Browsing through my Facebook feed I come across a notification that a friend tagged me in someone’s post. As one who is both a businesswoman and artist I know a diverse group of people and am a bit picky about what I’m tagged in with the permanence of social media. Much to my surprise I saw the photo taken of me last year posted on the photographer’s Facebook page and appeared both digitally and I’m print on page 5 of the Philadelphia Inquirer!
The #strengthsourceproject is this beautiful collage of photos and stories capturing the moments that built the character and resilience of women of all colors, ages, shapes and class. It’s a brilliant compilation and I’m honored to be a participant.
If only you knew how sad I felt that day. I had just found out my daughter was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a severe learning disorder that makes it difficult and frustrating for her, an advanced reader to process writing. The same exact day my son’s school counselor called about him exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression (the dance partners of a highly gifted and intuitive brain), avoiding teachers and classes as a result. As their sole caretaker l was overwhelmed with the decisions I had to make on my own knowing I would also not receive the financial support.
I was going to cancel the meeting I set with Carrie for the photo because I just wanted to go somewhere and cry. I wore bright colors on purpose to lift my spirits. She was so warm and compassionate when I met her in Fishtown by Franny Lous Porch and reading the other women’s stories really gave me the strength to deal with it all.
And oh the blessings that have come because I showed up! Aside from this acknowledgement in the paper, since that day my children have benefited from angels in the form of teachers and therapists. My daughter has been tutored by a retired teacher for free and my son’s therapist only charges me a tenth of his normal fee because I was transparent and unafraid to speak my truth and ask for help.
My strength is my truth and I’m grateful that my transparency is able to help other women. The stories on the blog are powerful. I hope you get to read mine too. Please share your favorite in the comments. It’s okay if it’s not mine. I’m every woman 😊
Do you ever find yourself in a moment, time and place and think to yourself “how in the world did this happen”, “how did I get here”? If you’re fortunate, it’s a good experience that leads you to ask these questions, and thankfully that was the case this phenomenal evening. Saturday evening, November 23rd at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pa, I found myself frozen in a moment in time, sitting directly in front of four-time grammy-winning artist India Arie; an amazing woman, singer, musician and songwriter while she joked with her band, her back up singers and her assistants during a private soundcheck. I wanted to pinch myself, I wanted to run up on stage, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t engage my brain to do any of it. I was frozen in disbelief that in a few moments I would have the opportunity to shake the hand of and have a face to face conversation with a woman who I’ve idolized, appreciated and felt a spiritual bond with ever since I first heard her music and lyrics years ago. And most of all I was trying to wrap my head around how this happened..how I manifested this opportunity to touch hands and hearts with India Arie.
I connect with most musical artists, not necessarily because of their music, but because my love for words and poetry. I fall in love with their lyrics and become an eternal fan. Teena Marie, Rachelle Ferrell, Pink, Joss Stone, Leela James, Stevie Wonder, Vivian Green, Musiq, Jill Scott, Kem and countless others who touch a place within me with their words first and music second. I think it’s natural for you to want to meet someone who shares their innermost feelings and thoughts with you and causes you to change how you think and feel about others and yourself. I wanted to meet her and I guess I manifested that want for my niece Jazmeen as well.
My father was a songwriter and he didn’t leave us much when he passed this past May, but I knew that I wanted to take some of the money and do something that I normally would not have the opportunity to do. Never did I think “hey, I’ll try to meet a famous person” but my angels knew how to direct my path, and I believe he would have wanted to meet her too. I believe I was on Twitter checking out the latest “tweets” and since I follow Ms. Arie, I saw mention of a VIP pass for her ‘SongVersation’ tour. I clicked on the link which directed me to her website and my mouth dropped. Seriously??!! Did I read this correctly?? They are giving her fans the opportunity to meet her in person? I read the paragraph over and over again, and inhaled deeply, praying that when I clicked on the VIP button that the tickets would not be sold out. I don’t even know if I looked at the price of the ticket…exhale…I was so excited that there were seats left and that they were a few rows from and directly center stage and available. I didn’t even know at the time who I would take with me, but I purchased two and did a quick inhale, exhale again. It was September and the show was two months away, so I had time to decide on a date. I thought, “who in my life did I want to share this special moment with?” A few beloved friends came to mind but it was difficult to decide between all of them. Then I thought “who in my life did I want to pass this blessing on to?”and my niece Jazmeen came to mind. I remember giving ‘Jazz as we lovingly call her, her first India Arie CD because I wanted to share the lyrics with her. I see her traveling down some of the same roads I did over 20 years ago, and wanted to share this extraordinary day with her. I gave her this gift hoping it would expose her to the unique gifts she has to share with this world. But who was really getting the gift? I told her about the concert, but saved the VIP Experience details and surprised her with the part about meeting Ms. Arie in person a few days before the concert. Of course she was excited and it warmed my heart to bring her joy even if only for one night.
We had such an amazing time! I can’t even put into words the overwhelming feeling that came over me walking, arm in arm with my niece, approaching the stage while Ms. Arie sang to a theatre filled with just us 25 or so VIP Experience guests. She waved to us and made us feel as if we were her BFFs sitting in her living room, and all I remember thinking is…how did this happen? How am I worthy? I wanted to take pictures but we were not allowed to take our own photos, which forced me to just be in the moment and I thank you for that Ms. Arie. After the sound-check we lined up for pictures with her, taken by her staff and later displayed on her website and I began to rehearse exactly what I was going to say. I was going to thank her first for being vulnerable and allowing her fans to get close and touch her in the same manner that she touched us. I was going to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her words and music and that I was such a big admirer that when I was pregnant with my daughter that one of my friends joked that I was going to give birth to a little India Arie. I was going to tell her how that baby girl now takes voice lessons, piano lesson and almost cried when I said she couldn’t come to the concert. I wanted to hug her and hand her one of my poems. I wanted to encourage her to keep being authentic. I figured it would only take five minutes and the security guard wouldn’t have to tap me on my shoulder and tell me to keep it moving. I had it all planned out.
And then my chance arrived. I walked up to the backdrop, India Arie smiled, said hello (I think, I was still dazed) put her arm around me, smiled and laughed at my niece and I being silly and all I could say to her was “thank you for doing this…thank you”. She said “no, thank you for being here because without you, there would be no me” – or something close to that; I was still star-struck and then my mind went blank. I said something to the photographer about making sure she was getting my good side and Ms. Arie laughed out loud and took my vain comment and ran with it. She truly wanted to make sure they got a good picture for me and we laughed about it until it was time for the next set of fans to come. As I shook her hand again I turned to her and said “bless you” and she said “thank you” and I grabbed my ‘India Arie’ tote bag and my autographed poster and floated away.
The succeeding concert was amazing, spiritual, moving, vulnerable, uplifting, tearful, humorous and most importantly an unforgettable bonding experience for my niece and me. November 23, 2013 was day filled with incredibly affirming and cohesive moments that neither of us will ever, ever, ever forget.
How did this happen? Many reasons. I am working on returning to my authentic self, I am ready for a breakthrough and need to “break the shell”, I am pursuing my passion, I am asking the Creator for what I want, I am a compassionate and giving person, I have some powerful ancestors who love me, I followed the voice inside me that said “check your Twitter page” and… I believed that I am worthy of it.