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.

The best compliments, if you can hear them

I was watching this tribute to Brandy and at the end India.Aire was talking to her saying, “I don’t think you really get just how much people revere you or how you’ve inspired other singers.” I thought to myself, the best compliments have got to come from people who speak your language. Then India kept saying, “I just don’t think you understand…” and I amended my thought to include “…if you can hear it.”

When I hear music, not junk but true music…that is made for the heart not the ears my skin gets hot. My body tingles and I see it. Its like notes paint a picture for me and rather than a brush, a dancer smoothes the notes across an endless canvas; more like a horizon. I feel very connected to music, and I have always admired those that can close their eyes (figuratively and literally) and engage in a type of intercourse with rhythm. I’ve envied that, speaking honestly. I have because I want to. I wondered briefly if everyone has this reaction to music, if everyone says to themselves, “I know I could sing that!” I could perform that. I could breathe life into that. My guess was no.

So I have the soul of an artist. She keeps talking to me, she wants certain freedoms that I, on the surface, feel are out of reach. She keeps telling me they’re not but I don’t believe her. What keeps me from reading monologues with the voice that’s in my head? The voice of the character. I’d rather write them. I am comfortable in my strength there, but its become too comfortable. Lol, its funny I feel like Audrey II from Little shop of horrors when she outgrows her pot.

What keeps me from singing? I can. I have before but in choirs where I add to sound rather than be The sole producer of it. What keeps me from dancing. God I want to so badly. When I hear some things I do close my eyes but I limit the movement to the me that exists in my head. Why am I holding her captive when she just wants to express herself?


I have been on an absolute journey the past two weeks during my Adult Development class.  Much of which cannot be appropriately described by any language I know. Last night was our last class and we presented each other with gifts; I had been searching my mind for what felt right to give for three days.  In talking it over with Mo she suggested I sing a song (more on that later).  I searched my blog frantically for words or a photo or a quote or something…I write things down so that I have them readily available yet when I was looking for them I could find them not.  I take it to mean  that the things I was looking for were not meant to be found in that moment, especially since I found them readily this morning.

When Dr. Green said, “…and tell this person why this gift is for them…” I broke down in tears.  I wish I could explain the origin of the emotion, they came from my core…my soul.  I was paralyzed with emotion and ended up being the last person to go and when I tried to find my voice, it failed me. Telling.

Backing up…this year for Lent I was in Terri’s class and I carried around a microphone everyday to remind me to use my voice, and to speak my truth.  It felt like that again. Only back in March I was searching for my voice and now I had it and was too overwhelmed to use it.  I was completely IN that moment. My body felt unsure, as though I were a fawn standing for the first time. My head was swimming, searching for the language, and perhaps LOL I could say my false self swooped in to offer the gift, but mid-sentence my truth stepped up and I was crying again…I was like Alice floating in a sea of my own tears. I felt like my own levy had broken.

I looked down at my Klenex which contained my $30 mascara, my $40 foundation, my $20 eye shadow…my face was literally wiped clean by my tears and I was there, in this classroom, in my group, bare.  None of it even mattered, I was happy to be able to give to them and share with them something that I never share with anyone.

I remember thinking of the person, Jax, I wanted to give a gift to…because he has given ME so much throughout this class.  The more I tried to prepare my words, the harder I cried–this feeling was seeping out of my center into my extremities leaving them heavy as lead.  My heart was heavy and yet it felt brand new, as if finally I could feel it again. I wanted to be on my knees in child’s pose. I wanted to surrender to that moment but I could not move. I was so incredibly emotional and I only remember one thought, “I don’t want to be touched.”

As I described parts of this to J this morning I said to her, “there are some people who you don’t want to touch because if you touch them they’ll change you…” I knew at some point there would come a time for embracing my classmates and I was dreading that time. I was particularly dreading hugging the Col. and Jax as both of them have come to mean so much to me. I felt myself holding my breath when that time came with the Col. Counting down from ten…then came Jax and I had pull away. I really didn’t realize how much I hate being held (figuratively) until I was faced with it literally. I recalled my meeting with The Healer. I wanted so badly to embrace her but I felt if I did I would explode.  Sometimes when you feel people too much, you can’t imagine being any closer to them because you might lose yourself. You might come far too close to what true pure love is like. Not romantic love… but the stuff we’re all made up of.  You risk the chance of being TOO connected to Source energy.  So my body did what my heart could not, and even then I had to step back and throw the veil back on. I had had enough connection for the evening.

God it was beautiful in that moment.

When I woke up this morning I wanted to write about it but I had no words. I found myself saying something then having to clarify or qualify it. I kept coming back to love, but trying to explain myself to make it clear. I had to keep retracting and editing and side-stepping when I really just wanted to flow.  I came back to my blog and I searched for this picture…

paige bradley "expansion" sculpture

“Expansion” by Paige Bradley

Though this was not my pose, this is how I feel. That bright spot in the center is where last night I existed. Those cracks are all that I felt bursting out of me.  This broken beauty is where I sit somewhere in the space between my soul and my body. I have been humming ever since last night. Literally, vibrating and on the verge of tears at any given moment.

As I sat moments before I offered my own gift I contemplated Mo’s suggestion to sing. I ran through the words to the song in my mind and I grappled with many of them.  I mixed up stanzas, I forgot the bridge…but the thing was it did not scare me and it did not feel an outlandish thing.  Maybe I am getting closer to singing in public.

One thing that Jax said was that he was grateful for a professor who pushed him and a class who held him.  I share in that sentiment. As uncomfortable and new as it felt to be the one in need of comfort rather than the comforter, I am so BEYOND grateful for the experience we all shared.

Crystal said yesterday, “I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until [the card] told me to breathe.” Similarly, I didn’t realize how closed I was until I was cracked open.  The good thing is its beyond repair.  The scary thing is, its beyond repair.

I am sitting in the midst of my own autumn; fresh in the world of unknown.  Not only that, I am bare, no pretense, and am seeping emotion out of every seam. I asked to be loved, to be changed in my last petition…I did not specify how.  Point taken, universe.  I asked for companionship and the cards told me I was not yet ready for it.  My own inability to even accept physical touch reaffirms that. There is work to be done, I am definitely in progress.  But I still stand in awe of how far I have come.

Make your Life your Art

I was walking home having a conversation with myself, something that is not completely uncommon.  I was mulling over a conversation my advisor and I had about research and my desire to do more of it this year.  She suggested that I enroll in a class this fall centered around conducting research and preparing for an international leadership conference. Immediately I thought, “I can’t afford to take another class” because my scholarship pays for two per semester. I literally shook my head and said “NO! Jess you have to stop making money a barrier as to why you can’t do what you want to do.” My next thought was pretty brillz

What you give power, has power

Simple, yet right.on.the.money.  And why did it take until today for me to really really get that?  To understand that debt has power because I have given it power.  That inactivity has power because I give it power.  Or that my academic preparedness has power because I give it power.  It really clicked today that things have power because I willingly assign it.  I decided that I would add the class and I felt good about the decision, the money? It will come. I have truly grown tired of worrying about money.

Before I spoke with my advisor, I sat outside of the conference room waiting for her to prepare for a meeting. As I waited, I started reading a book called The Nature of Leadership.  Reading a story by a CEO about learning to listening another thought occured to me:

People don’t want to be lead.  People want to be understood.  Understand them, and they will come with you.

It was unedited and that thought is just what arose as I digested the CEO’s revelations about the necessity of listening to people.  Its just what I heard the other night…old familiar words but powerful none the less, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

  • The authors spoke of art and life…how throughout school the two were separate. There was time for learning, tools for success and then there was the extracurricular: art.  It was supplementary, not rudimentary.  Until he came across an artist who wove his passion for art in his home, his career, his volunteerism, his relationships.  It was an epiphany for him; life and art do not have to be separate.
  • I was watching a CBS special about this author who wrote a book about decision making entitled, “Wait”.  He spoke of waiting until the last possible minute to make a decision and it kind of speaks to Wheatley’s idea of clarity arising from chaos.  He used sports as an example, “sitting in the pocket” for football or tennis players waiting for the ball to come to you…its patience. Its waiting until the muddy water settles and things become clear, answers come organically and readily and our actions are not forced and we act with certainty. It is not always procrastination…it is acting from our Self who has not left room for doubt.

Cycling back to the second thought…I contemplated its truth. Is this true of my experience?  Well…isn’t that the entire premise around counseling? I reflect, I mirror, I show my clients that “I get them” and then together we head to a place that we have both agreed on. I am seen as the therapist, the facilitator but in fact I am not leading and clients are not following.

So if I can understand I can have a movement.  This is not to say that I cannot lead or I should not lead…but I believe it to be key in the execution of my leadership.  I have to understand people.  In the universe’s beautiful way…this happens to connect back to the book because it was partially authored by Steven Covey who listed “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” as one of the 7 habits of highly effective people.  Because when I can show people that I get them. I hear them. I see them. I know what is important to them. It is then that share vision, purpose and they will likely come. Why? Because they believe that because I get THEM I get IT.  At least that is my belief, and honestly my experience.

This came from reframing the way I understood my role…as a friend, as a daughter, as a student, teacher, counselor, etc.  This came from seeing the things that I did differently and as a result, they were different.  The process was different. It stopped being how can I make people better or how can I help people, to how can I understand them and what is there to learn?  That small shift makes such a big difference.  THAT is what allows me to, in those moments, sit in the pocket…to wait for the ball…to be patient because the clarity comes. People just need time.

See how great conversations with yourself can be?

Just for the sake of…

So this weekend I went downtown and played at Atlantic Station, and for my ATLiens you know that means that all the artsy stuff was in the square between H&M and Copeland’s.  Well I bought some jewelry but what really got me was this art…its by an artist whose name is Chris Hobe Check out some of his stuff:

I'm obsessed with this picture...and I told him I wanted one. It'll be Deeds' and my first commissioned painting lol

This was at Atlantic Station...check out the Angela Davis...this was the one that caught my eye originally

Artists interpretations of Theirry Les Goudes' Soul collection, I'm not artsy but I knew that immediately. I think most people would though who are mildly interested in photography...LOVE the colors

The light

summer-07-068a-copyShe don’t believe in shootin stars, but she believe in shoes and cars.

Every once in a while Kanye gets quote worthy.

Wood floors in the new apartment,
Couture from the store’s department

Usually when you can directly relate it to someone you know or yourself. And not that my friend K (shown left) is more of tha trips to florida type lol but this picture just made me wanna sing the song.  I’ve made a ‘name’ for myself doing photography and playing with photoshop. There are a lot of people who FB model and/or slap a watermark on some sub-par nonsense and then call it ‘photography’.  It irritates me.  I dunno why any loser with a camera wants to call themselves a photographer when the know nothing of the craft and if I say the names Patrick Demarchelier or Ansel Adams their eyes glaze over.  My particular favorite is B|W photography. A picture without color that still makes a statement, THAT is a photograph.  Anyway so I’m completely 100% an art fanatic. My future home has no floorplan or location but its completely decorated.  Anyway so one of my fav. photographers is Howard Schatz he did a book called Passion and Line that features photography of dancers and its A.MA.ZING… seriously my room in college was covered in his work.  So I check out his site and see all his pregnant woman pictures and pictures with newborn and it makes me wanna add some of these shots to my portfolio.  I dunno anyone that’s preggo though. I need to add that to my 2009 things to do, enhance portfolio and book more gigs. I also need to get more business cards printed since I changed my # all 500 of the old ones are null and void *grr*.  Sometimes an old picture is a kick in the pants you need.

When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes.  But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls

~Ted Grant


Newborn Study #1059 Howard Schatz

Art for Art’s sake

Its been so long since I’ve shot anything…its cold and everything’s dead so I haven’t been out playing, even though I def. live on this whole river :-/ We’ll see anyway I was looking through old pictures I’ve taken and gotten the itch to travel *soon* somewhere amazing to take photos. I need to come across another Quarry (right)quarry and its still such a funny story the way that we discovered this place. Basically I’d heard about this quarry near my apt. in Knoxville that was gorg so we (my roomies+ A & D) set off on an adventure. I shot a Blair Witch style video that is hilarious as we had to pass through woods, a clearing complete with “no trespassing” sign, N’s car getting towed FROM the tow truck place, and  breaking into the homeless villiage…But for a shot like this it was worth it.

Another picture with a fun story, this one (below) of my friend T.  15-copyShe’s an AKA and I always joked with her about the mirror and how she would ‘check her self’ in her hand I had to remind her that there was nothing being reflected. Anyway we took this picture joking around and check the light that came from a reflection (I did enhance the color brightness but the original had the bright glar anyway). I love naturally pefect pictures. Never again will I doubt the reflective powers of an AKA and her hand LOL.

Lastly, I love shooting strangers. Nothing brings me more joy mainly postcards-12a-copybecause posed pictures are so cookie cutter and boring, but when you’re shooting strangers like at a park or something (a hobby of mine in college) you just get a snippet of their life at that moment. Raw and uncut, I still want to go onto the streets and shoot the homeless, maybe put together a mini project art doc. I did one for Hurricane Katrina 4 my dad but in lieu of recent events its gone…wish I still had it though. Anyway…my favorite people I don’t know (above).

I’m a junkie…this spring its proms, graduations, and I’m back at it again. No more weddings though, its just more trouble than I care to take on.