Courtyard Cherry Tree Moment

Why don’t we marvel at our own passing time on earth with the same joy and passion? Why do we neglect to revel in life when it can end at any moment, or in the grace surrounding us everywhere: our family, friends, a stranger’s smile, a child’s laugh, new flavours on our plate or the scent of green grass? It is time, cherry blossoms remind us, to pay attention.

This Saturday morning I left my apartment to help my husband with groceries in the car. He gave me all he thought I could handle before driving off to do the stressful work of finding parking. I hauled two shopping bags up to the top of the steps in front of our building. And then I put everything down and decided to hang out for bit. It was only time I would be out that day. I just wanted to take in some fresh air, take in a few deep breaths and stare at the courtyard.

We live in a complex with six building in all. There are at least 3-4 beautiful trees in the courtyard which I have paid very close attention to since this pandemic sent us all to our rooms. I look at them to see how they are blooming, to feel the hope of new growth and to enjoy their beauty. Two of them are already in full bloom with tiny white sprigs of cheerful white flowers.

Directly across from our building is the one Cheery blossom tree in the courtyard. I look at it a lot around this time to see if the blooms look like they might be peeping through but they still look very tiny, dark and uninterested. I can’t look at a fully blooming Cherry tree and not feel joy. I also love how even after the blooms begin to expire, the petals rain down on everything under the tree quietly laying a magical carpet of heavenly pink. I look forward to this. I resist the urge every season to step over the hedge boundaries and just lay in Cherry blossom petals.

I’m standing there in the courtyard breathing deeply and think all this and more and then I start crying. I tried not feel bad about it. No one else is in the courtyard but me. I realize the privilege of having trees in the courtyard where I live. I wonder who planted the trees and why they chose them. I am grateful to have them so close by. Then I took the groceries upstairs.

And I Stare at My Cat a lot: A Gratitude List

I can’t say that I prefer working from home because the nature of what I do is hard to translate over this format. But I do like that any minute I need to step away, my surroundings are immediately calming for me. I’ve have moments of tight chestedness and stomach flipping anxiety since this all began a week ago. Unexpected things have been revealed as a result of this situation and I have had to initiate things I never thought I would have perviously. It really helped me when these things were happening to know that I could just go into my room for a moment and close my eyes or cry or laugh, or laugh and cry at the same time which has happened as well.

Today I got on a Facebook live hosted by my dear friend Cecelia Falls who shared tips, exercises and resources for people dealing with anxiety at this unprecedented, scary, and deeply destabilizing time. It was so wonderful just to see Cece’s face and I’ve always found her voice to be very calming.  I came away feeling inspired to write short gratitude list of things that made me feel good and smile today.

Face-Timing with a co-worker who is not on my team

Just shooting the shit with a co-worker pal who is marginally involved in my work was such a relief! It was so good to see her face in real time. I’ve only been in contact with the people on my immediate team for the past two weeks and that’s been a lot. As laid back as you would think working from home would be, I’m still very aware of the the way tension shapes my body when I’m talking with people I have to have my guard up around, people I don’t feel I can fully trust. When I talked with this co-worker, someone I haven’t even know for very long, I just felt like I could let down about two layers. It was just refreshing to let myself breath in a conversation that wasn’t about updates and data entry and trouble shooting and…you get the drift.

My Husband

My husband, already quite the germaphobe is on really high alert right now. I have resist the urge not to shout “OKAAAAY DAD!” at him on the daily. I have to keep reminding myself that even if I sometimes feel like he’s doing the most he’s just trying to protect me and everyone he loves in the best way he can. And at a time like this, too much is never enough. He loves me. He’s not trying to control me. The difference can sometimes be hard to discern for many of us, for a myriad of reasons that we need to unlearn immediately.

Music/Dancing: A DJ Really Can Save Your Life

I don’t need an excuse to dance even to music I haven’t selected or curated. I dance to the music that plays during the video games my husband plays in the evening. They’re usually sports,  and they play some of the best rap, dance hip hop tracks and I’m always just bopping around to that unconsciously. The now infamous IG Live DJ set by D-Nice has been an amazing way to get loose and dance to amazingly beautifully curated set list of R&B and hip hop classics old recent. Quest Love’s IG Live afterparty was also legendary. And I’m sure many other DJs are going live for as long as it takes.  This also signals my body to relax again, that it’s okay to feel safe again.

My Cat

I stare at my cat a lot. I mean I play with my cat a lot, pick him up a lot, kiss him a lot, snuggle him and pet him a lot. But I also stare at him a lot. I watch him, watching life. I watch him engaging with life, the things he pays attention to, the way he behaves when he’s on alert, when he feels tense, what makes him feel comfortable, what makes him feel safe. I never get tired of watching him sleep at the foot of our bed throughout the day. I wonder if he has a clue of how therapeutic (though a big pain on occasion, ie every morning around 5am) he is for both me and my husband. We both go to him to hold him, pet him, scratch under his chin, ease his tension or just watch him sleep and in turn it makes us feel more calm, less tense, less angry and less self fixated in general. Here is this creature curled up in an endless series of sleep shapes, trusting and vulnerable, aware of our presence and just as tolerant of what may seem like our strange behavior to him. He’s okay. We’re taking care of him. We’re okay. We’re taking care of each other.

 

 

Sound Baths, Music and Coping In The Time of Rona

I’ve had a tension headache for three days. Today, the fourth day, a Thursday, I feel it starting to subside. Anxiety is a fucker. And it can’t be the way I continue to move forward at this time.

I don’t want to focus on the endless volume of negativity that has poured out of this pandemic in an ugly rush of mismanagement and lack of care for human life.

Instead, I want to share how I’ve been using music and sound to calm my nerves and de-stress while practicing social distancing while not going stir crazy.

Sound baths

I learned about sound baths from Evelyn on The Internets, one of my fave YouTubers in a video where she talks about practices she applies when she’s overwhelmed. First of all, the words sound bath already sound amazing to me. Who wouldn’t want to bath in sound right now? Better than Purell right?

What a sound bath sounds like initially is something like white noise but with a more concentrated composition of layers of sound. At first it may sound like a humming but as you sit and immerse yourself in it like a meditation you begin to hear much more. The first track I ever heard that I feel is similar to a sound bath is by Bjork the mad sound engineering genius herself. I can’t remember how I came upon it but when I heard it it was if I had fallen off of a cliff of “traditional” sounding remixes of her music into something pure and raw that resonated with parts of my body rather than an attachment to melody or song structure.

It’s the Patten Rework remix of her song Stonemilker from the album “Vulnicura.” I thought it was an accident, that maybe my streaming service was skipping the track like a scratched album and something had gone wrong. But no, this was a controlled piece of experimental beauty that not unlike much of Bjork’s work just reached down into my guts and pried open my emotions.

I promise sound baths are 100 times more gentle. LOL!

Here is a layman’s definition:

The sounds are created by a variety of overtone-emitting instruments including tuning forks, gongs, shruti box, Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, chimes, and voice. When you sink into a Sound Bath and guide your awareness to your listening, you allow your brain waves to slow, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed state, or even a dreamlike state.

There are many varieties of sound bath tracks available. I’ve found the majority that appeal to me on Spotify.  There are sound baths that range from 1 minute to 5 that resonate for the chakras and for different parts of the body and even some that are for each astrology sign. I find them to be very calming, allowing me to slow down my busy brain and focus on an underlying silence, a great expansive space. I’m sure sound baths must be derived from ancient spiritual meditative practices.

Also

I’ve also been watching things that make me happy like Carpool Karoake which is an instant happy maker for me since the only thing I love more than music is traveling in a car listening to and singing to music I love. The latest episode with Billie Eilish is just amazing. I can’t say I’m a super fan of her music but I do think that at 18 years old, she’s a pretty authentic human being, one of a kind and fully immersed in the joy, emotion and deep catharsis of her work as an artist. And she puts on nothing. She just is who she is. I don’t see that very often.

Chris Martin’s recent #togetherathome IG live was also very sweet and soothing and is also available on YouTube along with the Coldplay Tiny Desk performance I just watched this morning. Man, talk about a human who could never live without music! It’s just infectious to watch people who make music light up inside when they share it. There’s nothing like it.

I’ve also been forcing myself to get out and walk even if it’s just for a short while. I get cabin fever easily and thankfully there are a lot of beautiful parks where I live. I need the fresh air and the nature, to be able to see that life is still thriving and blooming.

Next week I start working from home proper and I hate the idea of the toxicity that surrounds that work seeping into my sacred space so I’m hoping that fortifying myself with calm and focus and positivity now will make that transition easier.

Who even knows what will happen tomorrow.

Stay safe out there. And stay connected even in the distance.

 

What I’ve learned so far from Intermittent Fasting

I was hosting my husband’s 40th birthday party last month when the gf of one of my oldest high school friends told me that said old friend was not drinking that night. He was intermittent fasting to prepare for what I think is now his third marathon.

Intermittent fasting had come across my radar recently in my search for a diet that would help me to shed pounds without feeling like I was starving myself or giving up something I love to eat forever. So I was intrigued to learn that someone I knew was already doing it. It motivated me to learn more about it. There’s quite a bit of really useful simple info about it on the internet. And simplicity is what I think has allowed me to stick with it for almost two weeks straight now.

Continue reading What I’ve learned so far from Intermittent Fasting

Frames vs Snapshots

I went on my second Urban Photographers Walk last weekend. Via the Meet Up app, it is hosted by the energetic, immensely talented and delightfully hospitable Ron Louis. I learned about it from my favorite cousin in law last year. It’s a group of photographers at all levels shooting with SLRs, film and cellphone cameras called together by Ron once a month to different places in the Tri State area to take and make pictures. It’s a great thing to be able to do something you love in community. I met a guy there who lives in my building! And he’s an amazing photographer! I would never have known.

This particular walk was in Soho one of my favorite places for taking pictures on perhaps one of the nicest days we’ve had in NYC since Christmas. We visited several photo galleries as part of the walk, the first of which was a framing gallery.

Ron talked about how we should think about printing and framing our own photos and displaying them in our homes. This is something my dad has done for years. Photography has been his passion since before I was born and though it took me years to get the bug myself (I’ve been serious since 2008) I’ve never really taken seriously the idea of framing my images in any but the most generic ways, you know like small frames on my desk or the home coffee table. It made me think about what images I’ve taken that I would consider worthy of large scale framing. This is not me saying that snapshots are not frame worthy. I love snapshots and photos taken on the move. Good street photographers are dope as hell and galleries are full of amazing images that would not have been considered for framing decades ago. But that’s the thing that I’m curious about. Understanding that the process of taking tons of photos may be necessary in order to find two incredible ones is integral for me. I truly believe that among the many, there really are only a few that can tell a story in a way none of the others can. And it’s one of the many things about photography that’s kept me engaged and curious for so long.

Thanks to smart phone technology, the number of people with the capacity to take photos is at its highest and camera phone technology will only continue to improve.

We will take gazillions of photos that we will never even see, let alone look at more than once. But always with photographers, is the fact that on assignment, self given or commissioned, we can take hundreds to thousands of photos and only a small handful will meet the standards we seek or capture what we sought to capture or accidentally reveal something we never even imagined.

Many years ago I did dabble in self publishing photo books from my images at the time but after the Soho walk I created a “Print” album in my phone of images I would consider getting framed.

I have a total of 28,735 “Recents” in my phone album. Presently I have 18 images in my “Print” folder.

This also makes me think more about how I want to be shooting in 2020, for what purpose and also what human subjects I like to photograph and what they inspire in me. I want to think more about what it means to photograph things in a way that I think is  frame worthy. And I want to focus on finding particular spaces and people to shoot for the entire year. I want to give myself more rigorous assignments and push myself more to see what else is there in me besides curiosity.

The Savage Ex Fenty Fashion Show: A Work of Art, Culture and Commerce SPOILER ALERT!

I am a Day 1 Savage Ex Fenty fan. I mean literally. I was one of the those people sitting in front of my laptop waiting for the exclusive website access I signed up for to begin when Rihanna’s line of lingerie first dropped, watching the minutes count down. I was so excited to be able to buy lingerie designed by Rihanna that catered to a broader range of sizes than I had ever seen at a Victoria’s Secret. I remember having to retrain my eye when I saw the range of varying shapes of full sized and “plus sized” models on the site. I was so used to giant skinny White women with flat asses, that it took me some time to adjust to seeing what real women looked like in lingerie. I signed up for the yearly VIP Membership as advised by my husband (heehee) and have never looked back. Over time, I’ve noticed that it’s often the fuller sized models who I look at to see how the lingerie might look on me. Body image for women in this world is such a colonized, white washed mind fuck that it can take months to deprogram your gaze from the damage of Victoria’s Secret print models.

The Savage Ex Fenty Fashion show that dropped on Amazon Prime streaming video last week took the concept of inclusion and Rihanna’s on brand strength, playfulness and sexual empowerment to a hundred and ten on acid!

Now I know that Amazon is a giant corporate monster but I’m not mad at Ri for  establishing herself as a mogul, getting that bag and creating an empire because she is also breaking the standardized mold of what we’ve been told sexy looks like as well as bringing art, culture, body positivity and non-conformity into the commercial world of lingerie. This fashion show was runway, was performance, was art, was dancehall, was concert, was furturism, was so many things! As each musical performance began you could click in the left margin to see the song that was playing and a bio about the artist. So you can buy the lingerie, the music, and discover and support some artists you may have never even known before Ri put you on.

Before it starts, there’s a behind the scenes look at the concept, vision for the show. The moment when Rihanna first sees Paris Goebel’s choreography for the opening of the show and loves it so much she decides she wants to be in it is just so exciting. The entire show is Rihanna from beginning to end. It’s strong, edgy, sexy, powerful and wildly inclusive. I’ve watched it three times so far and I get goose pimples every time.

Savage Ex Open

The opening lands like a chainsaw. It’s just sick. When these ladies go off, it’s like the Dora Milaje threw on sexy lingerie and decided to do a hip-hop concert. Rihanna’s Savage warrior spirit is on full display. The women she selects to channel their own version of that are pure fire.

The set, a collection of all white basic but theatrical shapes, landings, stairs, and several stories of domes to highlight the silhouettes of each dancer who inhabit it was a fantastic backdrop to set off the plumage of fantasy, funk, freakiness and fabulosity that graced the stage.

Raisa Verticle

Let’s talk about Raisa Flowers (above), a make-up artist who opens up part of the set for the first performance. I had no idea who she was before I saw this show but to see her is to know what she is about because her energy, her artistry and beauty are just beyond. I’m blown away by her.

Normani

There was a woman with a double leg amputation who did a fierce walk across the stage during one set. Mama Cax, a gorgeous model and just an amazing being who has a single leg amputation someone I know from being a fan of Finding Paola, was also featured.  And Normani who used to be with Fifth Harmony was all angles and hips and joint defying butterfly! She and the dancers in her set busted out and came to slay it all down.

I loved seeing Gigi Hadid walk out to  the intro of Big Sean’s “Clique” a song I really like despite the usual misogynistic lyrics. He and A$AP Ferg were a great choice to open.  Halsey was also amazing. I believe she lip synced her song because unlike the other musical artists who performed on stage alone, she performed with lingerie clad dancers who were part of her extensive set. Migos was a wondrous visual spectacle performing in a circle filled with shallow water. I loved how their futuristic metallic outfits and sunglasses reflected the multi-colored colored  laser lights that shot down towards them in slanted shapes like rain.  I also loved that Tierra Whack came on with DJ Khalid, Fat Joe and Fabolous to close it out.

I cancelled my Amazon Prime account last year and never find cause to order using their service any longer. But somehow I’ve still watched  the fashion show repeatedly since it came out. LOL!

If you don’t have Amazon Prime and are totally anti Amazon because of the shit they tried to pull, I totally understand. Just go get you a trial so you can watch and then cancel it later. LOL!!

No, seriously…go…now…

 

 

Sunday at The Guggenheim

Revoke my New Yorker card if you wanna but it’s taken me years to realize that the M3 from Harlem goes to the Guggenheim museum in almost 20 minutes! I discovered it this weekend and now I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m a bit of a Museum nerd and it kills me when there’s a show I wanna see on the East side and all I think about is all kinds of soul sucking train line switching I have to do in order to get there. The M3 route takes me through memory lane passed Central Park East and and my High School and finally on the upper East Side where I went on first dates, saw movies, hung out at HMV (remember HMV?) and tried to catch transportation home on school day evenings before my pass expired. I love this line.

Simone Leigh

This weekend, Simone Yvette Leigh’s “Loophole of Retreat” brought me to the Guggenheim, not one of my favorite Museum spaces but for some reason, it was more than tolerable this time. I always love seeing The Guggenheim from the outside but something about walking around an incline in circles without ever knowing what floor you’re on irks me. Still, when I saw one of Leigh’s pieces on a subway ad months ago I was just viscerally struck by the power of it, the Blackness and the femininity. I finally read more about Simone Yvette Leigh and her work a few weeks ago. I visited her “Brickhouse” sculpture on the Highline and have since just been fascinated and obsessed with being close to her pieces.

Continue reading Sunday at The Guggenheim

60 minute full body massage thoughts…

My cellphone switched off in the pocket of my robe hanging near the door of the quiet room. Why did one side of my body feel different then the other as he worked on it? Was he doing the exact same thing on each side or was he instinctive about what was needed on each side as he went? Do masseuses get maturity training to stay focused and not get preoccupied by merely physical sensation? Is there kindness training? How do they pace themselves? How touch can be intimate and respectful. Other than force and perversion, what else can make touch feel disrespectful? The inner thigh space felt a bit dicey. Like I was hyper aware and sensitive about him working in that space on me. I wonder what kind of experience Francis is having with his masseuse. I hope he likes it. I think we need to do this more often. The gentle way he folded my hands next to me when he transitioned to a different part of my body. What might he be thinking? Letting my body go completely limp because I know this helps the therapist work best. There were times when I wanted to say that he could increase the pressure but I wasn’t sure how that would be taken. I don’t recall whether I’ve ever had a white male masseuse work on me before. If I did it was years ago, under a different administration, I a different person. I can trust a masseuse to do their job well but I can’t trust deeper than that in this respect, and I would like to but I can’t. It’s not just my body here, but my spirit. So many White men have problems, no matter how much work they’ve done.  It’s sad. It gets in the way. There is tightness near my right clavicle, a deep tightness when he kneads it that I don’t feel when he does it on my left. What does it mean? His touch is so low pressure that it’s almost shocking when something hurts. I can hear his breathing. It’s very pronounced. Changing with his movement. Which makes sense. It feels nice to have sheets tucked gently under me. Breathing deeper. I love long deep breaths. I feel as if I have inhaled all the way down to the bottom of myself and exhaled back up again. It feels amazing. Why does it feel so good to have certain parts of the body pressed, tugged and pulled? I’m glad I kept my underwear on. I went back and forth on that. I was raised in a naked house so I’m not super shy about that in a wellness context but I didn’t want things to be awkward for anyone. My breasts rocking side to side rhythmically when he pounded on my shoulders. Loving. What a loving act a massage is. What a loving way to impart caring, healing and loving energy exchange. How do you do this thing, which requires both closeness and yet respectfully emotional distance in the most beneficial way? I’m not sure I would ever be mature enough to make a good masseuse. I admire that quality very much. What if I chose to keep my eyes open the whole time when I flipped on my back? How awkward would that be? He called me sister when it was over. Which was nice. The tiny bottle of Clary sage tucked in my robe pocket.

Stay tuned for less stream of conscious thoughts on my Summer spa experience next week.

Laughter in Hell

When I was writing Mating in Captivity and was interested in making a distinction between eroticism and sexuality, I made a connection that I had never made before. That helped me understand why I was so interested in writing about the erotic – not in the narrow sense that modern society has defined it, but rather that quality of aliveness, vitality, and vibrancy that animates us.

-Esther Perel

I was listening to a podcast interview with Esther Perel recently where she talks as she often does about the study of aliveness and the erotic as related to the family and community of Holocaust survivors from which she hails. She often says that in the camps after the Holocaust there remained two different types of survivors: those that did not die and those who came back to life. One might wonder as I did when I first started studying Perel’s work, what the erotic has to do with Holocaust survivors.

As mentioned in the quote above, the term Erotic Intelligence coined by Perel, refers to a much broader definition of what it means to be alive than what most of us or used to. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Perel was very aware that her parents made the decision, to be not just survivors, but to make of their survival all that they could and to “come back to life” rather than to be alive and exist in a state of death. The energy that lay both in that choice and the work, the daily practice of joy and gratitude required, all contain the spark of the erotic and those things which universally signal aliveness for us all.

She talked in the interview about the role laughter played for survivors of the Holocaust, laughter in the darkest, the most terror filled times, “Laughter in hell.” This notion grabbed me and I took note of the times when laughter in my life during rough times (many of which I still wading through) have brought me and people around me to laugh totally at random. Marginalized oppressed people all over the world relate to this kind of laughter, the kind that pushes up defiantly through the ugliness and pain of human injustice and disparity and explodes into spaces blanketed with fear, sadness, hopelessness and depression like light breaking. Perel talks about laughter as autonomy in dark times when one feels that the sense of control over everything else has been lost.

The affirmation of this through Perel’s study touched me deeply. It confirmed something I had always suspected about why laughter is so important to me. There is a sense of unabashed freedom and bonding, a collective agreement, a belonging when we laugh together and even alone. There are times, in my therapist’s office when we will both share bursts of unexpected of laughter, sometimes moments after I have been crying. And that laughter…man, it makes me feel like no matter what, I still have the energy of life in me, that I have not shut down completely, that light can still enter and will again and again if I hold space for it. And I hold space for laughter in my life actively. I hold space for laughter and to make people laugh and to laugh at myself most of all.

Shit Serena Doesn’t Say

I was scrolling through IG a few days ago when I saw this quote by Serena for the press conference after she lost to Halep in the Wimbledon Finals posted by USTA.

Serena Quote

I had watched that entire match and the press conference afterward with my mom and I saw right away how they left out the only words in that quote that I had hung on to. The complete quote is as follows.

Serena Actual quote

I knew even then that when Serena said made this statement that it was still vague enough for the media to manipulate and project it’s agenda onto. But wow, they just went ahead and took the whole damn thing out. When Serena said “People that look like you and me…” I feel like she was doing that old double consciousness balancing act that still haunts many of us as Black people to this day. Serena’s indications about people who look like her and the reporter (I’m assuming she wasn’t white?) were specific and yet leaving enough wiggle room for the customization of truth that is written by Whiteness. In fact, every conference I’ve watched Serena give during this Wimbledon tournament has made me wonder what anger, frustration and irritation lay unsaid inside of her as she appears to maintain a lo-key, laid back, non-reactive and non-threatening facade, the anti-thesis of her behavior during the now infamous Osaka match.

My husband made the interesting point that the media’s uproarious and favorable acceptance of Coco Gauff has taken a lot of pressure off of Serena this year. If not for Coco she might have had to withstand harsher focus from the media. It’s ironic really how Serena and Venus have clearly opened the doors for young Black female tennis players like Sloane and Gauff, who seem to be getting the kind of measured and unbiased treatment from the press and media which the Williams sisters were never afforded because of blatant racism. Its wonderful, strange and a bit concerning to me (double consciousness again) to watch Coco respond to the press by just being the young girl she is. When I think of that terrible “interview” Venus had to endure with that White a-hole who probably called himself a journalist when she was just 14 years old, I cringe. I know this is an experience like many others the Williams sisters endured which informed the women they are now, experiences they have had to surpass and transcend so that others who look like them might not have to. And although the Williams are revered as top tennis champions and hold a place in history as Black women who have persevered oppression and racism in the sport, the thing is, it’s not over. It’s not over and they know it in ways Sloane and Gauff may never know. That’s how it works after all.

Obama Translator

I studied Serena’s face when they dared to ask her how she felt her stamina compared with Roger Federer’s considering their advanced ages and I longed for the equivalent of the Key and Peele Obama translator sketch  ; a Black woman with nothing to lose could stand beside her and translate what Serena said unapologetically in explicit language that Black folk would understand and make racist White people uncomfortable with their implicit role in her frustration.

Muthafucka, Federer ain’t had to push out an entire fucking human being out his body and then almost die afterward! Who the fuck do you think she is? She slayed the Australian Open while she was pregnant bitches! Why not ask Federer if he thinks he could have pulled that shit off?

That’s what my imaginary Williams translator would have said if she was there with Serena that day. She would have also said the words Black women, not “people who look like you and I.” But fuck if I don’t understand why she didn’t say Black women. She would have to deal with all kinds of stories calling her angry and asking why everything has to be about race…

It’s fucking exhausting y’all.

Ya’ll Whiteness is fucking exhausting.