“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
I was chatting with a friend about her decision to quit a temporary job at a call center. Her spirit couldn’t take the monitoring and other policies that would, in effect, force her to be an automaton. As is our custom, we began dishing about life and the lessons we have learned about honoring our truth and being patient with ourselves.
I was able to make a connection between the topic of my morning devotional and my own challenges. Sometimes I whip myself up into a frenzy about things. I begin to will things in my life instead of being still. As Mary Lou Redding writes, “Wisdom distinguishes between times to take action and times to restrain ourselves in using the powers at our disposal.” Herein lies the challenge for me: when to act or will things and when to restrain from doing so. I like to make things happen. I am am worker. The best advice I can give myself is:
“Take several seats, Myesha.”
Yes, I need to take several seats at times and sometimes in the corner. My friend and I laughed about this meme. “Show me where the ‘Several Seats’ section is please!”
When I tell myself to take several seats, I am encouraging myself to be meek, to give my power over to God who will give me my inheritance, to subdue my frenzied power under her submission.
Blessed are those who take several seats…
I am happily back in my sandbox. This sandbox is the place where my imagination took flight almost two years ago when I began writing Scandal fanfiction with the moniker, Butterflypages. Before I stopped, I had written over 9 stories and one for Sleepy Hollow. I took them all down to the consternation of my small cadre of readers. Alas, after a couple of months, I have decided to go back to what I love, writing fanfiction. It is my plan to slowly put the stories back up after rereading and making changes as I am moved to do so. I also started one new story, “Not Quite Serendipity”. Here is the line up thus far. It is going to take a while to reread all nine, but I am looking forward to it:
Olivia and Fitz were almost high school sweethearts. When an unfortunate accident brings them back together, will they find love?
Life comes in dribs and drabs for Rev. Oliva Pope. Her faith is wavering but her dedication to her job on the ministerial staff of Grace Tabernacle Christian Church is steadfast. When Grace Church launches a search for a new Senior Pastor and selects Rev. Fitzgerald Grant, Olivia has to learn how to navigate the slippery slope of a forbidden attraction.
Olivia Pope is my name. Stealing art is my game, at least until this last heist is over. I shall retire after 10 years and a record of never getting caught. All will be well when FBI Agent, Fitzgerald Grant, gets off my trail. Or is this the biggest heist of all?
It feels good to be back among of a community of readers who enjoy my stories.
Thirsty. The state of being so has become a colloquialism. There is the formal dictionary, Merriam-Webster, meaning and then there is the Urban Dictionary meaning: 1. To be eager to get something (usually romantic/sexual attention) 2. Desperate
On tumblr, there was a post of a sign, “Be ambitious, not thirsty.” At other times, when I’ve seen or heard the colloquial phrase used, the word had a negative connotation. The accepted idea is that being thirsty is bad because you appear to be a desperate fool.
Both definitions go beyond a benign need for that which one lacks, like water for instance. When the body wants water, our brains signal this need through thirst. Oftentimes, we misinterpret the signal and reach for food, soda, or some other replacement–each substitute has a modicum of water, which fills us to a certain degree, albeit inadequately. Unfortunately, the craving thirst continues until we get something. Our body compensates (reaching for something other than water) in a way that makes us feel satisfied. Overtime, our bodies become dehydrated on a physiological level and we function at a deficit to the detriment of all the micro and macro functions our bodies need to carry out.
This is a fitting metaphor for the innate longing for satiety we feel.
In high school, I felt my first deep longings for what I interpreted as God. I was thirsty. I was given a book years ago, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by George Bernard Shaw. If I had to title my autobiography, such a title would be fitting. It is still being written.
Religion was always around me like a vine with roots deeper than my existence. I attended church regularly. Vacation bible school, Easter speeches, and church choir were the regular menu items in my religion buffet. Somehow my teenage mind felt these things were inadequate or inauthentic–as if I were playing dress up in my mother’s clothes. The accoutrements were real, but they didn’t fit me. I was still thirsty.
I have an aunt who was then (and now) a devout believer and follower of a brand of Christianity called, “Pure Holiness.” It is a division of pentecostalism. My aunt and her religion intrigued me. She read her bible religiously. She didn’t wear makeup or pants, only skirts. Her religion taught her to draw a heavy line between the sacred and the secular. Much later this sort of restrictive, prescriptive way of being religious would become undesirable for me. Then, I wanted to know God in a way that manifested itself in significant and tangible ways. At the time, I did not know anyone else so godly, someone who wore their church face all the time. Everyone else around me was decidedly human. Not my aunt. She was always godly, and I was totally and completely wowed.
I began visiting her during Spring Break when her church had their revival. I wanted to “be saved” so I did the needful according to the teachings of her church. I repented of my evil ways whatever that meant. Thereafter I went to the altar and tarried (waited) there until I was knocked out by some unseen force. When I awoke I would be irrevocably changed, cleansed, and reborn. I would no longer be thirsty. After many tarrying events at the altar, I was never knocked out. The skies did not open. No celestial choirs sang. I was the same. Alas, I continued to read the bible and attend church, but the thirstiness persisted.
Finally, at the end of high school, I found the restrictive and prescriptive path to God I had desired, Seventh-Day Adventism. It wasn’t so much a mind-altering religious experience as it was the sheer force of will on my part. It made sense to me and I embraced it whole-heartedly. I was able to fit everything–life, death, evil, good–in a nice, neat box, at least until I began my academic study of religion in college.
I will leave my adventures as a Seventh-Day Adventist for another time–a wonderfully, blessed time it was–but my life led me away from that denomination. I believe it was Barbara Brown Taylor in her memoir, Leaving Church, who called herself an ecclesiastical harlot. When I read her book years ago, it resonated with me. That is what I have been in my thirsty search, academically and spiritually, for God. I have an undergraduate degree in religious studies and a Master of Divinity degree. I’ve been a Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Presbyterian, African Methodist Episcopal, and Christian Methodist Episcopal. I think that is all. I have been obsessed with Soren Kierkegaard, and consumed at times with existential angst. Most recently I have read the teachings of the Buddha and practiced meditation. And I am still thirsty.
This morning during my morning devotion I was led to read a passage from Matthew 5:6:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
The title of the meditation on this scripture from Mary Lou Redding’s, The Power of a Focused Heart, was, “Satisfied with Being Unsatisfied.” What a revelation it was to read this meditation!? Though I had long since recognized that the genesis of my thirst–that same thirst that began in high school–was a quest for God, I have often (to return to my water/thirst metaphor) grabbed for replacements for God. I have sought self-actualization from people, praise, and accomplishments. In the same way that water substitutes are not inherently bad–those things and the wanting thereof are not inherently bad either. Being thirsty is not bad. The challenges have arisen when have made idols or sticky attachments to quench that thirst. The promise in the beatitudes is that the thirsty ones are blessed because they will be filled. The satiety is not sure and complete unless the filling comes from God. In that way, I can be whole and able to join with others on the journey with compassion and love.
I am convinced that we are all on some kind of God journey. There is no one-size fits all prescription like what I sought in high school, but it is a daily, hourly, to the second, journey. The challenge is to stay on the true path, seek the authentic source, and eschew the substitutes.
“As the dear longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…”
I am an only child, thus the idea of having friends has always been extremely important to me. My mother is from a large family, one of 12 children, so I have been blessed with a big and loving extended family. I spent many weekends, summers, birthdays, and holidays at my grandmother’s house in the company of aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends who lived close by. My mom and I resided in a different city than my extended family. I always looked with joy on the prospect of a visit to my grandmother’s house so much so that my mom eventually moved back to that city when I began middle school.
For as far back as I can remember, I always had a small cadre of close friends. I was an extrovert who loved to talk. I was bossy to boot–the probable outcome of being an only child. I remember one of my beloved teachers at the after school program I attended–I was probably 8 or 9 years old–admonishing me for always being the principal when my friends and I played school. She had observed us playing and felt the need to bring this to my attention. At the time, I didn’t understand since my friends always voted me to play that role. At least that is how I remember it. This penchant towards bossiness, I think, eventually catapulted me into the various leadership roles I had in high school, college, graduate school, and as a parent (PTA). I have always been very helpful and what my mom, calls, “free-hearted.” This means I’m willing to give without expectation of reciprocation, or I let myself be put upon in ways that others would not extend themselves for me. In my mind, this is not a negative if I enjoy helping others.
When I think about each point in my life, I can identify the presence of close friends. I’m beginning to observe something I think might happen with most of us to a certain degree. Our number of close friends lessens over time for many reasons. We adopt different beliefs and world views and have nothing in common with them anymore. We move away from each other. We deem some friendships more valuable than others and consciously or subconsciously stop nurturing those less valuable ones. We have a falling out. We get caught up in our lives and deem friendship as too much work. There was a graphic on tumblr that illustrated this perfectly. There were headings for “elementary”, “middle”, “college”, and “after graduation” under which was a line of people to represent the quantity of friends surrounding you at that point in life. The number of people decreased with each heading in sequential order until there was only “you” at the end under, “after graduation.” This makes sense because our time in school presents an artificial environment during which we are surrounded by large groups of people in our peer group. In this environment, friendships are natural and inevitable. Once we step out into the real world, those types of environments are few. The workplace, church, and hobbies can provide a substitute.
I have made it a practice to reach out to friends I’ve lost touch with. I usually do this around the new year. I make a pledge to contact them and stay in touch. I did my yearly reach out at the start of 2014. I contacted more old friends than usual this time. After the initial contact, I attempted to maintain connection as I usually do. I was able to arrange breakfast with one and lunch with another. The others I talked to a couple of times, but we weren’t able to set up an outing. Some were out of state, though, I’m not sure if being closer would have increased the possibility of an outing. Now I am back where I was: out of contact. One friend I do maintain more regular contact with, though she lives in another state, encouraged me when I lamented about this. She said that real friendship has to be a two way street. One person can’t be the one doing all the initiation, planning, and maintenance. I agree. Alas, I will continue to contact them, but I won’t try to arrange a get together. In fact, I cringe at that statement now, “We need to get together.” It is customary to say, but it doesn’t really mean action will be taken…unless I take it.
The various social media platforms have given people a tremendous opportunity to stay in touch. While the instant connectivity is good, it is cheap when it replaces in person connections. It doesn’t “cost” anything and in some cases lowers the quality of the connection or trivializes it in a way that reduces it to characters and hashtags. Communicating with someone face to face or even via phone requires more engagement and attention than texting, tweeting, reblogging, liking, and any other number of communications. Again, it costs more and requires a type of focus and undivided attention that social media modes of communication don’t require. For example, there are no expectations while texting as opposed to speaking over the phone. During a text, things are accepted that would be considered rude during a phone call or in person exchange. You don’t have to respond immediately. You can engage in many other activities. You can end the texting event at will. You can ignore (not read their message) the other person until after you type your text message. You can ignore the other person altogether. It’s convenient and efficient, but so much is lost when these modes replace traditional modes of communication, especially within friendships.
I’m not seeking to make some grand statement about friendship, social media, and friendship building. I enjoy technology. Many platforms are great for advertising, the building and maintaining of brand identity (for products), communicating information quickly—the possibilities are endless. I’ve used social media for advertising and plan to in the future. I am speaking out of a very personal observation about my own life, and the paucity of real life, flesh and blood friends. I remember how my grandmother’s friends would come by and sit with her often. Her door was revolving. I remember those fun college days when I took for granted the regular company and fellowship of friends. Perhaps as I rest in my late thirties, I am nostalgic for those days and connections. That big, loving and extended family I spoke of is not the same. After the death of several important roots in our family tree, gatherings are few except in the case of funerals.
Recently, my husband and I took a much needed vacation sans child and pets. One day we visited this famous soul food restaurant where the tradition was to sit family style, up to 9 people at a table. Along with my husband and I, there were 4 women, another couple, and a man traveling alone. The women were friends vacationing together, something they reportedly did often. I was in awe. This intentional joint venture they were engaged in before my eyes was akin to riding on the back of a butterfly across a double rainbow.
I romanticize friendships because of my only child status. Four–two fictional and two real–stand out for me: Anne Shirley & Diana Barry; Wilbur & Charlotte; Oprah Winfrey & Gayle King; Harper Lee & Truman Capote. I know that my romanticization of friendships is just that, a romanticization–unrealistic and idealistic–at least for me. I know some people do have those types of friendships with regular contact, joint vacations–shared lives. I know there are very real barriers. People are busy with their busy lives. Then I think, people often make time for what is important.
The most important thing I know to do for sure is to focus on the tremendously supportive family and friends I do have. Though I may not talk to or visit friends often, we are still connected. I appreciate the times I do reconnect with them whether it be sporadic or via technology. Also, I treasure those times when I can be a friend to strangers. At the airport one day, I was walking through the parking lot and spotted a couple cruising by with a coffee cup on their car. I flagged them down and alerted them. Some time later, I sat down at the boarding gate and happened upon an abandoned cell phone. I looked up and asked those sitting by if someone had been sitting there. A guy in headphones pointed to my right. I saw a harried looking mother with several small children in tow. I picked up the phone and rushed it to her. These little acts of showing myself friendly gives me great joy. Perhaps, this is the unleashing of my superpowers. I am Friendship Woman: “Ma’am, there’s lipstick on your teeth.” “Sir, here, you dropped your change.” “Hey, Let me help you with that.” If you’re ever in a minor pickle, perhaps I am around the corner with a dose friendship to spare.
What about you? Do you have friends (aside from your spouse) that you communicate with and see often? Are you constantly adding new close friends? Do you think it is harder to make real friends (not acquaintances) after formal education? Your comments are welcome.
by Myesha D. Jenkins ©
This year, stumbles upon
Three decades and nine
A newness ushered in
Without sparkle or shine
The gift box, rectangular
With sharp pointy edges
No need to unencumber
The top from its ledges
Because the innards, yet visible
Translucent and fragile
Inevitably examined by virtue
Of existence desired to be removed
You always, not waiting
Not seeing due to flight
You zigged while it zagged
You hemmed while it hawed
Your faith, seeking understanding
yet instead sought praise
Body sought not itself
In spirit and in truth
This year, stumbles on
Three decades and nine
No hopes for recoiled rewind
Only forward and no one is coming
1. I have a new best friend. Her name is Melancholia. I’ve been avoiding her for awhile, but I’ve decided to embrace her. She’s unlike any other friend I’ve ever had.
2. Is it an oxymoron to be happy when you are sad? But I am, because of Melancholia and the accompanying acceptance and self-determination it brings. It’s the groove I’m in.
3. I have been a lamenter in the past. I’ve lamented my fits and starts in my vocational track, my lack of advancement opportunities or validation in careers I did choose, my lack of close friends, and I could go on… But the lamenting has turned into acceptance. I accept all that my life is or is not with Ms. Melancholia by my side. I have determined that I write as a kind of offering to the universe, realizing that among the throngs, I am here. I have a voice. My dash between those significant dates will mean something. I’ve been dipped in the milk of reality, rolled in the seasoned batter of acceptance, and fried to a crispy melancholic brown. Where it was sort of bland before, this new spice has made it quite tasty.
4. Speaking of writing and its purpose…I’ve published one book. I’m working on a second one, but I’m not in a rush to publish it as I was with the first one. Some part of me felt that publishing would be a portal of fulfillment and a caster away of invisibleness. Though spiritually, I strived for fulfillment independent of some outward achievement–easier said than done. Maybe someone yet unborn will read it (and the coming ones) in decades to come and derive some significance.
5. In my car, I have a number of CDs in the changer from artists/groups: Commissioned, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, and Esperanza Spalding. While I have an eclectic musical palate, gospel (contemporary, traditional, choral) is my biggest love. I keep listening to the same songs. I like the groove. Even Melancholia enjoys it.
6. Kirk Franklin’s “Lookin’ Out for Me,” has a good groove. His call and response brand of singing makes his music endearing and engaging. I love to drop my voice on the part, “Lookin’ out fu-uh may!” (Lookin’ out for me).
This is related to my previous post, “Press”.
Since you hooked up with the Savior
and laid your life down,
didn’t let nothin’ fade you,
’cause you were heaven bound.The gentle rains in your life
just got an upgrade to a hurricane.
In the hands of the Master,
it seems like you gotta fight and scratch just to remain.
You’re gonna make it to the end,
believe it, (until then…)
I press (say that you’re gonna press, my friend),
still I press (You’re gonna hang on in there ’til the end).
I press (You know the King of glory is with you),
still I press (go in His name and He’ll see ya through).
My road is not always easy,
nobody said it would be,
and if you use the word perfect,
I know you’re not referring to me.
But here’s what I do,
forget the junk behind me,
I set my sights on His high calling.
And by faith, I’ll apprehend,
‘Til I become what He wants me to be, yeah,
This is the goal and the prize that I reach for,
‘Til I become what He wants me to be, yeah,
[repeat as desired]
This is the goal and the prize that I reach for,
[repeat as desired]
“The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”–From Marge Piercy’s, “To Be of Use”
This poem by Marge Piercy is a favorite of mine. It defines, for me, that struggle for self-actualization in one’s vocation or calling. But there is another kind of work. It is the work of self-love and acceptance so that you look within for a place of refuge when challenges arise instead of looking outwardly for succor. The things we look outward for can take many forms. Television, social media, people, and food are a couple of forms that seem harmless in and of themselves. I could name far more harmful means. Really anything can be harmful when it is a proxy for looking inward for contentment, peace, and happiness. When we make even the most benign things proxies, expecting them to give us what we should give ourselves, we can lose ourselves in them.
This work is very difficult. Thankfully, we don’t have to get there all at once. Little by little, step by step, day by day is the surest way. Some days I do well at this and on other days I do not. When troubling emotions arise and I acknowledge them and let them pass without doing harm to others, I am doing well. I don’t do so well when I magnify those emotions and project them upon others or engage in things to take my mind off the emotions. It is okay to redirect yourself, but it is harmful to do this before acknowledging the emotions and the origin of them.
Today, I am okay. I’ve done some walking, writing, and reading. I contacted a friend via text and she called me instead of texting back. I couldn’t hide the blahness in my voice in the way I could with texted words. She acknowledged that we both were sort of ‘boring’ today–our calls are usually livelier–so we ended the call after sharing what we had done for the day. Maybe a shift at the library today would have been good today. I don’t work again until Saturday.
I call this post, “Press” because on days like this pressing is what is advisable.
I worked the 10-2 shift at the library today. My only complaint came from my slightly aching feet, screaming, “Why in the hellation did you wear your brown wedges to a job during which you are constantly on your feet four hours straight not because it is demanded but because you just won’t sit down or take a damn break!” My feet are only half right about today at least. I did sit in a chair for a minute or two while I put DVDs in sleeves. I wore my brown wedges to compliment the brown in the blue and brown argyle tunic. I’ll never wear them to work again, though. My feet are correct in screaming. I am okay now.
I enjoy working at the library, particularly this library. I was fortunate to get the part-time Library Services Assistant position at the branch closest to my home. My primary duties include working the book drop, re-shelving, pulling problem books, pulling holds, shelving holds, reading shelves, answering patron questions, and a plethora other duties.
I enjoy working the book drop. This machine has three major arms connected to the entry points where books are returned. The machine reads the barcodes and feeds the books/CDs/DVDs into bins. The one working the book drop takes the books from the bins and places then on one of 4 carts that are separated by genre/type/location. Think of an assembly line. My first day I the of the scene from I Love Lucy when Lucy and her friend stuffed chocolates in their mouths and uniforms when overwhelmed on the assembly line. The books come in fast and it can get overwhelming. Once you know what you’re doing, it is fun.
The adult section is separated into fiction and non-fiction. Within fiction the following sub-genres are housed together: general, historical, short stories, and western. Fantasy, science-fiction, and horror are housed together. Inspirational, poetry, romance, and southern are housed separately. Then there are graphic novels also housed separately. The large text and audio books have their own sections arranged according to fiction and non-fiction. General non-fiction is on the same side as fiction but, of course, those books are arranged using the DDC. On the other side of the library are the children’s books. There are the Easy, Juvenile, and Teen sections separated into fiction and non-fiction. There are other niche sections I won’t delineate here.
The full time Library Associates who staff the Help Desk get the lions share of questions, but I get my share of them. Since I am a former teacher, I can answer almost all the questions parents have about book suggestions, reading levels, etc. I enjoy these interactions.
I sense I was supposed to work at the library. The process of getting the job was effortless. It all happened seamlessly. Working there gives me access to people in a way I didn’t have when I was writing full-time. Being at home all day–alone–writing was giving me cabin fever. It also kept me in my head and too close to my words. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, but think of it like one of those tricky paintings composed of many smaller pictures that together create some bigger image. In order to see the big picture, you have to defocus. When you do, you can see it. That’s what working at the library is for me and the role it plays in my writing. It helps me to defocus in a manner that declutters my creativity.
It is also a time that I am parted from my cell phone. I don’t check social media, texts, or e-mails during this time. Strangely, I love it. When I am re-shelving my mind is empty. I really don’t think about anything. This is a treat as well. This emptiness is cleansing and serene.
About a week ago, I gave my mother an assignment. I asked her to write about her most vivid childhood memory. She accepted my challenge. Still in a teaching mood, I assigned a writing task to my husband. He was to write his mother a letter expounding upon his love for her and how much he appreciated having her as a mother. (Quiet as it is kept, he was supposed to do this for Mother’s Day in lieu of a commercialized greeting card. He didn’t get around to it. May is a big month in our family…so much going on). He laughed and gave me the, “I’ll humor you with this acknowledgement, but no,” look.
My mom began her writing task, but she didn’t stop there. She enlisted some of her siblings to do the same. Three aunts and one uncle were asked. She wrote her memory out longhand even though she has a computer. I encouraged her to e-mail it to me. She did. I enjoyed reading her memories of playing with her two brothers. A couple of days ago, I was surprised by a thick envelope from my aunt. Inside were the handwritten pages of her childhood memories written on lined paper in red ink! There were quite a few memories. Her writing had me transfixed. I wanted more.
I’m reading, Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868 by Farah Jasmine Griffin. The book is a compilation of letters written from Addie to Rebecca with commentary from the author. They were free 19th African-American women living in the north during the Civil War era. Addie was a domestic and Rebecca was a school teacher sent south to educate newly freed slaves. They became friends and shared a deep affection for each other as revealed in the one way correspondence–Rebecca’s letters were never recovered–from Addie to Rebecca. A great deal is gleaned about the lives of free blacks during this time, their daily lives, social status, entertainment, religion, and much more. These lives are of great interest to me because they are valid and need to be known. I am thankful and grateful that the author took the time and care to resurrect their story. I feel a deep desire to resurrect stories too, especially black women’s stories. As the author notes, because of the portrayal of black women as either mammies or jezebels, there is a sort of silence, secrecy, or whitewashing of black women’s stories. All three are problematic. I will discuss this more in my review coming later.
I am committed to telling black women’s stories in their fullness and complexity.