The Art of Naming Your Pain

I disagree with those that think that truth lies in the light. The truth evaded me in the light. The root of my pain could sustain steathily in the the light. Because the gateway to truth is often found and crossed in the darkest corners of our lives. I was always crowded with people, tasks, distractions that are in direct opposition to the truth. But there was always something bigger than the distractions. Unexpected successes, pleasant surprises, even both kids gone for the weekend did not eliminate a sense of heaviness. It was like my life had a dimmer on it. Because the light allows the luxury of my senses: the relief of stiff drink and smooth smokes. I can hide in errands and cling to movement. For a time I slept on the couch despite a perfectly good bed because I was scared to sleep; frightened of what waited for me beneath my eyelids. The ghost of the past and present can be all-consuming. Sitting with myself was more than I could bear. But luckily, I was faced with possiblilty that shook me out of resistance. Nothing theatrical or elaborate because I haven’t experienced God’s most impactful lessons that way. Quite simply, I had to entertain the possibility of nothing changing. What if I stayed this way? Was I willing to watch the world expand and evolve while I stayed, shrunken and terrified in a dusty corners of my mind?

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When you walk into darkness, other sensibilities must take over. It’s disorienting and scary at first. Because of that we often scramble to turn the lights on. The weight of the fear does not seem worth the risk. You forget what could be gained by enduring the risk. If you choose to stay in the dark just one more moment, then one more moment after that, then just one more, you’ll notice your hearing becoming sharper as you try to predict what is around you. Your sense of touch gets keen as you stumble into things you know are there but aren’t sure exactly what you are. When you hit an object, you must use your hands to gain clues. And without fail, a shape or slope, or maybe a texture will trigger a landmark you once passed, the scene of the crime, the source of the pain. Your flight reflex will kick in again, but if you stand your ground there in the dark, you allow yourself an opportunity to relive and examine those hurftful moments, the destructive decisions, but with an eye for the future. You can give language to the feelings that stand between you and healing. Find it, feel it and name it. Shame. Hurt. Loneliness. Abandonment. Fear. Longing. It’s not an exercise in torment, it’s a pathway to healing. You must sit still in your darkness. Cry if need be. Scream if you must. Do whatever is on the other side of release.

Ask or offer forgiveness.

Visit the place to which you vowed to never return.

Be willing to eat your words.

Ask for what you need. Without apology. Even if you don’t get it, you have done your part.

A lightness of being is cool. However, happiness is not always an unearned privilege. Do the work required to achieve your light. It’s much less lonlier in the dark than you think. Hell, I’m still here time to time.

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Suspension of Disbelief: Unexpected Inspiration from A Dead White Man

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. – Andre Gide

Searching for a little writing inspiration I was looking through creative processes if writers and poets, and onein particular stuck with me. Samuel Coleridge’s suspension of disbelief. Essentially, the concept means that as writers we must be open to what our trained mind would automatically think is impossible, preposterous or unrealistic in order to fully enter into and uncover the full possibility and message of the poem. In doing so, the reader can be free to do the same and experience the poem without reservation or judgement; they can simply engage with the piece. Given that it was a time when fantastic, other worldy poems were out of style, Coleridge was calling for a poetic revival of sorts; one of release and courage to step into uncertainty, whether silliness or sci-fi. This was a nice discovery for me considering I didn’t always dig Coleridge in college. It’s nice to re-examine concepts through more experienced eyes.

So, I got to thinking, what would happen if I expanded this suspension of disbelief beyond my writing to my day to day life? What if I put a moratorium on “can’t,” and literally moved through my day to day life leading with possibility versus limitations? Of course, I’m not talking about crossing the street, or adopting some kind of crazy telekinesis—can’t you just imagine me blinking really hard at a bottle of Belvedere, summoning it to tip over into a sparkling lowball, and complete with lime and 2 (not 3) ice cubes? While it’s a worthy fantasy, it’s not what I’m talking about here. I am exploring this concept with regard to pursuing my passions and being true to the relationships in my life. If disbelief did not color my decisions to take or not take risks, to decide on the destination before I even leave the house, or lament what is not there instead of breathing in what is…what a different life I would lead. It always comes down to the choices I make, right? Do I choose to be consumed by bad choices or be thankful I made it out on the other side with at least half my sanity (ok, maybe a little less than half.)? Do I choose love or fear?

I am often discouraged by people around me who literally get energy from pointing out the shortcomings of others, look forward to the failures of friends/family, and are silent and uncomfortable in the midst of positive comment. The older I get, and the more convicted I am to live my best life, the less time I can give to these folks. One of my dearest friend reminds me I must always guard my heart, and that while we cannot dictate the behaviors of others, we can choose how and even if we take that shit in to our spirit. I vote no on that more and more because it cripples that suspension of disbelief–in myself, in the blessings that are on the way, in what lives on the other side of risk.

I will move through uncertainty expecting the extraordinary. Cuz God and Samuel Coleridge said so. So there, haters.
BB

20140809-141016-51016826.jpg– “The Lioness” by Kadir Nelson

Betty of the Month: August 2014

In my mission to honor the wonder of other fantastic female creatures in this world, I’m beginning a monthly series called Betty of the Month I will highlight women who put the B in Badass, those who sustain and inspire me, and those whose stories are much like ours. We must remember that we are so much more alike than different, and our lives can be blessed by each other’s stories.
So, raise your supple hands to give snaps and hootie hoo’s for our inaugural Betty of the Month: Carolyn Linden. At first glance she was the chick I would go out of my way to stay away from. White, slender in a hard earned pilates carpooling kind of way, piercing eyes, and eyebrows I was certain were judging me. Of course, I was projecting all of my shit on to her. And as always, God puts the most perfect, most extravagant expressions of His wisdom in our paths. And now? Well now, Carolyn is my people.

She comes from hard working very well educated parents, and a wealth of opportunity, privilege, and support. A product of an all girls’ Catholic school, Carolyn took a delicious turn when she cussed out Sister Suzanne Cooke in front of a group of her peers, and became a bit of a “behavioral problem.” And the saga began to unfold. Carolyn is a Betty because:

1. She owns her journey, whether it aligns with others or not. She graduated from high school early and was determined to go into the Coast Guard derailing her parents’ wishes for a traditional educational trajectory. However, she failed the physical exams. Unshaken in her choice to put college off, Carolyn worked 3 jobs and rented a room. The juicy twist is revealed when I learn the landlord is her now husband. Gasp and swoon, people…I love a little naughty in my middle class mom.

2. Carolyn has the greatest way of paraphrasing curt and ugly assessments. For example, you hear: “She’ll be ok…or she won’t. And that’s perfectly fine.” What she’s really saying: “I could give two shits whether she has a problem or not. I shall not be moved.”

3. She embraces and expects the messiness of humanity. And she sees it as heavenly and beautiful.

4. The way she says the word asshole. She seems to save it for those who are a particular affront to civilization. There is a particular emphasis on the “hole” portion, as if she is expelling a special brand of venom in honor of the jackass in question.

5. She’s raising a daughter who stands up to bullies by threatening to eat their eyeballs. Is there anything more precious?

20140729-094213-34933031.jpg carolyn and pat carolyn at go skate

Other fun tidbits:

Motto/Mantra: Leave it better than you found it; don’t complain without offering a solution, and don’t be asshole

Biggest, most infuriating pet peeve: Bad manners, ignorant grammar fails

Phobia: spiders

What drives you crazy about yourself: perfectionist with procrastinator complex

Guilty pleasures: oversize glass of cabernet and literotica.com

When Carolyn ran down Ani DiFranco’s “Letter to a John” as one of her jams, I dug her even more. If you see Carolyn around the 253, give her a head nod or a fist bump, or better yet buy this hard working chick a drink (she loves a vodka gimlet, or anything that is deemed “refreshing”).

For Carolyn, In Honor of Ani

You were never the condition.
You were the symptom.
The evidence of my ailment,
grating and chronic
my cross wrapped in heart strings
neck and shoulders bloody raw
My temples pulsing, primed to submit.
Your slick words living in my mouth,
sweet everythings kept in
hat boxes full of hatred and hope
stacked in my sore chest.
A pocket full of transfers,
my underwear rolled up in
my coat pocket,
day in and day out of dumb.
The lights went out and
I woke up to whatever,
cruel, vague wondering
round and round til
you jumped off the ride
and left me with a clammy
fistful of tickets.
You were a sinister beauty
and I collected your lies
in every one of my pocketbooks.
I’m the lucky girl you left behind
for the world to swallow whole.

Send me your ideas for Betty of the Month, as I know there’s no shortage of fascinating women in our community.
BB

 

Keep on Movin’

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I’m glad to be back. The flu kicked my ample ass. I have honestly NEVER had a flu like that. Almost a month later, I’m still coughing. Nevertheless, now that the Nyquil fog has cleared, I’m back to share what’s on my aching, but ever ready heart. Interdependence and movement. These are the words feeding my mind’s fire. I make a habit of cushioning the blow of the morning by cruising the MSN pics of the week. They bring the trials of our brothers and sisters here and abroad to life, and they remind me to live in gratitude. Check it out, and you’ll see what I mean. So, I’m sipping on my dark roast, laced with coconut milk creamer (so much easier on my stomach), and I come across the photo above.

Nope. Don’t keep reading yet. Take it in for at least 30 seconds. Follow the winding bridge, trace the silhouettes, the rich and dense tones in the sky. I love the two elements at play here of oneness and unity, of stillness and movement. I feel that we are all in a tug of war of individual need and obligation to others. And in this war, we move and stop, we fall down and get up, we love and we lose. And if we are smart, we find ways to laugh loudly and unapologetically. And we let ourselves weep and mourn through the pain and disappointment.

Keep on movin, loves. Regardless of the next benchmark or the magnitude of your actions, keep moving and speaking and cussing and cooking and caring, really caring for your spirit despite your surroundings. Guard your heart from the poison of haters, and gag your inner critic.
You’re loved, you’re fly, your presence makes it so.
BB

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Brown Betty’s Healing Balms: Peace, Part 3

In our collective pursuit of inner peace, my intent is to share those things that have acted as healing balms in my life.  The list is by no means exhaustive, but it does vary in medium, scope, and source.  If life has taught me anything, it’s that blessings often disguise themselves as fears, and angels often look like the biggest pain in the ass. Here’s are some of the bricks that have helped me rebuild my heart:

Silence and Solitude

Being still used to be something I couldn’t do if you paid me.  I spun around non-stop like Sister Tsunami, working 12 hour days, being on call for every friend I had, sporting my little war torn Superwoman cape.  After allowing some  authentic women to truly speak into my life, I realized that all I was doing was ducking and dodging the issue at hand; the one thing that would build my bridge to healing: ME.  I set aside time to be alone, and I do it without guilt.  Reflection is so core to personal peace.  You cannot take care of yourself if you don’t know yourself.  Can you answer the question, “what do I need to find more happiness?” If not, discipline yourself to journal, reflect, and discern until you can come up with at least one response.  Be it closure, divorce, restful sleep, coming out, or a career change, reflection provides you to focus the blurr puzzle pieces and empowers you to make informed decisions to seek peace.

Jill Scott

Well, where do I begin? Her ability to put a generation of pain, lust, love, prayer, indescribable joy in a 4-minute track?  The miraculous slope of her hips, the unapologetic prowess in her smile?  The seed she has planted in the heart of virtual strangers?  You decide.  I never tire of her work; I anxiously await more; when I saw her live, I acted like a damn fool.  This was my anthem as I braved the process of divorce and creating a new normal:

Sunsets

Watching the sunset has always provided a sense of God’s presence for me.  It reminds me that this day, with all it’s misdirection, mistakes, and missed opportunities, is over.  Tomorrow, new mercies await.

The 2 C’s: Cocktails and Comedy

There is nothing like laughing.  There’s nothing like laughing with your homegirls.  Better still, laughing with your favorite people while stylishly caressing a snifter or lowball of your favorite libation has nursed the cracks in my soul’s foundation on MANY occasions.  Living Single is my favorite portrayal of Black women on TV.  Smart, authentic, and devoid of the caricatures that rob us of our depth and dignity.

I am so thrilled Oxygen started playing old episodes in the morning.  They make facing the morning a little easier.  Other pools of comedic healing:

Now let’s get to libations.  When you need a bang for your buck, go with the Long Island Iced Tea.  All the clear liquor dancing around in one glass with the refreshing kick of iced tea and lemon.  I can taste it right now.  Me likey.

Want a to rock a more sophisticated vibe? Martini all the way, baby.  I’m a vodka girl, and will sing the praises of Belvedere and Hangar One (don’t sleep on this one) until my dying day.

Words

Be it the Bible, poetry, nonfiction, magazines or novels, the written word feeds my soul in a way that can be defined as nothing short of holy.  To me, words are living, breathing extensions of the human spirit.  To read them, allows me the opportunity to submerge myself into the landscape of another, feed off of their energy and use it to color my otherwise dim day.  And to write words? Oh boy, to write, is my heart’s joy!  It allows me that discernment, creativity, and non-violent (yeah, I said it) outlet I need to process my pain and nurture my soul.

So there you have it, Brown Betty’s healing balms.  I return to them again and again, to chip away at the wall I have created around my heart, and promote my own healing, from the inside out.

What are your healing balms? What are doing to ensure you give yourself the space to reflect and grow healthy? Seize your peace without apology, without baby steps or a passive voice.  Pursue it vigilantly.  Unlike so many other material things, you do NEED this.