I heard those words in a video around 1:30am. I had one blank page left in a brown leather bound journal on my side table. I wrote those words down because I never want to forget them.
They had meaning. It was life-giving.
It was spoken by a diver. She is a member of a group: Diving with a Purpose. Their mission is to deep dive into oceans on the hunt for shipwrecked vessels that once held captive Africans. They teach people how to measure the ship, collect vital information and preserve history. These men and women, many of whom are Black, feel compelled to learn to dive, become guardians of history to find us.
Those who never made it.
Those who chose the sea.
I wept a little as I watched. Their resolve was clear. Their bravery and curiosity stoked flames in me.
What will I deep dive for?
What will I fight to preserve?
What will I not let slide anymore, desperate to believe he or she or they “didn’t really mean it?”
This weekend I watched “Star Wars” for the first time. I don’t shun sci-fi at all but I was never drawn to that particular franchise (I grew up in a Star Trek household). I may not have fallen in love with it but I tried to see it through my husband’s eyes. He was a child when it came out so while the technology and the acting made me cringe at times, he must have seen nothing but magic and heroes stretch the fabric of reality and his budding imagination.
It was a sweet reminder of the power of nostalgia. I can instantly connect to how I felt jumping rope in my cousin’s backyard on Long Island, pouring over the pages of “The Baby-sitters’ Club” books, dancing to Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in our living room and watching with bated breath to see if Whitley and Dwayne were finally going to get together on “A Different World.”
I love that I don’t care if any of it was perfect. I didn’t want flawless. I wanted fun. I didn’t know it then but all I needed was simplicity. Laughing hard until the breath sputters and there is guffawing. Pumping the volume up to dance and sweat. Turning the pages, losing myself in hours of uncomplicated storyline.
I hope to reconnect with more of that..the simplicity. Fondly remembering what was is beautiful but being able to carry its essence with me now–in the present moment–is priceless.
Recently, without realizing it, I developed an obsession with the concept of time. Well, not so much time but the concepts of an alternative future and time travel.
This is not something I would normally write about but this is where I am.
No matter how silly it was (re: Seth Rogen’s Hulu Original Future Man), innovative and emotional (Amazon’s Undone), groundbreaking (the writers’ doomed vision for the world’s future in Westworld) or how prolific (Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred), over the past couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to tear my eyes or hands away from it.
It was happening and for some reason, I didn’t connect the dots or recognize the common thread.
Each time I read or watched, I was asking myself if I would make the same choices.
Change the past for a better future. Alter a minute detail for a shiny, new me. Attempt to take control over what’s already done.
These stories have made me examine choice in a way I haven’t in a long time, if ever.
I understand there is no sense in longing for a past that never was or clinging to a hope I will one day bend reality to my whim.
But my analytical nature examines why I made the choices I did–picked up the phone at a particular moment, took long aimless drives, booked that flight, didn’t take the leap to pursue teaching overseas when I had the chance, grew silent when I should have been shouting or simply why some people have floated in and out of my life like nameless ghosts and others seemingly tethered to me, part of my DNA.
I have found myself indulging in the fantasy: if I went through this door, maybe I would have been a dancer or an activist or a healer, adorned in vibrant headscarves and crystals or a suburban woman with a brood of children or a tightly wound, bespectacled corporate drone in a more metropolitan setting.
I will never know the truth of any of those closed doors, those unexplored lives.
Choices have been made. Deals have been struck.
And thankfully, more will come.
Everyday, I am living in the abundance of choice, the beauty of possibility. Even now, in the midst of this uncertainty.
I think that’s enough to take with me as I watch and read, in awe at the boundless imagination of others and my real life unfolds.
The last month has been out of an odd dream I can’t seem to wake up from. An odd but forgettable one where I am home, on my couch or upstairs in my bedroom, with bouts of disinfecting grocery deliveries, countertops, light switches and doorknobs maniacally, feverishly washing hands and where I take intermittent walks that consist of waving to my neighbors from afar or dodging people and cars that come too close because if they do, I might catch a strange virus that may or may not kill me or anyone I come into contact with.
This odd dream feels like something I would struggle to remember but retain enough detail to recount it to my husband as he’s preparing to head out the door for the day. An odd dream that I would share with a co-worker who would then ask: What did you watch before you went to sleep last night?
But it is all real.
This oddity is real.
I have been home since March 13th. I have been to a grocery store and a pharmacy (on the same day) once since then and have not eaten take out either. Competing in a Strongman on March 7th feels like it happened in an alternate reality.
Because it was.
I am not a doom and gloom person but I can be an anxious one. I am not in a state of panic but perhaps the privilege and the blessing of a fully employed household working from home, good books, loving family and friends and distracting technology affords me that peace.
But psoriasis and Lupus live here so we are a house of people whose immune systems don’t always do exactly as it should.
So where does that leave me?
In a variety of places.
Sometimes mourning the option to go everywhere worry free and sometimes giggling in bed with my husband because his goofiness makes me deliriously happy first thing in the morning.
It has had me fraught with worry a couple times when a cough refused to go but then I realized it’s allergy season and my neighborhood often looks like a pollen dust bowl.
It has also had me praying more, grateful for video calls, journaling, the one N95 mask we had in our linen closet, and telehealth therapy sessions. I have danced to DJs on Instagram, laughed at memes and YouTube videos, cried at people singing in unison in New York and Italy, harmonizing from their windows and balconies. I have raged at the administration and people who won’t stay home, wiped tears for the sick and the dead, signed petitions, donated money, felt restless and helpless and fearful for the homeless, the incarcerated and everyone who has to work outside of the home, ordered and got lost in books. I watched game shows and paused screens to turn to my husband and talk about all of my feelings which I have eaten a few times (see pint of ice cream in my trash).
I will continue to be in all of the places because I know I have no control over the outside world.
This past weekend I became a Strongwoman. I may have always known there was an inner strength but I unveiled a woman that was physically strong, too.
My gym hosted a Strongman competition. There were many classes (light and heavyweight women and men, master’s men and women, novice men and women which was my category). I also found out we had fitness trainers among the competition which made me proud that people like me who don’t work in the fitness industry could hang and in some cases, beat those who do.
I had my husband, friends and family there to cheer me on which besides the friendly and vibrant Strongman community, was the best part. They knew and understood my investment –the time, the money and the conviction it took to believe I could do it. It would have not been as special without them.
There were five events: the log press (65lbs lifted repeatedly overhead for a minute), the deadlift (my favorite starting at 125lbs–met my goal of 315lbs), the husafel carry (carrying a 110lb iron tomb-shaped structure 100ft), the hand over hand sled pull (pulling the sled 50 ft across AstroTurf while sitting in the middle of a tire) and the sandball toss (for my class, throwing a 10lb, 15lb and 20lb over a 12ft caution tape in the fastest time).
I placed 4th in log press (16 lifts), 1st in deadlift, 3rd in husafel (16.77 seconds), 5th in hand over hand sled (I lost my balance and fell out of the tire but I was 2 pulls away from finishing before getting back in to complete it) and 2nd in the sandball toss (15.65 seconds). Overall, I finished 3rd!
I am incredibly proud of entering the competition, daring to see myself as an athlete, grateful for pushing past fear to recognize my body’s ability and of course, for medaling my first time out.
If you had told me six months ago I would be standing in a gym, hearing someone ask “Athlete ready?”, I would have definitely thought you couldn’t have been talking about me. But there I was standing in a gym, with chalky palms, bruised forearms, broken nails, sore arms and a genuine smile feeling more like myself than ever.
I have been thinking about what it means to do it all. Recently, I was asked to recognize that just because I can do it doesn’t mean I should. It also doesn’t mean I should try to do it all at the same time because it rarely works well and something inevitably falls through the cracks.
I have been taking time to figure out what that means to me. I am still training for my Strongman competition next month, gearing up to accelerate training for the Spartan Trifecta, planning a workshop with a partner and I have started facilitating a creative non-fiction class at a non-profit for returning citizens.
While I love all of it, I am yearning to devote more time to short stories and reading. So I am. Even if it means one of the other things (like posting here) temporarily falls by the wayside. After reading “Heads of the Colored People” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, I reconnected with the part of me that needs to slow down and explore what it means to bring my heart and imagination together on the page.
I remembered fretting over prompts given to me in a fiction writing class last year but ultimately happy when the stories came to fruition. I was even looking forward (albeit nervously) to critique by my classmates and teacher. I wanted to get better.
I know I will look back on this month as the time I chose to bet on myself AND trust God.
I am starting to increase my training this week to ready myself for the strongman competition in March. I finally have a date set to facilitate my first class (February 5th!). I am signing up for the second race in the Spartan Trifecta soon and buying my copyright for “What I Love About You” this week.
Executing on all of these things means I am fighting ancient battles, ones so old I was not even 10 years old when they began. I am worn from the fights but I have a renewed energy.
I was standing in the ocean a couple of days ago, foamy cool waves soaking my feet and brushing against my calves. I thought about what I want my life to look like and the things I want to let go. I want to make room for all of the possibility and trust all of the new I am embarking on will bring me to a place where some of those battle scars will have healed.
I want to go back at the beginning of 2021 to the same spot and reminisce on who I was and all of the changes I made. No journey is ever really over but I want leave the intensity of the fear and uncertainty behind.