Character, Digging Deeper, Comfort Zones, Lies, Living Live to the Fullest, and Closing Gaps

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop (@STMSBmore), held online.

• Has your character and humanity been forged more by pleasure and success, or by pain and disappointment?

I really do believe that who I am and my base character was forged from the loving environment my parents afforded me. It gave me the space to daydream, to be tender, to be open about some things, and to grow and learn in things I was interested in.

However, I think my humanity was forged from the pain I experienced, the bullying, the tragedies of losing classmates and loved ones around me, of watching things I cared about being destroyed, and from being lonely.

The contrast between those two things helped me understand that the world did not have to be a place of tragedy and that people could do something about it and have influence over it. And it informs much of the way I operate in the world today.

• In my relationships, am I always digging deeper or am I always settling for mediocrity. Give yourself examples of how you do either.

I think I am constantly digging deeper into people I’m interested in, and sometimes I feel like that’s a barrier to dating casually.

I’ll be sitting with someone, getting to know them, and my mind will be racing trying to figure out what this person will be like 10-15 years in the future. I try to figure out how they are with kids, how sensitive they are, what they think about feminism, where they fall politically, how they talk to the waiter who’s coming up to us, how they are with money, how the deal with conflict…

And because of the trauma that I’ve been through, I inevitably start to worry about how things would go if our relationship begins to deteriorate. I worry about how we’ll fight. How she’ll try to hurt me if she’s angry. How it will hurt when we’re not talking anymore.

All of these things come crashing into my mind instead of taking things as they are, instead of relaxing and being in the moment, instead of just being.

It’s very hard. But I’m working on it.

• How do I respond to situations that force me to step out of my comfort zone? When was the last time I had to? How did I handle it?

This is interesting, because most of the time I force myself out of my own comfort zone. I enjoy doing that, and pushing myself so that I grow in ways I know I need to work on.

However. When I get pushed out by some other force, I don’t always deal with it well. At my base, I’m stubborn. And because I am already pushing myself, something or someone else pushing me sometimes feels like stretching me beyond my breaking point.

• What is the lie you tell yourself most often? What is reality? Why do you tell yourself this lie?

The lie that I tell myself most often is that things are not as bad as they are.

I choose this lie on purpose.

The reality that things are terrible and that life is hard and that everything is stacked against me succeeding would devastate me. Things ARE terrible. Life IS hard. A lot IS stacked against my success.

But, there are other things in life. There are little things that are beautiful, there is joy, there is love, there are friendships, there is passion. And those things make going through the terrible hard things worthwhile.

There is science that shows that hopeful people actually succeed more. There is something about hope that is infectious, not just for those around you, but for yourself too. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Making room for hope allows you to experience it.

Telling myself the lie that these beautiful things exist even when I don’t see them at the moment allows me to be open to them. So that when they do show up, I can still recognize them, and not still be stumbling around in the dark.

• What activities cause you to feel like you are living life to the fullest? How often do you do them?

I try to exaggerate and magnify all the things about any situation just to help me enjoy wherever I am. Right now, I cannot do my most favourite things. Travelling, being around people, hugs… But I can’t. So I have to make small things bigger.

Right now; it’s the golden hour. A brief 40 minutes where the sun sets and casts everything in gold. It feels wonderful. I’m drinking this amazing draft latte that found that tastes great, and is keeping me awake. I love both Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, and they played back to back. I’m typing on a brand new keyboard that I bought for myself. I have a small heater next to me, and it’s keeping me toasty and warm. God is everywhere, and in all these things.

By noticing all the little things around me that make me happy, it helps me to live every moment with as few complaints and regrets as I can.

Even in annoying situations, like waiting for my number to be called at the DMV, I’ll try to find something to appreciate about it. When I’m standing in line and waiting for my ticket, I’ll notice with every step forward, my situation is just a little bit better. When I finally have my numbered ticket and I’m waiting on those plastic chairs to be called up, I’ll be thankful that I’m sitting and can rest my feet.

I try to be grateful as much as I can.

• What stands between you and complete happiness? What can you do to close the gap?

I think I’m actually pretty happy. There are some circumstantial things that would likely make things better and make me happier, but for now I’m taking pretty good care of myself and my happiness.

Remembering Things, Comforting Things, Keeping Secrets, 2020 Surprises

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held online.

• Write a list of 10 things that you want to remember during difficult times.

  1. You are loved.
  2. Breathe.
  3. Explore, then cuddle afterwards.
  4. Keep making lists of the things you’re grateful for.
  5. Give yourself a break.
  6. Be patient, it will come.
  7. Keep your head up.
  8. You aren’t alone.
  9. You got this.
  10. It will be ok.

• What items do you find comforting? Why do you think that is? What places do you find comforting?

My bed is comforting. I have outfitted it with sheets and blankets I love, far more pillows than I need, and a mattress so big that it fits me.

My meditation space is comforting. It has books that fill me, incense and candles that smell nice, things to keep my hands busy so I can let go, and pillows to let me rest.

Ferry Bar Park is comforting. I go out there, tilt the chair back in my Element, roll down the windows, and just let the wind and the waves carry me away.

• What secrets are you keeping? Are these secrets affecting your mental health? Why or why?

I hold on to things. Things people say in passing, things people say to me directly, things I hear said about me… I hold on to them forever. And I’ll bring them out and squeeze them as hard as I can, until they dig into me and hurt me again.

I’m getting a lot better at letting it go and not harping on these things, but they hurt. I have a general aura of aloofness and of being happy-go-lucky, but I remember these things and I have a hard time letting them go.

Some things were said to me by family, some were said to me by people I was in relationship with. Some of the things have absolutely zero basis in fact at all, and were said just in an argument or just as a way to hurt me. But I’ll still wonder “what if…”

It is devastating for my mental health. Because it because really difficult to move on and grow. But I’m making progress on it, bit by bit.

• What has surprised you most about 2020? What can you learn from it? What have you learned from it?

I think I was surprised most by how much people were still there to support and be there for me, despite the pandemic, despite how down and out I was for the previous two years. The pandemic didn’t stop people from loving me, and it has encouraged me to keep going.

• What has anxiety taught you about yourself?

Anxiety is not something I felt I had a lot of experience with. I knew people who had anxiety, who were scared of trying new things, who were scare of their shadows, who were just generally scared of life. But I didn’t feel that way, so I figured I didn’t have anxiety. I was fearless, nothing frightened me. I would dive directly into things that I was afraid of.

But when I had kids, I felt such a weight of responsibility constantly that I felt like it would crush me. I had to make enough money to buy enough food. To pay the mortgage. To pay the utility bills. All during a recession.

I felt trapped, and as my marriage failed over and over again, anxiety crept in. It manifested itself not as fear and apprehensiveness, but as anger and rage. My health took a nosedive. I considered dark thoughts that normally I wouldn’t even approach. I had panic attacks, I went to the ER for bizarre things that would happen to my body.

Anxiety taught me that ignoring problems wasn’t any type of solution, and that my mental health was the first thing I needed to take care of, not the last.

Skipping Biographies, Planning Mars, Warning Labels, Missing Exes, and Changing Friendships

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held online. Photo of Nya, me, and Arion by Joe Cardamone.

• In your biography, which chapters would you ask your parents to skip and why?

I would not ask them to skip anything, because I don’t have anything to hide about my parents. But I would provide warnings about sections about my sexual awakening.

I don’t think that most parents really are interested in hearing about their children’s sexuality, despite the fact that most of us end up being sexual people.

One of my favourite books in the Bible from when I was very young was The Song Of Solomon, but its openness and celebration of sensuality always seemed to contradict the cold closed-off attitude I got from the church.

I am a whole person, and won’t hide.

• Imagine we all had to start over on Mars and you were responsible for choosing who gets to be apart of humanity 2.0. How would you decide who gets to go to our new planet?

This is something I would take very seriously. I think it’s extremely important to have a wide variety of diversity to go. Not only genetically (though that is important), but a variety of people from various backgrounds and upbringings. If anything should happen where they would not be able to get home, or if we suddenly became incapable of sending more people, I’d want this group to be the very best humanity has to offer.

That being said, I’d also put some qualifications on entry. Money and wealth would not be an obstacle. Case-in-point, wealth is what currently serves as a bridge to getting to Mars, whether it’s directly by being able to afford to research and build rockets or to be able to afford the education it takes to be an astronaut.

What would be obstacles is things like the intolerance of others. Fascist tendencies. Authoritarian bents. These things have hurt humanity in so many ways, and I would not want them in our new colony.

Historians, educacators, writers, poets, artists, and musicians would be essential to creating a whole society.

I would also offer special access to groups and peoples who have typically been held back from society’s march forward. Non-white people, disabled people, women, youth, and other marginalized people would get special priority.

• If every human came with a warning label, what would yours say? What label would you avoid?

WARNING: Recalcitrant. Tends to not follow authority. Aggressive cuddler. Sensitive and tends to get attached easily. Perpetually optimistic. Has some traumas: they’re not your responsibility, but know they’re being worked on. Occasionally clumsy. Devilishly handsome. Handle with care.

I’d avoid people who label themselves as selfish, dishonest, emotionally unavailable, judgemental, abusive, anti-feminist, racist, controlling, irritable, narcissistic, or people who don’t enjoy being touched.

• What are 3 things your exes probably miss about you?

I know these because some of my exes have told me outright:

  1. My combination of sensitivity and strength gets missed. I’m able to both be strong during chaotic or challenging situations, but I won’t be cut off or cold or distant is something I’m valued for.
  2. I’m very generous with what I have. I’m loyal, and I will make sure you know you are appreciated.
  3. I am a very attentive lover, in all ways. I listen, pay attention, and study the people I love. I keep elaborate notes about what you like and don’t like, down to little things that you might have only mentioned in passing, and remember the ways in which you like to be touched.

I also know that I’ve never not been missed.

• How have your friendships changed since last year?

My friendships have really grown in depth since last year. There have been a lot of people who have really stepped up and really made it known that they wanted to be my friend.

2019 was a very lonely year of rebuilding myself, but especially right after my motorcycle accident, I wasn’t able to be there for my friends like I normally was, and instead they had to be there for me.

This showed me there were people who were only there because of what I gave to them. This also showed me there were people who really valued me for who I was, even if I was drugged up, in pain, and lying flat on my back.

The latter group invested in me and made sure I felt loved, and throughout this year, those relationships have only grown stronger.

Keeping Away, Passion, Regrets, and Tubing

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held online.

What behaviours do use to keep others from getting too close to you? Explain their effectiveness in keeping others away

I avoid compliments and being taken care of like the plague. I know it comes from my upbringing somehow, but I’m not entirely sure where. Perhaps with the focus on humility in traditional Christianity. But I have a really hard time when people lay things on thick, or when they tell me to just relax and take care of something entirely for me.

I’m very self-reliant and tend to be really good and figuring things out on my own and then doing them, mostly because I have had to for a good portion of my life.

But I actually love compliments. They make me melt. I love when someone takes something over for me and caters to me completely. It feels amazing.

I keep people away because I have been so deeply hurt by the people closest to me, and these behaviours are effective at keeping people away, but it’s not good for me.

Think about a passion, topic or item that you feel passionately about. Where did that passion originate?

I’m very active around social justice, and this has a couple sources. When I was younger, I was bullied a lot in school. When I entered highschool, I allied with some other kids who were typically outcast from the main group. We would practice different self-defense techniques in the hallway at lunch break. I also learned some of the history of the First Nations tribe I grew up with and the different ways in which white Europeans had exploited them. When I was in college, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, while I was getting involved in a lot of anti-racist groups on campus.

This, combined with my faith’s teachings on caring for “the least of these” and the defense of the oppressed, provide the foundations for the kinds of things I fight for today.

What two regrets do you have when looking back over your life? Do these regrets prevent you from living life in the present? Please explain

I find it hard to really dive into regrets too much, because I know the difficult things I went through really shaped who I am.

But I’ll never advocate for hardship as a way to grow character. I’ve been through truly horrible things and been treated very badly, but I don’t think those things NEEDED to happen to me.

I regret that I had those things happen to me. I imagine what I could be if I did not have to deal with that trauma.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote back in 2017 called Consider Jazz.

If you could design a room just for yourself, describe in detail how you would decorate it?

I would knock out the closet in my master bedroom, and build a stairway that would lead to the 3rd floor onto the top of my house. The entire floor would be open, with vaulted ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows on the southwestern side. The windows would be able to be automatically open and close depending on my preferences or the temperature throughout the day. The blinds on the windows would also be automatic, and white, so that they could be used as a projector screen at night. The northeastern wall would be covered in books and art. Towards the front of the house would be where my bed would be, with a meditation space, giant pillows and bean bag chairs everywhere, and hanging plants with automatic watering systems.

Toward the back would be the master bath, which would be glassed in with a central drain in the middle of the floor instead of a shower section. The entire bathroom would be the shower, where you could just walk around in it as if it were a warm summer rain. I would have a jacuzzi in one corner, which would be half in the bathroom, and half out, so you could be in the tub and hold conversations with anyone in the main room.

I’d have a gas fireplace (because nobody wants to haul firewood up 3 flights of stairs). I would have several overlapping oriental rugs on the floor, and under that, hardwood floors.

Out the back would be wide balcony through full french doors, and that would look out over the backyard, with a trellis covered in grapevines, and a hammock. Torches would be on every post for lighting, and big comfortable outdoor couches.

Think of a healthy fun activity that you’ve always wanted to do but have never done. What has stopped you from participating in this activity?

I want to go tubing in a river! I just need to buy some tubes and go! I’m going to go next summer.

Becoming Me, Tears of Joy, Starting Days, Invisibility, and Contentment

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held online.

How have I become me? What am I like?

There are some fundamental things about myself that I have always believed as far back as I can remember. I have believed that kindness is important, that God was there, that gentleness is meaningful, that happiness is subjective and changeable (meaning that you can change your happiness by changing that is around you).

There were times in my childhood that were challenging and painful, but these beliefs kept me upright, and prevented me from capsizing.

I think these beliefs largely came from my parents, but were also reinforced by the elders around me, and from nature as I lived in it.

The pain and abuse I experienced then taught me to fight for those who didn’t have people fighting for them, because I didn’t always have someone fighting for me.

When was the last time you cried tears of joy? What made you cry?

I typically don’t cry during happy things, but I will if there’s something wonderful that happens after something tragic, or if someone says something about me that makes me melt.

I cried tears of joy when I got divorced. I cried when I fell in love again. I cried when I found out my house might be saved.

I think I cry less and less when people give me compliments. Not because those compliments mean less to me, but because I actually believe them. I used to cry because I didn’t feel worthy of them, and now I do.

How can I start my day with a more positive attitude?

This is something I’m working a lot on more. Sometimes, whether it’s because of the pandemic, or worries about the country, or a big project, or just me goofing off, I’ll get up late. And it really bothers me sometimes. I love sleep, but I feel like so much of the day is wasted if I get up at 10, 11, or noon, or even 1. I’ll feel this sense of panic; like I have to get to work right away because I am running late.

Instead, I’m purposefully forcing myself to still do my routines that I know put me in a good mindset. Praying, meditating, stretching, doing a quick workout, making a good breakfast.

Those things make me feel good and change the whole outlook of my day.

How would you spend your time if you turned invisible for a week?

I would definitely sneak into all kinds of places. I’d go through city and state governmental offices, and leak all kinds of information surrounding inequality. I’d go through big corporate offices and leak salary information to employees. I’d siphon money off billionaires and put it to work feeding the poor and housing the homeless. I’d sabotage immigration detention centres by causing chaos among the guards, and help people get free. I’d depose corrupt officials by leaking evidence of their dealings to the news. I’d shut down crime rings, and find the sources of drugs flowing into Baltimore city, and cut it out at the roots.

I think I would have trouble sleeping that week.

On a scale of 1-10 how content are you with your life? What can you do to change the things you don’t like?

I’m at an 8.5 right now. There are a few things that could be better; but most of them are around the pandemic. And that will pass. I’m content with my trajectory. I know I’m on the right path.

Mood & Decisions

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop held online.What do you think others are learning from you?

How would you describe your mood right now?

I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. I just got done putting up art at different locations all over the city. I feel accomplished. I finally got a tool up on my website that you all encouraged me to build, that allows people to buy my photography off of my website, which I’ve never really sold seriously. My body feels slightly tired, but in that good way like right after a workout. I feel very very cared for right now; by my friends, by those close to me, by my family. I feel like I’m doing the right things. Not because they are wrong or right but more like they fit my purpose. I feel strong, like I am vibrating with energy without having to throw it around. I feel like old ways and habits are cracking and falling aside, as I grow deeper. I feel close to God.

What is the best decision you ever made?

I really feel like the best decision was switching majors so I could focus on my art and design. I fundamentally changed my trajectory in a really positive way. Because of the way that decision positively turned out, it has encouraged me to dive into other decisions with that same prayer, intensity and purpose. There are many more decisions since then that have been really good ones, but I think that one was the best because it changed how I made decisions.

Learning, Dealbreakers, Power, Love, and Remembering

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop held online.What do you think others are learning from you?

What do you think others are learning from you?

I’ve noticed that there are definitely people who have brought me into their lives so that they can learn from me. It’s an interesting feeling, because while I’ve been an educator in the past, I’ve it’s fascinating to watch people bring me into their circles because they value my input on different things. For many, I’m the white guy who is a source of information on protesting or feminism or revolution… and all that is odd for me because there are so many others I look up to for those kinds of things.

I enjoy being valued by other people in that way, and looked up to. It makes me more diligent on keeping myself on point. But I also want people to grow on their own as well, independent of me. I’m happy with the bonds I’ve been making with people.

When it comes to relationships, whether it is professional, family, intimate, or romantic, what is a dealbreaker for you? Where did that dealbreaker come from?

For me, I had to build up dealbreakers across all relationships. I used to think it was a strength to not have dealbreakers, and to be able to take any and all kinds of challenges.

What I did not take into effect was that sometimes the challenges in relationships can actually be abuse from others. As I grew more in my confidence, I began to be less tolerant of people who would take advantage of me, and would leave bosses, partners, or friends that were not healthy for me.

In what areas of your life is your power enabled? Does it help you? Does it help others?

I really feel like when it comes to deep relationships and getting beyond the superficial, that’s where I truly shine. When we can all be around each other and chill. Late nights around campfires. Talking politics and relationships, telling stories, and sharing experiences.

Imagine I have lost all memory. How would you explain love to me?

Love is a magnetism, an urge. It is a visceral attraction to someone, that makes you want to give your whole being to them. It makes you want to be in their presence, to invest time and energy into them. It dilates your pupils, flushes your skin, makes your hair stand on end. It sends tingles down your extremities, and warmth up your spine. It makes you see the world in a deep golden glow. Makes every music sound sweeter. Every good feeling heightened, every sense opened. Stress melts from you. Touch ignites you. You feel powerful and sensitive at the same time, vulnerable and empowered. It grows you in such beautiful ways. Love is the strongest and beautiful of all feelings.

What is something you’d like to remember forever?

I have a really horrible time remembering things. Because of that, I have to create all kinds of mechanisms, footholds and handholds, to remind myself of what reality actually is. I can sometimes slide off the deep end if I don’t keep active journals or take photos of where I’ve been to help trigger my memory into working again. Because otherwise, I’ll start to question everything.

To that point, one of the things I did after my very first relationship ended was to remove and erase all those handholds. I went up on the roof, put all the letters she had written to me into a metal bucket, and burned them. I gave away gifts she’d given me. I deleted photos from my computer. And slowly, like a scene from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, she began getting erased. By the time everything was done, which took me weeks to do, I had trouble remembering what she looked like.

Now that I know I have that ability, I hold onto those handholds and footholds a little more tightly. Writing down when people have affirmed me. Recording notes of when people have told me they’ve loved me. Keeping a special box of things that let me know that people actually care about me.

Because otherwise, I might forget.

Tours, Complaints, Traits, & Trust

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop held online.

If you were Earth’s official tour guide for aliens, where would you take them?

I think I would show them the places and people that mean the most to me. I would bring them to my home village, introduce them to my friends there. I’d show them where I grew up, the forests I played and explored, the elders I learned from.

I’d show them my favourite places in Baltimore, have them meet the people closest to me, let them hear their stories. I’d show them beauty and growth, but I would also show them the things and places that have been hard too. I’d show how there is injustice in the world, but also how we’ve overcome it and built, and fought back.

If all your exes got together, what is one complaint that they all would agree on?

All the people I’ve dated have been very different. And they would really really not want to be in the same room with each other.

I think they would all universally agree that I have the tendency to be too hard on myself and work myself into a lather by beating myself up over things. That is something that has hurt the relationships I’ve been in, and it’s the thing that I still struggle with the most.

It manifests by me taking small criticisms, and really really exaggerating them into giant criticisms that would challenge the very person I was. I’d dig my heels in and get defensive and become really depressed.

It has only been in my most recent relationships that this did not happen. It was both because I had grown to take criticism a lot better but also because I was partnering with people who refused to take advantage of my triggers and traumas.

What’s one character trait that you hope you never pass down to your kids?

I’m not sure it’s possible to prevent, because at this point I see some of myself manifesting in them already. But I would really like them not to learn the temper I had when I was younger, and the aforementioned tendency to be too hard on themselves.

But I am doing my best to teach them the skills and lessons I’m learning now.

What is the easiest way to break your trust?

My threshold for trust is much much higher than it was before. I pay way more attention to warning signs and signals that people are not trustworthy, and am more cautious about getting close to people. But once I have put trust in people, it is hard for me to let go, even if they’ve hurt me badly. Repeated broken promises in which I’m hurt are the way that it happens.

Justification, Nintendo, and Magical Memory

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop held online.

What do you normally take for granted?

My therapist took me to task this week, pointing out that I will often justify other people’s treatment of me, and adjust my own behaviour rather than asking for what I want or need. And it’s to the point where most of the time I don’t even think about it; if problems come my way, I take for granted that I will be ok because I’ll just adjust.

The real problem is when I get asked of so much, or taken advantage of to the point where I can no longer give or adjust. That’s when I breakdown. But even in my broken down place, I will still blame myself for the breakdown, apologizing for my own failing under pressure, rather than identifying the pressure itself.

It is bad to the point where I won’t even be able to correctly identify what I’m feeling. If someone wrongs me in some type of way, I’ll avoid feelings of anger and disappointment by focusing on the other person’s reasons for wronging me and justifying their behaviour. I have to really sit quietly and concentrate to try and identify how I actually feel about some things.

What is something you wanted for a long time, but then once you acquired it, it wasn’t as useful as you expected?

When I was a little kid, my parents wouldn’t let me have a Nintendo. Initially, I thought it was because we weren’t able to afford it, but even when I asked my grandparents or my aunts and uncles for them as gifts, my parents stepped in and turned it down.

I would end up going over to friends houses where we would play Nintendo together for hours, but I was never really good at them because I didn’t have one at home. I even tried saving up for one to get one on my own, but my parents still said no.

When we came to the USA for my last year of high school, things shifted a bit. My little brother was allowed to get all kinds of video games. I was upset about it for a while, but at 16, I was on my way out of my parent’s house and on my way to college.

Right before I moved out, I found a gigantic crate of video games and a old Nintendo console on the side of the road that someone had thrown out. Excitedly, I brought it home and hooked it all up the gigantic wood-paneled TV we had in the living room. Everything worked, and for several hours, I played with my little brother.

But after those few hours, I got up, and went for a bike ride. I maybe played a couple hours a week after that, but I just wasn’t as interested in it. When I went off to college, I gave the crate to my little brother.

What is one magical memory from the past year?

It was cold. We walked along cobblestone streets slowly, picking our way across grandiose squares in front of city hall, occasionally getting splattered by chilly rain. She held on to my arm tightly, she taking strides slightly longer, mine slightly shorter, so that we could comfortably move together in a sort of simple dance.

A carousel whirled in front of us, and her eyes brightened. I nodded, smiling, and we bought a couple of tokens and climbed aboard. We had the entire carousel to ourselves, so we walked around the second level, taking pictures on the horses, before finally coming to rest on a swing, her head on my shoulder.

As the twirling slowed, we alighted back on the square, and continued on. Music filtered from the alleys, a flock of white birds rode air currents over the Seine. The sky darkened to a deeper, darker blue, and she pulled me down one of the brightly lit alleys, whirling past golden shopfronts until we ducked into a small cafe. Two hot chocolates and sweet and savoury crepes later, we sat. Warm, happy, and in love.

Friends, Body Messages, Creativity, and Pride

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held online.

Think of someone who makes you feel happy, who inspires you, who motivates you. What was it about them that inspires you, motivates you, or makes you feel happy? What qualities of theirs do you see in yourself?

People who inspire, motivate me, and make me happy are the only ones I make serious efforts to hang out with. A really excellent example of this was going to a barbeque this Sunday. My friends Joe and Holly Cardamone had me, Devin Allen, Alanah Nichole, Kondwani Fidel, and a host of others up for a socially distance hangout. Joe and Holly have an enormous yard, a big deck, and a long dock jutting off the end of their property. All of us are creatives and work in social justice in some capacity in Baltimore, and it was just an amazing opportunity to unwind and relax with them.

All of them have overlapping qualities of generosity, care for those less advantaged than them, all truly have a passion for art and creativity, dedicate themselves to peace, but are ready to fight injustice.

I definitely see myself reflected in them, and almost all my friends share those qualities. When I am with them, I feel at home.

Your body is sending you messages, with love. What is your body craving? If you were listening to your body, what would you be doing?

I need to have more movement. The weather is cooling, and my body is itching to go out and enjoy it. However, I need to be serious about making it happen. Scheduling it, planning it, and doing it.

Most of the summer I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, heading to the beach when work was done and the weather was right. Fortunately, because work was light and the weather was amazing, it meant that I would go often.

However, now the weather is more chaotic, it’s rainy, cool, warm, dry, windy, calm… all unpredictable. I went out to enjoy the sunset yesterday, and though there was a 0% of rain, a tiny storm blossomed and blew in, drenching me and the kids.

I need to make sure I’m hiking, kayaking, walking, stretching, and doing cardio in a planned regular way. My body is urging me to.

How do you best express your creativity, and when was the last time you did it?

I’m getting back into sketching! I recently got enough saved up that I was able to buy an older used iPad, and its meant that I’ve been able to make artwork so much faster than I was able to before. There are some amazing new drawing apps, which really feel like a traditional sketchpad. So I’ve been drawing whenever I have free time, sitting there and sketching. Right now I’m working on a sketch of Storm, from the X-Men.

Sketch of Storm, from X-Men

I also made a challenge to release a new piece of art on my website every day this week. I released my drawing of Sanober Khan yesterday.

Name one thing that makes you proud of yourself. Why does it make you proud?

I’m proud that I haven’t given up. Life hasn’t always been easy, from when I was a child, all the way up until recently. But when faced with each obstacle, every pain, each challenge, I’ve eventually overcome them. I continue to water and nurture myself and push myself to continue to grow.

This makes me proud to have resisted the odds, but also gives me a certain level of comfort that I’ll be able to keep going, even when times seem hard.