That when your body says rest, it’s time to rest.
That you will feel energized and spring into action when the time is right, no outside motivation needed.
That you do not need to be in constant motion to be productive.
That if you’ve been doing the work, the opportunities will present themselves.
That things are aligning in your favor that you don’t yet know about.
That authenticity will always be in demand and there is no need to alter who you are or pander to trendiness.
That your idea may not be unique but the way you execute it will be. Don’t be afraid to do what’s already being done YOUR way.
That you aren’t seeing even a sliver of your peers failures or disappointments .
That your worth is intrinsic and isn’t dependent on how many people purchase your goods, services or art.
That some seeds won’t bear fruit for quite some time. They are still growing.
That it’s ok to redefine what success looks like to you as you grow.
That you don’t have anything to prove to anyone. Don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a long time making it. It’s never too late to change course.
I was not one of those little girls who loved baby dolls. I didn’t have any younger siblings and my one attempt at “watching” my little cousin ended with him falling into the coin fountain at Marketplace Mall. I reluctantly became a Red Cross certified baby sitter at age 13 because my mom thought it made sense. I remember being worried because talking in that high pitched singsong voice people use with babies and kids didn’t come natural. When I decided to have a baby I wondered how a person like me who didn’t feel an urge to play peekaboo with infants in the grocery line and didn’t kneel down to get on eye level when speaking to toddlers would fare with motherhood. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, that’s what you’re supposed to do right? I was on the right track, or so I thought. My ego was lit up when my then husband told me he wanted a daughter who looked just like me. I now see that comment for what it really is but at the time it was fairy tale living.
We got married in June, I stopped taking birth control in December and got a positive pregnancy test in January. As I went through my pregnancy I became increasingly concerned that becoming a mother would mean saying goodbye to myself. If I’m being honest I was having a baby because it was what I viewed as the next step in the trajectory of my life, not because I had an overwhelming urge to become a mother. I wondered if I could still be a good mother without motherhood taking over my whole being . My worst nightmare was becoming one of those mothers who couldn’t hold a conversation about anything not pertaining to kids and child rearing. I decided then that I would not become that mom.
Fast forward to present day and me chaperoning my 11 year old 6th grader on her field trip. I surprised her with the news that I was coming on the field trip and while I’ve been going on her field trips in 6th grade its different. It’s no longer cool. She protested and got all dramatic about me coming but once I was there I could tell she was happy her mama was there and I was glad to be present in that moment for her. As I look at her and realize that the days of chaperoning field trips are numbered and hoping that she looks back on this period of her life fondly, it hits me that maybe by loving and caring for her while continuing to make space and time for the things that make me feel like alive, she is learning what self care looks like. I hope she holds all the memories of birthday parties, summer camps, activities and trips but it’s more important to me that she recalls fondly the way we lived and interacted with each other on a day to day basis. I hope that the stability I strive so hard to create for her empowers her to be bold and take risks.
Motherhood is hard as shit and I haven’t even hit the teenage years yet. It can shine a light on your worst character flaws and force you to examine your behavior more closely. I was so worried about being a different version of myself when in reality I’m a better version. There is delicate balance of protecting her and at the same time allowing her the space to explore and make mistakes. Of passing on knowledge without projecting my perceptions of the world onto her. Of seeing her as my reflection and honoring the individual she is. I think it would be much harder to navigate all of this if I hadn’t made a commitment to continuing to work on myself in the midst of motherhood and it’s already quite hard as it is . I still feel like I’m failing a lot of the time and I still laugh to myself like damn you really don’t know WTF you’re doing do you? I still call my mom for parenting advice. Bottom line is the shit isn’t figured out. As a mother you really just are doing the best that you can every day.
This was one of those pivotal moments I thought only happened in books or movies. An exact moment in time where you can pinpoint when something changed, when you knew that you would never look at things the same way. When I opened up that cabinet under the sink and saw boxes and boxes of S Curl texturizer my emotions went from my mouth hanging open in shock to hysterical laughter to tears . I knew then that I had been looking at things through the wrong lens and while it was initially jarring, this experience provided me with a teachable moment that has served me well as I moved forward through life. Let me walk it back…..
A few weeks earlier I had received a phone call from an unknown number that had called several times in a row before I finally picked up. An unfamiliar voice informed me that my husband was having an affair with a woman at his job,taking trips with her and bringing our 3-year-old daughter to her house. Apparently the woman calling worked there too and knew of me and felt it was her moral obligation to call me and let me know. I still think it was the woman he was seeing using a fake accent or one of her friends but I’ll never know and it really doesn’t matter. I’m skipping over a ton here but the end result was me filing for divorce. He had gotten his own “bachelor pad” and I was cleaning out any remnants that he left behind. Lucky for me the texturizer discovery came before the worst of the discoveries and believe me it got worse than a fake ass s-curl. We had had conversations in the past in which he proudly proclaimed that he had a “good grain” of hair and chuckled about it. His hair didn’t matter to me at all or have any factor in me deciding to marry him but it was something he was very proud of.
As I sat there in shock, surrounded by empty boxes of Duke and Lusters, in disbelief that this man had been lying about something so inconsequential as his hair texture it hit me that none of this was about me. Before the texturizer discovery I had been looking at this the whole situation through the lens of my ego. ” How could he do this to me? , How could this happen to me?, What did I do to deserve this?, How could I not have seen this coming, Why didn’t I ever check under his side of the sink before?” In that moment, I realized just how many prior red flags I had ignored and realized that this was who he’d always been. It was never about me. This whole thing really had nothing to do with me. That’s when the uncontrollable laughter began. I was struck by the hilarity of it all…. there was no way I was gonna let a dude who was secretly chemically altering his hair make me question myself anymore. Then the tears began because it wasn’t just about me. We had a daughter together and although things had come into focus for me, she was a little girl who loved her daddy and I was sad about the fact that everything was changing for her in ways she was too young to fully understand.
I threw out the empty boxes and got on with the planning of this new altered vision for my life with a new understanding. When subsequent discoveries came, much more troubling than texturizer, I was able to navigate with a clearer head. In no way am I saying that I never again felt pain, anger , sadness or even disbelief but I had stopped relating everything back to me. Honestly, I had little time to consider the why’s or how’s, and even less time to attend the pity party. I had a mortgage that was going unpaid, a daughter in private school, a divorce attorney charging billable hours and one income. The texturizer moment allowed me to separate myself from what was happening to me. I stopped taking things so personally and was able to move forward in a matter of fact way. I’d be lying if I said I never again took anything personally from that point forward but there was a major change in perspective from the time I sat surrounded by empty boxes of texturizer laughing and crying like a crazy person.
Most of us are unknowingly moving through life making choices not based on what we truly feel in the moment but based on our programming or what we feel we “should” choose based on our inclination to define ourselves. I find myself doing it all the time. “I’m a foodie and I want the most interesting thing on the menu!, I’m a dancer and I always stand in the front of the class! I’m a mother, I should change the station when curse words come on!” But sometimes I just want the chicken, sometimes I just want to hide out in the back of a dance class, and deep inside I know that curse words in rap songs aren’t going to be detrimental to my child in the long run. I make these choices based on the different roles that I play and the expectations that come with them. I have had to really check myself on several occasions because I’m not one to change direction mid-course. If I tell my daughter to change the station, I’m not turning it back. If I order the most delicious sounding interesting thing on the menu I’m not gonna flag the waiter down to order the damn chicken. Chalk it up to stubbornness I guess, but I have ended up dissatisfied because I didn’t choose what I really wanted in that moment.
That’s why I feel it’s important to sometimes forget it all and do wtf you want! To others that may look like you’re wilin’ out because it’s a different action than what people have come to expect of you but so what? One of the best thing I love about teaching dance is the liberation. Seeing people come in with friends or co-workers who are completely surprised when the quiet shy one who doesn’t really go out comes down the soul train line, busts a full split and starts twerking like she’s getting paid for it. When people can leave behind their roles and expectations and do what feels natural and good it’s beautiful.
There is something exhilarating about doing something you thought you’d never do. It’s powerful to make a mindful choice, one that’s based purely on the present moment. I jumped in the ocean to snorkel last year for the very first time and I seriously considered the consequences. What if I got bit or freaked out? I was terrified! This was something clearly on the “Things Lily doesn’t do” list. I did freak out just a little bit but more importantly I mentally threw away that list. Lily does whatever the hell she wants. There are no more lists. I will no longer place limitations on what I can experience.
The photo for this post came out of one of those moments. We were shooting in a very sparsely populated nightclub in the middle of the day and the photographer was getting some great shots. There was a moment where I thought, “there’s hardly anybody in here, I’m about to take my shirt off and get behind the bar “. If I had still had my lists this one would’ve been titled “Why you don’t need to this ” and would’ve read – You are 37 years old, not some 21 year old at Mardi Gras, you are a mother, you don’t need to sell sex, you don’t even really like your boobs, you’ll be embarrassed if someone walks up and makes a comment, what’s the point you won’t actually use this photo anyway…blah blah blah.I turned all of that off. It was fun and spontaneous and those are qualities I want in my life so I took the damn picture.
Why the hell not?
Photo: Tia Boyd
In the past two weeks I’ve been a part of 2 performances. One behind the scenes as the choreographer and the other front and center as a performer before an audience. As I contemplated both experiences it hit me just how important performance is to the learning process. Of course not all art is performance based, some art is created and is then interpreted by the person viewing it or reading the words on the page. The artist themself has completed the work and they don’t necessarily perform it. But that’s what I love about the performing arts, the variance in the skill sets of songwriter/singer, screenwriter/actor, choreographer/dancer.
My greatest strength has always been in performing. I love to choreograph and bring out the best in others and I love being a student of dance in general but it’s in taking on the task of trying to convey something to an audience where I’m most at home. I’ve always loved dancing in front of people but I as I got older I also focused on my performance out of necessity. My body type, lack of flexibility and decent but not outstanding technique were all working against me but I knew that despite all of that I could always be a commanding presence on the stage. My kicks may not be as high, my feet may not be pointed as beautifully but damn it when I take that stage you will take notice and look at me.
My students that I set choreography for absolutely killed it last week. They commanded the stage and made people look. No one in the audience knew that their trio started as a group of 6, or that they had never twerked on stage before or that the shorts they ordered to perform in weren’t quite what they had in mind. During the show I went backstage to congratulate them and a dancer in another piece was in tears, mascara running and all. I’m not quite sure why but usually if a dancer is crying backstage it’s because they feel they’ve made a blunder onstage. All I know is that in the 2 minutes it took me to get back to my chair she was onstage in another routine and crushing it! I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. After the show I was compelled to tell her that I had seen how upset she was just moments before and how proud and full of respect I was after seeing her pull her shit together and give the audience life!
This is what it’s about. How do you show up in your life?
We all deal with so many behind the scenes things that happen day-to-day that can impact how we take the proverbial stage of life but we can decide if we allow them to affect our performance or not. It’s not about impressing other people or wearing a mask, it’s about deciding to show up every day as an active participant in your life. As the saying goes “Life is not a dress rehearsal”. While I agree with that in a sense, I feel like it’s a little disrespectful to the concept of dress rehearsals. Dress rehearsal is where you figure it all out. Where you tweak, adjust and get comfortable with all of the variables . I was always taught to go full out in the dress rehearsal as the only difference between that and the performance was the addition of an audience. The beautiful thing about life is that if you’re lucky you get another day to take stage. Another chance to show up for your life and the people in it the way you want to.
Image Credit: Earl McGehee