When I Wrote Myself True

The day before the launch of She Lives Here, I took a writing class entitled “Write Yourself True.” When I enrolled, I knew I wanted to focus and write about something other than my book and matters related to the impending launch.

By the time we got to the third prompt, I felt like I was in a place to write without judging myself. Perhaps it was the meditation leading up to the prompt that silenced the noise. During the meditation, we were asked to close our eyes, picture ourselves on a path, encountering someone walking towards us—an older version of ourselves. Here is what came from it (unedited):

Maybe I should have known the person, the presence walking towards me would have been me. I could feel myself smile when I heard it. I immediately wanted this older, wiser version of myself to hug me. Her hair was gray, curly and cropped close. She was wearing all white as if a future me would be this celestial figure floating down from heaven to meet me on this path (which was on a beach by the way).

She is taller than me and when she enfolds me in her arms, I am home. She kisses me like my mother does. Her skin is clear, smile bright and wide.

As we are hugging, she whispers to me “You’re going to be OK. You will be happy.”

I ask her, face still buried in her neck “Did it have to be so hard?”

She doesn’t answer. Maybe it’s something I have to answer for myself. Is it all in the way I look at it? The infertility struggle, the painful psoriasis struggle, the anxiety struggle, the fibroids, the PCOS…

I felt like she was gifting me with peace.

If I had the opportunity to find my 20-year old self on this path, I would hug her too. Let her know it can be survived, questions will be answered, honest love will be found.

I just thought:

I wish the three of us could speak to each other all at once.

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My hope is to remember that the first thing I wanted was a hug from my older self and in turn, wanted to embrace and comfort my younger self.

The Launch of She Lives Here

This past Friday, my new book She Lives Here was celebrated virtually on Life in 10 Minutes’ FB page. I have been asked several times since then how I feel. I feel relieved, excitement, hopeful and more at peace. I didn’t even know how much anxious or nervous energy my body carried until Saturday night, where I slept for well over 9 hours. I was even full of adrenaline Friday night. I paced the room,. feeling like I should be going somewhere but where do you go to let loose in a pandemic?

The launch party itself was a lovely experience—the introduction, the reading and the Q&A. The L10 Press team and I logged on a few minutes early to get settled and prepare for showtime. I am glad we did because it gave me time to breathe deeply and mentally ready myself to read into the Zoom void. I chose 8 pieces to read and decided to end it with my last piece “She Lives Here” because I wanted to emphasize leaning into joy. I wanted to end feeling triumphant.

During the reading, the only visible audience I had was my publisher, Valley who fist pumped and pantomimed claps enough for 10 people. Her muted presence spurred me on. What was unexpected is the emotion that bubbled up when I read one of my more vulnerable pieces entitled “The Rules.” The first time I ever read it aloud to my husband, I teared up. I have read it to myself a handful of times since so when I found myself choking back tears, there was a sense of surprise but I pushed through. I knew the pieces that make me feel more inspired were coming and I would find refuge in reading them.

Launch party night!

After it was all over, I had time to respond to messages and watch the playback. One of the things I treasured most was reading the comments. There was so much love in that virtual room. I knew they could feel me. It was what I wanted more than anything. For my words on the page to be taken to another level, an understanding that cannot be matched in someone else’s voice.

I look forward to doing more readings, interviews and sharing more of my heart with readers. I hope more of you can join me as I continue to choose joy as She Lives Here makes its way out into the world.

If you would like to order your own copy, please go to https://www.lifein10minutes.com/unzipped-issues/unzipped-issue-2-she-lives-here or for a digital copy, it’s available on Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Look at me. Look at my face.

In the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to speak a couple of times about my new book She Lives Here which will be released on March 15th. I have been grateful for it and it came with some realizations.

At the start of the new year, three words would not leave me: open, unmask and free. I knew if I was going to give my all to the process of writing this book and promoting it, I would have to embody these words. I was going to have to stop saying things like “I’m not the look at me, look at my face girl” because it can’t be true if I am leading with my voice and my words. My voice and words are coming out of me, literally coming out of the mouth that’s on my face.

While I may not be the woman who takes 50 (or even 2) selfies a day, I cannot pretend I don’t yearn for recognition and that I am not proud of the work I’ve done. I actually admire women who do put more of themselves out there. I admire the confidence and the willingness to shut out the noise of others’ judgements about how they express themselves.

I have written about being seen (despite any insecurities I may have about psoriasis flares) or not waiting until something is my version of perfection before stepping out of shadows and into the light. Right now, I feel like it’s the perfect time to call my bluff. If perfection is impossible, what is possible?

That is what I would like to lead with in my life.

The possibilities. Exploring them, giving voice to them and making myself wildly uncomfortable in them.

24 to 40

When I was 24, I graduated from college. Two years later, after a failed stint in a grad program that didn’t fit me, I moved back home and bought my first condo. Five years after that, I got married. A year later, I left my job which started me down a path to figure out what I was supposed to do. Two years after that, I enrolled in a different grad program and left after a successful semester of classes. By this time, every family member I had left the state, I developed fibroid tumors and psoriasis on most parts of my body.

A few months after leaving grad school, I knew if I was going to make anything creative work, I would have to do more writing than talking. I started writing a novel and had one article published. I joined a group of people trying to structure their lives and focus on goal setting. A couple of months later, I pitched said novel to an agent. The pitch went well and she requested pages. I sent her pages she did not love.

I kept writing this novel that seemed to go nowhere. I started a blog upon the suggestion of an agent at the writer’s conference where I pitched my idea. I took creative non-fiction and fiction writing classes, went to book signings and workshops and met other writers. I worked a few more jobs that had nothing to do with what I love most but you know, money.

When I was 37, I had a series of panic attacks I didn’t see coming. I thought working a soul numbing job, blogging three times a week, stressing about my husband’s health, writing a wedding vows journal and trying to keep up with life in general was a lot of things that were no big deal until I couldn’t breathe in the bed and then in front of my computer.

About a month later, I was let go for the first time from this job. I got back out there again and found one that was close by. At this time, I was still writing but not sure where any of it is going. I applied for a storytelling project for women of color. I actually get it. I fly to the University of Alabama. I feel myself coming to life again. My voice seems to be audible where it felt so quiet before. I had spoken a couple of places and published more but this was different.

I could be Black, insecure, awkward but vocal me. It didn’t matter I hadn’t found my footing professionally. In Alabama, I was surrounded by Black women who were excelling in every field from education, activism, music to law and social work. I could have felt less worthy but it didn’t matter. We all had stories to tell.

I flew back home and kept writing. I start working at a non-profit whose values more closely align with mine and eventually start facilitating creative non-fiction writing sessions there. I keep going to counseling and start weight training. I see myself as an athlete for the first time as a Strongman competitor. I keep writing because now it’s 2020 and I can’t hold back anymore of my rage, anxiety and frustration at the state of the world. I need to be free.

My writing becomes more honest.

I become more honest with myself.

I start thinking about turning this honesty into a book.

I receive a phone call. I am offered the opportunity to compile my work into a book by a publisher.

In a few days, I will be 40. I am just starting.

Because my life will always be a series of beginnings and endings.

Wings

On the 69th day, I went to a small group physical training class and the “small group” ended up being me.

I appreciated the one-on-one attention. My first real attempt at pull-ups was valiant and the success was aided by a set of bands I stood on for support. Per my new usual, I left tired but proud of the work done.

Afterwards, I met a friend for my second workout –a walk in the park. She gifted me a lovely book of poetry for my birthday.

 

On the back of the book there was a quote that resonated deeply with me:

“Nobody warned you that the women whose feet you cut from running would give birth to daughters with wings.”

Many women like me come from silenced women, oppressed women or women who lived as if their feet were bound or cut because of what the world brainwashed them to claim as truth.

And they did give birth to women like me and many women like my dear friend who want to live out loud, feel the earth under their feet on multiple continents, hike, climb, start their own businesses, volunteer, work, raise money, take care of their families, write books and lead without apology.

Women like me who are scared to live without the recognition of their wings.

This past weekend, I attended the 2019 James River Writers Conference. I walked in this year feeling different. I didn’t care I didn’t have a book to pitch and all I wanted was to hear about was quality writing in all of the many forms it takes. I took some notes but I realized what I needed was to be around other writers.

I needed to catch up and laugh with some of my friends.

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I needed to be reminded to set aside time for myself each week to put pen to paper and let this particular truth deliver a gut punch: I shouldn’t be devoting more time to my blog than to all my other writing.

Which is exactly what I have been doing for several months now.

Every novelist, screenwriter, memoirist, short story writer, journalist, poet and agent reminded me that there was story still beating inside of me.

The keynote speaker, the incomparable Marita Golden, emboldened us to celebrate ourselves as writers even if we are not published or under contract. This wise woman had me at the edge of my seat telling us how she had been birthed twice. Once on the day of her actual birth and again when her mother told her she was a writer.  I also was blessed to hear her on the panel discussing memoir.

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Marita shared that sometimes you need to write the memoir to free yourself to write fiction. The vulnerability in memoir panel impacted me emotionally the most. I love how they brought three writers with wildly different tales to share their points of view. I wish I could take classes regularly from Marita Golden (Migrations of the Heart), Mary Bonina (My Father’s Eyes) and Jon Pineda (Sleep in Me).

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Vulnerability in Memoir panel: Moderated by Patty Smith with Jon Pineda, Mary Bonina and Marita Golden.

A special note about this year’s conference: It was beautiful to see the level of cultural diversity this year. James River Writers Conference has come light years in this respect, especially since my first year as an attendee in 2016. Thanks to the chair, Robin Farmer and co-chair Sonia Johnston for not only creating a conference that ignited my fire to devote more time to my craft but for creating an experience where I had the distinct pleasure of seeing faces that reflected the real world around us.

 

 

Through

What if nothing goes right?

What if I pay for the wrong thing?

What if I fill out the wrong paperwork?

What if no one wants to buy it or display it in their stores?

These (and a few more) were some of the ugly (and natural) fears and questions that came up as I searched sites to determine what I need to buy to get this book distributed.

Then another thought came to me while in the throes of this panic.

The only way is through.

After a much needed counseling session, I accepted I will make some mistakes and maybe a few more dollars will be spent than I anticipated but that’s OK.

I won’t break because of a mistake. I was dramatizing, almost seeing a possible failure like an ancient seaside castle crumbling into the ocean.  My first real foray into self-publishing will be a success not only because I believe the people who need it will love it but because I will have gone all the way through.

I have heard several thought leaders proclaim it would be a shame if you are the same person this year that you were last year. They might be right and even if they are not, I don’t want to be exactly the same.

Which is why going through 75hard is non-negotiable as is the book as is creating solo adventures for me, myself and I.

Live

Last week, I completed my second week of #75hard challenge created by Andy Frisella.  As I was in the throes of a cycle all week and took it easy on a couple of my evening workouts to heal my ankle, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a slight gain. I actually stayed the same and felt like I had more energy. I even realized I wanted to push myself a bit harder on my workouts. During my second walk this evening, I cut it short, marched in the house and threw on one of my favorite Caribbean dance workouts for the remainder of my time.

As I mentioned last week, I am starting to see my mindset shift in other ways, too. I promised myself I would get my E-book professionally printed and guess what….

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I did it! I also now have a couple of leads on print on demand distributors and even though it will be an investment, what’s wrong with betting on myself?

Absolutely nothing.

I spent so much time afraid of risk even when I didn’t admit it to myself. This challenge is forcing me to confront my excuses. It is teaching me I am more resourceful and hard-working than I gave myself credit for.

This past Saturday, I went to work, did both workouts, drank my gallon of water and then some, read and enjoyed a comedy show. I know, without a doubt I would have made every excuse not to experience everything the day had to offer just a month ago. I was always too tired.

Too tired for what?

Too tired to live?

Week 1

I am on Day 9 of the 75hard challenge. After just over a week, I was already presented with my first obstacle. On my outdoor walk on Friday, I started experiencing pain in my left ankle and that continued to annoy me into the weekend but I persevered. I chose to wear an ankle brace and did indoor weight training for 45 minutes for my second workout the last couple of days.

Before starting the challenge, I intentionally stayed away from the scale. I chose to get on last Monday morning to have another way to measure progress. This Monday showed a 4.6 lb weight loss. I am proud of it but what really made me happy was having more room in my jeans and being able to go bowling comfortably. I was also happy to see I was able to accomplish this even as my cycle started on Sunday morning.

I also love knowing I have a friend who is keeping me accountable. Just seeing a text message with a progress picture or a workout update drives me to keep up and be a source of support to her, too. Hubby also continues to fill up my gallon water each day, too. I also developed a new habit. I am using the Lose It app to track my food. I have tracked calories in the past but I never liked it before. I used to resent it. I think it’s because I had a trainer checking it and now I am completely responsible, the only judge of what I choose to put in my body.

I noticed it’s starting to bleed into other areas. I am finally turning “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows” into a paper version which will be ready by next week. I am ready to approach wedding vendors in person and online. I was tired of talking about it and this challenge is showing me how much action truly matters.

It’s the only thing that matters.

Words are nice but sometimes that’s all they are.

Words.

And I am truly tired of my words meaning something else: Broken promises to myself.

But enough words.

I have a second workout to complete, pages to read, water to drink and my day 9 picture to take.

Open

I have found the more I move towards what I’m supposed to be doing–writing and focusing on achieving my wellness goals through plant-based eating, the more help I receive. I know there are some who advise to keep your dreams a secret but reaching out to others has been life-saving for me. I would never say not to be careful about naysayers or people who claim to “support” in word but never in action.

Although I have definitely run across people like that in my life, I have seen that it has been more worthwhile to keep opening myself up to people. In general, I think it makes people feel good to support you by buying your books, coming to your events and sharing ideas contributing to your growth. For the people who don’t, I think it’s best to wish them well and let those people fall away in their own time.

I keep finding with those who truly supported me, it revealed their character to me. It seems when you reach milestones in life, people either rise up and  support you or find a way to fade into the background. I have experienced some sadness but overall, when I started blogging  and then wrote my E-book journal, I experienced so much growth that it was worth a small amount of pain.

So I vow to remain open. Open to people. Open to help. Open to contributing to others’ successes.

When it comes to this, I believe there is no such thing as going it alone.