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.
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.
I watched “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey on Netflix yesterday afternoon. It is the tale of toy inventor, Jeronicus Jangle, finding his way back to believing in himself with the help of his precocious genius granddaughter, Journey, many years after an apprentice stole his work that led to financial ruin. I knew it would be full of song, dance and Christmas cheer but I didn’t expect it to be the movie I needed to see in 2020.
It delighted me to see a Black cast expressing joy so unabashedly. It allowed me to indulge in this magical fantasy without racism lingering in the shadows. I loved seeing beautiful brown skinned children surrounding their grandmother (played by the incomparable Phylicia Rashad) clamoring to hear this story amid a crackling fire and Christmas decorations. The costumes were gorgeous. The idea of an Afro-Victorian fusion was genius. One of many highlights was a snowball fight and dance between Journey and Jeronicus and set to an Afrobeats song.
The acting was incredible and I would expect nothing less from Forest Whitaker, Keegan Michael Key and Anika Noni Rose but the children shone so brightly, too! I wasn’t taken out of the fantasy even once.
There were many messages delivered centered around believing in yourself but this by far was the most moving from Jeronicus to Journey:”Never be afraid when people can’t see what you see. Only be afraid if you no longer see it.” It’s one of those messages tailor made for everyone, but especially for those who may be on the brink of losing hope. Now that is something I believe we can also use a little more of in 2020.
Last weekend, I made my way to Columbus, Ohio for The Summit of Greatness hosted by Lewis Howes. This was my third time in attendance (had to miss last year due to The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa).
And it was my best time.
Not because any of the other speakers weren’t impactful or powerful (they absolutely were) or that I didn’t make beautiful connections (without a doubt I did). It’s because I could truly enjoy the experience by myself. No one has ever held me back but I did hold myself back when I attended with others.
Even when I had a couple of pangs of loneliness, they quickly went away because I knew it would be just a matter of time before I would strike up a conversation with a stranger who would soon become a friend.
The Summit started with a welcome party at the Columbus Commons. I got to reunite with old friends and meet a few new ones. One of the more notable parts was a tent devoted to crafting instant poems based on the word of intention for the weekend.
A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.
The first speaker was renowned singer Leann Rimes. Apparently, it was her first speaking engagement and her vulnerability was palpable. She spoke about the isolation of fame and her growth. She sang a beautiful song and led us all in a chant:
I am human.
I am holy.
Grace renews me.
It’s love that guides me.
The vibration and the spirit in the theater left many in tears including me.
The next speaker was Ed Mylett. His idea of hell: meeting the person you could have become at the end of your life. This concept is not a new one to me but his phrasing was exceptional. He called it “chasing his twin.” He was unapologetic about his faith but at the same time inclusive of everyone and exuded humility. He seemed to be the perfect person to seek advice from for my future students at the nonprofit I work for. I took a chance and sent him a message. I was right! He sent me a voice message with wonderful recommendations and I will be eternally grateful for the time he took to send it.
Kyle Cease was up next. He had a few messages that resonated with me but his emphasis of staying in the now was particularly impactful for me. Learning to embrace it is a non-negotiable for me as Hubby and I navigate life post health scares.
Jesse Itzler, former rapper, serial entrepreneur and endurance athlete delivered an impassioned speech urging us to inject more adventure into our lives. He compared life to a bus that never stops and does not go in reverse. At 51, he completely rejects the notion of being “too old” and is smart about the risks he takes.
Day 1 was great but I needed to take a minute to power down afterwards before heading to North Market for the Friday social. I loved on old friends I only get to see at Summit and was inspired by new ones. There was even a mural by Ruben Rojas painted representing our community.
Day 2 proved to be massively inspirational and incredibly fun! Marisa Peer’s message of “I am enough” and teaching us not to criticize ourselves was powerful. Our thoughts listen and execute the stories we tell about ourselves.
The R&B group Final Draft performed for us. They were amazing and had great command of the stage. Dr. Alaa Murabit was incredibly impressive. She is a UN Commissioner, a doctor changing the world with her peacekeeping efforts. She graduated high school at 15, medical school at 21 and is only 29!I loved how she stressed that we should listen to all leaders of all ages. Heed the wisdom of those that came before us. Figure out what went wrong before, what was missing and execute from there. She said that a leader is not someone with a lot of followers. It’s someone who creates other leaders.
Stephan speaks offered us sage advice about relationships. I agreed we should be telling each other what we want and need specifically and the power of a written letter. Also, we are not responsible for anyone else’s healing. It was wonderful to see Lewis honor his team, volunteers and highlight Pencils of Promise and the hundreds of schools built all over the world.
In-Q closed out the conference with his soul stirring poetry. There was also a special video from Sean Stephenson. He recently passed and his message to love our bodies, love ourselves was the perfect note to end on. The closing party was a blast and the return of DJ Irie did not disappoint. I danced until I ached. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a couple of hours of sleep, I was at the airport, reeling from the weekend. On my layover in Philly, I ran into Elec Simon who was just as gracious and personable as he seemed on stage.
It’s all over until 2020.
So what now?
I found that when I was the most engaged, it was with people who travel, seek adventure, take action and are creative. In addition to hitting my fitness and writing/teaching goals, I want to create my own (mostly) solo adventures.
That part of myself has been slightly repressed over the years due to letting myself become distracted with work, relationships and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness. Realizing it was painful but it is a box I don’t have to stay in.
I can tell myself a new story.
Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.
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.
How have you let go and let yourself live this summer?
Yesterday, I had my second session of belly dance. There was slight progress from last week. I was more open to slowing down and I felt a bit more in sync with my body as I practiced more movement. Last week, I wrote I wasn’t sure if I would ever perform. While this remains to be seen, I actually imagined it for a moment during class last night.
There is still a part of me that winces at the thought of baring arms, psoriasis plaques and all for complete strangers to see. I think the real fear lies in not just strangers seeing, it’s strangers gawking. I don’t have that problem at the pool or beach but no one is there to see me perform. We are all there to be guided by a teacher.
So what this class could provide (besides fun and connection with other women) is the opportunity to take an axe to those specific fears. I don’t know when I will be ready but I am sure I am willing.
Last night I had my first belly dancing class in many years.
After introductions were made and class rules explained, we got down to learning a few basic foundational steps. I definitely started getting excited when she talked about learning to shimmy which has always been a favorite of mine. I was already moving my knees as she began to explain what to do. Within a few seconds, the instructor advised me to slow down. She said she wants all of us to slow down to get the moves right.
Now, I know good and well I will not look like my belly dancing idols, Veena and Neena, but for some reason, a part of me is in a rush to get there.
So now it’s hit me in two places in under a week.
With my writing and my workout.
I am in a hurry to get to a place which requires slowing down or I will NEVER get there. At least not where I really want to be. I won’t develop strong technique in dance nor will I describe scenes well enough to not leave my readers with lingering questions.
I will do with belly dance the same thing I am doing with writing: Appreciate and even enjoy the time it will take to get exactly where I need to go especially when it gets challenging.
It’s not a novel concept but it’s one I need to cling to because to tell the truth, I have never pushed myself to master anything. Learn, absolutely yes. Master, no.
There are a plethora of reasons why but now is the time for some reflection but more action.
I am already looking forward to next week’s class. Our teacher has already talked about femininity, trying and failing and best of all, developing our confidence. I can’t say now I will ever perform publicly. But I can say I look forward to reading this post months from now and recognize a change.
Last week, I finally took a step I have been meaning to take for months. Well, maybe for years. I signed up for belly dance class. It’s been years since I was in class. Afro-Caribbean dance class is still something I intend to come back to now and again but I have been yearning to go back to be apart of something that speaks to my femininity.
For the last couple of years, I have watched my sister bloom and thrive with pole fitness. It always reminds me of the confidence I built when I was dancing to belly dance videos or with other women in class. It reminds me of how much I love sisterhood.
That kind of sisterhood is something I think will only enhance the quality of this quest for health. I am definitely ready to see if what I think may be true.
I think it’s fitting that today is the start of a new year because I devote Tuesdays to all aspects of health. Although I decided to ramp up my efforts at the end of November, like most people the holidays got to me and it is definitely time to recommit. I didn’t stop moving but the raw foods did take a backseat for a couple of weeks.
I began looking for a reset. A lot of people fast, diet and make all sorts of resolutions and promises on New Year’s Day. All I want to do is commit to more raw food. I can’t forget (nor do I want to forget) the way I felt throughout July when I was raw vegan for 30 days. It wasn’t just the increased energy. Anxiety and fatigue seemed like states of being that could never be attributed to me.
So my reset is to cling to what I know: walking, being a high raw vegan embracing juices and smoothies, yoga, dance classes, massages, prayer, therapy and letting go of fears and mindsets that no longer serve me.
There is something comforting about knowing I can be whole by myself. In addition to adding a dance class, I want to try to incorporate yoga or Pilates, too this upcoming year. I am not saying I am fractured or broken but just like anyone else, I have my moments. And those moments are a wake-up call to change my status quo. I heard about an exercise that asked you to write out a schedule in 15-minute increments of your ideal life and then asked you write out that same schedule with your actual life. Hearing about the exercise was sobering enough–holding up your ideal life next to your real one was absolutely jarring.
One way I know to ease those feelings is to commit to being a whole woman.
If I can’t be whole for me, how can I ever be the wife, daughter, sister, servant and writer I know I am supposed to be?
This past Sunday I went to Love Fest in Hampton. It was a 4-hour festival of dance, specifically Mixxed Fit and Zumba. There were scores of teams performing and teaching routines from the stage and plenty of vendors. It was benefiting The Lupus Foundation and The Natasha House which I personally loved. I had a wonderful time with my friends and danced so hard I was sore for a couple of days.
I have always loved dance and prefer it over many other types of exercise. When I go to the Afro-Caribbean dance class, I generally go alone (and enjoy it) but it was refreshing to go with a group of women and be among a crowd of people with such an electric energy.
It was an important reminder during this wellness journey to get out of my comfort zone and do more fitness activities that challenge me. I could have easily assumed the event was primarily for teachers and decided it wasn’t for me.
But how do I know if something is for me if I don’t bother to try.
I had an amazing time and will try another Zumba or Mixxed Fit class soon. When I weighed in today (I lost .8lbs), I actually thought about everything I did this week and was proud that part of this loss came from sweating at live dance fest in a city I do not call my home.