6 to go

Personal Narrative

I’ve been 40 for six months! Yesterday was my half birthday.

We have to blame Sojo and Sam for this whole half birthday thing. They are the ones who introduced me to the concept, and it took a few years before I actually paid attention to the calendar and remembered my own. But this year, finally, I did, and so happy half birthday to me!

Some days it seems I haven’t accomplished much this year, but as I sit and reflect, I have to admit that’s impatience talking.

I’ve gotten new opportunities at work and landed some interesting freelance contracts. I’ve made strides in my creative projects and midway between my birthday and my half birthday…

Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.
Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.

I got engaged. *shimmies*

It’s been a fun year thus far. My only regret is not documenting more of it. I’ve been writing morning pages and journaling semi-regularly, but I can do more to record this chapter of my life. In anticipation of the next six months, I plan to write a letter to myself to arrive on my 41st birthday.

There’s always a balance to strike between living life and writing about it, but inspired by Pearl Cleage’s work, I want to maintain the one, increase the other, and enjoy the hell out of both.

Cheers to life and love and all that jazz. And happy (half) birthday to me!


Old Snippets

Personal Narrative

I’m organizing.

This is one of the first steps in my creative process. It’s resistance, or maybe it’s preparation for creation. All I know is, I can always tell how serious I am about writing by how much I suddenly have to clear off desks and organize files. Ha.

Today’s resistance-preparation is clearing out some of the random notes I’ve written in my computer’s Stickies app. Some of these are a few years old and most of them are interesting.

The one I’ve pasted below was written on Christmas Day 2012. At first I had no idea what was on my mind, but on second thought, I was pretty sure it was about love.

It was stream of consciousness so this is unedited. Maybe I’ll expand it, revise it, or something. Maybe not.


Coming out of a cave is at once liberating and fear-inducing. Eventually, you see, one comes to love the cave without so much as a second thought. It is home. It is cozy. One is protected from the elements. And there again, in many ways, from life itself.

And there I was, comfortable in cave-as-home. Caged. And here I am, out. Free. And it is joyful. Yet painful. Elements assault underused senses. The prickly sensation of blood flowing through sleeping organs. It’s uncomfortable.

Laughter as sunshine. Tears for rain. Breath – sometimes quick and shallow, other times relaxed, deep – so much wind.



Personal Narrative


It made me tense because every time he said it, I thought I was already doing it. He, Daddy, insisted I wasn’t. Squeezed beside him in the dark brown easy chair, we’d while away the late afternoons. He’d finish a cigarette while watching sports or news or whatever was on that time of day. Our legs stretched out, fully reclined, his head back and eyes closed, voice like a hypnotist, urging me to relax.

I am relaxed! I’d protest. I’m relaxing!

No, he’d disagree in that same quiet trance. Relax, he’d repeat. And on it went day after day. As the years passed, sharing the easy chair became more of a challenge. My petite build was now too much for a chair designed for one. His admonitions to relax fell to the recesses of my mind.

Pretending to relax.
Pretending to relax.

Until I found myself in my 30s holding my breath. Doing homework or watching a movie, or really any mundane thing, a quick moment of reflection would reveal hunched shoulders, a tight body, and me, inexplicably holding my breath.

It was as if my body were in a perpetual state of flight or fight.

And yet, as far as I could tell, there was no reason for stress.

Is this what daddy meant when he insisted I never relaxed? Did I somehow develop this habit of holding tension in my body, even holding my own breath, in childhood?

I think of it now for two reasons. One, I’m reading Tiger Eyes, and I believe it’s triggering memories of daddy. Davey, the central character, was close to her father. As the book opens, he has died unexpectedly. I didn’t make the connection before, but when the second memory, “Relax,” came to mind, I thought that might be the cause.

The second reason is I’m doing it again. I thought I had mastered deeper and more regular breathing, keeping unfounded tension out of my body. But twice in recent days I’ve found myself slouching, breathing shallow breaths. And I’m hearing his voice urging me to relax.

I’m listening, Daddy.

So long, farewell.

Personal Narrative

Thought about my daddy this morning. Not sure why he came to mind, but he’s always welcome.

This morning’s memory was of his goodbyes. He never said goodbye. I can’t recall a single time he actually used the word when departing. Whether we were separating for a couple of hours, or a couple of weeks, he always said the same thing: “So long!” He’d smile showing all his teeth, although the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. We’d wave, go our separate ways.

daddy and nicole fullI always did a double take, as if somehow a second look would ensure so long really meant it was time to go, but only temporarily. Remembering it now makes me as sad as it did then.

I think I asked him once, about why he never said goodbye.

Perhaps he said he doesn’t like goodbye. As if goodbye were too formal or too final. So long implied a reunion was imminent. That it was so long until I see you again, but the seeing you again part was definitely going to happen.

I don’t know.

He never said goodbye.

Healing. An excerpt.

30 Day Blog Challenge

This is stream of consciousness from my efforts at NaNoWriMo last fall. This is fiction. I wrote 1,000 words a day for 30 days. This excerpt was selected at random this afternoon. This is raw data. For better or for worse, it’s unedited.

I finally arrive and set up as close to the ocean as possible. Only a few people are out. I stretch out my sheet and lay my belongings on top. I quickly strip down to my suit. It’s a simple black bikini this time, and I’m aware of a few appraising eyes glancing at my glutes. I tie my hair in a messy knot atop my head and stride toward the ocean. I sigh as my feet, right first, then left, touch the cool, clear water. The bottoms of my feet barely register the little shells underneath.

I walk on.

atlantic-ocean-103084_640The water is to my ankles. My calves. I stretch my hands out, beckoning the water to me. Beckoning my spirit to it. I keep walking. My hips are underwater now. I stop and slide down, until the water is at my neck. On my knees, I am still. I play a game with the water, keeping my abs tight, trying not to move my body. It’s good exercise.

Once fatigue sets in I stand up and walk a little deeper into the water. The waves come toward me and I draw them to me with big sweeping gestures to pull the water in. a little ritual.  I say a little prayer – I welcome all the blessings and love of the universe into my heart, into my life. I turn around, facing the shore. Starting at my chest, I push outward, pushing the water away. I say another prayer – I expel all of the thoughts and doubts and sadness that no longer serve me. I pray that all the negativity is transmuted for the good of all mankind.

I turn around and repeat this ritual several times. Then I just play in the water for awhile. Spying the few people in the ocean with me. Admiring the sun. I swat at the schools of fish to see what they’ll do. They change direction and keep moving. There’s a lesson in that.

After about 20 minutes, I decide it’s nap time. I stroll back to the beach and begin untying my hair. I towel off and spray the Banana Boat liberally on my exposed skin. I add sunblock to my face and don my floppy beach hat. I stretch out on my back and begin dozing to my favorite sound in the world.

sungoddessI wake up a few times and turn over. Don’t wanna be too brown on one side. Eventually I can no longer ignore the gnawing in my stomach. It’s lunch time. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten alone. I tell myself it’ll be fun. Like old times. Relearning to enjoy singledom and solitude?

I guess.

I begin driving along the causeway just looking for someplace that might have some good fried oysters. I eventually stop at a Green Iguana. I know for sure they have good turkey burgers, and that would be yummy too.

How many? Asks the host. His spiked Mohawk just cool enough.

… Just one.

He begins to lead me to a table when I ask to go outside.  I sit at one of the tall tables, remembering the last time I was here. Sophia and I met in person for the first time. She was a friend of a friend who thought it would be nice if we connected. It was. We did. Although I never saw her again after that. Our lives simply weren’t in sync.

I ordered the turkey burger I wanted. Avocado and pepper jack cheese. Lettuce, tomato. No onion. Fries. Yummy indulgences. I brush away tears from time to time. I savor each bite although I secretly want to wolf it down and get out of there as quickly as possible. Another round of tears I hide as those darn allergies. I even pull out a book to read. Zora Neal Hurston keeps me company. Probably not the most upbeat book in places, although it’s one of my favorites. Maybe I need to get a comedy or something more neutral that doesn’t involve relationships at all.

I think about going to Barnes and Noble to find another book. Then I remember, that’s where I met Daniel. I have a library card. I can go there instead. Or I can go home and download some ebooks.

I tell myself it’s okay. I’ll be okay. Today it’s just an exercise to prove to myself that I can be alone. That I can continue. Tomorrow I’ll do something similar. Go to my favorite dinner spot. Maybe I’ll even cook by the end of the week.

And one day, I’ll even remember what happiness feels like.

I posted a fiction excerpt one other time. Check it out here.

Truth or dare

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

From Joshunda’s interview with Pearl Cleage:

A dual history of bias and internalized oppression has kept most black women from publishing their memoirs or journals, Cleage adds, for fear of emotional and economic reprisals. “After slavery ended, black women continued to put forward the idea that we were good, sexually responsible women, going up against the racist stereotypes that came out of the madness of slavery,” Cleage says. “But there was still the fear of being too honest around white people. I don’t feel that’s a legitimate feeling for me. I’m going to tell the truth to whoever is in the room.”

When I read truth, I feel courageous and emboldened. Powerful. Magical. Writing the truth, however, is altogether different. But when I do, that’s when folks nod. Say, I felt that. I needed that. I never knew that. Amen.

From Joshunda: Cleage says she drew her inspiration for the book from the diaries of Anaïs Nin, which she found liberating and inspirational, much like the work of Walker and Shange. 

Sounds familiar.  Truth is hard to come by in the pages of books, although I must admit I wasn’t exactly searching for it as a younger woman. Discovering it, though, was quite a revelation. Filling. There was that magic, that power I didn’t know I sought. Reading it encouraged me to write it, yet in the beginning I found it hard to lay truths on the page. They were there, but buried. Hidden in metaphor and verse. Rarely plainspoken and clear.

It’s less hard now. But this doesn’t mean easy.

It’s also slow at times, truth-telling is. Because there’s this contextualizing you have to do. Background building. Setting the stage and what have you.

And then there’s the crafting. Are you conveying what you really mean to say? Who might be hurt? Who might feel misrepresented? Are you true to you?

I did not want to be the traitor,  the teller of family secrets – and yet I wanted to be a writer. ~bell hooks

Once you’ve framed it and crafted it, then there’s the time set aside for doubting. Is it too much? Who are you to give voice to this experience? And on it goes.

Until finally you shout, or whisper, “Me, dammit! It’s my truth. I’m telling it!” And you press send or publish as the case may be, and try to move on to the next thing without agonizing so much on the last thing.

And perhaps over time it gets easier. I dunno.

I do know it’s always a digging in. A meditation. A labor of love. Truth-telling is.

It’s freeing for truth and for the one who told it.

It’s difficult. But perhaps no more difficult than any other act of love.

TED Talk Tuesday

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Writer's Craft

Although I haven’t seen it in over two years, this TED Talk has been on my mind the past few days. That means it’s time to take another look.

Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, most famously known for Eat, Pray, Love. She quips early in the talk that it’s quite possible her greatest success is behind her. Even so, she was born to write, and she wants to keep writing.

Creative minds beset with the pressure to create and achieve outward measures of success are at times overwhelmed or downright tortured. Sometimes to the point of being unable to continue with their work. In the darkest cases, they are unable to continue living at all.

Said Elizabeth, “I would prefer to keep doing this work that I love. And so, the question becomes, how?”

Her TED Talk is the story of the answer.

Probability, Possibility and Change

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love

I believe in the potential for change. Change is, after all, one of the few constants in life. Even at the cellular level, there is always change. Birth, aging, sickness, death. Rebirth. Change.

I’m speaking about it in grand terms, but what I’m really talking about is the potential for individuals to evolve. To shift in attitudes, ways of thinking, and behaviors. To learn new things and be affected by them.

Ultimately, I believe in the potential of humans to be human.

…humans are always evolving (Freire). Not in the sense that humans are some how deficient, but rather that they, like plants, continue to seed and bloom and remake themselves. To live is to grow. Stagnation is, in effect, death. 
~Nicole D. Collier, In Defense of Inquiry

Earlier today someone mentioned in an offhand manner that grown people don’t change. Moreover, an attitude a man held five or six years ago would still be his attitude now.

You could make the case this is likely true. But as someone committed to developing my potential and helping others realize and develop theirs, I’m not so stuck on probability. I invite you to embrace possibility.

If we all stuck to what was probable, inventions we take for granted today would never have been birthed. If we dismissed things based merely on probability, who would ever take risks? What would be the purpose of ever dreaming beyond the present moment? There would be no bucket lists. No Nobel Prizes. No late blooming ballerinas. No manned missions to space. What use would anyone ever have for toiling or exploration?

When we are quick to write off the very possibility of human change, it becomes easy to write off those who have made poor choices in the past. Because they’ll “never amount to anything,” we expel kids from school without a second thought. Because “they’re worthless,” we allow people to die slow deaths in cages. And those who get out alive can scarcely live because, “they’re criminals anyway,” so they’ve proven they can’t handle voting, making an honest living, or {insert thing “good” people can do}.

I’m not arguing that we should ignore current evidence of ideas and attitudes people hold. After all, it’s sage advice to believe people when they show you who they are. But they’re showing you who they are at a given moment. Not who they were at birth. Not who they’ll be at death. Life shaped us to be who we are right now. Are you satisfied that this is the final version of you the world will ever see?

Human revolution cannot be pinned down to one specific thing. It is any action that leads to positive change or improvement in the inner realm of a person’s life. It is an ongoing process. The important question to ask yourself is whether you are on a path of continuous personal growth. ~Daisaku Ikeda

If we’ve not bothered to investigate – to engage another in a conversation, to see if evidence warrants new opinions, we’ve denied another human being the chance to be human.

Transformative learning occurs when one makes meaning of her life experiences. It often happens after a disorienting event. Something knocks you off balance and you are thrown into emotional vertigo.

Someone you love dies unexpectedly and you question the meaning of life. You travel abroad and confront culture in previously unimagined ways. You experience a profound betrayal. You read a book or watch a movie that elucidates a deeply resonant truth.

Whatever the event, you’re suddenly off-kilter and you must fight to reorient your life. Sometimes this reorientation means revisiting images of the past and reframing them. Or discarding them completely.

But the point is, you change. Your perspective changes. You release long-held beliefs. You alter your behavior. You’re different. You do what humans have the capacity to do. You learn and grow. You evolve.

It can happen at any point to any one of us. Even you…

We mustn’t discard possibility.

Impossible is nothing

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April, Love

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
The White Queen, Alice in Wonderland

What impossible things do you believe in?

I believe in the power of telekinesis. I just haven’t mastered yet.

I also believe I can levitate under the right circumstances.

I believe a well-written work – be it essay, play, poem, and so on – can change your whole life. It can cause you to think differently, pay attention to something you’ve never noticed, open your closed heart, or take action. It can cause you to dance, cry, or be a better person.

I believe in the transformative power of love to change a family, a community and a society. People can treat each other better: use more loving language, choose more loving actions, advocate more loving policies. Loving shifts can make a huge difference in our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Love can render greed obsolete.

Difficult, maybe.

Slow, yes.

Impossible? Nah!

The deeper business of being beautiful inside.

Love, Politics, News & Notable

Blue and I saw 12 Years a Slave as soon as it was released in Atlanta.

The film was stunning.

We dined afterward and talked for hours about the the movie and the myriad topics it inspired: slavery, racism, privilege, wealth, the power of story, literacy, critical literacy and public schooling. We discussed the stories that get told or lost. We noted, with a healthy dose of cynicism, who “history” deems worthy of remembrance.

We retold scenes to each other. Relived predictions, twists. What made us look away, hold our breath, or more tightly to the other’s hand.

The writing, directing and performances were brilliant. And yet as moved as I was during and after, it was Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey who brought me to tears:

At some point I want to truly express what Patsey meant to me, but this post is about Lupita.

I’m overjoyed she has received accolades during this awards season, including the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is being honored for being herself. Not a shrinking violet of herself, but a lantern. A ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be the the darkness of Hollywood. She overcame a childhood of self loathing to become someone who, quite literally, puts herself on stage, on screen, on view, for all the world to see.

Lupita relates her story in a loving response to a young woman drawn to her light. Watch it below:

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. ~Lupita Nyong’o