Tag Archives: Naomi Shihab Nye

Winter Solstice Reflections: The fine mingling of letting go and holding on

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“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

Mandela on Day After Release

Mandela on Day After Release

This quote was brought to my attention recently and I couldn’t help but recognize it as execeptionally fitting given not only Mandela’s passing, but also my heightened sense of personal growth as it relates to letting go of habits, thoughts, and feelings that no longer serve me.  In order to live the life I’ve been blessed with, I need to activily let go of what no longer serves me.  ( most noteably- habits Ild developed as a single mother- of a divorced person, of an economically challenged life, of constrained gender expectations…)

This past year has brought me many changes, a supportive partner and co-parent, a new home, a different job situation, opportunites for creative expression, and deeper relationship with the Earth. The future is very much unwritten, with endless possibilities- I dont want to cloud the possibilities with the heavy heart of a painful past… part of my growth has been the recognition that how I choose to move forward  is very much a choice. That recognition is the first of many difficult steps towards becoming the woman, mother, partner, teacher, and writer that I strive to be.

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Fittingly, the month of December is a time that  highlights the need to let go while honoring what brings us joy. It was clear to me that although I’ld already come a long way from the me from last year, it was clear I still needed had some personal work ahead of me.  For example, transitioning from single parenthood towards a trust filled, healthy partnership was a huge shiftt in the day to day routine ( oh so i dont have to work nonstop all day? Dinner is already cooked? like whoa.)

That was something I was able to immediatly feel relief from.  But, on a deeper level, I still had a lot of letting go to do.  I was still prone to jump into autopilot when it came to craming house work alongside childcare instead of simply asking for help, still asumed the worst during those times of exhaustion /heightened stress that my co-parent was not going to have my back or would react in an unhealthy way.  I found myself replaying scenes and dramas from long ago, times where I felt like I needed to downplay my exhaustion in order to shield my son from the less patient co-parent of that time. That was a  short, yet highly emotionally charged time where my protective instinct overpowered my desires of self care. These past traumas-as brief as they might have been, (and as logically picked over and sorted as a leftover thankgiving turkey carcass), still had power over me- still controled the way I shaped my reality.  

And that was the last thing I wanted, to live in a self imposed prison…

December 17:  Use this full moon to expand your sense of what could be. The time between this full moon and the Winter Solstice should be honored and quality time should be carved out to do what brings you joy. What needs expansion and more inspiration?

 What do you need to let go of?

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December 21: Winter Solstice-Do a ceremony around honoring yourself and your own truth. Your desires should be given top priority. Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you are still feeling the weight of what you have carried, changed, released, processed, started or created in these past months, release it somehow in a fire or other ceremonial way.

For more, check out power path-  http://www.thepowerpath.com/index.php/power-path-home/the-power-path/monthly-forecast/583-december-forecast-2013

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“The art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”  ~Havelock Ellis

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Kindness poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.

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How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.

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Creating that balance…

Letting go...

Letting go…

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The Poem that Made me Want to Write: On Inspiration

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I love reading and learning about those moments that inspired artists to commit to themselves and their art.

It reminds me to keep on, keeping on, that writing has been and will always be my path in the world

What sustains you?

What sustains you?

The following is an article that appears in The Atlantic titled “The Poem That Made Sherman Alexie Want to Drop Everything and Be a Poet” –

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/10/the-poem-that-made-sherman-alexie-want-to-drop-everything-and-be-a-poet/280586/

His words reminded me of those days in college when I was taking any non-western or post-colonial literature class I could.  This was a time I was grasping at straws, hoping desperately to see myself and my experiences reflected in works of literature.  More than that, I needed an affirmation that pursuing a career in writing was not a fantasy for an Arab American woman-That ( thankfully) seems so silly to me now- as evidenced by the ever growing literary presence of amazing Arab American writers, poets, film makers and artists of all stripes- but this was a time when it felt that the entire world, family included- thought I was better off waking up and smelling the teaching degree, aka: a ‘real’ job.

The art of writing sometimes means the art of taking your dreams seriously...

The art of writing sometimes means the art of taking your dreams seriously…

Most, if not all, writers can undoubtedly relate to some sort of economic strain, social acceptance, and lack of self confidence- and this is doubly true of women of color from refugee/immigrant families…

There were many authors/artists that helped spark that inspiration for me; Randa Jarrar, Suhair Hammad, and Joseph Geha to name a few.  But the poem below by Naomi Shihab Nye was undoubtedly that drop-everything-and-write- moment for me:

Making A Fist

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

‘How do you know if you are going to die?’
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
‘When you can no longer make a fist.’

Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.

Naomi Shihab Nye

nothing but road...

nothing but road…

Of course I related to this first and foremost for the ‘journey out’.  Having fled Kuwait during the Gulf War with my mom as a 6 year old that feeling of ‘traveling for days’ and  ‘watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass’ resonated with me.  As did the ill feeling due to a scarce supply of water and endless hours in the back of a car. I still joke that must be why I love tiny Rhode Island because I get car sick after less than an hour in a moving vehicle!

I write about our great escape here:

https://nowapproachingprovidence.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/just-stay-still/

But most importantly, it was that very specific stubborn tenacity that pushes us to ‘make a fist’ that hit closest to home.  This was how I had experienced being Palestinian in the world, spot on.

clenching

“clenching and opening one small hand”       YES.

So readers, drop me a line.  What inspires you? What reminds you of your purpose? Was it a single piece of art/writing/movie/conversation? Or a series of events?

How do you return to your source?

How do you return to your source?