Privilege

Privilege

I felt my age in the best way this past week. At work, I was asked questions about my professional experience and my current dreams by a young twenty-something intern. I answered all questions thoughtfully without any apology or excuse for mistakes I have made.

I had lunch with a dear friend over the weekend. We spoke for hours about our next steps, our relationships, families and made plans for a literary weekend getaway. Reconnecting with someone with whom I have a strong bond with, built over many years is one of my greatest joys and makes me a more whole woman.

I went to an event about mindfulness on Friday. We did an exercise where, without our phones and in complete silence, a group of us went outside for five minutes and observed nature. There was power in the silence of people, the wood logs arranged artistically at the entrance, a charcoal gray insect traversing a bright green leaf and my choice to remove my shoes and feel the earth beneath.

Feeling my age did not mean I slowed down. It meant I could speak fondly about the past without a need to sugar-coat. I can reflect, thanking the girl and woman I was who allowed me to be who I am. I did not wish to be a young girl. I like who I have become and still look forward to chances I will take when I am in my 40s.

It is a privilege to own this experience while I am living it. It is a privilege to enjoy it while I am living it.

Joy

Joy

I just came back from writing class and I wrote and read a piece aloud that made me laugh aloud. I could barely get through it. Now that I am at home, it reminds me how much joy there can be in the writing process. I think it’s as easy to forget as it to remember the deadlines and the pressure that can also come with writing. I am not sure if it’s because the class fosters openness and inclusion but I felt as if I could have said anything, anything deep and true and anything ridiculous and flighty and all of it would have been received the way it was intended.

In addition to other things I am taking away from writing workshop tonight, I am taking the joy. I need to be able to feel that while I am plotting a story line, writing a blog post or scribbling a heartfelt piece in 10 minutes, I am in the midst of a joyful experience.

I am creating joy.

 

Float On

Float On

Earlier this week, I started researching float therapy. I  heard about it earlier this year and a woman in one of my writing classes recommended it. Since hubby has been experiencing some nerve pain recently, we decided to try it together. I read about many  benefits including stress and chronic pain relief, relaxation and even bursts of creativity!

The ambiance in The Float Zone was spa-like. Comfortable chairs, soothing music and a basket was provided immediately for our shoes. There was also an Ipad and headphones provided to view a video for first-time floaters. After the viewing and signing a waiver, we went on a tour of the center. The tour completely calmed me down. I am not claustrophobic however, if you agree to climb into a pod I believe that is something you should examine. Because you have your own float room that locks and you can keep the door to your pod as open as you’d like, I don’t think it is a big concern.

Every time you float, you must shower and shampoo before and after and they had everything ready in the room beforehand. You must  wear earplugs, too. They also provided a neck pillow for comfort while in the pod. I noticed the pod seemed massive compared to what I saw online. I think it was just seeing it in person for the first time. I also love they had Vaseline with the toiletries provided to protect your self from the Epsom salts if you had cuts and bruises. Because of my psoriasis, it was immensely helpful.

As I stepped into a pod,  I couldn’t help but feel like I was some kind of alien. Climbing into a pod and shutting it over yourself is definitely a singular sensation.  I tried not to have any expectations except to float. I heard a range of testimonials from deep relaxation to nausea to psychedelic visions.

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My pod! It is so much bigger in person!

I decided to forgo the light and let their meditation music play in the background at first. The music wasn’t distracting but it added to the chatter going on in my mind. Once I found the button to shut it off, my relaxation went to a deeper level. For some reason, I focused a lot on my maternal grandmother, Yvelle. We called her Veve. She passed away in 2003. She was beautiful with an appetite for life. I saw her face and couldn’t stop picturing the couches and curtains in her house on 109th in Queens. I even saw myself as a little girl sitting in a backseat of a car in New York, driving to or talking about going to a McDonald’s.

At one point, my body felt baked into the salt solution. My body was there but I was very aware that my brain was someplace else. I might have been dreaming. Even when I wasn’t sleeping or drifting off, I could clearly hear my breathing and heartbeat. I knew this could happen after watching part of the “Float Nation” documentary on YouTube.

Before I knew it, I simultaneously heard a soft, female voice telling me it was time to exit the pod and sensed the light come on in the pod. I came out of sleep (or whatever state I was in) and found I couldn’t just stand up or find the bottom which was crazy because I was only in 12 inches of water. I had to roll over to my side and grab the short bar to get my bearings and in a matter of seconds, I was able to stand up and lift the top of the pod.

When I walked out, I felt some cool air but it did not disturb me. I showered and left the float room and settled into the post-float room. It was complete with water, herbal teas, magazines, books, adult coloring books, a fireplace and more comfy seating. Hubby liked floating but kept the light on and told me he started exercising in the pod. The darkness freaked him out but it was one of the things that I liked best about it.

 

The question is: Would I do it again?

Yes, because now that I know what to expect I think I will have a real idea if incorporating into my life will have real benefits on my journey of healing.

Your turn: Would you try floating? And if you have, what was your experience like?

My Experience at 2017 Pop-Up Conference

My Experience at 2017 Pop-Up Conference

I spent this past (snowy) weekend at the 2017 Pop-Up Conference hosted by talk radio host, social media coach and web designer extraordinaire Sharvette Mitchell. The two-day conference featured a keynote speech by Kim Coles (from Living Single) and Channel 6’s Antoinette Essa. It was geared toward female entrepreneurs and the theme was “Monetize Your Platform.”

I know there are many writers who may not see themselves as businesswomen (or men). However, that could not be further from the truth. Even if we are lucky enough to be plucked up  by a major publishing house, we have to depend on ourselves to market our work effectively. The artistic side of me tends to slink away from the word “sales” picturing a stereotypical, pushy car salesman. However, how are people supposed to know about or purchase your labor of love unless you learn to present it to the world? I know no one has ever knocked on my door asking to read my work.

I figured even if no part of the presentations catered to a writer, I would undoubtedly learn something I could apply.  Right from the beginning, any doubts that I may have harbored about whether this was right for me were immediately squashed. Sharvette’s “Hey Girl Hey” ambassadors, Stacy Rodriguez and Toni Winston, were friendly and engaged me immediately. Her team was so organized I was tempted to sing “Formation” as things started to gear up. Registration was seamless and I was invited to sit at a table by a panel member, Yolanda Gray, a warm and welcoming life coach who made me feel right at home with her message of female empowerment.

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Me and Yolanda Gray, awesome Life Coach I met on Day 1!

After a rousing presentation by Confidence Coach, Speaker and Author Shirley T. whose emphasis on relationship building and connection made me walk right to her at the end of the evening and hug her, we were welcomed by  Sharvette herself. I think she figured we were warmed up by the hors d’oeurves, conversation and Shirley T. so she threw us right into the fire. She broke us up into groups of 4 and we had to come up with a 60-second skit for one of our businesses. It wouldn’t have been so intimidating if Ms. Kim Coles herself hadn’t made a surprise appearance and watched all of our skits!

Needless to say, we made it through and it was a lot of fun! It was fascinating to see all of the joy and creativity pour out of all these women. It was the passion they had for their businesses that shone through more than anything. There were also plenty of other writers there so any fears I may have had about that were allayed on the first night.

The second day of the conference ran from 8:15-5 and there was so much useful content that I ran out of room in the notes section of the binder provided and moved on to filling up my journal. There were many highlights. They were panels on branding, going from ideation to execution, building media relationships with Antoinette Essa, a session about sales conversations led by skin care business owner Ellice Darien, and the keynote speech “Broadcast Your Brilliance” by Kim Coles.

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Maya Harris, founder of L.AMA Learning emphasizing the wisdom of listening to what your community needs when building your business.
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Me on the red carpet. What a cute idea!

One of the notable standouts was “Unlocking The Giant Within-Identify, Train and Unleash your Giant–I’ts Screaming to Come Out. It was led by Chief Apostle Olive C. Brown, a local author and Faith Coach. Her content was incredibly uplifting and I fell in love with the idea of “the female Giant.” It’s rare to see us presented that way, even when that’s exactly who we are and must be in this world.

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Me and Chief Apostle Olive C. Brown with her book “Unlocking The GIant Within.” This woman of God had the entire room rocking!

Sharvette’s presentation about monetizing your platform provided the most useful, actionable content for me. She broke down specific tools and strategies to earn income online, even according to your gifts. She was insightful enough to realize some of us are better writers than speakers and vice versa and gave us options for both when creating and selling our products (ex. email courses vs. video courses). Her delivery made me feel like I needed to go home right now and get to work!

After the day was done, I was smiling. I hope I not only made connections but possible budding friendships. There was a lot of strength and grit in that room but there was an air of gratitude, service and connection fostered in that room, too.

Without a doubt, I will be popping back up for 2018.

Social Media Machine

Social Media Machine

As some of you may know, I only joined Facebook last September to engage in the private Facebook group for the School of Greatness Academy 8.0 class.  I also had no Instagram or Twitter at the time. I only had a long abandoned LinkedIn page.

I prided myself on not being part of a social media machine. I was satisfied to read, write, watch TV, go outside to experience the world without documenting it and catch up with friends and family via phone calls, text messages and emails.

I heard dramatic stories of social media drama and addiction. It seemed as if people were moving through the world with their heads cast downwards or upwards in a flattering angle.

I was never one for constantly wanting to be included in pictures. I took my fair share in the days before smartphones but it felt different–somehow more natural. Years ago, I was at a dinner with some friends and it seemed like we could barely enjoy the meal without constant picture taking. I respected everyone’s right to live and document their lives as they pleased so I was never overtly vocal about my discomfort. It was evident that I didn’t love it but I never wanted to ruin anyone’s fun. As I was driving home while they continued their impromptu photo shoot after dinner, I felt a sense of disconnect. Why was I so different?  Why did I even care?

The feelings passed as did the years. When I came to a crossroads last fall trying to decide if I was going to continue my graduate school education or get serious about my dedication to writing, I joined School of Greatness to learn more about goal-setting and pulled myself into a new world. It was apparent that I had been doing a little hiding, weirdly harboring a fear of judgment. I found, like with a lot of other things, you can strike a healthy balance. I slipped into the habit of  catching up with family and friends via scrolling, liking and commenting. It brought both a new sense of connection and disconnection. I experienced great joy seeing how members of both sides of my family and old friends had grown but it gave me a false sense of belief that I’ve really caught up. Unless I’ve had a conversation or seen you in the flesh, you may still seem two-dimensional to me. I have to take responsibility for my part in moving from the two into the three.

Although the realization of false connection rings true sometimes, I welcomed the wealth of opportunity and education that came with sharing my work, travel and the awe-inspiring events I’ve been able to attend. Before I started sharing myself and my work online, one of my greatest concerns was privacy. It still is because I have drawn a line about how much I want to share with the public, particularly with my marriage. I am a firm believer that some aspects of my life should be just for me (and my husband).

I have always been sensitive to the types of people I allow in my life. If someone is known for things like flirting with other people’s partners, lying, speaking to others in a patronizing manner or constantly talking about others for silly things like the kind of clothes they wear, I shut down immediately. Call it instinct, survival of the fittest, The Holy Spirit, intuition. It has served me well. I know they are people (just like me) who are carrying pain and insecurity within them and this is how they choose to relate to the world to avoid the healing work they have to do (Yes, I have watched more than my fair share of Iyanla: Fix My Life). I wish them well but from afar. I do not need to possibly sacrifice my mental health, my relationship and time to keep someone in my life for “their good moments.” I have learned that lesson.

On a positive note, opening myself up to all of those mediums of social media confirmed we are not alone more than ever for me. I see the struggle, the beauty, the triumph, the failures, the uplifting, the laughter, the teaching, the open gushing wounds of the hearts of millions of people. There is hiding and deception but the option not to do so is clear. There are connections and movements.  Even though I have wasted some time in the last year or so, there have been so many gains.. Maybe it’s because I knew the world before it, knew the world with it while I chose not to jump in or maybe it’s because I brought the wisdom of a grown woman to it.

There are no regrets. I have moved past fear to build this site and apply for a fellowship, share my work on these platforms and cheerlead for others on this journey along with me–the writers, the bloggers, the vegans, the wellness seekers, the psoriasis and PCOS warriors, small business owners, my fellow Greats who stepped out on faith to go after scary goals and other Black women who are often misrepresented as a monolith.

I will continue to embrace the mess of the world and carve out my own corner in it with all that is available to me. I will close with a haiku I wrote and posted a few months ago:

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