This has been an incredible year. Mind blowing in all the best ways. There were some unpleasant events (mostly revolving around the political circus that has become American government, which turned on the kitchen lights to a social infestation of roaches feeding on hatred and a lust to conquer people, acquire power and money and then invent new ways to justify their vile means of doing so. However, out of these awakenings, we have advanced to a next level of doing better – talking about racism, sexual assault, corruption, and setting firm boundaries with what we, as a unified people refuse to tolerate, no matter how much money and power you have. We have rebirthed movements, protests, and coalitions; and for this end, I’m grateful for the tumultuous events and the ever-jolting media headlines.)
I’ve also had surprises of divine caliber (an artistic collaboration with a dear long-distance friend, which led me to a 17-year reunion with a Detroit dance sister, who happened to be looking for new members for her dance company, just on the cusp of me retiring from my former group; the blossoming of many beautiful intentional friendships; my inspiration to reboot my Hibouleans series for print, send myself on a signing and performing tour, finally record and share Secondskin, the theme to my book score; the brilliant beginnings of a brand new full-length novel; an unexpected move to the home of my dreams, and a taste of the sweetest of blended family life).
Last year, I set some goals for myself: five boundaries for behaviors I will not allow, and five invitations to what I will allow. And while among other resolutions, including working out daily, becoming a vegetarian, and blogging monthly, which slipped miserably between the cracks of life, I am proud to share that I coolly and calmly maintained my commitment to my five boundaries.
I boldly – yet lovingly – consistently said, “No” to behaviors, conversations and situations that were unhealthy for me. And in doing so, and checking-in with friends for support and reinforcement, I was able to evolve into a stronger, healthier more fierce level of myself. So, this year, my annual reflection and dedication is a collection of the wisest sayings from my dearest friends; the friends that have seen me, encouraged me, loved me and helped me hold the heaviest of things.
- Love doesn’t mean Yes (NH). Loving someone does not mean that you are required to spend precious time, money and energy, performing or enduring something that is not helpful, pleasant or healthy for you.
Your love is not contingent upon martyring yourself for their comfort. You can both love someone, and lovingly walk away saying, What you’re doing right now is not good for me, and while I love you, I do not have to participate.
- If you need someone, they have power over you (JR). JR gave me this perspective when I shared my relationship mantra with her: I’m not going to be with someone because I need them; I’ll be with them because I want to be with them. I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.
She told me that if/when you do feel like you need someone, then their power over you is knowing you can’t survive without them. It is so important to remember that our survival, healing or growth should not hinge on someone else giving it to us. If we allow them that power, we might be at their mercy in more ways than one, and they will continue to take advantage of that imbalance.
I view a healthy partnership as one that is consciously made out of love, not obligation.
- I’m not responsible for your feelings. If my boundaries upset you, it’s your decision to be insulted (JR). Another bit of JR wisdom here. My personal growth, as I invoked in my 2017 post, has been in boundaries: drawing lines for what is best for me and not pushing them to appease others over myself. She reminded me that I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable, and if they don’t like my rules, that is their decision.
- Little information and strong boundaries (JR). She’s full of fantastic –isms isn’t she? This was my lesson later in the year, when I realized that oversharing some personal information with friends or family can be unhealthy for both them and me. I need to share wisely and keep up those boundaries, only letting a select few into my private circle.
I don’t need to redraw or redefine my boundaries to make other people comfortable
- You don’t revolve around your life; your life revolves around you (JM). Between summer and fall, when I was rebooting my novella series for print, I suddenly became overwhelmed with tasks – and I was doing them all on my own. I was in the middle of a bad business situation with someone I planned to hire for my books and I was tiptoeing around a difficult conversation, afraid of seeming like the bad guy.
JM reminded me that this book – and any other part of my life – is MINE, not anyone else’s. The only person that needs to be proud and satisfied and happy is me. That means I need to step into the chief executive role of my book company, and start to make all my self-imposed demands revolve around me. I cannot let myself get tossed around by obligation; I am the center of my own universe.
- God doesn’t contradict [godself] (JM). Ok, she actually said “God doesn’t contradict himself,” but I am dedicated to releasing God from the confines of gender pronouns (too many people really think God is a white man in the clouds), so I exchanged the pronoun [insert grin here]. Anyway, I was in the midst of some intense imposter syndrome at this point.
Sometimes, as most artists can relate, I just want to create, share it with the world and hope that someone also appreciates and accepts my gifts. But as soon as it goes out into the world, I think, “oh crap…I what have I done!” I was embarrassed and ready to retreat after making such a huge fuss over my book.
Self-publishing is intimidating because I don’t have an agent and publishing company to back me and remind me that my work is fantastic. They’re not there to tell me that because they have longevity and credibility and they’ve studied markets and trends for decades, the people will devour what they’re served. When it’s my own show, I’m basically asking strangers to take a chance on me and my adventures and hoping, desperately, that they’ll enjoy it.
Self-depreciating thoughts flooded my conscience. I felt like I was sabotaging myself and that I should just stop trying to be anything other than a mother, like so many others in my past had told me: Octavia, you’re doing too much, your priorities are off, you’re being selfish and irresponsible. Just sit down, shut up, raise your kids, clean your house, keep your husband happy, stay married.
I wanted to rewind five years and submit to being unremarkable. Unremarkable, predictable, stable and safe. Then JM asked mid-crisis me, “Are your books, talents, visions, musicianship, passions and calling from God or are you just doing this yourself?”
“No, no, this is part of my divine purpose.”
“Ok, then. And those beautiful children – did you just roll over and decide to make them yourself because you wanted the responsibility, or are they gifts from God, too?”
“They’re gifts from God,” I mumbled like a toddler when mom is schooling you hard.
“Well, God doesn’t contradict himself. God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”
“God isn’t going to give you this passion and give you the children and make you pick one because one is righter than the other.”
- Caves form character in ways crowns never can (JS). This was the lead message in a sermon series at my church called Caves & Crowns, where we spent several weeks studying David’s life and lessons. Most people know only two main things about David – that he single-handedly took down Goliath when he was young, becoming a hero and a legend all at once; and that later in life as king, he slimily took Bathsheba because he wanted to and he could. What we rarely hear is how he spent the time between Goliath and Bathsheba hiding from Saul in caves. It was the darkest and most unpredictably dangerous season when he was able to create and learn the most. Those caves were studious, prayerful and reflective. The time in exile is what seasoned his character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power. As I hustle like crazy to achieve my goals, I know that it is these lean and uncertain times when I will remember what is the most important.
Time in exile is what seasons character, spirituality, creativity, and legacy – things that aren’t usually gained from the throne of wealth and power.
- Fear fears love (JS). Another lead message from my church. This series was called The Heist and we studied ideas that imprison us. Fear can be crippling but it is real. Fear can also be a teacher. Some people pair fear with faith, but the only true way to fight against fear is with love. This spoke to me at the time because I was seeing insecurity and jealousy in people I love. There was a lack of trust because their fear was stronger than love. Love builds trust, but fear fosters insecurity. And now, I carry this with me when I have my artist imposter moments – I create – music, art, stories – because it is my passion and my love. If I feed my fear of disapproval, then I’ll be repressing my love of the craft. I will continue to create because I love to do it, and I won’t stop because I fear rejection. Love is greater than fear.
Love is greater than fear.
- If it’s not a f*ck yes, it’s a hell no (basically, all of the friends). Instructions: apply liberally to everything, including relationships, shoes, dresses, all accessories, furniture, apartments, vehicles, concert tickets, employment, friends, vacations and pets. Do not dilute or rinse. Does not always apply to food.
- I love you and I would do anything for you (CJ). Omigod. This one made my cry. And I have had other versions of this from my crew over the last 2-3 years (DS, GP, AH, LW, KP, ST, RS).
I’ve been in the Fine, I’ll Do it Myself, modus operandi since I was probably 7 years old. And while I’m eager to help others if and whenever I can, it often takes someone to shove help in my face before I accept it. I’m almost always too ashamed to ask, and when faced with an offer, I’m hesitant to accept. It’s not just because I’ve watched others live life with their hand out, always asking to latch onto someone else’s prosperity, and I don’t ever want to be compared to them, but also because I don’t want to need anyone (see No. 2 above); I don’t ever want to feel like there’s a debt I could never repay and have someone hold that over my head.
I have been in so many relationships where every good deed or gift was expected to be matched or repaid. I don’t want those obligations imposed on me. BUT. When there are true gifts, those that come from the purest and most honest places of love, there is no other expectation but to support each other. I have to remember, it’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to accept a gift. I’m grateful for those that have helped push me along. I couldn’t be here without you. You’ve encouraged me, watched and cared for my children, fed me, cried with me, laughed with me, laughed until crying with me, moved me – literally packed me up and moved me across the city, run errands for me, counseled me, and held me.
As you can see, I have some pretty incredible people in my life. I’m grateful for all of them and all of their wise words. We’re going into 2018, arms linked and armored in love.