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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Leave, Rush, Wait


You know how singers have albums with snazzy titles and some of them actually mean something–well, all of them probably mean something to the artist-the mood they were in, something related to what’s going on in their life, something that’s on their mind. Angelique Kidjo has Black Ivory Soul, Adele has an album entitled 19. Then her next album, which was released when she was 21 is aptly named, 21, Mary J. Blige has No More Drama, which is self-explanatory in some ways . I’ve often thought about what an album for my life would be–at least at different parts of my life. I think I’ve finally decided that my album cover for my life thus far would be entitled, Leave, Rush, Wait.

I’ll explain.

Leave

My childhood was, for all practical purposes, good.  I had lots of experiences that grounded me and shape who I am today. Church every sunday,family dinners ‘down the country’, fishing at the crack of dawn, crafts, softball, lots of friends, travel and great school experiences with inspiring teachers. My childhood, in essence, gave me a glimpse of what was out there. It set me up to leave Richmond, VA to explore. To question. To learn.

Rush

The next part of my life can be characterized as ‘the rush’. I was in a rush to do everything. I went to college in NYC and just fell into rushing around-physically (walking, talking).   I wanted to experience everything all at once. I was in a rush to do complete my school work, rush to hang out with my friends on Fridays at The Plex, rush to have a boyfriend (or several of them). I rushed through emotions and always had a full social life (sorority, academic societies, squash, babysitting, sign language class at church). All cylinders were firing. I learned a lot and soaked up everything like a sponge. After college, I was in a rush to get my master’s degree–so much so that I went to grad school while working full-time. My life was busy. I ran with my friends in Fort Tryron Park, took boxing lessons, I studied and I taught elementary students in a small teacher-run school. I became emblazoned with the passion of progressive educators and became heavily involved with educators in these circles. I volunteered for everything, had a lot of stuff and was feeling full of life. I was in a rush to get married in my late 30s and so I did. I was in a rush to get divorced less than a year later and I did. I moved, moved again, had a baby, through myself into my job and grad school again. Busy, I was busy. In a rush to prove something. I was in a rush to make a name for myself. In a rush to make money. In a rush to get a doctorate. Feeling every bit of 20s all over again, I did all of those things and then a few months ago. I just felt tired.

Wait

Now, I’m in a period of wait. I’m in the gray, cloudy place that an airplane goes through right before the blue sky peaks out in front of the nose of the plane. I’m in the place where it is easy to feel overwhelmed, underwhelmed, cranky and not confident. In this period of wait, I feel every one of the 24 hours in the day. I sometimes struggle to make one day different from the last. Up until now, I’ve been fighting the wait. It is unnatural for me-a person of leave and a person of rush to…wait.  Waiting is excruciating for a person likes me who wants what she wants in the now. A person who wants to be in control. For me, waiting signifies a loss of power. Waiting for someone to pick you up. Waiting for someone to decide something for you. Waiting requires no energy–or so I thought.

I have come to realize that waiting requires a great deal of energy. Wait requires power and knowledge of the presence of power. There is a lot to learn in the period of wait. AND, there is a lot of work to do in the period of wait. Waiting, as Dr. Kinney (Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Beaver Dam) put it, is a sign of your desire, devotion and determination.  I have not enacted the right attitude or behavior in this season of wait. Like the plane, I have to act as if the blue sky is there even though I can’t yet see it. I have to act as if I am confident in what I believe to be true. When my period of wait (and work) is over, I hope to have learned something about myself that I didn’t know before. I want to say, ‘wow, that was hard but I’m such a better person for the wait’. I believe this to be true.

 

 

 

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in life freestyle

 

Yes, No and Not Yet


At times there is a ‘yes’ over my life. At times there’s a ‘no’. And at other times there’s a ‘not yet’.

It is during the ‘yes’ times that I have a compelling feeling that something is right, feels right, sounds right.  My ‘no’ times are often felt with the same intensity as in, “no, this is not right”. For both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ times in your life, the difficulty (as least for me) has been acting on them and trusting these feelings. I am notorious for making pros and cons lists, I take forever to make particular decisions and generally feel bumped around in life.

I often rationalize through the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ times, by saying something like, “I know this IS NOT right but I can make a ‘yes’ case for it intellectually’, or “I know this IS right but I’m afraid to do it”.  I often have a fool’s wish that I didn’t have to recalibrate my gut each time to determine is my yeses and no’s. I often wish that I was born or raised (or yes, had a crystal ball) with a clearer sense of when a yes is a yes and a no is a no. But alas, that really is a fool’s wish and honestly, I have all of that knowledge inside of me right now.

As I continue to live, think and pray about my experiences, my yeses and my no’s do get clearer …but it’s the ‘not yet’ that is giving me a workout these days.

The ‘not yet’ is where the work comes in for me. The ‘not yet’ is the place where I am clear about the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ but I need to work to get there. Real emotional, spiritual work.

My ‘not yet’ feels like a house. It feels like love. I have begun to dig under the garden to test the soil, pulled up the carpet to inspect the floor and made holes in the wall to make sure the structure is stable. All of this in an effort to  realize my ‘yes’. All of this in an effort to fully realize, appreciate and reciprocate the love that is in my life.

I am convinced that the life I am recreating has a ‘yes’ over it. This life will hold more love than I can imagine. It will be a life that I can pour into. But, first I need to tear down some things, fix some things and build up other things. I cannot hold onto ‘nos’ or rationalize a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ any longer.

This is hard work- getting to the essence of myself and starting fresh. It’s hard work but it’s worth it. My relationship with love is worth it. My relationship with my parents, my daughter and with Larry is worth it.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in love

 

I can show you better than I can tell you


I think today I decided to stop trying so hard and just let things fall the way they are supposed to fall. I’m not in control anyway and I’m getting sick pretending to be. Finally, I have a golden opportunity to really focus on my own stuff; my own issues, my own concerns, my own relationships, my own desires, my own happiness, my own writing, my own life.  

Today, I think I have decided to let other people deal with their own issues and not carry the weight of not acting or reacting the way they think I ought to. I don’t have the brain space or the volition to deal with the merry-go-round of pity, self-doubt, anger or frustration.

My friend, Larry, always says to me, “I can show you better than I can tell you”.    Me- I’ve always been a, “I can tell you better than I can show you” person so I’m going to try something different and expecting different results. I’m tired of talking about it and I’m really tired of worrying about it and I’m even more tired of writing about it so no more talking. Just doing.

Good God

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Can’t find my Phoenix, Can’t find Myself


I came home like a pigeon or more like a butterfly or turtle that knows its’ way to their place of birth, instinctively. I charted a course through the snow and coasted on waves of instinct.

Now that I’m here, I am walking around circles, unsure about which way to go-what to do, how to be. My compass points don’t seem to be where they ought to be. My instincts are not helping me navigate this new terrain. I feel like stopping. Just sitting down to rest while the world flies right by. But rest seems so unnatural for pigeons, for butterflies, for turtles — for me. What if I miss something? someone? What if I get caught? What if I am found defenseless?

Being in the woods or in the water is one way that creatures like me recalibrate and renew. It was in the serenity of the woods that I gently cried. It was in the woods that my friend, said to me, “ the problem is that most people can’t find…say… Phoenix so they give up and go back where they came from”.  

Instantly, that resonated with me. I have followed my instincts and now I can’t see the destination. In her understated wisdom and strength of steel wrapped in silk, I realized that yes, she is right. I do want to give up and go back. Yet Phoenix, my social/emotional, spiritual Phoenix, is still there. It is still on my route but it is temporarily hidden from view. Yes, I can rest, for pigeons, butterflies and turtles do rest but I must continue to believe that my Phoenix is there, even in the apparent absence of it. When I find my Phoenix, I will find myself again and she will be better than before.

 

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2011 in life freestyle

 

Easy to give up. Harder to give in.


It would be so easy to give up today.

Some days I just feel sad for no reason…not sad really but slow and tired and overwhelmed (or maybe underwhelmed)

Today, like some other days, there is a tear (maybe several tears) formed in the corner of my eye but they won’t fall… not until someone says something or I see something or I think of something. Anything can make the tear fall– a moment of sitting in a comfortable chair waiting for my grandmother to finish her blood work, an email from a friend asking if I found anything yet, a telephone call about a friend not having heat for 2 weeks, leaves falling outside, a scripture sent as a post on FB.

It is on these days that it would be so easy to give up..easy to say, “I don’t know”, to stop trying so hard.

Maybe this is what should happen -after all.

Maybe it’s not giving up but giving in.

The tears have fallen. Yes there was more than one.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in life freestyle

 

Walk with a light foot


I banged and battled my way through life like a ping-pong ball sometimes cascading gently downward only to get kicked up again to a different bell and whistle. Sometimes propelling myself high enough to have no other choice but to land in the gutter and lose my dignity and my confidence.

Fear provided the energy that I needed most of the time. Fear of not being good enough in school, fear of being taken advantage of. Fear of being hurt. Fear quickly turns into anger, which cycles back to fear.

Anger that no matter how hard I worked I still had to carry my student ID at all times, just in case the campus police demanded I (we) prove that we actually were students at the Ivy League school right in the middle of Morningside Heights.

I was angry that I had to evoke a relative’s lineage to be accepted in the Dominican hair salon, thus putting an end to ‘you MUST be Hispanic’ topic of conversation. Angrier still that my dreams of being a part of the fabric of Africa were quickly exposed when kids cried at the sight of me and I was admonished to learn the words, “I am not white” and “I am not from Mali” in order to preserve my safety and my sanity.

As a young teacher, I was angry at the experiences of students in my small progressive school and I was finally told, “Hollee, you are saying the right things but in a way that no one can hear them.”

Fear was also a mainstay of my relationships with men. Fear of being used. Fear of finally having something good led me to angry tirades which no one in their right mind would put up with. Fear led into anger which led to walking in the snow without shoes after an argument, throwing objects (including phones), hurling hateful words, choosing badly and discarding all that was loving.

My fear is still there. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being too good. Fear of losing what is good.

Yet, instead of banging and battling through life being tossed around hoping for a gentle landing; I make a daily choice to dig deep, gather my momentum and walk confidently with a light foot.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2011 in love

 

How Many Times Can We Laugh This Off


“Hollee”, my grandmother says gently, “Is Danielle okay?” I knew just what she meant.

Living with my Dad has its own special challenges. Most of which I have successfully mastered by flying low and taking up as little space as possible. This, in and of itself, is quite a feat with a daughter who is larger than life. Danielle is colorful and loud and talkative and messy. None of which work consistently well on the road named for my forbearers–a quiet people who keep everything inside. Don’t ask, don’t tell. I’m playing with fire by even writing about this.

My Dad was in the military and worked in a highly technical job in a laboratory. Perhaps this is a contributor to his over the edge disposition on cleanliness and order. He has lived alone for decades and likes nice things in pristine condition. Knowing this, my mom begged me to dust and sweep and mop, which I have done.

I find myself tiptoeing around all the artifacts in here while pretending like it’s the most natural thing in the world for me to do so. There are huge citation fish, stuffed owls, and deer antlers on the walls. Glass objects, model houses and boats sit squarely on tables and everything has a place. One particular place. Just one.

My daughter and I have done well here. Nothing has been broken or has fallen or been misplaced. We wash dishes immediately after using them and recycle everything (and I mean everything-as in virtually nothing goes to waste). Yes, we should live in an orderly environment but this level of order is exhausting physically and mentally. I am grateful to have a beautiful home to live in but sometimes, I just cry because of the burden of the expectations.

A few days ago, I was admonished to sweep the fringes on the rugs. This simple request was meted out in a matter-of-fact manner with an angry tone that hinted of a detrimental inattention to detail. So now, I walk around careful not to step on the fringes because I cannot bear the added chore of using the tiny broom and putting it back each time I use it. A little thing that is a big thing.

I try to intervene for Danielle’ every chance I get but I was off guard last night as she and I joked around in her room. My dad admonished her to cut off the lights when she leaves a room. A simple request. One that she would happily agree to given her ‘save the world’ philosophy on just about everything. But the request was said with all the 1940s ‘this is my castle’ authority of an adult to a child. His tone was totally uncalled for and I felt so helpless in the moment because if I intervened, then it would have surely made the situation worse.

The easiest thing to do in the moment is just to hope that the chastisement won’t be too mean or last too long. After the episode (as we now call them), I said to her “Don’t worry about it. When we get our own house, we are going to run around turning on all the lights. The house will be lit up like a Christmas tree. We can even flick them on and off like this (flicking the bathroom light quickly). She and I had a good laugh with hands covering mouths.

I gave her a kiss goodnight and then wondered about how much more cover up I can do. How many more times can we laugh this off.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in daughter-ing, parenting