July 26, 2012 § 3 Comments
“Your way begins at the other side. Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into colour. DO IT NOW.”
I got dropped on a Brooklyn dance floor, last Friday night. Right on the cement. Right on my head.
House music, smoke machine, dancing half baked bodies and me – laid out on the dark and dirty floor like a cup of beer that splashed hard after a drunk girl smacked it with her elbow.
I laid there for a millisecond, feeling the cool floor and the feeling of this guy’s knee still holding my left thigh off the ground.
When someone stepped over my head, I reached my arm up into the smoke and the dark room and guy grabbed it and lifted me back up right.
I was a puppet on a string, then – weightless. And, him – the puppeteer, this smiling dude with arm muscles so big I couldn’t fit my hands around them.
“Hey,” I snapped. “You dropped me.”
“I’m sorry, I know,” he shook his head. “You’re light – I’m just drunk.”
We stared at each other until I laughed. Then he laughed too. “You ready?”
That was how we had started – me, dancing with my pint of Ommegang, and him squaring off and eying me up to see if I was ready to go.
I was. I’m almost always.
I stashed my drink and off we went, dancing hard and fast and aggressive until he dropped me on my head. It wasn’t club dancing – not the kind of grinding, up against you kind of dirty moves my mom calls “sex with clothes on.” She scrunches her nose when she says it, and when some guy comes up behind me at a bar, that nose is all I can think about.
Man, my mom.
But, anyways, guy danced with me like my dad does – flinging me out and pulling me in and biting his lip while he moves to the music and laughing when I fuck up cause I’ve got messy feet.
There I was in Brooklyn with muscle shoulders guy, thinking about my Dad and the way he dances with me.
What’s that word? Wholesome. That was a wholesome moment for me.
Somebody asked what I needed, this weekend. I guess he meant it nicely – but I’m on my third month in NYC, and the city moves around me even when I’m sitting still. Every 3.5 minutes there’s another someone wanting something – girl where you from, where you going, can I buy you a drink, how old are you, what do you do, can I get you a refill, is he bothering you, I like your dress, where’d you get that lipstick, damn your shoes are fine, you work in finance? you wanna get out of here? got a light, got an extra cigarette, do you smoke, do you eat meat, can I take you to dinner. Two weeks ago, it rained like hell when I got off the subway, and some drunk tried to wipe my arms off with Starbucks napkins.
We all need room, in New York. That’s why we’ve got airplane mode turned on, and our music turned up and we’re standing halfway into the intersection at rush hour.
I told meant-it-nicely guy that I need myself.
That felt weird coming out of my mouth – like I was talking for someone else. This girl I just met.
“I need to make some room for myself,” I said. “I need some things from me.”
There it was – that wholesome feeling again. I was on fire.
I left muscle shoulders guy after he dropped me cause I wanted to dance with my girlfriend, and I asked meant it nicely guy to be my friend because I think the word I was looking for, when it comes to him, was “kind.” And, I like kind.
I went home and I turned my phone on airplane mode and I sat on my floor and I drew, for the first time in years – trees and calligraphy and windows and tapas and words about what I want inside.
Tuning into myself is the most powerful drug I’ve ever tried.
You know, after all the times I ignored what I was saying, God must want to wrap my body up in a big, silk bed, and tell my body to love what it loves and hate what it hates, without bounds. God must want to cradle my brain in a big, open space and tell it to think however it wants to.
All that room, and my self would start making music – my body the bass, my mind the soprano. They’d make harmony. They’d let go. And I’d be in tune once again.
Once I figured out what I thought God would probably do with me, I got to it.
Room, right? Room to listen to what my body and my brain have been trying to say all this time I’ve been shutting them down and shutting them out and living around instead of through them.
My body likes to get up early, likes quiet, likes sun, likes avocado, can’t handle wheat too well, and needs its own full french press each morning. My body doesn’t like it when you tell her that she should cut down on caffeine. My body likes clean rooms, and it hates overhead lights. My body likes it when you smell good. My body doesn’t want to be pushed. My body likes being pulled – in, down, over – my body likes getting caught up.
And me? I’ve been pushing it too long – into boxes, under labels – under shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if it were good or bad, normal, not normal. I’ve been telling it to love things it hates. I’ve been telling it to hate things it loves.
I told my body I was sorry.
I told it that it knew better than all those other voices I listened to.
I stretched out on my floor, and I told body it could get big, again.
It didn’t believe me, at first.
My bluegrass loving, avocado eating, coffee drinking size four body that likes to laugh so hard I have to stop walking and double over needed some solidarity before it could do that.
And my brain? My brain, when it got some room – told me it felt invaded…all this apologizing and excuse making and half truth giving. My brain needs some honesty, some congruity. My brain needs for me to stop apologizing about how it works – and to start feeding it instead.
So, I quit a part time writing job I don’t like, and I took on another I knew I would. I turned my phone off for a day. I stopped making excuses for avoiding old friends. I’m telling them how I’ve changed instead.
I stopped saying I was damaged, last weekend. I started saying I was healing.
I rediscovered bluegrass and I decided I’m not cutting down on caffeine, but I won’t eat wheat anymore.
On Saturday, I gave myself a good, long dose of quiet – all by myself, in this crazy city. Not in a subway, not with the music turned up – but, here, in my own room, all wrapped up in my bed with open space around me.
On Sunday, I took another dive headfirst – but, this time, I dove into the ocean. I had left my bikini at home, but my body needed some water. So, I took off running across the sand – orange shorts, tank top, sunglasses, bracelets – I dove into the water with them all on.
I swam and I swam until I could breathe again.
After that, I worked up some horrifically placed tan lines halfway up my thighs.
What can I say…
my body was asking for some sun.
photo via jsambrose.com
May 16, 2011 § 3 Comments
Today, I received 3 different kinds of entirely disheartening (and personal) news. For the first time in a long time, I sat in bed and I cried. I got out of bed once, then got back in bed and cried again. My best friend showed up, about ten minutes later, and crawled into bed with me while I cried. That feeling of incompetence is the worst. Life gets bigger, somehow, with sorrow – all these things you didn’t know could happen, and that are entirely out of your control. I called Jeremy, after that, and he told me I should do whatever I want today.
“But I want to stay in bed,” I said.
“Okay, then stay in bed!”
I thanked him, and told him that was a horrible idea – “I have to do the next thing, it’ll keep me moving forward.” The first order of business was to shower, to throw my hair up in a pony tail, and to make chilaquiles out of my left over nachos from this weekend. Next, a friend picked me up to go to a local coffee shop where I could work, and she could study for finals.
I’ve been sitting here for almost two hours now, working on social media connections, re-filling my calendar with boutique and stylist meetings for when I arrive home in Nor Cal, forcing myself to laugh at things I would normally find funny and, quite simply, doing the very next thing. Life has come back, as I’ve sat here. Everything is not okay, per se, but its not impossible to deal with.
In the midst of looking through my facebook page updates, I found a blog from Merakoh on running the risks in life. I’ve copied a large amount of the text here because, like her, I was inspired by her son’s tenacity and insistence on keeping on keeping on -
I watched Blaze stand on the beach, waves rolling up to meet his toes. He was weighing the pros and cons. The day before, he had been stung by a jelly fish. The pink jelly fish in Thailand can be as big as my arms, circled in the shape of a letter “O”, floating silently along the water’s surface. The motors of the long tail boats chop the jelly fish up, so that random tentacles are left to float (never losing their sting). One of those tentacles wrapped around Blaze’s leg–twice–and oh, did it sting…
Blaze swears he is done swimming in the ocean for the rest of our trip. After all, this is the second time he’s been stung. He’s now one sting ahead of me and Pascaline, and two ahead of dad (of course). But the next morning, I watch him from a distance. As the waves roll in, I can see his mind mulling over the idea of risking it again. Whether he likes it or not, swimming is his passion. Does he risk it again? Or does he give up swimming for the rest of the trip?
He whips around and comes running to me. He just lost his front tooth a few days ago, his smile is wide and toothless. There is a red line that still shows on his leg, wrapping twice above the knee. “Can I go swimming this morning?!” he asks. I smile. He’s decided. I know he is nervous, fully aware of the risk he’s taking, but he is still willing to risk again. I’m so proud of him. I’m inspired by him. His passion for swimming is more powerful than the risk of being stung again.
There is no warning of a jellyfish coming your way. Like unexpected criticism or momentary failures, they can surprise you when you least expect it–when you are swimming–laughing from a place that’s deep withing your belly. The stings can happen at high tide or low tide. They can happen whether you know how to swim in deep waters or shallow waters. And it doesn’t have to be the whole jelly…often the small, unexpected jelly pieces hurt the most. But, to swim in Thailand, you’ve got to step into the ocean. You’ve go to risk being stung. And once it happens to you, you are acutely aware of the fact that it can happen again. But that’s not all you are aware of…you are also aware of the fact that you will survive another sting just fine–and possibly love the thrill of swimming that much more.
August 18, 2010 § 3 Comments
August 19, 2010
I think it’s normal life that takes you most by surprise when you’re in Africa. The email from a friend about her ex boyfriend, the catty facebook exchange between roommates at home, the wrapping up of a relationship that you were holding onto the loose ends of.
I think that, if anything, this trip has wrung out the glamor of travel for me. I think I thought it would fix my problems – take me somewhere where I would forget about everything normal and become new. Instead, I’ve lied awake thinking about petty things, and realized how small minded I can be. This trip taken up all my wild dreams about changing the world and hung them out to dry. It’s exhausted me. I expected that. What I didn’t expect is that it would feel like a healthy thing, or make me love Africa in a more tangible way than I did when she was a glowing destination on the map in front of me on an Emirates flight.
It’s the people that make me realize that everything has it’s place, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. When I hear the stories of women that have fought for their food, their safety, their children’s education – their freedom to make choices – I find that there is a deeper strength in me than I expected. It’s that strength that meets the unexpected real life situations, and gives me a kind of cushion to work with when they come. Because even though so and so hurt me, I met Halima Namugambe, co wife to Elizabeth Nalongo, and I learned about their fight to survive after the death of their wealthy husband, and it wasn’t that my problem seemed smaller, per se, it just took it’s place in a long line of other realities and situations that are teaching me what life is about. Life, not just for me, but for women around the globe.
How could I stay the same after meeting Erina Naluwooza, living in a wheelchair, and taking care of her mentally insane son, who often turns violent, forcing her to lock herself in the ajoining room of their home until he calms himself? There is a fierceness in Erina’s eyes, and a quickness in her laugh, that makes me want to be a stronger person.
I guess that’s it. My desires are changing.
Tonight, I said to Millie that I think Africa has made my heart bigger.
Some people say you shouldn’t allow yourself to feel too much, or live to openly – but I find, in Africa, that the more I let into my heart, the quicker it heals. The better I know how to manage it, and keep it whole.
The better I know how to love from its deepest parts.