Letting Go… (part 2 of 4) …of Expectations

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You know what is really amusing to me at this moment?  Simply by virtue of delaying this post (unintentionally), the aspect of letting go that I am about to tackle has already been proven – expectation. I cannot tell you how many people in the last week have uttered a question similar to this one –  “where part 2 to part 1 …me ah wait so long jack!”. The speaker of those words knows herself. Yet another has “peddled” by my page daily “looking for reading material”.   Therein lies the problem with expectation. Expectation presumes that a desired action, effect, thing must become reality as envisioned and within a time frame imagined by the holder of said expectation.  I digress though. This was not how this post was supposed to start but since receiving another “where is part 2?” prompt just this evening, I decided to begin with this prelude.

Holding firm to specific expectations is the main cause of disappointment. It took me some time to learn this, but over the last 10 years the understanding of this simple concept has added years to my life.  To put it simply – I no longer stress, or waste precious mental energy about things that are: out of my control, not my business, and not my responsibility. While I believe that we must and should show up fully for people, issues and initiatives that are dear to us, what I have learned is that there comes a point when stepping back and in some cases stepping out..is essential. Knowing when you have reached that point is usually the crucial factor.

A_New_Earth_by_Eckhart_TolleSome years ago, I came across the author and spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle.  Before he was as well known as he is today, his book “A New Earth” called to me from an airport book stand.   By the time this book came across my path, I had already started an inner transformation of sorts.  It is often said “when the student is willing, the Master appears.” Since reading this book, it has become akin to my personal bible – a resource –  on how to live fully; with tranquility, in flow, and  open to bliss.  The following ideas resonated most with me and have been most useful along my daily journey.

Non-Resistance, Non-Judgement and Non-Attachment are the three aspects of enlightened living. – Eckhart Tolle

These three things related and intertwined.  I mention them because they are instrumental to releasing expectations.

Have you ever been second in line at a traffic light?  The light has barely changed from red to green. You hear a sound and think..err “no, it can’t be”.  Two to three cars behind you, there is some *hole (that was just a judgement call…my bad …hope you are not the one) beeping when the light has barely changed and you are not even the person at the light. (My road rager friends…I see you!) Usually, when this happens, i have a fleeting thought about non-resistance and non-judgement.  More often than not, after a brief glance in the rear view mirror, I continue singing along to whatever song is playing in the car having mentally dismissed “road rager”. This is non-resistance in action. Your next action or RE-action is a choice.

We are surrounded by expectations from our friends, relatives, significant others and even our selves.  You are the driver as it concerns managing these expectations. If we could turn expectations into desires and hopes, chances are our lives would feel lighter and less burdened by the things over which we and other people obsess.262HThere are many differences between expectation and hope but for me the main difference lies in the probability of a negative vs. positive sentiment depending on the outcome.  Imagine this scenario:  A special event approaches in your life.  You EXPECT that because your family and friends are knowledgeable of this event that means so much to YOU, something spectacular is being planned.  Your expectation is not met.  You are disappointed. (think tears, overthinking, mental rumination about the relationships in your life, days flirting with the cliff of depression,)  If however you hope for something but you are not too ATTACHED to the outcome you will not experience anything akin to dashed hopes.  Imagine the alternative though…your hopes are moderate to none (because you are grateful for life itself…)  and then something totally unexpected and amazing happens – you are elated, happy, humbled, genuinely grateful.  For a person who constantly relies on their expectations being met by others there is a certain pressure of necessary fulfillment that in itself creates the unintended consequences of discomfort, anger, sadness, – disappointment. Resist the set up and release others from same. 

Here are just a few of the many expectations that continue to pop up in my life:

When I was a little girl my parents had a habit of reminding me in a plethora of ways that I did not fit into the normal standards set for little girls.  I learned that I was expected to be slim, svelte, small and unimposing.

As a teenager, I learned that in order to be “liked”, one was expected to serve a variety of faces and actions that are essentially unlike the real you,  depending on the situation and people involved.

As a media personality, I learned that people expected me to be perpetually pleasant, talkative, extroverted…oh! and apparently tall and skinny. (go figure…*shrug*) In reality, I am quite reserved.  I have never met an empty beach that I didn’t love, or a tranquil space that I didn’t want to inhabit for days.   I like to observe before I decide how to engage.

As a teacher, I expected my students to be really focused and dedicated. (Disappointed sooooooooo many times!).

As a woman who wore locks for years, I learned that I was expected to never even think of cutting my locks.  For some, it was the most heinous and disappointing crime “how COULD you??” – Yes those were actual words said to me two days ago. (but that is for another post) I must admit that for a moment I hesitated to cut because I did think about what people would say. That lasted about a minute.

As a woman who chose to get married, I expected to stay married.  Funny thing right? I realised recently though that I was also expected to feel some sort of shame and embarrassment when I chose to leave said marriage.  Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Finally, in recent years, since walking into the world of entrepreneurship, I’ve learned that many people expect failure, some expect you to sell your soul for that golden opportunity, others expect you to suddenly become a pro at ass kissing (Momma did NOT teach me that one), and still others expect you to know your place in the grand scheme of things. NO can do.  To each his/her own I say.

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It is possible and probable that throughout the course of this life, my friends, family, colleagues and even strangers have felt disappointed by actions or the lack of action on my part.  What is certain though is that I have disappointed myself far more by trying to live according  to the expectations of others.  As I end this post I will admit that there is one expectation that I hold;It is that we all understand that no two people inhabit the same body or brain.  As such, having hopes and desires without clinging to same makes for a more enjoyable life experience. Im not holding my breath though.

Thanks so much for reading.  Id love to hear your thoughts. What sort of expectations have been like clouds over your head and what expectations do you thrust onto others?

This post was supposed to be about “Letting go of expectations and O.P.P.” but i have since decided to tackle O.P.P. in the upcoming post.  I invite you to look out for Letting go of  O.P.P – (Other People’s Perceptions)- the third installment in this four part exploration of Letting Go…

P.S. Disclaimer: (Because its really annoying me…my keyboard has issues

Letting Go…(Pt.1 of 4) – Letting go of Attachment

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“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy. So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.”  – C. JoyBell.C

Happy New Year!!!  This year is going to be the best ever!!

Today is  January 2nd 2016.    My body clock is confused  as a result of year end activities that featured, food, friends, games, laughter and lots of picture taking.

Evening morphed into morning and by 4.am. talk eventually gave way to a symphony of snoring.  That symphony was short lived as sleep gave way to breakfast making, more talking, reminiscing, more photo taking , vision boarding and finally movie watching.   After all, watching “Purple Rain” and creating vision boards seemed like a perfect opening to another year.   For me, it is the first time in many years that I have been away from home during this season.

The idea of another calendar year leads me to think about the past year and past years.  Undoubtedly…I say…”This year is going to be the best year ever!!!”  This,  even though by now, experience has taught that my thoughts, hopes and dreams do not necessarily materialise in the way I envision throughout the year.  In fact, sometimes by the end of any year it may seem as if it has been the worst year ever.  Despite this, I will always start and continue with hope, great expectations, focused intentions,  and belief that every year will be the best year ever!!

As I ponder the year ahead, I am reminded of a lesson that I learned well during the last year.  In fact, adventuring through one particular southern U.S. state in the last week brought it home to me in a most unusual and unexpected way.  Its about letting go.  In one brief interaction scores of pieces from the last year came together in a way that brought great clarity and will serve as an empowered reminder throughout the new year.

December felt like the best month of 2015.  The year began with great promise and then somehow the train went off the rails and tested, challenged and pulled me in many directions…in some ways it ripped me apart.  But here I am, still declaring another great year in the making. Cultivating openness to the gifts, messages and lessons that life brings is something that cannot be understated.

Had I not been open, the message that this day particular day in Augusta, Georgia held would have slipped me. Two weeks before arriving in the U.S, I had been home and enjoying the love and camaraderie of some of the women in my life who represent the joy of sisterhood and support.

 

They had been invited over because of my plans to be stateside during the holiday season.  Occasionally, one or two of these very friends threatens to break into my house and steal my jewelry, and so at the end of the gathering, having received so much love and shared so much laughter, I invited some of my sister friends to choose what they wanted from the wall.  One even went a step further and declared that since I seemed to be in a giving mood she wanted one of my pieces of artwork.   Luckily, I have found that the more I release attachment, the easier it gets to let go of just about anything – including things and people that I love dearly. I sincerely believe that no matter how attached we may want to be to something or someone, releasing attachment creates the space for things that better serve you to manifest in your life.  So… they took the earrings they wanted including some of my favourite pieces… and she took the piece of art that I really loved!

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On that day in Augusta, Georgia, the significance of letting go of those things I so loved came back to me in an instant.  I was about to embark on a three hour road trip to Charlotte and our visit to the Humanitree Juice Joint and Gallery was meant to be a short stop on the way for the purpose of collecting sage.  It turned out to be a reminder and a release of a different type.  Last year, I released two things that were close to my heart and in some ways seemed like part of my identity.  They were my locks… and my husband. Chalk and cheese it may appear, but both were equally hard to let go of.

For those who are able to read the lines clearly I am an open book, still there are others who are able to read between the lines and see me even more clearly.  I cannot put my finger on what it was about Baruti  and Denise Tucker but something about the art that surrounded me, the openness of the artist himself,  and the love and tranquility flowing through that beautiful space allowed me to come clean.  This trip was not just about connecting with old and new friends, it wasn’t about road trips, it was about connecting with the peace within – something that had eluded me for months.  Peace of mind, there is nothing like it.  One of the greatest gifts of being able and willing to “let go” is that peace of mind ultimately follows.   So with no expectations and just a spirit of openness, I didn’t see the set up when Baruti drew my attention to one painting in particular.

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It spoke to me, called my name, it was like that woman in the painting and I were already friends a long time ago but for a brief period, we had lost touch.   She even reminded me of a me with whom I used to be more intimately connected.   It caressed the little girl inside of me and reminded me that joy starts from the inside and works it way outwards creating that glow that eventually touches others.   The fact that it was called “Peace is Everything” was not lost on me.

Being the photo lover that I am, I just had to have photos of this painting,  and so with my trusty sisterfriend Aisha as my “official photographer” for that leg of the trip I asked her to take a few “artistic shots”.  Baruti stood by as director…hold it this way he said, look up at it he said, take it down he said, turn this way, now put it in front of you…and so it went. As I turned to return the painting to its place on the wall, I heard Baruti say “why are you putting it back up? It’s yours!”  It took a minute or two to register that this painting had just been gifted to me…and then came tears…tears that had not been released since October 16th when I made the decision to follow through on releasing my husband from a relationship that was no longer serving its purpose of individuals relating to each other; a situation that was slowly scraping away at my PEACE OF MIND.  I have noticed that people have a tendency to say “I’m so sorry to hear that” when in fact they should be saying “I’m happy to know that you have chosen joy and peace.”

 

Going into 2016 and beyond Baruti’s words have been etched in my heart and mind.  I hope they will resonate with you too.

“Pray to let go of the things you fear losing.” – Baruti Tucker

Everything is connected. We just have to be open to seeing how the parts make up the whole experience.  Who or what do you need to let go to feel that “peace is everything” feeling.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Look out for part 2 of this “Letting Go” series where I will share my thoughts on letting go of expectations and OPP (Other People’s Perceptions).

Love, Light and Peace my friends!

 

 

 

10 Ways to Make Your Dreams Become Reality

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Thank you Sally Davis for giving me the perfect image for my vision.

Over the weekend, I had the awesome pleasure of hosting an extremely soulful and fulfilling event. The event was a combination of various artistic expressions entitled “Soothe”.  It featured dance, spoken word, and various forms of jazz and Neo Soul, followed by a serious after party of the old school type.

Everyone who attended agreed that it was worth every minute.  Most are also asking when the next one will be.  As I reflect on that evening my thoughts are incredibly lifted and I cannot help but feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Apart from the obvious success of the evening, what remains with me most ishow the individual who conceptualized it- Gemma Hazelwood – speaks about the execution of his dream. “It was practically as close to perfection in terms of how I pictured it in my mind”. Ah-haa!! Those are the words that have been speaking volumes to me for the last few days.  Those words have inspired this post.

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We have all heard of the necessary ingredients for creating success in our lives, for fulfilling potential, for achieving self actualization, and manifesting our heart’s desires.  Unfortunately most people acknowledge these ingredients theoretically and not practically.  Having listened carefully to Gemma’s enthusiastic chain of events leading up to the successful debut of “Soothe”, and paying attention to the serendipitous occurrences that have been happening in my own life, I am now taking this opportunity to share my beliefs on how you can make your dreams become a reality.

Hold that vision.  Never let it go!

See it.

See it.

You know that thought in your mind about the place you want to visit, the thing you want to do, the person you want to be?  Close your eyes and picture it.  That’s right, add some colour, add sounds, and touch something or someone in that vision. Give the vision some time to form lines, texture, colour, audio, a background, a setting.  Imagine how you would feel if you actually achieved that vision.   Feel those sentiments and emotions coming into being. Yes you can even get a little carried away.  Now STOP!  Hold that vision exactly the way you want it to be. Hold it, Hold it, Hold it… now don’t let it go.  You should be able to call on your vision exactly as you have imagined it at any time.  Gemma had this vision in mind for well over two years.  For other people their visions and dreams have been in a holding pattern for much longer.  Having and holding the vision is not enough BUT it is a first step.

Tell Somebody

I don’t mean ANY body!  Share your vision with someone who will encourage you and inspire you to work towards that dream.  Sometimes we share our dreams with the wrong people.  These people don’t recognize that their less than positive comments move us in a backward direction instead of forward.   Sometimes we don’t recognize that the person or people who we have chosen to share our dreams with bear no ill will.  We must recognize that they are simply working from their frame of mind which may have an overly negative outlook.  Choose wisely.

Believe

Regardless of what a person says, what circumstances say, what people say, what your Mom, Dad, Aunty or Cousin said, this dream has been given to YOU!  It is yours.  The burden or rather responsibility of birthing that dream is YOURS not anyone else’s.  Believe that you have what it takes, you can find or create what it takes, and you can take little steps to making YOUR dream a reality.  You must believe.

Assemble your Dream team.

The man with the dream and the vision.

The man with the dream and the vision.

One of my favourite quotes comes from a book that I first read many moons ago, The Alchemist. (You should really own a copy).  “When you want something, the entire universe conspires to help you achieve it.”   The quote itself is said to have been a variant of one by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  I really don’t care who wrote it first.  What I know is that my experience has shown me that this is so.  So now, you have shared your dream,  you believe with all your heart that you must make it a reality, and you are holding  fast to your vision. What now? “No man is an island”.

Who can you reach out to who may be able to lead you in the right direction? Who can help pull the pieces together? Do you need to get uncomfortable and do things you have never done before? Which individual is the one who will most likely take you down the golden brick road? Who? Where do you find this person or these people? This element of creating the reality is one that must be approached with care. Put a lot of thought into this equation as it will be the thing that makes or breaks the vision.

Take Action

A dream canbaby stepsnot be realized if you just dream!!! You MUST take action. “Vision without action is merely a dream” says Joel A. Barker and I agree with him.   I like to call them “baby steps”.

It may be writing your dream (it really should START with putting it on paper). It may include calls, visits, research, conversations ( not just TALK!), and budget planning.  Whatever it takes for your particular dream, you MUST TAKE ACTION!

Steer Clear of Naysayers, Nitpickers and Negative Nancy’s

They will drain your energy, kill your spirit and suck your soul.  Enough said! Run dreamer! Run!!!

Refine your vision

You have been doing a successful job of holding that vision in your mind for some time.  Pull it out of its holding cell and put it into focus again.  This time, take it apart.  Look at every part of that vision and put a mirror to it.  Look at the mirror image and then the original image.  How does it look?  Is anything missing?  Is there anything you might want to add based on the input you have gotten from trusted friends and your “dream team?”  Based on your research and current knowledge, is there anything that does not fit the vision ? How can you make that vision clearer? How can you make it more attractive? What else do you need to consider to work on making it a reality? Part of the meaning of the word “refine” is “to make pure” “to make precise to a fine degree”.  How precise is your vision? Again, finding the answers to this part takes time, effort and energy.  How important is your dream? Do you have the time?  Will you make the time?

Break Out Your Inner “Carlton”!

We all have an inner Carlton! Break it out.

We all have an inner Carlton! Break it out.

Celebrate small victories along the way to your milestones.  If you do not learn to celebrate even small victories, when the main victory arrives, you may very well not be able to celebrate the depth, significance and brilliance of your achievement.

 

 

 

 

Be a Part of Someone Else’s Dream Scene.

Do you know that oftentimes, in trying to fulfill your own dreams, you are inadvertently filling in a piece of another person’s dream puzzle?  This happens quite often without us even knowing it.  As a matter of fact, while you chart your course and opportunities are presented to collaborate with various people, a great question to ask is “How can I help YOU?”  “How can I serve YOU?”. Therein lies the greatest fulfillment that is second only to realizing your own vision.  It is helping someone else along the way.

Honour the Lessons and the Journey. Be Grateful.

Gratitude is a practice that has been a part of my life for many years.  It is a practice that extends to all things – negative and positive.  I firmly believe that being constantly in gratitude opens doors, lightens moods and creates a number of other positive outcomes in life.  So while you dream and work on your baby steps, realize  that each moment, each lesson, each mis-step, each piece added or subtracted to the vision requires a recognition, an honouring, of where you are now.  Where you hope to be will take care of itself if you continue to exist in a state of constant gratitude.  It’s easy to believe that there is nothing to be grateful for. Whenever you have those moments, reframe the situation. You will find a reason to be grateful.

Fellow dreamer. Here’s to you. Here’s to us. Let’s make it happen!  How can I serve YOU?

“If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.”

― Roopleen

Got to be true to myself…

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Music is my medicine.  For any ailment, music is one of my prescriptions.  It fills voids, answers the questions, asks the questions, brings the release, and clarifies the message.  Today I’m meditating on one of my favourites songs by Ziggy Marley while at the same time getting several “bitch slaps” from Erika Napoletano (more on her further down).  From the days of the melody makers to his solo career, Ziggy Marley is DA man.  His songs are so poignant even in their simplicity.  Whenever  I reached the point of ultimate frustration and lack of fulfillment in any J O B, and when “administration” became overbearing  “hand to mouth” offered release even for the moment.

I have a number of theme songs for my life that surface at different times to suit my mood and particular circumstance.   When I need to bring out my fighting spirit in the midst of difficult and challenging times, I call on Queen Ifrica’s  Lioness on the Rise.  In my imagination, I see myself putting on a brightly coloured and flowing Caribbean flavoured dress , one of my “bad girl” signature lipsticks in either Mac Red or Vino  that ressemble blood and wine, studded combat boots,  a tam to the side for the locks and last but not least – the shades. Just like that, I am ready “to face the darkest and hardest of times”.  YES in my long flowing dress, because that’s how I roll.  When I am loving myself, (get your mind out the gutter!!!) I pull out Jill Scott and India Arie.  When I want to marinate in my creole roots the Kadans, Compas and Zouk hits are too many to mention here but Kassav holds a special place in my heart. Some sentiments are better experienced in creole.

Going back to Ziggy though, all day I’ve been meditating on one of my favourites – “got to be true to myself”.  The idea of being true to yourself is one that has been heavily at the forefront of my mind for several months.  Really it has always been there but in the last few months I’ve been embracing the actual BEING true to myself as opposed to just thinking about it and succeeding sporadically.

What the heck does that mean anyway?  What is it to be true to yourself. At one point in my life, I used to think that living along this ideal suggested being selfish and uncaring of other people. With a Master’s degree in being untrue to myself in so many ways in the past, take it from me, the “selfish” idea is complete and utter bullshit! When you are true to yourself you are giving the world and others the greatest gift. That gift is allowing other people to be true to themselves as a result of your own courage to do the same. Being “true to yourself” means really and truly not wasting precious brain space and energy on what people think about you, what you do, why you do what you do, how you do it,  who you are, and other such questions that often only YOU know the answer to.  Isn’t  society plagued with “what would so and so think?” or “I don’t want them to think…fill in the blank.”  But really, who cares what the imaginary “THEY” think?  Did THEY wake up next to you this morning?  Did “THEY” pay your car note or mortgage? “Do THEY feed you regularly?  I mean seriously, do THEY buy your groceries? If the answer to any of those questions is NO, then truly they should not dictate your life.  Even if the answer is yes to any of those questions, THEY STILL should not dictate your life because Whose life is it anyway?  YOURS.  Decide who you want to run your life. Live your truth.  Any time you start thinking about what THEY are going to say, please call up Etana – “people talk

2-16-IMG-20131108-02079In the last few weeks, author, speaker and coach Erika  Napoletano has captured my undivided attention.  She is indeed a woman after my own heart.

In the true spirit of keeping it real,  I have to admit that I love her writing and I love her because she is so irreverent.  The picture to your left gives you an idea of what I mean.  This slide was among the first in her recent presentation at AFest that I attended in the Dominican Republic this November.  Self declared potty mouth, she does not give one rats ass about what you think.  She is living Erika large, loud and in living colour.  I gleefully imagine what it must be like for the more conservative types who happen to end up in an audience where she is a speaker audience while being totally unaware of her “brand”.  Can you read their thoughts and see their faces? *clutches pearls*

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I admit that there is a part of me that loves that she curses – because she wants to and because she can.  I am certainly no clean mouthed angel, but I know that her way with an audience is not and will not necessarily be my way and that’s O.K..  More than her special brand of humour and delivery though, what I absolutely love is that she keeps it realer than real.  As a straight talking scorpion myself, that’s the kind of truth I appreciate.  No holds barred, no sugar, no butter, NO CHASER. That’s the kind of truth that not enough of us have give to ourselves.

Who really likes to look in the mirror and acknowledge that there is a huge pimple right at the tip of their noses? Of course not. Instead, lets cover it up with some foundation, powder and maybe even a little bronzer so that it can remain blocked and become more infected. With a little luck, maybe no one will notice it’s there. Wash face, repeat. That’s how many people live their lives.  Act as if its not there.  That’s how I was raised. Today, with my adult glasses on, I can look back and see the many instances where we played “if I can’t see it, its not there.”

The Artistry of Orly Dominguez  from the Dominican Republic

The Artistry of Orly Dominguez from the Dominican Republic

The fundamental element that we need to remember when it comes to being true to oneself is that our truths do not, will not and cannot be the same.  It is for this reason that while you may not understand or like one person’s life approach to their truth, the space we occupy is always a more harmonic one when each person accepts without question that each individual is operating from their own set of perspectives, experiences and understandings.  One of the memorable takeaways from Erika’s presentation surrounded the obvious artwork on her arm. The story of why she decided to get that first tattoo was touching, sad, and so totally profound, I can hear her telling the story as I type this.  What was interesting though was of her also telling the story of overhearing in the park as she was passing, I cant remember now if it was a grandfather talking to his daughter but basically, the person concerned made some very derogatory remarks concerning what he would do to his child if she ever put that “trash” on her skin.  I wonder if knowing her story would have made a difference to his thoughts.  Maybe not, good thing Erika didn’t give a shit.

So, as we go head on into 2014 here’s my truth.  Late this year, I turn 40.  It used to be a daunting and agonizing thought – because of all the things I thought I should have done by now but really it was what OTHER people thought I should have done by now.  Turning 40 this year is now the greatest thing ever because by the time I get there (October 29th if you want to send gifts!!:-)) I will have done many things that according to my values and desires for this life will be EPIC.  Some of these things have been in my consciousness for the last 15 or so years of my life.  In addition to those things (which you will find out about as the year goes by), I will be paying attention to what I think instead of what YOU think, I will be looking at the pimple on my nose,(damn periods – cause them to come up in the darndest of places!!!) the stretch marks in too many places, the bags under my eyes, and loving them for what they tell me about me, about what I need and want to do and be for me.  I will be saying NO when I just don’t feel like doing some shit, instead of saying yes to make you, or whoever feel better.  In this chapter of my life, money making businesses DO NOT get my work for free or HOE cheap prices. In this chapter and continuing to “the end”, money is going to become my best friend and I will invest in myself so that I can be more of myself. My spiritual and physical temples need work and attention.  I know this and that is my first order of business. I intend to LIVE every day that I am here on this earth.  What about you?  What are you going to do?

Here’s to being true to yourself!!

Spirit-Life-Legacy- “None of us come to stay.”

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For almost 15 years, I have called on that quote “none of us come to stay” as a reminder and aid to my understanding and acceptance of life.  I remember well the first time I heard those words.  It was my second year in university, after a night of 10 cent wings fun, frolic and laughter (at a restaurant named “Your Father’s Moustache” no less), I returned to my dorm room full of the euphoria that comes from overdoing it with friends  for hours. Food, drink, great company – what could be better?

Well, the evening had been just too great to end on the light hearted and lightheaded note on which it had begun.

My mother can be somewhat of a speaker in parables.  So, when the phone rang with her voice on the other end asking “who was the oldest man in the bible,” I had no idea where she was goDaddying with this.  My brain was definitely not in deciphering mode.  Still she pressed on, “and how old did he live to be?” I made a guess.  “and even though he was the oldest man to have ever lived, he died right?” “err ….yes”.  I still did not know where this conversation was leading, and then she said “none of us come to stay ok, your father died”. Way to go mom! Break it to me gently why dontcha?

I don’t like funerals.  I don’t particularly want to go to a ceremony to say goodbye, because by the time I see that person’s physical encasing, their spirit and soul has already left its earthly building. What we see is but a hollow shell.  Still I understand why death hurts so much and why people feel the need to participate in this type of farewell.  It really is the knowledge that you will never again in your time on earth touch, see, feel, or hear that person again.  It is a feeling of loss.  I prefer to remember them as I knew them embodying whatever it was that made them stand out in my life.

There have been scores even hundreds of articles written about Nelson Mandela (Madiba) since his departure, and so while I too could speak about the lessons I have learned as a result of his sacrifices and choices, and about how his life has touched mine, I will not. Since the announcement of his death was made ten days ago, and even as today as Madiba’s body was finally laid to rest in his ancestral home I have found myself thinking not only about this man and his legacy but about the South African spirit, the spirit of a people, its culture and its practices that in some way were partly responsible for the person he was, and the person he eventually became. Many years ago, I was enamoured with Haiti. , years before I ever laid my feet on Haitian soil, my thoughts were consumed by the island and its people.  I was not disappointed when I got there.  It was like a homecoming.  So today as I think about the South African spirit, knowing that the day will come when my feet will touch soil there too, I am struck by a memory. Whenever I recall the moment I am about to describe to you, I still feel the chills and sense of awe I felt at that moment of surreal reality.

1-Umoja1

The year is 2007.  Thanks to my extraordinary and entrepreneurial friend Lucy, my annual vacation has led me to Vancouver where I am surrounded for two weeks with the cast of the South African theatrical production “Umoja”.  At the time, and for a number of years Lucy had been the North American producer of that show and along with the cast, crew and management, they had been touring in different parts of Canada and the US.  So, I joined the tour on the Vancouver B3-Umoja2.C. leg.   For two weeks I witnessed their nightly performances, spoke with the cast and crew, hung out with them, observed their interactions with each other, appreciated their diligence and discipline, and I was sold on this intangible thing – their spirit. I wanted to be in it, a part of it, surrounded by it.  It really was that powerful.

On one lovely day off, the2-umoja3 entire team went on what was meant to be a fun excursion to Whistler. If you are a sports enthusiast, you may remember Whistler Blackcomb as being the venue of the 2010 Winter Olympics. There were two busses, the girls went on one, and the boys went on another.  I of course chose the bus with the boys.   I had been told that snow storms are a rare occurrence.  Yayy!!  How was it then that on this particular day, at this particular time, at a moment when I had chosen to visit, a snowstorm decides that this is the opportune moment to strike???  After the long, activity filled and exhausting day  and halfway back into Vancouver the snow said “no” and the bus said “oh Hell no!!”.  Imagine this if you can.   The bus with the girls had already disappeared. There we were, twenty or so people stuck in the middle of nowhere, visibility low, bus getting colder, snow still falling thick, fast, and with no indication of stopping,  AND…a driver who has no idea how we are going to get out of there – he had no snow tyres!!! HA! Incredible to say the least, I guess he wasn’t expecting snow.

umoja6So we are all sitting and waiting, lost in our own worries, wondering if the other bus made it through, wondering what’s going to happen next – who will come and save us?  There is silence.  Suddenly, it starts, the voices of South African men singing in unison, slowly they all join in and before I understand what’s happening, I am engulfed by the voices of this choir.  I get chills.  I cannot believe this is happening. I am hit with emotion, my eyes begin to water. Is this really happening?  Am I really sitting in a bus stuck in the snow, in the freezing cold and darkness, somewhere between Whistler and Vancouver witnessing, hearing, and experiencing this perfect South African male harmony.  I did pinch myself, and no I was not dreaming. It really was happening.  I don’t remember how long that moment lasted, it felt like a long moment in a dream.   The next thing I knew,  we were all getting off the bus and the guys started pushing until somehow the bus gained traction and was able to move again. Slowly we managed to make our way to a gas station where we sought assistance and eventually made it back to Vancouver on another bus.

umoja7The South African spirit is powerful.  It exists through this “umoja –  spirit of togetherness” that seems to manifest spontaneously. Don’t be mistaken though, like all human beings, in all cultures everywhere, their powerful spirit does not prevent imperfection.

madiba  So while some commentators and writers seemingly did not understand why at the death of their country’s leader, a world icon, South Africans around the country and around the world were singing and dancing,  I understood their celebration of life, their recognition of the moment, and the surrounding contexts. They sing not to be happy, but they are happy, they are vibrant, they are energy filled because they sing and because they dance.  You see, music, dance, it is an integral part of their lives and it should be a part of our lives life that elevates  and maintains our spirits.

I started writing this post last night. Ironically, I woke up this morning to the news that my aunt Gwen, my mother’s sister had passed away.  So again, “none of us come to stay.”  I choose to remember that she was an extremely emotional and affectionate being.  She laughed a lot, cried a lot, and hugged a lot. Among the many things that I choose to remember about Mandela is his determination to ensure that everyone should be allowed to live with a sense of Dignity. I am so grateful to be alive in a time such as this to have witnessed so much and learned so much.  I have always said and will continue to maintain that LIFE is not about the things, the perceptions, the stuff, the money.  Life is about people, love, and making a difference in a way that leaves a lasting memory especially once your physical body is no longer here .  How do you want to be remembered?  What difference do you want to make?   What are you waiting for?

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela