Dear 33

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Dear 33,

I will start with a need, a need so strong it is pressing against my ribs and the only thing keeping me upright in this moment. I need you to hold me. To hold me so tight it doesn’t matter if I won’t be able to breathe. Reach your hand from the future and grab me. Clasp your fingers with mine. Intertwined and sacred. Trace this moment and outline it, for I cannot make sense of this path. This part of our life is called uncertain.

Remember that childhood knowing that sat so dominantly in the chest? That we were somehow meant for great things? I think I remain unconvinced. The dots should have aligned by now and our empire taking shape. But instead we went walking through deserts, barefoot on the blistering hot sand. We climbed in and out of trenches. This has been no straight path. Nothing at all like the flower garden trails I imagined as a girl. The pictures in my head were crystal clear and full of vibrant colour as I skipped through girlhood and through that long, dry grass that covered miles of space behind the house. My body was 6 years old but my soul was ancient.

33, beloved, I know where I’ve come from, how far and deep that place is, and so forgive me for the doubts now. It’s just that…it’s just that nobody said how hard it would be, how scary it would seem to put one foot in front of the other on a road less travelled. A path everyone secretly and publicly thinks you shouldn’t be taking. Certain roads should only be taken by certain people – this is actually a rule in this world. Nobody will own to it but nobody has to because everybody knows that is the way it is.

I know you think this is a load of crap and that is why I love you. Why I need you. You are a woman with the wind beneath your sails. Your eyes are grown and wise. You see life’s beauty and her sorrow and you find a place for both. You are a celebrator of life, the drumbeat that vibrates at the core of her.

I need your courage and strength more than ever. That little girl skipping in the long, dry grass with an old soul keeps calling out to me. The dreams we had then cemented in ink and yet I feel so far from them now, so far from the sap that energised them and sweetened them.

This is a hard job – expressing what many are afraid to acknowledge as being their very own thoughts, echoing the cries of other people’s hearts, reflecting them back to themselves. Sometimes I want to tell you that we should have picked an easier job but I know we didn’t choose this work. It came imprinted on the heart that beats in the chest. The same heart that beat in our 6 year old self.

And what is more beautiful than words? Words have the power to bind wounds, to nurse the place where it is broken and to heal the things that need to be healed. Words give wings to fly. They pour courage into our hearts and hope into our laps. And when we extend our words into action, they literally save us. What higher power is there?

“In the beginning was it not only the WORD and from the WORD worlds born?”

Clasp your hands with me, dear 33 and remind me of the sacredness of this work. Remind me that the art itself is bigger than my doubts. If you say it I will keep showing up on the page. I will keep showing up to work. Until one day I morph into you, and you into me. I will become you. You who are full of grace and wisdom. And even when you cry and are pierced with sadness, you keep walking. You get what this is all about. It is not about building castles and altars to oneself. It is about service, about faith and about love. Man can never reward you for these beautiful things.

So clasp your hands with mine and walk me though this. I need you so.

 

Yours forever,

32.

If THOR were real

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If Thor were real, he would be you.

Whose eyes I would drown in. Whose chest would be heavy enough to take the imprint of my heart. It would be your hands that would pull me closer to shrink all the spaces between us. It would be your arms that would hold me, moulding every part of me to every part of you.

But Thor is not real. He is a figment of our imagination. A man-god on whose shoulders we have placed our belief in salvation. We like our saviours in capes, flying from one end of the heavens to the other saving the world & all the worthy damsels in distress along the way. Men can’t fly but we like to fantasize that they could. & what it would be like if they did.

I sat in the dark, holding my heart in my hands completely sucked into the illusion. This beautiful illusion that left me open & wanting more, more of the nothingness that exists between crafted reality & stories. I ached from this need just the way the world wants me to – grasping for the things that are not real & do not last. Things that move the soul to the edges of ecstasy promising so much but showing up on our stoop empty handed. This beautiful illusion was tempting, so tempting—

But Thor isn’t real. He is not you calling down lightening to rescue me. I don’t even need rescuing.

So, never mind Thor. I want you.

You in all your comfortable & uncomfortable ways you exist in the world. In all your rawness & awkwardness as a man who is trying to figure it out just like the rest of us. A man who is committed to loving me – me in all my parts.

I want to know you are real, in the way my fingers fit the spaces in-between yours, in the way your heartbeats hums at the touch of my hand because you feel me here, my skin against yours. & there is nothing else in this moment but grace. Shame has no place here. It huddles with fear outside our love, looking in & wanting what we have. But we won’t let it in. We are selfish for each other. There is no holding back. We see each other as we are, naked & vulnerable until you become me & I become you.  I want to love you like that.

I want to know you are real in the way you tell me to stop when I act out of character & when you listen to the words I do not say. You will stand in the gap for me, shielding me & all that is ours with your big, broad chest. No man can compete with you. I will love you with all the strength in my body.

If Thor were real, even he wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Stop trying to write”

 

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There is this picture in my head. of what a real writer looks like. She is smart, witty & sexy with her words. She pulls them out of magic bags full of magic dust, charming us with syllables strung together, fitting into each other like there are the only beautiful words that exist in the world. Her gaze is steady, never looking over her shoulder. Instead she gives everything from within herself, secure in what she has to offer. Naming the un-named – our illusions & fantasies, grief & fears. She finds a perfect word for each one of them. Even for those spaces in-between sleep & wakefulness, the bridges between dream & reality. Everybody knows she is a writer. They remind her every day. Of how beautiful she is. Of how perfect her craft is. She has the world in rapture, in awe & in love with her. She is beautiful. She is perfect.

And I thought the day would come when I would morph into her.

A day when I will curtsy on the world stage in my white flowing gown with golden lace. There will be music in the air & the sound of angels, of a heart singing – mine. Literary agents & publishers will line up wanting to snatch this woman, to immortalise her on pages that will last through forever.

But instead I sit here—

With papers strewn all over my bed, intimacy meets work. I can’t fit a desk into this room so I sit on the floor. I write from the floor. This floor is sacred. It has held me in my darkest moments, supported me. It has caught my tears as they fell from my eyes & the many broken dreams that slipped from my hands. It is privy to the whispered prayers I send up to heaven every night. There is no fancy here. The only luxury arrives when my soul pours itself onto the page – when I empty myself in sentences & full stops & all the breaths in-between. But even then I am not confident in this writing woman.

So maybe this pep talk, this bleeding out is more for me than for you. But stay with me. It’s less lonely knowing you are here.

I have a reminder stuck on my door. It tries to be eloquent;

I am a writer even on the days I do not get likes for my writing.

It’s always in my eye’s view when I sit to work. I penned it one gloomy day when I was desperate for validation, desperate to believe that writing is truly the thing I was born to do like others have singing, creating, managing or building. I wanted to claim it so, so badly.

Some days it works and other days I look away in shame bewildered at myself for even considering myself a wordsmith. & yet that is the only thing that makes sense to me, the only place I find rest for my heavy heart.

Ok…I am afraid. Afraid of not being good enough, afraid of not living up to the world’s standards – the writer who has to be published & doing powerful things in the world. She is vocal, she is perfect. I am afraid of her image.

I don’t know if this is a turning point for me but the other day I heard a voice whisper in my ears;

Stop trying to write

Stop trying to write

Stop trying to write

I realised that all my life I have been trying so hard to write. Trying so hard to be like every good writer I know. Trying, trying & trying so hard to write like everybody else, syntax & grammar in check. When all I should be doing is writing, pure & simple. No strings attached. Throwing caution to the wind. Reflecting me in all the best & worst parts of me. Setting my rebellious spirit free.

I have never given myself permission to write. & so I was looking to others to do it for me, to prop me up, to tell me how good I was so I could have a reason to do it. I looked over my shoulder constantly measuring my writer self against others. Seeking their accolades & glory, seeking their permission. It’s ironic because when everything is said & done, when the day is spent & the crowd has gone home, when night covers roll in & the world falls asleep, the only light left burning is mine. It’s always just me, sitting here on my floor, alone & complete. Who else is going to give me permission to do this?

The journey of a writer is a journey of a human being. I am human first & foremost. If I am not confident in the privilege & divine order to be here in the flesh, how am I going to give my existence a voice? How am I going to write about it?

Humble confidence. Acceptance. Peace. These are mighty things that change lives. Getting to them requires an unravelling of some sort. You come face to face with your demons, you stage a war & you come out victorious. Never mind the scars & bruises. Your life will never be the same.

I am claiming this moment for me – this moment that will powerfully move me away from the insecurities & fears & onto the path that respects, embraces & grows the writer goddess in me. That I will be courageous enough to unfetter her so she can find her voice.

She will stop trying to write. She will simply, write.

Vision of white

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Sometimes I forget that I am betrothed to a king. As breathtaking as that fact is, it escapes my reality on a daily basis.

See, I’m knee deep immersed in digging the trenches of the everyday – the waking up, the organising of a life & lives, the making of a living, the maintaining & repairing of relationships, the fending off negativity & brokenness, the growing up & maturing, the casting down strongholds & the fighting off failure, fear & faithlessness in a world that abounds in them. A day’s work noticed will leave you amazed at how much assault there can be on your mind, your heart & your soul. & yes, some of it comes right from within ourselves. Have you noticed that?

Sometimes, I get home with my overalls all muddied & soiled. Evidence that I have worked, yes, but the frown that eloquently forms across my face lets me know that I have forgotten. yet again. It’s easy to forget that I am betrothed to a king.

I sit on the edge of my bed & clasp my hands as though they are the only friend I’ve got; the only friend willing to clasp me in return. I feel their rough exhaustion.

I don’t know what it’s like to walk down the aisle, I think. I close my eyes & imagine. Behind the darkness of my eyelids, all I see is white. Beautiful, soul-clutching white as far as the eye can see. Except for my tiny, bare, brown feet that peek beneath the stunning white that covers my form. white roses in my hair. my imperfect hands perfect.

I don’t know what it’s like to walk down the aisle but I imagine it must feel like ecstasy. & frightening. & everything in-between.

I’ve watched my mother’s wedding photos since I was 5. They were housed in an album with a red, velvet cover. Oh, how I loved to caress that cover. It felt beautiful to my small hands. To me, it bespoke of the texture of marriage & the exquisiteness of weddings. & Mom, a delightful bride; the white sitting on her coffee brown skin like they were meant to be.

& that delightful bride grew into a delightful wife & into a delightful mother whose heart I hold in this crevice of my chest where my own heart sits.

God-willing, I, too, will one day be a delightful bride, who will grow into a delightful wife. & maybe even a delightful mother. I, too, will be a vision of white.

But even in these earthly raptures of visions, somehow I forget that I am betrothed to a king. Who holds me now as He unclasps my hands. to intertwine His fingers with mine.

I know you’re tired. You had a long day. You work so hard. Leave it outside now.

& let Me love you. Like the queen you are. Like the bride you are. My vision of white.

I know what it’s like to walk down that kind of aisle.  I do it every day. & every day I find myself looking into His face, grateful that I am significant to my beloved.

Oh, yeah, did I mention? I’m betrothed to a king.

The basics

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There is something magical about doing what makes your heart sing. I don’t know what it is for you but for me it’s writing. the raw, rough-on-the-edges kind. the deep & soulful kind. I leave traces of my heart in every syllable . always. It begins & ends there for me.

The comfort I find in writing is like no other. there is no naming it. It’s like this pure force that moves right through me, is in me & surrounds me, enveloping me in a cocoon of light. bright & warm.

there is no lying or masquerading when my pen meets the page. it’s like two long lost lovers finding their way back to each other. Into the solid arms of love. there is no room for not trying. because this relationship is worth life itself….

I think on the page. I lay my burdens on the page. I love on the page. I am defiant on the page. I am a warrior on the page.

I write because the pen fits perfectly between my fingers & my heart and mind whisper such tender poetry to each other that it is impossible to ignore. I was born to write. plain & simple. the world, other people & I, myself may push me in all kinds of directions but this is the home I come back to. my default existence.

I hurt at what’s become of the world – the constant competition, the branding of everything including ourselves. the elitism & cliques of creatives breaks my heart. I understand the natural churning of the soul to make a writer’s name for herself. I have that too. I wrestle with that too. The world doesn’t make you forget it’s there. For what is a writer without an audience? It taunts & jeers.

The truth is, I am a writer even on the days I do not get LIKES for my writing.

It’s the getting back to the basics. the saving of the music only my heart can make.

I don’t know why you do what you do but when you have it figured out, i hope you hold it closely dear to your heart; that you will squeeze every essence of it into your being that there will be no telling where you begin & where it ends. you will become your purpose.

It’s the getting back to the basics. the saving of the music only your heart can make.

 

Hustling for the likes of me

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In a few weeks I’ll be turning a year older.

This time last year, I was in paradise. I thought I had found the one. It was a different space. Of sweet sighs & love songs. The one turned out to be a lesson waiting to be learned; the past needing to be let go; & a blessing in disguise.

So, this year I’m quite far from that space. It’s like standing on one side of the mountain & looking across a wide valley to the other side.

There is no way of jumping that. Nor do I want to.

The idea of growing older is that somehow along the way we are also becoming wiser. I’ve always embraced that, even if sometimes it squeezes all the strength out of me, leaving my arms feeble & weak. Even grasping.

Wisdom is never a guarantee to an easy life. But it is the foundation to a rich & fulfilling one. It is the wind beneath the sails that keeps the ship on course & fans it to the outer edges of the sea & into transcendent beauty.

But, even with the promise of wisdom, growing old is often met with an unpleasant reaction by many. And if you’re not among those who succumb to the “woe is me for getting old” syndrome, the world still lets you know there is something not quite right about accumulating age digits.

A friend of mine reminded me of this the other night over dinner when she asked what I had done with my twenties. The question took me aback. I didn’t know what to say. A part of me recoiled in horror.

‘Yes, indeed, what have you done with your twenties, missy?’ a voice taunted.

I mumbled some unconfident answer but the question stayed with me & haunted me.

My dream was to change the world.

When I was a little girl, I had a plan – one that weaved itself of itself & stuck itself to the edges of my heart convincing me that I was meant for something much greater than I understood.

I have not changed the world. Not yet anyway. But I keep hustling.

My twenties were spent doing just that – hustling.

Some of us are unique…in a beautiful & challenging way. I was thinking about this the other day & I realised that the odds have always been against me. I am everything the world deems least valuable, the unacceptable, the un-norm;

I happen to be a woman who happens to be black who happens to be an introvert who happens to be African who happened to have grown up poor. Beauty & smarts are not attributed to people like us. And sadly, there are even some who would wish us out of existence.

It’s true. I can confirm it for you – this is not a walk in the park kind of existence. It doesn’t matter what your perspective on this matter is, take it from me. I walk in my shoes everyday. They are unique. And because they are not the common size 6 pair of sandals you grab off the shelf at Target on the way to the maxi – dress collection, they need a different path to walk in; a unique path.

I love the possibility of treading this unique path – holy, unconventional ground.  I love the possibility of creating something that has my own personal flavour. This is why I hustle. Pushing through the muck that is laid upon me by virtue of my being in the here & now. In the flesh & blood.

I still dream of changing the world. But I don’t know entirely just what that means or what it looks like. I still dream of birthing beauty all of my own into the world. This is what keeps me up at night – the freedom to be & do that which is sacred & beautiful. For it to be like breathing for me. This is what I hustle for.

Hustling can be lonely. It is also hard. You sweat & hurt & bleed. I have survived years of this. & now I am doing something better – I am learning to thrive while I hustle.  Beauty & steadfastness & joy & full-bodied life converge.

Hustling lets you master that space between reality & dreams, grounding you in practical possibility while urging you to keep dipping your toes in the magical.

I probably am what I am today – observant, astute, empathetic, vulnerable, fiercely loyal, passionate, understanding & giving – because I’ve had to hustle my way through life. It’s not always fun but it creates a depth in a person that nothing else in the world can create. I take comfort in that & in the God who has been on my side every minute of my life. My biggest cheerleader.

For the likes of me, hustling is a given but you won’t hear me moaning. At least not everyday 😉 I am learning that life is too beautiful not to hustle through. And so, the hustling continues…

Steady

My office is on the fifth floor.

I can see much of Melbourne from up here. I can see the sky – gray and foreboding, much like the turn my mood has taken in the last few hours.

There is a cloud of heavy fog enveloping Melbourne city’s skyline. I’m watching as each skyscraper gets swallowed up and disappears. The atmosphere seems intensely upset.

The fog is steady and so sure of itself.

Talking to a friend yesterday, she mentioned how she has been watching my growth since I arrived in Australia. She exclaimed that I’ve been progressing successfully and steadily.

Her comment made me stop and think. It’s coming back to me now, as I watch the angry sky.

Do I feel successful? Do I feel steady? Am I sure and steady as that fog?

I don’t consider myself a very patient person and being the passionate soul I am, I want things to explode in progressive growth around me. I mean I want to be out there, involved in big things; making a contribution; changing the world…NOW. But it’s not quite happening like that.

I’m learning that there is a lot of preparation that goes into big dreams like these or even just the decision to live your best life. Such commitments demand patience and perseverance. And these are qualities we are not usually born with. We have to learn them, and therein lies the challenge.

The gray clouds are breaking up now, leaving behind glimpses of blue sky. I’m amazed at how quiet they are, and yet they infuse the whole expanse with their presence and they have the power to command silence and awe at their stunning transformations. They are so unpredictable but admirably steady in their course.

When you are steady you are constant, unbroken in your stride, and persistent. And when you are constant, it doesn’t matter how small the steps you take…in time, you will reach your destination.

This is what I have to remind myself constantly. And today, as I remind myself, I’m reminding you too.

So, even when things are not going your way; or they are not coming together as quickly as you would like them to; and even when the people around you don’t seem to get what you’re about, you just need to keep at it.

It will all come together and when it does, it will be well worth the wait.

Don’t fret. Be steady.

Everything will work out just fine…for you and for me.

Roadmap

Déjà vu.

That’s what it feels like- this moment and space I’m in. I distinctly remember feeling this way when I was a little girl: so confident and sure of my destiny. It was almost as though I was born knowing who I was and where I was going in life. My feet never touched the ground despite the daily reminders that it was not my place to dream. As I contemplate just how far I have come, I can’t help but shiver with amazement at how favoured my journey has been and still is. I have made it this far because I do not walk alone. I have made it this far because the Great God walks with me.

Nothing has been easy. I had lost my way for such a long time. As I grew older, I moved away from the sureness of purpose that surrounded my childhood like a cloak. It was never intentional but I suppose as part of the law of degeneration, I became a victim of adult thinking which is full of doubt and unbelief. I started searching for something that was already inside of me. I started looking for myself…when I was right there. I experienced what every adult experiences at some point – a sense of burden and aimlessness about life.

When each one of us was little, I’m sure there must have been plenty of times when our fathers lifted us up and threw us in the air. But instead of crying out in fear, we giggled with delight and happiness. We trusted that he would never let us fall; that he would catch us…every single time. But somehow, along the way to adulthood, we are told that this kind of trust is unreal and stupid. And so we are told to come out of our foolish childhood dreaming and be real adults in this big bad world. We are told to grow up. And the sad thing is, we believe it. And so we lose that ability to spread our wings and fly fearlessly. We lose our way and in so doing we lose ourselves. We become sceptical and critical, mistrusting everyone and selfish. Making a living becomes our main occupation in life and everything that does not aid this goal is sacrificed. They call this entire process adulthood. It is on eof the saddest processes of life. Isn’t it any wonder that we spend the rest of our lives looking for ourselves?

Whether in the East, West, North or South and no matter what colour you are, life without the right reason to be living it is futile and vain. This is a spiritual law that has no respect for what you believe as an individual. It is sure and true.

I have been embraced by grace because now I understand that sometimes God entrusts us with a roadmap when we are yet still babes. And the responsibility is to grasp this tremendous gift before the folly and façade of adulthood takes precedence. Used wisely, the dreams of childhood hold the key to introducing ourselves to ourselves.

When I was a little girl I dreamed of empires and revolutions. And now I see that I am being taken to the place where it all began….I am being taken to the end. My roadmap has remained intact all these years. It was I who deviated. But in this moment I feel blessed and highly favoured. It is as if I can see the blueprint of my life spread out before me. What God is doing with me is incredibly awesome and with my roadmap in hand, I’m sorry to say that I WILL conquer the world.