Life Poetry: 11

Southie: the protector, the defender and the neighborhood that wasn’t mine

I look out onto the street from my second floor window. I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for, but I know it’s different from what I see.

Silver Street is dirty and filled with jagged memories. There are the stairs I sit on longingly waiting for my dad to drive by. I watch the corner with an eagle eye hoping the tough girls don’t come around. The gym where the nasty boys hang out and where Atilla and Finegan (two very large and scary dogs) reign sends shivers through me. I’ve spent more time running into this house and away from the world than living in it. I’ve confronted meanness and aggression too many times, I’ve had to stand up to protect a friend only to bawl my eyes out from fear the minute I’m alone.

Yet I sit here watching – remembering the laughter, the singing, games of kickball, and the old man who comes by every day to give Rags bologna. I think about the flames breaking out from behind painted wood windows during a warehouse fire across the street that fascinated and terrified me. I’m reminded of the many special 4-leggers who have come and gone; my beautiful Vicious who wandered into our lives introducing us to love bites – gentle nibbles of gratitude on the cheek, our handsome Bruno – a stunning tramp of a Shepherd who let us adopt him for a couple of months then moved on, Medford Tom downstairs who’s wild stories of his harrowing  life scared the pants off us and his rottie Eric who stole my heart, Buffie my best friend whose belly was my pillow, and Rags – the most well lived dog I’ll ever meet- he knew more of Southie and its secrets than the many humans who live here.

I picture how beautifully Silver St. lives up to its name in a thick snowfall. The light sparkles over the uninterrupted drifts of snow covering the grittiness. There is a quiet sadness in my observations. This place is my foundation. My parents are from here, it’s in my blood. I am so different than this world. I don’t belong and I want nothing more than to leave; to run far and fast from the hardness of it. I am a stranger here and yet, it is a part of me.

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People in Their Environments 056 – South Boston 1983 by, Sage Sohier

In my search for an old photo of my hometown, I came across this picture and was immediately awed. I reached out to the photographer to tell her how much the photo moved me and reminded me of my childhood. I asked her if she knew the girls in the photo, she did not. As an artist and photographer myself, I wanted her to know she had captured something visceral for me. In the poem above I mention the “tough” girls. While this isn’t all of them, it is some of them…the actual girls! That is the corner of the street I grew up on, straight down  across from that car was my house and the fire I mention was in the warehouse the car is parked in front of. I have personally destroyed a bike and my nose on that very pole these girls are sitting behind. 

I  want to share how much a simple photo by a stranger can unexpectedly move someone even years after it is taken. I am nostalgic of the location itself, but also by the girls. These girls terrified me as a child. They were hard, mean and often cruel. Looking at them now as an adult knowing so much more about life and considering those around me,  I see their pain their longing and their dreams of escape. I see now that their anger was not at me, I just happened to be the easy target. 

I love this photo. I wish I could afford it. Its only available through a gallery for quite a hefty fee, so I will simply admire it from afar. I highly suggest looking up the artist. I am grateful to her. This photo allows me to look back at where I came from. To see the pain of my past in a new light, to see and forgive that hardness of life and to remind me of how fortunate I now am.

Namastè

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Check out these books!

I love books! For me, like a great movie, they get me excited – move and inspire me. I want to share a couple of books I’ve read in the past few weeks and for 2 very different reasons. One is non-fiction and the other fiction…though funny enough they have an unintended connection.

The books are The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and Not A Self Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’m actually a big fan of leadership and self-help books as I am on the constant road of personal discovery. A friend gave me the Happiness Project to read during my recovery. It was a good choice. I wouldn’t say it is the best self help book I have read, however I really enjoyed her personal perspective and her process of finding new ways to bring more joy into her life. There are a lot useful guides and ideas and a ton of pertinent quotes…which gets me every time! I also really enjoy that the author has a blog. Her followers offer an additional perspective on Rubin’s personal journey. What I found most interesting is how she and the book have inspired others to create their own Happiness Projects, god knows we can all be a little happier. In fact she’s inspired me to start (or add to) my own project (more on that next week). I am addicted to ideas and people who can inspire others to make their lives better.

Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by YiShun Lai

I actually have a personal tie to this one, a friend wrote it! It is her debit novel and I can objectively say it’s awesome! Making this all very exciting for me. The book is written in diary form and Ms. Lai’s unique voice is so clearly expressed; from witty sarcasm to the unique brand of self reflection in her main character Marty. The novel draws the reader in immediately on a clear ride of self reflection, family, cultural dynamic and personal growth.

Being a lover of self help books myself I can relate to Marty’s addiction to them. In each step in Marty’s journey as she faces a challenge, Ms. Lai includes the advice Marty has taken from the many books she has read. I love how she includes the title and location where it was bought and the cost (“Dreams Unwoven, Strand, $14″) . It adds to Marty’s quirky personality.

What I truly enjoy about this book is that it about a real person with all too real experiences. She is funny, quirky, confused and flawed. There is something so relatable about Marty. I personally found her relationship with her mother, a key plot driver, both frustrating an moving. The relationship between a mother and daughter is incredibly complex, especially when a parent’s life circumstance contains so many multifarious components; age, career, family, status, culture. We as children don’t and often can’t see why our parents are the way they are, only how it relates to us. It is difficult to take a step back. They are the parents and we are simply in search of love, support and understanding (the way we have been taught it is supposed to be by our all too lofty American standards) and it is too painful to look past being hurt to want understand that often it is our mother/parent who is struggling. They are doing the best they know how.

It is amazing how fully culture shapes who we are. In Not A Self Help Book, Mama is truly shaped by her Taiwanese culture, while Marty is American and living in the world with those ideals. However she must adapt to a belief system that is or at least seems foreign. I myself, though not to the extent, related deeply to Marty’s struggle. My mom and I come from South Boston (home of Whitey Bulger, The Departed (based on Whitey Bulger), Good Will Hunting and memoir All Souls  by Michael Patrick MacDonald- another GREAT book by the way!), which at least in the past bread a culture of privacy, anger and distance. One was taught that you do not speak about one’s business, if you do you are branded a traitor. It somehow deems your own life and experiences insignificant when your memories and experience are not yours to share. As family its all interconnected,  often there is not one without the other especially when that person is a huge part of your life. Ms. Lai  successfully shares the complicated, confusing and desperate need to both separate and connect to the key human in our lives. She does it with humor, witty sarcasm and true compassion. When I started the book I found it difficult to find anything redeeming about Mama and by the end I had honest compassion and wanted to know and understand her as I have begun to do with my own mother.

To anyone looking for a great quick and fulfilling read, the perfect vacation book this summer, do not hesitate to pick up Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by YiShun Lai which is, by the way #3 on the Small Press Distribution List! I think that speaks for itself. You’ll not only be supporting a great independent publisher, Shade Mountain Press…you won’t be sorry!

To purchase the book simply Click Here

For anyone in NYC YiShun will be signing at Word Up July 21st @ Amsterdan & 165th, I’ll be there!

Namastè
Nichole Donjè

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

Haiku 2

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hearts with passion live
knowing that compassion thrives
when we forgive

© Nichole Donjé

I KNOW..or at least I thought I did?

 

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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.

Namaste

© Nichole Donje

Today

I am sad today.  There is sadness in the air. I have friends who have lost loved ones and pets, there is illness all around and there are people I love so dearly that are lost.  I’ve worked so hard for so many years to not be sad, yet today I must admit I am.  I am lucky that it doesn’t go to my core, that I can lift myself up and ask for hugs and supportive words and they are there.  But what for those who cannot hear them?

Life is such an adventure, but it does need skills to navigate.  There are storms and death, loss and fear; but there is also hope and peace.  I remember times when I thought peace was not to be a part of my adventure that it was for those who seemed perky and fun, those who learned to laugh and play.  But that changed. I remember they day I said to myself why not me?  At that moment an opportunity posed itself.  The simple opportunity to find the good in what was happening in my life. Once I saw that, all of a sudden opportunities were everywhere, it was frightening.

I started to ask myself…were these opportunities here before?  I realized that, yes…they were but my eyes were closed, my heart was shut off and my body shut down.  All of a sudden in my life opportunity was everywhere, almost overwhelming me.  What do I do, which do I choose, do I take them all…wait…I Am Afraid.  WHY?

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Amazing “an unpleasant emotion”.  This is what keeps us from living our lives, our truth and often from being happy.  The scary part of this is that what we fear is ourselves.  We are so afraid of being uncomfortable we don’t allow ourselves to live, to be free.  We fear what we would be if we could and yet, that’s all most people say they want.  Life can be uncomfortable, yes.  I will wholeheartedly admit that.  But it is working through the discomfort that helps us get through the next.  Each time things get a little easier and sometimes....sometimes we grow to find joy in the challenges.  We learn the difference between discomfort and danger.  We begin to trust our instinct and avoid “fight or flight” and instead stand tall and observe, deciding to make a choice to stay or go, to stop or run, to laugh or cry and most importantly to be okay with that.

I have learned to stop, to take a moment and breathe. To ask myself “are you okay?”  What is really happening, am I simply afraid because I do not know?  I am not always successful, but what I am is alive. I am living and breathing and taking chances simply because they are there for me to take; because that is what it means to be alive.

I am sad today for those going through loss.  I am sad today for those with no hope.  I am sad today for people I love.  I am sad today for not being able to fix it for you all.

Look up. Breathe. Stand tall. Take the time to laugh…or cry. See the opportunities floating by. Hold tight to the love and not the pain. Remember that you are a gift to everyone around you and those those you lost were a gift to you that will always hold space in your heart.

May laughter and love embed itself in you today, tomorrow and whenever you choose to embrace it.

Namaste : “I bow to the divine in you.”

 

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Propulsion

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That something that keeps us moving forward toward our destination our goals our fantasies our lives our dreams. We keep moving forward always stepping toward something bigger than ourselves, than where we are now. It is a force. It is a moment. Each step a significant happening, pushing us, driving us, making us more than we ever thought we could be.

 

© Nichole Donjé

Foundations

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To have partnership in your life is ensuring that the foundation you are building is being properly erected.

It is always better to have an extra set of eyes, skills, ideas, understandings. When we work alone, we can accomplish incredible things, but when we open ourselves to a partner willing to listen and share with the same in return, we grow. We bring more to the project, the community, the world. I can learn any tool or fact or exercise from a book, but I may never see it from the angle someone else may bring.

Individuals are beautiful and should be shared. Our lives are not meant to live alone and without connections.

Foundations are built to withstand pressure, and sometimes there is an issue that can’t be solved without help. We must remember, we all need help some times.

I believe when two or more people come together with a common goal, the power grows. Fear no longer has the means to take over. What stood alone now has support, accountability and connection. A connection that can reach beyond itself and become more.

My partnerships have helped me repair the cracks in my foundation. They have helped me to build higher and more soundly than I ever thought possible.

The reality is, I may be have been able to do it alone, I may have learned what I needed to survive and I may have continued to build my walls alone…but why would I?

We were not put on this earth to do it alone. We would not have been created with such a powerful need to connect to others living beings if we were.

I will always reach out to others. To build relationships in my life. This to me is life. It’s essential and purposeful. My heart would break without it. Why would I ever choose a broken heart.

© Nichole Donje’