These Dreams of You

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.

XOXO,

hanaelujah

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The Awakening

Where have I been? So I took a year and a half hiatus. I went into a deep hiding. I hid from friends, family, peers, mentors…myself. And I got lost. Lost in my own thoughts and insecurities. Lost so paralyzingly deep within myself that my abilities to deeply connect, to freely express, to openly communicate, to unabashedly create, to fiercely love where also lost I feared permanently.

Why did I hide? Shame. I was ashamed, embarrassed of who I had become, or more accurately, not become: A grown-up. The pressures and expectations of post-collegiate life crippled me. Summa Cum Laude one day, completely clueless the next. While all my peers were applying to graduate programs and securing gigs, I was chilling hoping that one day soon I’d wake up and just know what I was meant to do. That day never came. So for a long time, I did nothing. (Well, I did some things as my growing resume of failed career attempts proves.) I was prisoner to shoulda, woulda, coulda. A slave to devastating disappointment and depression. Everyone else was growing. Everyone else was adapting. Everyone else was happy. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do the same? Didn’t I deserve these things too?

What did I do? On the eve of my 23rd birthday in an effort to “fake it ‘til I make it,” I made a vow to myself that this year, my Jordan year, I’d start winning. I’d prioritize myself, my needs, my wants. A year of living selfishly. “23, drama-free” and “23, all about me” were the mottos. YOLO. I opened myself up to the universe and welcomed all new experiences: I created an OkCupid profile and went on dates; I allowed myself to have flings and crushes and buddies; I lost over 30 lbs; I freed myself from two long-term toxic relationships: one a friend for over eight years, the other an on/off again love interest of over four; I studied for and aced the GRE, just to realize that I really didn’t want to go to grad school…yet; I dyed my hair and pierced my nose; I got hired and fired from a “dream job;” I drank and smoked a lot; I lived.

What did I learn? So here I am just over 3 months away from another birthday, and though I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, I do know a little bit more about who and what I am today. I’m no longer ashamed to say that I am 23, live with my sister in a tiny apartment, and work part-time at Urban Outfitters while I try to figure shit out. I am a survivor. I’ve battled every challenge and obstacle in my life with determination and optimism (or naïveté, but whatevs): rape, a brain tumor, unemployment, depression, abuse… I am a walking anomaly. I am a lover and a fighter. I am a creator, an innovator.  I do not see most things conventionally. I spent too much time waiting for the perfect opportunity to find me, instead of creating my own path. How could I ever have expected to live a traditional/ordinary/linear life when I am not, nor want to be, traditional/ordinary/linear? I live not in pursuit of material possessions or money, but in pursuit of the highest expression of self. I am an artist, therefore I will and must starve. And I’ve come to terms with that.

How did I do it? I haven’t had to do it all alone. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe in something bigger than myself that is also omnipotent and ever present. That which some may call God, I refer to simply as the universe. My connection to and belief in the universe has infinitely aided my healing process. I’ve also had the unconditional love, support, and encouragement of my parents and older sister. They have literally saved my life. Finally, a handful of beautiful and brilliant women have taught me that true friendship does not have to be draining, hard work. Friendship can/should be easy and fun and restorative. Friends accept you as you are wherever you are whenever. Period. This has been one of the hardest, but most rewarding lessons I’ve learned. Not everyone is my friend. The less “friends” I have, the happier I’ve become.

What now? In my darkest moments, I searched for safe spaces to share my struggles, to find solidarity, to create sisterhood. I didn’t find that space, so I have set out to create it. That was the original intent of hanaelujah, but at the time, I was wary of opening up and sharing so much of myself. I now know that it’s necessary. So from here on, you can expect to see the same random music and internet findings I stumble upon, but also you can expect to see a lot more of me. hanaelujah is how I will keep myself open, honest, and accountable to all of you, but more importantly to myself. I am also working on a new project, EV[O]L[O]VE, which is a site dedicated to women of color and finding the love, respect, and appreciation we deserve from ourselves, each other, our relationships, and the media. Part interactive, part informative, all candid.

So I’m back. And hopefully here to stay…for now.  Have you ever felt lost or depressed? How did you get out of your funk? Please share your stories and comments here or hit me up on Twitter @hanaelujah.

Infinite Love. Infinite Peace. Infinite Soul.

XOXO

hanaelujah

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The 90’s Snack: DMX f. Faith Evans “How’s It Going Down”

I heard someone today blasting DMX in their car. I laughed momentarily, until I realized that DMX created one of my favorite rap songs…ever. The joke’s on me. From 1998, here’s DMX and Faith Evans “How’s It Going Down.”

XOXO

hanaelujah

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The KING’s Speech

It’s March. How did I manage to not post at all in February? It was the shortest month in the year and Black History Month. Whoops! Well in fact, I did have a dream, but it didn’t quite have anything to do with MLK . It was another KING of sorts. Enter the trio of amazingly talented ladies with an infectious and ethereal sound. Through the power of social networking, they went from near obscurity to trending topics in less than a day due to the recommendations of some musical heavyweights, Questlove (The Roots) and Phonte (The Foreign Exchange and Little Brother). Check out their handmade debut video, “The Story” below, download their debut EP also entitled The Story here, and visit their official site here.

XOXO

hanaelujah

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The 90’s Snack: Raphael Saadiq “Ask of You”

So I took over a month-long break. You mad? Sorry. I’m trying to get my life together like always. New years resolutions? Not quite, more like new life resolutions. I’ll figure it out one of these days, but for now patience with me is all I “Ask of You.” (See what I just did there?) Today’s treat is Raphael Saadiq’s breakout solo single from the 1995 Higher Learning soundtrack. Enjoy!

XOXO

hanaelujah

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Hotter Than July

Shout out to SoulBounce for posting this treasure, a documentary about the tour for one of Stevie Wonder’s greatest albums Hotter Than July in 1980-1981. It includes footage from Wonder rallying in D.C. to get MLK Day recognized as a national holiday, an occasion that prompted him to write “Happy Birthday.” You can watch the entire hour-long documentary below. Enjoy!

XOXO

hanaelujah

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Jeffrey Williams Wins The Fashion Show

Congratulations to Jeffrey Williams, winner of Tuesday night’s The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection! The Bravo network reality show hosted by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and supermodel Iman showcased the talent of twelve emerging designers competing for the chance to create “the ultimate collection” and win $125,000. Williams, a Seattle native and F.I.T. grad, was inspired by his mother who passed in 2004 from breast cancer for his final and winning collection. Williams is the second African American to win a Bravo reality show in the past year, after Abdi Farrah won Work of Art: The Next Great Artist last August. We need more people of color being recognized in the arts like this!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

XOXO

hanaelujah

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