Living For the Art Of It..

Last night I had the pleasure to enjoy Left On Red (two beautiful, talented young ladies I am happy to call friends), perform at The Bitter End. As I sat there, bopping my head, humming along, I marveled at how my life had changed artistically.

I grew up in a home where the arts were not appreciated. My father truly could not have cared less. While my mother did enjoy a pretty picture, at least  as much as the next person, that was the end-all.be-all of her interest. Karma in, full bitch mode, lands her a daughter that adores music, creative writing and drawing. I was attempting pointillism and abstracts, metaphors and onomatopoeia a good decade before I ever heard the terms. Her favorite form of punishment was to break my pencils and tear up anything hanging on my walls. Eventually, I learned to stop  trying.

In fact, I learned it so well, that I was with my late-husband for about five years before he had any inkling I could draw. Still, I lived a relatively closed life at the time and really had no other creative people in my life.  Of course, being a mother, wife, worker etc., life itself got in the way. Okay, that’s not true, I let life get in the way. It was much easier to say I don’t have time for that nonsense, than to pick up a pencil and see if I could still do any of it. Other than painting a mural on a closet door (that’s how my late-husband final discovered my dirty little secret), I did practically nothing for nearly twenty years. Then one day in frustration with my life, I picked up a pencil and started writing. That writing turned into the first poem I had written since high school Somewhere. It was a start, but then — nothing.

It took a couple more years and the internet to finally kick-start my writing into high gear. I entered an online poetry challenge on a website that required you to write a poem based on a given phrase. I did not win, but for the first time in my life, my words were praised by people who were not related to me and whose talents I enjoyed and respected. The dam burst. Within, two years I had written nearly one hundred poems. Now I have no idea how many I’ve penned, I stopped counting after four hundred. Not all of them are gems obviously, but they are all mine.

Unlike some artistic types, I realize now I cannot live in an artistic vacuum. Like misery, my art loves company. Which is why it amuses to no end, that while my childhood was a dearth of creativity, my adulthood now overflows with it. In the past few years, I have found myself surrounded by artists. People with amazing talents and several with the guts to go for it as their life pursuit. Singers, sculptors, painters, spoken word etc. It is a complete 180 turn of events and I am loving it! Granted, I have not picked-up painting/drawing again, the way I picked up writing, but every now and then, I feel little tinges of that urge starting to take hold, so who knows…?

Someday you may own an original Raivenne artwork. You can show it off along with the hardbound edition of my poems. Go ahead and name drop that you knew me when I was just a simple web blogger among the masses.

I won’t mind.

>========<

Visit the rest of today’s Slices of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012

Soulmates

I have friends who are in long-term with their mates.
I have friends who have just had their hearts broken.
I have friends who made the decision to be the heart breaker.
I have friends who cannot be so bothered with the pursuit and choose celibacy.
I have friends who will not be so bothered with it, but are not choosing to be celibate.
I have friends who are looking so hard for theirs; they are completely deaf to the Klaxons of desperation, which are blasting the eardrums of everyone else around them.

And for what? The Soul-mate (cue echo machine).

To many, the soul-mate interpretation of love is not an interpretation, it is not a myth, and it is not modern. Rather, it is The Way It Is, and the way it always has been.

* presses play on effin_sappy-assed_violins_and_fireworks.mp3 *

Find “The One” and you will be happy.
Find “The One” and your whole life falls into place.
Find “The One” and no pursuit, no passion, no love could be any greater than the love you feel when you finally embrace your soul-mate.

Ah, the amazing powers of the SOUL-MATE
(music crescendo – doves flying – sun shining – heavens parting – angels singing… you get the drift)…

Oh bollocks already!

* And insert record-scratch.mp3 here *

I personally have always had a problem with that theory – it is too damned easy. Everyone wants the easy way out, or more specifically the easy way in love and guess what? It don’t work that way. Yes, this very poet who has dozens of words expounding on the very subject of the perfect romantic love within this very blog said it. Slap on a pair and deal with it, I got more.

Everything worthwhile having gives you some crap, if not out right hell. “The One” is no different.

Contrary to what popular romantic theory (aka TV – Movies – Music – Poetry), would have you believe, meeting your soul-mate doesn’t guarantee “happily ever after.” Things don’t always get easier when you find that special someone and in fact, they might get even harder from time to time.

Let’s face it, even in the Disney-fied fairy tales most of the lovers either went through the “I can’t stand him / her” stage before they fell in love or had to tackle some major shit (and sometimes both), before the happily-ever-after finally kicked in. And are we really sure about that happily-ever-after? I mean Princess Aurora has been asleep for one hundred years! Can you imagine Aurora’s stress on having to suddenly get up-to-date on fashions (oh gurl that gown is so last century!) and modern conveniences (a chamber pot in its own room M’Lord? How divine!) while Phillips is busy still trying to maintain the apparent duties of being heir apparent? (Seriously babe, I couldn’t give a dragon’s fart on whether you wear the pink or blue bustle.)

Okay fine, let’s jump the fairy tales up a century or two:

Yes, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) and Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) fall in love in Pretty Woman, but we aren’t there after the screen fades to black to see how the multimillionaire and former prostitute try to make their relationship work past the fire-escape. You know Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander) the only other person who knew (and not in Edward’s best graces), blabbed that tidbit of her previous employment all over the place, which I am sure was taken oh so well by the other ladies in their snotty little society.

Hell, let’s jump another couple of decades forward to Sex and the City (the television show). Carrie and Big went through years of bullshit (and other lovers), before they got their act together. Years. Yet no one denies those two are soul-mates.

In Sex and the City: The Movie 1, Carrie reads the story of Cinderella to one of her best-friend Charlotte’s young daughter, Lily. At the end of the story, she looks at the little girl and says, “You know this is just a fairy tale, right sweetheart? Things always don’t happen like this in real life”

Let’s stick with our modern-day fairytale princess Carrie Bradshaw for just a tad moment longer. Even after she and Big are married – they learn, in Sex and the City: The Movie 2, with even a love as grand as theirs (*barfing.mp3 *), it ain’t always easy keeping the magic going.

Falling in love, as hard as it sometimes is, is the easy part. Staying in love is work.

The problem is few want to work. Thus, I reiterate my sentence from above…

Everything worthwhile having gives you some crap, if not out right hell from time to time. “The One” is no different.

Ultimately, a soul-mate is someone you can grow with, and the only way to grow together is to face challenges together and challenges are work.

And here is where I’m really gonna set fire to the rain…

Nearly, everyone says and thinks of a soul-mate as the all-encompassing, be all and end all romantic type of love.

I propose a person can have more than one soul-mate and while a soul-mate is always, someone you want to share the rest of your days with, a soul-mate is not necessarily or solely the person you also want to share your bed with for the rest of your days.

But that thought is a blog for another day…

For Amy

The first time I heard Amy Winehouse’s voice was on the Soundtrack of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, with her mellow, but nonetheless beautiful cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.


I loved her then, strictly on the merits of her talent. It was a good year before I learned about Winehouse’s first LP Frank, cementing my love of her voice even more.  Then came Back to Black. I had You Know I’m No Good on my personal replay the way every one is now currently loving/bitching on Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. Amy was somewhere in a world only Janis, Billie and Ella could touch previously and people had taken notice. Amy could have taken that talent anywhere. Regrettably, as it seems with so many of the really great ones, she had her demons and they took her first.

Learning of her death Saturday gave me pause. I have learned, for the most part, not to read the comments section on most online editorials. Somehow, the shock of it made me temporarily forget and I was quickly reminded why I avoid such. The public never fails to disappoint in how vicious it can be at such a time. For every heartfelt RIP there were numerous “well no surprise there” type comments. And I have no words that would fully encompass the anger felt for the anonymous douche(s) that chose such a time to lay blame to Amy’s parents for not doing enough and to riff on “Rehab“.

Was the way she died a surprise? No. Was still a tragic shame? Yes.

I read various online articles. I was a little dumbstruck by it at first. I was waiting…for the retraction…waiting to read that it was a mistake, a hoax.  I really expected to someday relatively soon to read, hear that she was getting better.  That she was in the studio recording. That her new single/CD would be out. I was waiting…

From my Facebook, after I read the news, on Saturday:

Oh Amy, I was really pulling for you to prove all the naysayers wrong and come back swinging. May you now rest in peace in the afterlife that you were not able to find in the too short 27 years of your life here on earth.

I really was waiting for her to take that one cleansing breath. You know the one, when you know you’ve hit rock bottom, it can’t possibly get any worse, so you just breathe. In that breath comes a clarity that gets you to do nothing more than take another breath, but that first breath is the cleansing breath of hope that says you can do this/get through this as long as you’re breathing.

Alas, days later, I sit here with my iPod, breathing through various Winehouse singles, duets etc shaking my head at the loss of the woman, the talent, the potential that could have been Amy, who I will still love tomorrow and I can’t help but think…

Just one more breath Amy, it might have been the one …

After-cation

I just returned from an eight day vacation in Las Vegas and saying it was AWE-SOME really just doesn’t cut it. However, it is now official. Two days back at work and I am in the midst of a serious post-vacation funk. And let me tell you, the rumored funk is so very real and is near inevitable in the life of any vacationer.

All the fun I spent months planning for, saving for and laid awake with great night-before-Christmas anticipation for is… over. The photographic proof of my good time is now on my Facebook and the laundry is out of the suitcase, in the hamper, waiting to be done.

Mind you, this funk does not occur overnight. It is something that seeped into my conscience slowly and before I knew it I was completely mired in it. Yet it feels that all of a sudden I am knee-deep in the reality that I are not: A. Independently wealthy, or B. Free from that most horrid obscenity called Work… with a capital “W.”

When I first arrived home, a tired traveler comfortably surrounded by the familiar sights, scents and sounds of my belongings, I couldn’t help but experience that warm There’s No Place Like Home feeling of sleeping in my own bed. Oh, the bliss!.

Then next yesterday comes, I’m back at work and it is a flurry of activity. I am answering emails, returning calls with a well-rested glow that only a true getaway vacation and not a stay-cation can provide. I’m still in the chillaxin’ zone that comes from spending eight days swimming, partying and just being in Vegas baby. By the third recounting of the details of my grand fun I am progressively losing my voice through the chain-smoking hooker stage straight through to Macy Gray with laryngitis. By 9:15 am I have concocted the following sign:

Granted, work expects that I will be “at the top of your game” since I’m so well-rested, when in reality my head is still in the pool (or on the Vegas Strip, or at any of the various parties), minor gaffs are hopefully forgiven. Hey, it took a solid minute and a half to remember my log on password and you want a briefing on what?

Day two brings with it the mofo that is Reality (with a capital “R.”). The alarm sounds for the second time since I’ve been back and I remember that this was why I went on vacation in the first place – to escape that frackin’ alarm and the daily grind that follows it.

Day two is the same as the day one, only worse. The alarm clock goes off like a Star Trek red-alert reminding me that yesterday was not a fluke or a bad joke. I. AM. HOME. And it is only Thursday. I’ve already begun the self-flagellation of: “Where Was I Exactly One Week Ago?” Let me tell you, it is no where near as enjoyable in retrospect as “Where Will I Be In One Week” was a fortnight ago in anticipation.

Sigh…

I’m beginning to entertain flights of fancy about how I might achieve the life of a full-time vacationer. What if I just disappeared? Is it too late to get a degree in Recreation or Hospitality and Tourism Management? How much DO they pay those people who change sheets and fold towels into the awesome animal shapes, anyway? In the interim – I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.

They say that there are five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. They are not necessarily experienced in order. The bereaved might vacillate between the five for several weeks or months languishing for a time at one stage or another. So far I think I have experienced all of them and it has yet to be three days.

I know by Monday I will be resigned to my fate and will have quietly accepted my life just the way it is, but I do not like it. I can’t seem to stop playing the “Where Were You Exactly One Week Ago Today?” game. Every time I look at the CSI:The Experience highlighters I purchased and brought to work to remind me what a great time I had there – I want to cry.

Is it wrong that I have not been back a solid three days and I am already plotting my next escape?

Always Ready To Open

Here is the only important thing I know about closets…

When you’re the one who has trapped yourself inside,
there are only two ways out…

Having the door ripped from the handle
exposing all which you’ve tried contain
whether it’s ready to be seen or not
by the world.

Or

By placing your hand on the handle
taking a deep breath and coming out
on your own terms, letting the world in
at your own pace

Because, whether you realize it or not,
the door is always ready to open
all you have to do is
handle it.

And Back On The Horse…?

Okay.

I’m a forty-seven year old widow of five years. I took time to mourn, then I took time to ingloriously fuck. I’ve now cut myself off from all of my “friends with benefits” because. Well, because I don’t see the benefit in it anymore. Until last month, in a moment that will be chalked up to the ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-alcohol (gee thanks Jaime Foxx-NOT!), I’ve been celibate by choice.

I’m looking in the mirror, frustrated, but at least no longer regretting my actions. No, regret is not quite the right word. I do not regret anything that I have done sexually. I’m tired of feeling that something so completely missing once the moaning is done. I know something’s missing, but I can no longer reconcile filling the physical need without somehow figuring out how to fill the emotional one. So I rather just leave it, and them, totally alone. I realize, I’m likely setting myself up for another ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-alcohol moment some time from now, if nothing good happens, but to get a new FWB? No, something in me simply cannot do that any more.

I’m tired of not being satisfied, emotionally. I’m tired of lying that all I wanted was a fuck buddy. The whole thing with NH was ridiculous. Have to break-up with BX was simply too easy for me and too hard for him. He’s a nice guy and all, but I did not and know I will not love him. I couldn’t let it keep going – it only would have gotten worse if I let it drag out. Having now lived on both sides of Unrequited Love Street, I can tell you it really, really sucks either way.

I do not want to be alone anymore. NH (primo conceited ass that he was) did prove the point. I enjoyed him, but yeah – no, the one-on-one of being with that someone special, just wasn’t there and the lack of such hits home. I want to be loved. There! You hear that Universe? I’ve said it.

So… What now?

Hard Black Women

“Why are Black women so damn hard? I don’t have time for their crap!”

Warning I’m venting…

I feel that most Black American women have had the wonderful pleasure of dealing with two layers of oppression: racism and sexism for the majority of their lives.   That can make anyone “hard”, tough,  especially if you feel you constantly have to “fight” just to come close to being on a level playing field. It sucks to have to go out into the world, face one or both “isms” in your professional time, then go out and face the same isms  in your personal time. This has been the plight of most Black American women in just about every era of this country’s history.

Does this mean Black women have an excuse to be negative? Absolutely not.
Does it explain why our collective psyche varies from Black women from other nations? Somewhat.

If we dress sexy, we are upholding the Black woman as sexual stereotype passed down from the slave masters, who used us as sex toys, when we had so much choice in the matter and then label us as promiscuous and whores for our troubles. .If we dress more conservatively, we’re accused of dressing like old ladies or a *gasp!* church girls, as though that is a bad thing.

If we are up on the latest street fashions, know the difference between Lil Wayne and T-Pain on sight and can neck roll with the best of them, we’re low-class and/or ghetto. Yet if we speak proper English, have clue as to how to set a proper dinner table and actually know the lyrics to songs played on non-“urban” radio stations, then we’re “Bourgie” (slang for bourgeois) or “Oreos”.

Who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be has all been influenced by our collective experiences. We cannot change that. Individually, we try to take different approaches, but collectively, our struggle is unique. We have had to (and continue to struggle with), defining what femininity and womanhood means to us; especially in relation to our men. Being a Black Woman in America often means defining our womanhood through our relationship to men in general, but Black men in particular.  In addition, all too often, the onus of responsibility falls on the Black woman and the finger pointing turns to us. We don’t raise our males correctly. We are not walking away from the abuse. We keep accepting the bullshit and so on and so on…

I don’t think I’m harder on men, specifically Black men. If anything, at times I think I’m not hard enough on some as I accept so much bullshit in various forms of oppression from “brothers” without consequence or recourse, that it all but destroys my spirit, all for the sake of being “loyal”.  This loyalty, innately expected of us as Black women, regrettably is one that is not often reciprocated in kind. This seems to be even more heart-breakingly true of my generation and the generations coming up. THAT, if anything, is what wears us down… makes us angrier than others, sadder than others, more depressed than others, etc.

Yet THE MOMENT we stand up for ourselves — we are hard, we are cold, we are “the bitch”; the ball breakers; the misandrists.

Females are taught from an early age to grow up and get married. Being in a relationship (preferably married), means at least one someone wants you (what’s love got to do with it? -as Tina would sing).  Therefore being single is to be deemed undesirable by anyone.  And the longer the woman is single, obviously, the more undesirable she must be – right?  Now add in being fat and oh yeah – Black.

Another problem… Black women rarely speak to anyone other than other Black women about this. Women who are more than likely also swimming in the same muddied waters.  The advice from many of our matriarchs whether by words or by actions, was to just deal with it. “A single man is over forty a confirmed bachelor. A single woman over forty is a shame.” Yeah, more lovely pearls of bullshit dropped into my once young ears.

Instead of coming to the defense of our fellow sisters of color, who speak out, many of us that raise our voices, often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place alone. Because there is some invisible code of honor not to OUT our current public status of being too much to deal with. We are “airing dirty laundry”. How the fuck is it ever supposed to get clean then, if we can’t even acknowledge the fact the track marks exist?

As women in general, we’re raised to believe, it is expected of us to be so loyal with our men. We accept it. We suffer in silence for want/need of a man. We wear a smile and act like it is okay. We hold a great deal of our hurts and thoughts inside. We hold it in for as long as we can, and then lash out. If the relationship doesn’t survive, we’re now once bitten-thrice shy with the next soul, who inadvertently may suffer the penance of another man’s sins.   It’s generally unspoken, but that expectation of loyalty is even higher with Black woman in a relationship with a Black man.

Still, because he is a Black man, and I am a Black woman, I am supposed to be instantly all ready to drop my drawers (and you can’t begin imagine how much I abhor that word as synonym for underwear), simply because he decided my name is “Baby gurl/Mami/Boo” and wants to talk to me. If he wants a moment to see if I’m worthy of his body, why am I not afforded the same courtesy? If I give in too early, I am an easy lay/skank/freak and men don’t buy the cow if they can get he milk for free. If I make you notice my worth by waiting, I’m “playing” hard-to-get, or I’m gold digging and why should you work for it when there’s always someone more willing around the corner.  I’m punished whether I’m Madonna or Mary Magdalene.

Many women of color state having difficulty-finding mates of any color due to issues many in general state about American women of color. Some men take the rejections or run-ins with some Black women that they experienced (and I won’t lie – the are some negative ones out there), and then use it to color how they view all Black women. The men who complain the most about Black women being low class/ghetto – gold-digging/bourgeois (note the contrasts), are also quick to write off  my entire racial gender with impunity and never look beyond their own negative stereotyping. They are so content to push all women of color into one, maybe two, shallow categories and never see the reality: that we are so much more.

Yet these same men would never think of writing off another entire racial/ethnic gender as a whole due to a few negative experiences. For these men, other women are given the chance to have their actions and how they present themselves judged on an individual basis … but most Black women, it seems, are not afforded this courtesy. And it is a damned shame.

The beauty we admire on most classic statues is due to someone taking the time to painstakingly whittle/smooth away what’s seen on the surface and expose the warm exquisiteness within.

Do most Black Women have thick skin? We have to, to protect our hearts, minds, souls, selves.  But we are so worth the time and effort to the one who sticks with us long enough to get to our cores and find out.

This Is My December…

And I’d give it all away,
Just to have somewhere to go to,
Give it all away,
To have someone to come home to

My December – Linkin Park

Oh, December in the Raivenne household was always a hoot.  The normally wannabe sophisticate, über-urban, gal-about-town, known and be-loathed all over, transforms into this insane “OhMyGAWDCanYouBeliveIt’sAlmostChristmas!” beast.  The weekend after Thanksgiving I (and begrudgingly the boys) would start dragging the decorations out and begin the annual tradition of transforming the abode into holiday splendor.

When we were living in an apartment, it was all confined to just the living room. However, once we had a HOUSE, oh good Lord!  I spared my family from decorating the bedrooms upstairs, but man did I didn’t vomit the holidays every where else! Each year, I moved the TV because the tree just HAD to be close to the window in order to be seen from the street.  The front porch and steps had their own garlands and lights. If you stood on the porch you could see all the little buildings and figures that graced the inside windowsill. The dining room had the Kwanza set. The kitchen and powder room would get holiday colored towels and mini decorations. Yeah, my family thought I lost my damned mind each and every year. And as curmudgeonly as all three males in the house would behave at the start of the process, at least the boys would catch some of my Christmasfluenza and get into the decorating spirit.

The hubby always stayed the Scrooge of the house; right down to his “Bah Humbug” black and white Santa hat, but deep down he enjoyed my shenanigans just as much.  One December I was depressed and refused to decorate. I think he thought if he waited me out I would pop into it, how could I not? When it was December 20th and no one iota of holiday décor was up, he got it. Mr. OhComeOnNotAllThisShitAgain? Was the one who got the boys and dragged decorations out that year. Yes, HUBBY went and got the decorations – that is how much he knew this was important to me and what a serious funk I was in to not be doing so. He was that desperate to do anything, even decorate for Christmas, to help me out of it.  The guys started to decorate the tree, but were doing such a horrible job of it the Virgo in me kicked in. Still, since my heart was not in it, which was the worst tree I have ever put up, to date.

I had not felt that bad again until the first Christmas after I became a widow. Still, I put up the holiday decorations that first year without him (or the boys, now men on their own, to help me) it was a lovely tree. Christmas 2007 was the last time I all out decorated and put up a tree. I moved in 2008 and all of my holiday stuff, including most of my spirit, is away in storage.  Something simple on my front door is about all I have been able to muster doing these past years for decorating.

I’m almost done with filling out this year’s Christmas cards (and man is my wrist tired!).  I am thinking about what to put on my door for this year, but that’s all. Still. It is only December 2nd and who knows? After a near three-year hiatus, maybe the Christmasfluenza bug will strike me again; I really do not know. Nevertheless, for right now, this very moment, the above verse from Linkin Park is my holiday song.

This is my December.