Her Spirit in Santa Fe

When coming back from a trip, especially one as momentous as the Her Spirit Retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I usually take a few days and then post a recap. I returned last Thursday and it’s taken me a bit longer to write this. First, I needed the time to process the experience and the next, to contemplate how and what I wanted to share.

I’ll start here. I officially heard word that I received a generous partial scholarship on 11/20/22. Her Spirit started on December 4th. I had little time to make plans, take the time I needed from work but I was determined to figure it all out. Hubby had just undergone a heart procedure to explore some unexplained weakness the week before my acceptance. I wondered if I should have been so determined to leave but my resolve strengthened a few days later.

As I have written here, I have been experiencing chronic pain for several months. I start going back to physical therapy at the end of October. I discovered a possible reason for this pain could be growing fibroid tumors affecting my mobility in my lower back. I set an appointment with a radiologist who confirmed my suspicions after reviewing an older MRI. Because of that and not wanting to live with large uterine fibroids period, I chose to move forward with a uterine fibroid embolization. Everyone in the clinic was kind and thorough which made my decision easy. After the appointment and in tears, my mind was made up to leave.

I no longer felt guilty about my husband because I could see he was fine, working and walking around. It was time to take myself out of my everyday, meet new people and open my energy up to this opportunity. I was at a dinner with a friend a few days before leaving and she encouraged me to make rest a priority as well. I took it to heart.

I booked tickets the evening of the appointment. I remember shopping and packing carefully, not wanting to feel rushed or overwhelmed. The flights were smooth and even though the altitude attacked my lungs as soon as I landed, I was aware of another scholarship winner, Catrice Greer, on the flight. We connected at the Santa Fe airport and she kindly offered me a ride to our hotel.

After checking in, I rested and got ready to meet the other winners on the rooftop floor. We sat in a circle with our chairperson Jane Sibbett, Chief Officer of Diversity, Candace Blust, faculty members Liz Hines, Rebecca Bloom and Rosa Salazar. We were lauded for our work, given thoughtful gifts and made to feel special. The other women were dynamic and from all over the country and across the pond in the UK. I also appreciated their attempt to make us aware that we would be the diversity in a group of over one hundred mostly white women.

I should be honest in sharing I was aware of this beforehand. Previously shared group photos of last year’s retreat on social media confirmed it and as a Black woman, I do feel the need to prepare myself for what I may be walking into to protect my physical safety and my mental health.

The mixer, the Native blessing, and the Zoom keynote speech by Friends and Grace and Frankie’s co-creator Marta Kaufman set the right tone. My intentions to connect and rest felt right after that night. I relaxed with some room service and although I didn’t sleep peacefully, I had no regrets and was ready to face my full Day 1.

I was comfortable enough to share vulnerable pieces right from the start. I learned about telling the truth and our faculty’s experiences in their respective industries. Even with altitude sickness, I could not ignore the beauty of La Fonda as I trudged up steps. This historic hotel was full of art, shops and pieces you could never find anywhere else. During dinner, I connected with more winners and other attendees, listened to the live country band and watched a couple of them grace the dance floor.

Later on that night, there was a diversity panel, readings, and another featuring documentarian Kate Blewet and director Beth Broday. During the diversity and inclusion panel, I leaned into my desire to affirm our need for well-written and acted representation. I have no need to shame anyone for their opinions or not articulating them well. I knew what was right and I am proud I spoke up. The rest of the evening brought us to tears as we viewed clips of Kate’s work that showed dying and impoverished children and the elderly from China and Bulgaria to the UK and Beth’s directed performance of Sting in Italy on September 11th, 2001. I stayed up late, in a few small circles in the lobby, cozy and curled up, decompressing from the evening, revealing dreams and laughing.

The next day I had the chance to sit in on my first table read and heard actors read from four pilots amogst other sessions. I took in the plaza outside of La Fonda’s doors and met artisans, perused art galleries and jewelry stores. That night, I attended a dancing hands meditation led by Jane Sibbett.

This is where it all changed. We were back in the rooftop room La Terraza. I walked up to the edge of my mat and within seconds, my calves and thighs quaked and I began crying. I sobbed throughout the entire hour. Within the circle, Jane approached each of us with direct eye contact, in her language inspired by Spirit but I could make out words like “love” and “hug.” The energy was thick.

We huddled closer together afterwards and upon my asking about what she felt or saw, Jane used the word ancestors. I had an intense need to remove my bra and sit in the moonlight. Instead, I joined a couple friends at the bar and as they snacked before dinner, all I could do was take breaths and drink water. I wanted nothing to do with food for a bit but eventually enjoyed a dinner. I spoke about the meditation, we mapped out a show for one of our fellow winners and headed to the open mic and to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie one of our faculty members wrote.

The next day I was drained. I honored the need to rest as long as possible before the first session. I did learn valuable tips with New York Times bestselling author Julie Cantrell about character development and bonded over our connection with one of my writing teachers Sadeqa Johnson. Brooke Warner gave many useful actionable tips for our author platforms. It was the last night and there was a beautifully lit final ceremony. The energy again was thick and as lovely as it was, I had an intense urge to separate myself from the ceremony after a few minutes. I left the room, sat in the hallway, short of breath and I let tears fall. I couldn’t go back. I retreated to the outdoors on the first floor and eventually to my room. I caught my breath, packed half-heartedly and sent some messages to make sure no one worried about my hurried exit.

I spent the last moments of Wednesday evening with a new friend, Babs and Liberty, an awesome young woman who has the capacity to make some real change in the world. I got the laughs I needed and the shared venting was absolutely vital. I woke up and got to breakfast early, a first for me. Our table got crowded as people said their farewells and we squeezed each other tight, almost hoping to take our essences with us on our flights home. I was encouraged, unexpectedly prayed over and walked back to my room feeling lighter than I had in weeks.

Catrice, Joany (the sweet mother of all Christmas movies) all said our goodbyes in Denver. As I walked away from our gate, I drowned the world out with the Lemonade album and started my trek to my gate which ended up being almost 80 gates away. My expectation was to have to stop for my back and hip, drenched in sweat every 5 minutes. That wasn’t what happened at all. I walked, only stopping once to check the gate change. I had to force myself to stop overcompensating by leaning on one foot. I didn’t understand what was happening.

Had I been healed?

I have been back over a week, in physical therapy twice and outside of a bit of tightness and pain my left hip, I can walk again. I have been hesitant to claim it because I have been living this way for so long now but I have to believe what is actually going on right now. My PT suggested there has been a reset of my central nervous system’s response to pain and my husband and parents believed I cried out the tension at the dancing hands meditation.

As for reflecting on the actual retreat, there has been enough time for me to say I would happily go again. I am also glad I went in with my eyes open about the lack of cultural diversity. I didn’t have to experience the burden of shock. And yes, there was a stereotypical statement made about Black people and a few could not tell the difference between myself and another Black woman although we look nothing alike. I was hurt and made jokes with a few who understood my plight. Although I didn’t love having to speak up about the need for quality representation at the panel, again I remain proud I did. I can report apologies were made to me and many privately told they were grateful I possessed the courage to use my voice. I was also offered opportunities to work with others and buoyed by an acknowledgement that I taught others in the room that night.

I will never be able to shed the challenges that come with entering these spaces in this skin but I would never want to be anyone other than who I am. I get to tell stories, love freely and passionately and proudly in this skin. I look forward to what’s next working and building friendships with these women as part of the Storyteller Foundation.

Special thanks to Alva for checking on me, to Freddie for your kind words, and Becky Strom for hearing me that very first day and blessing me on our final morning.

I want to say a special thanks to my fellow Rainbow Fund Scholarship winners: Catrice Greer, Babs Cheung, Shari Williams-Andrews, Sylvia de la Sancha, Ava Adams, Donna Pope, Tana Stephenson and Celeste Keplin-Weeks. Without all of you talented souls, I would have experienced an unwelcome loneliness I am grateful to have never felt. And to Jane Sibbett, Candace Green Blust and Liz Hines: thank you for your part in making our dreams closer to our reality.

This is my Prayer.

I returned yesterday. Last night. Yet here I am, excited to write about these last few weeks especially about my first out of state book signing and festival: The Louisville Book Festival. Physically, I have brought my body to the brink whether it’s been from lack of sleep, air and car travel and exacerbating my spine and hip (deadlift) injury walking wherever I needed to be. I am at rest now with my PT appointment set for tomorrow and I can honestly say I have no regrets.

It all started with a surprise. My sister asked me to visit a day earlier. We had free tickets to see Lizzo! Floor seats, too! The only down side was floor seats means standing only but close enough to almost slap the stage. This usually would be an amazing thing but for me, it meant standing until I had to lean over the railing for back relief. I was a few feet away from the main action during the opener (Big Latto) but COVID is still alive and well so my masked up self did not have a problem with that part. But I didn’t like knowing my back and hip were taking the choice away from me. I want it to be my decision not to be in the thick of things. I tried to convince my sister to join her friends (one of whom generously supplied the tickets) but she refused to leave my side. I was and am beyond touched that she stood by me while I was in pain. She eventually found a manager who gave us amazing seats. My sister and I hadn’t been to a concert together in 15 years and I will cherish every moment of our time together.

We we were also there to attend Pole Body and Arts Halloween Showcase. I was so impressed with my sister’s command of her business and the rapport she has with her partners and members. I may be biased but if you knew her, I promise you would say the same. The performances were showstoppers and it reminded me yet again how important it is to commit and invest in what makes you happy and therefore, free.

I capped off that weekend after a handful of hours of sleep (my body was so keyed up) with a powerful class taught by Paula Akinwole entitled Writing About the Body. This was the class I have been waiting for all along. I was challenged by the exercises and produced a piece I may include in my next collection. I didn’t even realize I had any qualms with writing about my body until I was asked to describe it vainly using three words. No qualifiers and no excuses. I needed to talk about it because it has reminded me so often of what’s wrong I don’t often celebrate what is beautiful.

There’s no rest for the weary so a few days later, I was off to Louisville, Kentucky. I slept a total of 30 minutes the night before my brother-in-law took us to the airport. Note: Waking up at 3:30am is the actual devil. After crashing most of Thursday, I was ready for the festival on Friday to include a presentation with fellow poet Elizabeth Decker-Benjamin. That was a meeting I was looking forward to. Beth and I planned our presentation “This Poet’s Life” over Zoom for 2 months because she lives in Ohio and I am in Virginia.

We clicked beautifully and our presentation went off without a hitch. It was sparsely attended because the location of the speeches were not widely available. However, I am a firm believer in whoever needs to be there will show up.

My second surprise of these last couple weeks was the amount of children that came on Day 1 of the festival. They came from 4 schools and since She Lives Here isn’t exactly for little ones and they weren’t buying, sales started out a bit underwhelming but some teachers and nonprofit professionals came through and bought some books. I also got the chance to read some poems to the middle schoolers (that were appropriate, of course) and they asked thoughtful questions and indulged in the candy.

Day 2 was on a Saturday so the expectations that more adults would show up was fulfilled. I had time on Day 1 and a bit on Day 2 to chat with other authors. I felt at home with them and it didn’t matter if their genre was sci-f, rural crime fiction or poetry like mine. We work hard, love what we do and believe our stories should be told. On Day 2 I had a chance to speak and read to many attendees. For the people I chose to read to, it felt like I was giving them a real chance to hear my intentions. One woman told me she even came down there because she saw my picture on Louisville Book Festival’s IG stories! We talked about everything from books and TV shows to work and travel. I shared my Strongman journey with a woman who was convinced to go back to training which I certainly plan to do when I am healed. Her friend said she saw my book on a Facebook page. All of that happened after I sold out of all the copies I brought (there will be copies sent to them). I am grateful that I made the decision to stay or I wouldnt have made these connections. I also spoke with a social worker who wants to write a memoir. I sincerely hope she does it.

At the end of Day 2, resting in Hubby’s arms and unsuccessfully trying to not sob while watching From Scratch, we paused the show. He shared that he hasn’t seen me so alive. He knows how much I love readings and being in the company of other writers but he had not seen it on this level.

When your partner who knows and loves you sees you this way, you cannot deny the truth has been spoken. It was life-affirming. It was not until we were driving home from DC did I remember I had another job to go back to. I was focused. I want to continue to live in a way that honors this truth and the kind of focus I had. This is my prayer.

Let’s Try This Again

I had the honor of celebrating love twice over the past month. My brilliant and beautiful niece and one of my favorite people in the world, a sister from another mister, got married. It occurred to me how often we start over—whether it be in the form of a union like marriage, a career change or something seemingly minute as trying a new hobby.

Over the past few weeks, I was in a writing class. While there is nothing wrong with the class and the teacher is absolutely lovely, I found myself pacing during part of the first class (Zoom class and off camera, of course), missed the second due to illness, needed to leave halfway through the third and felt a lot of resistance about the fourth class so I sat that one out. I could not figure out what was going on. The people were great and the opportunity to write in an open and kind environment was there. My husband simply said maybe you just aren’t feeling it right now and it’s ok to stop. I started to protest but what was I protesting? If my body prefers rest on a Tuesday evening, then that is that. There does not need to be another reason. The other thought that has been challenging me lately is that I have grown and though I still need a writing space that centers kindness, I also need one that encourages critique. I have looked at listings for classes where the focus is on fiction. I still have poems I want to share. There is another book of poetry in me but there is no denying that I have started to yearn to write fiction again. This would not be my first class—more like my third fiction course. I know there’s nothing stopping me but myself and I can easily acknowledge I have a fear of not doing it well.

My expectations are realistic and I have been reminded that if my dreams don’t scare me, they are not big enough. I am scared so I am letting fear lead me down the path to share new poetry (aloud) and register for a class where I might want to scratch my own eyes out after reading early drafts.

That’s ok. It’s worth trying again instead of wondering what may have been. Regret has never looked good on me anyway.

Memories

I am not sure if I can say enough about the memories I made over the last few months. My husband and I spent a couple nights at a beautiful cabin, walked through stables, chatted with the chickens, cuddled through a storm and caught up on Bridgerton. It may be the best time we have ever spent together. All four walls were our own. There was absolutely no expectation to do anything or be anywhere in particular. It felt like we were dating and getting to know each other all over again after almost 10 years of marriage. It was a delight to feel that way again.

Outdoors time at the cabin with the chickens

In writing news, I had an essay published. I sold copies of She Lives Here to The Valentine Museum and The Library of Virginia. I also had the honor of presenting She Lives Here at The Book Break at The Library of Virginia. The crowd was small but full of people I knew who really listened and appreciated how the words came to life in person.

Signing a book for my friend Latifah!

A couple of months ago, I decided to have my first in-person celebration of She Lives Here. I waited a year because of COVID. I had a few moments where I thought maybe it was too late but I am grateful I shrugged those doubts off. The support and love at my party did eradicated all of those thoughts. Just because I have been living with She Lives Here does for over a year it does not mean others have. It is not like everyone has read my book, my essays, listened to podcast episodes and readings. And even if they had, it wouldn’t matter. There are no rules regarding when it is your time to be celebrated, to stand in the sun and shine a bit brighter. There was so many hugs, tight and deep, grinning faces, people who drove, my mother who flew and tears that flowed. If I had listened to the most insecure parts of myself, I would have robbed myself of this. Of that light, of that love, of that warmth.

I do not need to write about how fleeting our time with the people we love can be but it’s worth repeating. A close friend of mine lost her parents a few weeks ago and it was a reminder to hold those people close, not to hesitate to say I love you and to put aside the small things that may have caused cracks and fissures.

These memories are the best example of what it means to be alive—grateful, loved, in love, raw, transparent, afraid and brave.

I choose to be, I am blessed to be alive and know the meaning, the power of it.

Rollercoaster

These last couple of months have challenged me to define what being on a rollercoaster means to me. Since I last wrote, I was invited to be a writing juror for the Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards, went through the absolute worst psoriasis flare I have had in years which caused me not to be able to travel to see my family over Christmas, chopped off a great deal of hair, as a wellness experiment for a new doctor was advised to eat meat again, banish soy and remove grains temporarily after 4 1/2 years of a plant-based diet, delivered a keynote speech for the awards and asked to teach for a couple of organizations.

While some of those things I absolutely love (hello haircut, writing awards keynote and teaching), dealing with a flare after months of progress and medication was tough for my psyche and eating meat again felt like an abandonment of my lifestyle and and created a small disconnect with my husband as we no longer eat the exact same meals. While none of that seems earth shattering, I have to be careful not to minimize my feelings, constantly seeking to compare my woes to others whom I perceive to be in much worse situations.

If I fall for the trap of comparison, I fail to do the one thing that is a catalyst for healing: Acknowledge the pain. It’s beneficial and it is healthy for me to acknowledge how painful it is trying not to scratch my skin, bloody sheets and clothing, reinstituting the daily sweeping of my dead skin from all over my home and being robbed of the joy of seeing my family on Christmas day. It is beneficial and healthy for me to acknowledge how awkward and uncomfortable it is to cook separately from my husband and eat animal products again as have always been united in how we choose to nourish ourselves.

I also need to acknowledge it is beneficial and healthy to look for the highs and not to dismiss all the good news even in the midst of the pain. I read and viewed writing and art that inspired me to work on my next project, I attended the grand opening of the first Black-woman owned bookstore and wine bar in my city and I never have to worry about the people in my life trying to dismiss me or drown me in the turbulent waters of toxic positivity when I need to speak my truth.

I acknowledge the pain, the pleasure, the heartbreak, the hope, the disappointment, the glee, the inspiration, the frustration, the light and the darkness.

I believe if I accept that the rollercoaster is inevitable but not insurmountable, I’ve accepted a truth that will guide me the rest of my days.

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.