Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You Don’t Have The Answers Riv. A Belated Birthday Post.

For the last three years I’ve done a birthday post, with a list of things I’ve learned. My early twenties were filled with realizations and understanding; the list just seemed fitting. However, the last year has been a revolution of inquiries. A week or so ago, I turned twenty-six, and I celebrated in Washington, D.C. (My favorite place in the world.) On the long drive home, back up the I-95, the only realization I had was that I still had a ton of unanswered questions. In accordance with my age, here are twenty-six soul-burning queries that I have:

1) Why are passion and emotional stability not a priority? Why do we continue to do things we don’t absolutely love? Indeed, the quick answer to this question is survival. We all need money and a 9-5 to make it through. However, in the age of digital innovation, creativity, and options, a lot of us decide to sacrifice our happiness for faux solidity. I love my job; I absolutely adore what I do. However, my ultimate goal and passion is to put literature out into the world. My occupation does not allow the time or energy to do that. Instead of setting boundaries and/or exploring my options I continue to moan and complain about how much writing I’m not doing. Hearing an echo of my own sentiment, from my closest friends, made me realize that we were ALL doing ourselves a disservice. Knowing this doesn’t change anything. It takes courage to risk stability and the status quo; courage that takes some time to acquire. I’m still gathering.

2) Is getting over someone always such an upheaval? Will there ever be a day when it won’t be?  I’m sure there are women in this world who pray that one day they’ll be able to rise with the sun, after a break-up, without anchors on their chest. I’m sure there are folks who pray for the solitude and monotony of getting up and being okay with someone not being beside you, their early-morning tiptoe failing to keep you asleep, and the smell of perfume/cologne signifying they’ve just left for work. I’m sure there are prayers in the air that sound like the crushing of butterflies and a mirage of tears. I’m sure there are more, like me, who just want to be normal again.

3) Can we sustain in our favorite place in the world? Can we ever call it home? I love the DMV. For my fellow northerners, that’s an acronym for DC, MD, and Northern VA. I have been in and out of the DMV, every two weeks, for the last six months. Whether it’s for business or pleasure, it’s always an uplifting experience. It didn’t take me long to realize that once I crossed the Mason-Dixon line, something in my soul started to dance. I knew that one day I had to call this place home. In fact, I’m seriously contemplating a move. (Psssh. I’m damn near decided.) But then…I start to dwell on the closeness of my family, the idea of starting over, and the possibility that my vacation-home might end up giving me just as much anxiety as the place I’m in now. I’ve come to realize that staying would be just as much of a risk as leaving and change is necessary.

4) Am I good a writer? Am I really good at what I do? When you’ve got a bunch of yes-men/women around you it’s difficult to ascertain who’s telling you the truth and who’s not. I am afraid that I’ll never match up to the contemporaries I adore. I fear that I will not be able to describe the oceans like Danticat and brown eyes like Diaz.

5) What do I really want? There are some days when I’m flooded with the possibilities.  There are some days when I dream of suburban homes and SUVs filled with youngsters, but there are others when I’m ready to stow away on someone’s ship to Paris and write in front of the Eifel Tower, in the name of Baldwin and Hughes.

6) How do I ask for it? Will it offend him? Let’s be real…it’s a difficult conversation. Whether it’s sex related or just plain ol’ dating mishap, it’s difficult to tell a brother he’s not doing it right. I’m at the age where wasted time is like giving away gold. You can light up a whole rap posse’s neck with my last few relationships. I’m ready to be given exactly what I need/want.

7) Are soul mates fleeting or forever? I read a quote that blew my mind, a while back.

Elizabeth Gilbert states:

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.

A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master...”
This quote healed something inside me instantly. I’ve met my soul mate. I kissed him, on a cement sidewalk in a beautiful and historic city, and I knew he’d been my lover in some other life. It was instant. We were perfect for each other; our silence spoke volumes. & then he was gone. I couldn’t fathom how God could place everything I was looking for, in front of me, and then place so many complications between us. As I backtracked through our union I realized he’d arrived just in time. He entered my life at a moment that my sanity hung by a thread. I was with a man that didn’t know my worth and didn’t appreciate anything I’d tirelessly given to him. My ‘soul mate’ appeared out of nowhere and showered me with so much love; it was as if his presence screamed “ENOUGH.” God sent me a prototype. He said, “Erica, this is what it looks like.”

8) Why do I love so hard? I don’t really have much to say for this one. It just seemed fitting, after the last question. It’s the only way I know how to love.

9) Will my biological clock ever stop ticking? I’m consumed with thoughts of children. There, I said it. I picture a bits of my face plastered on a little boy who’ll scream for attention. Sometimes he’s a blockade to my goals; sometimes he’s the only goal. It depends on the day.

10) Why can’t I ever just be good enough, for me? I’m paleo one day, I’m low-fat the next. I’m a foodie that cringes at salads and I still force myself to devour them. I’m trying to get away from the flat-tummy and perfect body ideology. I just want to be healthy. I’m tired of suffocating in Spanx at restaurants; my belly spills a bit, I want to be okay with that.

11) Why don’t I set boundaries? I let my boss call when she wants to. I let my family come over unannounced. I let friends infringe on my writing time.

12) Why do I feel guilty about setting them? I feel guilty when I’m not there to answer their questions or rub their shoulders in time of need. I’m trying to come to the realization that boundaries aren’t about other people, they’re about my wellness and me. Without my alone time and space I’m unable to be the person they love so much.

13) Am I turning into my mother? One morning my dad picked me up to take me to the train station. I was incredibly late and I needed to take a different route than my usual. He stared at me the whole ride, while I typed relentlessly on my Blackberry. I looked up at him, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
He responded, “I see you in your suit, emailing and texting, and in this rush to work, and you remind me so much of your mother.”
I didn’t know whether to be insulted or complimented. I remember watching my mother make her mad dash out of the house, in the mornings, and I swore that I’d be different. I swore that I’d be a free spirit that didn’t rush into anyone’s beck and call. On some days, I don’t want to be a workaholic. On others, when I’m witnessing the fruits of my labor through my student’s progression, I’m glad I inherited her ability to be the best at whatever your occupation is.
14) Why do I still need my father’s approval? My daddy is my world. He’s humorous around most folks, but when it comes to my academia/love-life/career he’s pretty blunt and stoic. I sometimes have to remind him that I’m his daughter and that he needs to be a little softer on me. Although I am am adult, I still find myself fiddling with my ‘daddy issues.’ Before I make any major life decisions, I need to know what he thinks of it or what he would do.
15) Why am I spiritual and not religious? I believe in God, I just haven’t found a house to have my faith reside in. I don’t go to church. I’m not big on Christian festivities. I want to trust in him. I want him to speak through me. One day at a time.
16) Am I afraid or not ready yet? What’s the difference? I think we all want to know this. Don’t you agree?
17) Why am I painting? I used to be obsessed with journals. I bought them by the dozens each year and neglected to fill them, before I bought another. Now I buy canvass like that. I’ve been painting women, as of late. The paintbrush sees me more than the pen. I struggle with giving my characters regality through description; I think it’s easier to do with acrylic. Perhaps.
18) When will my home really become my sanctuary? I’ve been putting the paintings all around my living room, hoping that strong women watching me will make my apartment feel like a guardian angel heaven.
19) How do we go from being everything to nothing at all, to someone else? Nuff’ said.
20) Do I love you or am I feeling pressured? Sometimes time is ticking, sometimes my mother makes mentions of grandchildren as we walk through the baby section of Target, and sometimes I’m just ready. I would like to sit here and tell you that I haven’t secretly settled or forced something that wasn’t magical, but I can’t.
21) What is it about luck? I have a ton of lucky charms: Basquiat’s crown, Frida necklaces, and small elephants. I carry one of them each day. I swear they’re the reason I’ve come this far.
22) Why am I afraid to ‘lean in’? There are empowering moments in my line of work. However, there are also moments that I fall back. I found myself in a leadership seminar that I’d studied like crazy for and I didn’t open my mouth once. I had so much written on my page, but the men in the room consumed the conversation and I felt weird about interjecting. They were way older and far more experienced and I suddenly started to doubt my conclusions. I was ashamed and I vowed to never let it happen again.
23) Has my phone become the center of my universe? It rings and I jump. I’m disgusted by my reaction.
24) When will flashbacks stop running down my spine? Why are they so potent, especially when idle? It occurs when I’m washing dishes, riding the train, or driving alone. The memories just saunter in, like they’ve owned me my whole life. Kisses, touch, and sadness recreate themselves. I feel ghosts all over my skin. I want to be rid of them, but know they’ll make for amazing essays later. I tuck them somewhere unnoticeable and carry on as if they aren’t heavy as hell to bear.
25) Why does literary prestige mean so much to me? I just want to write. Why won’t I allow myself that?
26) Why are you here? & by you…I mean the reader, the you that’s reading this post. I often wonder what attracts folks to the site. I wonder if it’s the wordsmith ability or the vulnerability. I wonder what will bring you back and I wonder if you’re wondering/experiencing life as I am.
Tell me.


Healingprose said...

Hey! Shawnon here. You already know I'm a huge fan.

Why am I here? It's a mix of the wordsmith and vulnerability. We share both of those traits, and I see myself and what I'm going through in a lot of the things you write about. I'm going through a break-up as well, and I can say it's one of the hardest things I've had to deal with in a while.

You're secure, despite the obstacles you face every day. You are a constant inspiration, and it makes me wish that we were friends back in our HU days. No regrets though, because through just knowing you, you've inspired me in more ways than you'll ever know.

I have a lot to say. I can't wait for you to read it. Stay strong and beautiful.

Toi J said...

First, Happy Belated Birthday! Hope you had tons of fun in the DMV!

Second, I started following you and your work around the time you were on Def Poetry Jam. I may have found you online before then though. I still do love all art forms but I've never been great at any particular art. I feel that's why I was always really impressed and enamored by your work. Either way.. I've been following your blogs ever since. I still get completely lost in your short stories and writings when I dig through the archives of this blog. You are a truly captivating writer. Occasionally your work mirrors my life happenings and it helps that someone is able to put it into words when I cannot.

These 26 questions are so real. In currently asking myself a good portion of them. That one about your soulmate really got me. I actually need to post it somewhere as a reminder. My birthday is in about 2 weeks and I will be 24. I consistently remind myself that I've gotten through a lot and I think you should know that although we twenty-something's all have questions, we've answered a lot of them in our lives thus far. I believe in balance and that having all the answers wouldnt make anything easier. I love the questions just as much as the answers.

Please continue to write and to share your work with the world. If it touches no one else, please know that it has provided much clarity for me.


Terria said...

Hi, Happy Belated birthday. I'm a fellow Saggitarian so yay for all of us.

I started following your blog when I saw someone i follow on IG post something from you. I then went and checked out your page and your blog and ended up on it the entire day when I was at work. I was very unproductive but my mind was satisfied from your work so I was happy.

I keep coming back because I like what you have to say. You have a voice, you have an opinion, you have wisdom, and you have flaws that you aren't embarrassed to share. You let your readers in just enough to feel like they can connect with you, without telling ALL of your business. I respect that. I'm always intrigued as to what you are going to post next. I enjoy reading about your perspectives on things because for so long I have felt like northerners (I'm from Florida but live in Northern VA now) were so different from us southerners. But I see that actually there are a lot of similarities, and not all northerners are as mean as southern people like to make them out to be.

It's a good eye-opener for me. And your posts are always thought provoking. That's why I'm here and keep coming back.

Take care!