Divorcing Fear to Love
I am pretty much an open book, and as a result when people are around me, it brings out this quality in them as well. They show up with a mask and full apparel, whereas I come to the table, as one of my friends would exclaim, "emotionally nude”. Some would question how is it possible to be so open when I don’t know a person? I respond by asking, “How is it not possible?” If I don’t know you, I would rather have a full understanding and clarity about who you are so we can better assess what the nature of this connection might be. It takes away my angst, and in my most favorite declaration of all: it keeps me from wasting time.
Emotionally Nude Fact: I was married almost a decade ago and was divorced very shortly after. To protect myself and my former spouse, I won’t divulge the details, but I will speak very candidly about the after effects of divorce. Often people don’t understand that divorce has rippling effects on the human psyche, emotions, and quite frankly it messes you up internally. Initially, I believed things about love that were so incredibly beautiful pre-divorce. I believed in the transformative possibilities of love. But when I went through my divorce, I not only divorced the person, but I actually divorced my belief in love. I divorced the idea that love could be fulfilling or something that I even wanted anymore.
I think we all have, at a certain point, experienced a serious breakup that became the death of a love, that felt as though it hindered our ability to ever love again, in an uninhibited and brave manner. So what normally happens at this point is, you sit love in the backroom and you tell it never to reappear. Or you tell it, if it appears, it has to look like this or that, and it has to cater to all of your insecurities, and the labels and lies that you have told yourself, otherwise known as pain, about it! To further explain: pain ushers itself into our lives, and it becomes our interior decorator, literally and figuratively. Pain begins to design the drapes, wallpaper, countertops, cutlery, and eventually, the architecture of our souls leading the way to build the house of what? more pain. I always have to be careful when I let pain attempt to dress up my future. I try to remind myself of the ramifications of what that outfit will look like to me and the world.
In my life,I have often mislabeled pain, conveniently. I’ll humor you with the many labels I have created for it:
Wisdom- Basically I would avoid anything that would require trust again, calling it wisdom. But if I were honest this “wisdom” should have been appropriately labeled as fear. Having been hurt before and fearing to be hurt again, I turned that fear into being cautious of all feelings, calling it Wisdom.
Smart- I would declare myself smart because of how I made decisions. But I soon realized that brilliance doesn’t have avoidance attached to it. Brilliance is the ability to face problems head on until the true solution becomes present.
Being Proactively Numb- I administered pain onto others to prevent it from being administered to me first, thus making and keeping me numb from both pain and pleasure.
These admissions of my love avoidance tactics after heartbreak help me to be AWAKE, AWARE and HONEST about one truism: I was in pain, friends. You know what else is true? It’s okay to be in pain, as it is one of the by-products of living.
I had an amazing breakthrough a few months ago because I began having some very honest conversations with myself and I literally had an “aha moment”. I realized that I was angry with God because I didn’t understand how he could rule my life, have all of these amazing plans for me that were apparently pre-destined, while allowing me to go through so much pain. I had literally gone through years of blaming myself, and relationships, chemistry, compatibility, timing, seasons, etc., until I actually realized “dude you are in deep pain and the barrier is you”. This helped me figure out where to apply the pressure and clarity in my life, and what had been leading me, fear.
After much prayer, writing, and therapy, I finally was rid of the effects of the pain, and therefore the wound of that pain began to dissolve, dry up, scab and now it’s a scar that I wear with pride. What’s more important, is that the pain no longer leads my life. I no longer see through pain colored lenses. I lead now with trust and faith in a bright future full of love and the commitment to an amazing life that has truly been pre-destined for me. I have divorced fear, to love beautifully, openly and purposefully, knowing that my past mistakes do not have the power to shape and influence my untainted future.
Bahamas January 1, 2017
"Get Near the Drum”
I awoke to sunshine, and to a slight headache because the night before, myself along with the band (Walter Blanding, Shenel Johns, Yasushi Nakamura, and Emmet Cohen) had been out partying the New Year in; and I think I had one too many Dark 'N' Stormys. The cool thing about the lodging arrangement for this gig was that the promoter had Shenel (Vocalist) staying at a hotel on her own, while the guys were all in a house together. So literally for two days, I felt like I was in a dormitory - it was actually a lot of fun. Despite the fact that we are all world-class traveling jazz musicians that are used to separate and plush 5 star hotel rooms, we all happily obliged to this arrangement because it was different and we all dug the communal vibe.
So, I crawled out of bed, went into the kitchen, and addicted to social media like most of us are in 2017, I went on Instagram. One of my dear friends DMed me saying that I must "go to the Rock Island Bar for a drink - it’s the coolest place on the island." After a few hours, I say to the guys, “Hey, I’m going to this cool bar before dinner, who is joining me?” Yasushi says, he's down, Walter says, “Yeah Man, I am in”. We called Shenel, who answers the phone half asleep, and says, "I am in, give me 15 min", and Emmet begrudgingly joins.
One important fact about Harbour Island, is that no cars are allowed on the island. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, drives around in a golf cart. So the beautiful thing is that it’s virtually impossible to get a DUI - which during this time of the year is a true blessing.
We all got dressed, suited and booted and we hopped on the golf cart to pick up Shenel. We grabbed Shenel and decided to have dinner before going to the bar. After finishing our first dinner of the New Year, we then headed off to Rock Island Bar. As we pull up to the bar, I immediately started ordering shots of this wonderful aged local Rum for the entire band, and we toasted to a New Year of anticipated greatness for us all.
Then all of a sudden we heard this sound that shook our entire table. It was as if the rhythm of our hearts jumped out our bodies and created this hypnotic rhythm. We looked at each other and said, let’s go. (DOOM, DOOM, DOOM, DOOM) We ran out of the bar and outside where we were met with this beautiful carnival of local musicians playing so passionately. The sound permeated through all of the rum within us and the drum called out to us, COME! Walter simultaneously screamed, “GET NEAR THE DRUMS"! It was like we jumped into the pool of rhythm, and began this journey of sonic intercourse with each aspect of the drums. We removed our “snobbish Jazz personas” and got inside of this powerful music. We each positioned ourselves near different parts of the band: Yasushi and Emmet got near the lower brass, Walter and Shenel near the bass drum, and I was near the shakers.
Dressed in full carnival gear, the man with the shakers began to march with the intention to hypnotize everyone with his rhythm and power. He succeeded; we were all under his spell. As I got closer, the rhythm of the shakers captivated me, and began to move into my chest, then it moved from my chest to my shoulders, and they began to move. It moved from my shoulders to my hips, and then they too began to move. It extended from my hips to my thighs and finally the rhythm made its way down to my feet which began to march with purpose - I was along for the journey. Wherever the drum wanted us to go, we were going all the way that night.
Near the drum was I, and at that moment, every care in the world completely vanished and the only conversation that was being had, was between my heart and the drum. We went on for over an hour, being led only by the rhythm of the drum. The joy, the sensation and the purpose was so overwhelming to me, for a moment it took me back to my childhood when I first fell in love with drums.
I began to think, what if we as a society got near the drum? What if we let the drum dictate our speech, character and purpose? Letting the pulse of the drum be what we gathered around the news for? What if the drum was the President of the Free World, setting the political agenda for our lives? How much better would we be?The drum is honest, it is decisive, it doesn’t lie, and it has no ulterior motive.
During this musical march I was energized by the drum. And I will forever seek to be, and remain near the drum, because near to the drum is life everlasting!
Saying NO To You, is saying YES to Me!
In my teens, I had a condition that was severe and had many symptoms. The condition was called: "the need to be liked, desperately”. It was interesting how my condition showed up in this very subtle and kind of slick way; so much so that I was unaware of it’s power in my life. It started out as me wanting to be polite, and make everyone think that I was this incredibly charming southern gentleman that would jump at the first opportunity to anticipate their needs. I would tire myself by being attentive to everyone’s preferences so that I could anticipate what they wanted to eat, where they wanted to go or what movie they wanted to see. Choosing myself second, always. It got to the point that I didn’t know what I liked or what I wanted. I was learning something that wasn’t healthy: how to say NO to myself and my hierarchy of needs, and say YES to everyone else’s needs.
Fast Forward to a situation in which a woman whom I dated for a short period of time kept pressuring me to spend time with her, even though our bond was short lived. The pain of a relationship not working between us really affected her in ways it honestly didn’t affect me. To be even more transparent, initially I had a high level of guilt about engaging with her because I knew that I did not want something long-term. I was mad at myself for starting an emotional dialogue when I had no future plans of sustaining it. So once I ended it, it was traumatic because this person was emotionally fragile and hurt, and I was affected as I never had any intentions of hurting her.
Eventually, that situation turned into a friendship. However, there was something very unsettling about it because I was getting nothing positive out of our interactions. This person constantly blamed me for not giving her what she wanted, and she always reminded me of the actions I displayed towards her in the past. Every moment I spent with her was a reminder of the old me, the people pleaser even at my own expense.
It wasn't until years later that I realized that I was essentially being guilted into a friendship all this time. And you know what? I allowed it; I thought it was my recompense. But one day after a particularly unsettling conversation, I woke up and said, "You know what? I am done saying NO to myself, and YES to everyone else”. I could no longer swim upstream into the abyss of someone else’s emotional desires for me. I decided to dock that boat, anchor it, and hop out, as it was time for me to journey onto the path that I truly desired. I had to make a choice, who was I going to prioritize?
I began asking myself questions, like:
-When have I ever chosen myself?
-When have I taken the time to give myself the experience that my heart, mind, body and soul earnestly request from me?
-Furthermore, the times when I did chose myself, and what I needed, how did that feel?
I began to hold onto the moments when I chose Ulysses - what I needed and preferred. And I remembered the feelings of bliss that came from those times I put myself first.
So, I had a conversation with this woman whom I felt was emotionally holding me hostage, and told her that I was really sorry for my previous actions, but that I could no longer let that constitute an unnatural bond that was unhealthy for the both of us. I assured her that I cared about her but that I would have to discontinue the friendship because I needed to be empowered in all of my relationships and associations, and they must represent a resounding YES. She wasn't happy, but she had no choice but to accept.
That YES to me, unfortunately meant NO to her, but I only get one shot at this life, and I must always take care of myself first - be the priority of my own life.
This Valentine's holiday my challenge is to "Choose Me”. Typically, this holiday has ushered in a lot of unnecessary tension in my life, especially being "single". I've asked myself: Am I saying YES to others and NO to my own needs in order to fulfill the cliche feelings I am pressured to feel on this day?
I heard a quote the other day that stated, “Your heart determines what you see”, which means if my heart is empty or depleted, my vision will be limited and partial. However, when I say YES to myself, it fills my heart and allows me to be really full, which is the birthplace of good decision making. And even when I choose to honor someone else’s desires, I still want to feel that that choice includes me and my desires as well.
Happy Valentine's Day and whether single or committed, make sure your YES includes you, first!