being quiet

the view from my favorite spot in boston. along the charles river. where i often sat in silence.

the view from my favorite spot in boston. along the charles river. where i often sat in silence.

i’m not sure when it happened, but at some point growing up something shifted in me and i got, well, quiet.

i’ve never been the loudest voice in the room and i’ve always been someone more prone to listening than sharing (hello, INFJ), but somewhere along the line this predilection for quiet became a bit more insidious. i learned it was safer to, well, just shut the fuck up. this is, in part, because i don’t like confrontation. i will do almost anything to avoid a potential blow-up. i learned that when i voiced an unpopular opinion or just a plain opinion that i was often greeted with a strong, often defensive response. i learned that many people viewed themselves as knowing more than me. i learned that my voice was one that people could talk over and ignore. (i also learned that race and gender can play a huge part in all of this…)

so i got quiet. which, in turn, made this predicament worse: people can talk over you as much as they’d like when you aren’t speaking.

silence hasn’t always meant literal silence. it has meant saying “i’m fine” when i am not fine. it has meant following up with a question so that someone else has to talk more than me. it has meant not challenging an opinion i thought was ridiculous. it has meant nodding and smiling when all i wanted to do was yell and scream.

this worked out great until people could start reading my face. suddenly people were saying things to me like, “i know you are thinking something else…i can see it on your face”. i then had to get trickier with my silence, hiding it in plain sight–which didn’t/doesn’t always work.

it is not that i’ve enjoyed being silent. in fact, i find it frustrating. i find it enraging. i get so fed up that i open my mouth to speak sometimes–sharing my thoughts, my beliefs–and, unfortunately, i have sometimes been pushed back into my little silence cave. i put up the good fight until finally i see that i don’t have the stamina. i don’t have the endurance. sometimes it is me who pushes myself back in the cave, almost embarrassed by my attempt, and sometimes it is others, whether they mean to or not. i nod and smile and return to the world within my mind.

but often my voice does find a way out. in writing. in her book, talking back: thinking feminist, thinking black, bell hooks writes: “for me, poetry was the place for the secret voice, for all that could not be directly stated or named, for all that would be denied expression” (11). as a college student, i underlined this line a million times. because, yeah, poetry was the same for me. but this usually happens after the initial turn to silence. and i am thinking about the moment i go from engaged to silent.

as a yoga practitioner, i enjoy silence. i enjoy cultivating it. when we sit and breathe in silence and urge our minds to rest, to become quiet as well, it is a different version of silence–one that is harder to reach.

many times, i find myself yearning for the type of silence that comes from meditation when i get quiet in everyday situations. it is as though my brain hasn’t figured out the difference yet.

one stems from an urge to connect to self.

another stems from fear, frustration, and a yearning for safety.

when i feel that urge to shut up, i often feel the urge to find my yoga mat or meditation cushion. i don’t often make it there though. so i am wondering if there is something to be done here. can my personal practices of yoga, meditation, and writing bring me out of the hiding? can they support my voice? can they overrule the self-doubt? can practicing them regularly help me step out of silence regularly?

i don’t really have any answers. i’m just taking a few moments to study myself and to see what i find.

speed & distance

lovely photo captured by noah hudson

lovely photo captured by noah hudson

 

lately, i’ve had the urge to slow down.

maybe it is because things are picking up necessarily. there is a move, a retreat, a vacation, a job search, a cohabitation. things are changing. often for the better. everything feels like it is moving super fast. how is it almost the end of july?

i sometimes want to shout at the world and say “HOLD ON A SECOND. GIVE ME A MINUTE.”

let me collect my thoughts and breath…

but the world doesn’t work like that.

of course there are things we, i, do to slow down. yoga and meditation are, obviously, two of my go-tos. i didn’t feel like it, but yesterday i dragged my butt to a yoga class and was the better for it. but if i am honest, i have to say that sometimes they don’t work. or sometimes it is 9pm on a sunday and you don’t feel like getting on your mat (of course, there is an argument to be made that this is exactly when you should get on your mat…i would be the one to make that argument, in fact…oops).

so sometimes you have to find something else.

tonight i found my favorite cafe.

it has been sometime since i grabbed my computer and walked over to sit in my favorite cafe, but as soon as i pulled my computer out and took the first sip of my decaf lavender latte, i felt a calm come over me. i smiled to myself because last week i witnessed a similar moment. my boyfriend and i were visiting san francisco (where he lived for three years) and we went to his dojo and then his favorite ramen place. he ordered a beer and it came in a nice frosty glass. he took a sip, closed his eyes, and said, ‘i’m home’. and, well, he looked at home, at peace.

i feel the same way sitting in this cafe, taking a sip of my latte.

which got me thinking…

walking over here i felt frantic. i felt lost. i wanted everything to just slow the fuck down…but it took approximately three seconds for me to calm down in the cafe.

why?

sitting here in the cafe, typing away at this post, i feel at home. i feel like, well, myself. and i realized that in my frantic state moments before, i felt incredibly lost. i felt incredibly alone.

i thought i felt that way in respect to other people.

but really i think i felt that way in respect to myself.

i get frantic. i get lost. i want everything to slow down when i feel a million miles away from myself.

and feeling distanced from myself, makes me feel distant from (and makes me push away) the ones–be it people or passions–i love.

i think my urge to slow down is fueled by a need to connect to myself a little bit more, to get quiet and listen to my inner voice, to go a little deeper.

i think my urge to slow down is fueled by the fact that i feel on the edge of something wonderful, of something exciting, and i want to make sure i am connected with myself and don’t fuck it up.

i think my urge to slow down is fueled by a need to just breathe and trust and let everything else wash over me.

and sometimes i can feel the slowing on my mat

and sometimes it takes sitting in a cafe, sipping on my latte, taking a deep breath

coffee

 

falling face first

2014-06-05 14.06.23

i’ve been battling a (un?)healthy dose of self-doubt when it comes to focusing on my writing (this is the part where you say: ‘no shi*t charly, i’ve read your posts this past month and all they talk about is fear…’). the past two weeks have been especially frustrating since they have included a panic attack or two.

clearly, i’m feeling a lot of anxiety about writing and, more specifically, trying to exceed at writing.

committing to something…like really, really, really, really committing to something…is scary. the more you commit, the harder the fall if you fail. i’ve noticed that in my work and in my relationships…and in yoga. when i commit to an arm balance or inversion in yoga, i am more likely to find the balance.  i am also more likely to end up flat on my face.

such is life.

while i’ve half-heartedly committed to writing in the past, i can feel that it is different this time. i want it. i want it so f-ing badly i can taste it in my mouth. i can feel it in my chest. i want to yell it from the rooftops and demand people pay attention.

and that is terrifying.

because what if i write and write and no one cares? …and this is about when the panic starts.

so…instead of hiding from the panic, which i’d like to do, i’m attempting to face it head on. because i have no interest in looking back in 20 years being like, man, i wish i had tried to make it as a writer and written more. honestly, screw that.

i’m submitting my work, applying to groups and fellowships, and more at an faster rate than ever before. and i’m trying to get more rejections than ever before.

100 rejections at least.

more specifically, i’m trying to reach 100 rejections in the next six months.

i may get there after applying to 100 things (okay, 101 because i already got one acceptance. yay! ) or it may take applying to 200 things (wishful thinking!). either way, i’m trying to reach 100 because maybe after reaching 100, it will be a part of my normal day. that anxiety, that sadness that comes with the rejection will still be there, but maybe it will be more subdued. i’ll wake up and see an email that says, “sorry, but…” and i’ll shrug my shoulders and go on about my business.

basically i’m doing my own version of exposure therapy.

so here i go, down the rabbit hole. i’ve already gotten two rejections (yay!). so only 98 to go.

well, not only…because lord knows i’ll get a ton more throughout my writerly lifespan if i truly commit. here’s to falling face first with a smile…

2014 Submissions To Date

# applied to: 6

# of Accepted: 1

# of Rejected: 2

five years ago today

lastnightinengland

(me, on this day, five years ago)

on this day, five years ago, i finished packing up my grad school dorm room in england. i took the last of my books to be shipped to the USA (to boston specifically where i was moving four days after getting back to the US) to the post office and i walked down the main shopping street, listening to michael jackson music blasting out of the record store, since he had died the day (night for us in england) before.

i had been in england for a little over nine months. i had passed in my master’s dissertation (same thing as a master’s thesis stateside). i had traveled through europe. i had experienced a great loss and high levels of anxiety and depression in the aftermath. i made friends from all over the world. i had realized that academia may not be for me. i had realized that i was best on my own, walking through london with a book in my bag. i had realized i missed my closest, oldest friends.

i think back to those nine months a lot. so much of the time was a blur and, in the end, i wasn’t there too long. in fact, in the months leading up to my departure, i silently spurned myself for not applying to get my phd so I could stay (good thing…because that is not a good reason to get a phd…).

my year abroad changed me in ways i am still deciphering and even though those nine months and that version of myself are so far away…they actually aren’t. my boyfriend often has a moment when he kind of looks around and wonders aloud about how five years ago we had no idea where we’d be now and isn’t that crazy and where will we be in the next five years…i usually sit there, shaking my head, and shrugging my shoulders. we have no idea what life has in store.

five years ago, on this day, i finished packing my bags. i left out two outfits. one, the outfit i’d wear for my grand return home. and two, a nice dress i was to wear to the ball that night. yup. on my last night in england, i went to a ball. i drank absinthe and enjoyed  fireworks. i looked up at the stars and the moon and wondered if my ex-boyfriend ever looked up at the moon and thought of me. and mostly i wondered what was in store for me in the coming weeks, years.

tonight, i am writing this at a yoga studio. i just ate a bag of kale chips and drinking kombucha (kale, did i even know what kale was?), trying my best to both be and not be a yoga stereotype. i spent my day watching the world cup, editing my play, and walking with a friend. in twenty minutes, i’ll walk into the yoga studio and teach my last new-to-yoga class in this particular series. and tonight, i’ll go home to my dog and my boyfriend, the very boyfriend i was in the process of getting over that night five years ago.

in-between all that, there has been a whole lot of life…most of which i never imagined…and most of which i would have never experienced if i hadn’t spent nine months drinking tea and eating scones.

homesick

philly

though it isn’t clear exactly when the boyfriend and i are moving, it is safe to assume that we have about three months or less until we leave philly.

this notion usually doesn’t bother me…except for when i think about packing my belongings and finding an affordable apartment in new york city…

but today, as i stood outside my favorite sushi bar waiting with the dog for the boyfriend to finish paying, i got sad.

i’ve been going to this sushi bar for about four years. they know me. they know my order. they even know when i change my order. they comment to my boyfriend about how i am changing things up and not ordering the way that i used to. they wave when i stand outside with the dog.

it is one of the few places that reminds me that philly has been my home for going on four years.

as i stood outside it tonight, i had an urge to tell them that i am leaving and will be sad that they will no longer be “my” sushi place. and then i thought about the dogwalking company that has been with the pup and me from day one. i would have to tell them we were leaving…and what about the place that watches the pup when i am away? them too.

and i started thinking about all the little connections i’ve made, the connections i don’t think about day-to-day, but are there. and i got a little sad. because while i knew i’d miss the friends i’ve made and the life i created here in this city, but i didn’t realize i’d also miss the man who always takes my order and makes my sushi and the woman who smiles, waves, and rings me up at the sushi bar…

here’s to enjoying the last few months here and taking in all the little and big connections i can.

sometimes…

feet

 

sometimes i believe i am fucking amazing in pretty much every way possible.

sometimes i believe that i am nothing special.

sometimes i want to run marathons.

sometimes i can barely get up the stairs.

sometimes i’m convinced i’ll find success as a playwright.

sometimes i’m convinced i’ll look back and regret trying to “make it” as  a writer.

sometimes i love listening to jazz.

sometimes i need a bad pop song.

sometimes i am confident i will get married and have the family i desire.

sometimes i am confident i will be another black woman with a master’s who supposedly will never get married and have children.

sometimes i want to spend my life traveling.

sometimes i want to have a home i live in for the next 50 years.

sometimes i feel pretty.

sometimes i don’t.

sometimes i’m friendly.

sometimes i wish i could get away with being like my dog and bark at people trying to be nice to me.

sometimes i feel as though no one gets me.

sometimes i feel as though that is ridiculous.

sometimes i feel as though it is the truth.

sometimes i don’t care.

sometimes i do.

sometimes i don’t care that i can’t do a handstand.

sometimes i am really fucking jealous of everyone who can.

sometimes i want to go for long walks late at night.

sometimes i want to go to bed early.

sometimes i’m intimidated by the success of people i know.

sometimes i can give a rat’s ass.

sometimes i miss straightening my hair.

sometimes i can’t believe i spent 20 years of my life getting my hair chemically straightened.

sometimes i shake my head in agreement about how lame dave matthews band is/was.

sometimes i admit that i listened to ‘before these crowded streets’ hundreds of times in high school.

sometimes i wish i were a musician.

sometimes i realize that is better left to other people.

sometimes i am embarrassed about my quick to cry reactions.

sometimes i am happy the emotions have an escape.

sometimes i miss going out to boston bars until closing almost every weekend.

sometimes i can’t believe this introvert did such a thing.

sometimes i think i am really smart.

sometimes i think i’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.

sometimes i care about my weight.

sometimes i don’t.

sometimes i speak up.

sometimes i stay silent.

sometimes i am my own best friend.

sometimes i am my own worst enemy.

and sometimes, in moments like this, when i don’t know which sometimes i’m feeling…i have to create a playlist on iTunes named ‘zero fucks given’, turn it up really loud, and write.

 

 

 

on nights like tonight

one spring day thirteen years ago, i sat in my boarding school dorm room and had an urge i had never really experienced before.

there was something about the air, the breeze outside the window, the slight flicker of heat.

there was something about the sound of people laughing and sitting outside.

there was something about that late afternoon, about the setting sun.

this something made me want to listen to jazz.

i was fifteen. it was my first year away from home. i spent my weekends working on math word problems and worrying about whether i’d ever have a boyfriend. this was very different than what i was used to. what i was used to was heading to my father’s house on the weekend as i had done the years before.

in the years before, i found myself at his house until the evening. sometimes he had friends over. sometimes i had friends over. but, eventually, it was usually just us. the barbecue had been cleaned up. the dogs had been brought inside. and all that was left was my return home.

and often i had to spend some time waiting for him to finally grab his keys and take me home.

what was taking him so long? he was listening to jazz.

loud, blasting through the speakers, so loud i can’t hear my own voice jazz.

it would drive me crazy, waiting for him to finish listening to coltrane, especially since i knew he would just put on it in the car.

i would wait, somewhat impatiently, just wanting to go home and fall asleep.

but there i was, a year later, yearning to listen to the very music i had been ambivalent to before.

growing up, my father and i didn’t have the best relationship so i found it a little strange i was longing for jazz, and late afternoons at my father’s house. but i was.

my father and i had been writing letters and emailing that entire year. with each letter and email, we revealed a little more about ourselves. we were getting to know each other.

so i continued the trend…and emailed my dad. i asked him for ten jazz suggestions…

they included: nina simone. hugh masekela. yusef lateef. john coltrane.

my favorites to this day.

today my father and i are closer than we were then. today my father and i sit next to each other, not speaking, but just listening to jazz.

on nights like tonight, i listen to jazz in my apartment on late spring afternoons as the sun sets.