What’s next? Breathe deep, reach within, find the truth, move forward – ever forward.
What’s next? Breathe deep, reach within, find the truth, move forward – ever forward.
To those of you who read this blog, thank you for the encouragement (you know who you are). I’ve been putting off posting this for almost a month. It was the kick in the ass I needed!
THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear
Something of a Prologue
Today I begin
a challenge beyond my brain;
one to reach my soul.
From the beginning I am asking that this be a dialogue. So please follow the blog from the site directly and not just Facebook or Twitter (comments on those sites don’t translate for a blog). I suggest setting the notifications to once a week. I want this to be a shared journey and not just me yacking at me (I already do that).
I did it – I made my “ASK” (thank you Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking). That was my first big risk on this journey, the second is this post! Please post comments and ask questions, I would love this kind of communication and sharing. And lastly if you see a post that means something to you, share it (anywhere and everywhere).
So here it goes. I am making a declaration. I am going to commit one year to self-exploration and writing a book documenting my journey. I have been thinking about this for quite a while and after reading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin I see it is time to do something different. I know this certainly is not a new thing, but I am inspired by the idea of a yearlong dedication and research of and to one’s self. I started my journey in March without realizing it. I had challenged myself to commit to 3 things for 3 months. Honestly, I was not sure I could do it. The reality is that with a few glitches here and there, I was successful…until the discovery of a brain tumor that is. I admit my priorities and commitments moved elsewhere for a bit but here I am back on track.
I ask myself: How am I going to do this? What is my end goal? Do I take it on all at once or do a month by month thing? How do I assess myself as I go? Is it a “Happiness Project” or something else? I had all these questions. I am not a psychologist or a researcher. I am not a doctor or a professional writer. But, I am ready to share my voice, to commit. I love the idea of dedicating a year to self. So what the hell….I will give it a shot.
The expedition I am embarking on is one of truth and self-discovery. For years I have been fighting myself in so many aspects of my life with no idea why. I have taken classes, read books and seen a shrink. All of this work has helped. I now realize the wall I keep hitting is me. Over and over, as I start to move forward believing I am on the right path that voice in my head steps in and says; are you sure? Is that what you really want? Maybe you’re just on the bandwagon again.
So, in spite of the doubt and questions I commit one year to writing a book for me. I will examine my choices and decisions. I will do the things I say I want and explore why I have a self-sabotaging (or self-punishing) pattern.
Each month will have its own goal…yes Gretchen, that’s your inspiration. What would this entail? I will start with a list (by the way I love lists)! Here is a quick draft of my monthly commitments.
It’s a start. As soon as I know May, June and July I’ll let you know. I will get more specific in my intentions as I go from here, but this will serve as a good platform to dive in. The working title is “THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear”. It is an extension of an art project I have been organizing over the last year. However, this is more personal since I am the subject. The art project asks the question of all who experience it (more on that later around month four).
The reality is that I have somehow lost track of who I am and what I want for my life. I do know “who” I am but not in the existential way I am seeking. I want to know why I’m here and my purpose in this life. I want to find passion and heart in all that I do. The only way to really accomplish that is to truly understand myself and to figure out what I want. For me this starts with why. Why do I continue to get in my own way? Is it that I really don’t know what I want or is it that I have told myself so many conflicting things over the years that I’ve confused my soul? Is it that I honestly don’t have the ambition or drive? Is it that I deep down know my purpose and it terrifies me? Or is it that my need to know WHY is my problem?
Even as I write this I’m thinking…this is silly? Who the hell is going to read or connect with this? At the same time, do I really care? What if no one reads it, but I have answered a key question in my life; if that’s the case then nothing else matters. I am a person filled with ideas and longings. Yet, despite what many think of me, I am also a person who I believe gives up easily. I don’t love challenges and I absolutely despise being bad at things. Failure is unacceptable so it’s better not to try (I don’t really believe that, but it is my perception of how I’ve lived). I’m not sure where it came from, but I have this deep seeded notion that I should somehow know how to do things (all things). I should be a natural and if I’m not, I’ve already failed. I know it’s not true and yet this is how I judge myself. I envy people who thrive in challenge; whose goals are to get better and better with ambition and enthusiasm, the ones who enjoy learning and failing until they get it right. I want to be that person. I wonder though if that’s who I am. I hope so. The goal in this yearlong exercise is to answer my question and teach myself how to embrace and accept who I am. I know I am smart, strong, and sometime courageous but truly believing it is what I crave most.
I will be using my blog to work through a lot of these theories and challenges. At least one weekly post is going to be dedicated to this work. We all need to be heard and I believe that there is something inside each of us that everyone needs to hear. I believe this about myself, but I have been unable to figure out what voice to use; which one is the loudest, which is the one I thrive in and enjoy the most. Is it my visual art, poetry, writing, theatre or something else entirely? Being heard as an artist seems daunting and almost impossible. My mind goes directly to how I make money as opposed to exploration and fun (which is why I became an artist to begin with). When did I start denying myself the fun in art? I am an artist. For me, this has many faces and forms. I am certainly not limited in the creative use of what I do unless I take no risks; I’ve never been willing to risk enough to fail. I never had the confidence. That is the intent of this book, to find that place inside of me willing to fail for freedom.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you will join me on this exploration of self.
Each day on my way into the city I find my corner seat on Metro North facing the Palisades. The simple view alone makes the morning easier.
I sit, put on my headphones, smile at Scott and start my morning meditation. Closing my eyes breathing deeply and silently repeating my mantra, I start the day.
My eyes open at the same time each ride. I look up and see a car bridge above me and an old rail bridge in front of me. Its the Spuyten Duyvil stop. Spuyten Duyvil is Dutch for Spitting Devil. It is supposedly named for its strong wild tide currents which is interesting because each time I see it something old stirs in me. Somehow I feel I’m looking into the past for just a moment. There is an energy there I can’t quite explain, but it speaks to me each day I pass through.
The warmer weather will be an exciting time for local exploration and photography. I plan to visit this space outside the train to take in its energy and have a conversation of souls.
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
“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”
This past year has been an interesting one for me, especially when it comes to words. I have discovered I am a quote addict. I love words that fill me with emotion any emotion, but especially the types that drive me forward and make me see the world through fresh eyes, realistic eyes, eyes that know life is so much more than the fairytale we THINK we want to live. Life is simply life and it is an amazing gift that we owe to ourselves and others to share.
My rediscovery of poetry started with fiction, I gobbled down the GAME OF THRONES Series (“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” ― George R.R. Martin), breathed in THE HUNGER GAMES books (“What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.” ― Suzanne Collins) and infused DIVERGENT series (“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life. That is the sort of bravery I must have now.” ― Veronica Roth).
I’m constantly searching for quotes on life and inspiration and collecting them in Pinerest along with beautiful art infectious colors and fascinating characters. I found Rumi – “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”, Mahatma Gandhi–“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”, Mother Teresa–“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”, Martin Luther King Jr–“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”, Mary Oliver – “I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.”, Walt Whitman–“A writer can do nothing for men more necessary, satisfying, than just simply to reveal to them the infinite possibilities of their own souls” and William Wordsworth (what a great name for a writer!) – “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”,Johann Wolfgang von Goethe –“At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”…Maya Angelou –“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and so many more.
I found the video above in my search and it made me pause; pause and think about the words I use, how I speak and who I want to be as I walk through this world. I don’t know I would or could live up to Ms. Angelou; her strength, integrity and conviction are astounding, but it is something I strive to.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I am newcomer to Maya Angelou. Most people I hear or read about have been reading her work for decades. And I say “almost” ashamed because truly I’m not, I am excited that I found her, discovered her, listened to her while she still walked this earth. And I am saddened that no more words will come forth to breathe life into our weary minds. Yet her voice remains, as does her teachings and the philosophies she has passed to us and I am excited that I have so much more to discover.
On finding her Voice:
I for the first time in years in so many ways have found my voice!
This is something I wrote inspired by Ms. Angelou’s view on the power of words. The more books I read and quotes I acquire, the more my voice longs to sing as the caged bird does because deep down I know I, like everyone who walks this earth, has something important to say.
“I want to write. To remember how to write and know that my words are filled with love and hope and imagination. Every word is a gift given and taken. Choose them wisely. Share them openly. Write them, speak them, listen to them read them for they are the breath through which we interpret life!”
In this blog I have a Mission page. This page is filled with the inspiring words of amazing women. I hope you will take a moment to read the compilation that fuels my life. I have discovered that what I say determines so much; my reactions, my solutions. If my words are negative, my anger grows it feeds itself. If my words are positive, supportive and kind I am able to find the good in whatever I’m doing. It is us who have the answer for ourselves. We can guide our lives in one direction or another.
Thank you Maya for teaching me the enormity of what I say and how it determines and drives what I believe.
I choose my words with care and love; these words define me.
On being Human Maya shares…
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
― Maya Angelou
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