Gratitude Practice

August 12, 2018

We’ve all heard of gratitude practices.Making a list or recounting who and what we are grateful for.

This is a part of my practice. Recently while engaging in this practice I was moved to ugly cry status when someone I was sure had done me all the way wrong emerged in my heart as part of my gratitude list. And then another, and then another, and another. Next it shifted from people to trials, tribulations, valleys that I’d crawled through.

Something opened within me during this gratitude practice. I am not sure what. I didn’t rush to close it up. I have been sitting in this opening for a few days now: Gratitude for the hard people and the lessons the taught, the stuff in the road, and the things that I could once only perceive as obstacles.

Gratitude for complicated truths that only their presence could reveal. Gratitude for the resilience ignited within me. Gratitude for the strength and courage tapped into.

Gratitude for the “calling out” and the “calling up” that showed me where I was not listening to my inner calling. Gratitude for the grace that allowed me to see that shade, mess, doubt are teachers too. Gratitude for my ability to feel,  breathe, and live my way through enough to see that the boulder I thought was in the way was actually showing me where to turn. The person I thought was taking so much from me gifted me immeasurable access to a way forward that would cost me much less. The Love lost was the way I would find deeper love for myself. The bolted door was always a trap distracting me from the space that is opening… now.

You can’t force the gratitude to come.You can sit with it often and hold space for life to crack you open,and show you just how many of your rocks are diamond.

Going to Harvard?

August 7, 2018

I was accepted into Harvard. I didn’t go. That was ten years ago.

I’d taught public school. I’d completed a fellowship as Dean of Faculty with a national educational organization. I’d transformed High School programing as college prep director for an Atlanta nonprofit.

Graduate studies at an Ivy League in educational leadership was clearly the next step in my pursuit of excellence and “making it”…. right?

When I received that “acceptance” I was both exhilarated and terrified.

When I looked at the page, all I saw was “Congratulations “what do you really want Octavia? Who’s life do you want to live?

I’d finally come to the fork in the road that Robert Frost had told me I’d find.

I stood there. I looked back wards. I saw our trailer home, long rides on yellow buses, my mama’s continuing education program that she’d facilitate for me and my sister every summer, and so much else. I saw the challenges and struggles I’d silently endured as a first generation college student during my undergraduate experience. I thought about the education denied to my Ancestors and felt profoundly guilty that this wasn’t an obvious yes to me.

Yet, what is freedom, if not the right to choose, honestly.

I looked ahead and saw my life if I accepted.

It looked Empty. Fragmented. Distorted. I was shocked. What did that mean?

Was it fear? Was it self-sabotage? Was I so devoted to my story that I couldn’t accept this narrative change? I mean, wasn’t this “acceptance” what I wanted when I applied? I sat with so much for the weeks leading up to decision deadline.

The truth came for me. I didn’t ever actually want to apply, be in the program, and get that degree or the job(s) that would come after.

I wanted the approval I thought it would get me. The perception. The status. The “in” it would grant me- even if I couldn’t define that “in” because I had always been “out.” The entire application process had been to appease a faceless crowd that I’d gotten caught up and lost in.

I shared my inner battle with a few people. Some said “ummmm… who says no to chance like that? “ One person told me I was “throwing away my best option to come up.”

My first teacher, my mama came through with the wisdom, “Ask for the courage to listen to your heart, not the expectations. Not even mine. Ask God to show you the yes after the no.  No matter what you choose.”

At my core, I’ve always been an unassuming, nonconforming, creative, questioning, quietly rebellious. Risk- taker.

I deeply appreciate that for some, saying yes would have been the honest and courageous thing to do.

 

For me, saying yes would have further committed me to living a life that looked incredible, got me the part, and checked so many boxes; except, it wasn’t my own.

A decade has gone by and I’ve looked back at that fork in the road a few times.

My “No” in that moment revealed:

Saying yes to our own life will ask us to defy many expectations. It may not always make sense.

There are many paths to freedom. Sometimes the thing that promises to make us free is nothing more than shiny chains. Only when we walk some distance, can we see that what’s glittering could never be the gold that we already are.

My Ancestors are proud of my courage and actually were the elements of the fork in the road.

The greatest opportunity for each of us is the one that aligns us to our soul’s work.

“Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26

Reflecting back over the past few years of my life, I clearly see my two hands do work, align, gather, and reach. I clearly see my two feet grounded, walk, run, and when I’ve fallen down, my two knees bend, kneel, crawl — onward.

I am one with two hands, feet, knees. 10,000 always roll with me.

Looking back I also see the imprint of 20,000 hands working within mine. 20,000 feet running inside my shoes. 20,000 bending with me. God and Ancestors are my 10,000. My 20,000 hands, feet, knees.

And they ain’t never failed me.
They school me tho. When I want something and am not willing to engage the process or put forth deep honest effort, God and nem have called me out and said to me “beloved, my child, you take two steps, I’ll step with you. You lift two hands, I’ll reach you.”

My faith requires me to both trust and engage process. Requires me to plan, prepare, pray, and participate- not one over the other.

Requires committed effort and that has looked like working two {almost} full times jobs to prepare to leave them both and do what I felt called to, teaching classes, times, places, and a frequency that challenged me (this was finite tho and a route to now), laboring long and over days and nights (to bring my son earthside), paying myself less than $500 a month the first 14 months of owning a studio (to set us up for sustainability, growth, and any sort of chance in this unequally stacked “market”) – the list goes on.

 

For all of that, for every ounce of sweat, tears, and blood I have put in, I’ve tasted God’s nectar poured into me at least 10,000 fold. And I know. I know a single drop is not wasted.

Toddlerland

May 21, 2018

The landscape within me changed. The geography around me shifted. I at once knew this path and my feet were at home. Yet I was also lost.

I looked at the deep lines on my belly, were they directions? Were my expanded hips and breasts there to point me in the right way as I navigated this wild territory?

New mama.

I did not know at the time, how to travel, with child, through my house, to the store. Let alone, the world. Getting in the car required at least three trips to and from door.

Two years and now my son and I can walk together. The path is not easier.

I am. We are. I am more at ease with the wild of this. Better at stumbling and even falling.

Falling.

My two year old likes to fall down and giggle. fall down and whine. fall down and crawl under the couch to get the balls that he repeatedly rolls under there😂 We fall together, and there is so much to see when we are that low to the round.
I don’t always rush to get up, dust off, and pull me and him and us “together”, not now.

Falling is landing, sometimes. An offering of perspective from a truly humble and grounded space.

Many of my fallings in mamahood have been just that. Necessary “slow downs”, pull backs, full stops. Essential opportunities to really really see who I am, now. Where I am, now. What matters, now.

To be sure, there’s something radiant, powerful, freeing about rising, expansion, speed, getting there fast. There’s comfort and esteem in seeming “together.”
There’s also something so honest, so real, so deep, rich, and profound in the sometimes unreasonable, seemingly detoured space of toddler land where things go to fall apart. 😂

That’s were I am at today and apparently for at least the next year, at least.

Who else is in toddlerland with me? How y’all doing?

Guide my feet

May 7, 2018

“Guide my feet, while I run this race.” The first year of mothering and studio ownership revealed my dark- deeper. My underbelly. My fears. My messiness. My grit. My shame. My pride. My place of grace. My resilience. My strength. My softness. My naivete. My wisdom.

I wouldn’t trade nothing for year one right now, and I ain’t turning around either- though.

I have to do this work. This work has to work.
I want to do this work. I feel called, inspired, loved, challenged, and sometimes on edge with this work. It is, in fact, actually, work.
.
I share the “full” studio pictures, and there are still days where there’s one, two, three students in class. Real life is this AND that. Not this or that. .
I share from an open hand often, and there are moments when I am gripping, tightened fist, closed.

Some days feel like walking through thick and unrelenting bush. Some days I am dancing in an open field, twirling forward.

All of the while, I sense my feet are being guide.

Sometimes it’s a fire walk to get to stream. Sometimes we crawl to what we think is the finish line, only to realize it’s the start. Sometimes the directions are wrong, and we get lost in order to find our way home. Many times we are standing, in front of the sign we are praying for, but can’t see it because the message isn’t often packaged or in shiny papers.

My feet have been guided to this place of knowing: It ain’t “this or that”. It’s this AND that.

Who Carries Mamas?

May 6, 2018

Who carries mamas?

Mamas carry people. Our bones expand. Our organs move. From the inside, and in the most intimate places, we make room for others to grow. We share blood, breath, and pulse. Create cords, new ecosystems called placentas.
We carry people in our bodies, completely.We take people in.

We pick people up and literally carry them across rooms, scary places, and real or make believe rivers. We carry lives. Whole lives on our hips and often walk long distances without pausing. There is no short cut to here. There is no break. No matter where we are in the room or world, we are listening for our child’s breath.

I looked at my mama yesterday, and I wondered. Who, who has carried this mama. Ever?
My God.

Restorative yoga is a practice of being held…
{Perhaps I’ll write about that in the context of mothering —soon} For today, mamas, who or what has carried you from the start of your mama-ing journey to now?

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