The end of a glorious day at Hapuna Beach in Hawaii.
The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss. –Rebecca Solnit
“Letting go is easy,” one of my meditation teachers once said.
He sat in front of a group of us who had gathered for the weekly dharma night teaching and pulled his keys out of his pocket. He held them for a brief second and then dropped them to the floor. “See,” he said. “It’s just like that.”
Just like what? It’s not that easy, I thought.
He did this over and over again – reaching, holding, dropping, reaching, holding, dropping …
It clearly took some effort for this elderly man to continually reach to the ground. His movements were awkward and uncomfortable.
Well, this is embarrassing, I remember thinking.
What is he doing?
My body and I have not always been on the best of terms. For most of my life, ignoring the anxiety, fear and self-doubt that I faced in my day-to-day was a second full-time job. I constantly looked to my colleagues to determine which face to put forward in different settings. Work meeting? That’s confident, decisive Kelsey. Party? That’s friendly, open Kelsey. I became so adept at being the person I thought I was supposed to be, that I forgot who I really was. The anxiety, doubt and insecurity continued but I Hulu’d and Facebook’d these feelings away. I thought I was the problem. Everyone else seemed successful, confident and happy. If I tried harder, did the things they did, wore the right clothes, said the “cleverest” things, I would be happy too. Right? Wrong.
Head-to-head with my constant companion
Grace lead me to a meditation practice. The first time I landed on the cushion, I encountered so much anxiety that I could not sit in the open, hands-on-thighs posture that was prescribed. Instead, what felt “safe” was to fold my arms across my chest and sit in a kind of hunched, protected fashion. There was much awareness that I was doing it “wrong” and, for a girl who’d spent much time imitating others, standing out in this way was painful, but I couldn’t help myself. After 5 minutes, I jumped up ready to do anything else. That was enough of that.
Please be slow and gentle
Inspired and efficient
Curious and kind
I’m already scared of the doing
I’m thinking about morning routines.
Specifically, how might I create an environment that would help me start the day feeling prepared, confident and motivated rather than drowning in the overwhelm and anxiousness I experience now. Many days after waking, I wish nothing more than to go back to sleep. I lie in bed petrified of the day ahead, willing myself into a thin dreamy fantasy that takes me away from the world and all its troubles, the mounting projects, competing engagements, and people who need my time. Sometimes I’m in this limbo for 10 minutes. When there’s a particularly challenging something, it’s more like an hour.
I wasn’t exactly terrified in this moment, but how perfect for illustration purposes?
Anyone else been feeling it lately?
I’ve been waking up in the night wrestling with fear – my least favorite feel. It’s the usual suspects: money, livelihood, housing, Trump. Nothing seems settled. Nothing seems sure. In these moments it’s like I’m on a flimsy inflatable pool raft (bought on sale at the local CVS), floating in the middle of a dark, formidable and very deep ocean. There is no one around. It’s nighttime. How will small frantic me ever get back to the sunny, inhabited shore? There’s not even a paddle.
Me and Dad
“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Racism is about bodies.
It is a visceral reality that can be tasted, seen and felt.
And yet, as I devoured Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, where the physicality of discrimination is honestly and vividly conveyed, I felt a curiosity arise in my own body. As a bi-racial girl who grew up in Utah, what was my physical experience of racism? The violence, ineffective schools and codes of the streets Coates describes of the Baltimore neighborhood of his youth, was not my reality. I grew up in an upper-middle-class white neighborhood. I was a cheerleader. Neighbors brought over bunts and peanut brittle during the holidays.
I’ve missed you, and yet, some time away was exactly what was needed.
At home in Utah it snowed most of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day – big, soft flakes that settled on a quiet world. It was just my dad and I this year. We started the morning with meditation, then a leisurely breakfast and gifts in the late afternoon. The pace and stillness of the day was an obvious contrast to every Christmas morning past. I reminisced on the holidays of childhood when my sisters and I would eagerly bound down the stairs before sunrise to see if “he” had come – evidenced by a consumed glass of milk and always half-eaten cookie. “Santa must be so full of cookies by the time he gets to our house to only eat half,” I would think. Sometimes I’d venture outside to see if I could make out in the snow where his sleigh had landed on our roof. Most always I found the hoof prints of reindeer.
How I miss the confidence I had in magic in my youth.
The darkness comes quickly.
These days the sand moves rapidly through the hourglass narrow. There’s a sense of being squeezed by time. There are emails to send, stories to edit, friends to check in with and gifts to purchase. With each tick of the clock, my hopes for getting it all done before the New Year take another step further from reach. And yet, though many items will likely slip through this arbitrary deadline, I’m not 100-precent frantic. Amid the whir of the season, my body refuses to be rushed.
Chicory Pecan and Rose Matcha Marshmallow from my favorite ice cream shop in the world — so far.
I’m not one of those gals who keeps her birthday a secret for fear of disclosing her true age. I AM 35!!! And I worked for most of those years.
630 birthday cake candles blown
50ish trips to the dentist
4 cavities filled
29,260 hours dreamt
7 favorite books discovered
3 significant loves lost
4 grandparents passed
3 unforgettable meals
5 meditation retreats
4 out-of-country vacations
4 out-of-state moves
2 advanced degrees
Hundreds of articles written
1 career change
1 blog launch
Countless tears shed in joy and pain
I’ve been traveling
My mind and body wandering to near and far off places
It’s been, exciting, good and lonely
And now I am home and feel more of the same
During a week of dharma art I discovered sun-crisped brown palm leaves, feather dusters, spiky flower shoots and a pumpkin-colored potato masher. Some of these tools were swirled in black ink and freely applied to pristine butcher block. Their darkened bodies splattered, dripped and snaked leaving curious and unexpected trails. Myself and others stood back, appraised our efforts and rode feelings of appreciation, disdain and indifference.
Art was born, some great, some greater, some greatest.
When we knew everything. Me and my BFF Kristie celebrating eminent world domination the evening of our HS Graduation.
Write what you know.
This idea has stuck with me ever since I devoured the book Little Women in middle school. Jo, the protagonist, agonizes over writing a swash-buckling tale of derring-do. When her short stories are published, they receive little attention. Jo’s editor suggests instead she try writing something more personal, something from her heart. After some offended guffaws she pens a novel about growing up with her three sisters, aka Little Women.
As I’ve embarked on my own writing, the only place I know to start is with what’s in my own heart. Sometimes this gets me into trouble for being too honest, too transparent, and perhaps exposing those who’d prefer to remain anonymous. But it is not my wish to write for shock value or revenge. I share my experiences because I’m compelled to do so, and because I believe that writing is what I’m called to do.
I write about my love life, my aspirations, my fears and even my finances, but I have not written about social issues. Topics of race, oppression and sexuality have felt too monolithic for meager me to approach — best to let the PhD’s and activists in the world tackle such important issues. What could I possibly add to the conversation?
Maybe from living in a city steeped in years of activism or maybe from waking up to my own Blackness, I’m realizing how deeply flawed such beliefs are. Not believing I have something to add to “serious conversations” is indeed a mark of my own social conditioning. Am I not a living, breathing human living in a chaotic, confused time? Do I not walk as brown-skinned woman in a world where such distinctions are a liability? How could I not have something to say?