The outpouring of love and support since my last post has been both overwhelming and greatly appreciated. My intention for sharing was never to receive attention, but to help empower myself and possibly others in the process. In an email exchange from a friend I had not spoken to or seen in over a year, he commended me for my strength and resilience after his reading the blog. Following is part of my response:
Q and I recently went to see Frank Ocean perform, and he spoke to the crowd about his coming out: “Usually these kinds of acts of bravery are not received positively, so for that I am humbled and grateful.” That best articulates how it feels to be able to just speak your own truth and to have people (many unexpectedly) open up their arms and minds and hearts in acceptance of you. But on the other hand, it IS a constant struggle, “the brilliant’s burden,” to reconcile creativity and reality. But what other choice do we have when we ourselves were chosen?
Words hold so much power. Whoever came up with that adage that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me” never dealt with a woman scorned. Words can break more than bones; words can break hearts, minds, spirits. Words can also heal. However, lately it has become less about the words and more about how we share them. Technology is the crux of modern communication. The constant innovation and myriad of options has made it infinitely easier, but virtually impossible to cultivate deep connections and maintain meaningful dialogue. What I mean by all of this is I am trying to do better at not allowing myself to disappear as I am wont to do. I have made a concerted effort to keep in touch with or, at the very least, not avoid (most of) the people who have reached out to me. Give it time. I am growing…
I have recently finished reading a deeply moving and beautifully written novel, “These Dreams of You” by Steve Erickson. It is in part about an American family searching for its identity and dealing with the realities of life after President Obama is elected. While I will avoid specifics because this is truly a must-read and I don’t want to spoil any of it, many of the novel’s major themes touched home. The most important was the universal human need to feel a sense of belonging whether it be to a nation of people, a religious sect, a racial identity, a political ideology, your own family…We all crave the safety of others and seek the solace and security that their acceptance (or approval) provide.
My entire life I have felt this longing. A longing to belong. And to that end, I found myself being depleted instead or restored. (True story: Every “best friend” I ever had until I was 14 bullied me.) However, the feeling changed. How had it changed? For the longest time, I thought I was simply seeking to belong to the wrong people. So I tried out new ones, different friends, different dudes, etc. Still nothing. Then, it became clear: I was seeking to be singularly self-possessed. I wanted to belong to me.
I had adapted/adopted so many of others’ thoughts, attitudes, ideas, tastes that i couldn’t differentiate my own. Were any of them even my own? I had taken in so much external noise, I had drowned out my own voice. If even asked the simplest of questions about my wants and/or preferences, I would not be able to definitively answer. Favorite color? Well I really do own a lot of black (I am a Scorpio after all), but I also really love gold. However, neon yellow has really been catching my eye lately. Oh, and a good turquoise blue or mint green never hurts. What was the question again? Ask me how I feel about that again tomorrow. And forget about the deeper stuff like love or religion or aspirations. The only thing I could say for myself was fifty different ways of “I don’t know.”
So how does one begin to belong to oneself? I’m not exactly sure (#5 on the list of ways to say “I don’t know.”) If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results; then sanity must be doing things differently each time, but expecting the same result. Oh. Wait…
Anyway, I tried Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge. The sessions last around 15 minutes each which can be pretty intense, especially when trying to keep all those voices at bay. I do mine right before bed, and it has helped me sleep deeper and longer and to dream more frequently and vividly. I have also just started journaling regularly. Yes, at 23 I am just picking up journaling. For whatever reason, I just never wanted to do it, because it seemed too much like extra work. And, yes, I do acknowledge how ironic it is for an aspiring writer/journalist to be adverse to, you know, actually writing. Whatevs.
And each day is still a struggle. As one of the characters in “These Dreams of You” laments, “I’m not finished becoming who I am.” And maybe I never will. But if I can’t belong to me, I can’t belong to anybody. And if this is starting to sound like some ole cliché “you must be your own best friend” bullshit that yo mama told you, it’s because it is. My mother actually told me to “date myself” once. Even I had to let me go. That hoe was too demanding. But in all seriousness, I challenge each of you to think of all the ways in which you try to belong and to whom. If you are satisfied with your findings, keep doing you boo boo. But if you find, as I suspect quite a few of you will, that some or all of your findings do not best serve you and your happiness, then just let them go. Seek self-possession.
Finally, I cannot stop listening to this song. If you know me, you know that I am notorious for butchering lyrics, but I’m fairly certain that at least part of the song includes these lines: “I was afraid, overwhelmed. I feel a change. Can’t you tell?” Anyway, it’s super catchy and deep, I think, if only I could figure out what else he’s saying…
You can download “Piece of Mind” and I/O’s entire mixtape, “Isolation,” here.