Can I get a witness?

There is a fear that I need to acknowledge. It is that as a decidedly single woman, I house within me the fear that I will always be single. There will be no witness to my life. There will be no audience to my triumphs nor safety in my trials. My oneness though elective it may have once been will become a choice I didn’t choose. Yet cannot undo.

After a while you can’t help but wonder, “is it me?” And after a while longer you have all but convinced yourself that it must be. There is no other reasonably logical explanation. I ask myself, “where is my lesson in this?” I dug for lessons for six months in silence while holding pieces of a broken heart in my other hand. I could just…I could breath through this hurt God if you just show me where’s the purpose in my pain? Give me a hint.

I would sit still and listen for my gut. Nothing. And another night I would fall asleep and wake up confused in my bed but somehow smelling him. Back there. And I would cry. I cried so much in that loneliness, that quiet, that yearning for the lesson that I cried myself numb. Scabbed over and thickened it took that much more effort to feel anything.

I just want to feel wanted. I remember thinking. Desirable. Dancing around the one word I was afraid to crave: loved. Love-ing had gotten me nowhere. Trusting in love had gotten my heart broken. And here we were the day before Valentine’s Day and me in red, out of breath in a shopping mall because he robbed me yet again. And again. And again.

Leaving, I told myself, was the best idea for both of you. Only on every lonely night I have to wonder if it’s true. Was there one, a someone I overlooked? Did I miss them? Did I miss love? Can I call it back? I need someone to care how my day went. I need someone to rub my back when I feel like crying. I need someone to turn off the lights with at night. I need someone who’s laugh is the third to my fifth. I need to be held. To be cherished. To be listened to. To be made love to. Don’t I deserve that?

Silence always makes me question it. What I deserve. Because when someone doesn’t even care enough to say goodbye or fuck off or anything? You feel insignificant. Maybe silence always hurt but it certainly does now, after. His silence was deafening and in it I filled the space with every negative thought one could think. I became the woman who could be walked away from. I lived up to unworthy.

So the silence from today triggered me. Caused me to have to acknowledge my fear. My fear that even though on most days I don’t believe it, that somewhere inside me lives the belief that I will never feel…

I can’t even write the words. Through my own tears. I know that happiness is my own work, I know. But I can’t love in a vacuum right? Will friendship be enough? Will my work? I need something that loves me back.

It is at precisely this point that I find myself dangerously close to negotiating. Deciding the things I wanted and needed in a partner were ready for mediation with the universe. Only that’s not right either. But how long? How long does one sustain and persist through the lonely before you set up permanent residence in solitude?

I don’t want to hear about timing. Or trusting. Or plans and purpose. I would just really like to feel loved again.

Losing at Losing or Forever Fat

My weight was the only thing I was never good at. Even at my most fit, I did track I did cheerleading, I wasn’t a star athlete but I worked out enough and ate like any teenager, infrequently and horribly, yet all I had was super muscular legs, defined lats, arms I always wanted to cover up, and a stomach that would never grace the cover of a magazine.

My cheerleading skirts had to be ordered special because I couldn’t wear the ones passed down from other years. In high school I was a size 14/16 and for a girl who found herself in a group where the average was a 2 (and they still dieted) I almost always felt like a failure in that regard.

I distinctly remembering wishing I could develop some type of eating disorder. Where I over exercised and loathed food. That was not going to ever be true for me (And thank God!) but the thought did exist. I remember wondering how it was that I excelled in so many things and yet losing weight was my biggest hurdle. It was like I couldn’t figure it out.

Once my mother asked me if I loved myself. I quizzically answered yes, because why wouldn’t i? And she told me if I loved myself I wouldn’t hold on to all the weight. My mom is always on a weight loss kick so I figured maybe she was on to something. So then it became about self-work. I read articles and mastered the art of Oprah so that I could lose weight through my soul rather than the scale only the weight never came off. Again I was stuck, do I hate myself unknowingly? Am I missing it?

As I grew up and into myself I finally stopped playing the guessing game, “What’s wrong with me?” Opting for the belief that nothing was. My fatness remained an anomaly and for the time being I allowed it to remain unsolvable and unquestioned. It wasn’t until a conversation I had with myself just yesterday that changed things.

I’ve been receiving very clear and exciting (scary) messages from the universe about my next steps. In the process of trying to figure out logistics and prioritize my own professional becoming along with everything else I’m juggling right now I sat down to ask myself how I was going to manage and more importantly why? The conclusion I came to was that the things I’m meant to do are in their fundamental stages and every life experience I’ve had up until now has uniquely prepared me for this moment. Every conversation, every chance encounter, every opportunity, every blog post, every outfit, everything. Including my body. I asked myself if I could speak with any authority on fatness or fat women if I were not, in fact, a fat woman? Likely not.
I asked myself could I hold the space of the group I want to create if I did not look like my participants? Likely not.

IMG_0320Does this mean I can never lose weight for fear of abandoning my audience, no. But it does mean that even this body has a purpose and that I am not separate from it dragging it along as I carry out my calling. It is very much an IMPORTANT part of my call. This is not a cage or a prison, this is me and this is the vessel through which I will touch and change lives. It was a powerful reframe for me.

I shared with Mari and Nicki my fear of expanse. Not physically but of becoming too big. I told Nicki how when I was a kid I used to bump into things constantly. My parents thought I was clumsy or careless but it was truly as if I could not see the wall or I had no idea how much of me needed to fit through the door frame. My sense of self has always been so much bigger than my body and I don’t want to get so big that I lose my boundary. I also fear becoming too ego driven and losing my center, my spiritual side. Mariko reminded me that fear was not a good enough excuse to play small (ha!) and that it is not that all these things I’ll get into redefine or redistribute “Me” Nicki helped remind me that the output of this work isn’t me at all. This is God and I am just the conduit.

When I remembered that I am just the vessel so much of my fear subsided. Zachary told me this before last summer. Not to hold on to the power as if it were mine but to allow myself to be used in service of its distribution. Letting it pass through me and not mistaking it for pieces of me. It helps to ebb the feeling of abandonment or boundarylessness when it leaves.

In all, I’ve never been happier. I found that the place where I have continually stumbled has been the rock I build from. Daring to believe that there is reason and purpose to all things allowed me the space to grow compassion for myself and eventually to forgive and accept myself entirely.

I have already considered the counterclaim that my fatness being of use in this way is an excuse to stay fat. And rather than dismiss it as society influenced fatphobia or propaganda I’ve entertained it. I think it is likely at some point I may lose weight. In fact I am currently tracking my calories in an attempt to eat better more often. However, I do not currently feel like I am “staying fat” for anyone or anything. I simply am. I may not always be. And I imagine as with any part or piece of self, as my body changes my perspectives may. But that doesn’t mean I cannot learn from the vantage point I currently have. It does not mean that I am only valid when I am in pursuit of thinness. It means my purpose is in my right now, and I’m going to answer as my whole fat self.

Train tracks

I talk to my best friend every day. Usually about the mundane details of everyday life, but often enough about the really good stuff. Today it was time for the really good stuff.

I wasn’t sure why my past was bleeding into my present. I was certain he and I had said our goodbyes. Letting famous poets bid our farewells far sweeter than any “Dear John” we could have composed ourselves. Yet here he was.

“What [is] my lesson for being drawn to such an elusive man” I asked him? He couldn’t answer. His only advice was to tell me I couldn’t control my emotions. I could try to kill them but I think we both knew that’s what I’d already tried doing and here we were in some semblance of together.

“I hear you, but I’d prefer you wouldn’t.” Was what he said in response to me waiting to have my heart broken by him. Surely it will come I assured both him and my best friend. I silently hoped he would understand he had the power to not ever allow it to happen. But many more pieces of me knew it would. Not intentionally, but as a direct result of his nature. Which was one of the things that drew me to him. In his head he had an idea of who he was. A scientist. A bachelor. A lover of pragmatism who doesn’t get caught up in menial emotive paradoxes. And me, the prototypical emotive paradox being the current object of his affection. It made him unknow himself. He noted the ease with which we exist in each other’s presence. As if we already understand each other’s rhythms. I agreed. He doesn’t like that it doesn’t make sense and I’d grown a particular affinity for jazz.

He was selfish. He admitted that. Even selfish with me. Demanding of my full attention. A whiskey drinker the first time we kissed he tasted of rye. Maybe that’s why I’ve been intoxicated the whole time.

“I don’t want him to come back if he’s not going to stay. I don’t know how to enjoy him with an expiration date. I’m always holding back.” I explained to my Person. To which she said, “Vacations have an expiration date, it doesn’t mean you don’t go and just enjoy as much as you can.” And then the most honest and heart wrenching truth escaped my lips causing a sharp chill to grip my spine and tears to fall from my face

I don’t want him to be vacation. I want him to be home.

The whole thing simultaneously giving me strength. Remembering the state of emotional disarray I was in this time last year. Begging someone to love me who clearly had no interest, how was this different? I wasn’t begging. Or even asking. I had simply acknowledged my feelings. I was honest. And my wellness was not dictated by his response. In fact, my very breath came from a decision to honor and be true to myself. To try for something.

Jennie said its putting pennies on train tracks. I said it felt like putting myself on a train track. But maybe she’s right. I’m not laying down to die. I’m living. Im living full out in my truth and if it comes with a little heartbreak, well God I’ve been through worse.

Holding Hands

As Annie and I meandered through the relatively empty streets of Disneyland, I noticed what felt like an abundance of couples holding hands. Often, in my interpretation, making their path more difficult having to maneuver two tethered beings instead of just one or making it difficult for those around them having to accommodate a pair. I shared my observation with Annie who says she always holds her husband’s hand. In relationships I never do, “it’s impractical!” I argued. We went back and forth with the topic all day after I brought the action into her awareness. “What if you lose someone?” She would ask. “You don’t lose them, you can feel it when they leave you.” I answered. She would later test this by lagging back in a crowd, an action which caused me to pause and look around. She laughed, “well not everyone can feel people!” I disagreed and we kept our debate up even as we walked to the car. Her bumping into me wanting to be closer and me with my boundaries.

The thing I kept from the conversation was this idea of sureness or certainty. We have come to rely on our physical senses and have made them synonymous with truth versus intuitive sense. Holding someone is how to keep them near and touching is how we know they are even there in the first place. We ultimately tend to trust that which our senses tells us is real.
For me, I’ve come to trust my somatic intellect just as much as my sensory perception. In a crowd I am already always managing the boundary between myself and others. It would become an even more arduous task if I were holding on to another pool of energy. I’m sure of everyone already because I can feel them. Touching is an invitation into me, and I into you, and I don’t think it’s one I wish to accept in large crowds. Never say never, not just not now.

That’s others…but what about the idea of being self assured? I believe our life is nothing more than a hall of mirrors. Bouncing reflections of ourselves back at us so that we may make out our true form. Sure, we can look ourselves up and down, but that only tells us what’s on the outside. My best friend tells me often enough how good I am, in various ways. My mom tells me she’s proud. My other friends offer their praise. Yet this one day…

I’d written a note to a former professor I’ve had the good fortune of traveling with twice. I admired her Way. She was so intentional yet so effortless. It was as if she’d been Being her whole life and radiance just came naturally. She’d worked in both the education and consulting fields, and did both with much professional success and accolade. In her last course with my university she lead our group to Bali. There, we had conversations about dissertation, and next steps. I was maybe too afraid to admit how much truth was behind my admission, “I just want to be you when I grow up.” As much as she works for and with other schools corporations and organizations, you can tell that it comes from the inside out. It is the thing I appreciated most about her courses, I felt so free to be creative in my work because she was so creative in hers.

Suffice to say, she was one of my life mirrors that I paid particular attention to. So I’d written to her. I told her of my dissertation topic as I’d settled on it and I asked her for advice for next steps. What she told me in response were exactly the things I was harboring deep in the tiniest chambers of my heart. Reading her words made me cry because it affirmed that maybe it wasn’t just some pipe dream and that if one person saw it in me, then others might too. Not because it was the worlds greatest charade since Oz, but because it really WAS me. I cried such joyous happy tears and I shared the letter with my best friend who then said:

2015/01/img_0174.png

And what I really realized is that maybe you don’t hold hands to be sure of the other person. Maybe you hold hands to be sure of yourself. I am still here. I still matter to someone. I am still loved. I am still capable of influence. I am still worthy. It’s the sort of things we want to tell ourselves but that feel so damned good on the lips and tongues of others. In her letter, Rose held my hand. And she reminded me to be sure of myself.

Origins

I don’t consider myself particularly exceptional. I am good at the things I am good at, but there are several others which I am not. I believe this is true of everyone. I have gathered through various interactions with humans of all kinds that I know exactly how important I am to this world. If I am exceptional in any way it is because I have an understanding of my purpose, and worth and I am openly committed to them without apology.

I was talking to Mari last night and she made a remark about her being envious of my ability to be so unapologetic. I guess it’s kind of like Lorde said,

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

The idea was and is particularly interesting especially after watching the documentary Light Girls. There was a section about the beauty industry in which the moving target metaphor was used. Perfection is unattainable and it is the idea that we are always imperfect yet on the cusp or within an arms reach of perfection which sustains this 300billion dollar industry. It is in the best interest of capitalism and our economic structure that there are less of me. Quite honestly, I could care less. Let the economy topple if it in any way depends on my belief that I am defective, insufficient, and in need of external repair.

I am not completely immune to beauty as a whole. I love make up and dressing well, I believe in fashion as art and liken designers to great artists. However, my worth neither begins nor ends with anything that is added after I leave the shower. My beauty is not circumstantial.

I find it doubly interesting that most women I know would adamantly argue otherwise. They would tell you but look closer, see my flaws? My giant pores, my full hips, my crooked smile, my frizzy hair. And I always assure them that I am seeing them. And all the things they’ve pointed out, and they are still beautiful. It’s a hard sell.

It blew my mind the first time I learned about internalized homophobia. People within the lgbtqia community berating themselves due to internalized ideals of heteronormativity heterosuperiority and an in general lack of tolerance for their own being. What I would later find out is that it didn’t stop there. There was internalized racism. Internalized classism. Internalized misogyny. And in my most recent discovery, internalized fat bias. In fact, external critique paled in comparison to the toxic dialogue happening within the folds of a woman’s own skin. We are down right nasty to ourselves.

Sometimes my friends say things out loud about themselves that makes me cringe. One because I know they likely believe it, despite the “just kidding” disclaimer. And two because I imagine the words are repeated silently and more frequently than is good for the soul.

I wish I could impart to them and to all women who struggle to see or believe their own pricelessness that it is as easy as a decision. My entire life changed when I decided to believe that I was worthy. That I was important. That I was unique and of value to the whole of the universe. That I was beautiful. That I was talented. That I was here for a reason bigger than my critics could ever comprehend. That I neither drew breath nor sustained life from the opinions of others. And that all I would ever dare to blossom into had seeds in my spirit already. Perfection is a myth. But the best version of myself is who I decide to be right now. And that target moves. It develops grows and expands moment by moment day by day. Yet I know that with each exhale I am enough.

It seems like overnight my passion for women grew. It didn’t. I just think I didn’t have words for it. But it was a woman who first revealed to me my own power. Well I suppose it was a few women. My mother. My grandmothers. And my former co-worker who I convinced to treat herself to a fancy Victoria’s Secret bra. After which she would tell me I inspired her to be kinder to herself and to own that she deserved tone treated well BY HERSELF. I’ve been hooked on that feeling of liberating women from their own muck since I was 18 years old.

And she called herself a feminist, not because she hated men–she did not–but because she loved herself and sisters too fiercely to be called anything else.

Selma, Atlanta, And Standing on Giants

“Isn’t it amazing we can drive down Joseph Lowry and across Ralph David Abernathy??” “We can fly into Hartsfield-JACKSON and am welcomed home by that little Black child at the top of the escalators…Our history is everywhere.”

Remnants of a conversation I had with a friend while I was home. It reverberated through my mind as I watched Selma, none of the main characters escaped my knowledge. “Oh there’s young John Lewis! That’s Hosea Williams!” Those were some of the men who made my city what it is and it is in their footsteps every other Black leader of Atlanta followed in. It made me think of lineage. I’d shared an experience from Bali with Taylor and Kate during a break at the conference. I told them that in family compounds in Bali, ancestors were cremated and kept at the home. As was the placenta of every person born in the family. It was quite unimaginable to ever leave home because of the strong tie to ancestors and your own lineage. Equally, selling property was not common because technically the land was not yours alone, but that of your entire bloodline. It made me also think of the witches in The Originals, silly show maybe, but they are ancestral witches and get all their power from those who have come before them. It didn’t feel so far-fetched.
Returning back to the movie, I was struck from the opening minutes of the film. Aside from an absolutely stellar performance by David Oyelowo, I couldn’t stop myself from being emotional during most of the story. I’ll try to describe my experience in layers. There was the most obvious layer of being a human being watching an incredible story of one of our nation’s greatest heroes. His struggle and vision, determination and faith was so moving and for once so human. We saw him falter within his family, deal with with pride, with humility, with doubt and worry. We saw him be made real. That is incredibly appealing and necessary for people to grasp that he was just a man with a vision who felt he was out to do what he was called to do. What if we were all so bound to vision and purpose? It disrupts capitalism to be satisfied with what is versus coveting more or less of what we have. But what might emerge in its place?
Next, there was the part of me who was so in awe of the courage, the unwavering ability to stand not for self but for that which is bigger than you and to allow yourself to be humbled. I thought of myself, naturally, and wondered. How can I? How do I? How will I? How many times have I prayed to simply be of service? To simply be used…allow me to be a vessel.
I next saw a Black man. Several Black men, in many ways fighting the same struggle I see Black men fight today. Only something about this Black man felt intangible. Like it, too, was a dream or only just a character in a movie. Instead of a Coretta, the coveted prize is Carly. And somehow my being intimidates and emasculates what I know to be Black men. Even Coretta wasn’t enough. I wondered if that was just a story I tell myself or if that was simply the truth? And if it was silly or regressive to hold so sacred the idea of the Black family? Why do I care when so many others do not? And is the way in which I care wrong? Is it too idealistic? Am I expecting…part of me understands. That for men who are struck down when they dare to stand upright they need at least their own home to feel like a palace where they hold jurisdiction and authority. And the ruling partner by his side affirming him. On the other hand, the Black woman was not built to stroke an ego nor serve the powerless. In some ways my idea of the Black family is more evolved or maybe just revolved from what now exists as the black man black woman narrative. It very much requires each one having unshakeable knowledge of who they are and that from which they came. And, I suppose, that which they will produce. I realize I speak solely of opposite gender relationships in my pairing partly because of my own orientation and partly because I am not sure of the expectations of other types of relationships.
Then Atlanta. Several miles from the center of the film and yet home to many of the film’s protagonists. My home. The greatest city in the world for Black people. Not without its faults, but with enough history and lineage in the streets alone to sooth your negro soul. I love Atlanta. I love the ride down Bankhead with the windows down and the smell of fried fish. I love the long stretch of Westview which made Willie Watkins a household name. I love the Black Santa at Greenbriar mall. I love both sides of Cascade, ITP and OTP. I love my city. If you have to travel the world to learn where home is, then do it. And then return. The longer the story unfolded the deeper my longing got for Atlanta. Sometimes I crave it so much for no reason at all. But maybe just because it’s in me. Which would almost suggest that I didn’t need to return…
FullSizeRenderLastly, I was again reminded of my height. I stand on the shoulders of so many who have come before me. It is not lost on me what my accomplishments mean. Though sometimes they feel insignificant, I recognize that fifty years ago I could barely vote let alone do the things I have been able to do. Attend a wealthy (White) private Catholic school in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. That I would receive a full scholarship for my studies. That I would be given job and development opportunities to further my learning and my professional growth. That I would be working for a very different kind of freedom. Thank you is not a big enough expression of the gratitude I feel. When I consider my life, I’ve started to think about repaying my debts. Loans from the past owed to the future, with interest. I owe it to my community to succeed. To achieve. To thrive. Yes, I owe it to myself as well, but I am not the only one who got me here.
It is overwhelming, the emotions that Selma brought up for me.  But what I can say without question is that it was so worth it. To remember who I am and who came before and fought battles I know nothing about in order to make a way for MY life to be better. It is my job to keep fighting. For the next generation, not to forget the past but to allow it to teach me (how to win another way).

What it Means to Love Yourself

“Are you going to let the shame of imperfection keep you quiet or in your shoes?”

It was the thought I just had about two separate yet connected occurrences. I was taking part in a drum circle and we were told to keep a steady hushed beat. Stepping in for solos when and if we felt compelled. I noticed myself wanting to sing. Then wanting to drum loudly and with a specific rhythm I was feeling in my body. For a long time I did neither. Not until I closed my eyes and erased everyone else in the room. Focusing on my own sound, my own rhythm. Then I struck out on my solo. Well…except I noticed I partly interrupted someone else. They bowed out and I kept going until the end. It felt so good to keep my own pace that I decided not to go back to the original beat so I didn’t. Attempting to make sense of it in relationship to my being, I became curious about my own propensities towards perfection. I didn’t think I had one. And it’s not exactly perfection, if we are calling a thing a thing, it is not that I need to be perfect. It is more that there is a specific way in which I wish to be seen. Flawed, but in this way (not that). Competent, but in this way (not that).
-1Which brings up the point about shoes. I was sitting out and enjoying a sunset reflecting on my day and how I felt. And I wanted to take my shoes off–as I often do whenever I am not in motion. But I did not. Why? My skin was ashen from the dry desert climate my toes were unpolished as my work schedule the past few days had prevented me from getting a pedicure. And so I asked myself the opening question. Was I REALLY going to let unpolished toes and an improv solo keep me from fully experiencing the moment as my body was asking to experience it? I took my shoes off. And I put my feet up and I began this post.
This time I caught myself. And I suppose I can take small comfort in my knowing that I was able to call attention to my own behavior. Modify it and engage myself in critical inquiry. However, how many opportunities have I missed? How much of my life have I allowed to be governed by how I think I’m going to look to other people?
-1Liz Gilbert posted a picture on Instagram that made me chuckle and then made me pause and really think. The caption alluded to the fact that sometimes in order to do great things you really DO have to not give a fuck. You have to let go. Not only of what other people might do or say as a result of your actions (aha!) but also the judgment you place on yourself which honestly are probably ten times worse than the things others say. We can be our own worst critics. Yet we also have the power to be our own biggest advocates.
I want to become a better advocate for myself. I want to assure myself that it is okay to try and it is okay to fail. Isn’t that what my last post was about? Because you learn. And at least you tried for something. Having your heart broken is nothing to be ashamed of, it means you had the courage to surrender your heart in the first place. This is what Jeannie meant when she told me the key to life. Be present. Tell the truth. Let go of the consequences of telling the truth. It wasn’t just a telling of truth she was speaking to. It is also a living of truth. I have to let go of the consequences of living my truth. That rocked my whole body to type that sentence. Again.
I HAVE TO LET GO OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF LIVING MY TRUTH.
That sort of unbridled affirmation, the lack of judgment, that freedom, the forgiveness for who I am not and the acceptance of who and what I am? That’s love. That is what happens when I love myself. I feel as though I just got it. It just clicked. That. Jessica, is what it means to love yourself.

On Becoming Basquiat

Quietly I’d been submitting my writing for publication on other (more visible) blogs. Each time sent I knew it would come back rejected. It wasn’t me being pessimistic. It was me knowing the mass amounts of things I read on a daily basis are not at all like my writing. Both truthful both emotive both talented though we might be, myself and the other (published) authors. But something about me is a little flawed. A little dirty. A little uncomfortable. A little wince-worthy. I am unedited, quite literally, yet both in the figurative sense as well. I write raw.

One rejection letter cited my writing as being “unpolished.” Another simply “appreciated my effort.” I shrugged them both off for the most part. Not bothering to even think twice about them until I read a comment from a reader only moments after receiving my last rejection which read:

Dear Jess,
Once again you have blessed me with your authenticity and absolute transparency. You have such an amazing way with words, and I look forward daily to get just a glimpse into that beautiful mind of yours. I am but a stranger, a voyeur just so privileged to bear witness to how healing and inspirational your blogs are for me. You speak life. Don’t ever stop. Those of us who lack the ability to articulate our innermost thoughts need you to translate and put our pain into words. To me you are already walking in your purpose. You are a healer. Thank you.

I smiled with my whole body. I know at some point I will be edited. Someone will clean me up and fix my run ons. They will curb my propensity to begin sentences with “and” “but” or “so”. And some part of me is sad for that day.

I should’ve been a painter, I just thought. Was someone editing Basquiat? Professional musicians balance between the technical and the emotion in art. Dance? Same. There is an element of…even in photography. There is such a world in white balance, flooding, and composition. In what art can the artist simply give to the masses through the medium? Skip the editor. Skip the revisions. Skip the polishing.

I just want to touch people. How can I do that better?

I have reoccurring dreams of working with Jay-Z. On some artistry type things. Writing. I cannot imagine what I would be writing for or with him but I see it. I’ve also seen myself being mentored by Liz Gilbert. In my head, she is already a mentor. Her writing is so…full. There is history and anthropology, sociology and heart all wrapped up into her stories, her life. It is full-bodied. And cohesive. I carry that sense with me as I prepare my first major cohesive project.

I just noticed that I put myself in the company of a world wide best seller, an internationally renowned artist, and a billionaire business mogul. and upon my noticing, I don’t feel the least bit ashamed of it. Where else would I be? In whose company would I be in?

Sometimes I get briefly distracted by those more visible than me. More popular. More “liked”. More “followed”. More celebrated. I wonder what I’m missing. And I have to comfort myself with “nothing.” I am not missing anything. And that rather than be envious, to enjoy my relative anonymity. That I am blessed to have the readership that I do have and when and if the time comes for me to be anything More, I will have it. Nothing meant for you ever slips through your fingers.

PurposeFULL

In the past few days I have been getting gentle reminders from the universe that I am on the right track. I was watching an interview Oprah did with the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) on her lessons from her life in career leadership and personal development. I had two major takeaways the first was her admission that she got to where is today by listening to what she felt was true for her.  I felt absolute chills when I heard her say this because it was just last week when I sent the following sentences in a note to my mentor about deciding to pursue the nontraditional path of writing as a career after pursuing my PhD:

“But how”

It is a lingering question that namely attaches itself to provision. But how will you eat? But how will you live? But how will you afford to travel? But how will you repay your student loans?  [Many] of these questions are what drive me to continuously pursuing careers in academia.  Positions that I could do and sometimes feel I should do for the sake of all the logical answers.  However whenever I seriously consider it, I feel a sort of deep seeded unhappiness that I can only imagine feels like Azkeban.  I know it is not for me and yet I am so scared that I may choose this option for fear of a lack of courage to sustain me through the anxiety of answering all the “But how” questions.
It is perhaps the fear I have of regret that keeps me thriving towards my end goal of fully pursuing my artistry. I do not want to live in regret especially when I can see so clearly what my calling is, I can hear it, I can feel it.  Oprah articulated that her purpose was to raise people to a higher consciousness. Mine is…. well I wrote this of my purpose last summer,
Inside me resides the crux of a gift blessed upon me to open people up, not to me but to themselves. How did you know? People have asked. I didn’t. God did. I am a vessel of movement of communication. The spirit of the entire universe uses my words to speak to others. That is the purpose of my words…Of my being. I do not have to compose to be a writer. I am a writer walking down the hallway. I speak with smiles and the sway of my arms, the shift of my hips and the click of my heels. I make music in my motion and the entire composition is a song. A poem set to rhythm and the pulse is a life given to be lived courageously.
Just over a year ago I was having the same “artist’s plight” and I wrote very similar words to the first:
If I’m honest with myself I just want to write. I want to go places, photograph strangers, and write the stories they elicit for me. It’s what I do anyway. I’m inspired by people, places, words, things, and sometimes nothing I can put a finger on. And I want to talk about it, only verbally I’m no good. I want to create the art space of the thing I’m studying. How the things out there show me pieces of me, in here. And vice versa. How I’m both painter and subject in this world. It sounds romantic and Parisian, complete with a diet of baguettes dipped in Merlot…It’s an opportunity. To design the life that’s calling me, and to have enough stability for my ego but enough freedom for my soul. That’s the thing about listening, you can never unhear. The voice is clear, distinct, and unmistakeable; it rings and resounds like the bells of Notre Dame. And maybe one day when I hear them, I’ll laugh at the grossly exaggerated comparison. But maybe not.
Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.07.18 PMI know it. I capital “K” Know it. Art is my medium, it provides my stage. Written prose is my monologue, my talk show, my power ballad, my solo. I feel so blessed in this moment to get such joy and such peace from the thing that also allows me to connect with others. I am at home in words. The way Beyonce speaks of herself on stage, she said she comes alive there. Here is where I live, in these words and in these spaces. My purpose is intertwined very intricately and very deliberately with my voice.
Writing is the thing that soothes my soul. It is where I can suspend the judgment of the world. It is where everything makes sense even if the words don’t. It is where I can close my eyes and simply allow. Oprah said there is no doing without first being. Writing is how I Am. It is my neutral, it is my breath, it sets my Ohm. It saved my life at a time when I saw no point in living and it gives me the ability to talk to all the parts of myself. The part who loves, the part who cries, the part who hurts, the part who is feminine, the part who is masculine, the part that is a hermit, the part who loves a party. It showed me my madness, my mania, my shadow, my cruelty.  It shows me my light, my goodness, my hope and my love.  It is my complete salvation and if I couldn’t do this. As I do this, for me and not for anyone else. It would be like losing my breath.
That is purpose full.
**I finished this piece with my eyes closed and tears falling. It was perfect.

Stretch

I had an interesting thought after a day of mixed messages. First a man in my life asserting dominance, outright demanding control. He spoke of wins and loses, his and mine respectively, as we engaged in what can only be described as a tournament of arrogance. I recognized and said to a friend, if this were someone else I likely would concede my position because I typically value peace over proving I’m right–unless it’s something I really care about. So why did I stand in all my womanhood and beat my chest at him ? This, I decided, would be the sort of thing I’d have to let go of. Could the one manifesting love really do so watering her garden with selfishness and competition? I didn’t think so. I walked away from that argument and decided never to pick up that position again.

Next hands interlaced, a gentle kiss was delivered to the top of my forehead. It wasn’t love but it made me remember it anyway. I searched my mind and emotional storage closet for last season’s Love. Wondering how long it’s been since I felt truly cared for and where all the butterflies lived in the meantime? I’d been proclaiming loudly, or maybe it just felt loud within the confines of my own mind, that I was ready for love. Yet this kiss was the first time my heart made the call. I need more of this. What did it last feel like to be in love? I searched my old posts to try to remember it. Recall it in my mind like the taste of Thanksgiving dinner. Only I couldn’t. Maybe it’s been too long. So I put on John Legend and listened to him sing love song after love song to Chrissy. And I laid in their love since I couldn’t get warm in my own.

This weekend walking with a friend who expressed a desire to lose weight (and she named a number) she cited health reasons. I told her I had no number in mind and didn’t care if I was ever thin. I just didn’t want my body to hold me back from the things I wanted to do, and mentioned that I didn’t have any weight-related health issues. To which she said, “not yet!” I nearly stopped in my tracks at what felt like a threat. I immediately noticed my defense and wrinkled my face thinking, “doesn’t she know what I research? What I write about?” I let it go for the moment but later wondered if it bothered me because it was shaming or if it bothered me because on some level I believed her? For the record, more the former less the latter. It’s the type of thing I’d freely give back.

I read an article yesterday about how men consistently choose the wrong women. And how in order for women to be the “right” woman we need to be unconquerable. The idea was that men love a challenge. And to have a woman he never truly Has keeps him working to keep you. The great challenge of “taming that which cannot be tamed.” Besides the obvious objectification of women as malleable and things, albeit coveted things, the article made me realize something wonderful. The best thing I could ever be for my future husband is a feminist. A woman who believes I am MINE before I am anyone else’s. A woman who knew she was beautiful, talented, and charming before he told me so. I am not interested in a man, or anyone, giving me a prescription for partnership. Things I have to wear, do, be, say in order to be found attractive by a man. If I don’t find him by faith, honesty and pheromones, it must not be in my cards.

While reflecting as I write I recognized how differently 29 year old me would have responded to each situation. I’ve grown. And it’s not just around the number thirty, but the ways in which I’ve made a true home within myself amaze me. Last year I grew. I stretched into my skin feeling all the layers Id yet to fill out, but noticing them nonetheless. Last month I grew. Recognizing that even though in some ways I was in the place that was first new, years ago…but that I stood there differently. Taller maybe, as the air was definitely different. Maybe more upright, and maybe just stretched toward the heavens. Either way, changed.