General

After the Storm

Sandy’s only victim on my block.  Thankful it was just a tree.

Just in case you weren’t aware: the northeastern part of the United States was hit by a post-tropical cyclone, formerly known as Hurricane Sandy.  The storm was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 people in New York state alone, and millions have been left without power, or worse, completely displaced.

This was my third experience with a hurricane (or similar storm). The first was Hurricane Isabel, a Category 1 storm which made landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a mere hour away from my university.  Despite the droves of students who heeded local authorities’ recommendation to evacuate, my best friend (at the time) and I decided to ride the storm out.  We spent the first night in the gymnasium, sleeping on box springs. As the storm made its way north, we rode to a nearby hotel where a mutual friend was working and he let us sleep in the room that was provided for him.  After the storm passed, we went back to the apartment complex near campus to stay with my friend’s sorority sister. There was no electricity.  It was September, so it was still warm.  People were grilling in the parking lot, drinking, generally just having a good time.  But after a day or two of sleeping on the floor, I was over it.  My friend and I packed up our stuff, hopped in my car, and drove to her mom’s house in Charlotte. By the time we got there, we got the news that classes would start in two days.  We headed back to Hampton, relieved that the ordeal was over, and I figured I’d never have to deal with a hurricane again.

I was wrong. Last year, we had Hurricane Irene.  My mother is from the Caribbean. She did not appear to be frightened in the least.  But I, remembering how awful Isabel had been, raced off to the Target near my job and bought candles, flashlights, batteries, and snacks. We had plenty of bottled water, canned goods and bread and peanut butter.  I kept my phone and laptop charged, and prayed for the best. Irene passed us with little fanfare, though the next neighborhood over flooded pretty badly.

The worst part about the whole thing had been waiting. The anticipation.  When news of Sandy broke, I wanted to cry. Not again! We live in New York!  Not Florida!  What the hell is going on??????  And of course, the constant news coverage did nothing to help. All everyone talked about was how much worse Sandy was.  How she was much larger, and moved more slowly, and had more wind. She would be landing at high tide, on a full moon. Storm surge would be extraordinarily high.  Everybody in Zone A, leave. Leave now.

I live in Zone C, the zone least likely to face mandatory evacuation. We stayed put.

Sandy was worse. The howling winds came first, before she even made landfall in New Jersey.  Every gust shook the house.  I heard things tumbling down the street. I heard crashes and loud cracks. I heard sirens and wails. I got no sleep until today, when it was all over.

After the winds had died down some, Marvs and I met with her friend Gemma to survey the neighborhood. Many trees had been felled by Sandy’s fierce wind, one on almost every street. Some were blocking would-be traffic. Some rested on houses or cars.  Gemma turned to my mom and said, “Yuh know, it really wasn’t that bad.”

She was right. We still had power. There had been no flooding.  We were safe.

It could have been worse. For many others, it was.  I will keep them in my prayers, and donate what I can.

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Writing

Notes on What Makes a Writer

I have this thing.  I don’t like to call myself a writer. My rationale is, writers write. And since I don’t write [fiction] very often, I have a difficult time referring to myself as a writer.  I think about the stories I’d like to write every day; I write outlines for them. I keep a personal journal.  I scribble lines down everywhere–recently, I scrawled “thepointiswearedonehere” on a co-worker/friend’s dry erase board because the words had been tumbling around in my head all morning. I write here. But I don’t think of myself as a writer.

Last week, I read “So You Want to be a Writer: Bukowski Debunks the Tortured Genius Myth of Creativity” on my favorite site ever, Brain Pickings (I know I talk about this site quite often, but that’s only because it’s AMAZING).  The celebrated poet/novelist/short story writer says, in part:

 

if it doesn’t  come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.

 

And I cried. Because I remember what it was like to have that insatiable urge to write.

In seventh grade, I wrote my first novel. It was called “A Passport to Danger.” I pretty much lifted the plot straight out of a Nancy Drew Files novel, but threw in a murderous high school teacher and some step-sibling romance for a little extra flavor. It earned me an A+ in English that year, and from that time all the way throughout high school, I would come home every single day,  get on my mother’s computer and write write write. I have binders full of stories that I wrote during those years. I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote in all of my classes, especially in Geometry, which I hated.  I wrote on the bus in the morning though it made me carsick.  I wrote every day.  And while the speed with which I wrote slowed somewhat in college, I still wrote enough to have a few of my pieces published in the university’s literary journal, the Saracen.

Once I got to law school, that all changed.  I wrote one really good story during the entire three years. I blogged. I wrote flash fiction pieces and weird prose poems, but nothing substantial.  And I’ve struggled to write ever since. If you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen…don’t do it.

When I went to VONA, I felt like an impostor. What am I doing here with all these lovely, talented writers?  I asked myself.  Then Diem reminded us that we all deserved to be there. We were all writers. We all had important things to say.

Reading Bukowski’s poem made me doubt myself. What if I’ve been waiting patiently for nothing? What if I’m not a writer going through a rough patch? What if I’m really not a writer at all?

This morning, a VONA instructor with whom I am facebook friends shared a quote from Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz. I did some digging and found the source here.  In a stark contrast to Bukowski’s somewhat harsh edict, Diaz counters:

You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.

And I realized: I have hope.

It’s part of the reason why I started this blog.

I may not write every day. I may not like everything that I write– in fact, I definitely don’t like everything that I write.  But I write, and that’s what matters.

That’s what makes me a writer.

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Yoga

Notes on YTT

That’s not me. That’s Octavia Raheem, featured on Chelsea Loves Yoga.

  • last night I practiced with Laurie for the first time since May.  
  • She kept calling me Keira.  She is horrible with names.  There is a woman in my group named Veronica; Laurie calls her Vanessa all the time. I know Laurie knows who I am. And I rather like the name Keira. If I were going to change my name, Keira would be it.
  • I did Ardha Chandrasana without a block.  It was fun.  This mostly happened by accident, because I was 15 minutes late to class and  didn’t have time to grab any props.  But now that I know I can do it, I will.
  • I did pigeon. My knee felt fine last night, but is slightly tight this morning. I am afraid I will never be able to do pigeon without pain.  And lotus. Will Padmasana never be a part of my practice? Just because I hurt my knee running?
  • I know I shouldn’t, but I feel like– why the hell am I taking this training when I can’t even do the full expression of Vasisthasana? (btw, that’s what Octavia’s doing above.)  Forget the full expression…sometimes I struggle just to stack my feet and I have to do the simplest of all variations, with one knee on the floor.  It makes me sad.
  • Every once in a while, to make myself feel better, I remind myself that I’ve only been practicing for two years. But then I see people who have been practicing for six freaking months who can do a headstand in the middle of the room, no problem, and I wonder what the hell is wrong with me?  Why can’t I do that?
  • I stayed for Laurie’s meditation class. She had us come up with affirmations. Then we had to imagine scenes that embodied those affirmations. And then we had to envision one particular scene being wrapped up in a pink balloon and drifting away.  Afterwards, we discussed our reactions. I told her that I felt sad sending off my vision into the wild blue yonder. I felt like it would never come back to me. She said our reactions can often point out our patterns of behaviors….so maybe I cling to things? I don’t want to let them go.  The room was dark and I was glad because I got a little teary.  Her observation was so on-point.  Next week she’s going to read our energy– she’s a Reiki master. I am almost afraid.
  • I finished all my Chakra Therapy assignments. I need to type them up and hand them in soon.  Then I need to get started on the anatomy assignments. I’m pretty sure this weekend we’re learning about the knee. I hope it will help me with my injury.
  • I’m trying not to be hard on myself. I’m trying.  I just want to be able to do beautiful things with my body.
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Goals, Personal

PSA

For the second time in my blog’s short history, I will quote Jay-Z.

“No matter where you go, you are what you are player/
And you can try to change but that’s just the top layer/
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here.”

This excerpt comes from Public Service Announcement,  which appeared on  what Jay alleged was to be his final studio album, 2003’s  The Black Album.

I’ve been thinking about this quote lately, not only because I am an unabashed Jay-Z fan who still bumps a cd that came out when I was senior in college, but also because, strangely enough, something I read in Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder 2.0  brought it to mind.

The whole premise of Strengths Finder is that people are unhappy and unproductive in their jobs because we do not do work which plays to our strengths. The book and its online assessment tool are designed to help you ascertain what your strengths are, and to help you create an action plan to find a job that utilizes those strengths.  Rath indicates that our personalities–and thus, our passions, interests, and again, our strengths– are established early on in life, and remain relatively the same. He points to a 2003 study entitled, “Children’s behavioral styles at age 3 are linked to their adult personality traits at age 26.”  In this study, scientists in New Zealand observed 1,000 3-year-olds. Twenty-three years later, they re-observed those 3-year-olds, now adults, and found that the behaviors exhibited as children were remarkably similar to those behaviors exhibited at age 26.  In another study, researchers compared teacher personality ratings of 2,400 ethnically diverse Hawaiian schoolchildren with videotaped interviews of 144 of the same students, conducted 40 years later.  Those researchers found pretty much the same thing… as Jay-Z so eloquently put it: you are what you are.

I asked Marvs what I was like as a kid. At first she said, “Oh God, Keisha, I don’t even remember what I wore yesterday.” But I pressed her, and finally, she said, “You were very quiet. Pensive, almost, which was strange for such a small child.  You were affectionate with us, but distrustful of strangers.  You were not very friendly with people you first met.  Like Cas.  He tried to hold you, you said, “No!” and crossed your arms. You were like that as a baby. No one could hold you except me, your father, or Norma.  But once Cas came over a few times, you played with him, showed him your books.  And you loved for me to read to you.  Sometimes I’d catch you going through our books, turning the pages like you were actually reading.”

She went on to tell me that I never liked cold weather, but I loved going to the beach and playing in the water. I loved dresses and had very strong opinions about what I wanted to wear.  I asked her what I liked to do as a child and she said quickly, “Read. You always had a book in your hand. I couldn’t get you to leave the house without one.  And once you learned to write, you always had a notebook to scribble in.  You liked to ride your bike, you liked to dance, you liked to swim. You liked to spend time with your grandmother, you liked talking to her a lot.  You wanted to know about her childhood.  You were very sensitive.  Cried about everything. Sometimes I wanted to slap you to give you something to really cry about.  You loved going to Trinidad, you liked traveling anywhere, really. You had fun packing.  You never cried on planes.  Never complained about walking around strange cities. You were always curious. You wanted to know everything.  You never stopped asking questions. ”

So if I am now, at almost-30, who I always was, that means:

I am a bibliophile writer, sensitive and curious, who likes to travel,  likes to be physically active, who enjoys spending time with my family, and prefers balmy weather.

It’s also interesting that my Strengths Finder assessment was pretty accurate, based on what Marvs had to say.  My top 5 themes are deliberative, input, restorative, intellection, and context.  That means I am:  careful, vigilant, private.  An inquisitive collector of words, facts, books, quotations, who loves to solve problems, loves mental activity, and looks back to understand the present.

You’d think I would know who I was by now.  I think it’s more likely that I’ve always known, but somehow managed to forget.

As I approach 30 (it’s coming so quickly!), I hope I’ll spend the next decade actually being who I am. I’ve wasted quite enough time just figuring it out.

But now that I know…you better watch out!

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love, Yoga

Smile! It’s Monday.

I woke up this morning feeling quite ill. I’m still queasy and a bit lightheaded. Hopefully I’ll feel better after some tea.

While I recuperate, try out a free online Pranayama class with Kia Miller.  I haven’t done it yet, but I think I will later today.  During yoga teacher training on Saturday, we had a lecture called Pranayama Basics. Laurie, the head trainer and owner of the program, wants us to practice Viloma and Ujjayi just to begin our pranayama practices.  I got lucky and found this practice  on Yoga Dork yesterday.  I already do ujjayi throughout my Vinyasa classes.  I’ll try out viloma before bed.

I’ve got work to do, so I’ll just leave you with this little gem from Henry Miller, found on my favorite blog ever, Brain Pickings:

 

Real love is never perplexed, never qualifies, never rejects, never demands. It replenishes, by grace of restoring unlimited circulation. It burns, because it knows the true meaning of sacrifice. It is life illuminated.

 

Have a great day, loves!

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fashion, Yoga

Fancy Pants

Since I began my yoga practice two years ago, I’ve spent a LOT of time in leggings.  I firmly believe that leggings are NOT pants. Thus, I do not wear them outside of  yoga class. But they’re perfectly acceptable while stretching and breathing through asana, and I think close-fitting clothing allows teachers to better assess your form in a posture.

My usual standby yoga pants are actually running capris from Target, C9 by Champion. I used to pick up a pair every time I went to Target for anything, so I have about 7 pairs, which worked well for me in the past. I’ve got two problems: 1) I now wear those pants to the gym as well and 2) I’m practicing yoga more than ever!  Obviously,  I need more yoga pants.

I’ve been in a heavy print phase lately, so I’ve got my eye on the following cool leggings-as-yoga-pants:

Teeki Clouds hot pant, $59.95 (I actually bought these a few weeks ago and I love ’em.)

Leg Bones Neon Pink  and Starry Night leggings from Black Milk Clothing, $76.60 USD each

“African” leggings from  2020Ave, $14.00

Since I’m kind of on a budget right now– remember, my venture into Mint scared the crap out of me– I’m probably going to wait on the Black Milk leggings.  The company is based in Australia and the shipping is a tad too expensive; just one pair will cost close to $100 in total!  But I think I will treat myself to the 2020 Ave pair, and maybe another pair from Target if I can slip out of work during my lunch break.

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30 Before 30, Food, Goals

30 Before 30: Living the Flexitarian Life

I have a list of 30 things I’d like to do before I turn 30. I’ve got at least 25 items left on this list, and since I turn 30 in just over a month, I think it’s safe to say that I won’t accomplish everything on this list. However, since today is October 8, 2012, that means one thing:

I have officially gone six months without eating beef, pork, or chicken!

Initially, I put this on the list just because I wanted to challenge myself. I set a start date of April 8, 2012 and spent weeks gathering meat-free meals on Pinterest.   Although I allowed myself to eat fish and shellfish, I eventually found myself making mostly vegetarian meals– and enjoying them!  It’s been a challenging, rewarding experience.

What have I learned?

Chicken grosses me out. I do not miss it at all.  It is highly unlikely that I will ever eat it again.  My mom, who I affectionately call Marvs, baked some chicken the other day and the smell of it made my stomach lurch.

I never ate much pork to begin with; Marvs doesn’t eat pork and only cooked it for my dad. After they separated, we were a porkless environment.  The only pork I ate before this challenge was bacon, and honestly?  Bacon makes everything taste better. So I’ll probably eat bacon again. Sparingly.

I missed red meat the most. Marvs, again, doesn’t eat red meat. But dining out when I was a kid meant that my dad would get a steak, and he’d let me have a few bites, and I loved it. I love steak, I love burgers.  I just do.  It was the only form of meat I’d craved. So I’m taking myself on a lunch date to Uncle Jack’s this Friday. I just hope my stomach isn’t too angry with me.

In all likelihood,  I will not return to my meat-with-almost-every-meal ways.  I just like how my body feels when it doesn’t have to work as hard to digest what I put into it.  And eating like a vegetarian wasn’t that difficult once I got into a groove.  It forced me to be creative with my meals, to really think about what I was eating.  Eating fast food is nearly impossible when you don’t eat meat (which is great, because who really needs to eat fast food anyway?).  I won’t cook meat in my home…but I don’t think I’m opposed to eating meat on an occasional basis, perhaps every 3 or 4 months.  I guess that would make me a flexitarian?

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Natural Hair

Friday Fun: The Secret Revealed!

Came across this hilarious video on Twitter today.  Franchesca’s back at it, and this time she brought along her friends Hey Fran Hey, Taren Guy, and the Urban Bush Babes for good measure.  They’re spilling all the tea on what spurs natural hair growth. Watch for a side-splitting laugh.

p.s.  I could definitely use some of this secret ingredient.  I had my last perm on November 2, 2009 and I’m just itching for waist-length hair.  All things in the fullness of time, I suppose!

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Career

No More Complaining

One of the reasons why I absolutely LOVE Pinterest (follow me at the link!) is that it is fertile ground for the proliferation of the most beautiful art you can imagine– including wanderlust-inducing travel photographs, surreal watercolors, and cool infographics, like this one:

 [Graphic designed by Sarah Tolzmann for Note to Self]

The whole chart is a lovely reminder that we get to create our lives with our own  behaviors.

But what stuck out the most to me was Ms. Roth Eisenberg’s note to quit complaining!

Recently, I’ve found myself complaining…a LOT…about my job.  I’ve been here for over four years.  About a year ago, my department was stripped of a duty that had been a major component of our function here.  Suddenly, we were left with one major task: to conduct conferences with clients who have been found ineligible for the services provided by the agency.  Of all the tasks we were given before, this was the one I liked least.  When I found out about the change, I told my supervisor at the time, with whom I have a fairly close relationship, that I did not know how long I would last doing *only* conferences. He laughed it off.

It’s fair to say, however, that I’ve pretty much reached my breaking point. In the last month, I’ve been cursed at by two different clients. I left work early because of one such incident.  I’ve cried at my desk.  I don’t like to use the word “hate,” but at this point, I pretty much hate my function at this job. I won’t say I hate the job, because I am grateful for the salary it pays. It allows me to travel the world at least twice a year and take Spanish classes and purchase cute tchotchkes for my “house,” and even pay for this yoga teacher training I’m currently taking.  But every day I wake up and I want to cry because I just do NOT want to go into the office and face more clients.  I just don’t.

I’ve been complaining about the j-o-b to anyone who would listen for a while now. And after reading this, it’s clear that I have to make a choice.  Aside from the completion of my yoga teacher training, I need to do two things:

  1. apply to MFA programs already!
  2. look for a new job.

At first I was thinking of not applying to MFA programs this year, but then I realized that it is only fear holding me back– which of course brings me to Step #4: If an opportunity scares you, take it.  So, to make it as simple as possible, I will only apply to three programs, all of them part of the CUNY system. Hunter College, Brooklyn College, and Queens College.

Looking for a new job is a bit tougher.  I have a law degree, but I am not admitted to practice because I have not yet passed the bar (I’ll share more on that later).  The job I have now is a legal one.  I perform the same tasks as the attorneys here because I was previously in an entry-level attorney title, which expired after two years; because I work for the government, they just gave me another civil service title, but I’m still doing the same job.  I’ve basically been “practicing” for the last four years and eight months.  If I’d passed the bar in another state– like Connecticut, where the exam is supposedly easier than New York– then I likely could have waived into the NY bar by now.  In any case, I don’t necessarily know what I’m good at, and I also don’t know what I’m qualified to do!

As I am wont to do, I headed off to the bookstore to do some research. I came away with Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and the classic What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. Amazingly, I took my Strengths Finder online assessment yesterday and the results indicate that I should look for a job in the legal/compliance field, teaching, research, journalism, consulting, or literature.

So that’s my start.  Who knows what will happen next? I just know I won’t be complaining about it.

Note: if the links in the infographic don’t work,  you can find Dan Gilbert’s TED talk “The Surprising Science of Happiness” here and Paul Graham’s essay “Do What You Love” here.

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Music, Personal

Wake Up, Wake Up, Wake Up

I woke up late this morning. Most nights, I start out on my side and eventually flop onto my belly. So I rolled over this morning, my eyes startled by the sunlight pouring through my blinds. I thought: WHY IS IT SO SUNNY????

A quick glance at my phone told me what I already knew. It was 7:48 am. And I start my shift at 8. The first thing I did was call my supervisor to let him know I’d be late. Then I dashed into the shower.

I can only laugh at myself. In all my  years of working, I have never overslept.

Welp. Here’s a little vintage Bone Thugs-N-Harmony for your listening pleasure.  Enjoy the first day of October, y’all.

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