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.
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.
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
This is one of those weeks that has had so much happening its hard to keep track. I actually missed my post yesterday not realizing it was a new day and today I’m posting at midnight.
My head is in a whirlwind. I’ve had events, appointments and dinner dates. I’ve meditated and contemplated. Written and discussed. I have worked to be open and confronted demons. The cool part; ideas are flowing. My brain has been gathering and organizing colors, words, designs and structures. I am inspired.
I am working hard to just let it come as it comes with no judgement on what I am doing or how. I’m just writing it down. Its hard. I have believed for so long that I have to choose. Choose one love over another. One idea over another. One project over another. I never considered the exploration of how the connective threads between them flow.
If I really am honest, I’d go into each situation starting with its limitations as opposed to its possibilities. I’d find ways to separate and define instead of gather and dissect. Patience and process time have never been my guide; until now.
In my meditations this week a project I have been contemplating for a year came together so clearly in my mind’s eye. It showed itself in its simplistic and most impactful form. It became universal. I now know what to do.
I’ve also uncovered my fractured relationship with time. I’ve discovered how interwoven fear has become with it, as it relates to my life. I remember in college during our deep intoxicated conversations the death question would come up (as happens at those ages where we suddenly contemplate our own mortality). “Are you afraid of death”? I’ve always been the philosophical type and my answer was always, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid if not living”.
Ah, dah! Yes. Yes I am afraid of death and everything it means. It means not being with those I love. It means possibly not getting to say goodbye. It means I did not get finish what I believe I was meant to do. It means most terrifyingly…I may be forgotten.
I am spiritual, but I have never been a religious person. I don’t know what comes next. The only sudo proof I see of an afterlife is numerous experiences of a white light, that’s not much to go on. I believe there is something more beyond this, I have to. I hope its loved ones and guardian angels, but I’m not counting on it. Perhaps its energy. Either way it’s not here which where I want and intend to be for a very long time.
So this busy week and these many observations are reminding me how precious this life is. That I have been so afraid of time I have been hiding from so much of my of my own life. For what?
I am paying attention to new things. I am open to ideas and change. I am looking for new perspectives on old views and embracing my own hand on what I hope to be a very long journey. I want to share who I am, what I know and feel. I want to be a part of the universe around me. I want to devour time with the joy of living, not hide from it in fear.
I am here now, that is what matters. Now is when to stop worrying about doing more and start paying clear and close attention to what it is I am doing.
Time simply is what it is. Life is what we make it to be. I plan on making mine extraordinary.
There is nothing like sitting in the studio and getting a little lost in the work. I love when the colors on a canvas start to breathe life into not only my creativity, but into the environment of the workspace. The glow adds a sense of energy and excitement.
I also love having the space to wait for paint to dry! In other words I have another work station. While one piece is resting another is being whittled into something new. I can try new things and scatter dust all over. There isn’t a “no” to be found.
Even when my hand starts cramping and the buzzing sound begins to take over I move on to the laptop where the words can vivaciously spill out in a new form and with a new voice.
This can happen all in a day and it does. I must say, a newly acquired abundance of space and light goes a long way!
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