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.
I went to a movie earlier this afternoon. Two elderly ladies in the mostly empty theater decided to sit right next to me. Normally, I would be a bit annoyed because I love my personal space. However, they seemed sweet so I quickly got over myself and settled in for the show.
And I was glad I did. The woman who sat next to me practically catcalled when an actor she found attractive graced the screen. About halfway through, she belted out a few lines from “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate as it played in the film.
I had to pull myself together to keep from laughing. After I got home, she stayed on my mind. She reminded me of the little girl I watched throw her whole body and spirit in the middle of the studio floor at the end of Afro-Caribbean dance class a few months ago.
A girl of no more than 5 years old and a woman at least 60 years young with something to learn from and something in common. Their ability to let go and unapologetically be themselves.
I can’t say I am able to do that enough. I think too much. I pour over decisions and ask too many questions to too many people at times. Sometimes, I feel like I am “too much” or ” not enough”–whatever that means.
When I revisit my novel, my brain generally goes through all of those thoughts, those insecurities that seem to want to make a home in my mind. I want to invite those feelings to leave and embody more of what I felt today sitting next to that spirited woman.
I want to invite myself to let it go. Be unapologetic when I sit down to develop my characters and finish telling the story I believe I was always meant to write.
The last few weeks I have been absent from my workouts. It started off because of intense pain in my ankles and I slowed down because I knew continuing to push would only make things worse down the road. I was limping around the house and that’s never good.
But I have been feeling better and there has been no visits to the gym, dance class, videos or walks outside.
I am not sure why after being active for so many months that it has come to a stop. I feel static. I can almost hear myself make an excuse as to why I won’t workout tomorrow.
Tonight I was at writing group. We discussed if we fear what would happen if we make it in the literary world. I have to ask myself the same question in regards to my wellness journey.
Is there anything I fear about being on the other side of this struggle? Will writing about it now help me cross back over to where I was only 3 weeks ago?
I’m betting it will. If things are really going to be different this time, then I have to call myself out and pull myself out of the hole I sunk myself into that makes me feel stuck and scared.
I am hoping to look back on these past few weeks as a minor setback a year from now.
I can’t let it determine who I will be a year fron now.
I recently read “We’re Going to Need More Wine” by Gabrielle Union and I am well on my way to finishing Chrissy Metz’s new autobiography “This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today.” I enjoyed reading both books and one of the most powerful reasons for my enjoyment is the following: Relatability.
I know our society talks a lot about “authenticity” and “keeping it real” or “keeping it 100” but a lot of that conversation gets confused with oversharing or saying so much we end up not saying nothing at all.
Both of these books struck a chord with me. Yes, there were personal stories and moments where I felt like I was in the room with them as they were recounting their stories but I also felt like there was other stories that the reader will never be privy to and that is more than OK with me.
When Gabrielle spoke about the PTSD she still has regarding her rape or when Chrissy spoke about forgiving her stepfather for his physical and verbal abuse, I saw women who had done the work to push past the fear of sharing their stories because they knew the healing that could come from its release.
I found myself nodding as I read along. I could relate to some version of their lives: the rejection, things not always going according to plan (whether it turned out to be for the best or not), the insecurities, not fitting in, past relationship woes, standing up and standing out.
I believe readers can see themselves in the triumph and the perceived failures of Chrissy and Gabrielle. I know I did.
There were many takeaways intended for the reader but as a writer I took away a few key things:
Your story is not over. As a writer/blogger, I have found that while I keep posting, submitting work, networking and taking classes, it’s easy to get impatient. When will I catch a break? Both Chrissy and Gabrielle weren’t born into show business. Both of them had to put in consistent work with no guarantee that their star would ever rise. As writers, I believe that is something we should never forget. Stay consistent. It’s not over until you say it is. And you say it is or it isn’t by your actions. You’re writing or you’re not. It may not be easy but it is simple.
2. Believe in yourself. Even when it feels like no one is reading, no one is watching or no one else even cares. If you don’t, who else will? People are attracted to confidence even if you have to fake it a little through the struggle. Sometimes, I am clinging so hard to this it feels is as my knuckles will burst through my skin. If God planted this affinity, this love, this all-consuming need to write within me, there has to be a reason, even if I don’t know what it is yet.
3. Do not be afraid to share yourself with the world. After I read both works, I applauded the gutsy nature of both of these powerhouse ladies. I admired their humor and willingness to quiet the chatter of what other people say and let their voices be heard. As writers, as hard as it can be, there is undeniable value in telling the truth. It may manifest as ugly, scarred and heartbreaking but it deserves to be read in our novels, blogs, essays, poetry and short stories. We only have one voice.
Last night, I had my first in-person coaching session with entrepreneur/coach, Sharvette Mitchell. I attended her female entrepreneurship conference last month and knew I had to schedule one-on-one time with her. Since the only kind of personal coaching I have ever received was from a personal trainer, I didn’t know what to expect but I was completely open to the experience. Let’s just say, I got the direction I needed, especially with my writing goals.
And that got me to thinking. Why did I wait so long to seek the kind of help I needed? I don’t ask it to beat myself up but for the sake of examination. During the session, it occurred to me there are two reasons people don’t ask for help: People believe they don’t need it or they are afraid to ask. I think the fear shows up in many ways. They are afraid they will look (or feel) stupid or weak for needing assistance or they constantly convince themselves they are not “ready” to get the help that they need. I believe most people fall into the fear category.
After I left the session, I was not only happy that I was armed with new goals to achieve on a realistic timetable but proud–proud that I not only acknowledged my need but I acted on the acknowledgement. It has been so easy to recognize the problem, recognize my confusion and lack of direction and stew over what I should do.
I am grateful it wasn’t that hard to reach out and see what could be on the other side.
Today, we came back from visiting family. After breakfast and gift opening yesterday morning, my parents set off for Texas. Neither of them have ever spent any real time there so they decided to try something new. Hubby and I are the same way. I realize I get that quality from them. Since they have been empty-nesters, I’ve observed them enjoying their life together by taking trips, running races and going to festivals and conferences.
Partly because of their example, it will always sadden me when I hear someone say.. “I’m too old for this.. or I should have done (fill in the blank) when I was younger and now it’s too late.” As long as you have breath in your body, it’s not over. I’m not saying anyone I know lives up to this perfectly but I have been inspired to live this way, even when I have moments when I am full of doubt and fear.
And when those moments come, these questions must be considered: What if the experience presented to you was just for you right at this time? What if you never have the opportunity again?
As we are all aware, tomorrow is promised to no one. So why not now? Book that trip, start that business or blog, write that book or try that new restaurant. Sometimes (and I have been guilty of this as well), it feels like we are just waiting until the next time we choose to put it off. It’s as if we are waiting just to kick the can down the road again so to speak.
I am excited for 2018. Not because I can’t wait to see what happens but I want to see how I make it happen. And that starts now–no waiting for an arbitrary date, no cans to kick down the road.
In the last week I’ve thought more about letting go than I have in years. By letting go, I mean letting go of control. A few days ago, I had the courage to tell someone what I needed. I may have done it through tears, but I did it. I bring this up because although I asked for what I needed, I am keenly aware that I may never get it.
And I have no control over whether or not I will ever get it.
I believe you can never be at peace if there are needs in your life you have the awareness to ask for but let fear keep you silent. From there, even if you do work up the courage to ask, the peace you seek may not be attained if you don’t accept you cannot control the outcome.
I am learning through shaky voice and tears to walk through the fear of speaking up and letting go once the words are out. Once they are out there, I can’t take them back, reverse time and watch the words slip back down my throat.
During the spring semester of my senior year in college, I took a class that explored the relationship between literature and psychology. I don’t remember much about the class except that the size was small, the name of my professor and I found the content compelling. At the end of class, she conducted individual meetings. It was to discuss what she observed about each one of us during the course of the semester. The observations were purely based on what we shared during class.
During our meeting, she said I spoke frequently about fear. I remember being taken aback but it wasn’t a criticism. I seemed to identify it in the stories/pieces we read or clearly articulate it as part of a struggle the protagonist was going through and brought it up as part of class discussion.
When I went back to my dorm that afternoon, I took time to reflect on why I would have brought it up so often. Looking back, I wonder if it had to do with the transition I was getting ready to make.
At the time, graduation was near and I had been accepted to two different graduate programs in two states. I was proud of my accomplishments but a bundle of nerves at the same time. Since then, like most adults I’ve gone through several transitions: career, marriage and home ownership just to name a few.
I am grateful that even when fear threatened to paralyze me in some situations, I walked through it and made decisions anyway. I have also learned from the times, especially when it comes to my health, where I let fear stop me or have me return to my old habits. The truth is, if we’re really willing to admit it, aren’t we always at a crossroads? It doesn’t have to be at college graduation or deciding whether or not to take a job or marry someone you love. We are always standing in the middle somewhere, deciding to freeze in the moment, stretching it out and waiting for life to happen or moving forward with a bold new idea, health plan, way to raise our children, faith commitment, community activism or travel adventure?
Writing makes me feel like that girl again, straightening her cap and gown, leaving that version of the classroom behind and walking into her future. My love for the in-between, the murky, the gray only grows as I get older. I love knowing that each active decision I make drives me down a path I cannot completely see but undoubtedly holds experiences and knowledge I could not fill my life with otherwise.
In this moment, I am thanking God for transitions.
I picked “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert back up again. I have a horrible habit, especially with non-fiction, personal development books of reading a quarter of the way or halfway through, sitting it down and diving into another one. It got worse after coming back from Summit of Greatness 2017 with a whole new stack to add to my dysfunction.
Lately, I have been reading a few pages every morning of Big Magic and there have been several moments where I have been slapping an invisible Elizabeth Gilbert hi-five in my bedroom.
Here are a couple of the gems that caused me to act a fool:
On keeping a day job: “I held on to those sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay their bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.”
That passage was screaming at me earlier this week. It was the exact confirmation I needed that I had made the right choice to leave where I was to provide more for our family. The insight was impactful because I realized I was putting undue pressure on my creativity and to be frank, I am not there yet. I will get there but it will take time. I will work on my craft and my discipline in the meantime.
2. On Permission: “It doesn’t matter in the least. Let people have their opinions. More than that–let people be in love with their opinions, just as you and I are in love with ours. But never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business. Lastly, remember what W.C. Fields had to say on this point: “It ain’t what they call you; it’s what you answer to.”
When I decided to leave my career at Social Services a few years back, I did not encounter a lot of negativity but I did have some hesitation about proclaiming my choice to pursue writing when I shouldn’t have had a moment’s hesitation at all. It was between me and my God, me and my husband and me and my creativity.
Outside of writing, dancing and a couple of other commitments this weekend, I will devote my time to work on this dysfunction and blissfully get lost in the joy of reading “Big Magic.”
I am sitting in a hotel room in Westminster, Colorado.
A week ago, I had no idea I would be sitting in a hotel room in Westminster, Colorado.
A shift had to occur inside of me. Hubby and I had originally planned to go to California but decided to push the trip back until the beginning of the year and stay a couple of days longer than the three days we had originally allotted for our trip.
Then we were going back and forth a lot last Thursday on where to go instead. For a hot minute, we were sure we were going to take a train up to Boston, a place neither of us have ever been. As a couple, we have put aside most of the gift-giving in favor of traveling to destinations that either one of us or neither of us have traveled to. A gift to both of us.
After doing some thinking (and pricing), we discovered we wanted to take the advice of some dear friends and go to Denver. Neither of us are particularly outdoorsy except that we do like to take long walks so we had some doubts as to how much we would enjoy it.
My doubts have been erased. I should have known it would happen, too. I have long shifted my attitude to embrace the customs, quirks and idiosyncrasies of the new places we go to. I often leave a trip wishing I had more time to explore and silently (and sometimes not so silently) promising myself to come back.
As soon as I walked off the plane, I could not breathe. I had been warned to stay hydrated but I thought that I could at least walk outside before I would be robbed of my breath. Hubby had to buy water for me and I sat down for several minutes before I could move on to baggage claim. Side note: I left the book I was reading “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas on the bench while I was catching my breath. I am upset but I will definitely buy it again.
The first afternoon we explored a neighborhood called The Highlands with tasty vegan cuisine at a restaurant called Vital Root. We walked past a park honoring Cesar Chavez and settled in at Book Bar, a quaint and charming bookstore and bar/restaurant combined.
I felt much better by the time we got back to the hotel and geared up for dinner in the city. We were excited to find so many food options for us! We went to Watercourse restaurant and I was blown away by the menu items: mushroom risotto, nachos, mac and cheese with broccoli, key lime pie and so much more.
The next day, snow started to fall. It was gorgeous and fortunately stopped mid-day. We had Tibetan take-out and rested. Later that evening, we went to another vegan spot in the city named City O’ City with beautiful artwork lining the walls and a Sam Shepard quote written above the bar. The food again was delicious and the main highlight was the fried ravioli with pesto and marinara.
We ended our night at Meadowlark Bar, a basement bar with Jazz Nights on Mondays. I had to have another moment where I shook the doubts away. When we first entered, we were clearly the only Black faces in the venue. We took seats at the bar and waited for the performances to start. And as with every place we’ve been to since our arrival, we were welcomed warmly. Neither of us are drinkers so we nursed our waters and chatted with the bartender and eventually a painter that showed up later. The crowd that filled the bar were people of stripes of all kind-races and ages. After getting lost in conversation with the painter, we swayed to the music and I was reminded again how much I love the energy of live music.
Today we decided to be our version of an outdoorsy couple. First, it was off to Red Rock. I do not do well driving up high but I shifted my mindset quickly. How else was I going to experience this majestic beauty if I keep myself paralyzed with fear?
The beauty of the landscape is indescribable. I have never seen anything like it. Any amphitheater I have ever been to pales in comparison. The red rock steps, the fall leaves and the freshness of the air overwhelmed me. While we toured the visitor center, I teared up. I couldn’t believe we were here. There are moments when we all know we are blessed beyond measure. There was this current of gratitude coursing through me the entire time I was there. I felt like God was showing off…look at what He made…look at what He has allowed us to build. I cannot imagine what it must be like to attend a concert with such a backdrop.
After Red Rock, we headed to Boulder to visit Pearl Street specifically. It was an outdoor mall that stretched several blocks peppered with tourists, UNC students and locals alike.
The town seems idyllic and health-conscious. It was definitely geared towards pedestrians and cyclists. After taking lunch at a Japanese restaurant, we finally headed back to the hotel.
The feeling is here again. If only we had a few more days, we could have seen the Black Western museum only open on Fridays and Saturdays, taken in more of the city and found a hot spring to soak in for a couple of hours. It’s those silent promises again, begging to be taken more seriously this time.
I know it’s because I want to see, feel, taste, experience as much as I can. I am painfully aware that we only get to do this once.
The shift that has taken place is turning down the volume on my fears and doubts and I am propelling myself forward.
Besides, what good has ever come from standing still and looking backwards?