Splendored Things

“Love is most successful where there exists both the freedom to be who you are, and a willingness to temper it.”
– Beauty Jackson (Yeah. I know things.)

You probably don’t want to talk to me about rules.  I see a lot of grey areas.  Looking at, and at least attempting to understand both sides of things is a habit of mine.  One of the biggest things people try to control, is the thing over which we have little to no control:  love.

Love is not completely devoid of effort, but natural attraction is a large part of it.  There’s something about that person that stands out and makes us want to learn more.  We let them get away with things that most people can’t, because the whole of them is greater than their faults.  Love is that thing that other people can neither understand, nor get between.  Love seals the cracks.

Conventional wisdom would have us make rules for something that is at its best when it’s organic.  I feel best loved and most content when I am allowed to be who I am. When I am enjoyed, it makes me want to bring joy.  I’m more willing to rein it in when I’m not boxed in.  I willingly offer that to my partner as well.  Being in a relationship with someone who is comfortable with themselves is of the utmost importance.  That can’t happen if they are rigidly following arbitrary rules that I set up.

Of course, we’re human, and we each have boundaries in place to cordon off our most vulnerable parts.  When love is earnest, our loved ones take the time to be considerate of those vulnerabilities.  I also believe that it is very important to love people in the way you are allowed to love them.  It’s important that we show love to them by being open about our heart’s needs, and be receptive to hearing theirs.  It is equally important that we show love for the bond we share with that person, and honestly assess how love should proceed.  Not every loved one can, will or should become a lover.

You can’t control people.  At best, you can hope that the love and regard they feel for you will aid them in controlling themselves.  Additionally, be honest and realize that mistakes don’t automatically make someone a bad person.  We all fall short daily.  If what you have built is greater than the hurt, then progress from there.  It doesn’t make you weak.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Overcoming obstacles makes you stronger.

Bearing that in mind, I gave up rules a long time ago.  All except one:  If you want to love me, then be loving toward me.  I have faith that everything else will fall into place as it should.

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Out the Box

People seldom differentiate you doing a thing from being a thing.  We harbor this compulsion to categorize.  Sing a song in public, you’re a singer.  Rescue someone, you’re a hero.  Throw a punch, you’re a fighter.  Be party to a physical indiscretion, you’re a cheater.  When a person performs an extreme action, negative or positive, we are loathe to allow them the full spectrum of their humanity.  Heroes can’t be rude to waiters; cheaters can’t love their kids.  When the streets is watchin’, there’s no room to deviate from the script.

This wouldn’t be as problematic if people didn’t buy into that brand of logic, particularly on the internet.  Far too often to suit me, when a person is branded a “thing,” they fit themselves into that box, no matter how rigid.  Sometimes, it’s interesting to see people stage tiny rebellions against their personas, only to slide back into the zone of what was assigned to them.  It’s not even always a “comfort zone.”  Just accepting a lane.  The Fugees hit the nail on the head when they asked, “Yo everybody wears the mask, but how long will it last?”

Rejected.  I believe the great animated philosopher, Eric Cartman said it best when he proclaimed, “WHA-EVA! WHA-EVA! I DO WHUT AH WONT!” At one point I did almost succumb to the pressure of finding a lane.  I’d considered giving my blog a “theme,” so that people would recognize me for writing about topics I’m only vaguely interested in.  Seriously…picture me a beauty blogger?  Right. I reject each and every label and category.  I may not be the best or most entertaining blogger or, but I never want to be disingenuous.  To be fair, the people who read my blog and follow me on Twitter seem to allow me a very wide berth when it comes to my expression.  I thank you for that, because I don’t really have a lane.  Being bright and funny helps, but by no means do I corner the market on that.  My presence on Twitter is no different than here.  I cuss a bit more on Twitter, but only because I believe in my extended writing, profanity can be a bit distracting.  I speak on whatever strikes my fancy, in a way where I am true to me.  I’m not shy about the type of things I like or dislike, because that’s my space to share myself.

One of my favorite moments in Twitter history is when Paulo Coelho, the mind behind The Alchemist tweeted that he was now playing Snoop Dogg’s Gin n Juice.  Within moments he tweeted, that he was not hacked, and he did like Snoop.  His willingness to show that type of humanity, made me develop a little crush on him.  It’s not the nuance of him liking hip hop.  I probably would have been equally enamored had he said he was watching “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”  I admired  his matter of fact delivery and how he made no big deal about it afterward.

It would be amazing if more people felt that type of freedom.  How willing are we to allow people to have that type of freedom.  In my relationship with my kids, there are things which interest them that make me want to HURL.  I remember my parents completely shutting down the music, television shows and clothes that I liked.  My interests felt like dirty secrets.  So with them, I approach them with an open mind.  Sure, I have the last word, but it’s far easier to reach common ground on a platform of reason.  I believe the same goes for people who are in “lanes.”  Open your mind to the possibility that you must might enjoy the unusual.  It doesn’t even have to be a “guilty pleasure.”  I once read somewhere that when tiny things bring you pleasure, you have no need to feel guilty.

I embrace being a dichotomy.  My favorite second line song contain the lyrics, “Take em off! Take ya m*********n draws off!”  I can also vibe out to Dvořák’s Nocturne in B.  Hang out with me and we could guffaw to “Friday,” or I could dissect the sexual imagery in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” or Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.”  I’m neither a “hood rat,” nor am I an “intellectual.”  I’m a person, and not a persona.  You are more than welcome to join me in being the same.

Seven Things I Can’t Do Without

This isn’t your food, clothing shelter meme.  I’m not even talking “If you could only bring seven things on a deserted island for the rest of eternity, what would they be?”  I’ve always thought that was a crazy question.  First of all, who PACKS to live forever on a deserted island? I like going to the movies and ogling men at the grocery store, so clearly this deserted island jazz is going down against my will.  I don’t even know what I’m wearing to work the next day, so I can assure you that an “in case I’m kidnapped” preparation knapsack doesn’t exist.  Plus, if for some reason I DID know in advance, then I’d only bring one thing:  a magical chest that could carry ALL my loved ones, belongings and Chiwetel Ejiofor, so there.  These are seven pieces of me:

1. People

I love engaging.  Flashing a big smile and a lively “good morning” to strangers makes me happy.  What’s more, give me 15 good minutes, and we won’t be strangers.  My mama taught me well.  As rough and tumble as I am, I’m blessed enough that people are drawn to me as much as I am drawn to them.  Family and friends are important to me.  I wasn’t raised to be clannish and exclusive.  I was taught that family can be found everywhere, and embracing people in that way is important.  I am instilling the same values in my kids.  They were in Richmond, VA for 5 weeks, and people who were strangers when they arrived were in tears when they left.  Gangsta.

2.  A Crush

I relate to Alannis when she sang, “Like any hot blooded woman, I have simply wanted an object to crave.”  There’s something sweet about the potential in longing.  Certain crushes, I don’t even act on.  It’s not about pursuing a relationship.  Daydream fodder is what I desire.  Not having a crush to inspire random tummy flutters, is just the pits.  One could put this in the category of people, but it’s altogether different.  My crushes hold court in their own section of my mindspace, even if they also happen to be a friend.  Confusing? Yeah. Well…so.

3.  Pasta

Regardless of my weight class, I have always loved a good meal.  Those meals were never completely without carbs.  My favorite has always been pasta.  This may be due in part to the fact that you can take such a simple ingredient and create a meal full of wow.  Get pasta, olive oil, a few brightly colored herbs of your choice and a grilled meat of your choosing and BAM! Perfection.  And sauces we put on pasta can be nothing short of decadent.  My spaghetti and meatball marinara is both comfort food and an ultimate man-trap.  Pasta always has seemed so amazingly decadent; like a treat.  Gimme more.

4.  Colors

This seems like a weird thing to say, but the blue of the sky, the brown in my children’s eyes and the purple on my fingernails make life worth living.  I love losing myself in the depth of color and the stories color can tell.  When I have a handful of cherries on the verge of over-ripeness, it takes so much to not squish them to see the deep red between my fingers.  I used to love being barefoot in my mom’s garden and watching the dark soil contrast against my toes.  Even brown river water captures my attention from time to time.  I think the ability to see color is just one of those blessings we take for granted.  Everything could be on some ridiculous grayscale.  Instead, I’m one month away from burgundy leaves.

5.  Laughter

Joy is just amazing.  Few things are more wonderful than seeing a person wearing joy like a coat.  They just seem to shine.  The audible manifestation of joy is no different.  I love seeing people just completely lose themselves in joy.  Some of my favorite moments involve me clutching my stomach, with tears rolling down my face, begging for the jokester to stop.  Laughter interests me so.  The heaving, shouting and shaking seems like an odd way to express any emotion, much less a happy one.  Yet, when you’re laughing, it just feels so right.

6.  Music

Good music walks up behind you, wraps its arms around your waist and talks that good stuff in your ear.  You hear people say they don’t like certain types of music.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “I don’t like music.”  While working on this post, I came across this video from one of my Twitter loves (@CorporateBarbie), summing up precisely why I love music the way I do:

There’s also this:

No further explanation necessary.

7.  My Voice

Thank you God, for the ability to shout, cry, whisper, laugh, and inspire with my words.  My ability to express myself until I am understood has been the thing that has kept me sane.  I like being able to look at the object of my affection, tell him precisely how I feel, then move on to cartoons or some other random thing, because speaking my heart isn’t a frightening thing to me.  Being able to speak at least a few of my secrets on this blog is cathartic.  When those secrets are relatable, and can help others, it’s a blessing to me, and encourages me to continue writing.

So don’t be shy. What are your seven?  No rules.  No judgement.  You can give seven surface things, or go as deeply as you feel comfortable. I really want to hear from you.

B

 

Six Years In Exile

I’m no longer around the corner from a tasty snowball, or an short hour’s drive away from red clay.  Maryland is my home.  It almost feels like home now. I’ve made new friends.  One of my favorite things to do is watch those new friends mingle with my old ones.  It’s almost always a good fit. Times like that make me think I’m not so different from the girl who drove away in a beat up Celica almost six years ago.

Not being able to go to your regular haunts makes feeling like the same girl quite difficult.  Conveying the betrayal I felt, and continue to feel, is difficult.  They could rebuild that city brick for brick, and the fear that it could happen again still wouldn’t be removed.  When people who’ve visited and love my home say, “It will never be the same again,” I agree, but for totally different reasons.  They think Mardi Gras and to their credit, even the goodness of the people of New Orleans.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just an overly broad testimony regarding the shift in New Orleans.

I can sit here and tell you the story of the piece of crepe myrtle tree that my mother begged my grandmother to give her for almost two years.  My grandmother passed away always saying she would let her have a piece, but never got around to doing it.  When she passed away, my mother took a tiny piece of that tree home in remembrance of her and planted it in the middle of our small lawn.  For three summers, she sat hopeful for any sign of that tree bearing life, and for three summers, it didn’t.  Then one spring, for no reason at all, we saw flower after flower bloom on the tree that was more of a silent rebellion than an adornment.  In the years after my mother’s passing, I would drive past the tree.  Once I had children of my own, driving past “Gramma’s Tree” became part of our daily trip home.

I can explain in great detail why this tree was important.  You may even feel a tug at your heart when you realize that I’m referring to this tree in the past tense, because it wasn’t strong enough to survive the storm.  You won’t know the quiet joy I felt each time I saw it bloom.  The thing that helped Mama remember her mother, helped me remember Mama.  Those blooms being forever lost is why New Orleans will never be the same to me.  Not being able to see a long lost friend without discussing how we lived [or tried to] in the time warp that was September 2005, when everything was uncertain, is why it won’t be the same.  The thought that some friends are long lost because they didn’t make it makes being the same impossible.

Through it all, I’m thankful that I made it through.  I give thanks for being able to relay the story behind the tree to my children.  They choose to maintain strong ties to their roots.  I feel like I’m doing something right.  They met the lady who used to sell me $0.27 Buttermilk Drops at McKenzie’s when I was their age during a visit home, and matched my excitement.  Things like that make it bearable.

It’s different.  I’m different.  But we’re still standing, getting stronger by the day.

Last year, I wrote this post, recalling my experience.  I’m not in a place where I can reread the entire thing myself, but I think if you haven’t read it, you should.  Read it, if for no other reason than to understand that we weren’t these exotic party people who are now forever lost, but real flesh and blood humans who had a sense of home like everybody else.  But I will cut and paste the end, because it bears repeating:

Nola.com said it best:

       New Orleans will forever exist as two cities: The one that existed before that date, and the one after.

And even though that sums it up best, it still doesn’t begin to approach the actuality of New Orleans, because it’s more than a city.  It’s more than two.  New Orleans begins in the bones.  It’s hard drinking and hard loving.  The knot you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you must leave soon; that sigh you give when you plan your return – that’s New Orleans claiming you.  It’s the necessity, not the novelty, of getting your liquor “to-go.”  New Orleans is listening to Jim Henderson call that fucking field goal 375 times and getting a lump in your throat every damn time.  It’s being separated by two degrees from everything and everyone you need to know.  When you realize that Nagin was wrong about New Orleans being chocolate – it’s black, gold, green and purple.  It’s the tears in my eyes as I type this post.

Even with all that goes wrong with my city, every year, I have that long conversation with myself, where I consider moving back.  Ultimately, I come to the realization that setting up shop here has been good for all of us, and I have a phenomenal support system in my new home.  Yet, only a foolish tree would hate its roots.

I know what it means to be New Orleans.

If you had any sense, you’d wish you were as lucky.

So before I go to bed and pray for the lost, I’ll toast to surviving painful changes, forgetful mothers, persistent daughters and memorial crepe myrtle trees.

Nourishment

My soul hungers.  I have not been reading nearly as much as I should, and it has caused me to suffer from the nastiest case of writer’s block.  Reading is so important to me, because it enables you to take in thoughts that aren’t your own.  It’s a stretching of the imagination.  To read without writing is like exercising without eating.  You ultimately are tapped out.

When I write without reading, I find that my writing takes on a self-important, ego-driven tone.  After all, I’ve only been listening to myself.  I’m formulating a plan on how to adjust my input/output ratio.

I’ve felt so unsettled as of late, it’s time to patiently listen to the universe and wait for my path to be revealed.  Under no circumstances will I be totally withdrawing from people.  Fellowship is so important.  I need to meditate and embrace moments of silence.  It’s essential to becoming a better me.  So when you don’t see me around, that’s probably what I’m doing.

“Damn nature! You scary.”

Wednesday morning, I walked into work like I would any other day: late.  I’d already had my coffee and was abnormally chipper.  I looked up to greet the fellow in the office across from my desk.

Have you ever seen something so strange that you ignore it for a moment, just to get your thoughts together?

“Jonathan…is…is that a bug outside of your window?  Do you mind if I come in and get a closer look?”

This is what I saw:

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN

AHHHHHHHH It’s a giant praying mantis planning to attack the city!! My friend the former Harlem Bon Vivant was ready to release Godzilla…or the Kraken! Barely escaped with my life.

SIIIIIKE. I’m only kidding.  There wasn’t a real giant praying mantis attacking the city Wednesday.  If it had, Liam Neeson would have come to DC and kicked its ass.  It was rather large for a praying mantis.  From forelegs to end, it was 4.5 inches.  Were this creature on the same side of the glass as yours truly, a change of pantaloons would have been in order.  Even looking at it through the glass gave me the most ridiculous case of jelly knees.  A friend told me about happening upon a praying mantis, then backing off as it spun it’s head around Exorcist style.

Nature fascinates and terrifies me.  As humans, with our big brains, opposable thumbs and Versace shades, we like to consider ourselves pretty badass.  Well, nature has this funny way of saying, “Hey…you…fuck your life.”  When I’m bored, I go to Cracked and let them entertain me — by scaring me shitless.  There are all sorts of great articles like “6 Animals That Just Don’t Give a F#@k!” or “The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs In The World.” I’m not speaking of the Pyrrhic victory that is the honeybee’s, where you’re in a few minutes of pain and they lose their guts. I’m talking ants that shriek as the fall out of trees to get all up in that ass.  And that’s nature.

I feel as though I’ve discussed the deer that seeks to claim my soul.  People are all, “Deer are afraid of you. They run from people.”  Okay, they might be.  But maybe, just MAYBE I’ve pissed off the one balls to the wall deer in the animal kingdom.  The one who doesn’t run.  What if I’ve roused the ire of the deer that leans on your car smoking  Kool Filter King and says, “Go back inside and change them shoes.  You only wear sexy shoes when *I* say it’s time to get sexy?”  What then?  I won’t be thinking about Bambi. Will you?  So  yeah. Get off my case about being scared of nature.  I feel your judgment.

If you’re wondering, “Hey, why didn’t she put up the links to those Cracked articles?”  Because…meh.  I’m feeling a little lazy today.  Plus it’s Sunday.*  And what are you doing that you’re so busy?  Michael Jackson Moonwalked so that you might Google.

I don’t know that for sure.  He probably just did it so that he could look awesome.

*I totally thought I hit publish on this yesterday.  *shakes fist at interwebs*  I’m still not adding links though. I’m bringing more hotness today.

Burnt

There’s the life I have, the life I want, and the road connecting the two.  I’m literally exhausted.  A few short weeks ago, I was banging out 4-5 blog posts a week.  These last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to get two.  Of course, this is due in part to the fact that I’m spreading my wings and working on other writing projects.  Fear not.  I’ll NEVER abandon blogging.  I don’t even wish that I wasn’t so busy.  I just wish:

  • for 25 hour days and 8 day weeks (with only four of those days being work days);
  • that pie wasn’t so damned delicious;
  • that I had a cute geeky boy to rub my shoulders and talk me through my writer’s block;
  • I had hypnotic body rolling powers;
  • for French doors that I could dramatically throw open and sip wine on my verandah when I’m stressed;
  • for that extra “oomph” when I need the drive to get through the difficult times.

Being busy, unbearably busy at that, makes me feel like I’m doing something right.  I am anxious about being able to do what I love full time, but my passion and drive for this is so intense, I know it’s only a matter of time.  I just have to be tenacious. Tenacious is an awesome word, and I like doing awesome things, so it’s only right.

I hate when I haven’t posted in a while, because the pressure to be awesome and deep looms.  Today, yall will just have to bear with me being anxious and unsure.  Stay tuned though.  It won’t always be like this.