For a moment there I was worried. I wondered if the blog was falling into a pattern of frequent milestone postings. I looked at the essay below and I wondered.
And then I said, so fuckin what? Cut it out, Maria. Cuz this is what you do, pouring your guts out on the page and then archiving the thing until never, or worse, hitting delete.
So even though I’ve made all these strides and changes with myself, I’m still me, the old me of the past, mixed in with the new me, from now. I am all the things, shadow and light. Always will be.
Knowing this, I am aware that I must routinely check my motives, ask myself, where is this coming from? If, for example, after writing 2,000 words I suddenly start backpedaling, citing reasons to file it all away, I know I must ask myself the question.
I regenerate new courage every time I sit down to write. The sober anniversary post went up in spite of some very good rationales to myself about not posting it. And now this. I need a detailed reminder about why this blog has been such a game-changer for my life, I need record of how I arrived here.
Milestones have become a crucial part of this creative journey. I like to think of myself as a thirty-three month old toddler who woke up more fully to her life after quitting the day job, instead of just another fifty-two year old woman who once worked in an office for seven years before quitting.
Today I am pausing to reflect on what blogging here for the last two years has wrought. Below are a few topical ruminations, connected and disconnected stories.
When I first left the job thirty-three months ago I was in the habit of wearing lipstick every single day. During my employment life I never went anywhere without first putting on lipstick. On days off, on vacations, on the weekends, I was always applying and reapplying lipstick.
At first, I couldn’t admit it—not even to my husband— what I am writing here today. I was ashamed of the natural darkness of my lips. My lips got darker with age and I found myself more perplexed by this than I was by the gray hair in my pubes.
I thought my lips were too dark and I was embarrassed by their nakedness in the absence of lipstick. This startling fact, sans the daily grind of work-life, was now staring me in the face. All of a sudden, at times when I got dressed to leave home, my reflection seemed to taunt me. Well, she smirked. Now what?
The smoking mirrors of the world had fallen away and now it was just her and me. Self-loathing was there all along. After all the years of rejecting her, my innermost Self wanted answers: Now what, mom? Are we still in hiding? Can we come out now? Or are you still ashamed?
It didn’t happen right away, but a slow dawning had begun to unfold. I wasn’t just painting my lips to beautify, I was painting them to cover up what I had been made to feel ashamed of. Blackness. My own beautiful skin had become a source of shame for me in a society with historically (and too often current day) hostile tendencies towards people with all shades of brown skin.
I didn’t come from a childhood where I was celebrated simply for being myself, as is the tendency of generally unfettered parents with their children. In their unaddressed woundedness, my parents knew nothing about imbuing me with love, and they knew even less about loving blackness in a racially hostile world.
I had a new job to do: I had to learn to love the skin I was in. This process has been methodic and extremely deliberate. Thank Goddess, for this blog.
I have twenty-four months of blogging here to also thank for how much I now love my beautiful, dark lips. In addition, I have private book journals, audio journals, podcasting, video journals, and mirror talks— all accrued activities, spanning thirty-three months of non-employment, all designed to induce Self-love.
Fuck the narcissist accusations. They lie. Don’t you believe them. We all, every single one of us, deserve to feel loved by our own selves and we deserve to revel in our own beauty, however we find it along our life’s journey. Fuck the haters.
Social Media & The News
We have no television cable in our home. For the last two years, the televisions have been primarily used for an occasional Netflix or Amazon Prime movie, or the occasional Redbox rental.
As of this writing, I have not looked at social media for two solid weeks. Between the lack of television viewing and my social media abstinence, I have NO idea what is happening in the news and in general society. None.
This helps me emotionally. It helps because I don’t feel as unseen or as unheard as I used to when I was still steeped in numerous social trends. That means tv-watching and staring at social media. I don’t feel the need to toughen up or thicken my skin for the harsh realities of the world.
[Yes, I know facing the world’s realities are an inevitable part of life. But it’s also helpful to build my own nurturing world inside the known world.]
I am not distracted with my reactions to the overstimulating and unceasing activities of the world. I draw on these newly balanced feelings— crucial equanimity— to write.
Each day that I cultivate love and peace in my life, I get to see how deep my writing talents can go, how expansive my creative gifts are. I am living in a new world, a world of my own making, one which tells me to laugh more, play more and BE as much as I want. Yes, be. Be all of you, Maria. Be everything you were born to be.
Meditation Yields Magic
If you haven’t done so already, I hope you let routine meditation into your life. Meditation brought me face to face with my genius and magnificent Self. I reveal mere fractions of this Self on the blog. Tiny pieces, really. As I emerge privately, in so much more of my splendor—my true essence—I can’t help but think of all the people in this world who are not meditating. I think about how much the world is missing out on the more magnificent version of YOU. And I think about how much more of YOU there is than meets the eye. So I implore you to meditate.
Here are my meditation tips:
Play soft music of your choosing. I use rotating playlists of Native American flute music, yoga music, and Tibetan bowls with chanting music. (Youtube, Spotify or any streaming music channel).
At first your mind is a jumble of thoughts because we never stop thinking our thoughts. Never.
What I do when I sit in meditation is I go beneath my thoughts, as if I am in a pool where others around me are splashing, playing and talking loudly. Meanwhile, I submerge myself until I am sitting on the pool’s floor and the noise is muffled, almost muted by the backgrounding effect.
The thoughts are still there— Oh yeah, I need to remember to call the bank about that check. And I need to put onions on the grocery list, I keep forgetting. So-and-so called, I need to call her back. This is ridiculous, I don’t have time for meditation. New age nonsense. Maybe I should probably turn my phone off. I’m hungry. I should have eaten first. What’s that itch, feels like lint dancing on my nose. Shit. How many minutes have I been sitting here? Is it ten minutes yet? Can I make it to fifteen? I think I need to pee. I wish the neighbor’s dog would stop barking. Is that music from a car? So loud. I hope they blow their speakers— but the thoughts are moving into the background.
I notice that my mind isn’t going to shut up. That’s okay. I take a couple of deep breaths—cleansing breaths— and I release each one slowly. I tune in to my breathing and really listen to the breathing sound, noticing the way it sounds like the quietly rolling waves of an ocean. I try to listen to only that sound: my breathing. In this way I am descending beneath the chattering thoughts.
My ego doesn’t like this because there is a necessary surrender which must occur in order to meditate. In ego mischief the mind clatter can suddenly get louder, a function of my ego trying to control things. I respond with patience, silently saying one of two things, RELAX or NO MIND. It works. Eventually, I descend beneath my thoughts and stay there.
How will you know you’re meditating? It is the same feeling you get just before you fall asleep at night, especially when you are about to sleep after an exhausting day. It is a feeling of drifting away, except you are awake, sitting in a chair with your eyes closed. And once you feel The Drift happening, you will be met with feelings of LOVE unlike anything you’ve ever felt before.
Note: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel these things right away, or on the first day. Be patient with yourself. Try it for at least ten minutes, a few days a week. If you can stick with it, it will change your life.
The Bell and The Pickle
NOW, I finally understand what it means when someone says, You can’t unring a bell. And now I truly get what the AA folks meant about an alcoholic being the pickle who was once a cucumber, and how once you are a pickle you can never go back to being a cucumber. I remember my frustrated feelings about the pickle reference. During my first sober year, while attending AA meetings, I used to be like, the fuck? What the hell does that even mean? Cucumber to pickle. Even after it was explained, I would nod understanding but I still didn’t get it. Dumbest fuckin analogy ever …. or so I thought.
Theoretical understandings are not the same as the lived experience of understanding. These days, I know things. I especially understand things about myself that I was too ashamed of to understand before. Our society packages shame in so many different ways we can sometimes miss how shame is shaping an area of our character or behavior. There is so much complicit judgment within groups, the mainstream populous and sub-cultures, alike.
(I know I discuss shame a lot. It can’t be helped. Shame is everywhere in our American culture. We have learned to weaponize shame to keep us stagnant in what we believe are our places, as women, as men, as blacks, as whites, as people of color, as foreigners, as republicans, as democrats, as daughters, as sons, as brothers, as sisters—you name it, shame can be found within it. It has become standard routine in this world to feel shame about ourselves for one reason or another, often instigated by the perspective of someone apart from us.)
Shame inspired me to avoid certain aspects of myself. But I am no longer governed by shame the way I once was. I KNOW MYSELF nowadays a lot better than I used to. The unrung bell definition tends to be about spoken words or actions which can’t be taken back or undone. However, the bell which has been rung for me is the understanding I now have of myself and the consequential understanding I now have about this world.
Now that I know who I am—having embraced my pickleness, lol—I can see each person I come in contact for exactly who they are. And I don’t say that with ominous posturing, I say that with simple knowingness. I don’t always like this new feeling of frequent knowingness,—a kind of sagacity— but my bell has been rung and I can’t go back to being the person I was thirty-three months ago.
I put mySelf first no matter what the circumstances. I love me very much. I adore me. The result of me being so full with love for myself (finally!) is, I love the people around me wayyyy more than I did before. Seriously. I am so effusive with love at times, in flawed human fashion, some might want to neck-punch me as a way to calm me down. (Kidding, but you know what I mean).
I used to be embarrassed to be so expressive about my love. Sometimes I feel like a labrador dog, happy to see a human come through the door after being gone for hours. In the old days, my past, I used to tamp down on this kind of behavior. Now? Fuck that. I’m wagging my tail as hard and as fast it suits me. I love feeling loving and acting on it!
A Love Connection
Love never leaves. She may be muzzled by Ego on occasion but she is always with me.
Last week I was shopping in the craft store. I made a momentary connection during a routine checkout at the register with someone who I could tell, had been on her own self-love journey. This middle-aged woman, a cashier, was taller than me by a few inches. She had burgundy-dyed hair which hung to her breasts and swung with her every movement. Her hair was parted at the side and her bangs looked freshly cut.
Meanwhile on that day, my own hair of dreadlocs was also parted at the side, but they were braided in two pig-tails. Based on the hairstyles, we were each living as the respective girls of our youth, both shunning the more typical adult look prescribed by trends in our age group.
As I was paying for my yarn loot, handing the cashier the only bill I had in my purse, she smirked knowingly, her glance quickly sweeping the contents of my opened zip-purse. She hesitated for a fraction of a second before taking the ten dollar bill from my hand. “Handing over your mad-money,* huh?” Our eyes locked and we both laughed in female camraderie.
I drove home smiling because of that exchange. For those few minutes a stranger and I opened our hearts to each other, and it felt really good. Old Maria might have given that woman a tight smile and maybe a harrumph, more concerned with her gawking into my purse, than with appreciating the female bonding moment that it was.
Burning Down the House
Everyday I begin again with the act of burning down my mental house. I must deliberately unlearn much of what was taught to me in this world, first by my wounded parents and next, by a world weighted down by its own unaddressed collective malaise. There were so many wrong ideas and outlooks programmed into my thinking throughout this life. I continue to discover old biases and outdated philosophies which constrict, rather than help me to thrive.
The soil of my mind is rich. I have planted new seeds there. I am growing into truer and more beautiful versions of mySelf each day. These days I am more childlike than adult-behaving. It’s funner this way. Blogging here has been an important contributing factor. Blogging here has given me permission to become the me I have always wanted to be.
Two years ago, I was shy about this blog, heavy with shameful feelings about who I thought I was. Today, I am a new woman. Happy two-year blogiversary, On Becoming Maria!
Love you lots! Keep shining and stay awesome.
*Mad-money: Emergency cash you carry with you on a date just in case the date goes badly and you need a way to get home without him (or her).