Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Arise, shine.

Sometimes you read a piece of writing and it just sticks.  The piece of writing by Marianne Williamson I share toward the end of this post, has stuck with me ever since I first read it. Like many other great pieces, it was, for a while, incorrectly attributed to a famous person. Such is the case when the world finds it difficult to believe that profound work can come from a not-known or lesser-known human being. 

I did not have this piece in mind when I started this blog – a part of my Create Your Own Productions move – five years ago. Neither did I have in mind the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. As I thought about this anniversary piece, however, I knew it had to reiterate the foundational “Arise, shine” as Isaiah 60: 1-3 moved me in 2008. It was my kick-in-the-pants; my shot-in-the-arm; my it-has-started-hurting-bad-enough moment. And, that year, with my mother’s encouragement, “Why not create your own…?” and Usain Bolt and #TeamJamaica’s inspirational achievements in Bejing, I had to act. It took far more courage than I thought I had in me – I’d be open to public ridicule for poor writing, is what I thought – but I did it. I was on the verge of suffocating from too many words caught in my throat. I simply had to write – or suffocate.

In that moment, too, I grabbed hold of the support that was the truth of that passage:

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.

So, it was an elongated moment where many sources of inspiration came together. Looking back, had I not been stewing in a state of despair; feeling oh so forlorn, that gave way to seeking hope and strength and inspiration, I might not have made that one simple courageous step.

I imagine that many will look on and ask, “Sooo, ummm, where’s the fruit of your work?” Ummm, you’re reading it; make that, a piece of it. I am not about to give my résumé of pieces I’ve written; pieces I’m writing. Simply put, I feel happy – who would’ve thunk it? – that I am doing what I set out to do. Still desire to be published but, in the meantime, it is important to me to keep this date of the 8ths – 8th; 18th and 28th for posting – and I have not broken that promise to myself.  And, of course, my out-of-the-public’s-eye writing goes on. 

One other piece of the fruit – and the sweeter part – is the intangible. (For, you can always print these posts. Just please remember to ask permission first. Feel free to link back to them, though.) Now and again I’ll get a comment from someone saying how much it touched/moved/inspired them; how much they appreciated it; how they experienced a lift in their spirit, and so on. Sigh. When you don’t know the difference you make… That right there is the juice and the succulence and the joy and the warmth of it that makes me feel humbled and blessed, that God would use me to do this. (And, yes, I was kinda thinking about millie mango when I wrote that. J)

Thank God – not a phrase, really – I thank God, that I am no longer suffocating. There are new media through which I write and, one of the things that keep me grounded; keep me home; keep me shielded; keep me unscathed from the cynical and the bitter and the sub-tweets and sub-posters and sub-texts, is the fact that I am honest in my writing. Some things get through, and I like that. I’d rather not have a skin so thick that the helpful criticism is kept out with the unkind. But, for the most part, I am at home and sheltered, in the honesty. Remember the bit I shared by C.S. Lewis the other day?

Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the whole art and joy of words.

Yeah. So, I re-read and go, yes, that is what I wanted to say. (Except for that one time the other day when I skirted an issue for fear of being dragged into a brouhaha… But, let’s not revisit that, ok?) I honestly believe that, since people are people wherever you go, being honest from the depth of my heart on an issue will resonate with at least one other human being; will have relatability. My feelings have to be centered somewhere. And, it shows where, when I share them.

This gets its own paragraph: I don’t know why other writers write. But, one of the highlights of my writing is someone saying, “I know exactly what you mean. I can relate to that.” It is not necessarily in that order. They say it however they want, but, you know what I mean.

And, before I close this post, I thank you, all of you, who take the time to read these posts. Thank you, all of you, who take the time to comment on the content or simply to encourage me.  To those who’ve been there from the start – my mother, my youngest sis and other members of my birth family – thank you for your support. 

Continuing with the theme of shining in this anniversary month, it is my pleasure to share the following with you.  From her book, A Return to Love, this is Marianne’s piece, the excerpt popularly known as: Our Deepest Fear.  (And, no, I don’t know her like that, but I don’t think she’d mind.)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Let's use it all up. Arise; shine!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Climbing Out of That Quagmire

As I continue to focus on shining in this my blog's anniversary month, here's another side to shining. Or, to put it more aptly, a possible reaction to being in the presence of another's light. By now, you may have heard about Gabrielle Union's speech at Essence's 6th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon - in February this year - where she received the “Fierce and Fearless” Award. I was watching a program, in about June-ish, I think, and learned about the Luncheon - and the speech. The former is of little interest; the latter is of much. The bit that got me, was: "I lived for the negativity inflicted upon my sister actresses or anyone who I felt whose shine diminished my own [sic]." I'll simply say, yes, that does exist. Know what else exists? The triumphant climb out of that quagmire. It is doable. More power to those (men and women) who overcome that monster; face it head on; strangle it with their bare hands and beat the living daylight out of it!

Ahem. Umm, the speech, in its entirety, (from the Get Elevated Women's Conference site) is below:

We live in a town that rewards pretending. I had been pretending to be fierce and fearless for a very long time. I was a victim masquerading as a survivor. I stayed when I should have run. I was quiet when I should have spoken up. I turned a blind eye to injustice instead of having the courage to stand up for what’s right. I used to shrink in the presence of other dope beautiful women. I used to revel in gossip and rumors, and I lived for the negativity inflicted upon my sister actresses or anyone who I felt whose shine diminished my own [sic].

It’s easy to pretend ‘to be fierce and fearless because living your truth takes real courage. Real fearless and fierce women admit mistakes and they work to correct them. We stand up and we use our voices for things other than self promotion. We don’t stand by and let racism and sexism and homophobia run rapid on our watch. Real fearless and fierce women complement other women and we recognize and embrace that their shine in no way diminishes our light and that it actually makes our light shine brighter.

So many of us in this room are sisters. We don’t always get to see each other and its good to see you here today. Women who we’ve laughed with, cried with, and struggled with, thank you for not turning your back on me, thank you for not tap dancing on my misery, even when I wasn’t always returning the favor.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Getting It Through Our Thick Skulls

I believe if each of us could get it through our thick skulls that we each have something unique to contribute to the world - and we have that without even trying; it comes built-in - and no one in the history of the world or in the future of the world can ever, ever, ever do that which we can do in the way that we do it and contribute to the world in the way that we do, each of us would shine brighter. (Take a breath.)

There is little to no point in envying another's abilities. We are all "differently abled" as the term goes. We all have our strengths and, imperfect human beings that we are, our weaknesses. No achievement by another should cause us to retreat in a slough of despair - worse, envy or jealousy. None. It is easy to cast a side glance and compare. "Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself," the saying goes. Admire, yes, and be inspired. Look on and learn and get better and better - from good to better to best. We all have it in us to be the best that we are here to be. We have become so accustomed to many among us being heralded and lauded and hoisted on pedestals. We may, at times, cringe at the thought of being unseen; of going unnoticed. Some go all out to be noticed; some go all out to remain noticed and popular. I recall something that "Dubya" (George W. Bush, #43) said in an interview. He said, "Chasing popularity, is like chasing a vapor. It is here today and gone tomorrow."

The real question is, are you happy? I believe that happiness and contentment comes from being at peace with yourself. And, being at peace with yourself comes from being the best of the you that God created you to be. Others may have a different take. That's okay. I believe each of us has our own light within. And, we cover it, or cause it to fade, or put it out, when we get in our own way; when we try to convince ourselves that we are not good enough - if we could only be like so and so. We begin to try on someone else's skin and, because it (naturally) will not fit, misery follows. The gem of who we are gets cloaked in doubt and fear and things negative. If we strip ourselves of that pretend-skin and awful cloak, not only would we feel lighter, we would start to glow. And grow.

Let's shine on. We can't help it. It's just how we were...built. And, it is never too late to shine! Oftentimes, we need a little push; sometimes, we just need to be inspired.