Thank You Note

Dear ones,

Thank you for reading my stories, thoughts and feelings. Your readership has given me the gift of confidence in my words. Your comments, likes and shares encouraged me to keep telling stories. This blog was a stepping stone in discovering the treasure that is my written words. Thank you.

My life has evolved.

You’ve seen the changes. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ve seen my children grow. You’ve watched my relationships thrive, struggle, end or become more weatherproof. You’ve seen me advocate freely and build a nonprofit that is a reflection of what I would have wanted for myself as a child.

You’ve seen my snapshots.

It’s time for this blog to make a transitional move. It is time to reserve my words for publishing. There’s only so much time in a writer’s day and I’m already managing an organization that has quickly become bigger than me. I need to focus on those things that will serve my dreams for the future.

My intentions for the future are as follows;

You can expect that I will be writing and that I will be published online. You can expect that I will be published in print too. I will be working on my memoir and a few secret side projects. Outside of family and friends, you will always be the first to know when and where you can read my work. You’ll be able to find short reflections and rejections* here too. Topics will revolve around nonprofit, survivorship, #militantselfcare and every now and again, my family.

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You may also be invited to attend workshops that I create based on lessons I learn along the way.

Which reminds me. There’s still time to sign up for my Militant Self-Care Workshop on December 2, 2015.

I’m getting super professional in my old age.

Sincerely,

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*rejections = things I tried to publish elsewhere but were rejected because some people are just intent on discovering me after I am dead and gone. 

Not quite right.

I arrived wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair and my slippers. The yoga studio is 2 minutes from my house and I was 2 minutes late. I was thirsty and rushed as I unclasped my watch, dropped it into my purse and headed in to select a mat. I grabbed a pink one, took a step forward and stopped. Definitely not pink today. Where’s that black yoga mat?

Yes. Black like my soul.

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I’ve been having trouble getting my feet underneath me since Soulfire 2016. I’ve felt sluggish, disconnected and turned inward. Invitations are lost on me. Pajamas are all I want on my body and my bed is the only place I want to be.

I’m not depressed, I’m emptied out. My charge is depleted. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been trying to do the bare minimum with the hope that my come back is on its way.

Do you hear the upbeat music kicking in? Here it comes! It’s almost…Nope. I’m going back to bed.

I’m laying on my deeply dramatic emo black yoga mat thinking;

I’m just not feeling okay. I’m just not okay with how I’m feeling. I’m not okay with working right now. I’m not feeling quite right. Why can’t I get my mojo back? I’m not feeling okay enough to do much these days.

My thoughts distilled: I am not okay.

I usually take a week off after big time events but this week went awry. I made some commitments that I shouldn’t have and then one of my children had to stay home from school sick. A come back is not in the cards for this week.

Things are not quite where they should be in my soul.

I’m invoking a Do Over for next week that will include auto responses, critical tasks only and loads of leisure time with the people I love the best.

I’m not okay right now but I will be.image

Sincerely,

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PS – This is helping.

Disrupting Your Own Negative Inner Dialogue

Well, that’s what you get?

While gently leaning into a yoga pose and reflecting on my feelings, this is what I heard myself say. I was shocked at the lack of compassion in that voice. A voice that found its origin somewhere inside of myself.

It made me angry. Who even says that? Oh, right. Me.

In the hours leading up to the yoga class, my heart had been aching and I felt like I was going to cry. Two separate events had come careening towards me threatening two different kinds of catastrophe. Although I had managed to fix the problems, I was emotionally spent. Despite my fears of inconsolably crying on a yoga mat in a room full of people, I decided to take all of my feels to a yoga class.

#myfeelsI’m so glad I did. In the process of calling myself on my own bullshit, I learned a few things I thought you could benefit from too.

3 steps to disrupting your own negative inner dialogue.

Quiet your surroundings. Hear yourself speak. Had I not found some quiet time, I may not have ever heard the voice in my head telling me that I deserve to be in pain for choosing to do the work I do. I needed to be on my mat and in my breath to hear that super awful message loud and clear.

Some tips: Go on walks without your iPod. Turn off the radio in your car. Fold laundry without Netflix. Get on your mat and practice or meditate. Journal before bed.

Listen to yourself. What you say to yourself is important. That very simple phrase had the power to prevent me from asking for help or seeking compassion from those around me. If I’m constantly telling myself that I deserve to suffer, than I will suffer. The end.

Tips: When you’re approaching heartaches, obstacles, emotions, what are you saying to yourself? Are you calling yourself nasty names or telling yourself you’re unworthy? Are you saving your compassion for everyone else? Listen for patterns or reoccurring themes.

Challenge yourself. When I heard that phrase float through my mind, I nearly bolted out of my yoga pose. It was mean and unhelpful. Once I challenged it, I found it completely untrue and can now dismiss the thought if it ever comes around again.

Tips: When you hear yourself being negative, challenge the statements that you throw at yourself. Respond with the opposite sentiments. Where there is a lack of compassion, give yourself some loving kindness.

That phrase has now evolved into this one:

“With my heart work comes personal transformation but only when I am brave enough to inspect the wound.”

What will your negative inner dialogue transform into once you challenge it?10421337_10152916021378588_1898813583640583186_n

Sincerely,

Healing happens in a place of safety.

“Did you hear what you just said?”

I didn’t. I had been rambling about my boys. I leaned back into the chair in my therapist’s office to think. The tree branches behind me snatched at my curls.

Yes. My therapist has a tree in her office that is constantly getting stuck in my hair.

I love it.

“That your boys are physical….”

She paused like a teacher giving the pupil a moment to catch up.

“Yes?” I said with my brow furrowed.

And…you love it.” she said slowly.

My hands shot up to my face. I peered at her between two hands pressed against my cheeks. I repeated the answer.

“And I love it.”

I whispered those words in disbelief and then the tears came. I bowed deeply in my chair and beneath that listening tree with relief. Tears of joy spilled forward and then I wiped my face and said,

“I almost made it through an entire session without crying.” Laughing I continued, “You fucking ruined it.”

She laughed but her eyes were harboring quickly escaping tears too.

You may not remember but there was a time where touch felt like the enemy. Connection and intimacy felt like a cheese grater on my soul. My healing required an end to passive consent. My soul needed some time to seek out it’s true loves. My body needed to learn what is safe, safe, safe…I am safe here.

I am safe here.

The little girl I was, the little girl in need of a constant barrier between her heart and connection is leaning into connection and intimacy. She is letting go of her shield. She is slowly backing away from the tools used to fortify walls. She is coming out to play, love, gaze, connect.

I love this girl. I love how she gazes into the eyes of her children. I love how she understands that criticism doesn’t mean that she is bad, dirty or broken. I love that she listens and can lie under a pile of freshly bathed and pajama dressed boys with wild abandon.

I love that she doesn’t seem to feel trapped anymore or not as much.

I have learned that healing happens in a place of safety.

-You deserve to live in wide open fields

I feared that my trauma was stealing joy from me and my children. Honestly, it did steal joy for a time until something shifted.

The story I told my therapist:

I held one of my sons in my arms. I gazed into his eyes and I simply paused. I didn’t move. I let him bathe in my love for him. It was like a freeze ray. He couldn’t remove himself from my adoration. I felt like I might be staring at him like a creep.

“Children don’t stare. They gaze.”

My therapist interjected that tidbit. Science has proven that when you are making eye contact with an infant and you stop, there is an immediate change in their brain chemistry. That chemical reaction identifies our basic need for attachment.

I held him and gazed at him until he was ready to go. All filled up with love.

My oldest son feels no shame about kissing his mother goodbye. My middle son starts his days by leaning into me with his face tilted upwards for a kiss.

“Good morning, momma.”

My boys are physically affectionate and I love it. It has taken 3 years but I am the mother I always wanted to be.

Fearlessly affectionate, hilariously embarrassing and stingy with the ice cream.12015233_10153641036623588_5375878501296692331_o

But mostly that first one.

Healing up,

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PS – Let’s talk about this more. Join me here.

Bird has a job.

I’ve been struggling all day with how I am going to break this story down and give it to you in short form. This weekend I went to the Bronx for my first official research trip. *trumpet blast*

It was a trip full of deep emotions and strong words. Words like;

Villain. Deliverance. Refract.

Other phrases followed me in the door as I arrived home. Like the scarves you tie to luggage to help you identify your belongings in a crowded baggage claim, they wafted off of handles and out of pockets.

The Land of Make Believe. Parallel lines.

Let’s begin this story with a new platitude that I feel very strongly could become the next big thing.

Nothing bad ever happens over a slice of pizza.

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Like all other platitudes and positive affirmations, there’s exceptions to this rule but dang, don’t you agree that this should be a universal truth. If bad stuff happens, it should never happen over pizza.

Good friends make excellent mirrors. Jena & Me.
Good friends make excellent mirrors.

Over a slice of pizza, my friend Jena told me that she was shooting a wedding in New York and asked me if I’d like to come along. I said I’d check my calendar and see if I could swing it.

“I have to do some research there anyway.”

It took a few weeks of moving things around on the calendar but in the end, it worked out. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. If you know me, you know that there’s not often a thought that passes between my ears that I don’t blurt out.

I was nervous.

Technically, this was the first trip I had accidentally planned for the specific purpose of researching my father’s life. At the time, it seemed like a convenient, economical way to begin the process. Plus, I’d have the support of my friend to help me through any of the rougher spots.

Every idea seems like a good one at the time. (It was a good idea but we’re not at that part of the story today.)

After 15 hours of traveling, Jena and I approached the city in our rental car. She squealed, “Yaaay, we’re almost there.”

I sheepishly squealed back. Or maybe I said,“Baa…”

Nope. It was definitely a squeal.

Suddenly a tsunami sized wave of self-doubt came crashing into me. Hard. I felt a shortness of breath as I looked at the city stretching out around us for miles of darkness marked by sparkling lights. I was suddenly confronted with a very harsh and unrelenting interrogator.

Who do you think you are? You think you can just come into this city and ask questions? Who do you think you are that you deserve answers at all?

The voice in my head kept berating me and I slowly leaned over, put my head between my knees and started to do some deep breathing. I steadied myself and eventually, the voice quieted down a bit. At least it quieted to a volume that allowed me to hear my own thoughts.

The days that followed found me challenged. I asked questions that resulted in 3 different reactions.

  1. Here is your answer.
  2. You don’t want to know.
  3. I don’t remember.

And maybe there was one more.

4. You’ll never understand.

For the answers, I was grateful. For the rest, I was insistent. I tried to balance being respectful of a place in time many didn’t want to revisit and honoring my own right to know about my father.

In front of my Great-Aunt Catherine's apartment.
In front of my Great-Aunt Catherine’s apartment.

It felt like balancing on a tight rope at times. The tension in my own spirit was difficult to carry and the self-doubt kept revisiting me every time an answer was hard to extract. Always reminding me that I would never find the answers I was looking for. Always cajoling me to move on and let it go.

I cannot.

I was not my father’s only victim. I have known that for a while but I was not aware of the full story. I was able to hear more than I ever heard before. I was able to look into eyes, hold hands and drink in the energy in the room.

As a side note, that story only came to be known through my willingness to share my story. From that, there was a seeking of deliverance and healing.

Dear Self-doubt, Suck it.

I learned that they called my dad by the nickname, ‘Country.’ He came to the city by way of Anderson, North Carolina. He was a big, strong, country boy that people feared and loved. I saw the hospital where he was born. I met friends who knew him as a teenager. When I asked one friend about his gang life, he told me that my father was a villain but he loved him very much.

It lead us to have a conversation about how we all have a dark side. It made me think of all of the people in my life that I had loved regardless of serious character flaws. It made me wonder how his friends would feel if they knew what he did to me.

I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why.

I think we all tend to think of good and evil as parallel lines. We think of them as living in a 3 dimensional space and never intersecting. But they do. They are as intertwined and inseparable as bones and flesh.

I am tired today. I’ve spent much of the weekend trying to do the opposite of what I want to do: shut down.

I’ve cooked healthy foods for myself. I’ve allowed myself to get completely sucked into mundane tasks. I’ve listened wholeheartedly to my children. I’ve been to yoga and gone on walks. I’ve returned to my blessed present.

I even watched a few movies and was hit by this phrase from Cold Mountain.

Bird has a job. Shit has a job. Seed has a job.

As I stood outside of the housing projects my father lived in, I listened to others talk about their experiences living there. I remembered how much my father wanted the lives of my brother and I to be better. He never wanted us to return to the place where he lived as a villain.

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Aunt Deborah & Me

He wanted us to live in a home where the Cosby’s were our role models. He wanted us to live in a community where drugs wouldn’t be involved in our daily interactions. He wanted us to speak properly and stand up straight. He wanted us to be educated and took us to museums we passed on road trips.

He gave us a good life amidst the evil he was doing in secret.

Shit had a job. 

On Sunday afternoon, I practiced yoga in the back of the class with 3 young survivors of sexual trauma and their parents and guardians. On their way out the door, I gave them new art sets and neon sparklers. I chose not to write them a note inside it. I left the pages blank in honor of their ability to tell their story in the way that they want to.

Like me.

Seed has a job.

After my travels were over, I said goodbye to my friends and sat on my couch. Other than to meet my basic needs, I didn’t get up again until that yoga class forced me up and out the door. I sat shell shocked watching episodes of Parenthood.

If you’ve ever seen that show, you probably already know that as far as a tool to wrench choked back tears from your body, that show is the top of the line. On a normal day, I cry at the end of every episode.

Seriously. The show has some tear inducing magic spell attached to it.

There’s always a sort of hangover effect that comes with doing this research. It’s like my heart gets locked up, my tears are frozen to the inside of my eyelids and I can feel my body twisting into the knots sailors must’ve used to keep their sails tied down in the worst of storms.

I have learned through this process that it’s my job to unlock, defrost and untie. It’s my job to unbind myself from any negative energy, any scary remnants of the past and any emotions waiting to be released in a safe space.

I sat on my couch and I waited to cry. It took an episode or two but sure enough, Max got into that really great school and I cried. Once the dam was broken, I jumped into the waters that rushed through. I was gone. Crying my eyes out and it felt good.

Bird has a job.11268367_1040474219326260_1577484150989361945_n

Sincerely,

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A Chorus of You Are Worthy

Yesterday found me climbing the stairs of the MSU Union with a heavy box and an umbrella. It was raining and I had about 5 minutes to get myself to the room filled with about 25 people who registered for my Militant Self-Care Workshop.

By the time I got there, I was sweaty and breathing heavy. Lord. I burst through the doors at the top of the stairs to see a crowd waiting for me.

“Be cool, FC.”

I was not cool. I was hot as hell. Heat rises and that 3rd floor stairwell was baking. I was on time. Thankfully because in a superior moment of unrealistic expectations, I told everyone else:

“Our time together is precious and irreplaceable. Be on time. You can’t make this up.”

Guys. I am ALWAYS struggling to be on time. What was I even thinking?

I set an intention and I met it but man, that was a serious gamble against my natural tardy inclinations.

Anyhow, I made it and set up with help from some angels. Lydia, Lysne and Miranda – to be exact. I was nervous and shaky. I’d never done this particular workshop before but when have I ever let that stop me? I asked Miranda to open the doors and start checking people in. Lunch was offered because “eating is good self-care.” and we were off.

First of all, let me tell you that my PowerPoint was top notch and hilarious. Check Yourself.

Not only did Ice Cube make an appearance but so did the Phoenix. If people weren’t sure when to laugh, I helped them because I cracked myself up. I am my own laugh track.

Once we got into a groove, we had a beautiful conversation. I could see wheels turning. I could hear in the voices the absolute need for the song I was singin’ and then it happened.

A hand was raised. Timidly. I nodded, smiling. I was ready. Give it to me. Then she hit me with the question.

“What if you are not in a place where you feel like you are worthy of love yet?

Instantly my eyes welled up with tears and my chest tightened up. I knew that question. I’ve asked it before. Haven’t you?

Tell me about it. Join the conversation here.

The answer she was looking for was not one I could give. You can say the words but you can’t make someone feel worthy. I took a deep breath and decided to try anyway.

“You are worthy of love.”

She shrugged and nodded that she knew. It was the kind of knowing that comes without believing. I struggled to find the words. I choked them out.

“I think you are worthy. I can’t make you hear that. I can’t make you believe that. I wish I could but I can’t. You are brave for asking that question. That makes me love you. I can also tell you that there’s a room full of people here that agree with me. You are worthy.”

Then it happened. The room erupted into a symphony of you are worthies. Different voices, different words all formed in a sort of chorus singing to a broken heart.

Darling, you are worthy.

It was one of those moments that breaks one piece of your heart off while stitching another piece together. My spirit just stopped and said, “Yes, girl. This is it.”

There have been a lot of kind things said about me in the past 24 hours but I think the best testimonial I could give you happened in that room. It happened in the symphony I was able to conduct. Can you hear it?

You are worthy.10996165_10153101408618588_3173392778831113365_n

Love and big fences,

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PS – Check out what other people are saying below OR search the hashtag #militantselfcare on Instagram and Twitter.  Get ready to have your heart warmed.

Productivity Does Not Equal Worthiness

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. today singing like a lark. I hopped out of bed, washed dishes, folded laundry and baked a quiche.Shocked

I know. I am as shocked as you are.

As I was headed upstairs to put clean towels into the bathroom, my husband asked me what smelled so good. I said, “I baked a quiche.”

He said, “What the fuck?”

He could not believe what was happening.

Dexter was not impressed.
Dexter was not impressed.

I have always struggled with mornings. I have come to realize that I need more time and quiet than my life can provide without getting up super early. I am stuck between a rock and my alarm clock.

I don’t even believe in alarm clocks.

That’s obviously not true but I hate them so much. Like deep, deep disdain.

Today is different somehow. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and my mind went to work straight away as it always does. Two meetings, a press interview, workshop preparation, donations to count and most importantly, people to thank. Typically, I roll over and fight by body for more blessed, blessed sleep. Today, I took advantage of my strange good nature and got up.

You guys, it’s quiet here when everyone is asleep.

I made room for my brain to have it’s thoughts. I brought out my list of to dos. I didn’t plan to DO anything yet. I practiced mindfulness and added things to my list as they floated over folded towels and whisking eggs. I made my cup of tea and listened to my favorite creative podcast. I had ideas as I used colored pencils to fill in flowers and leaves on a notecard.

I found space in my day for the quiet beginnings my brain seems to need these days.

I’ve been straight up preaching #militantselfcare and my focus has been learning about how I roll in the world. I’m actually giving a workshop on it in a few days. My new found meditation practice has offered me mindfulness that I can take into my day and just discover the way I move with gentleness and without judgment.

As a side note: my first thoughts while coloring today were related to staying in the lines, picking the right colors and doing it RIGHT. I giggled at myself, shook my head and just picked up a damn pencil. No judgment just release. It felt good.

I suppose this wakefulness probably has something to do with the amazing sleep I got last night. I did this weird thing. I went to bed when I was tired. I didn’t play a rousing game of Candy Crush, I didn’t watch two episodes of not much on Netflix. I didn’t kill time by trying to steal it back from the clutches of a busy day. I curled up next to my guy with hair still damp from the shower and fell asleep.

Oh heaven.

I have had some trouble concentrating lately. The spaces between sentences in books are filled with things I should be doing. I can’t seem to decide where to start my day and so I attack it mindlessly hoping that at the end of the day my wild swinging will amount to a knock out.

I’m feeling dissatisfied and a little lost. I’m not entirely sure why.

I’ve been trying a few new things and I’ve been forced into new environments. Change is not my favorite. Neither is uncertainty. Wouldn’t you agree?

I think most would.

My office is between moves. My brand is being built. My book is being researched.

Oh. And my children are home for spring break this week which adds a layer of disorganization that I cannot even explain in words. And by disorganization, I mean that I intentionally didn’t sign them up for any camps, events, activities because I realized I missed them. We’re spending time together. For better or for worse (but mostly for better).

I am feeling unsettled but after last night’s amazing rest. I have to say, I think I was largely just feeling tired. Turns out, they’ve actually discovered the cure for that.

Sleep.

On a certain day, a few weeks ago, I wrote down that I desired to feel productive above all else and then I went to work. I plowed through. I focused. I pushed. I ignored speed bumps, distractions, hunger pains, thirst and rest. I was a raging, maniac of productivity. I got shit done.

I was productive. I just wasn’t very happy. These new boundaries and militant self-care principles are lending me lessons in what feels good. Being productive is my way of feeling really worthy but I’ve discovered it is not my way of being truly happy.

Productivity is my addiction.

I get into these grooves of productivity and it’s like a drug. My brain starts to get all hype and starts saying things like:

Look at you slicing and dicing in that inbox. Ooh, man. You are so good at this. Wow. I wonder what else we can pull off today. Forget about that drink. You’re only thirst is for success. You are just so organized and smart. Don’t let that email slip by unnoticed. You are a magician. You’re not hungry. You’re busy. Keep it up. Ignore that cramp in your foot. Keep typing. Keep building. Slam that leftover cake slice if you have to but get this shit done.

I am not made worthy because I work. I am worthy because I am here. That’s it.

Today, I have been productive and now, I am going to go be happy. I am choosing to be satisfied with what I’ve done and release what I have not. I am setting down my addiction to productivity one mindful day at a time. I am blowing the whistle that ends this shift. For now, rest. It cures what ails ya.

Wishing you sweet dreams,10422206_10153223997448588_38878537589826032_n

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PS – I’m probably napping right now.