28 May 2014

but still...

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Beloved Author, Poet and Inspiration
Dr. Maya Angelou
April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014

21 May 2014

dear bully,

I've had it.

I woke up mad. First, I tried to free-write it out -- I mean the forceful, chicken-scratch writing on pages of loose-leaf paper riddled with exclamation points, triple underlines and innumerable *f-bombs.* The etchings and impressions of my heavy hand even marked the blank pages beneath the sheets I defiled. It didn't work. So I filed them away, and I tried to breathe it out. I sat for a moment in contemplative silence in an effort to meditate, to focus and to find my breath. Screw this, my mind screamed. 

I couldn't sit still so I decided to run instead; I intended to work it out. I cut through cool air -- praying, pounding pavement -- and I ran through a series of smart, forceful and biting responses in my mind. I considered all the things I could have said but didn't have the words for at the time. I pumped my arms and legs and pounded my fists in the air to the angry anthem ringing in my ears. Winded, thirsty and invigorated, I returned home. But rather than to quell the fire in my belly, my run only served to fan the flames. 

So I've decided to blog it out. 

A friend once told me that he loves to read the posts I write when I am upset. "It's your best writing," he asserts. Well, yay for both reader and writer today, because I feel frustrated, angry and annoyed. I'm pissed. 

Hers is that voice that remains in your head long after she's gone. You feel deflated, and you ache for tomorrow when she finally leaves the room -- of course she only leaves after she has presented as her own, the very thoughts that quietly proceeded from your mouth yesterday.

She is the pushy the little bitch on the playground with pigtails and bright eyes who never learned to share. She is a modern-day Veruca Salt. I want, I want, I want, she screams. It's mine. Give it to me -- NOW. And with little regard for anyone but herself, she takes her share and yours too. She asks for, expects for and demands for more. 

She sees wide open spaces, and she fills them. She is boisterous, arrogant and loud. Her voice -- the squeaky, relentless resonance of her voice -- consumes both peace and quiet. She assumes that no, you couldn't wish to be alone as your retreat and you choose to walk away. So she rushes to be by your side once more -- not to be your friend, but to keep an eye on your next move so she can do it too. She flaunts the fruit of another's labor in your face and only feels tall when standing on your toes. 

She is the girl who reads this far into my rant about MY frustrations but somehow manages to make it about herself. How dare you, she seethes. Are you talking about ME? she wonders more than once. Yes. Undoubtedly, yes. 

For a while, my reaction was to shrink and to question myself and my worth. And then, I began to check out, to throw up walls and to shield myself and my heart. And then I learned to walk away, to bow out and to turn the other the cheek. But today -- NOT TODAY. Today I choose to speak up and to push back. On behalf of the small, the meek, the introvert, the soft-spoken, the young, the insecure and the quiet, I am asking you -- no I am telling you -- to BACK THE FUCK OFF. 

I see through the smoke and the mirrors. And all the empty words. And all the broken promises. And all the bullshit. You -- you know who you are  -- you need to know that I see the truth, and today I'm calling you out.

You are small. You are a liar, a cheat, and a counterfeit. You have pushed too long and too far.  You are ugly, unkind, and I pity you. You have no power over me or anyone else except for what we have given to you. No more. No questions. I'm taking it back. 

I am not as loud as you are, and I do not and will not consume as you do. But if you think for a moment that this makes me weak, you are sorely, sadly mistaken. My strength is quiet, constant and strong. It comes from a well far deeper than you have ever had the courage to tap, and it will come when you least expect it. It is fueled by love, not fear. Cooperation, not competition. It is not about me and it is definitely not about you. This is about US

Hear me clearly today when I say I am done. 

It's on. 

14 May 2014

losing my religion, part 2

I've taken leave of my writing chair this afternoon, and relocated to the wonderland just outside my window.

A hot sun beats and warms my arms, my legs, a bright blue sky and the yoga deck beneath me. A chorus of birds sings around me, and together we're surrounded and kept by a lush and verdant fortress. Towering trees and freshly mowed grass swing and sway in a welcome breeze as it comes and blows. Even the space between my toes is damp with sweat. This afternoon, I feel like I'm in heaven. 

This morning I awoke to this glorious day, to thirst and to a ravenous hunger to run. I reached for my Ipod on my way out the door, but discovered it was dead. I considered waiting for it to charge, but this beautiful day beckoned, so I left my Ipod behind. 

I used to run without music frequently, then periodically. But over the last several years my Ipod has become my constant, chatty running companion. It took a while to settle into my run this morning without it. I felt a little out of sorts as I willed my legs to wake up and to shake off the gravity of last night's sleep. But I found my rhythm and tasted the sweet spot when running becomes meditative, timeless and effortless -- when I feel light on my feet, like I could run forever. 

I haven't felt that way in a while. 

I have moved into the shade of a climbing Wisteria in the heavenly heat and beauty of this afternoon on my yoga deck. The sun is relentless, and I've been sitting here -- delighting in the rustle of leaves and the sweet soundtrack of Spring  -- for hours. A part of me wishes time would stand still, that all would be as peaceful and pleasant and simple as this. But the kids will return home from school soon with their backpacks and stories and hunger and volume. I teach tonight, and rain is in this weekend's forecast. 

The two rules I ran by in the past were 1.) I would get up and go no matter what, and 2.) I wouldn't stop to walk once I began. Eventually, I grew weary and tired of this; what had once been magical for me became mechanical, and I couldn't keep up. I ached for a slower, milder, different pace. So I slowed way down, and pulled way back and it felt good. I felt good. I stopped running all together for nearly a year, and I began to walk instead. I noticed details I'd run right past hundreds of times before. And it wasn't until I stopped running and pushing so damn hard, that I discovered how glorious a walk -- especially one smack dab in the middle of a run -- can be. 

I remember why I started running back in college in the first place: to lose weight. But somewhere along the way, while I was training for my first marathon, that all faded away. Sitting here on my yoga deck, I'm reminded why I kept running, why I stopped and why I've started once again. I'm reminded why I bask in the sunshine, why I raised my hands and wept in church, in a valley and on a mountain top, why I pray, and why I write: because in so doing, I have stumbled in and out of a sweet spot, where rules, ritual and religion have give way to freedom, love, grace and into the arms of God. 

This morning, I ran and walked and ran and walked, and I listened. 

I heard the songs of birds, the buzzing of bees, the breath of breezes blowing past me, the crunch of my feet on the road, the labor, then ease of my breath, the thunder of a truck driving by, the hum of the highway, the rhythm of my beating heart... I was unplugged, but tapped into something other -- to a different pace and a different rhythm. 

All of this reminds me of my faith.

Something remarkable has occurred in my life as I have turned down the volume of religion. As I have traveled these last few years without the constant companionship and perpetual noise of church and bible study, of small groups and devotionals, I have become unhinged, unplugged and unsure. I hear my breath and my heart beat, and I feel -- alive. 

From time to time I hear the rhythm, the hum and the timbre of something subtle and so sweet. A breeze. A still, small voice. It whispers, Come to me, and beckons me to stay. To rest. To walk for a while. I'm swept into a timeless serenity where there are no words. There is no beginning, and there is no end. And I want to stay there forever...