Letters to Loved Ones

Dear Grandpa Petros,

I do say I wish I had had the opportunity to know you.  I didn’t even get Grandma long enough, as I’m sure you know she died when I was six. I want you to know I loved her with all my heart. She never did learn English, but we understood one another in our own ways. It would have been great if she taught me Lithuanian, but she wanted me to be an American; language and all. I would have loved if she could have told me about you in her own words.

What I knew of you was through the black and white photos she kept on the windowsill. They were covered in writing I didn’t understand, but it felt meaningful. Unfortunately a few of them were of you in your coffin. I can’t say I understood why those pictures were taken never mind displayed. I learned later it was a common thing in the old country. I tell ya, it’s creepy! Fortunately there were others. There was one of you in a uniform and another with a group of people, your family. You always reminded me a lot of my cousin Jimmy minus the height (he is quite tall). My understanding is that you were far under six foot. On the other hand your strong jaw, jet black hair and pale blue eyes would have made any young lady swoon.

Many of my mom’s memories are from after you got ill. They are seen through the veil of a heartbroken teenager who had to care for aging and fractured parents. I’ve heard tales of your strength as a young man and lifting a horse on your shoulders, that you were one of many brothers and sisters, that you were grandma’s second husband and that you helped others to escape before the war. The biggest and oddest fact being that I was born Feb 1, 1972 at 3:45pm and you died Feb 1, 1962 at 3:45am…very weird, a little creepy and coincidentally creating a very cool and unique connection for us.

I know when you came here you had big dreams that failed and that you never recovered. I’m sorry life was so hard for you here. It’s heartbreaking to know how much you lost. Mom says through it all you were passionate, angry and stubborn but full of love.

I want to say you thank you for coming to me in a dream. I know some people think Oiji boards and paranormal experiences are nonsense, but I will always cherish my experience. I used to play the Oiji board with a couple of dear friends in college. One night after a very intense experience each of us in a single night had a unique encounter. Mine was unforgettable. In the dream I entered grandpa Nick’s restaurant, people and cigarette smoke everywhere. I walk straight through as if I was being drawn through a maze and there you were. Hand out and smiling. You waved me to you. I can’t say I understood your words, but as your arm wrapped around my shoulder and you shook me and laughed I instantly felt your pride and love.  It wasn’t a normal dream. It was peculiar from the way it felt to the memory of it. I thank you for that; for the few moments with you that live in the back of my mind.  It was a gift and I have never witnessed anything like it since.

All that said, I hope you have found joy and peace. I’m not sure what I believe about the afterlife other than I know it exists somehow in some way. I’d love to think I will meet you again, that you are with the family and your friends laughing and sharing stories, taking care of Auntie Bertha and watching over all of us. I don’t really know though. What I do know is that you are out there in some way or form, an energy I get to share. Know that though we never met in this life you have always been in my heart and a huge part of who I am and I miss you.

I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I would like to ask you for one thing. Your daughter, my mom has had a tough go of it in this life. Maybe you could send some loving and healing energy her way. She’s trying but she could use the support, your support; an internal nudge, quiet inner moments of joy, a little epiphany in a dream…whatever you got. Thank you.

You are always in my heart.
Nickie

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’

White

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White

Today I looked to the abyss and it filled me with its emptiness
I was cradled within its depths
So empty I felt the fullness of all the souls it contains.
Like white bending all color to show us what seems to be nothing
In nothing I find all, my view a prism of connection,
My soul sitting within one small part of the whole and finally grasping its truth.

© Nichole Donjé

Dedicated to the Creative Dynamic crew