Being alone with one’s self is a holy act.
It is time the take a deep breath, clear the mind, spread my wings and soar.
On an amazing Saturday in Miniwaska State Park my husband, niece, 12 year old rat terrier Shyann and I went on a quiet yet complex hike up to one of our favorite points, Millbrook Mountain. The trail has some steep inclines and ragged, rooted, rocky paths. I will admit I was exhausted by the time we reached the top, we all were, but it was well worth it.
Along the way we stopped to catch our breath in a hollow. This is one of my most beloved spots in Miniwaska so far. The way the sound of the river softly mumbles as the birds serenade begets a calmness that only nature can induce. The air there is always slightly damp and cool, a retreat from the humidity that besieged us after exiting our air-conditioned Prius. We sat on the moss covered stones, searched for unique rocks (the best and cheapest souvenirs available), laughed and bathed in the muted voices of the trees.
I wandered taking photos as I often do in these woods. This place is my creative muse. I watched as my niece retreated up along the brook alone. She sat on the rocks taking it all in so quiet in her beauty. It warms my heart to see her enjoying this special place, calm; knowing that it soothes her as it does me.
She’s was with us for the week and we had all been looking forward and excited to share this place. On the way we picked blueberries and discussed how different a “real” blueberry tasted in comparison to store bought. There is nothing like plucking the berries of the bushes and wishing we had them at home all year long. There are so many in those woods. We were actually able to continue to moisten our palates with berries on the long hike after drinking all our water.
At the top we sat and watched the eagles glide, mediated and warmed in the sun. The air was so much clearer up there, less humidity and more breezes. We sat for quite a while refueling our energy sources for the trip back. I wish we could do this with her every week; escape into the real world and renew our souls. For now we have this day, these memories of an amazing young lady full of dreams and desires, delectable blueberries, two middle aged hippie wanna be’s and a 12 year pup who now only goes one way…we had to carry her down!
This week I’ve found myself challenged. I often wonder if doing what is right in so many ways, is the right thing to do for me. Answering a professional email with the appropriate response sometimes makes me wonder what the honest response really is. I know I did what needs to be done but for whatever reason this week I find it difficult to let poor behavior not effect me personally. How do I satisfy the gremlin inside of me that is spitting and firing like a toddler without behaving badly myself, that is the real question.
I have done so much of this as calmly as any one could and with true patience and time. Inside however my nerves are a bit more jumpy and my brain a bit less focused than I would like. The positive is that even now I am still finding moments of joy and peace. I have twice this week meditated after being triggered. I took the dogs for a quiet walk. I pulled out my special journal for the class I am taking and jotted down some intuitions, impulses and notions. Good habits are forming. This is also the first week of my 3 month alcohol hiatus where my brain clearly wanted to go off the wagon. The good news is that I didn’t. I have held to all of my personal commitments and perhaps this is how I’m getting though.
On another note I am helping produce a large event and for the first time in a while jumped in to another creative commitment. This will be the second time I have opened myself to direct again. It’s scary. Its been a while, but I know my skills are there and I’m trusting myself to be free again.
There seems to be so much happening at once. It is a challenge to trust that I have my own back. I need to continue to find those moments in each day that allow my brain to rest and remind myself that its all going to be just fine. Life can be hard but finding the simple moments to bring me down to earth make it ok. Just now my brother dog Casey came in to the bedroom to say hello and give me a kiss. I paused and took in the affection and relieved an ounce of stress. There are about 20 more ounces to go. It will be interesting to discover the mini joys I find.
So, I am embarking on a new journey and I’m asking you to come with me. I will be reaching out via Facebook and Twitter asking for your input to help me with a new interdisciplinary art project entitled, Who Am I?
I wrote a poem I have yet to share, I will at some point but not yet. It is one I wrote while researching Langston Hughes, one that reached down into the depths of me and my past to share my history, my journey and who I am becoming.
Oddly as an artist, I started this way. My foundation was visual art then I discovered theatre and fell in love. I became passionate about stories and in doing so loved disassembling them and re-envisioning them while mixing disciplines. I always wanted live music, dance, startling visuals, powerful words and voices. I wanted to make a physically emotional impact with my art.
I am here again, starting again but in a whole new way. I am a producer, I underlined that because over the past couple of years I constantly wanted to avoid the term. So many were looking to me as a producer and somehow it made me feel as though it subtracted the “art” from what I was doing. Now I am seeing it differently. I am embracing this talent and understanding its strength. I have the ability to bring together a vision and people to make something noteworthy and extraordinary. For the first time in a long time I am incredibly exhilarated and inspired.
Funny enough, it is the subject of this project that has made me look back and look deep. To ask, why I have made certain choices? Why do I question what I do? Sadly I have a deeply personal admission: my body image keeps me from my success. There I said it! What seems to be such a simple issue, one I have been ashamed of because it feels so trivial, but in actuality is so commanding that it holds me back from everything I know I am capable of. I have to reach inward and ask sincerely, why?
I have spent a lifetime working to be the “image” of myself I have created in my head. My personal expectations of myself have only continued to become less attainable. The tedious phrase, “If I…then…” has played on repeat in brain for more years than I’d like to admit. The reality I am facing now is that by not accepting myself as I am today imperfections and all, I am disrespecting everything I have worked so hard for and negating everything I have achieved in my life. Sadly this only perpetuates my perceived personal failure that I have seemed somehow determined to achieve.
Its time to change and my change must start with me.
Who am I? How many women ask themselves this question not because they are in a transition, but because they looked in a mirror and made a judgment of themselves that they carry with them throughout the day, each day. Today I am fat, yesterday I was my hair or my skin, the day before my shoes and so on. This mirror we seek our reflection in is not real, but the reflection promoted to us by the media and the brainwashing we have done to ourselves in our denial; too dark, too light, too fat, too thin, too old, too young. When are WE enough?
It doesn’t seem to matter how many forms of proof they show us that airbrushing is rampant and inexcusable, that celebrities wear hair extensions, that “natural” is a color we paint on and no longer what we actually are? We need to stop seeing our reflections on the television and in magazines; comparing ourselves only to the “idealistic” forms sold to us. Its time to start looking around at the beautiful, real people who live among us every day.
Today I choose to step up, look in the mirror and not see only what I look like but who I am; a talented leader, artist, performer and activist. This is not easy to do I wish I could say it is, but I am saying for the first time with true conviction that I will fight each day for myself. To look in the mirror and silence the voice of irrationality and say out loud that I am ready to accept the awesomeness of simply being me!
The Who Am I? project is about women; how we are seen in society and by ourselves. It is about how we affect men and how they affect us. It is about communication. It is about embracing our personal, individual power while opening our minds and sharing ourselves, our truth with the world. Beauty has so much less to do with what we look like and so much more to do with the light we shine, the light we can only ignite if we are willing to release falsehoods and accept the magic of who we are. This takes time and dedication BUT this will change our lives and every life we touch.
Please take this journey with me and look in the mirror and ask each day, Who am I? Then remember who you really are.
Please watch this inspiring video of Lupita Nyong’os‘ speech from the Essence Magazine Awards. It is both heartbreaking and rejuvenating. I watched this and couldn’t help but cry because I remember asking god to give me the strength to change and be something different from what I was not because I was bad, but simply because I believed I wasn’t good enough. I know so many young girls have done this over and over and the older I get the more devastating it is. Society needs to start teaching our children, girls and boys this definition of beauty Lupita talks about and stop perpetuation the deception that breeds self-hatred. We as human beings deserve more.
There is something about sitting in the grass or an Adirondack chair on a sunny day with the mountains or a lake in site. I go there in my mind when I can. It’s a memory, but also a vision. A vision I use when my mind gets lost in some messed up version of my day.
It would be amazing to wake up each morning and sit on that grass, do yoga and meditate as the birds serenade and the wind blows seductively against my skin; a kiss of cool in the warmth of the sun. Or to sit in the night looking at the stars, the soft music of the trees whistling. Laughing with friends and loved ones.
It is possible.
They say that balance is a myth. Is calm a myth as well? Perhaps constant calm would be boring, perhaps it doesn’t exist? I have found it here and there and it is wondrous! To feel my own breath, for my brain to be quiet and my body accepting in its groundedness.
It is possible.
Why do we fight what is in our own hearts? Why do we not just dance with joy at the challenges? Why is suffering in our nature…or should say, my nature. Who am I to speak for others, though I know so many in lust with chaos. Those are them that I’d love to dance with, to engage and share a calmness with.
Imagine a shared moment; quiet and without expectation or limits. What a dance that is.
It is possible.
Calm is not just the grass. It’s a state of being; an acceptance of the moment. It is a willingness to release the struggle, the chaos – to hand over the reins and say…”okay…” and for that moment to truly know; I’m okay right now. I’m okay as I am. I am enough.
It is possible.
© Nichole Donjé
At my age now I have recently discovered that what I really am in this moment is a teenage girl searching for who she wants to be in this world. I see this in the books that excite me like HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT series where young women are strong both physically and morally; girls who change the world for having the courage to trust and be themselves. The grown up side is reading LEAN IN and THE POWER OF 2; leadership books that help me find the power within myself to both inspire and be inspired. I find myself seeking inspiration and motivation to be a better person making choices that empower me and those around me.
I want to grow beyond myself.
I don’t necessarily think this is an odd search at my age, but it is oddly unfamiliar. I think in the past, I thought I knew what this meant; now I KNOW what it means and that knowledge somehow makes it scarier and more inspiring all at once.
When we’re young we are daring in a ways we lose as adults. Everything is a discovery because its the first time. As an adult WE KNOW. We know the consequences and the possibilities. We’ve made so many of these mistakes already.
I find at times its harder when you KNOW or at least think you do. Your inhibitions are lassoed. But here is the real recent discovery, or should I say rediscovery. Its ALWAYS the first time ANYTIME because no matter what each time is new, and different things can happen. I think we spend so much time telling ourselves I KNOW that we forget that there is opportunity for change and reinvention in every action.
I’m not saying that the concept of perfecting an act isn’t true. But think about it, in every practice session there is the opportunity for new insight, for new and more efficient skills and yes for something to go wrong, something unpredictable.
Perhaps your practicing your sword juggling act for the theatre festival next week. You’ve taken the time to build your skills and perfect your act. You haven’t dropped a sword in 3 years.
Now your outside in a crowd, the stakes are high…you drop a sword! The skills you’ve built through hours and hours of practice ensure you react quickly, instinctively. No one gets hurt. BUT, you dropped the sword. Here’s the question: Is that the end or is it an opportunity?
Yes consequences will be had; worst case, the loss of the job, best case you work it into the act and all believe it was on purpose.
Where is the opportunity?
Its in learning what went wrong. It is in figuring out not just how you reacted physically, but mentally. It is in facing the fear of doing it again even when you failed to be perfect.
It is in our growth and courage that we become better people. Stronger people. People who’s example WE want to emulate.
© Nichole Donje