Essentially

 

 

lalaland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing isn’t this fairytale, La-La Land, hobby it’s made out to be, sometime. Not if it’s what you do to survive and stay in-tune with your inner voice. There are levels to this! There are those times, no matter how good of a writer you are, that you’ll doubt yourself. Replace doubt with determination.

I’m just letting you in my head for a minute. Cool?

I say none of this to you without saying it to myself, first.

You’ll probably think I’m bat-shit-crazy for sharing that I’m paranoid you’ll think I’m bat-shit-crazy.

Which makes me not-so-crazy after all, essentially.

I just want to get on with the writing, but I’m in my head, and look, you are too!

See?

Trying Myself, For Once

I’m not in the business of giving advice, but a considerable number of folks have approached me, in what I think to be a weak point in my life, to gain insight about their lives and thought processes. I don’t take it lightly and quite frankly, I’m still trekking the gradient of my own uphill adventure called Life. One thing I’ve started doing that I haven’t done in my adult life up to now is ask, “Why?”. Why am I a source of enlightenment? What do others see in me that I refuse to accept about myself? What have my experiences taught me about my strengths and weaknesses that I haven’t weighed or balanced out? Maybe perfectionism isn’t so distinct.

I never considered myself a perfectionist. I always thought that perfectionists were people who didn’t fail and had their affairs in order, never falling prey to circumstance. So, I’d dropped and withdrawn a few classes, stayed in Community College for four years, still not-quite-decided if I want to teach English in Indonesia, write for HuffingtonPost or shoot vignettes about Black artists, all of which I’d jump at in a heartbeat, lost  hundreds of thousands in real estate, haven’t finished college, disappointed a friend, my house doesn’t stay tidy for more than four days, there’s always laundry to do, there’s always a past due bill, there’s always that long, awaiting oil change, there’s always diapers to toss, there’s always posts to write, pictures to take, hair to twist, car lanes to switch out of, there’s always that exit all the way to the left when you’re in the right -in less than 300 feet, dropped collect calls, forgotten pads, toothpaste, body wash, Heaven-forbid, bar soap… That deodorant on your favorite black shirt, that cracked ceramic mug your mom gave you that you can’t replace because you can’t ask her where she bought it, because, well because…

There’s always tears, even when not shed.

There’s always an ear, even when you’re silent.

There’s always a shoulder, even when your back is bent.

That sweet, sour word echoing in your thoughts

Laughter, Life’s tonic for resilience

Shock is a theory, always will be

Thank those that share their thoughts

They’re expanding your life

With you having done nothing but listen.

Trying Myself

Looking through the eyes of a soul in need of healing

Not the Judge

Not the Person

Kamila

Looking at Kamila

For Help

For Once

 

 

 

 

 

Trekking with Friends: Eboni Zamani Takes a Look Back

Philadelphia filmmaker Eboni Zamani shares a conversation she recently had with her maternal grandfather. Citing the importance of knowing oneself to realize your highest potential, she says she decided to “make it my business to research my family’s history”.

Talking to My Mother’s Father

 

Last year I decided to get serious about tracing my family’s roots. I have been speaking to my grandparents and my great grandmother about their lives. I’ve mostly talked to my mother’s father. He is eager to tell me about his childhood, Philly back in the day, his time in Vietnam and his affinity for the finer things.

Dennis is the name his adopted mother gave him when he was a few months old.  He prefers to be called by his Muslim name, Sabir. His biological mother’s name is Rusha. She went to prison for killing his stepfather after enduring years of his abuse. All nine of her children were split up and placed into foster care. The woman he came to know as mother is one of Rusha’s friends.

He grew up in North Philly, in and around Francisville, where he met my grandmother. He fathered a son when he was 16.  The girl was sent down South by her parents and he never heard from her again. He was 18 and 20 when my mother and aunt were born. During this time he was drafted into the Vietnam War.

 

He was looking through records at Ben Franklin High one day and discovered that his birth name was John. He confronted his mother about it and she gave him his birth sister’s info. He met two of his sisters the day before he left for Vietnam. They talked for hours. One of  them had his birth certificate. By the time he returned from the war, they had moved. He never saw them again.

 

He reminisces about his glory days, before the war. He learned about the revolution in high school. He tells me that Mumia influenced all of them. Mumia’s words as well as the entrepreneurial spirit and discipline of other young brothers in bow ties peaked his interest in Islam. He became a member of the Nation of Islam and he’s been Muslim ever since.

 

these young men don’t have any heroes.”

 

He speaks eloquently about the various problems that face the Black community. He said, “these young men don’t have any heroes.” The Black Panthers and other Black revolutionaries stopped gang wars in Philly. He said, “You know, we used to wear African clothes and garb and they started talking bad about it, talking down and saying ‘oh Armani, oh Chanel’. All of that was the shit. When you start dressing like a European, you start acting like one.”

 

He gave me several books to read, a DVD, some writings and posters. He also made me promise him that I’d stay away from drugs. He fell victim to substance abuse while in Vietnam. He returned home a broken man. He, like many veterans, couldn’t keep those horrific memories away. It sometimes made him absent in the lives of his children. He’s been a great grandfather to me over the years. He’s supported me at all stages of my development.

He says he’s proud  to see me become a young, Black revolutionary. “Ha! Me?”, I think. He reminds me that he and my grandmother were revolutionaries at one point and that they lived a very Afrocentric life. He’s proud of me because he’s “always been a proud Black man.” He offers his own solutions to “Black people’s problems”, that I won’t disclose.

He’s sick now. He goes to dialysis regularly and endures a lot of physical pain due to various ailments. He’s very emotional and at times he’s impatient. It doesn’t upset me, though. I feel like after living 60 plus years as a Black man in America, he’s earned (that right). So when he talks, I just nod and listen, laugh, when appropriate, and absorb his lessons.

Eboni Zamani is a Pace University graduate and proud native of North Philadelphia.

Follow her on twitter @EboniZ 

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mevsme

Living the Life I Fought Myself to Live

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I am back to being self-employed now and can’t stress enough how liberating it is to wake up each morning and fully decide what I want to do with my day, again. Gosh, it was that easy! Of course, it came with sacrifice. The same thrilling factor of being able to decide what to do with my day is the same one that plagues me when I have a “stack-spree” and step out on faith to build my revenue. Thankfully, it hasn’t been hard. I’m smelling the trees and I can fully appreciate the benefits of being a self-employed, ambitious  mother of three. Life couldn’t be better. As I sit here, having downed my second Mimosa of the morning, reflecting on last week; how I can render more assets out of the ones I have, I am thankful. I am thankful I don’t have to clock in, regulate my own thoughts and desires to fit the constraints of someone else’s dream. I did this for three months and was miserable. I was constantly living in the afterthought. “After work I’ll go and hang out to let off some steam. I can’t wait until Friday.” It was sad and I couldn’t deal. I took a gamble and headed for the sunrise. Maybe the sun would shine on me. Maybe it wouldn’t. I just knew I was made for the autonomous life.

Why was I working a full-time, underpaying job?

I convinced myself I had to, out of guilt. NEVER DO ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO. Screw that. You will not magically be vindicated in your mind. It will only serve to diminish your self-esteem. I wasn’t honest with myself. I was desperate and made myself miserable by taking on someone else’s dream. Of course I don’t have to tell you that it didn’t serve me or them. Ah well, life is about learning. 2014 has been a very introspective year. I appreciate all the ups and downs, respectively. As I sit here, planning my next adventure up the highway, I am

thankful. Thankful to be allowed by the ethers to live the life I fought myself to live.

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Guilt-free Self-Preservation

“We say we’ll drink more water, but we don’t. We say we’ll get up and go running, but we don’t. We’ll bend over backward to keep our word to a lover, a friend, an employer, even a stranger. But we let ourselves down.” -Carolyn Myss

We’ve all had this same conversation; with ourselves, friends, family, lovers… The importance of self-preservation hasn’t been more relevant or profound for us in any other time than now. We’re all witnessing a shift in the world, for the better. In the face of oppression and genocide, there’s a light that can’t be dimmed emerging from all the pain and sorrow. This light is brightest when seen from within. Removing ourselves from standards imposed from external, foreign sources is key to discovering and expanding that light.

 babies-overpopulation-007There are billions of ways to do this. Literally. For each inhabitant of the earth, there are at least ten ways to survive that can be found. AT LEAST TEN x 7 Billion (known) Minds= 70,000,000,000 ways to elevate and progress.
That should make you smile…
C’mon.
THERE YOU GO!!!
Well, I’m going to share a few from one of earth’s inhabitants>>>>
670px-Contemplate-Life-Step-2As an only child, I can tell you, being alone is not bad. At all. I actually prefer it sometimes. I wasn’t always that way, and I don’t believe I’ll always remain that way. I bounce between reclusive and social wallflower. Yup, I like to hang out, but I may be caught red-handed with a book if there’s a down moment at a party. Jus sayin’. However,  I haven’t brought a book with me to a party in the last three months, but don’t hold me liable when I get my hands on Gaiman’s Trigger Warning in February. I can’t make any promises. My books are my friends. And Neil Gaiman has a hold on my soul that’s a little scary sometimes. I’ll get into that next week.
A few self-preservation ideas from a reclusive, social wall-flower:
1. GET INTO A BOOK
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If it attracts you, pick it up. Books are like people, you can learn something from them. Whether what you learn is substantial or not is your choice. If you don’t like it, you’ll have a better idea of what resonates with your mind. A start is most important. I’ve had at least three conversations with friends and associates during which I’ve heard, “I don’t read much. It puts me to sleep when I read”, “Where do I start? You’re saying read more. But what should I read?”, “I like talking to people who read a lot. It expands my mind. But reading requires me to sit still for too long. I get bored and distracted”.
70 billion ways, people. 70 billion ways.
My response has and most likely always will be, there is no one way to read. There is no one thing to read about. With Kindle, iPad, audiobooks, GoodReads, eBooks, your local library, your friend’s or family member’s library, the options and avenues are endless when assessing your path to expanding your mind through reading. Instead of perusing your friend’s DVD collection, check out their bookshelf. From a stack of books on a milk-crate to a fully furnished library, just about every household has a collection of books. Ask your host if they’d mind recommending a book you could borrow. If that’s not possible, ask if there’s a book they’d recommend you buy and why. Start the discussion.
Borders LogoEvery Saturday from the ages of 6-17 my Mom (May she continue to light the horizon) would take me to Border’s Bookshop (PLEASE BRING BACK BORDERS, OMG) where I would select the books that interested me and we’d sit at the bookstore from about 3:00 (she wasn’t a morning person) until closing. We’d make a day out of it, and she’d sit at the cafe while I bounced between the children’s chapter books and world cookbooks. I wanted to be a chef when I was 8. Looking back, I noticed something. What seemed as random tidbits I’d pick up from perusing the science, self-help, and young adult sections, were all parts of me I had come to shape overtime. Borders was the breeding ground for Becoming Kamila.
My philosophical guides ranged from The Berenstain Bears to Toni Morrison by the time I was twelve. I’d also fallen in love with Chris Rock’s written standup. Bigger and Blacker got me through puberty. Seriously, read standup. It’s the most profound and well-rounded literature, in my opinion. Its fluidity and rhythm make it a genius way to deliver the sometimes harsh truth. Ok, I’m getting off task, but this post wouldn’t be this post without those acknowledgements.
Sense there is no more Borders Bookshops to visit, I’d recommend local, boutique shops that carry indie authors, have a strong world literature section, and passionate, avid readers for staff. I dare not mention B&N. So I won’t. In all seriousness, reading has been fundamental to my development as a wanderlust. Not to mention having a wanderlust for a mother. She traveled extensively throughout my childhood, mostly during my preschool years and then began bringing me along for the ride/flight from the age of 11-21. She’d bring back trinkets and books from London, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Morocco, Australia and Senegal. I’d imagine myself in all these places and write my own on-location stories that I’d share with my father in my letters to him. Which brings me to my second method of survival; writing.
2.WRITE
writingWriting is just as fundamental as reading when it comes to self-discovery and preservation. In some instances, I’d say it’s more important. It’s second in this list only because it is strengthened with reading. I’ve expanded my mind and outlook through just about every adversity or challenge by writing. For eight years, I kept an immaculate journal. All I felt and wanted was engraved on those pages. It served as a release for me during times I needed it the most. Naturally, everyone’s sense of expression transforms at one time or another and I began penning more fictional stories instead of diary entries. At twelve, I realized I had the power to create the world I wanted at the tip of my fingers. The more I created, the more I believed I could create; this is important in establishing goals and maintaining the confidence and character to sustain survival. I was in love with my soul. As I write this, I’m falling in love all over again.
Writing forces the intuitive person to come to analyze what they’re essentially reforming through their words. You don’t take it lightly. Even, well especially, in light humor, what’s written won’t be funny if it has no truthful basis. What’s plaguing you will become effectively clear if you choose to see it. That’s the light I’m talking about. All things come full circle. Your mind speaks loudest when you assess it to choose what you’d like to share from it. We all do this every single day that we communicate with others.
This post, for instance. I chose to share my musings after reading something inspirational on another site. I was compelled, after analyzing what was presented, to share. I’m free-writing this piece, with a few edits here and there, but I’m molding my perceptions into healthy ideas that will benefit myself and those depending on me through writing. Writing is the mind, documented. I can maintain resilience as long as I know where I’ve come from, where I am and want to be. This is the prototype for empowerment. Writers all over the world share their thoughts, voices, strengths, weaknesses, to be sources of light for those still yet to see their own.
Writing is the reminder that no matter what, you have power. There’s no right or wrong way to write, which is in itself, liberation. Societal, governmental, zealous oppression all diminish in the light that is resilience. Writing is my way of honing that resilience.
3. TRUST YOURSELF
This will be short as it is simple as hell; YOU CAN’T ACHIEVE ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T TRUST YOURSELF TO DO IT.
I say this because these are words I have engraved in my conscious. I’m going to say it again,
YOU CAN’T ACHIEVE ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T TRUST YOURSELF TO DO IT.
Mind without body is sufficient as it is spirit. Body without mind, is a zombie. Start, go, do! But please believe in you!
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4. FORGIVE YOURSELF
This is absolutely connected to trusting yourself. There’s no better proponent for this whom I can think of than myself. I’ve disappointed myself and it has been a process forgiving myself. What’s affected by that you say? EVERYTHING. Especially, trusting yourself. We’ve all made choices we aren’t proud of, but in no way does the world stop spinning because of a heavy heart. Hell, the world is a heavy heart. Think about it… And while you’re atop this spinning heart, you have to survive. Trusting yourself is the key to doing it and doing it well. Forgiving yourself is the key to trusting yourself.
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 5. GO TO THE PLACES IN YOUR DREAMS.
…even the scary ones. You’ll definitely learn something about yourself. Find a way to get away. Travel is important in staying in touch with what’s real for you. How many times in a crazy dream has your conscious stopped and said, “Wait, I must be dreaming”? I can’t count how many times it’s happened to me. I was traveling to Ireland with my late mother in a recent dream I had. I knew it wasn’t possible in this realm but then I got to thinking: we’ve always talked about Amsterdam and Ireland. More-so Amsterdam, but I had no doubt her spirit was reminding me to make the trip. She’d be there with me. It’s on my bucket list. Ireland is a few notches above my travel budget, but I’ll see it in this realm one day. What’s unreal isn’t so unreal after all.
6. SHUT DOWN… BEFORE YOU HAVE TO
 Bubble_Bath_CatI placed this at the bottom of my list for good reason. It’s most important as I’ve experienced the consequences, firsthand. Start by taking a day each week to do something you like. As time passes, increase the frequency of that activity. If you take a 30 minute bath on every Friday night, next month make it 1 hour every Friday night. The month after that, add in Saturday or Sunday or both nights for an hour. Shoot, if you’re really feeling yourself, try every night for an hour. But don’t forsake partaking in this activity to join in someone else’s activities. Okay, your friend Sam has a party Friday night. Let Sam know you may be an hour late. Or take your bath an hour earlier. Don’t push your bath up to after the party, take that bath like you do every Friday night. Setting your concerns ahead of others’ is not a crime. It’s self-preservation. If you could somehow violate someone’s rights by doing so, then that is the instance you concede to prioritizing the needs of others over your own. If it’s not dishonorable, don’t be afraid to let others know you will address their needs after you address your own and if it is favorable for you to do so. I’ll leave with a thought my mother posed to me:
If a plane is crashing and you are with your child, you first give yourself the oxygen mask and then give your child hers”,
said as we were preparing for emergency landing in Phoenix, AZ during a record-breaking monsoon, by the way.
Ha! Momi was a riot.
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Soul Trekking: Conversations with My Father

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It’s been six years since my mother passed away unexpectedly and I am still awakening parts of myself that I haven’t felt since 2008. I wouldn’t peg the experience to be either good or bad, I’m just grateful ‘It’ is happening. Wandering around in existential limbo has been the most unnerving and calming experience yet. Being emotionally unstable was once something I was ashamed of. I kept quiet a lot. A lot. I’d shut my feelings down and try to exude a polished surface, afraid that I’d either make someone uncomfortable or embarrass myself, which would almost immediately backfire in my face. There was so much rage and pain circling around in my core that I’d combusted and burnt out internally. I was raw and charred inside and as blind as a bat on the outside. After a longstanding friendship suffered, partly at my hands, I decided enough was enough. I had to get a grip on the grief or it would destroy me.

I was suffering and because of that I was ashamed. Guilty of circumstances. I hated myself and everything about me. Running from my grief had only led me to more, pain I’d exacted upon myself and others that I loved.  I was surrounded by help and didn’t want to see it. I transferred all of the guilt and shame I felt for my mother’s sudden death to all other facets of my life. I’d recovered in my mind. I was just having some mental and emotional hiccups. Besides, no one was worry-free, and to share my plight would be selfish, oppressive, insensitive. I was at fault anyway. There was nothing or no one that could save me from myself.

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I contemplated God for a long time. Now that I look back, maybe longer than I wanted, but I had to be sure. Would The All want me to perish in my own despair? Were my feelings of shame and guilt valid? Was the shame and guilt a scapegoat for the actual pain and anger? I’d learned that I was displacing my valid grief and anguish with senseless self-deprecation to more easily dismiss the pain and grief. I’d studied just about every advanced-level psychology course in community college to gain a better understanding for my how my own mind worked. And the very conditions I studied were playing out in my head; Survivor’s Guilt, Suppression, Repression, Grief, PTSD, Manic Depression, Bipolar (Disorder), etc.

My father came to mind when I started dissecting my mind. Although he was never a physical constant in my life, we kept in touch through letters and occasional pictures throughout my adolescence. I got to know his mind, how he processed information and experiences, his dreams and pains, between 7 and 18. He’d been incarcerated 95% of my life. I met him in prison when I was seven years old and we established a pen pal relationship thereafter. One of the main themes in our communication was depression; how he’d gauged, battled and defeated it through meditation and Buddhist teachings, its triggers and how knowing that would affect me and my process.

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I had an answer! I texted my Dad the other day and asked him if we could talk. He lives almost 1,000 miles away and has established his own life; girlfriend, career, hobbies, turning 50, you know… But the one thing he can’t seem to shake is his guilt. The guilt of not being a constant in my life. Reaching out to him is healing for both of us as he gains a sense of  redemption by being a part of my life, as a pen pal, and I gain a better understanding of one half of the duo I hail from. But for some of us, healing is a scary thing. It often requires us to break the mold we’ve shaped out of our lives, lies included. My dad would like to believe there’s no chance to regain my confidence in him. He opts for defeat when communicating with me, afraid I will reject him if I learn too much about him.

I am more determined than ever to reach him and build a platform for healing by breaking that mold we’ve both shaped. He hails my mother as a saint, someone he could never outdo or even match up to. Abandoning her when she birthed and raised me is also something he has yet to forgive himself for. I can’t tell him enough how much she forgave and upheld a dignified view of him in his absence, throughout my life. It just isn’t enough. Rational as it may be, my words of truth fall on deaf, defeated ears. They are seen as consolations, not affirmations. I get it. I can’t count how many times loved ones have tried to remind me of the good I possess. I only heard their words as consolation. I was a failure and there was nothing that could change that, not even the good in me. With this understanding, I changed the whole course of contact with my dad. I’d try a different approach to assessing his half of myself.

Instead of reaching out to my dad about my lowly feelings, I  asked him about his biological family. He grew up a foster child, in and out of homes, displaced most of his life. I wondered if that had any affect on his lack of presence in my life. I learned that I have several aunts and uncles and that my grandparents’ names were Bubbles and Alfonso Thomas. Two aunts are identical twins living in rural Florida. The need to know them has never been stronger. Understanding the people my dad comes from will help both of our perspectives and bring much needed healing to our family.

Terrorific Times: Running into (head-)Space

 

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I quit my job last week and I can’t remember feeling better. In a country experiencing coast-to-coast inflation, I stepped through the unmarked door of potential and came out with a piece of mind. I’ve decided to give less of a damn about what seems right and more about what feels right. Walking the line between then and later, I’ve learned that holding onto aggression, that of mine or anyone else, has negative effects and has never worked in my favor. I am a recovering “people pleaser” and am still learning from decisions I’ve made when putting others wants and desires before my own. Relationships with some of my loved ones have suffered because of decisions I’ve made. I’ll get into those experiences and what I was left to learn from them later this week.

I’ve learned that the first step to improving my overall health and wellness is allowing room. Room for growth, room for exploration. There’s so much I learned about myself, I wanted to learn more. Before I could do that, I had to break the chains; what was, what wasn’t, what could be. I began freeing head-space by practicing breathing exercises at work. What I couldn’t see in myself became apparent once I started taking the time to understand myself better. The first step to that was analyzing my priorities; not what I believed they were, but what my actions proved.

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I found that over 70% of my routine was dedicated to making myself available to my employer, by any means necessary. Before meditation, healthy sleeping habits, healthy eating and regular exercise, I was making it my business to be to work on time. I dared not measure how much of that time I was robbing from my children. I was hanging on by a thread with iron dangling from my ankles.

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Fear is paralyzing. How many of us stay at jobs we hate? I stayed at my job out of fear that I would be labeled lazy or a quitter if I didn’t. I came to embrace that none of what I was telling myself mattered. As a mother of three under 5, I came to fully understand my role in my life, my home and the world community. For the better part of 2014, I gave myself all sorts of reprimands for coming up short. Comparing my life to my fairytale, I kept feeling like a failure. Harping on disappointments, I kept telling myself that I had to suffer for my decisions. I’d assigned myself to hell.
MakeFriendswithFear

 

 

By this past summer, I had convinced myself that a 9-to-5 was my only redemption. I knew I’d hate it. Hate it with a passion, but I’d take one for the team. Because I had to. I’d resigned to living a life I knew I didn’t want to appease my ego. I’d trusted the wrong people, put myself in a desperate situation, and in turn, alienated myself from some of those closest to me. And I was in the darkest part of the struggle to forgive myself when I made the decision to find a 9-to-5. I transferred my unwillingness to forgive myself into a false-purpose. I was running from pain and in that same sprint, had inflicted more upon myself. A pattern I noticed I exhibited time and time again. How could I change that? safe_image.php

Who am I?

Looking in the mirror is like looking through a tunnel when all you get is a trail of faces. Pain and doubt have rendered the sharp features into dull curves and points, remnants of souls come and gone.

Who are they?

All whom I’ve loved, who have loved me, who know my face and my name. Some of them I know, some of them I will. All of them I’ve been.

These are the questions I ask myself everyday. Some of the answers I know, some of them I will.

How can I break the pattern of pain and wonder?

Breaking away.

Paralysis is best fed by fear. Standing still isn’t paralysis, it’s quite the opposite. Allowing your full self to flow creates a resonance so stealth, it’ll look like you’re standing still.

Break the wheel. Watch it roll and crumble.

With more time in the day to cater my routine to improving my overall health and wellness, I’ve allowed the space to morph freely.

I’m running, full speed, into (head)-Space.scary-places