SMH… This Lenten

This Lenten season, I took a bit of a social media hiatus (tell me you didn’t think I was just here shaking my head) to focus more intently on various important matters, including my writing.  It was time well spent.  

I celebrated my dear friend’s birthday and thoroughly enjoyed being in the presence of her, and her friends––none of whom I knew, because I simply love her.  She’s my hermana.  Spent time with yet another friend, caught up on life, and exchanged notes on the challenges of managing our creative pursuits and desires, while being wife and mother.  She’s my homie.

Being more present during this time allowed me to reconnect with both friends in meaningful ways.  Not being distracted while doing so was a refreshing change.  Good conversation and time well spent with a few good friends is essential for the soul. No need for filters or preamble.  No judgement.  Connection in a real, no-holds barred kind of way.

At home, I had the opportunity to listen more patiently to my children.  When my son called home to bargain with me––he would stay outside and play ball with his friends and not come straight home, then pick up his sisters and walk them home––”to give you more time to write, Mom”, I couldn’t refuse. I listened more to the unspoken words from all three of them, and sensed their need and appreciation for my full attention.

I sat right across my sweetheart … more often. Even when he wasn’t speaking directly to me, he was still present, needing my presence.  Just knowing I was in the same space with him, undistracted and available should he need me, was all he needed, and I didn’t seem to mind.

And of course, I had more time to write. Yes!  

This time of Lenten just happened to line up perfectly with my need for introspection and quiet reflection.  Though I understand the importance of fasting and withdrawal, and a more turning inward of the soul, I generally do not “give up” any one physical item during Lent.  I am also mindful, and respectful of, many others who do not recognize or take part in Lent, so I’ll leave you with “Lend Ten“.  I believe it speaks more directly to the core of what’s important, beyond prescribed times and events on any religious calendar. (smh)

Lend Ten

Lend me your ten
Ten’s
All I need

Ten 
To do the handiwork you were called to do
That work which needs no assists

The making
The loving
The gifting 
The telling 

The touching
The caressing
The hold-me-close-because…
I just need to feel you
Stroking … me
Ten 

The revitalizing 
The restoring 
The covering 
You know what I’m talking about 
Those pretty ten
‘Dem calloused, rough-hewn ten
Those still very useful 
Ten

Stretch through those ten
With every bit of power, lady… 
Man
Lend me your ten
Let your energy soar
Through them ten

Fire breathes life from your fingertips
Burning deep into hollow places
Taking refuge where
Coals need stoking and
hearts need Ten…. ding
Lend ten


© SomerEmpress and Life As An Art Form, [2010 - 2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SomerEmpress and Life As An Art Form with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Enough

Cringing at the thought that what I pour into my 14yo Black son is not enough
That despite
The discipline with which I rear him
The love with which I affirm him
The pride with which I love him
The way in which I’ve taught him
Won’t be Continue reading

So What … Of the Meantime

In the meantime,

I’ve been….
Writing
But, of course!

Watching
My babies grow.
Enjoying
Summer.
Investing
In….
Loving
him.
“He loves me…. he’s special…. ly different”

In the meantime
I’ve been
Working
On a masterpiece–
“Thinking of a master plan/’cuz ain’t nuthin’ but sweat inside my hand”

I’ve been
Affected
No doubt
Inspired
By
Little, but Tuff lights
Glowing in a dark world
But back to
In the meantime….

I’ve been
Recharging– everyone needs a respite
Reprioritizing
Settling
Into my new
Physical places, and
Metaphorical spaces
Tying up my literary shoelaces….
Getting acquainted with
Folk,
Fictional and otherwise.

Shedding
Clothes that don’t fit,
Pounds that won’t sit.
Lifting!
Them

Yes!
Lightening the loads.
Can’t nobody walk tall weighted down!
Ah….
Quiet, personal victories.

Accepting….
A New Season.

In the meantime
I’ve prayed.
For….
Our children,
My sisters-
Several of which,
Though new to me,
Lived in me–
My very nerves and sinew
Long ago
From the start.

My brothers too….
It’s complicated.

In the meantime
I’ve been
Writing
Speaking…. Greater
Life
Into my own Life
Reveling
Quietly
Yielding
Humbling…. to my own gifts
In the meantime….

I’ve been praying for–yes again,
And receiving too,
Divine inspiration
In my….

Writing
Healing
Encouraging
Reading
Engaging
Submitting
Connecting
Loving
Acknowledging
Spoken Word-ing
Injecting
Real…. Meaning
In the time-ing!

I’ve been
Still…. Present
Yes!
Me
In the meantime

Loving
Me.

 

 

© SomerEmpress and Life As An Art Form, [2010 - 2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SomerEmpress and Life As An Art Form with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Power of “Magic”

I am so pleased to bring you this post! In it, my eldest daughter River, age 7, reviews a beautiful story called “The Girl with the Magic Hands” by Nnedi Okorafor. Nnedi rightfully earned the 2012 Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (fiction). Her novels, listed in their order of publication, include: Zahrah the Windseeker (2008 winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature); The Shadow Speaker (winner of the CBS Parallax award and Essence Magazine Literary Award finalist); Akata Witch (An Amazon.com Best Book of 2011); and, Who Fears Death (2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 2012 Kindred Award).

Continue reading

When Can We Breathe Again?

charlie_brownI went to pick up my four-year old daughter today from her preschool located inside a community church.  I had a relatively good day trying to be reflective and more available and open to Spirit, and less distracted by the noise of social media or the news.  So you can imagine my reaction when I learned of today’s horrific news that a 24-year old gunman opened fire at an elementary school claiming lives too many to count without streaming tears of helplessness.  I must be dreaming.

It seemed surreal as I stood there zipping my baby girl’s jacket, adjusting her barrette which I apparently clipped too tight this morning.  I could hear the chilling words from the chief reporting parent, as well as the words of the other mothers chiming in to confirm what they had also heard, but I was hearing all of this for the first time.  None of it made sense.

I am sure that finding meaning in all of this was on the minds of all the parents and grandparents gathered to retrieve their children, but it was too early to contemplate.   What will parents tell their children about their murdered friends, classmates, neighbors, or even siblings?

I stand away from Connecticut, but still know that tragedies like these seem to be hitting closer to “home”. Violence is quickly becoming a growing trend, and our most vulnerable are often the victims. In this case, it was children and courageous teachers who seem to be working in hostile times instead of developmental classrooms.  Please someone, tell me I am hearing wrong.

I loaded my girl into her safety seat and then my heart sank. I looked back at her more often than usual, to make sure that she was still there, safely buckled and intact where I left her. I needed her fully awake and present. I needed to see her eyes. I looked for comfort and assurance beyond their glimmer. I needed to hear some more incessant pleading, and annoying requests. I don’t mind them, nor do I complain today.  I needed to hear her.

My heart grows heavy with the knowledge that there are parents, not too far from here, who will not have the same privilege this evening. Instead, grief and an overwhelming sense of incomprehensibility await them.  Though we who stand outside of their community empathize, we’ll mostly go on about our business, while their realities will be forever altered. I pray that one day these families will find the strength that they need to carry on, but in the meantime, as they search to find meaning, I hope that a comforting touch, a deeply pressed hug, and the openness and sincerity of community will tend to their hearts and homes during a very difficult time.  This is my hope.

We may never find the words to describe this condition which seems to plague folk determined to carry out violence for whatever selfish, angry reasons they have, but I pray that our response will be one that will help these families find meaning in this.  But I am not sure anyone can.  I trust that in time we learn to trust, hope, and just breathe again.

What I Learned Today

I’ve always said that Life comes to teach us something, and I’d like to think that I’ve learned some great lessons along the way, but today was quite a reflective day, and the ten lessons below, though not entirely new, played over and over in my mind.  Here is what I learned:

  1. No matter the sincerity of your intentions, there’s always the possibility of being misinterpreted or misconstrued. The only thing you own is your truth.
  2. I should not dim my light for fear of others’ feeling small. The total brilliance of this Universe depends on the light in each of us.
  3. There are people behind the Continue reading

When I grow up, I want to be…a Mommy

My youngest daughter, who isn’t quite four, blurted out those words the other morning as I fastened her into her car seat, rather hurriedly I might add. She pronounced this aspiration so matter-of-factly, it was as if she had just had a quiet epiphany.  It wasn’t the first time that I had heard those words, but

Continue reading

Loosing and Finding Love…Unconditional

Anything is possible?

In his Weekly Address: Celebrating Fathers, President Obama spoke of the necessary building blocks of fatherhood, including quality time and structure. He also emphasized the importance of unconditional love.  His message really got me thinking about parenting in general, and in particular, about the ‘unconditional love’ part that is required to raise well-adjusted children with a healthy sense of self-worth, discernment, and empathy in today’s environment.  So, if the paragraphs below appear heavier (or longer) than normal, it’s because they are from deeply rooted personal truths that even I didn’t know existed, ones that clearly needed to be “loosed”.

Hence, the title of this post went through much iteration, to say the least. I settled on “Loosing and Finding Love…Unconditional” because I believe that it represents the process as well as the spectrum of transformation that is required to be effective at identifying love in order to receive it, and then to be authentic in giving love.  Better said, it is the current that undergirds and characterizes my journey as a mother, and a citizen of this larger human circle. Parenting not only requires that we manage the layers of distractions to deliver focused messages to our children, but that we deconstruct and deal with issues of the self  on an ongoing basis. It’s no wonder that I find myself constantly sorting through the tapes of my upbringing to understand how they inform me as a person, and by extension, examining whether their impact limits or empowers me to be an even better parent.

As a child, my family’s opinion was my primary filter. My parents and grandparents made choices that they believed to be in my best interest, while not sacrificing their own. What they said and did (or didn’t) mattered heavily to me, almost to a fault. So naturally, when they were less than affirming or validating, it mattered. I wanted to know that they would love me no matter what.  I wanted them to embrace me no matter what or who I became and even when my opinions or actions fell outside their views or expectations.  When the goal of their instruction was to make me more independent or build a thick skin, it only resulted in a greater emotional distance that became more difficult to close. Furthermore, when the exchanges lacked the intimacy that I needed to feel valued, it also mattered…a lot. Though the dysfunction of these truths didn’t register with me until later in life, I now realize that I struggled with my sense of belonging and self-worth as a child, and with what it meant to give and receive unconditional love well into my adult life.  There, I said it!

As I continue to work through these truths in my daily living and learning, I have to consciously work to bridge those gaps because ultimately I want to be closer and more accessible to my own children. That isn’t easy.  I’ve come to learn that before I can impart unconditional love to my children, I first have to release those truths because they prevent me from fully loving or receiving love. Though undoubtedly necessary, unpacking my emotional baggage is painful; however, it is also amazingly cathartic. In so doing, I’m learning that parenting is not a perfect science that can be mastered. Rather, it is a “responsible” art, which outcome depends on the many variables put into it and the techniques used…one learned by doing and even un-learning…repeatedly. This is a significant part of living Life As an Art Form.

I believe that the only way to make sure that we’re on the right track as parents and/or surrogate caretakers of children, is to uncover that which holds us bound or captive to painful pasts or vicious cycles, for they limit us; then finally, we must release, or “loose” it from those places so that they may forever lose their power which keeps us from receiving and giving unconditional love. Don’t be fooled; this is not a one-time assignment, but rather, it is an ongoing process that requires lots of forgiveness…and controlled breathing.  Relax, Relate, Release!  (Where are my Whitley admirers?)  It isn’t until then that we can name and model the behaviors that we seek in ourselves, let alone children. Then, and only then, will we have authentic relationship with our children.  Once I’ve identified the problem and put it in its proper perspective and place, I’m learning that it’s really okay to open up.  In fact, children want that! Giving them structure and boundaries doesn’t require us to be authoritative or infallible.  Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and human because we want them to, in turn, open up and trust us, is paramount. Giving ourselves permission to not be so thick-skinned that we come across as unaffected is a healthy and human thing.  It is that which connects us with them.

So, I’m learning to love without condition; to give my children my love simply because I’ve been blessed with their life, and because they need it to evolve as self-confident, empathetic beings.   I’m learning to give them my presence by engaging the many questions of their seeking. After all, I have been entrusted as their guide. I’m learning to give them my love; and as their maturity allows, I hope to continue to foster my healing as I share with them the most inconvenient truths of my own BE-coming. I believe that it is in so doing that our children will understand more about Life itself.  We’ve got to make sure that they know we love and value them through intimate time spent together, exchanges, and other small acts of love…even when we disagree and they leave us scratching our head. In the end, it won’t be about whether we’ve molded perfection, but whether we have helped to shape and nurture the minds and hearts of those who we ultimately release into the world, regardless of who or what they become. After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about the what? The love…love unconditional!

Related Inspiration:

“Unconditional Love” Music Video, Donna Summer feat. Musical Youth
“Send One Your Love” Music Video, Stevie Wonder (it doesn’t get any love-lier!)
Giving Unconditional Love Even When It’s Not Easy (psychologytoday.com)
Obama: Mother gave me the strength of ‘unconditional love’ – USA Today (news.google.com)

Have Her Cake…

The more I get in touch with who I am, the more I am convicted about how I should invest my time, energy, and money. As the birthdays of my daughters loomed on the horizon, I considered how we would celebrate them this year. The birthday parties of last year and the year before just couldn’t be done, as they entailed more planning, labor, and finances than I cared to invest this year. We would have to take it down a notch, and scale back financially. As I became more attuned to Spirit, I realized that we needed to do something differently, even if it meant a lower-key celebration than in years past; however, I struggled to balance the warning to heed my own inner voice and the desire to give my daughters a special birthday celebration.

I considered various plug-and-pay (oops, I mean “play”) places and venues that cater primarily to children: Chuck E. Cheese, inflatable amusement parks, and other such operations designed to make it “simple” to celebrate the guest of honor. Inarguably, those places are strictly for kids, but adults hate them almost as much as kids love them. The food is usually meager, and tastes just okay, it’s loud as hell, and if there are kiddie areas, they usually feature ball-pits or shared apparatus that are cesspools for viruses. The smaller kids get stomped by the bigger kids, who know good and well that they have no business occupying the little kiddie areas. Then to add insult to injury, adults are subjected to a frenzy of antsy children eager to redeem tickets for some cheap dollar store chotchkes. Parents wait impatiently, arms teeming with children’s gear and goodie bags, and when it’s over, everyone swears that it will be a while before signing up for this mess again! As much as I’ve come to despise these places for their success at sucking us in, they were options worth considering, particularly during this period which my dear friend calls “forced convalescing”; nonetheless, I just couldn’t bring myself to prepare for a stampede of unruly children or for playing musical rooms. Not exactly what I had in mind!

Conversely, I also wanted to steer away from a celebration where the focus becomes more about entertaining the adults. The poor birthday child (if you can find her) keeps asking “Mom, when can we cut the cake, when can we open my presents?” “Not now baby, we’re still waiting for Cousin Lester to come.” LOL!! The adults are drinking it up, listening to grown-folks music, probably well on their second helping of food already, and there is nothing else for the children to do but pester the adults. I also wanted to avoid a celebration that was too over the top, or required too many moving parts. I’ve found that in those instances, both the birthday child and parents are overwhelmed. Though my physical limitations were enough of a reason to reel the party in a bit, my conscience screamed even more loudly, “less is more, party-girl!” In the bigger scheme of things, it mattered little to my daughters how much I spent on their birthday parties or where I chose to have them. The decision was mine to make.

When our youngest daughter’s birthday came about on May 16th, I suggested to my husband that we invite four or five of her friends, do one craft activity, have a light bite, and follow with cake and ice cream. It seemed easy enough, or so I thought. I would order the cake, and coordinate the activity while perched at the kitchen table, with my feet propped up on a chair. My husband was perplexed and said “Whoa! Slow your roll, butterfly!” He insisted that I was already getting way ahead of myself, given that I was just closing in on my second week after major invasive surgery. So instead, we agreed to extend our small family celebration to just one other family with children close in age that could also enjoy the same experience.

Needless to say, my little ladybug’s “party” turned out to be a beautiful and special celebration! I soaked it all in as I watched my birthday girl dance with her friend and sister, to Katy Perry’s “Firework” (their girls’ empowerment anthem), and “Four Boys Named Jordan”. Of course, I had to put on “Single Ladies”, by special request, for the birthday girl. (I’m still not sure why that song is so infectious among such young children.) They danced, played, laughed, spun, fell out, and giggled as they held hands and caught glimpses of their reflections in the oven door. Unlike previous birthday parties, I did not have to corral a herd of children, or tend to a burdensome list of items. This time, I was fully present. After cutting the cake and opening her cards and presents, she very contentedly remarked, “my birthday party is over, Mom…I had fun!” Our one guest family packed up to return home, while we picked up what little there was to pick up, and quietly retired for the evening. Our little birthday girl was ready to call it a night without being exhausted or over stimulated. When it was all over, I was thankful to have had a simple affair, as it brought pure enjoyment to the one who matters most…our youngest birthday girl.

I’m not sure how we’ll celebrate our oldest daughter’s birthday yet (May 25th), but whatever we do will be beautiful and special. At minimum, it will reflect simplicity, and my desire to “take back” and re-inject our own meaning into birthdays and other family festivities where going overboard will no longer be the norm.

Don’t worry….my daughters will certainly have their cake, but I’ll eat it too!

Some more “healthy” inspiration:
Hands“, by Jewel
- “Firework“, by Katy Perry