I grew up going to church, and I have to admit that as a child I rather liked it. It was fun to go and be in community, to sing and dance and generally be joyful together. I liked Sunday school, and the chance to be a good student. To show off my ability to memorize stories and connect themes. It wasn’t until around age 10 that the solidity of the Christian faith began to crumble before the inquiry of this innocent youth. I was asking questions the religion couldn’t seem to answer.
No problem though, because after spending my teen years in quiet rebellion against religion, I eventually came back to some spiritual understanding. At age 19 I found a spiritual path that made sense to me. And even though life was as tumultuous as ever, my own spiritual understanding had begun to take root and grow.
Sometimes I still get confused about my purpose here. I have bouts of feeling disconnected from meaning, like, what is the point of all this anyway? A question I've been asking myself since I was very young. In a world without meaning life becomes bleak. "What's the point of me doing anything?" veils a much scarier question, "What's the point of living?"
For the last couple of weeks, I've been resisting the temptation to fall into a depressive slump. It might seem unusual since at a glance this would be a really exciting time for me. I've just released my first book, The Witness, and am busy everyday with marketing, communications, and working on my next projects. But a perfect alignment of circumstance is hardly to be expected.
Like so many others, I grew up with low self-esteem. Who’s to say why, probably for a number of reasons. After my parents divorced, I turned to food in an attempt to manage my emotions, and ended up spending my teens a bit overweight. I also grew up in a mainly white area and always felt slightly out of place. My pimply brown skin stood out like an oil spot in the sea of white faces. Whatever the cause, however you slice it, my inner critic was deafening.
As my life continues to shift and change, and I go down one unexpected pathway after another, I find myself savoring the excitement of the unknown. So much potential. So many possibilities. But sometimes I just need a break from the ride. A place to rest up a bit before getting back in the mix. Even in a fight there is a break between rounds. But life doesn't always gift us with those kinds of structures. Sometimes we have to develop our own sense of grounding, independent of our current life circumstances.
Have you ever had a love affair that took you through so many ups and downs, twists and turns, that you both wanted it to end but couldn't get enough? That kind of affair when the emotion runs high, and it feels like there's so much on the line. Good feelings followed by feelings of frustration or insecurity, wondering if this can go on or if you will have to throw in the towel? This is a great description of how I've related to authority throughout my life.
Up until a few months ago, I thought I was done with fighting for good. But lately I've felt a resurgence within me of my fighting spirit. But the form it's taking this time is unique and unprecedented for me.
As I write this, I'm 31 years old. The last time I was seriously training in martial arts was my mid-twenties. I've dabbled here and there since then, but I couldn't keep interested. I kept trying to do it the old way, the way I knew before. Namely, the hard style. My favorite disciplines in the past were wrestling, jujitsu, and several styles of kickboxing. I'd never tried any kung fu, tai chi or qigong types of practices. I wanted ferocity and the satisfaction of clashing with a heavy bag, or even better, a sparring partner.
Lately I've not had much interest in writing here. In fact, I've had a hard time giving any attention at all to what's going on in the world. I scroll through social media and see that the insanity of this world has been given a megaphone. I go out and see heartbroken people carrying on with dim awareness. I sometimes feel afraid and alone, wondering if there is really a place for me here. I wonder how many people want to hear a message about truth, beauty, and timelessness. I wonder if I'll be forced to choose between revealing my heart, and keeping my friends.
Something that's been up for me recently is the notion of asking for help. I'm in the midst of an inquiry around it. Sometimes I struggle to ask for help, and I mostly don't want people to know. I don't want you to know that I need help, and I don't want you to know that I don't want to ask for it. There's some shame simply in acknowledging that I need help. I wonder about that.
When I was 17, as a senior in High School, I was approached by one of the English teachers and asked to read a Langston Hughes poem for a school assembly during Black History Month. I've always liked poetry and was really into Hughes' work at the time, so I thought it was a pretty cool opportunity. I knew why I was singled out, being one of only a few students of color in a huge student body (over 2000 students). I was being used for effect, to potentially make the reading more meaningful. More specifically, my race was being used by the program director for the effect it might have on the mainly white audience.
In my corporate career, I spent the first few years learning the language, practicing the forms, and working hard to gain status and influence. This initial period was characterized by a focus on material gain and security, and it lasted for about 5 years. At a certain point, I became disenchanted with the play of things, and as a result I felt less and less engaged. Gradually my attention began to shift to alternative ways of organization and the fundamental question of what a human needs for effective collaboration.
2016 was the year of the Monkey, and we faced some truly wild energies. Unpredictable happenings were the norm this year, and the world will never be the same for so many reasons. Not the least of them is the political upheaval that put a crack in the foundation of the old establishment and left many people trembling. But just as important is the art, music, and other movements that humans produced. The quickening of the uncovering of fear and scarcity is directly related to the deepening of the awareness of Love all around the globe. The tragedy is that they are not often found together.
A few weeks ago I wrote a celebratory post about coming out called, I Get to be Here. It's about the pain of hiding who we really are, the impact on physical and mental health, and the frustration of fighting with oneself over "who to be" in order to get the love and connection we need. I call it a celebration of coming out because the process of just being me as authentically as I can feels a little like coming out of the closet. Like I had been hiding part of myself, and now moving beyond the need to do that.
As I wander intentionally down the path of self-awareness and inner exploration, I continue to find these wedged in beliefs or patterns stuck as though to the side of a gooey cave of flesh and mucous. Like a parasitic guest who lives only by my not noticing that it is there. Because when I become aware of its presence, I start to take steps to root it out.