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.

She’s Here!

I asked God to make me like water. It’s a sentence I have written down several times over the past few weeks as I have been preparing for the release of my new book of prose and poetry “She Lives Here” with L10 Press (Issue 2 of Unzipped, their new literary magazine subscription service).

I am proud of this book and am in love with the cover art created by Alexandra Antoine.

I have been writing about God making me like water because while I know overall this process is a joyful one, there will be moments of overwhelm and frustration. Since perfection doesn’t live here (or anywhere else), I will make a mistake while being interviewed, find a typo or someone I expect to support me decides not to. Even though my nature is to try to control these outcomes, the truth is that these things are inevitable. I want to ride this wave of gratitude for everything that has gone right.

When I was 11, I wrote about what kind of writer I wanted to be. I dreamed of being a novelist and writing for TV. Although the description doesn’t quite match the reality at this time, there is a part of me that wants to reach back 29 years and tell that little girl, “We did it!” A friend of mine asked me how it feels to know you wrote it down as a child and didn’t let the dream go. I didn’t have the words. It means I didn’t forget about her. I didn’t let alternate career choices, other people’s expectations, my own fear, anxiety, perceived ideas of “what should happen” stop me from trying.

I also want to let things flow like water, be water, is because I cannot control any reaction to my work either. As I wrote, I tried to embody the Nikki Giovanni quote: “You must be unintimidated by your own thoughts because if you write with someone looking over your shoulder, you’ll never write.” It took a couple drafts to get there but I trusted in the value of not holding back. I am thinking back to how I placed some of my more raw pieces in the middle of an earlier draft as if my publisher and editor wouldn’t be able to find it. I had to trust in the healing my relationships went through so I could open up about traumas and disappointments experienced in a real way. I know what has been worked through so I could write without deep fear of being disrespectful.

I ultimately wrote with freedom and love.

While writing, I gained clarity on why I made certain rules for myself, how, what and who I love, my capacity for forgiveness and the value of accountability. Writing “She Lives Here” has created space for me to be more of who I am—a Black woman who chooses to dream, live, and write with joy.

With joy, I would like to invite you to the virtual launch party of “She Lives Here” on Life in 10 Minutes’ Facebook page on March 19th at 5pm EST!

If you would like to pre-order before the official release on March 15th:

https://www.lifein10minutes.com/unzipped-issues/unzipped-issue-2-she-lives-here

I hope you all enjoy “She Lives Here” and find pieces that inspire or speak to you.

In the Moment

This weekend, Hubby and I attended the Heart Festival at a local meditation center. Earlier that week, I saw two lectures that seemed interesting: The Science of Meditation and Meditation as Medication.

Due to driving and walking a bit further than anticipated, we were a little late but came in on the tail end of the first portion before the introduction of the meditation. I wished I could have heard what she had to say. However, we did get a chance to participate in the meditation which lasted much longer than I expected–at least a half hour.

The chairs were comfy, the room darkened and my feet were bare– a seemingly perfect recipe for a successful meditation. However, my mind and heart raced. I wondered why I didn’t hear more about the science, how long would it actually last and then hoped I would eventually drift off to sleep to tame the pace of my thoughts.

I never did but it got me thinking about being in the moment. During the second presentation, Dr. Dilip Sarkar addressed our short attention spans, the benefits of yoga therapy and shared concrete evidence of improved health of his students and patients. I could have stayed another hour. One thing that stuck with me is his emphasis on achieving a meditative state all of the time. It reminded me of 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing.

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I understand the spirit of the verse and Dr. Sarkar were asking for the same thing: peace and contentment without the oppression of anxiety and the illusion of control.

After the Heart Festival, we went to a local bookstore for a poetry reading to support my friend Hope’s book “Traveling the River.” It was followed by an open mic where I was encouraged to read a couple of pieces. Normally, if I were to read I would have chosen to wear something different, pieces would have been printed out and read aloud to myself a couple of times.

But I let all of those ideas go.

I chose to be in the moment.

 

Control

Sometimes I tell my husband I am letting go of the idea I need to be in control, he takes a big step back and says he is getting out of the way (because he doesn’t want lightning to strike him).

I try but clearly I am not as successful as I think I am. But there is one thing I am working on letting go of:

The story I told myself about who I am. I have been letting go of it for the past 3 years.

I was telling myself (and others) that I liked to write but I wasn’t a writer.

That I was more of a simple person who wasn’t into changing her hair.

I wasn’t a teacher.

I was completely burnt out by Human Services and couldn’t see myself returning to it in any meaningful way.

But here I am: Looking slightly different, helping men and women start over at a dynamic nonprofit, blogging, publishing articles, writing an E-book journal, speaking, attending inspirational conferences and writing classes and will soon be learning how to fuse my passion for writing and healing others together.

A part of me needed to tell those old stories to lie about how much control I had over everything. But holding on that tight to an old, over told story doesn’t leave room for one thing.

Growth.

Your turn:

What story have you been telling about yourself in order to stay in control?

 

 

Summer so far…

Outside of Toni Morrison’s glorious new documentary, I took time for a few weeks to process multiple things that were going on.

I went to an event about harnessing fear.

I went to a comedy show and laughed until it hurt.

I started journaling again (not everyday but I began picking up the pen).

I became much more comfortable with not reaching out to people who don’t reach out to me. It didn’t feel petty. It felt right. I want to cultivate relationships with people who show they care. They deserve all the love and kindness I have to give and I truly wish others well but they no longer take up real estate in my mind.

I am taking a long break from the scale. Not as an excuse to eat but as a way to love myself.

I started drinking a gallon of water a day.

I decided not to eat my boredom and emotions after dinner.

I went to therapy, a helpful and potentially life-changing workshop on breast health and received a vigorous and soothing armpit massage (who knew about the armpits?)  and received therapeutic massage.

I cut down my cable (a lot).

I donated books and old DVDs.

I fell a little more in love with one of my jobs.

I met someone who confirmed a next step for me with my writing.

I showed my arms more than I usually would because it’s hot and psoriasis cannot be hidden all the time nor should it be.

I went to a festival and danced with some friends.

I put some time in at church and listening to podcasts that made me think (and take action) about what I want for the next 10-15 years.

I did experience anxiety but I breathed through it.

I let go and let myself live.

Your turn:

How have you let go and let yourself live this summer?

Today

It became a little too warm in my part of the building this afternoon. I figured if I’m going to be hot, it might as well be because of the sun beating down on this body. I took a walk around the neighborhood. I stopped in front of an art studio a couple of blocks away and admired the flowers placed out front.

It’s funny the difference a week can make. I was riddled with anxiety the week before and today, I am taking pictures of flowers.

I hope the day I had today is burned into my memory. Burned because I need to remember days like this exist when the reality I am facing is heartbreaking. Burned because I am blessed to have days like this.

Let me not forget there are those who are sick, who lack clean water, are locked in cages, imprisoned unjustly and those who are fighting for their freedom.

Not that I don’t have the right to mourn or be frustrated but I am embracing the adage that perspective is everything.

 

Put Up or Shut Up

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.

 

 

Punches

I went to the movies today to see Creed II. As I enjoy movies about underdogs with exercise montages, I loved it. It made me think about how many punches can be taken before any one of us throws in the towel.

As I have mentioned before, Hubby and I are dealing with a serious health issue and therefore, we have been extra careful of anything that remotely resembles a cough or sneeze, etc. He came down with something Wednesday night so we were sidelined from travel. He is feeling much better now and for the most part, I am used to illness changing our plans.

But there is a part of me (I have shared with him already) that feels like a punching bag. Part of me is angry at lupus. Part of me is angry at immune systems and fallible body parts.

What I am really saying is I am angry about not being in control.

But none of us really are. We can only do the best with what we know and have and the rest is up to God.

So I will own those feelings now and acknowledge that even when I feel like a punching bag, more often than not I am the one throwing punches at the problems that spring up in my life.