Georgia Douglas Johnson’s poem, “When I Rise Up Above the Earth” was the first poem I ran across related to my “one little word.” Of course, I am familiar with Maya Angelou’s popular “Still I Rise,” which gives voice to a collective Black [women’s] “I”–talking back to and ascending in spite of an oppressive system. However, Johnson’s poem speaks to the journey I’m on as an individual wrestling with and rising above personal challenges. [Plus, lines 5-6 present a strong image that I would also illustrate, if I had the skills 😉 ]
“When I Rise Above the Earth”
Georgia Douglas Johnson
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.
My friend, Cy, also posted about her 1LW today. She, too, chose a poem. Be sure to check out her post on “boundaries,” her one little word.
The “Rise” pennant in the photo above was made by my Love Notes friend Lori-Anne C. This is one of two precious gifts she sent in honor of my 1LW. I recently moved it from my home office to my work office where it hangs as you see it with a sunflower art by Ty, one of my former students. The sunflower reminds me of a sunRISE, so I couldn’t resist placing them together.
Sometimes just being needs space to relax. It needs time to pause from the pressure of living up to the duties and expectations of a rigid framework, or rest from showing up in full armor every day to protect a tender internal truth.
Or sometimes just being needs to cry and feel into coarse emotions for a while.
Whatever it takes for all the layers of what has built up inside begin to unwrap the gift you truly are, deep within, just being. —Susan Frybort
About the Images: The photographs in this post were all shot a few days ago in a moment of “just being.” The ripening persimmon, blueberries, and blackberries are just a few of the treats growing in Colleen’s garden–recently renamed [by me] “Colleen’s Private Farm and Botanical Garden.” Her father spends time in this garden planting and cultivating and just being–a reminder of the beauty that can be produced when we create space to just be.
I confess. I sometimes feel like a slacker. Sure, I am always doing something, but as I said in an earlier post, I’ve been getting nowhere.
Everywhere I turn, it seems someone has completed a book, started a new venture, traveled the seven seas, or even managed to purge and organize their home during the pandemic. I’ve done zip! I’m usually adept at side-stepping the comparison trap, but lately I have wondered if I’m just plain lazy!
Over the last year we’ve been given many tips on how to thrive, how to stay motivated, and how to do this, that, or the other during the pandemic. It was refreshing to join Pastor Lola Johnston’s Bloom in the Pandemic webinar a few weeks ago and hear her offer, instead of tips for thriving during the pandemic, two reassuring pieces of advice—to simply believe God is who He says He is and practice the principle of Matthew 6:33. She encouraged participants to refrain from practicing belief in our outcome and instead practice belief in the God of the outcome.
It was nice to be let off the hook, to release the feelings of failure or guilt for not being completely awesome during the last 15+ months.
Of course, I wasn’t a slacker. I did not reach some of the goals I set for myself, but as I revisit those goals, some of them were way too big and way too much for our present circumstances. But during an actual, maddening pandemic, I held down a full time job, ably managed a leadership position that I was suddenly thrust into, taught overloads each semester, and operated fully in my family without losing my mind. And I actually managed to accomplish a few other things.
It helps to pivot our perspective. Doesn’t it?
If we focus on the gains instead of the unchecked items on our goals list, we’ll find ourselves in a healthier mental space. I realized this while writing a list of lessons learned in response to the final prompt of Love Notes 35. Even though I didn’t achieve some of my biggies, I’ve gained in ways that expanded my soul tremendously and I’ve learned so much.
I’ve learned to listen for the silence.
I’ve learned to find the path to stillness no matter where I am.
I’ve learned to adjust.
I’ve learned to keep moving.
I’ve learned to find time to write and “just be” in small moments because there will never be enough time, otherwise.
I’ve learned to appreciate the questions.
I’ve learned the answers do not always come.
I’ve learned [again] to accept sorrow and grief as necessary parts of life.
I’ve learned to let the deep, aching pain of loss do its work.
I’ve learned that my being vulnerable frees others to drop their masks.
I’ve learned that everyone is indeed fighting a battle.
I’ve learned that there’s very little I can control, but what I can control makes all the difference in my attitude and outlook.
I’ve learned that those who need our compassion most are those for whom compassion is a difficult exercise
I’ve learned to walk in the truth that everyone is made in the image of God.
Even though I sometimes feel like I should be doing so much more, I am learning that continuing to breathe and walk with joy during the pandemic are extraordinary accomplishments.
What have you learned in the last year or so?
About the Image: The bright yellow flowers were sent to me by my blogging pen friend, talented artist, and Love Noter, Sheila D. I actually wrote this blog post more than a week ago, but refused to post it because I wanted this particular piece of art to lead the post. I misplaced my “to be blogged” art file and it took me a whole week to find it! Why this postcard? In the face of difficult challenges over the last year+, Sheila has maintained a beautiful outlook on life. I find that inspiring.
The school year ended for my son last Wednesday. We have been looking forward to “the end” almost since the beginning. This pandemic year has been hard for everyone, and even though I’m still very much engaged in the daily grind, a tremendous weight has been lifted because at least my son can breathe a little easier and hopefully recuperate “enough” before August.
Some weeks ago, as I listened to Dr. Anita Phillips’ podcast, In the Light, she “hit a nerve.” As she introduced the episode “Beautiful Things,” I heard the word languishing and listened a little more closely:
It is a stealthy emotion […]. It sneaks up on you little by little […]. It is really easy to miss. The feeling of languishing is one of stagnation and emptiness […].
Phillips, a trauma therapist, also referenced a New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing:”
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.
I backtracked and listened to that part over and over.
Is this why I have little interest in doing things I usually enjoy? Is this why it seems I’m working all.the.time but have little to show for it by the end of the day? Why I don’t feel like cooking or cleaning? Why sometimes my brain seems completely devoid of thought?
I know I am not depressed, but I feel out of sorts and disconnected from my usual rhythms.
The word perfectly describes the state I’m in and the state of others with whom I’ve spoken recently about their mental and emotional state during this phase of the pandemic.
We once flourished; now we’re doing our best if we can climb out of bed in the morning. Of course, there are ways to combat this state of being, but for me, it really comes down to the very thing expressed in a Washington Post title on the same subject.
“We all need a break.”
We need time to take care of our mental health and process what we’ve just gone through and what we’ve come through. We need time to grieve the losses and celebrate the gains. We also need time to look ahead and dream of the possibilities once we are truly post-pandemic.
Is that doable right now when we’re barely doing life?
The whole thing is “a lot,” as some say, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the “too much” of it. But we must pay attention and we must deal with our languishing because as the NYT article points out, languishing, in some ways, may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness. Furthermore, as Dr. Phillips emphasized in her podcast, “the mental health impact [of this moment] will far outlast our return to physical safety,” so we must take the time now to “honestly identify and name how [we] are feeling.”
I have many coping strategies [journaling, creating, shutting down technology, listing, sleeping, spending time with trees, and praying], but I am taking Dr. Phillips’ advice of identifying and naming, expressing my feelings, and spending time with those I love. Additionally, because confronting the mental and emotional chaos can be all-consuming, I am processing in small moments. The few minutes while doing the dishes. The walk from building to building while running errands on campus. The half hour or so spent grocery shopping. Whenever I can find even just a moment of quiet, I take the time to process, to exhale, and to heal.
I pray you’re doing the same.
Note: I am not a psychologist or therapist, so I encourage you to read the articles and listen to the podcast linked in this post for more information, tips, and tools for dealing with this mental health challenge–and of course, seek professional counsel should you feel your issues are much larger than you can handle without help.
About the Image: The image above features the artwork of illustrator and designer Eunji Jung. It was this bit of gorgeousness that “introduced” me to my new Love Notes pal, Kathi G. I admired the postcard after another Love Noter posted it in the group, and Kathi kindly sent one my way. Thanks, Kathi!
I had planned to share poetry on the blog every day this month–as I did last year–but reality dictated otherwise. What was I thinking, anyway? Last April we were “sheltering-in-place,” so I had time to read and think about poetry for pleasure. This April, hmm…not so much.
However, I will take advantage of the last three days of National Poetry Month and share a few poems.
For today’s literary treat, I’m sharing one from Morgan Harper Nichols‘ book, All Along You Were Blooming, which I talked about in a previous post. She has a gift for speaking to whatever moment I’m in; I am sure many feel the same way. The poem I share today is a lighthearted reminder to love life in all of its simplicity and complexity.
Fall in love with the art of living.
Fall in love with letting things be.
Fall in love with listening.
Be still in the sun,
where the winds ever-gently blow,
knowing it is here,
in moments like this,
you are living,
and you will grow.
Morgan Harper Nichols, from All Along You Were Blooming
Tomorrow is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” so let’s have a link party! Join me by sharing a poem on your blog–yours or someone else’s. Be sure to come back here and add your link to the comments. I don’t want to miss your poems! Maybe, I’ll “discover” a new poet!
Let’s share until the very last minute of National Poetry Month, 11:59 PM.
The weather is not being nice to me today [imagine that in a whiney four-year-old voice]! We went from gorgeous, breezy, 80-degree (Fahrenheit) days to a chilly, windy 30/40-degree day!
The temperature thwarted my plans to take long walks between tasks and classes, but it gave me an opportunity to pause, sip tea, and read poetry. Don’t you want to join me?
Well, just grab a cup of your favorite tea and settle in.
I am sharing a few poems written by Na’veh of The Bloggings of V. Na’veh is one of our department’s most prolific poets, the self-proclaimed favorite student, and my homegirl (from NOLA).
Here are three of her poems–because poems should be read in threes:
About the Image: The red and white tulips are from one of my very early spring walks. I was surprised to see the “field” of tulips in a hardly peopled area of campus. Na’veh selected the tulips for this post because she “loves roses.” [Inside joke] 😉
A garden in purple is always in bloom.
Today was gorgeous, and I was desperate to get out, soak in some sun, and spend a few moments with my camera. However, the task list kept me at my desk until I [literally] ran away from my office.
I couldn’t get to the spring blooms, so I’m taking a moment this evening to appreciate [again] all the purple in this gorgeous collection of purple flowers Connie F, one of my Love Notes friends, sent for International Women’s Day. The postcard inspired me to go in search of more purple this week, but because the to-do list limited my outdoors activity, I went to my purple happy place on Pinterest, my “Purple Passion” board.
Now that I am perfectly steeped in purple, I’ll return to my tasks. Be sure to find some purple in nature this week–especially if you’re a purple person. 😉
You are a purple person if…
You are imaginative, sensitive, artistic, and sophisticated.
You have noble ideals and a keen appreciation of the cultural.
You are alert, demanding, foresighted, confident, resourceful, spontaneous, and highly independent.
You take delight in the beautiful, the gracious, the sensitive, but maintain an attitude of critical appraisal.
In love, you seek to attain a magical quality and refuse to settle for anything less.
You refuse to be “swept off your feet” unless genuineness and integrity can be absolutely ascertained.
You are active in the support of things you believe in, and are concerned with the pursuit of truth and other human values.
You take chances and believe that you must do so to make the most of what life has to offer.
Purple is a unique color, and it is truly a unique individual who holds it dear. —Pin Image
P.S. I do not like this new thing WordPress has done to the editor. Bring back the “classic” Classic Editor! [Insert side-eye]
Life is all about balance. You don’t always need to be getting stuff done. Sometimes it’s perfectly okay and absolutely necessary to do nothing –Lori Deschene, founder of Tiny Buddha
Since we have no spring break this semester, the University built “mental health days” into the calendar. Today is our March mental health day.
I woke up this morning and performed my morning rituals—journaling, worship and Bible study, and writing. I, then, filled my task list with all the things that must be completed by Friday and went back to sleep for two or three hours.
That felt so good.
Initially, I looked forward to today for a different reason: I thought of it as a whole uninterrupted day to get caught up on “all the things.” In fact, I worked the entirety of our February mental health day and proceeded to work doggedly until today. I realized, as new tasks and challenges arise daily, the work is never done and if we plan even our days off around our task list, we will never, ever get the breaks our minds and bodies need.
I’ve given myself permission to rest and I’m accepting the gift of this mental health day. I’m going to enjoy the rain, watch a Netflix movie, write postcards, daydream, and play board games with my guys [later].
Days of “not bothering,” to use Piglet’s phrase, are good for the soul. Have you taken a mental health day lately?
About the image: The skillfully captured image of the columbine above was shot by my Love Notes friend, Christine B. She sent it in celebration of women for International Women’s Day.
I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them reason enough and–I wish to live. –Lorraine Hansberry, To Be Young, Gifted, and Black