttocks in a chair and don’t get up! I also have been part of groups where we made spotty efforts to convene but inevitably, life gets in the way one too many times and the world shuts down because of a public health nightmare.

So what does See Jane Write Collective have to do with any of this? Knowing I was going to be part of a group of women led by freelance writer Javacia Harris-Bowser with access to online courses, webinars, coaching, virtual write-in and critique sessions was incentive enough to believe I can create the writing schedule I have long aspired to.

Last night was our first write-in session. It was comforting to speak openly about what I planned to work on, hear the other women share their plans and get to work! The hour I spent profoundly changed a few pieces I have been working on and I actually loved the quiet. My habit is to embrace the chaos of sound while writing but last night I opened myself up to the community of women, silently pursuing our writing goals.

As Miracle Morning came to an end, I thought about how much writing I will get to do if I stop getting in my own way.

Writing is not only a part of my work but it is sacred time for me to commune with creativity. I look forward to more of that with the women of the See Jane Write Collective.

Keeping my Promise

I missed my Miracle Morning session today. Some version of me woke up at 4:45am, shut off the alarm and passed right out.

I made a promise to myself that if I missed a day of anything (even bloglikecrazy), that I wouldn’t treat it as if the world has suddenly come crashing down on me. I am going to keep that promise and focus on what I feel grateful for today.

  1. Being able to sleep a full night. That is not always possible for me but especially not the last couple of days. Between anxiety, general restlessness and the state of the world, I tend to let my thoughts run me ragged until consciousness gives way for a few hours. Even with prayer. Even with deep breathing. Even with counting as if I have a residency on Sesame Street. Last night was peaceful and my journey to sleep was swift.
  2. My self-care writing session with my co-workers yesterday. Saying yes to vulnerability and the willingness to express how they combat loneliness were acts of bravery. I was facilitating but it was still one of those experiences where you say to yourself: “I got to be in the room for this.”
  3. Receiving a picture of my precocious and beautiful niece, masked up and ready for socially distant kindergarten. I am sending all of the “Auntie loves you. Auntie is proud of you” vibes I can.

Maybe there should be more but that is all I want to recognize today.

Even finding one bit of joy is enough.