Category Archives: Essays

Distance Hurdler

I am by nature, more of a selfish person than I’d like to be but, I do freely admit it. My selfishness has served me well in certain areas and not so well in others. I am also a firm believer in the fact that God places obstacles in our path again and again until we finally learn the lessons that we are meant to learn. That being said, I know for certain that God has placed you in my path or better yet, led me to you for a myriad of reasons but mostly, to rid me of my selfish ways. Or at the very least, mitigate them before they consume me.

Some lessons are simpler and easy to learn. The people who embody these types of more feasible lessons are the ones who come and go, in and out of our lives because they’ve served their purposes and we’ve learned our lessons then parted ways for the better. Then there are the lessons that take no less than a lifetime to teach. You are one of them.

I believe the lesson here is tri-fold – to love someone truly (without contingencies); wholly (including every flaw, major and minute); and selflessly (giving with every fiber of my being without consequence). I believe that until I master this type of selflessness, which of course cannot be done until I master a higher form of patience, I will never be rid of you. And I know this because, until I learn to act selflessly, I will never want to be rid of you. I will always want you – physically, emotionally, intellectually because I believe that you represent all of the things that I cannot grow to be on my own.

And there lies the ultimate lesson to be deciphered and absorbed in all of its complexity – To be rewarded by receiving nothing. To be become less selfish, I will need to give selflessly to another. The more of me I give away, the stronger I will become – bare-boned and free of distracting entanglements – stronger with less.

So if this is the lesson I am meant to learn then perhaps I have not quite learned it yet. Or perhaps, I am just not done loving you


Starving in the Dark

Our clams on the half shell were a soft fleshy pink, inviting dinner guests to slurp them down greedily one by one. Waiters at Carmine’s NYC had filled our carafes of Malbec and Riesling twice over before we even received our entrees. At the end of the table the men were mischievously snickering amongst themselves and in front of me my best friend doubled over in painful laughter at the girls’ slapstick comedy, much of which I eagerly participated in. It is surprisingly easy to participate by proxy, after I’ve temporarily vacated my body and sit beside myself fidgeting uneasily, confused and annoyed with my confliction. I must have looked back at myself, and wondered, “What are you wasting this moment for you miserable fool?” and re-entered the vessel that was my body to continue being tickled by the highly inappropriate jokes which were so typical of us. After a reunion weekend filled with friends, decades old and months old, enjoying feasts and drinks in total merriment, I was empty inside. In the midst of laughter and hugs, shared jokes and affection, I was anxious and inexplicably disturbed.  My love for those around me battled my weakness for surrendering to the meaninglessness of it all. Alone in the bubble of love surrounding me, I felt like a skeleton, stripped of my vital parts that gave me hope, happiness love and ambition. What was happening and why? I prayed for sleep so my subconscious may answer. . .

It happened again. For the fourth or fifth time in weeks, I dreamt about my front door being left wide open after I repeatedly went back to shut it and bolt the locks. In my dream this happens in all of the houses/apartments I have known: my very first house, my last house, my beach house, my current apartment etc. It begins by me coming home and locking the door. After a series of events unfold I am shocked to find my front door is not only unlocked but wide open again to the world. This, in addition to a variety of seemingly unintelligible dreams, plagued my rest.

Despite my recent, determined quest to accept and become positivity, I find myself tripping over residual tangles of negativity ambushing me like a spider’s web. Bouts of negative feelings drown me under shame, anger, hatred and disgust. Caught in the moment, these feelings multiply like a virus rising from dormancy.  Birthed from regret and failure, they settle deep as failure always does. . .  I am dreaming again. In my dream, I wake up to find my body and my room just as I had left it, having fallen asleep fully clothed with all the lights on. In my dreamy present, I get up to turn off the lights and crawl back into bed when I notice my bathroom door closed with light streaming through, beneath the door. Immediately infuriated over my personal space being violated by an unidentified person inside my apartment, I storm over to bang on the door and demand identification. The door opens and through the shower steam walks my loathed and insufferable former boyfriend. The sight of him enrages me so that surely all my vital organs are boiling in blood. After verbally assaulting him to my capacity and satisfaction I wait half a millisecond for his response before he looks at me, emotionless, almost subhuman and says in an empty voice, “I’m leaving now.” With that, he calmly walks out of my bathroom with uncharacteristic stability and through my front door which he shuts behind him. I finally wake up to reality and know that a good thing has just happened.

I was puzzled, after almost two years of separation, as to why I remained diseased with these emotional ailments. I meditated, sought advice from every source and wondered how I still harbored so much resentment and repulsion. Not one ounce of me regrets departing from this former relationship but I regret intentionally inhibiting my intuition when I needed to trust in it most. I needed to forgive myself. After this twinkling in my thoughts, I began the process of expulsion. My dream confirmed that with forgiveness of my own shortcomings and oversights which snowballed into eventual disaster, I could cure the cancer of resentment consuming me and find release from torment. I could forgive him. Most importantly, I could forget him and all of that miserable time wasted. As my mind purged itself it actually allowed him to leave me in peace finally, as he did in my dream; a restful farewell to all punitive memories. And how succinct my dream was in its delivery: drawing up the image of him departing the most intimate realms of my mind, using my bathroom, the most private sector of anyone’s home, to symbolize the depths of personal invasion I felt (and cringed) from the thought of him.

Over the next few days, other long suffered (very long suffered) afflictions slowly began its evaporation. All of a sudden, on my couch one lazy evening after a grueling day of meetings and deadlines, the darkness left me. I felt it leave as I lay on my back dozing off. I was fully aware of its absolute absence around me. After having finished half a decade of mourning over a previous ill-fated and star-crossed love from my undergrad years, (yes, I understand how this may seem a running theme in my life) I’ve carried on with life and nurtured a void inside; a void left by a heart torn out of its cavity and the pulsing remnants cauterized.  During the same time I was planning escape from my recent debilitating relationship, I learned of my Unrequited and his new life with his new woman. No matter how adamantly I lived my own life, the thought of their presently and oh-so-perfectly shared happiness has always gouged open deep wounds that even cauterization could not prevent. However, after my small-scale, self-performed exorcism of my former boyfriend I felt (most miraculously) freed of the chains which bound me to this other man as well; the one big love of my life thus far, who was bigger than life. Without realizing what was happening, I  was able to bear the thought of him without the aching and think back fondly of our time together. I was suddenly happy and grateful for having spent years of my life with my Unrequited. It happened and I was there. I was the one he turned to during those times and I was the one he shared much laughter with. I turned this over and over in head, wondering if I was lying to myself, persuading myself or, growing.

It seems my suffering always departs instantaneously, unexpectedly, all at once just as an epiphany would arrive. It wasn’t even until the darkness left that I realized how much light there is now. Light that I did not miss before because I was so convinced this darkness would be finite for me. Retrospectively it makes sense as I realized I had been thinking myself into migraines over current circumstances and rationalizing what didn’t need to be, or couldn’t be rationalized, trying to relate, trying to fit love, life and all its complications into equations of math and science. I was left stunned for a bit in disbelief, suspended in between, vulnerable still, since a certain amount of pain will always be present in memory, sore when probed, and hardened over years into a jagged scar but, around this bend, I am no longer left open to the fear that my wounds may bleed at the slightest disturbance. I am open for healing this time, not for hurting. Aches and pains come along with healing, this goes without saying but, we all know the road to healing is a good one though not an easy one.

Remembering the recurring dreams of my front door agape, I wondered if it was a foreshadowing to this entire therapeutic process. The dreams, as I recall, are not menacing but quite perplexing as I overcome the shock of seeing the privacy of my home displayed through my open front door. I felt naked, unprotected and scared. No malignant force ever enters though, and I always stand there in confusion staring into the openness before I reach out to lock it again. Could it be that rather than being afraid of any evils walking in to terrorize me I should instead be contemplating walking through it and arriving on the outside victorious? Perhaps my front door is persuading me, inviting me to step outside and greet the world with a new face instead of rejecting its offer and hiding inside behind locked doors where I feel safe to nourish my woes. Perhaps.

Surviving these past years of turbulence and decadence, my heart must have revived itself from wreckage, first as a tiny ember, burning dull beneath the ashes left by a barrage adversity and then to a sprout, then a bud, and now leaves and a petal have sprung. The positivity inside me that was fully defeated over the years but never vanquished, whispered first then spoke and hummed itself into a song that sang and sang and sang until its echoes reached my ears and bellowed into my head, purging the darkness out of me with its voice. Just as one can never ever kill truth no matter how many times you shoot it down, you can never vanquish hope for survival or deserved happiness. It needs only the slightest sprinkle of desire, a tiny, tiny idea of survival before it incubates a fully armed legion deep within you to rescue yourself from your plight. I had prayed for darkness to leave me and the darkness left with the hope of my conscious and the help of my subconscious. Light always prevails over darkness but, you have to find the light switch buried leagues beneath your subconscious and you have to want to find it and you have to want to survive, three times as strong in your survival, after you’ve built up your immunity and intuition. I remind myself constantly that it always gets much, much worse before it gets better – like an infection of any sort, but such is life. With this on my mind I won’t even think into the future. For now I’m going to enjoy this moment (and hopefully more moments) absent of darkness, listening acutely to my dreams.

So Brave And New

I left his apartment and it was still drizzling. I looked for a cab, slightly annoyed but determined. Me, the perpetual commuter, always en route: new destination, home base, spontaneous adventure, dutiful visits, home base, next destination, etc.

Spring is playing hard to catch and I’m just sick of it. I march on everyday stubbornly in my colorful palate of spring skirts, jackets and accessories in rebellion of the gloom, rain and cold hoping to seduce the sun. The same time last year, flowers were in full bloom and outdoor patios for bars and restaurants were buzzing with life and excitement for even warmer months ahead. I’m not sure who to blame for this year’s lack of re-birth. The recent tsunamis? The patterns of global earthquakes? Has our atmosphere abandoned celebration of the changing seasons? This concerns me but I am not shaken. I am working on trying not to place blame.

I get into the cab and order them to my neighborhood over the 59th Street Bridge. On little sleep but, satisfied after a long night of fun and conversation, I decided to take this cab ride as a mental prep for the day ahead of me. Another mundane day in this life which has become stagnant but, this day just as any day, could be the beginning of the rest of it all. We cross Times Square and I wince at the thought of rushing back here for my morning meeting in less than two hours. The deli workers and breakfast shops are well into their day, moving effortlessly through the early morning mist. A little Jewish boy adorned with yamaka and all, was blowing bubbles at an intersection. (He might have belonged to one of the deli workers.) After each large bubble he blew he screamed, “GOODBYE, I LOVE YOU!” And repeated this happily. He too, understood transcendence at this early age.

We drive past Will Ryman’s larger than life flower sculptures scattered across Park Avenue uptown and this electrifies me inside. The size and ardor of Ryman’s roses rising into the city fog halted me for a minute and suspended me in my dreamlike state as I was transported between my present and my future in a New York City cab. I tried to roll down the windows and snap a picture but the lights changed and I wished it goodbye and thought, I love you.  I intend to visit these roses again.

Will Ryman Roses Sculpture from Paul Kasmin Gallery Website

Melting back into my thoughts I felt the churning again. For a long time now, I’ve felt a deep, powerful churning within the pit of my stomach that radiated outwards to my bones until my entire body was trembling and begging for metamorphosis. The process continues and the evolution will be steady and paced, I’m sure, but inevitable. This yearning has manifested itself upwards towards my thoughts and outwards in my speech until every action and opinion of mine projected large dosages of transformation unto the world around me; changing my perspectives on routine, hobbies, people, diet, destinations, ideas. A steel rose blossoming from a concrete garden; my world is changing.

I had a nightmare the night before.  I was among my best girlfriends and all of a sudden, as I stood a dumbfounded bystander, a massive assault ensued as each one wielded a weapon and preyed on the next. The victim would die and to my bewilderment, before I could digest the trauma they came back to life and continued to pursue whoever was still standing. Now if you ask them they might find this hysterical coming from my mind that they know so well but, of course to outsiders this insinuates a twisted, violent subconscious at bay. In my defense, after reflecting on it consciously, I realized the randomness of the massacre was formed by my mind trying to grab at anything it could to interpret what lay heavy on my shoulders each day behind layers of distraction: impending change.

“Paleomammalian” – Lost within my own depths. Pastel by Margaret Wang

At this point in our lives, our days were ripe with engagements, weddings, pregnancies and new families. Massive changes were taking place in our midst and as intertwined as our lives were, one friend’s life change affected each of us and we were all moving forward en masse, closing chapters of our friendship behind us and letting us each grow into the next chapter, together. Hence the systematic “killing” of each other and the people we once were, to the reincarnation of each and their newfound paths. This, coupled with my deep sense of unrest confirmed my readiness to tear down all that I knew and rebuild from ashes. Successful change results from sacrificing ways of life you have always known. As a Scorpio and a master of adaptation, I was ready for the challenge. Rise, Phoenix, rise.

"Phoenix" - Reborn from ashes. Pastel by Margaret Wang

After these recent years spent living for reaction, living for someone, living to fall into something whether it be love, wealth, happiness or stardom, I’ve realized with sadness (but empowerment) that these were years lost and along with the years were all the identities I had assumed until now. I am no longer an undergrad, a dancer, a sorority sister, a girlfriend or whatever else I once proclaimed so confidently. But I recognize this as the perfect opportunity for me to shed the shells of these images like old scabs and be reborn in an amplified form of myself. (Recognition is an understated and powerful weapon in life.) For this, I am very excited. Massive, determined action executed with conviction will surely propel me forward. I’ll take any path as long as it’s a new path and I will carry my vulnerabilities within me.

How will I keep composure with my weaknesses embraced, you wonder? I will examine myself closely; physically and psychologically. I will know all of my strengths and shortcomings. I will admit them to the world and be free of judgment and vanity. And if I should waver, I will pray: Dear Lord I pray, these three things you’ll take away, my envy, doubt and fear so I may gain peace and insight here, in the darkness and underwater, to think freely, breathe deeply, walk slowly, live surely again. Amen. Like a house, I will build first then fill the rooms. With the right pieces adorning the insides and outsides, hopefully I will attract the right energies and people who will admire it. If I ask I shall receive, and if I believe my dreams will be conceived.

Looking back, in the darker times of my 26 years, I desperately searched for light, no matter how dull or small the beams were. It wasn’t until I learned (rather recently) that in those times I was the light, filled with light, made of light that I was delivered from my fear and doubt. Life begins again slowly, blossoms surely and everything everywhere now is brand new once more. I got out of the cab and walked up to my apartment. I still need to confirm my 9:15 meeting on this wretched work day. I will lead with my best pedicured foot forward and march towards my deliverance in my finest metallic italian leather stilettos.

Spring Heels. . .blossoming.

Thoughts Per Diem: Benefits of Dance For Beginning Adults

Whether it be the strictly regimented form of ballet, the sauciness, intimacy and flashiness of ballroom, the loudness and attitude found in hip hop, or the soft, freeing, release and contract of lyrical, the art of dance can be immensely healing in body and spirit. To adhere your mind to another perspective of the world, another perspective of yourself, and to instill a new form of movement throughout your body is invigorating and refreshing through adulthood. It is a splash of new-ness that many crave as an adult. Dance can inspire the daring and bold move of eliciting different personas within one’s self.

Dance is indisputably the most beautiful and elegant form of art contrived of man. The most wondrous thing about this art form is its miraculous therapeutic abilities. Aside from the masterpieces of art your body will learn to create, dance can train your body to revive itself. Through various techniques and styles that are perpetually being reinvented, any one individual can find a style that is suitable to their personality, one that instills passion for the individual, and most importantly, one that is comfortable to express with your own body.

As for physical health, many adults have forgotten how certain body parts and areas function due to lack of exertion once they’ve settled into the more mundane lifestyles of office jobs, domestic care, etc. It is important to remain intimately in touch with your body and the movement of each and every single muscle as you age. This way you stay in tune with yourself and understand when your body speaks to you. This will render a most rewarding relationship between you and your body once you realize illness symptoms or any forms of minor discomfort are easier to identify. As an adult this will play its role in the prevention of physical deterioration as health becomes more of a focus.

While enrolling yourself in dance class as a beginning adult, the most important thing to remember is that it just might be the best thing you could do for your mind and body after the years of vibrant youth have settled themselves down memory lane. Dance is not only a psychological catalyst which can revive those years of virility but, for many adults who have deemed themselves incapable of the same physical abilities of years past, it may act as a stimulant for muscles that have rusted over time without the oils of physical release.

Dance class, in any technique or style, is able to offer the knowledge of muscle control, flexibility, stamina and the perspective of a healthier you, in mind body and soul. While benefiting health wise, you are offering your body a chance to relive the greatnesses it once performed. All of this is done while in an artistic sphere of mind. You will undoubtedly find that beginning dance lessons as an adult could be the best decision you’ve made for yourself after years of answering to commitments and responsibilities of the those in a world away from the zest of adolescence.

Thoughts Per Diem: The Importance of Dance

As there is far too much to be said of the importance of dance, we are left with one last choice. And oftentimes, it is precisely when there is far too much to be said of the importance of something which forces us towards a different medium for communication. When words simply cannot express an emotion or an idea with accuracy, we dance. Dance is the voice of the suppressed: suppressed voices, suppressed emotions, suppressed ideas, suppressed identities. When our vocals fail or betray us our bodies will speak. When our voices cannot project far enough to express the contagion of happiness, when our pain cannot be molded into syllables, we dance.

Essentially, dance is birthed during the absence or rejection of vocal communication. Any person blind, deaf, or dumb may dance. In the darkness and in the stillness once can dance. In the rain, sleet, snow and sunshine one can dance and even when there is utter, daunting stillness, one may always dance. As the truest, most sincere form of communication, our bodies are a vehicle, and sometimes a weapon, of ferocious expression. Bodies will express things that are too vulnerable or too biased to communicate in terms.

This form of physical art displays upon our body what our subconscious feels, for all to see. A dancer is able to present themselves and their circumstances naturally and unabashedly. Movement combined with purpose and emotion resonates louder than any decibel known to man. We find a form of freedom, release and purification from the confines of our minds often clouded over with thoughts too explicit for language. Instinctively then, our bodies default to its own language; lyricism understood by individuals in all societies, from all demographics.

Beyond all promotion of the art, dance is necessary to the well being of our mental and physical health. Without physical release and satisfaction of communication portrayed through dance, there would be no personal freedom to be gained in this world. And there is nothing as important as political and economical freedom than our own personal freedom; the freedom of our bodies from the prisons of our heads and inner demons, and the freedom of our bodies from unseen, unwritten chains of society. To understand the importance of dance, one can find it in one place only: in the dance itself. And to quote the brilliance of another artist, Shakespeare did believe that all the world’s a stage.

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