60 pounds of self-preservation gone

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It is so easy to lie to yourself. I’ve been taking the easy way out for years. I call it “self-preservation through denial”.

After 8 years, it stopped working. Life slapped me hard and I didn’t recover fast enough. The lies I told myself for years were exposed and they couldn’t hide from my scrutiny.

Rather than facing a hard truth about myself and then deciding to re-bury it like I’ve done hundreds of times, I pushed it to the forefront. I acknowledged it as a truth. It was a brand new feeling: knowing exactly who I am at the moment and what I do not know and what I want to know.
It was a huge relief. I was tired of treading lightly in my head.

I write this to say that it is so very,very important to be honest with yourself. Feel what you feel in that moment in its entirety.

It was in these moments of honesty that I formed a new kind of preservation that was all about becoming a better version of myself. It was through this process of honesty that I changed my lifestyle. I ate more (I hardly ate food before) and when I ate food it was good, good food. Real food. I exercised often despite every excuse I made for myself. I walked, dance, kick-boxed and moved more than I had than I had in my 22 years of life. Nothing that happened in my life, I decided, would get in my way. I let go of placing blame on the people I’d blamed for my choices. This time, even with team-support from family, I did not stop when they stopped for whatever reason. I didn’t want to look in the mirror and see all of the empty promises I made myself. It was never easy, it still isn’t, but I think it gets easier. The difference between me now in 2013 and 2012 isn’t just the 60 pound weight loss:(1) I have a much stronger, more urgent need to pursue my goals, (2) I am much more grateful for everything in my life (3) I am happier because I was honest about the things that made me unhappy.

I was waiting for a magnificent change in my life. It took honesty for me to realize that I’m waiting on borrowed time.if there’s something you want, go get it. If you think you can’t get it, try to get it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? Now that you know all of the things that could possibly happen: do it anyway. Feel the fear and go.

My identity

I envy folks who can erase their history and create a new definition of who they are; that is absolutely brave. I have this need to learn everything there is about me: the mundane, the things worthy of pride & shame and the parts of my story that were ripped from me.Whether it is fortunate or not, every single part of me, past and present, is who I am.

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The key to carrying my past (my stories & the stories of my ancestors) is perspective. I can choose to let my history drag me down or I can say “I am Imani : daughter, sister, cousin, friend & grandchild. I am one part of a long story that is always expanding, and though it is not perfect, all of it is mine”. I cannot separate myself from this story because I don’t want to lose that feeling of representing something greater than myself. And I agree that it is no one’s job to represent anything, but I volunteer.

So, when I step forward (or backwards), I’m stepping with great-great Mary A. Johnson, My Mom, My Grandma’s, my dear Aunts and Uncles, and everyone who has brought me here.

And, here we are.

Bouncy Room

             My Parents owned an impossibly high and wide bed. To my nine year old eyes, the wide bed was like King Arthur’s bouncy castle, it was magnificently sprawled across the small Master bedroom, filling the entire room and leaving little room on either side. The room was the bed. My parents’ bed was my place of refuge. It bore the perfect ratio between comfort and substance that my bunk-bed would never accomplish. Who needs a floor with space when you can bounce, roll, and flip to where you need to go? I would scramble onto the foot of the bed, my sisters squeezing on either side of me, and prop my head in my hands. We’d stretch as far as our limbs could go in our limited bubbles. We would watch movies on my Parent’s tiny TV in our t-shirts and eat Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn with extra butter. We’d spend hours watching Aladdin, Belle, and Hercules in a world we conceived in our minds existed somewhere. My Parent’s room was where my family and I would sing together because the walls of the room emphasized our harmony. My Parents’ room was also where my sisters and I would listen, on edge, to Daddy talk about his adventures as a Corrections Officer. My sister Alleyah was always the first to slickly swipe Daddy’s glowing handcuffs and leisurely cuff and un-cuff her hands while he told us his story of the day.

        Daddy would come home exhausted, looking as if he had never had an ounce of sleep in his life. When he kicked off his shoes and flopped down at the head of the bed, a sudden animated spirit would revive him from his restlessly dormant state and give us our news for the day. We would hear about men who taunted guards, men who fought other men, and men who were just plain insane. We would hear about the crimes they committed and the crazy things that some inmates did to pass the time. The rise and fall of his voice matched the motions of his hands as he gestured the story into life, ushering the story from his mind before our eyes. He would censor the stories, shielding our eyes from the severity of life outside and behind brick walls. Although I was attentive to the stories, I mostly looked forward to Daddy’s animated face and his booming laugh that erupted from his belly and seemed to interrupt him mid-word.

Even Saturdays, when I often tested the strength of the soles of my bare feet on the earth of our back yard, I could hear Daddy’s laughter fill the universe. In me, it confirmed and ingrained a feeling of place. Here, wrapped in the arms of apple and pear trees, away from the rowdy, intrusive Brinkley Road, I was safe to do anything. I knew where I was in my family. I was the eldest of four kids in a family of six. I was my sister’s adventure doctor and my baby brother’s diaper changer. I was my Father’s little girl and I was my Mother’s diary of secrets. All that mattered was where I stood among the most important people in my life.

      The grass in our yard was green and full of rabbit holes. My sisters and I would carefully run around, being careful to land our feet like astronauts on the moon. The holes led to the unexpected, and in our minds, either led to a twisted ankle or a trip to China. The trees that surrounded us bore a story themselves. The previous owners were an old married couple who planted their own food and were married for a lifetime. They had been the original owners of the brick rambler and raised a family in my home. I often wondered if their kids ever climbed the trees their parents grew or peeled the bark off the base of the apple trees as I would often do.

       The yard was electrified with lively fireflies at night in the summer. I felt as if these bugs had invaded the solitude of our open yard, disturbing an unspoken balance. Although I was logical and knew that the living light bulbs could not harm me, I never approached them without a pair of gloves and a jar. When I encased them in the glass, I was not filled with some awe-inspired feeling of wonderment. I was glad I trapped the “bugs that won’t stop following me.” I fell asleep in comfort knowing that the Lightning bug inmates couldn’t harm me or my family with no way of escape. I was the unspoken family guard. 

BEST NEWS SO FAR!

HI!

I have heard the best news I have heard in a long time. After nearly 5 months, I AM MEDICALLY qualified! I will be contacted by my placement officer soon. ON to the next step. This is becoming more and more real as time goes on (:

Read part of the letter below (click on the picture):

I’m SOOO HAPPY

After months and months of having a bunch of test run, and doing everything to fulfill medical requirements. I am finished! After FIVE looooong months. I want to scream!

I spoke to my Dad, who has always encouraged me to follow my gut, and he’s taking me out to celebrate. I am so grateful to have a fantastic support system.

I am so close to dream. I had a period of time when I was in doubt, but doubts can hinder you. I am definitely headed in the right direction.

-Mani

ROAD TRIP

 

Roooad

You don’t need a lot to go anywhere. All I took was a toothbrush.

My sisters and I traveled 998 miles over the past two days. Up and down the East Coast. We drove down to North Carolina from Maryland, then all the way up to New Jersey. I bought a MONKEY MUG.

Monkey Mug!

 

Sleeping in the car and driving ANYWHERE was the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while. We took the back roads through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Carolina. It was a wonderful experience. We drove for hours, stopping anywhere that was interesting and Sang with the windows down. We listened to EVERYTHING.

I know this sounds cliche, but the wind blowing through your hair is liberating. the winding roads. the sun. the rain. laughter.

It was an adventure. I would suggest a random Road trip to anyone (:

How I handle Stress…arrgh

S.T.R.E.S.S is…..ummm… stressful. The next two weeks are going to be a stress adventure.

I graduate on Saturday, I still haven’t packed anything in my dorm and on top of that I do not have insurance. I have had insurance my entire life, but it was removed when I turned 21. SO, I have spent the last 3 days trying to find low-cost alternatives for the un-insured. That was not fun. It took me A LOT of digging to find these amazing programs and I am so glad I took the time to find them.

On top of this, the Peace Corps is pressuring me to turn in my Health packet ASAP or I will be discontinued from the Application process! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Now I have to find money out of nowhere to pay for all of my upcoming appointments AND I found out I will be leaving before OCTOBER.

On an unrelated note: I have a splinter in my thumb (:

Its ok Mani..It’s going to be ok.

SOOOOO, I’m going to go through MY stress relaxing process:

  1. STOP
Don’t let the stress get to you. If it becomes overwhelming, TAKE A BREAK. Take your time.

Breathe…In and out. I know we’ve all heard this from everywhere, but it really works. I found a quiet place and I just relaxed and listened to my own breathing. I know it sounds cheesy but it removed a huge chunk of stress from me. Listening to myself breathing brings me to my next tip.

2.  BE GRATEFUL

Be grateful for how far you’ve come and appreciate the fact that you are breathing. If what you are stressing over is that bad, take a moment to think about all of the good things in your life. I thought of my family and how I am glad that I have a source of happiness. I am grateful that I’ll always have somewhere to go if things don’t work out. I’m grateful for my health and I’m grateful for my life. Take a moment out everyday to reflect on your life.

I’m Thankful I have something to stress over.

3. GET MOTIVATED

I can’t do anything unless there is something positive driving me. Life is a challenge: accept it. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I lived my life through fear, not would I be going anywhere. Be your own mascot.

4. ENCOURAGE YOURSELF and OTHERS

On my last day of my English Major Seminar, my professor offered a gift I had not anticipated: a speech. He spoke of the power of encouragement and offered words of wisdom for us. Towards the end he talked about how an endless cycle of encouragement can lead people to be the best that they can be.

5. EXERCISE

Just get moving. DO anything. I’ve been walking like crazy and I’ve never felt so relaxed. Here are some of the odd (well, odd for me) exercises I’ve been doing:

  • Running with my Toy dog
  • Throwing pebbles across a creek
  • Going on a swing
  • Jazz Dance (I am the ONLY person under 30 in that class)
  • Zumba (AMAZING)
  • Golf
I think I’m going to take up Kayaking, I found an awesome class that is pretty cheap in Virginia (:
MAKE IT A GREAT DAY,
Mani (:
P.S. Don’t forget to laugh!

Slinkyyyyy

Slinkyyyyy

Yesterday was my cousin Quoia’s 19th Birthday. To celebrate, My 2 sisters, my brother, Quoia and I went to Chuck-E-Cheese and played games for 7 hours straight. We looked a “little” out of place because of the whole “we’re adults” thing and everyone else there was either under 10 or over 50. Still, it was fun to be kid again. Anyway, We collected all the tickets we won and gave her $100 worth of tickets. Then, Quoia bought this bright rainbow slinky with the tickets. Totally worth it! Soo FUN…..I am going to miss these amazing people when I leave for the Peace Corps (: