Haiku Mondays

A window is not
just a look out to the world;
it opens as well.

UntemeyerWindows
photo by Autumn Brooks

Namastè

©NicholeDonjè

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Play-dates

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Good morning! or at least that’s how I felt as I stood on the doorway snapping these pictures. Oddly this day was the day we discovered we are now the local bird sanctuary. Earlier in the day a dove that was, shall we say, not having a good day sat on that very birdbath in the above shot in what seemed to be shock. Her feathers were askew and stiff as a statue. Her eyes were wide. I again like with Mr. Blue grabbed the telephoto for a better look.

Up close I could see a cut on her side, a swollen chest and a not so symmetrical wing that seemed more to be hanging then resting. I brought my husband Scott out yet again and we discussed next steps. I called the wildlife lady again, I believe we will be getting to know one another well over the next few years, and set up a time to bring the lopsided lady over (I have no idea if it’s a girl, but since I decided Mr. Blue, our last bird story, was a Mr…why not).

The little lady made her way to the ground and wandered the yard. In the meantime the birdbath became a play-date for everyone else. I swear in the 20 minutes I stood there at least 50 birds came and went, splashing and luxuriating in the aqueous coolness while the sun obligingly danced on their feathers. It was such fun to capture them in their revelry.

The photo above reminds me of when I was about 5 and my cousin and I used to share a bath. It was fun and gratifying. I loved the water as a child. If there was a pool I was in it. A bath was like the playground, especially since in our apartment there was only a stand-up shower in the corner of the bedroom. The bath was a place to create adventures, be saved mermaids and sing to our hearts content. It was the best darn pool Barbie had. I love seeing these two little guys full of joy and satisfaction; it moves me. It reminds me.

So much for not being a bird lover…just another reminder of personal growth and learned appreciation for the world around me.

Oh, and for the little lady, she was dropped off yesterday to the rescue lady in a box. She seemed good with being caught, I think she knew we wanted to help. I did say I hope Mr. Blue would let others know they would be safe with us…maybe he heard me.

Good luck Miss Lolli!

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Namastè

 

©NicholeDonjè

The Next Phase

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face”. Eleanor Roosevelt

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Today I am sitting here at my desk in my studio simply grateful. Grateful to all of those who have been there for me during my recovery and all of those who have reached out. It is a wonderful gift to have someone you haven’t heard from say hello and check in. Its a simple thing, but knowing that they are there and that the connection we made however long ago still exists is fulfilling.

Something that has become very clear for me in my life is that connection is imperative. I love people. The relationships I have built mean the world to me, even if time has distanced us. Everyone we create a moment with, creates meaning. It may be an acquaintance, a colleague or a friend.

It was a leap for me to share my post yesterday. I have come to realize that as much as I long to connect, I have kept so much to myself. I don’t like to share things that may seem sad or negative, so I simply don’t. When I started this blog I really wondered if I would be able to open up. I am not someone who wants to get on a pedestal about some political topic, I don’t love an argument; and lets face it that’s what most people do on the internet. What I want is a dialogue. I want to built a pathway of openness. You may ask what that means…hell if I know! All I can say is I’m working to find out and sharing my life, my art and my observances is how I feel I can.

We all have stories and experiences. I hope that somehow I might peak someone to share theirs. I don’t necessarily mean with me or the world wide web, but with someone. Being open, vulnerable and taking chances are how we face that fear Mrs. Roosevelt mentions. I myself fear vulnerability. I like to be strong, to know, and admittedly to control. Control is exhausting and lonely. What I realize now is that I was using all the wrong words. What I truly want is to be empowered, wise and collaborative. This is my next phase, this is my intention. This is where I begin again.

Namastè

 

©NicholeDonjè

Did you say…brain tumor?

“The body is wiser than its inhabitants. The body is the soul. The body is a messenger.”
Erica Jong

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Brain surgery…say what?!?!

For those of you who read my blog you may have noticed that I dropped off the grid for a bit. I am writing to tell you that I am fine and I want to share my story.

Over the years I have experienced a very strange phantom smell; cigarette smoke. Picture yourself sitting on the subway, on the beach, or possibly at home alone and all of a sudden you smell cigarette smoke. Sometimes it is so strong it effects your breathing. However, there isn’t another soul in sight. Despite those realities you are so uncomfortable that its making you feel as if you are going crazy. Sometimes it can last for hours. Other times it lasts for days. You’ve told various doctors, family and friends; all of whom have either brushed you off or decided it must be your deceased father visiting. This has been my reality for about 15 years.

Scott and I jokingly call it my “smoking ghost”. Fast forward to 2015. Little by little, as the year progressed, new things started to happen. My vision started getting wonky, my hearing was slightly muffled and the allergies that I DON’T have, according to my allergist, were at their worst. Sinus pressure behind my eyes was making me tired and dizzy. These issues were now constant. It was no longer just when it rained or when the crazy trees with fluffy white flowers bloomed. Allergy meds were no longer working for more than 2 hours. My nasal spray became useless. Needless to say, I simply felt like shit almost all the time!

In 2016, after being ignored for years, I changed doctors and told the new one that I was not letting this go again. There was something going on and it is not my dad visiting me. After a good discussion and thorough assessment, she sent me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. We agreed if he didn’t find something we would come back and go in another direction.

Finally, I felt like I would get to the bottom of this craziness! I met with the ENT, who was determined I did have some allergies. However, he could not grasp how my allergies were year round and not somehow seasonal in nature. The test results were inconclusive. Next, he had me come back for a blood test to get a clearer result. He said this was most likely just allergies, but set me up for an MRI just in case.

Fast forward to April 25th. The ENT had tried to get a hold of me several times. My experience tells me that if there nothing wrong…they don’t call, especially the actual doctor. We played phone tag for a bit and that evening, after my class at TAI and on my way to a meeting at The Players I was finally able to get a hold of him. He confirmed that yes in fact they had found something. He set it up not panic me and I heard what he said very clearly, “It’s benign, it’s a brain tumor…it’s not cancer”. I’m fortunate that I have gotten to a place in my life where I could let myself hear one thing…IT’S NOT CANCER. He gave me the name of a neurosurgeon he knew well; one of the best in the city. I was told to call, make an appointment and say that he sent me.

As I sat in my meeting I was in a complete fog thinking…I have a brain tumor? You see, I had joked about this for years. I researched it and could not find evidence to lead me there, but somehow I had known it was a real possibility. I didn’t hear much in that meeting. All I could think about was how I tell my husband without panicking him. I would be sure to start with, it’s going to sound bad and scary, but ITS NOT CANCER. We got through it together and started planning for a trip to the surgeon. Honestly, the idea of the surgery itself was scariest part. Brain Surgery…what??? Now, the fascinating thing is that when you talk to a surgeon they are like…yeah dude if you’re gonna have a tumor this is like the best kind to have. Really? The best kind to have is to not have it, but ok. Needless to say he took the edge off and helped us both to calm down.

To be honest I had started thinking about all of the symptoms that made me feel awful and crazy over the past year and for all intents and purposes I was relieved. Maybe I would feel better, think more clearly, and have more energy. Then I went further, maybe I would stop biting my nails, want to eat better, start creating like mad! Wouldn’t that be somethin’?!

May 23rd, the surgery date, came pretty fast. I felt good about what was to come. It wasn’t cancer, it was surgery. We kept the news amongst close friends and family until after it was over. Though I knew in my gut all would be fine I didn’t need the added stress of people worrying or getting me worked up. People have surgery all the time and I had one of the top neurosurgeons in NYC. I knew that I would in some way feel better after it all and that there were great possibilities. My biggest fear was the surgery itself. One can’t help but panic just a little bit when a doctor tells you there are going to cut a hole in the front of your head, break down and removed a tumor, then put you back together. I thought, what if I wake up in the middle? What if something slips and I end up bent over and drooling? These were real fears.

As we waited outside of the operating room just before surgery the anesthesiologist walked Scott and me through the process. He asked if I had any questions. I asked just one, “I won’t wake up in the middle will I?”. He said that if I did they had done a really bad job. I replied, “That’s what I’m afraid of!” With some assurance it was clear that I would NOT wake up and all would be fine and I was. On the operating table I was asked to count backward from 5. I remember getting to 4. Then I started to hear voices. My eyes were closed and I panicked a bit. I started saying (or trying to say) “I can hear you…I can hear you I’m not asleep”. I stopped and listened only to realize I was in the ICU, it was 5 hours later and the surgery was over. Thank God! I guess they did a really good job.

The surgery was 4 weeks ago. I am up, getting around and feeling pretty good. I have some energy and I can once again get back on my computer to write. I have 1 week left then I’m back in the real world. It has been quite a ride. My mom was with us for two weeks and Scott’s back in the thick of it with his job hunt. Life is moving and I am happy to say my mind is clearer than ever. I wish I could say the nail biting and bad habits have disappeared, but that would be a lie. “NOT CANCER” is good enough; I don’t need miracles.

So here’s my reason for sharing all of this. We all need to remember that no one knows your body better than you. If a doctor doesn’t hear you, go to another doctor. Many of us have a tendency to take no for an answer. Especially when we don’t understand something ourselves. I smelled cigarette smoke for most of my adult life. I accepted no. I accepted that there was no answer so it can’t be real. I understand why someone might ignore it. It is not real for them, but it has been very real for me. Never again.

My seizure neurologist, who was wonderful by the way, asked me a lot of questions. Her goal was to understand my symptoms and what it has been like for me. She also needed to clearly assess if anything may have been caused by seizures. She said to me at one point, “You must be angry”. I told her, “Yes, I have told every doctor and not one even reacted to it”. In the same breath I also said I was angry at myself for not pushing it. She looked at me with a pinched nose like she wanted to reprimand someone and said, “No, this is not your fault.”

Never let go if you know there’s something wrong. I truly do understand that this not my fault. We go to doctors for help. We trust they know more than we do and they will help. With all of that said, you know your body better than anyone else. If it is telling you something don’t stop until you find someone who will listen. I am incredibly fortunate, but I can’t help but think that I knew something wasn’t right for a very long time. Doctors ignored my symptoms until I made them listen. It terrifies me to think that if it had been cancer…I very likely would have died long ago because it had gone untreated. I am lucky. But, I can tell you I will never do that again! I love my life and I plan on being here as long as I can and so should you.

Namaste
Nichole

 

©NicholeDonjè

Pause before your body does it for you!

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So much is running through my mind today as I start to get back into life. It’s amazing what time for reflection does for someone. I have begun to realize that it takes a good amount of time to be able to truly take note of changes, to make decisions and actually begin to believe that something new is imminent. My observation is that at three weeks away from it all, the shift to actually occurs.

Sadly in this busy non-stop life we all lead this is almost impossible unless you are forced by circumstances out of your control to take that kind of breath. I fortunately have been lucky that way. Now its strange to see health set backs as luck, but I suppose that’s what I mean. Three to four weeks of spending time with yourself, even not at your own choosing can be a gift; at least that’s how I have learned to see at this point in my life.

I cannot change the circumstance so I learn to find the positive within it. In current years it seems that every time I get to the point where I am saying to myself, “I need a break; to slow down and re-assess”, my body is happy to oblige. The reality is that I most likely would never slow down on my own. My body heard me and somehow did what it had to do for me to hear myself.

I have learned to be okay with circumstance. I am very aware of how lucky I am that none of my issues have resulted in catastrophe. I note this whenever I can as a reminder to listen from within. My next step is to learn to make my decisions before my body does it for me!

Namastè
Nichole

 

©NicholeDonjè

 

Haiku 3 – Haiku Mondays

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the colored leaves fall
leaving the trees alone now
to sleep quietly

© Nichole Donjé

Who am I? Project (1)

 

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.

 

To be a part of the Who am I? project follow along with  this blog as well as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest .  I will be sharing what inspires me in this process as well as requesting input and participation. Also, please share #WhoamI?Project

Thank you!

Namasté

Calm

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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