03 October 2013

when i realized i was black.

i've had a lot of conversation and contemplation about race these last few days.

how it defines us while not really defining us at all. how it's both real and fallacy. how it contributes to our stories.

how we say it comes up all the time these days in this our "post-racial America," but we actually don't really talk about it much. we talk around it. at it. conversations of race are often accusatory or defensive or, my least favorite, dismissive. we cling to words like "colorblind" and "tolerance" or say that people are too sensitive about race. we start sentences with "i'm not trying to be racist, but . . ." as if this qualifier is anything more than weak potpourri in a very very pungent bathroom.

how when i visited South Africa, and my dear and sweet coloured friend kept referring to the black people as "darkies" in negative ways. how i shuddered. how i asked about it after several references since, obviously, i look more like the black South Africans than the coloured South Africans. how he replied, "but you're American." and i laughed at race because in America he would be considered black. racial identity demands context, construct.

and in that moment i was reminded about race. how it defines us while not really defining us at all. how it's both real and fallacy. how it contributes to our stories.

story. i'm reminded of how someone once invited a group of people to tell the story of the first time we realized what race we are--the first time i realized i was black.

i know there are marches and conversations and speeches tucked in corners of my childhood memory in smalltown Dillon, SC, as my parents were very involved in conversations and movements in regard to race, rights and reconciliation.

but the story i call my own first was in first grade. in january, i believe. i was starting a new school mid-year. just a month or so before that day, my dad--a pastor--announced that we were moving to a church with a library, a nursery, a gym and 2500 members and that we'd be the only black people there and how did we feel about it. i remember my sister and i saying, "a real gym inside the church?!?! cool!" i was six. and i had nothing to assign to race at the time.

on the playground that first day at the new school. i remember running to the magic metal half moon-shaped wonder in the middle of the playground and just before i attempted to climb, a girl said, "nuh-uh! you can't get on here!" i stared. or maybe i asked the stringy blonde haired jungle gym guard why. i don't really remember. but i do remember her saying, "the last black girl who got on here did yada, yada, yada, and so you're not allowed on here . . . yada, yada, yada."

i ran to the teacher (who was actually a substitute that day). i remember knowing this wasn't right, and i remember the teacher confirming this for me. she happened to also be one of the 2500 members of our new church, so she marched over to the girl and said, "you can't keep anyone off of the jungle gym. that's not right. and you need to get to know Ciona," she said. "she's going to be in your sunday school class, too. you remember the new pastor we've all been talking about? this is his daughter."

i remember how easy it was for the jungle gym guard to, well . . . let down her guard when she was told it wasn't right and was educated on what we had in common. how easy it was for me to shake hands and laugh and play with her, her white friends and my new black friends whom i invited to join us (how long had they been rejected by the guard? and why didn't they tell on her?).

i remember how i went to her home for sleepovers and still have photographs with her at my 6th grade birthday party. how i would later find out her grandfather was one of the 2500 members who left the church because we were there. how easy it is for children to learn--both the wrong and the right.

i have many race stories. most of them are more subtle than my parents' or my parents' parents' stories. some of them are a lot more messy than this one that ended so cleanly wrapped in a pretty United Colors of Bennetton bow. some of them are beautiful and inspiring. but this is the one that launched me into identifying by race and assigning various meanings to being black. made me realize that others assign meanings to my being black. made me realize that justice depends upon the intelligence and compassion of those in power.

that's the conversation around race i want to invite people into having--about their personal origins around race. when did you realize you were red, yellow, black, white or brown? when did you assign meaning to what your race is?

thanks for hearing my story. i'd love for you to comment with your story--maybe you, too, were 6 or maybe you were 26. whatever, whenever. i want to hear it.

if you have a beef to pick, a cause to defend, a slur to utter, though, i don't want to hear. i can guarantee i'll delete your post when i read it. not because i don't value and honor free speech or because i am imposing my personal beliefs on you. it's just that the best conversations usually start with stories--sometimes messy, complicated and hard to hear stories even. so i invite my fellow storypeople to please honor this and take a moment to share a few paragraphs or just a short sentence even about the day and age you realized your race. all others, just listen for now, please.

may we always tell our stories. it's all we truly own. may our stories, however, not own our every day. and on this day, may you be filled with grace.



(image by my talented sister Lanecia Rouse)

03 December 2012

the strongest thing i've ever known

so soft
i hold my finger against my
upper lip and can barely feel it
even then

even then
it carries the weight
of a whisper, and it is
the strongest thing i've ever known
gently reminding me that when

it leaves
i am
no more


image by Linde M on flickr

02 December 2012

i've never met a violin . . .

today i had the joy of combining two of my favorite things: yoga & poetry. the beautiful Raquel Bueno--yoga instructor and friend--invited me to share poetry during her Yoga Gives donation-based class. we decided to focus the practice around voice. she lead a practice primarily focused on the fifth chakra, communication and self-expression. then i closed the practice with this poem during savasana:

i've never met a violin who refused to sing
never seen a bow glide across a perfectly
taut string and mute its deepest vibrations

now i have heard the screeching
five-year-old violinist voice
unafraid to shout out that
slow stuttered Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

i've heard the ding of dimes
and quarters falling into a hat
of the subway musician letting
his instrument speak

i've heard applause stampede through the hall
after the second movement
of Rachmaninov's 3rd symphony

i suppose it could choose
to refuse the melodies and harmonies
to play it small
and deny its voice
to hold its breath
and cease to breathe

but i've never met a violin who decided
not to sing
and if i could gift all the passion
inside of us with any one thing
i'd resin up my bow
and tune our heart strings to the
freedom of voice, the ease of being
the indelible choice
to always keep singing

it was a beautiful practice, and i'm grateful to be able to share in it on the mat and with my words. may we each find our voice and let it flow.

image by lanecia a. rouse

Read this powerful story about voice.

07 September 2012

clearing: silencing the inner editor

I've developed a beautiful rhythm to my weeks, devoting different days to clearing, dreaming and doing. It's a lovely rhythm that I shall write more about and introduce fully when I launch athingofwonder.com in the coming months!

You've heard quite a bit about my physical clearings in my latest posts (and I'm finishing my 20 this week today, so look for that post later!). I've also set intentional time for emotional clearing as I've tackled removing these objects from my life.

One emotional clearing I'd like to share is related to developing Do The Crazy Thing . . . I am launching Do The Crazy Thing into a lifestyle brand that creates opportunities for people to live inspired lives and impact the world by loving and living their dreams. I want the world to be wonder-filled, and I believe I can help play a role in helping people tap into their thing of wonder!
But just as much as I feel boldly like I'm ready to launch this and take this giant leap, I also wrestle with the inner editor who often talks a lot of us out of doing our crazy things! So as I build this and get it launched, I want to be real with you and with myself about this pesky little voice. We all have it. And it has the potential to keep all of us stagnant and lackluster even though we were created to be much, much greater! And there's something freeing about clearing this voice out loud. It loses its power when I share it with others.

So I've written a letter and invite you to read it here: Letter to the Editor. Join me on this clearing journey. What's your editor/gremlin/nagging inner voice/whatever you call it saying? Write it a letter. And feel free to post it on the Facebook page.

May we all hear this voice clearly . . . and then tell it to just shut up.

27 August 2012

clearing . . . 36 things!

It's my clearing day!

It's been a great one! For starters, I trashed or donated 36 things! I also found $65 worth of fido gift cards that I had somehow completely neglected for about 3-4 years . . . and they still work! This meant that after the clearing, I was able to treat myself to a deja vu salad, a cup o' chocolat chaud (with whipped topping and marshmallows) and quiet time to finally read my friend's short story. Clearing . . . it's like having another birthday!

I've also challenged myself to consider clearing something emotional as I work on the physical/spacial clearing. It seems only natural. And this addition has been so beautiful. I will unpack and write about this more at another date.

Anyway . . . in total, 94 items lighter, 946 to go!

may we all choose life-giving goodness.

20 August 2012

clearing out the closets . . . 22 things

i'm still clearing.


and i can see clearly that i have enough things i don't need that i may may need to clear 20 items DAILY. i'm afraid i'll barely make a dent in my stuff at 20/week. but i'm also more aware of how sentimental i am. i haven't even opened or ever used a particular gift in the several years i've owned it. but i originally passed it because i really like the person who gave it to me. finally resolving that i'd still stay fond of the person after i let go of the item since, after all, i have been fond of this person all along, i placed it in the goodwill basket. to be delivered tomorrow morning.

a declaration i've committed to follow: all items shall be thrown away, sold or delivered to goodwill within 24 hours. woo hoo!!

thanks for your support! and for those keeping tally, 58 items released, 982 to go!

may we all refrain from attaching ourselves to things. let go.


11 August 2012

crazy things are on the way!

watch this space because crazy things are on the way . . . i'll keep you posted as they develop.


it's been a lovely journey since lululemon athletica posted my poem "do the crazy thing" on their blog.

curious about the story behind the words? check it out here.

may your day be filled with sunshine and daisies and just enough rain for a rainbow and oodles and oodles of gratitudles!



cleaning out my closets . . .

i have more stuff than i ever use. more than i ever will use.

in fact, i'm certain i have well over 1000 things in my house that i just don't need or use. at least.

some of these things are meaningful and have served a beautiful purpose in my life. so my tendency is to hold onto such things. and i'm amazing at the excuses. i may need this later, after all. or maybe one day someone will find this artifact that witnesses to the beauty of the life i've lived. or my dear friend made it for me, and i just love it so, and i'll regret not having it when she/he dies.

but the weight of holding on to things has proven burdensome.

and in a world where people have needs galore, i don't need to hold onto things i don't need.

so i set an intention today to release 20 things each week. in a year, i'll be just over a thousand things lighter. and i will post about it here because, honestly, i have habitually declared things and forgotten about them. and i would LOVE for someone to ask me why i didn't post about my 20 things one week if i somehow don't peel through this particular layer of habit.

this week:

ok. books alone, i've cleared more than 20 this week, but i couldn't stop once I got started with the books. of course, the first day is probably easiest when it comes to letting go, although i made myself include one somewhat sentimental item. so, 36 items down, 1004 to go.

welcome to my clearing journey. may we all learn to gracefully and intentionally let go.