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.

I Did My Part

She said ” We all hold a lot of tension in our hips.”

The she I am referring to is Alee Williams and it was said during this morning’s 5:00am session of Miracle Morning. My next thought was I am holding tension in more places than my hips.

I went to bed late because I knew after this morning’s session, I was off of work because of Election Day. I was tense, worrying about who would be our next President and more specifically, praying for a change in leadership. This person who could influence the country’s trajectory with climate change, equal rights, health care, forming an organized response to COVID-19, the way the U.S. is respected around the world and the future of my beautiful and innocent Black nieces and nephews. I know they are mostly teens but there is so much about this world they don’t fully understand yet. I understand whoever becomes president won’t fundamentally change racism and inequality.

That is a matter of the heart.

But this heart needs hope.

I gave myself some when my husband and I drove our immunocompromised selves, fully masked to the registrar’s office, waited 20 minutes 6 ft apart and cast our ballots over two weeks ago. I did my part. I left nothing to chance.

I hope you don’t.

I am going to gift myself the day to plan writing prompts for a class I am leading tomorrow, read Octavia Butler, pray. nap and distract myself with television that reflects a different reality than the one this country is currently facing–the one we are all facing.

Because I did my part to relieve this tension.

I gave myself hope.

I hope you do your part, too. Remember if it didn’t matter they wouldn’t work so hard to suppress it.

Representation

When I was growing up, I could see myself on a handful of TV shows. Some people thought I looked like Rudy on The Cosby Show (I didn’t). A boy in my homeroom in 9th grade thought I looked like Tia or Tamera from Sister, Sister (Again, not at all).  Our images were so few and far between people had to think of the one or two characters they knew and attach you to it. It also felt like there were a group of shows that no one outside of the Black people I knew watched and if they did, they NEVER talked about it.

I remember excitedly anticipating the premiere of Moesha. A show that centered on a Black teenage girl (played by “I Wanna Be Down” Brandy!) I. Was. Sold.

I taped it on our family VCR. That’s right. I said it. An old rickety VCR. She was smart! I was smart! She liked boys and writes in a diary?! Me too! As I got older, I watched shows with my sister (mostly) and friends that we could relate to, saw parts of ourselves in and who we wanted to be.

Then the UPN and the WB eventually became the CW before they took all of them off the air to gear their programming to an unmistakably whiter and younger audience.

Where was my Girlfriends? I loved seeing 4 Black women with distinctly different backgrounds. I missed the freewheeling artistic vegan Lynn, the smart and sassy Maya, the neurotic but loyal Joan and the sexy and ambitious Toni. Where was I ever going to see shows like Half and Half (Mona’s hair and those boots!), One on One or The Game again?

I know now I can watch Black-ish, Insecure, Queen Sugar or grittier shows like Michaela Coel’s “I May Destroy You” for creative and quality representation but there was something special about the mid-90’s-2000’s. Even if every episode of all the shows weren’t classic, we all knew what we were talking about when we referenced “The Professor”, yelled “Go home, Roger!” and sang “Mo to the. E to the…”

There aren’t shows (that I know of) that Black teens are growing up with that reflect their experiences in a comedic way on a major network. I feel bad that my niece or nephew doesn’t have shows like this so they may rely more on YouTube. Network television has failed in representing them in this way.

So why am I writing about this now?! The news broke today that 6 of these shows will be coming to Netflix over the next couple months!! As much as I am celebrating, I know people have been campaigning for years to make this happen.

We have been waiting for years for our shows to be valued.

For our creativity and laughter and silliness and talent and the audience who enthusiastically appreciated it from Day 1 to matter.

I know there will be many people like me who will be joyfully singing theme songs, lamenting about 90’s to mid 2000’s fashion and falling in love with these characters all over again.

And for those who really know:

Through this journey of discovery (x2)
In finding you, and finding me (x2)
Now that I have someone special
That brings out the joy (x2)
Inside of me (x2)
We can become whatever we want
All we need is loving you
That’s the way our feelings should be
You and Me…

 

 

 

A Party

I dreamt of

Toiling and frolicking in the sun

Together

I dreamt of us

Around the table

Eating the fruits of our labor

Leafy greens massaged with marinade

Inviting mangoes sliced

And plantains sweet

To the party.

I dreamt of

Brown faces.

Smiling with mouths open

I couldn’t hear the words.

I didn’t need to

Because

I dreamt

Of our future.