the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.
At Afterburn class tonight, I was the only person who showed up. I was ready to work but didn’t expect to talk about where I have been or where I see myself going.
While warming up, my teacher asked me about how I spend my days. I told her about my day job and my writing and upcoming teaching. And then she asked a question I knew I would be writing about this evening:
“Do you feel self-actualized?”
I told her I feel it more now than ever before but I think it’s a journey. With the addition of these strength training and weekly yoga classes, there is a distinct difference for me. I had to change the fitness story I’ve been telling myself forever. It used to go like this:
I like to walk and jog, preferably outside. I love to dance and water aerobics but that’s really it. I don’t like weightlifting. It’s boring and it’s just not for me. I have never been an athlete.
In just a few short weeks, I am ready to alter some of those details:
I love weightlifting, especially one on one or in a small group. I love to dance, go to water aerobics classes, walking and jogging outside everyday and challenge the flexibility and strength of my body in yoga. I am an athlete, training to compete in a Strongman and my first Spartan race in a few months time. I love the powerful woman I am becoming.
There is no destination for me. I believe I am constantly unfolding and breaking old molds. I am in a state of perpetual vulnerability which can be equal parts exhausting and exhilarating.
Sometimes I tell my husband I am letting go of the idea I need to be in control, he takes a big step back and says he is getting out of the way (because he doesn’t want lightning to strike him).
I try but clearly I am not as successful as I think I am. But there is one thing I am working on letting go of:
The story I told myself about who I am. I have been letting go of it for the past 3 years.
I was telling myself (and others) that I liked to write but I wasn’t a writer.
That I was more of a simple person who wasn’t into changing her hair.
I wasn’t a teacher.
I was completely burnt out by Human Services and couldn’t see myself returning to it in any meaningful way.
But here I am: Looking slightly different, helping men and women start over at a dynamic nonprofit, blogging, publishing articles, writing an E-book journal, speaking, attending inspirational conferences and writing classes and will soon be learning how to fuse my passion for writing and healing others together.
A part of me needed to tell those old stories to lie about how much control I had over everything. But holding on that tight to an old, over told story doesn’t leave room for one thing.
What story have you been telling about yourself in order to stay in control?
On Sunday, I watched the Michelle Obama interview with Robin Roberts. She is promoting her new book “Becoming” and I couldn’t have been more excited to watch her open up about her life.
I don’t know if this is a hard process for her or if she’s been waiting awhile to get some things off of her chest. I tried to imagine what that would feel like…leaving such a bright spotlight and then easing back in even for a book tour.
And I couldn’t.
My imagination is limited because I lack the “all eyes on me” experience. There was a time in my life when words was all I wanted to represent me and I didn’t share very many of those and definitely not too many pictures. The thought of prying (and judging) eyes horrified me. Writing on this platform obviously changed things as did my decision to join social media two years ago.
The fear I held was due to insecurities, the lack of intimate connection I witnessed with the progression of technology and my all-around comfort with being alone. But experience is a teacher.
It has taught me my story should be shared. That if I don’t, I wilt. If I don’t, the pieces of me affected by psoriasis, plants, marriage, being Haitian-American, reading, family, Christ, doubt, joy, depression, unexplained connection, frustration, curiosity, Blackness…all of it dies with me.
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.
I was listening to a podcast earlier today and they were discussing why people don’t try to change or at least don’t stay consistent in their efforts to change. The interviewee pointed out how easy it is to stay the same and do nothing. The interviewer agreed, acknowledging the comfort of being static. Forgive me for not remembering names, I listened to many today while working so I don’t want to attribute the interview to the wrong people.
It got me thinking that of course it’s easy (and convenient) to continue down a path you’ve always gone or to tell yourself the exact same story about your life. “I always do this…I never remember that or I never follow-through on….
It reminded me of a a quote I first heard from Jim Kwik: “Your mind is always eavesdropping on your self-talk.” What if I’ve been telling myself a story about myself, convinced that I already know the ending? And is my mind being programmed by my negative self-talk?
When I engage in negative self-talk, I believe I am giving myself permission to give up. I’ve done it with some of my writing and wellness goals in the past. It makes the bad medicine go down, nice and smooth.
Except that it’s not so smooth, is it? While you’re swallowing, the taste gets a little sour–even rancid, doesn’t it?
When our self-awareness grows, the harder it is to feel the comfort, to convince ourselves we are at ease when we quit. Now that I am writing on a regular basis, I am not choking down anything.
Even though I write a lot of non-fiction and lately, have been inundated with a lot of personal development books, my first love is fiction. Yesterday, after thanking God for waking me and my husband up, I grabbed the latest book I am reading: “The Perfect Find” by Tia Williams. She is one of the authors I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks ago at the James River Writers Conference 2017. I am not ashamed to admit I spent my morning wrapped up in my blankets, getting caught up in the tension and excitement of the story.
The words “keep the story moving forward” have been ringing in my head for a while now and it got louder as I read yesterday. One of my writing teachers, author Sadeqa Johnson offered similar advice to me during the Pens Up, Fears Down course I took earlier this year. I heard it again at the James River Writers Conference during the Library of Virginia Nonfiction Awards Finalists panel from Annette Gordon-Reed.
Writing has taken a more central role in my life this year so those words do ring true. However, why the volume turn-up right now? As I am writing, I am having an onslaught of realization. Those words have been my theme “song” this year. I have challenged myself to do more writing, traveling, confronting of my health, posting, applying, conference-attending and class-taking than any other year of my life. The song is just beginning to build, no deep-throated belting yet but make no mistake, it is audible. With my acceptance of the #bloglikecrazy challenge next month, the commitment to complete my first draft of my novel, starting the process of establishing my business and falling in love with dance again, the vision and the song have clarity.
I have been moving my story forward.
Your turn: What have you been doing to move your story forward?