National Poetry Month: Langston Hughes

We all need to have a dream, a goal to strive towards. I feel that it’s the fact we can dream of better that keeps us going. In the LGBT community there’s a fairly new community platform called “It Gets Better.” I know when I was younger, the dream about my soon to be fabulous LGBT life, is one of those things that kept me going.

Dreams can change over the years. I was recently talking to my friend, Michelle, about turning 40. She was telling me that she wanted to write a list of 40 things to do during her 40th year. I love that idea but I think I’m going to take it farther and make a list of 50 things to do before I turn 50. It’ll be a revised buried life list.

Langston Hughes knew about the power of having a dream. He wrote two great poems about dreams and, since I can’t choose which one to post, you get both this morning.

“Dreams” directly addresses the notion that having a dream gives us life. Without a dream, life becomes a blur of days that seep into each other filled with monotony. “Harlem” addresses what happens when you defer your dream and the consequences of deferring it to the point you forget about it.

Now, I know I’m going to have at least one person argue that they are too (fill in the blank) to see their dream come true. I say pish posh to that thinking. Some dreams are meant to be unattainable. I think we all dream of winning the lottery, especially when it gets to those insane jackpots, but we also know that the statistical odds aren’t in our favor. Yet, we still buy a ticket because we have hope we might beat the odds. Other dreams are within our grasp if we can separate the concept of having a dream versus being successful at that dream. Maybe you had a dream that you’d rock the Grammy stage and you find yourself at 26 without that Grammy. Well, the dream really was about singing and you can always rock the mic at the closest karaoke night.

May you always be able to dream

“Dreams” — Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

“Harlem” — Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

     Does it dry up
     like a raisin in the sun?
     Or fester like a sore—
     And then run?
     Does it stink like rotten meat?
     Or crust and sugar over—
     like a syrupy sweet?

     Maybe it just sags
     like a heavy load.

     Or does it explode?

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National Poetry Month: Still I Rise

Now, I know that my life and Maya Angelou’s life histories are different but there’s a similarity in our Southern backgrounds and the way we were raised and our ethical/moral background. I know this from her interviews and television appearances over the years and by reading her set of autobiographies. (Side note: I still think the biggest shocker was reading that Maya Angelou once was a sex worker)

“Still I Rise” was written as Maya Angelou’s response to oppression and poverty due to racism and sexism and the mistreatment of African-Americans during her lifetime. Now, as a white male, I’m at the top of the list. I’m aware of my privilege. But, as a white male in the metropolitan area, I’ve faced prejudice and people that have used me as a representative of the entire white population. As a gay male, I’ve found myself in many situations of sexism and sexual harassment and even a few situations of sexual assault. As a person in a fluid relationship with poverty, I know what it’s like to wonder where you’re going to sleep that night or when you’re going to have your next meal.

I might not have the same history that Maya Angelou does but I have my own history of oppression. “Still I Rise” reminded me that my oppression doesn’t define me. “Still I Rise” reminds me that my material goods, the way others feel about me, the abuse I’ve encountered, doesn’t define me. “Still I Rise” is a battle cry against a world that works against you by saying that you can throw whatever you want at me but fuck you because I’m going to rise.

This is my hope for you this Monday morning and every morning. I hope that you are able to find it within you to rise.

“Still I Rise” — Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

New Moon

Tonight is the new moon. It’s the start of a new lunar cycle. The new moon is all about beginnings. It’s Monday, the start of a new week. We have two choices before us. We can bitch and moan about how much Mondays suck OR we can take this time to set a new intent and use Monday to plot out and set our course for the week.
The new moon is a great time to do self-inventory. Ask yourself the honest questions. What is working in my life? Embrace that. What isn’t working in my life? Change that. Remember that YOU and no one else is in charge of your life. You make your choices and you can decide to make a new choice. There are few things that are really so far gone that you can’t make a change. Look at the path you’re on. Is it the right one for you? Is it time to take another road? Maybe it’s time to turn back and try the other direction. The new moon is the time we embrace new thoughts, new decisions, new ways. Perhaps you’re happy with the status quo and where you are in terms of your life journey. Good for you. But, if you’re not, then love yourself enough to make a change. Today is as good a day as any.

Hello Spring

Good morning. Today is the first day of spring. Hello, Spring.

The arrival of spring heralds many things. The weather will get warmer. The birds are returning so soon I’ll be awoken by their song. The April rain will begin and that rain will help the budding trees and flowers grow. After the barrenness of winter, spring is all about blossoming and beginning.

Our Monday can be about the same thing. Instead of looking at the day ahead with dread, look at it as a time of beginning. It’s the first Monday of spring. Set your intention for the day and the season. Remember that attitude is everything. Shake off the gloominess that winter holds and allow the light to enter in. Open the blinds, the curtains and let the sunshine in. Bath in that light and understand that anything can happen.

For me, spring is going to provide the motivation to seek help for my mental health. I have wrestled with depression for far too long. Shakespeare wrote about “the winter of discontent”. My discontent has occupied not only this winter but the last several winters and springs and summers and autumns. I am discontent about being constantly discontent so it’s time for a change. 

Spring ushers in the season of renewal. The seeds that have been at rest start to work their magick and miracles happen. I’m allowing the spirit of God, the Universe, the Divine Wow, the Powers That Be, whatever you call that mystical source that binds us all, humanity and nature, to work within me so I can free myself from depression, free myself from Brafly, and become a productive member of society. I often joke that I go into hibernation during the winter and partly that’s true but I’ve truly been in a deep static space. It’s time to wake the fuck up, get the blood flowing and live.

Weekend Recap & Monday Motivation

My connection group as been reading The Book Of Forgiving by Desmond and Mpho Tutu. Because I’m studying forgiveness, I was invited to attend a play on Saturday about forgiveness at the First Congregational Church Of Detroit.

Desperately Seeking Forgiveness was an entertaining look at forgiveness. It features two families and the secrets and lies they’ve been keeping from each other for years. It was confusing at times and it probably needs a good edit to workaround the truly melodramatic parts of it but, overall, I enjoyed myself. The actress who played the part of Chocolate had me and the rest of the audience laughing. And the guy who played the counselor had little to do but he looked fine so I was appreciative of the eye candy.

After the play we went to dinner at Traffic Jam and Snug. I’ve been in the neighborhood of Traffic Jam and Snug but I’d never ate there until Saturday. I had the beef brisket panini and it was as big as my arm. So delicious and I was able to bring some of it home.

Sunday morning was the first Sunday of Lent. I went to church and really appreciated the sermon that Rev. Roland gave. His sermon was directed to those that are spiritual but not religious. I recognize that I have an untraditional spiritual path and Rev. Roland illustrated that there are many paths out there. It was really refreshing to hear.

I have several cinematic traditions. One of those traditions is to watch 40 Days And 40 Nights. It’s an early aughts (2002) starring the luscious Josh Hartnett and Shannyn Sossamon. Josh Hartnett plays a guy recently broken up with his girlfriend who decides to give up sex for Lent.

I don’t have a specific day that I watch as long as it falls somewhere during the Lenten season but I think I’m going to earmark it for the first Sunday of Lent.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night so I’m a little tired this morning. Because of Lent, I’ve been spinning the prayer wheel daily and meditating on whatever it lands on. This morning it landed on a Jack Kornfield Buddhist prayer.

There is only one time
when it is essential to awaken.

That time is now.

It’s the first Monday of the month. It’s another time that we can set our intention for the day, the week, the month. It doesn’t matter what happened an hour ago, a day ago, a month ago or even a year ago. The only time is now.

Monday Musing: Love Yourself

RuPaul ends drag race with the catchphrase “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow I thought we all needed a reminder to love ourselves.

It’s no secret that I’ve struggled with loving myself. I can’t honestly say that I fully, 100%, love myself. On my very best days I’m only loving myself 93-95%. I still listen to that voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough. I still look in the mirror and glance over my hairy body, my moles, my belly, my dick and scrutinize myself. I still obsess over my age, channel my inner Lana Del Rey and wonder if someone will still love me since I’m no longer young and beautiful. I can’t help to think back to last Valentine’s Day remembering the grief my crush got for making out with me. Ageism ran rampant.

I’m without a valentine but I have made peace with that. It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. I know that I’ll find the one that is right for me. Tomorrow I’m going to treat myself.

Even if you’ve found love I suggest that you do the same. Be your own valentine. Remember the things that you love about yourself. Ignore the voice in your head that points out the flaws and embrace the voice that tells you how great you are.

I know, for myself, loving yourself is a process. Some days it’s more manageable than others. That’s okay. All I ask is that you start the process. Find something that you love about yourself and hold onto that.