Remembering anything is possible has been one of my goals since 2017. It’s the first sentence on my list of goals that sits on the right side of my bathroom mirror. I remind myself of this because it keeps me not grounded. It reminds me of life’s possibilities.
Recently this statement was reinforced. One of my colleagues contacted me and asked if I would be the keynote speaker for a session at our national literacy conference. Their original speaker was Laurie Halse Anderson. Laurie…flipping Halse Anderson! If you don’t know who she is, then click here. She had a scheduling conflict and had to bow out. Because my colleague knew that three other women and I have an edited anthology coming out October 2020, he thought showcasing our work would be a good fit.
I had zero hesitation. I knew I could deliver the keynote because my co-editors and I have a strong message about marginalization in sports media and a desire to highlight how we talk about or don’t talk about issues of diversity and representation. Think Megan Rapinoe, Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and the most obvious, Colin Kaepernick. But I digress.
My point is never in a million years would I have thought I’d be replacing Anderson or giving a speech about this topic in November 2019. But anything is possible. All you have to do is be open to the anything and maintain alignment with what you value.
If you have 14 minutes to spare, here’s what I had to say:
From June 18th to July 1st, I decided not to communicate with people I know (and love). With the exception of my husband, two daughters, and a siSTAR video I’d committed to, I was silent. This included my not responding to text messages, DMs, phone calls, emails, and social media.
First, I alerted everyone I could through social media so that people didn’t think I was ignoring them. In this social media age, people’s feelings are hurt quite quickly if they don’t hear instantly from you. This worked for the most part. For family, like Grannie, who are not on these platforms, I simply left a message on her answering machine asking her to please wait until July 1st to speak with me, unless of course, there is an emergency. For others like my father, who sent photos of his grandson’s kindergarten graduation, I replied with the photo you see here. And for my cousin who called with news of their newborn baby, I begged Dwight to call him back so I could listen, but not respond.
Why, you might be thinking?
I needed time, space, and silence to disengage so I could hear my inner thoughts.
Recently, my sister gifted me with a numerology reading. In our conversation, the reader said, “Everyone isn’t worthy of your time.” That is one of the most poignant statements I’ve heard in 2019, and it really made me pause. Aside from thoughts about friendships, I decided to use my fourteen days of silence to assess the many collaborations and projects with which I’m involved. Will I continue with Project A, B, and C? Are these projects aligned with my personal mission? Even if they are aligned, are they worth the time/energy investment to continue? To make these decisions, I needed time, space, and silence.
Also, I wanted to focus on how I would generate extra money for the remainder of the year. Contrary to public belief, many professors do not make a huge salary. Like other professions, it is contingent on lots of factors: discipline, rank, and institution. Being quiet allowed me to think deeply about how to attract money and from where.
Along with these fourteen silent days, I also decreased my sugar intake. This isn’t new to me. About four years ago, I did a 21-day detox that excluded all sugars. This time, I followed the recommendation that women have no more than 25 grams per day. Initially it was challenging, and I hovered around 24-50. But overall, it was a success. When I remove sugar, my brain becomes clearer; subsequently, my thoughts and dreams are also lucid. And combined with silence, it’s like a veil was removed, revealing the direction in which I needed to travel.
Although I wanted badly to celebrate the birth of my cousin’s baby, and although it took everything out of me not to respond to email plans for our DC reading or to text Bree to find out how she did at the Daughters’ Lives Matter event, or to comment on blog posts, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be at everyone’s beck and call in each moment. It’s okay to tell people you need a minute…away, just for yourself. In this instant communication society we’ve created, it’s okay to say, hold on wait a minute while I get myself together.
Trust me…their good and bad news will still be there for you to praise or lament. Their worlds will not crumble. And, you my friend, may feel more healthy and whole.
Yesterday, I shared how disappointed I was when close friends didn’t ask me how an important event went.* As I mentioned, I processed my feelings for several days. Meaning, I talked to Dwight about it, until every angle was exhausted; I removed myself from speaking words to anyone outside of my husband and daughters so that others’ thoughts didn’t influence my intuition; I lit some sage incense and meditated for fifteen consecutive days; and I journaled about the answers that came to me.
During meditation, I heard a very distinct message: Do not be concerned with affairs of the ego.
My understanding of “ego” comes from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (2005). Loosely summarized, he says that it’s the I, which we all develop, but which none of us really is. Tolle calls it “a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of identity” (p. 27).
Our egos are stories that we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. This can range from the type of mother you think you are to the type of co-worker you appear to be, good, bad, or otherwise.
I was steeped in my identities.
I am an author.
I am a writer.
I am friend.
I was swimming in my stories.
I am an indie author, who doesn’t have major names behind me offering marketing, etc. I need a different type of support. I’m a writer, whose main purpose is to raise consciousness by sharing my authentic self. Is this noticed? I’m a good friend, and if I’m a good friend to others, well then, they will be an equally good friend to me.
I’d gotten lost in my ego.
Yesterday, I also said that my close friends were in their ‘life’s bubble’, but quite honestly, so was I. I was in my oh my god, I can’t believe we’re having another reading in a different city, like a book tour bubble. My look at me being a different type of indie author bubble. I was also in my people cried and began to think about their circumstances in a different way bubble. Is this what raising consciousness looks like? And in my good friends ask each other about important events bubble of judgment.
You might be wondering what I’ve done as a result of these revelations. I’ve returned to two things I’ve been working on the past five years: having no expectations and not judging others. Neither is an easy task, but I do want to clarify.
Having no expectations doesn’t mean not having standards for people. In this scenario, it simply means I shouldn’t have expected my friends to call or not call. Subsequently, if someone did ask me how everything went, then that’s fine; if not, then that’s okay too. Also, for me, not judging means not passing judgment on my friends’ actions. If a person doesn’t reach out and show interest, it doesn’t mean that they’re a “bad” friend; likewise, if a person does ask for an update, it doesn’t mean they’re a “good” friend.
So, this is my second conclusion: Identity + Story = Ego. Don’t be concerned with affairs of the ego. And stop making up stories about yourself and others.
Tomorrow, I’ll share my third conclusion.
*Since writing this but before publishing it, someone I consider a friend did text me and ask about the reading 🙂
August 12th was a beautiful day. We’re in Florida so it was 98,000 degrees, but it was a beautiful 98,000 degrees because my friend, Tarra had just returned from China. She’d been singing in a Shanghai nightclub for the past eight months.
WhatsApp kept us close. Text messages, videos and voice-recordings preserved our relationship.
“Plan a day for us,” she texted before her arrival.
I agreed, but I forgot to tell her that I rarely plan things anymore, not entire days at least. She’d find out soon enough.
We began that Saturday with breakfast at our favorite spot, Another Broken Egg.
“Do you mind if I invite John?” she asked.
I didn’t mind. I’d visited John’s home with her last year. Blue crab and conversation permeated the air and left me with a fondness for him. It was fine.
We talked and laughed over fried green tomatoes, lobster and Brie omelets, and shrimp and grits. Tarra’s overseas stories captivated my imagination, and reminded me of every other artist’s story; the opportunity to sing in another country was fascinating, but underhanded business practices seem to be the norm.
Once breakfast was over, a girl outside agreed to photograph our mini photo shoot:
Tarra by herself.
Tarra and me.
Tarra and John.
John and me.
Tarra, John, and me.
I’m grateful for younger people who understand the importance of documenting events. She didn’t ask questions or look annoyed.
A few weeks prior, I’d asked Tarra if she wanted to do a wine tasting.
“I’d love to,” she responded. “I’ve never been to one.”
Doing things that someone has never done before excites me. I dusted off my Cooper’s Hawk wine tasting gift card and we headed ten minutes up the street. My friend had only had an African Shiraz and hadn’t been very impressed. Now, we were on a red wine mission.
As the sommelier poured and explained each glass, I laughed as Tarra’s former educator-self shone through. Check + for Rosé. Check – for Lux Pinot Noir.
We talked about over-40 lady issues, her relationships, and my children. I shared my latest writing projects with her. We high-fived and toasted to achievements and marveled at how we’d attained them in the first place. That’s the type of friend she is. We’ve deemed one another Dream Partners. She was there when I completed my PhD and I was there before she stepped into her calling. Everyone needs someone to say, “You can do it,” especially when you’re not so sure you should, much less can. She’s that friend.
I checked my phone. It was two o’clock already.
“I have a confession,” I began, “I know it’s not like me, but I didn’t plan the rest of the day. I’ve changed quite a bit…not as anal as I used to be. I figured we’d just find something to do.”
“You know. That’s not like you at all, but we can do whatever.”
A thought popped into my mind. “Let’s take a riverboat tour!”
She agreed. Twenty minutes later, we were downtown and looking for the loading dock. We’d also lucked out and could do an hour tour with another group.
By now it was 158,000 degrees outside, plus those eight tastings were slowly taking effect. I fell asleep about 15 minutes in, so much so that when Tarra woke me up just in time to take this picture, I didn’t even remember that I was on a boat. My photog instinct kicked in just in time. And I’m grateful because this is something I’ve only seen from the water.
“You’re welcome!” She said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to miss this.”
“Thank you,” I said, wiping my forehead with the toilet tissue the tour guide had handed me when we first boarded.
Our water taxi lasted much longer than an hour. The captain’s and tour guide’s shifts ended, and somehow, we ended up taking another lap around the St. Johns River with the new crew.
We disembarked by five o’clock and headed to her friend’s get together. There, three other women welcomed Tarra back to the States. One of the lady’s husbands had made blue crab, shrimp, sausage, and eggs, a Jacksonville staple. We sat around the round, glass table and reveled in Tarra’s growth and presence. It’s hard not to leap spiritual bounds when you’ve been living independently overseas.
My phone read 9:00. It was time for me to hug Tarra good-bye and head back home.
I reflected on the twelve hours we’d shared. They were easy. They were calm. They were relaxing. They were exactly how I would expect spending the day with a friend should be.
We’re continuing the self-love train with kelley from black-burgundy: hella black…
I have 400 notes. That’s 179 more than when I first began this category, which I started as a way to delete the notes. But what’s happened is because I have the category, I keep more notes. You know…just in case I want to write about something. But as I look through them, they’re not all writing ideas. So, I’m purging.
A few of my notes are simply passwords. I’ve written about this before, but it ends today! There is no reason for me to keep password upon password both on my phone and written down somewhere. Although, keeping the password to get into my work office is handy. Maybe I’ll just keep that one.
Now, I’m down to 377.
There are fourteen notes specifically about my job dissatisfaction. The reason why has become increasingly clearer to me over the past few years. I’m overqualified and that has led to a general sense that I should be doing something else with my gifts and talents. And anyone with a job knows that it’s challenging to write about one’s employer without the fear of losing said job. While these fourteen notes have been helpful in shaping my understanding of the dilemma, they are now taking up digital space, especially if I’m not going to publicly share.
Six of my notes are action steps centered on The Unhappy Wife, a book I published two years ago. I’m not quite sure why I’ve hung on to these lists if the goals are accomplished. Similarly, seven are about how to sell Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships. These aren’t fleshed out marketing plans, but rather, thoughts that I might’ve used to do a soft sell, like this:
If you want closure, then go see a therapist. If you want understanding and empathy, then read this book.
I’m pretty sure I never used it because it sounded a bit harsh. Either way, I’m down to 350.
There are ten notes specifically with the word “self” in the title. These are ideas I really intended to flesh out, like 3 ways to Be Self-aware, Re-defined: On Being Selfish, One-minute Self-worth Ideas. Because I’ve already devoted February 2018 to self-love, and with the help of others successfully shared varied ideas on the topic, I’m going to consider this mission complete.
There are a fair amount of notes that are just people’s names, so I remember next time I see them, which seems borderline redonkulous because I don’t think I’m going to search my phone when we cross paths. Another part includes random places, like meeting rooms and events people have invited me to.
Deleted. Now, I’m down to 326.
For the most part, what remains are actual topics I’d planned on writing about, but as I re-read them, I’m just not. Instead, I’ll share a brief list of blog/social-media starters:
- “So, I was watching videos of how the FBI infiltrated black organizations,” this is how Desi begins conversations with me.
- I like confessional songs and memoirs because I’m seeking authenticity. Can I tell the truth in each moment? Can you? And if not, why?
- Does it matter if your spouse practices the same religion as you?
- Children are not people who need fixing.
- 3 top knots in a Nissan Versa doing 48 on the interstate (this really happened and I thought I’d write a brief story about this beginning driver).
- I hate guilt-trip gratitude. Usually sounds like this, remember someone didn’t wake up this morning. I should be grateful because I’m not in someone else’s shoes? Nope. You should be grateful period.
- There is nothing you can buy outside of yourself that will make you a better/happier person.
- I want someone to create a “Blame Trump” t-shirt. I’d buy it.
- How many lies does it take to make someone a liar?
- Sometimes you have to pull yourself away from situations, put yourself together, and then re-enter with a new mindset.
Welp, I’m down to 316 notes.
You know I’m happy to talk about any of these ideas. Let me know what you’re thinking. Until then, I’ll be working on a new Monday Note.
Today I begin my twenty-second year as somebody’s teacher/professor.
Twenty-two years of convincing someone that what he or she is doing is just temporary and that anything can be done short term in order to achieve a long-term goal
Twenty-two years of being at least one student’s first African-American teacher/professor…still
Twenty-two years of helping people shift their thinking as they step out of the boxes in which others have placed them and sometimes shed or re-shape the boxes they’ve created for themselves
Twenty-two years of building and re-building the delicate teacher-student relationship because each student is unique, no matter the institution
Twenty-two years of counseling someone through the process of what it means to gain more knowledge because they didn’t realize critical thinking was an integral part of the experience
Twenty-two years of reminding students that they really can do it because sometimes we all need a nudge and reminder of our strengths
Today I begin my 22nd year in a profession that I pursued on purpose. Today I’ll influence someone’s future life…on purpose.
Yesterday I talked about paying attention to where I spend my energy as a way to gain clarity and make room for more pleasurable thoughts and actions. One day before my birthday, I’m sharing another way I’ve gotten clear.
Knowing Myself. I’ve spent the last three years cultivating the relationship that matters the most…the one I have with myself. I’ve gotten to know myself more and more, and I have to say, I love her.
I’ve realized just how much I have to communicate. It’s a part of my being. I could blame it on being a Gemini, ruled by planet Mercury, the messenger. But I won’t do that today. Let’s just say I’ve noticed that if I’m in a situation where I’m silenced, then I have a physical reaction. It begins with a pulsating jumble in my belly that swirls around, and moves up towards my throat.
These times don’t happen often. But when they do, I begin to shake my foot out of nervousness and blink my eyes real fast because I know if the interaction doesn’t end soon, whatever is in my mouth is coming up and out, good or bad. Because I’ve recognized this, I now find healthy ways to use my voice no matter what, like keeping virtual notes or blogging.
Another thing I’ve learned is that I have to exercise. You might be thinking, duh, don’t we all? The answer is I don’t know. For me, if I don’t practice yoga, ride my bike, or go to the gym too many days in a row, then I become irritable. In fact, exercising prior to writing or editing seems to clear my brain and boost my creativity. Consequently, I now prioritize movement; I think it’s also a way to clear stagnant energy.
Along the same lines, lighting incense and meditating at least four times a week has become a necessity. The smell of incense, specifically earthy scents, calms me. Likewise, meditation allows me to clear my mind and provides a pathway for listening to my intuition and heart. Because I know how I feel in a regular, calm state, it’s easier to recognize when my body sends a signal in a misaligned situation.
The last thing I’ve done consistently to clear my mind and get to know myself is to keep a gratitude journal. Four years ago, I realized I had issues with feeling important and loved. So, the first thing I do is write “I am” statements: I am important. I am love. Notice, I didn’t say, I am loved, but rather, I am love, itself… wrapped up in a person. With this statement, I’m not seeking love from outside of myself, but rather acknowledging that I’m love personified and fully capable of bringing love to a situation. After these statements, I find five things for which I’m grateful.
Again, I’m not perfect. There are times when I forget I’m supposed to bring the love and want to cuss someone the eff out. But more days than not, when I participate in the above activities, I become clear about who I am before I vibe out in the world with other people.
Tomorrow I’ll share the third and final area of my life I’ve cleared up.
Until then, tell me…do you know yourself? What do you love about yourself? Do you have daily rituals before you go out and greet the world?