The weight of what we write. The ability to influence the direction of a decision. To direct the path of someone’s life for better or for worse. The responsibility of altering a person’s state of mind. Isn’t it blood on our hands if we do it wrong? People watch and people mimic. Can we be counted on to be saviors and not devils? Heavy is the pen. This is the weight of writing.
This picture is a couple of weeks old. I’m just using it because it fits nicely with today’s topic. My real attire is dirt smeared sweat pants, yesterdays shirt, and pink garden gloves. No sense in being cute when there are weeds to pluck. But you didn’t stop by this blog to hear me talking about my clothes or gardening for that matter.
It was while walking my dog and tending to the garden when I started thinking about the many layers of myself and how I notice that people pick the parts of me they like. Some people love the silly me. They like when I post funny memes and do silly things. Some people like intellectual me. They love when I talk about history and little-known facts. Some people love the lover in me. They like to see me and my husband together, loving on one another and having a good time. Some people like the spiritual me. They like to hear me quote scriptures and talk about the bible. They like prophetic me. Some people like fiction me. They enjoy my novels and short stories. Others like the poet me.
I’ve learned from life that you’ll meet so many different people over the course of a lifetime and they will pick the parts of you they like best. But you know, as I know, every part of you helps to build you into the person you are. What I realized today was the importance of accepting your whole self. People may pick the parts of me they like but it is my responsibility (not theirs) to pick my whole self. I am all of the things people love (and don’t love) rolled up into one. I am not a scattered puzzle. I am a body and each of my body parts helps me to be the full and whole person that I am. When we start to favor one part of ourselves over another because we see it is what people like most, we lose the other parts of ourselves. And since we need every body part to make up a full body, in a sense, we lose ourselves.
Remember that there are layers of you and though people will choose the layer they like best, it is your job to choose your whole self.
it came in waves today
the sound of Yolanda Adams opening her heart
I was wrong to listen
her voice was a gun
her lyrics, a trigger
me, the victim
she was thunder
Yolanda knows I can’t listen to that song
it hoola hooped on the radio in ’99
the year we lived with him
and I combed my Barbie’s hair to her voice
as my Dad’s memory rode on the backs of those lyrics
the knight and shining armor
of my adolescents
invisible crown on his head
he is bald now
cancer ate away his hair
and I rubbed Witch Hazel on his foot
I kissed his forehead
I am thirteen again and my heart is inexperienced
I am not ready for the lightening on its way to me
My hands are too small to hold the weight of what’s about to happen
“What if I choose the wrong thing to do?”
and in my warrior walks
the cab driver in nice suits
his words are “hip” like his style and his commandments
“don’t sleep ready rose,” meaning,
“don’t sleep in your outside clothes”
“I feel so lost, I don’t know what to do,”
in he walks
tight-roping Yolanda’s lyrics
In those sharp suits
riding on the back of my preteen memories
and I curl my small fingers into a fist
and fit them inside the center of my Dad’s palm
the way we used to do
the way his hand covered my entire fist
the way he’s tight-roping on my heart strings
the way memory crawled its way into my throat this morning
“I just need to hear one word from you,”
Yolanda’s voice penetrates the clouds
the thunder growls
the lightning strikes
and I am thirteen again and the year is 2000
the final moan of a passing storm
and James walks out of the door
his name planting kisses on my forehead
and anointing my eyes
It took me a long time to realize Rick James Mary Jane song was about weed. For a long time, I thought Mary Jane was an actual woman he was in love with. Every time I heard the song I would smile, my heart melting at the sound of love. Even after watching the movie Friday, where there were obvious clues (such as the song being played as Smokey inhaled three joints at a time that day Craig got high for the first time), I still didn’t get it. After learning what the song was really about, I still liked it but it didn’t have the same happy feeling to it. I didn’t smoke weed so I couldn’t relate. I liked it better when I thought the song was about love.
I miss when we were innocent. Back before we really knew how messed up the world was. Back when the world was ours. Back when my Uncle told me and my siblings we couldn’t watch Bevis and Butthead. Back when the lyrics were still crafty enough to hide the “bad stuff” from the kids. When you didn’t know what the meanings behind the songs were, back when you had to be mature to know what it meant. I miss when we were innocent. Like before you really got to know someone. Back when you were besties just because. Back before we knew each other well enough to be aware of the other’s faults. When you meet someone for the first time there’s an innocence, a respect and a kindness you give because your mother taught you to be kind. As we get to know one another though, it seems like we are no longer as kind, as compassionate, or as merciful.
We take knowledge of the other person‘s mistakes as an invitation to pull back on the amount of love we give. And we do it in the cruelest way. We pull back without communication, without questions, and without checking to see if our assumptions were correct, we just leave. Abandon one another after realizing the other person was human. We didn’t do that kind of stuff as kids. We fought, argued and then invited our friends (the one we just argued with) over for dinner. We didn’t think they were possessed or insane or no longer worthy of our friendship. They disagreed with us but that didn’t mean we were enemies. We knew they were flawed, but that just made us love them better.
As you blog, not everyone will stick around. As people get to know you better, they will soon decide whether you are someone they want to keep up with. And that‘s not a bad thing entirely. People have a right to decide who they want to have around them. That’s life. People come and people go. Blogging is no different. This decision will come, either from you or from them. Somewhere along the lines, you’ll learn you either are or are no longer compatible.
If you‘re new to blogging you better take advantage of it. Those days of people being kind and generous and supportive and of you being loved on won‘t last long. Four and five years into this thing and you will look up to the faces of a completely new group of people, wondering where everyone has gone. This new group will love you now. Appreciate them for it. These are the childlike stages of blogging. The beginning of things, the freshness, the newness. These are the days when we are innocent.
My first practice in writing was the diary. Sometimes it wasn’t an actual diary but a journal I turned into one. It was a special thing for me because prior I had been writing in notebooks but notebooks didn’t provide the kind of privacy that diaries did. With the privacy of the diary, I could be more open which meant that I could be more real in my writing. I could express how I was feeling authentically because I knew that no one else would read my words. I could be angry, happy, sad, and excited. Unknown to me at the time, this was helping me to learn to express myself, to experiment with language and to organize my emotions.
My first diary was something I found somewhere. It had a lock on it that didn’t work and was pink and some other colors I don’t remember. But even though the lock didn’t work the cool thing about the diary is that as soon as it was understood this was a diary, people knew not to read it. To do so was an invasion so strong that you would fight someone over it. If someone read your diary it was like they had read your soul. It was deep because of how deeply you confided in it. I still remember what I felt when the events of 9/11 happened. I remember because I wrote it down.
First, our teacher turned the radio up. Something about New York and terrorists. Then, the school let us go home. When I got home, I stared at the television in the living room and watched as the twin towers crumbled to the ground. It was the first time I had seen something like that happen without it being a movie. I took to my diary to voice my opinion.
“Today is Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I am fourteen-years old. We are at war. God bless America.”
I was so corny and what I wrote was lame but because of writing it down I remember the exact day of the events and my age when it happened. I was fourteen so I didn’t understand all the politics surrounding the event at the time and of course I believed whatever the news told me. I also didn’t realize how writing this down was helping me with my memory.
I got my next diary/journal when I was fifteen-years-old. It was pink and fluffy with a blue sparkly butterfly on the front. I got it in Cincinnati Ohio during my 8th-grade trip. I got more personal in this one. I was fifteen and the boys had gotten cuter. I wrote more about life in general in this diary. I wrote about when my favorite cousin had gotten jumped so badly that when he came over to our house his face was terribly plump. I wrote about my excitement and sadness over graduating from eighth grade. I was graduating with honors but my twin had to go to summer school. It made me sad we couldn’t graduate together. I wrote about how this boy at school had a crush on me and how I liked him but I didn’t want to “go with him” because he went to my school. I didn’t “go with” people who went to my school. I had standards.
In my next journal, I would dedicate it completely to poetry. It was a gift given to me by my cousin. I was sixteen (I got a new diary or journal almost every year) and my cousin and I thought we were poets. We would have poetry contests (and till this day he wants me to let everyone know that he taught me how to write…lies) to see who could write the better poem. I don’t remember who judged us. I think we judged ourselves. (insert eye-roll)
But I had also begun to express myself in a different way by now. This journal was green, not pink so that the color and the content of the book reflected my maturity compared to the other journals. I didn’t write about my life, I wrote poems about life instead. I started to look around me and write about the things I saw reflected in the world and not just what was reflected in me. I would look up the definitions of words and write whole poems based on those words. Most of the time it made no sense but it did help me to expand my vocabulary. I also wrote poems about sex because I was sixteen and that’s pretty much all we thought about.
At every stage of my life I always had some kind of diary or journal with me to help to organize my thoughts and feelings and I didn’t know then how it would help me with my writing later on in life. (It also helps me to be patient by writing thoughts down on paper before publishing it to the internet. Letting them sit in ink for awhile and waiting to see if the words are even worthy of being shared with the world. Most times they aren’t.)
Before the internet, before social media, before Facebook posts and blogs, there was the diary. The one place where we knew that we could be ourselves without judgment. I still keep a journal with me today and even though it’s filled with business ideas and inspirational quotes, it still helps me to write down my feelings and to organize my thoughts. It still serves as a powerful tool in helping me to be a better writer.
I am officially on vacation. This means that I am doing my favorite thing: traveling. I had a ball in North Carolina and my next stop is Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. I also just had a birthday. Since I turned 31, I thought of 31 life lessons I’ve learned to date. Some of them I am still working on (like my patience) but they are lessons life has taught me were important nonetheless:
- Always put Yah and Yahoshua first. YAH is faithful. He can and he will.
- Be yourself. People don’t have to like you and you don’t have to care.
- If it doesn’t feel right that’s because it’s not right.
- Remember, the more you know, the less you speak. Sometimes the loudest one in the room is also the weakest one in the room.
- Watch everything. Let nothing go over your head. Listen to body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Hear everything people don’t say in words.
- Establish boundaries, let people know what those boundaries are and remind them when they have transgressed them.
- No is a complete sentence. You are allowed to turn down a commitment without feeling guilty about it.
- Marriage is sacred. Protect it. Remember that everything doesn’t belong on social media. Learn to experience something beautiful and tell no one.
- New beginnings. It’s never too late to begin again.
- Love all. Trust few.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Call your mother. You only get one.
- Pay attention to yourself. Your actions reveal your heart.
- Speak up. People don’t know how to love you if you don’t show them. If something irritates or annoys you, say it.
- Never sacrifice your integrity no matter how enticing the opportunity.
- Don’t chase people. If someone wants to be in your life, you’ll know.
- Because of the increase in lawlessness, the love of the world has grown cold so be kind, be gentle, be considerate.
- Karma is a real thing. If you don’t want it to happen to you, don’t do it to others.
- “Some people say that cucumbers taste better pickle.” < See how this statement makes no sense? Just because something sounds deep, doesn’t mean that it is.
- Be a fool for no one.
- Friendships are sacred. Don’t go around calling everyone you friend or sister. Make them prove it.
- Remember to check on your strong friends.
- Assume nothing. Validate everything.
- Laugh. Let joy rub off on you. One day you won’t have the privilege of being in a good mood. One day things won’t be so joyous and you’ll just have the memories of when they were.
- Make memories.
- Don’t ever look down on someone for not knowing what you know. There was a time when you didn’t know either.
- You don’t know what you don’t know.
- Spend time alone. Get to know yourself.
- Be willing to walk alone, than with a thousand snakes.
- Remember the homeless as if chained to them. Let their condition be a reminder of your humility. Your life could always be worse.
- Remember that there is a way of correcting people without telling the whole world. Educate, but do not make people feel less than they are. Even if someone is wrong, give them the tools they need to be successful but leave them with their dignity.
We wake up just enough to stay woke but not enough to live. We live on hours and minutes and second hands, gas, and expressways. Espressos and Starbucks. From the bed to the car to the job, back to the car to the house and to the bed where we will lie down again so that we can wake up and exist again. Begin again. Breathe again. Boldly expecting these bodies to be there to back us up again. Do we ever back up? Can we stop? When was the last time you experienced something beautiful and told no one? Can we be beautiful without filter? Can we examine this breath? This gorgeous breath. This inhale and exhale. This miracle that is in us. Can we examine these lungs? Let the seconds and minutes and hours add up, can we forget about time? Let it pass. Watch the orange and yellow rays of the sun bleeding into the sky. Can we experience the day passing onto the next? Can we catch it moving? Can we listen to the sound of quiet? Do we even know if silence has a sound? Can we listen to the birds sing for hours at a time and let the leaves change and crumble into colors? Can we let the wind blow dust onto the windowsill, can peace be still? You have to wake up before you can stay woke. Can we live?