One Sunday afternoon my phone dinged with a "Whats App" message. Daddy, as I affectionately call my daughter's grandfather who lives in Ghana (West, Africa), sent me a morning affirmation. The message was a video of the eagle's rebirth at 40. It watered a seed deep inside of me; one that was in danger of drying up completely.
"The eagle has the longest life-span of it's species. It can live up to 70 years but, to reach this age, the eagle has to make a life or, death decision. In it's 40's, the eagle's long and flexible talons can no longer grab prey which serves as food. It's long and sharp beak becomes bent. It's old-aged and heavy wings, due to their thick feathers, become stuck to it's chest and make it hard to fly. Then, the eagle is left with only two options: die or, go through a painful process of change which lasts 150 days.
The process requires that the eagle fly to a secluded mountain top and sit on its nest. There, the eagle knocks its beak against a rock until it plucks it out. After plucking it out, the eagle will wait for a new beak to grow back and then, it will pluck out its talons. When its new talons grow back, the eagle starts plucking its old-aged feathers. And, after five months, the eagle takes its famous flight of rebirth and lives for 30 more years."
Some say, this story is a complete myth. Even if this is just a story and eagles can't really regrow their physical body parts; truth like beauty is in the mind of the storyteller. For me, at least, the eagle's story of rebirth at 40 years of age held me completely captive with its absolute parallel to my life, at the exact age of 40.
Unbeknownst to anyone, even myself - I was about to make a life or, death decision. Daddy Theo's video message stirred the anxiety in me so much so it forced my courage, by combustion. I realized my talons were failing me. Somehow my hands could not grab nor feet take me to my purpose. I could not feed my soul. I had stopped challenging myself along time ago. Why? I was backing away from the unknown; ceding to ordinary familiar stories I memorized from people in my life who gave into their fears rather than, reach their greatness. Therefore, all I could grab were lies and excuses; a slow but certain death.
P.A.I.N: Pay Attention Inward Now
Iyanla Vanzant, 2016 Oprah Lifeclass Tour, OWN Network
With my words (beak) bent out of shape I was unable to call or name my truth. I was afraid to fail at reaching my highest potential. I was in serious pain but, I would not look inward. Instead, I externalized my descend by telling myself "well, maybe if I had this job and made this much money and could afford to live in this type of house and educate my daughter in this type of school, maybe if we lived in this neighborhood...maybe if I had this kind of mother, father, sister, brother, cousins, man or even these kinds of friends," I would be happy. I was in a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy because what you speak is what you actualize. In saying I didn't have what I needed to grow in my life I was perpetuating it. I was handing my power over to external variables and, this could not lead me to be self-empowered.
I had a head-on collision with my truth but, it was not like winning the lotto. I didn't jump up and down screaming "I know the truth! I know the truth! I'm free!" No. My truth caused me (to) Pay Attention Inside Now. Truth came in my stillness so I was able to hear the quiet but, clear voice. Only in the stillness of my truth was I able to hear my courage say "I have been here long enough. I am ready for my next phase; my journey to my true purpose." My thoughts were crystal clear about what needed to be my next step but, that's all I had - one step. You see, that is the secret, magical moment many of us pass up - taking the first step or, believing. Believing is that pivotal moment when you decide to put your thought into unwavering action. For the first time, I looked at the aesthetic of our home and thought "this is luggage; it's weighing us down." I thought of all the people I knew of or had a relationship with, and thought "they are not responsible for nor able to provide what I need, right now." I knew my will was all I needed to move forward.
Once I spoke my truth the Universe made way, after way, after way, for us. I called my sister-friend Patrice, in North Carolina. I did not want to put my daughter through undue stress and thought it prudent to have a contingency plan but, the Universe showed me I was only unbelieving. I was so determined to sell everything I could to fund my travel, I put most of my furniture up for sale on Craigslist. When the furniture didn't sell right away, I decided to post pictures on my facebook feed. On the first day, one person bought about $700.00 dollars worth of my personal belongings; it was like getting a head-nod from the Universe. Then one evening, Jacquie a woman whose home I was invited to a year and a half before for what she and her husband Warren call a "talking circle" reached out to me via facebook about my furniture.
Jacquie and her husband live on about 2.5 acres of beautiful farmland in Hadley, Massachusetts. Bunny rabbits literally run around her front yard. Apple trees frame their backyard which faces about two acres of corn fields. The sunsets are stunning. Jacquie inquired about a few of my items for sale and we agreed on a price. But, Jacquie then did something no one else had done.
"You are taking on a lot Viviana. How are you doing? Do you have a place to stay in DC?" Jacquie asked. The truth was I did not have a job or my own place waiting for me, in DC.
"I'm holding up. And, no, we don't. I've been applying for jobs for a few months now and I've made an excellent connection with another African-centered homeschooling mother. I'm waiting to hear back from some folks about a house-share." I replied.
I had no leads on a place to stay in DC but, I refused to affirm that. I told her what I believed.
"All will be well," I assured (myself).
A few evenings later, Jacquie called again to inquire if I had found a place to stay in DC yet. I had not found a place to stay. More importantly, I couldn't move until I raised enough funds to pay for travel and lodging expenses and I didn't want to pay for another month of rent. I was so stressed, I could barely sleep.
"No, Jacquie we still haven't heard back about a place to stay."
"Well, Viviana I have an extra bedroom if you would like to stay for a few days. You and Nani could rest before you leave to DC."
I was stunned. Not only was Jacquie purchasing some of my furniture but, was also now offering to be a reprieve for my daughter and I while we made our seemingly sudden and poorly planned transition. So often, in life, events appear random when in fact, they are carefully orchestrated by the Universe to further our purpose. My daughter and I stayed with Jacquie and Warren for about a month and a half. Jacquie also allowed me to store some of my personal belongings and major pieces of furniture in her basement so, I could sell them before I left. My stay with Jacquie was an amazing blessing and incredibly difficult for me. I was grieving and did not know it. I was grieving the loss of my false pride. I could no longer stand in my facade of total independence. I could no longer ignore that I could not do things alone; I needed help. I had to ask for help and then actually, accept it; this was and still is the hardest part of my journey.
I have learned those of us who were raised in financially distressed and broken relationships are not afraid of rock bottom or working hard just to pay bills (which I consider to be mediocrity). What frightens us the most is failing at our own greatness. I was afraid of putting everything on the line for the dream I had as a teenager to be "a writer" because then, I would have nothing left - not even my dream. My truth severed me from all the false physical and mental attachments which kept me distracted from seeing I was the one holding myself back from greatness. I felt completely vulnerable and naked in this truth.
Have you ever had a nightmare you are completely naked around strangers?
Looking back, I was able to see how we both might of felt vulnerable. I learned Jacquie's story and mine were not so different, at the core. In the common core of our experience with our mothers, siblings and conviction to pursue our highest self as wombyn and spiritual beings, we sowed seeds of fellowship and an earnest appreciation for each other's life journeys. From conflict came compassion which helped us to overcome our vulnerabilities our nakedness our fear of judgement and perhaps even the shame of our shortcomings. I believe we both grew stronger towards our purpose.
Every week that passed without word about a lead on a house-share in DC forced me to muster more courage. I had to literally block out the physical reality and just focus on my vision; these are the moments your brain experiences rapid growth. I was nervous and scared but, I realized how just speaking my truth changed my whole view of myself and what I was capable of. I was more afraid of falling back into the powerlessness and that alone forced me to keep moving afraid. I had no guarantee of what was really waiting for us once we arrived to Washington, DC. I simply kept believing in the vision I wrote to the Sankofa Homeschool Collective. More than three months passed, no one responded. Here's the thing, I did not even think of giving up. Step two came to me crystal clear. On my way to Knightdale, we would stop in DC just for 3 days, to show Nani where I've wanted us to live for the past 13 years. Nani and I began looking at Air BnB. Nani's excitement about our move was so important - it kept me motivated when the facts loomed over my truth.
We arrived in DC on March 9th 2016. This peak; this solace; this rebirth is not for the faint of heart. I have been put to the test by the circumstances and also by my own tendency to revert to old ways. Just because you have a revelation doesn't mean you immediately start to grow out of all your inhibitions...no, it's just the beginning. I arrived to my nest of rebirth and almost immediately without much rest, the real work began. Telling myself a new story every time someone underestimated me, judged or disregarded me. Telling myself a new story every time my house mate and I clash or misunderstand one another. Telling myself a new story when the actions of others are hurtful, toxic or destructive of self and community even when the actions were mine. Telling myself a new story instead of justifying my right to retaliate when a member of my community's words towards me bruised, violated and damaged our trust and our sisterhood. Telling myself a new story - of forgiveness.
This week my daughter and I were talking and reminiscing about our journey. I read the valentine day card I bought her last February while we were still at Jacquies. Amongst a host of "mushy" things I wrote was the following "This is our life; we get to dream it and make it come true!" And, I drew a picture of our journey.
|From top left to bottom left: We are leaving Holyoke, MA to Hadley, MA followed by North Carolina and finally, Washington, DC. We don't have to be perfect for our children; we have to be brave in our vulnerability - No shame in my art.|
Last week, I began to feel a dense nudge in my spirit to "write, write, write. Don't succumb to your fear of failure; pour your heart out."
I've cried writing this piece. I've also rejoiced because in the middle of writing this the Universe revealed that I am exactly where I'm suppose to be, right now.
I have promised myself the following...
I will not back away from my pain because it is my spiritual alarm telling me to
Pay Attention Inward Now.
I will do the work of plucking out old, destructive language patterns.
I will decide to see my truth; my story.
I will rid myself of negative old behaviors that weigh me down and don't allow me to spread my wings.
I will live in my new story.
I will soar.
For those of you who don't believe in the eagle's rebirth at 40....In the middle of writing this I was led to do something I felt was very random. I divided 150 by 30 (or a month).
I am in my fifth month, in DC or, 150 days.