Indulge Me, For a Moment.

Sometimes I imagine that he had lived. That he didn’t stop breathing at 26 years of age. We find each other once again. It is like a story, he and I, a story that I both live and write. Here it is.

That autumn evening, they both walk into the local bookstore, neither aware of the other. She naturally gets lost in the Fiction section, trailing her fingers over spines of endless rows of books, pulling a few out here and there to gaze at plot lines in the hopes that one or two will capture her attention. (Many will.) Over in the Poetry section, he skims through collections that remind him of just how much he misses writing poetry; he wishes that real life and a lack of time hadn’t taken away his dedication. Or had he given his time away? He shakes off that unanswered question and continues to peruse.

The soft whir of espresso machines and related aromas in the nearby café eventually pull them both out of their respective stacks and over to the line. They’re both armed with books that require more time and investigation over cups of coffee; her with three novels that each bear a Jane Austen-like feel to them, and him with four intriguing anthologies by the latest Poet Laureate. Soon, she places her order with the young man behind the counter and steps over to the side to wait. He does the same a few minutes later and takes a spot a few feet away from her. While they wait for their drinks, they respectively study the other patrons in the café. It is then, during their mutual analyses, that she happens to gaze in his direction–at the same moment that he glances over at her.

Her eyes widen with instant recognition. A beaming smile across his face face.

“Order ready for Sabrina.”

“Large coffee for Riley.”

If neither had recognized the other, the calls of those two very familiar names would have provided all the information they needed. They approach one another.

“I can’t believe…” she says, her voice trailing off, her eyes fixed on his.

He doesn’t reply, still stunned that she is standing before him. Twenty years had passed them by. Twenty whole years.

He grabs their drinks while she finds a table for them in the corner. He glances at her books on the adjacent table and grins. “Were you in Fiction?” he asks.

She chuckles. “No surprise there. And you were lost in Poetry.”

“Literally and symbolically, of course.”

Silence was never an issue for them. In the past, they always had plenty to discuss; theories to riff about, silly jokes to share. And yet, now, a silence steals into their midst. It is not a passive silence, however; their prolonged stares seem heavy in meaning, the kind of unreadable expressions that will soon require defining.

“It’s nothing like our old spot, is it?” Riley then asks, gesturing around them.

“Nothing at all, save for the books and the harried girl behind the counter making all the drinks.”

He laughs. “Sounds familiar.” He remembers being scheduled with her one afternoon, watching her deftly prepare drink orders without batting an eyelash at the long lines. That day had stayed with him long after he moved on from the store, for reasons that, at the time, he couldn’t explain. “But you were never harried. You were always so cool.”

“I played it cool, my friend.”

“Do you live in town?”

Sabrina nods. “I just moved back. After college, I did some soul-searching and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. ”

His eyes gleamed. “So you did go. Remember how much you wanted to live there? The whole mythical bird thing?”

“I do. And it was transformative it many ways. Moving away from family, being on my own.”

“So you rose out of the ashes,” he says, smiling warmly at her.

That sudden sensation in her chest. Yes. Her heart had skipped a beat. She breathes through it, deciding not to explain it away in her mind. “I did. What about you? Tell me where you’ve been. When I last saw you, you were headed back to Texas.”

He had indeed moved back to his home state to go back to college. Ultimately, however, that degree in Poetry was replaced with a Business degree and an eventual MBA. He had moved back a year ago and was now a finance executive at a firm in the city.

“The poet became an MBA? I could have never envisioned that.”

“Me, either.” He pauses. “Are you married? Kids?”

Sabrina shakes her head. “No and no. I was engaged for a bit but it didn’t work out. You?” she asks.

“Divorced. We had a good year but she was still in love with her ex, so she decided to go back to him. While we were married, I should add.”

“Riley, I’m so sorry.”

He waved his hand. “Therapy does wonders. I’m in a great place now. Are you still writing?”

“Five books published. Working on number six, the long gestating novel.”

Riley applauds softly. “I’m so proud of you. You stuck with it. I knew you would. When I first met you, I could see it in you, that love for writing. It was amazing. And it helped me, believe it or not. I was so inspired by you.”

“And I had a massive crush on you. I actually thought I was in love with you for a month or so.” She allows the words out without thinking, deliberately leaving them there, in the air.

Riley gazes at her, not completely taken aback. “I had a feeling.”

“Could you blame me? You were a poet, for goodness sake. My writer’s heart was toast.”

They both laugh, still aware of her admission, still aware of those stares in between the silences, still able to allow levity to join all the other elephants in the room.

“I thought about it,” Riley then says. “I thought about you and me.”

Her heart quickens once again. She waits for him to continue.

“But I pushed it away. You were only 19. I was 21 and not living my best life, as you know. I was toxic. So, so bad for all the people around me. It just–”

“It’s OK,” she says, gently squeezing his forearm. “We weren’t ready back then. We both had to do a little phoenix work with ourselves.”

Riley looks down at her hand. Yes, he hears in the back of his mind. It is the answer to a question he’s not yet sure of, but welcomes it all the same. He puts his hand on top of hers, linking his fingers through hers.

She remembers to breathe.

“And now we meet again, in a bookstore, no less,” he replies. “Could you fall in love with me again, for longer than a month this time?”

Yes. They had always been waiting for each other, waiting to cross paths once again. She recognizes that now. Sabrina laughs. “It depends on all the fancy restaurants you take me to. And the poetry you write me.”

“Done and done.”

They walk toward the registers, still hand in hand. He buys her books. She buys his. They depart in the parking lot with a promise to see one another the next day.

She learns, three months after their wedding, that the Poet MBA can also do wonders with plywood: he builds her a home library, complete with all five of her books and room for his first anthology.

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the hours.

virginiawoolfHonestly, sometimes the hardest part of my life is the inertia of the day-to-day. The routine. The same ole. When you add to all of that the desire to share my days with another person…everything is compounded. Don’t get me wrong; I’m pretty sure inertia sets in with another person in the next room, too. No rose-colored glasses here. But it’s still a feeling, it’s my feeling, and it’s not easy. But for the purposes of chasing down positivity: there are plenty of people who aren’t here. So opening my eyes to another day, however drowning in the same ole, is an enormous blessing.

I plan on also chasing down some of the things that brighten my days, things I haven’t done in a while because the emotional and physical energy was thoroughly absent. Museum afternoons. Exploring new cities and places. Getting back to me, one step, one day, at a time.

Your Elephant, After All.

Dearest reader, last Friday, I published my third book. I seem to favor anthologies and this publication is no different: Your Elephant, After All is my third collection, and this time, it’s poetry. I am exceedingly proud of this book, especially because it was born during a difficult time.

book

As you know, life hasn’t been the easiest for me lately. There have been more downs than ups, but thankfully and prayerfully, I continue to push ahead. Two weeks ago, I was wide awake in the early hours of the day (the requisite 3AM), my mind racing, and decided to find something to read. Somehow, I ended up on the Notes app on my phone and somehow, I ended up reading some of my own poetry. Of course, I had nursed plans for a third book of poetry months and months ago, having created the draft and formatting of the pieces in both written and electronic form. But, owing to my creative ADD, my attention soon went elsewhere.  Enter two weeks ago, 3AM, and a resurrected desire to come back to my temporarily abandoned project.
From then on, I started working on the book almost every evening. The title changed. I edited some, if not all, of the poems. draftThe original idea of 22 poems turned into about 38 pieces. I decided that this would be my first book with photographs. Needless to say, if you’re passionate about anything, the process can be enthralling. As an artist, the creating part is nothing short of breathtaking. And honestly, it helped to take my mind off, well, my mind. Even if that meant just a few hours a day of purposeful activity, the refocused energy was welcomed. After a pretty rapid cycle of work, I was finished last mid-week. By Friday, the book was live on Amazon. Some other details about YEAA:
  1. The title came from one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written and it fit perfectly for the theme of the book. To me, elephants (my longtime favorite animal) represent majesty, melancholy, supremacy, sadness. Basically the two-sided coin of life. And these poems run the gamut of all of those things and more.
  2. This was my first time publishing with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Before KDP, I used CreateSpace, also owned by Amazon; the two have now combined together. It was a fairly easy process. From cover creation (I used my own artwork, but KDP offers plenty of cover choices to pick from) to establishing the price of the book, the process was smooth. General frustrations came from ensuring that pagination and margins and all that were right, but that’s part of creating something visually appealing, so in the end, it was fine.
  3. YEAA is available in paperback only. Note that my first two books were made available in both hard copy and digital, and I’m aware of what’s more popular and convenient. Nevertheless, I really wanted to explore removing the digital book feature as an option and sticking with hard copy only. Being a reader myself that 99% of the time goes with digital, I also still love physical books. Their feel, their gloss, their look. So I went against my own comfort level and decided to try something different with this collection.

I’m really proud of this newest creation. Not only am I expanding my profile as an author, I was inspired to continue to focus on my work and plan for my next offering. It was also refreshing to just be knee deep in words and formatting and pagination and creating–and away from days of being mired in my own endless thoughts. So here’s to insomnia, I think, which started it all.

Lastly, to you, dear reader and supporter of this tiny corner in the blogverse: thank you. Whether or not you buy my book, you’re always here. I’ll take that.

#triggered

I love that Jhené Aiko posted this on her Instagram story. (Courtesy of The Shade Room.)

I love that she was raw, open, and honest about the depth of her feelings.

I love that she sat with her feelings instead of running away from them and resorting to old, toxic habits.

I love that she spoke purely of the fear she felt in that moment.

I love the hashtag. Because it means that things can be going well, life may improve, darkness may give way to light, pain may dissipate–but a trigger is a trigger. And triggers can happen at any time. And they can push you to back to a place that’s all too familiar.

Which is when it’s time to speak on it, as Jhené did. Release it, find the words, and try very hard to say what you need to. Even if those words are covered in tears. Even if you’re sitting in an empty room. The walls can take it.

you mean well.

You really do. When you know that a friend, family member, or someone in your life is going through a pretty difficult time, you want to help them however you can. Believe me, your concern and love is highly welcomed and appreciated. However, because of lack of understanding, empathy, or just not knowing what to say, there are certain statements that don’t really help. It happens to all of us. Speaking as someone who has shared concern and needed concern, here are some statements that, honestly, can remain unsaid.

Is it really that bad?
This question minimizes what the person is going through. It’s almost as if you’re weighing acceptable levels of pain and misery. Pain is pain. Misery is misery. It’s not up to any of us to define what constitutes as either.

Have you prayed about it?
If you know your friend or family member well and you know them as a person of faith, this isn’t a question that needs to be asked. Nine times out of ten, they’ve turned to their Creator for help, solace, and endurance. And even if they haven’t, prayer is personal. Instead of asking this particular question, assure your friend that you’re praying for them.

Try to be happy.
They’re trying. Most folks don’t want to be down, blue, or depressed. But this is what the person is going through. Or their chemical wiring. Just support them.

Don’t think about it so much. (Or, if you stop thinking about said thing, it will happen.)
This is an interesting one. Definitely well-meaning. And I’m all for re-focusing energies. I’m all for looking for ways to direct your attention to things that will keep you fulfilled and busy enough that you don’t have the time to think about your current situation. Here’s the reality about me: I can have 100 things to do, but my brain is still going. This is me. Maybe it’s you. So rather than investing in the plethora of ways I can fool my mind into not focusing on my current situation, just be there for me during the times when it’s quiet, my mind is racing, and I can’t focus at all.

How long is this going to last?
Is there a defined length of time that a person is supposed to feel what they’re feeling? This question implies that you feel that there is, and it stings. Redirect: I’ll be here, however long you need me to be.

No one is perfect, certainly, and no one provides support or empathy perfectly. I know I’ve inserted my foot in my mouth several times in my attempts to offer support for the people in my life. But everything is a lesson. With all the amazing ways I’m presently being cared for by my friends and family, I can pay it forward when someone needs me. And at the end of the day, shouldn’t we want to be the persons we needed at a certain time?

 

Torn.

“My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness and my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation.”

I saw this quote a few minutes ago from Today show anchor Dylan Dreyer as she discussed her ongoing issues with infertility and sadly, a recent miscarriage. Contextually, it was just announced this morning that Dylan’s colleague, Jenna Bush Hager, is pregnant with her third child and that her other colleague, Hoda Kotb, adopted a new baby last week. Looking at the environment she’s in, then, you can imagine how her words struck me. I felt for her. Because those words are the absolute truth. Because those words are my truth.

~My sadness doesn’t take away from anyone else’s happiness~

Having longed for a partner and a love for many years now, I have shared in the utter joy of being present for friends, family, and others who have found their persons and their loves in life. I have smiled, cried tears of joy, cheered, whooped, encouraged, and have experienced every iota of their rejoicing. I have also experienced mind-boggling levels of sadness, loneliness, fear, and discouragement. I have cried tears of pain in my very private moments, supplicated my Heavenly Father for faith, love, and the power to simply go on, and have struggled to not drown in questions of why not me, why my person remained unseen and elusive. And I know I’m not the only one. I’m sure, whatever you’re going through in life, you’ve been there, as well.

~my sadness isn’t minimized because someone else has a sadder situation~

But I have another personal truth, something else that Dylan’s words spoke to, something I need to change: I tend to minimize my emotions when they escalate, believing that my sadness is nothing compared to what some other folks are going through. It’s my way of not drowning; whatevering it all and trying to think of others who have it worse. I even go as far as trivializing how I feel: how can wanting a love compare to the sheer suffering I know some people are going through? (We engage in a variety of things for self-preservation, don’t we?)

Anyway, let’s try to help each other, because my struggles continue, and I’m sure yours do, too.

  1. As Dylan pointed out so well, you can be happy for someone and sad at the same time. It’s the duality of life. To me, we were wired to juggle, not just work and tasks, but our emotions. You can be genuinely thrilled for someone and still feel the pangs of your own personal distress. It’s life.
  2. Don’t dismiss or whatever those difficult emotions. (I’m also speaking to myself here.) The world is large enough for plenty of people to feel what they feel. If someone is having it worse in life, pray for them and pray for yourself, too. You both need the same thing–relief–despite the differences in what you’re individually enduring.
  3. I said it before and I say it to all of us and I say it to myself: please continue to hang on.

2019…so far…

black calendar close up composition
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s been rough, mi gente. (One thing that characterizes the year so far is my newfound interest in watching Spanish videos on YouTube. Go figure.) Anyway, I’d love to say that my year has been going well, but…it hasn’t been easy for your Square Peg. I won’t go into too much detail. Just know that loneliness and sadness and painful self-reflection and unfulfilled expectations have been so real. So vividly real. Are you going through it? Life and all of that? I’d love to say that I’m handling it and healing but…it’s a slow-going process. Even writing has been hard. Even writing this brief post is difficult. Because I don’t have a desire to do much except lay on the couch these days.

But despite the slowness of the healing, there is some of it going on. What’s been working for me?

  1. Prayer. I deeply believe in the significant presence of a Creator and a Heavenly Father in my life, and I see and recognize that He’s watching over me.
  2. People. Because He’s been ensuring that my closest friends and family and confidantes continually reach out to me and check up on me. And I’m a private person when it comes to personal pain. The fact that I’m confiding in a few folks about what I’m going through is hardly random to me.
  3. Pause. My desire to permanently be on my couch notwithstanding (I realize that I’m dealing with depression and the loss of interest in doing anything that comes with it), moments of deep rest have been helpful.

Whatever happens, if you’re having a hard go of it: speak up. Say something. And try very hard to hold on. Even if it hurts.

(One more thing. When you pick up on empathy in your life, really being understood, the presence of true compassion: these are the people that should remain confidantes and listening ears. Not everyone has this capability. Not their fault; to me, empathy isn’t a common thing that we all own and can share with others. I’m working on it myself. Anyway, when you see empathy and feel empathy, move in that direction. And own the right to not share your heart and confidences with everyone, and certainly with those that will never truly understand or don’t know how.)

The Watched Pot.

Never boils.

Specifically: A watched pot never boils. Time moves slowly when you’re waiting or potboiling watching for something to happen. I’ve been thinking about those words this week, specifically because my mother said them to me on the phone. During our conversation a few days ago, I hinted at one of the major Worries for a Singleton, which is #1,089,556 on the list: hesitating about making a major life decision because you wonder if something or, rather someone, waits for you around the corner. (And a part of you wants to wait to make that major life decision until you’re 1 of 2.) Her response: “Oh, Adjoa, don’t worry about those things. A watched pot never boils. I don’t want those thoughts to consume you. It’s easier said than done, I know, but don’t overthink it.” I let her words marinate before replying that I wasn’t necessarily obsessing, but merely thinking aloud.

My initial, knee-jerk reaction? 1. Pure irritation. Couldn’t I just express myself without the assumption that I was engaging in overthinking? Couldn’t I just say I was thinking about the future and what will be without being reminded of a slowly boiling pot? My next reaction: 2I’m never not going to think about my future and whether I’ll share it with someone. It’s always going to be a thought. It pays rent, that thought. It shares a room in my brain and it ain’t going away. Next reaction: 3. Grateful for the acknowledgement that it’s all easier said than done. As I get older and those desires to have my own family grow, it’s certainly harder to just be carefree and let it go and don’t think about it and la la la. It just is. Final reaction: 4She’s right, don’t overthink it. And as much as I have a Master’s Degree in Overthinking, my mother was absolutely correct in knowing that I do overthink, I do over-worry, I do over-consume in endless ruminations about life and the future and love and all that. And she, my biggest fan and cheerleader, didn’t want me to drive myself crazy.

Y’all. It’s hard wrapping your brain around needing something and going through life not seeing that thing manifest itself. It’s just hard. No amount of well-meaning advice…

  • Don’t think about it!
  • Are you even ready? It’s really hard!
  • Are you putting it out there?
  • Just move on!

…will remove the fact that in life, when we need something and we’re not seeing it, it’s just difficult to la la la and keep calm and carry on. Overthinking will happen. Mental over-consumption will happen. Emotional merry-go-rounds will occur. But it’s important to extract what you need–the acknowledgement of things being easier said than done, for example, or the reminder that people who love you don’t want you to stress yourself out–and try, very hard, to keep it moving. It doesn’t mean you stop thinking or praying or wondering, but it means you fight (fight hard) to not be consumed.

So the pot is there and I take comfort in knowing that it will boil. Until then, I’ll be peeking in the kitchen every now and again.

where have you been all my life?

She’s gone blonde.

Yes, dear reader, after years and years on the darker side of the color wheel, I decided to make a big Year of 40 change and go blonde. My hair is now a honey blonde hue and I love it something awful. Initially after the coloring, as you can see in some of the pics above, it had more of a reddish-blonde shade as a result of my red color before and the repeated lifts to get all the red out. These days, it’s definitely more honey and closer to the shade I was looking for. And I plan on going lighter! Now that I’ve learned that going blonde won’t make me look like a dancer of some sort of cheesy Vegas revue, the blonde is my oyster.

And let’s chat about that for a moment. Upon seeing my hair, my sister said the following: “Why haven’t you done this your whole life?!” Other friends also asked why I had never experimented with a lighter color before. You know me: hair experimentation has never been an issue for me. But sporting dark hair as a woman of color was most definitely a safe choice. I couldn’t imagine my brown skin against an even lighter color. (Even bright red was far more safer in my mind than anything lighter.) Now I’ve been reminded that my brown skin is beautiful against any backdrop. We hold ourselves back, even in tiny, seemingly insignificant ways, don’t we? But none of that anymore. Embrace change, embrace newness, embrace the blonde. Because…

tracee