What I Owe

What I Owe

I know to become a better writer, I must read. I used to swallow books whole the moment I got them, as if I was almost racing myself to see how fast I could finish before devouring the next. Over the last couple of years, I noticed I have slowed down considerably, reading more about books I should read rather than actually reading them. I have written more than I ever have but have also read the least.

This morning, I was reading the last of “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. It dawned on me how much I missed quiet time where I flew through chapters, uninterrupted. It conjured memories of paydays when I lived alone. I would pick up a decadent meal and at least two books from a nearby bookstore and enjoy a night to myself, indulging in flavorful treats  and becoming addicted to new characters.

As part of my self-care, I pledge to revisit that part of myself more often. The woman who takes an afternoon to get lost in another writer’s creation, another writer’s world.

I owe it to myself right now and the writer I will grow to be.

Haitian Heritage Month Highlight: Michele Voltaire Marcelin

Haitian Heritage Month Highlight: Michele Voltaire Marcelin

The final spotlight for Haitian Heritage Month is on Michele Voltaire Marcelin.  She is a poet, painter and writer. Her work has been published in French, English, Spanish and Kreyol. She also writes in three languages. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States in D.C., the Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center and at the National Museum in Haiti. I saved her for last because Hubby and I chose her poetry to be featured at our wedding reception in 2012.

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Here is one of our favorites:

Dreamscape 

 what magic names of places
shall i whisper in the dark
while you hold me
so we travel at least through the night

what sweet syllables of cities
ancient or new
what bird-laden trees
in what gardens
shall i offer you
so that at last i see the world with you

walk with me
through streets i have loved
in buenos aires, aix, lisbon, jacmel
keep your steps aligned with mine

walk with me
in venice
there is an alleyway called paradiso
i want you to kiss me there
in istanbul
a church of holy wisdom
where we will on the altar light candles

there is somewhere in port-au-prince
a crumbling wall fired with hibiscus
where blossoms wait to be chosen by you
to flower my hair
or shall we go off on a barge
floating on the seine
when the city darkens and the bridges spread
across the silent river
will we be drunk with each other
or will it be the boat dancing on the water

there is a stretch of sand i remember
in valparaiso
crusted with salt from the waves
we will leave our footprints there
drink pisco in a secluded bar in santiago
sit in pelhourino square in salvador
later i will giggle as you carry me
on the stairs to the capri grotto
somewhere there is a bed unmade
in a new york hotel
where we’ll return at dawn to make love
as sleepwalkers do
after seeing the ghosts of jazz musicians
at the blue note

somewhere someday we’ll go away
but tonight let’s recite as we would poems
names of places
that await our pleasure
hold my hands my beloved
look in my eyes
tonight let’s travel in our dreams
while we remain immobile in the dark

 

I hope featuring Haitian poets this month has opened you up to writers that you may have never had the pleasure of discovering on your own. I know choosing to celebrate my heritage this way has been a wonderful and educational experience for me.

Happy reading!

 

Commit

Commit

This past weekend I went to a wedding. Outside of the beauty of watching them become husband and wife, it had me thinking about commitment. What happens when you go from flirting with it to have it living on the insides, this willingness to attach, gambling with your heart, betting you will gain more than you could ever lose?

Writing feels that way to me. When I left a career a few years back, I was betting that I would not only brush past my fears, but that I would take them by the lapel, throw them to the ground and proceed to kick them into submission. It needed to be that serious for me. I saw how easy it could be. I could have spent the next 23 years at a job that admittedly had more lows than highs but I could have scraped by. I could always look forward to being in my mid-50’s and starting over again from there.

But I didn’t want to wait until I was worn down by years of stress and lack of fulfillment. The need to commit to finding out if I had what it took to do this far outweighed staying in misery, even if there was a level of comfort in that misery. I realize I am blessed to put in the work, even if half the time I am scared I am doing this only half-right or not at all. Even when it feels like no one is reading.

I will (and have) made my fair share of mistakes but I don’t have to live with wondering what could’ve happened if I never took a chance on myself.

If I never decided to commit.

Your turn: What have you recently committed to? How has it changed you?

January Book Selections

January Book Selections

On my last blog post of 2017, one of my goals for 2018  was to be intentional about reading two books a month. I know I could read more but I want to start there. At one point in time, I swallowed books, especially novels. Within the last year or so, I have been introduced to a lot more non-fiction. I would read the occasional autobiography but fiction always had my heart and attention. I found myself feeling like I had to read these non-fiction books to increase my knowledge about setting and achieving goals, financial fitness and self-awareness. While I think the subject matters are worthwhile and many of the personal development books I attempted to read have an engaging style, I find myself setting them down and moving on to another one without finishing.

I heard recently that I need to break down all of my goals. In that spirit, I will choose one non-fiction/personal development book to read each month along with one novel. This month my fiction selection is a book of short stories I began but never finished: The PEN literary award winner “Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self” by Danielle Evans. I had started reading it at the beach over the summer and for some reason I can’t remember now, I put it down.

My second selection is “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene Brown. I started reading this book over the fall and I remember my interest waning after about 50 pages. I love watching Brene Brown being interviewed and delivering speeches but for some reason once the research was being introduced, I started getting distracted. I will not be surprised if I love it after committing to finish it.

It’s been said that how you do one thing is how you do everything. I don’t know how true that is but if I start with something as small as committing to my reading goals, my other goals will not be far behind.

 

Long Weekends

Long Weekends

We are heading into a long weekend and there are certain things I look forward to:

How quiet my neighborhood seems during the day.

Binge watching TV with my husband

If weather permits, going to the park for a casual stroll.

Sleeping in

Last minute weekend getaways!

Reading for long stretches at a time.

Not thinking the following sentence: “I should really get to bed now.”

Conversation. Conversation where you don’t watch the clock or the phone.

Did I mention sleeping in?

Allowing myself to be still for longer periods of time.

Feeling rejuvenated.

Writing.

Eating at restaurants I haven’t tried yet.

Board games and cards..there have been many many many hours during a long weekend spent at my sister’s and parents’ house in a Monopoly, Uno, Scrabble or Phase 10 battle over the years.

Feeling grateful as I head off to see my family tomorrow to enjoy lots of the things on this list.

 

 

 

The List

The List

When I was single, I heard many women talk about writing a list of the things they wanted in a husband. Two or three times on New Years Day, I wrote my own list. I  saw it as writing down a prayer for what I wanted and clearly defining who I thought I needed him to be.

I did not spend much time on physical characteristics. I was attracted to many kinds of men in the past so I just wanted to feel an attraction to him. Even though the physical part of his description wasn’t outlandish, other characteristics probably could have used an injection of reality.

For example, I knew my ultimate partner would be Haitian-American like me, well-traveled and well-read with a love for books that I would strive to match. He would also care about lifting up the community and volunteer as often as he could, probably with his church. He would also be an amazing dancer and get along famously with both his and my family. He would love multiple genres of music and be able to express his feelings without me having to prod too much.  He didn’t have to command attention as soon as he walked in the room but he should be able to if the situation called for it. He also had to have an appreciation for the arts.

So what kind of person did I end up marrying? In many ways, I could easily check off the wishes from my list like healthy familial relationships, kindness, faith, varied taste in music and when I asked for patience, the cup overflows. I am in awe of his patience. It showed me where I needed to grow.  However, he has a quiet nature, his family is American and from Virginia, he can’t dance,  and doesn’t love to read as much as I do. He also hasn’t traveled the world yet. If my memory serves me correctly, I forgot to write down one of the best qualities a partner can have: willingness.

One of the things that continually surprises me and keeps me happy is his willingness to try new foods, go to more cultural events, travel and support me while I was determining I wanted to commit to writing for the rest of my life.

I didn’t anticipate the joy that came with exploring it all together, at the same time. Sometimes, we are meant to learn and experience an event, trip or restaurant for the first time with our partners. In my single days, I had an expectation of my partner taking on the role of teacher. It isn’t that I didn’t expect us to teach one another but I subconsciously set up an expectation for a potential partner he did not ask to live up to.

But then there are times he stepped up to the plate that I never saw coming. At the height of my psoriasis which came over 2 years into our marriage, it had covered almost every part of my body and it was torture to wear clothes. I often wanted to tear them off and scratch. Many nights before settling into bed, he would lovingly paint my body with steroid cream and tell me he wished he could take the pain and scars from me.

I often think back to those nights and say to myself: I may not have gotten every little thing I wanted on the list but I got everything I didn’t even know I needed.

 

 

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

Getting Lost in “Big Magic”

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:

  1. 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.

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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.”

Day 3 of #bloglikecrazy is in the books!

Day 19

Day 19

There was a turn of events this morning. My husband didn’t feel well so I sent him back to bed instead of going to church. So, while he slept the day away, I drank my green smoothie and read more of The Hollywood Commandments by DeVon Franklin. You know that feeling when you are reading a book and you can’t grab the highlighter fast enough. That was me this morning. I am all about his “Pray and Prepare” motto. I spent so many years wishing and praying for things to change, not fully realizing God is not going to help me do the things I am perfectly capable of doing myself. I can lean on Him for inspiration, guidance and comfort but the work? That starts with me. I view every blog post, pitch email, query, sentence written in my book, fellowship application, poem, short story and published piece as preparation for what is to come.

I am learning how much it doesn’t matter whether or not each attempt ends in a positive result. The process is worth it.

I mentioned yesterday I had a guest post to write and submit. I wrote it and sent it off! It was one of those pieces that I felt some frustration with when I started but once I put earphones in with classical music, the words poured out of me. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud of the work.

I felt ready to take on one workout today. I did a walking video. There was some coughing, so I slowed down. Afterwards, I stood outside on my balcony. I needed to spend time in the sun, taking in fresh air. It was a good day.

Stay tuned for Day 20 tomorrow!

Day 15

Day 15

It was a day of rest, for sure. I got a couple of nice messages from friends who read yesterday’s blog and offered help and well wishes. It’s moments like these that I know people outside of my hubby and family have my back.

I got a call with better news just a few minutes ago. My X-ray was sent out and now it seems that I have bronchitis and not pneumonia, like they originally thought. I am thankful that my breath is starting to come back and in a few days, I should feel like myself again. It may sound silly to some but when I called the nurse back to get the update on my X-Ray and was put on hold, I prayed and affirmed I was in perfect health. I was at peace by the time she came on the line. And I will keep that peace until and through my follow-up appointment on Friday. Tonight, I am looking forward to a hearty homemade vegetable noodle soup made by my hubby, reading and little bit of writing.

Even though I am tired, I know I am on the mend. My smile is coming back.

And I have my peace.

I am not a walking color.

I am not a walking color. I am not a walking color. I am not a walking color. I am not a Black robot that walks and talks. I am a Haitian-American woman, born in Queens, New York. Hearing two languages spoken around me was my norm. Rice and beans are my norm.

I became a Southerner by moving to Virginia Beach at age five. I never became a Southern belle. That is not me. I cry when I pray. I laugh so hard I snort. I dance by myself. I played pretend. I built forts with my brother and took pictures on the beach with my sister. I crushed on boys who didn’t like me and avoided some who did. I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds.

I am married. I am madly in love with my best friend, my husband. I fear for his health sometimes. I joke and tell him we are going out of this world together, hands clasped together on the same bed, Notebook style. I will be 100. You will be 110. Them’s the rules! I joke in an awful country accent.

I wear an afro. Reading was my first love. I have swallowed more rage than I can recount since I was a little girl because to some people, I am a walking color. I am a walking color.

I just want to be seen as whole, flawed and love.

I want you to see the God in me.

I see Him in you.