Tag Archives: Life

New Year New….Journey?

New Year New….Journey?

Some things have to stay in the past, no matter how hard you want to drag them into the present. That goes for good things that happened in the previous year too.

I could give you half a dozen titles and hundreds of words for blog posts I wrote (and remain in draft form) reflecting on 2018. I had hoped to give you a glimpse into practical highs, crushing lows and express thankfulness for everything in between. Instead I posted a poetic expression of a very stressful that situation that occurred recently.

I’m not the New Year, new me type, never have been. Maybe that was my go with the flow mentality. Significant changes every year for who? Me? For a few years, my end of year reflections started in October and changes began in November. Whatever calendar you work with, change has to start as soon as you’re ready to start changing. Simple, isn’t it?

Just knowing you came out the other side is as inspirational as any detail you could explain. The new you begun before anyone else could start putting up social media posts about what they would or wouldn’t be doing for the next year.

A new year may not bring or require wholesome change. There may be situations or seasons that have started at different times and require your investment to maintain or improve them. You could have started a job or taken up a hobby, you may be a parent and simply have seen your child grow up a little more. It is likely that you will have different things in different areas of your life that require your efforts. There is a journey to be had whether you are starting, maintaining or finishing something.

Can you trust yourself to acknowledge what has happened at a particular time and simply take only what is necessary into the next interaction, the next phase? Take enough fuel for the journey and burn it accordingly.

Although the stories of how we got from A-B are incredibly important. We cannot carry every book in its entirety with us. For us to live and move forward in life we must let them live in their space. That space may be the museum of unshared blogs or diary entries. That space may be a one off reading at an open mic, a WhatsApp message. That space may even be a single photo, a phone call or meeting at a café.

What are you keeping in your space in this season? What are you fuelling your journey with?

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Pistons

Carry me home

Slay bells toll

A maze in this mould, bridging the gap

Burning soles find heaven I’m trying to put my face on the map

Why smash your pumpkin when you’re a sweet potato

I carry me home on this crowded railroad.

Adding carriages can be painful and I hate reservations.

Carry me home shattering webs and fathoming dust.

 

Die? Me?

I rust raging rainbows

There’s levels to this painting.

 

Your stares dress me on fleet streets where you’ll find that I’m a neon pink and lime shrine

You’ve got to be a pupil to see me in more than black n’ white

Oh, you think death is strange?

So it’s not just I.

If life is a cycle I’m here for the ride

 

I’m here to shake chandeliers of shamanic tears till diamonds find their way to their crown.

Is death an emergency stop or a slowing down?

 

Carry me home canoodling setting concrete.

Carry me home crowd-funded by choruses and crashes.

Feed me clashes to comb

There’s science to the magic but I don’t want to know.

As I know sure as the slay bells toll

I’ll just use it to carry me home.

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Squatting in Space

Railing from missteps

Time slips through my fingers

I can’t catch breaths

With every blink, I beat my breasts and suckle solar flares

Somehow I’m running from my right to be bare

Yeah!

I wash in polarising pools of platitudes and curses

What’s love if they only say patience is a virtue?

My life ain’t chapters they’re verses

I hammer definitions like a wordsmith.

Flattered by my flaws there’s no iron in my steel.

I’m arrested by bars but.

Somehow I am the keys I can’t feel.

How can I drive my life if everything else takes the wheel?

You tell me

What’s the formula one needs?

Is it bleed, heal and repeat?

Is it greet, grope and retreat?

Is it please, police, preach and never teach?

When you’re aiming for the stars….

You don’t lighten the darkness reaching for bleach!

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World Mental Health Day

Mental Health, trendy isn’t it? Everyone’s talking about it, sharing memes and copying and pasting posts right now.

What happens when the volume turns down; when the phones are off or the next distraction explodes onto our screens? What happens when the man really has to look in the mirror? What happens when it becomes….”oh that’s so 2018” or “are you still on about that?”

We keep talking, that’s what we do. We keep listening. We keep checking in our friends, the distant ones, the ones who speak to us about the things that matter to them even if it’s not our number 1. We keep on keeping on because doing it saves lives. Doing it breathes life into someone who might not necessarily take theirs but is one moment of frustration away from a breakdown.

Mental Health is more than a medical diagnosis. To have the opportunity to have a positive connection to another human being is something that impacts our ability to live our every day lives as though there really is a tomorrow.

Sometimes the darkness is so thick around us that we push away the candles that are offered. Sometimes it takes persistence from one side to help you understand that the light shining in your life is a genuine one.

I love hugs. I remember there was one guy at university who would greet most people with a hug because he believed in a moment of positivity for everyone. Cheesy as it sounds, a hug has turned my down days where I’m -100 into a day when I’m +10 in how I feel inside myself. A hug has brought tears, opened hearts, allowed friendships to find new planes. Maybe a hug for 10 or even 30 seconds is all it takes. It’s not a magic cure but it’s a start.

No matter how well-intentioned we are, I hope that World Mental Health Day becomes more than a day where we copy and paste. You don’t need to push any social media buttons to check-in with someone no matter how near or distant. Your conversation may be the pressure reliever that they had been waiting for.

May you listen intentionally and without judgment. May your connections grow deeper, may many minds be saved, all because we didn’t just copy and paste.

AJ

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Throw Me Away

Suicide…Let’s talk about it…..I must admit I’ve thought about it.

I feel sick, bubbling up with tears in a way I’ve never done at the mention of suicide. Today I remembered how in high school I was on the verge of doing so. How close?

I struggled with academia and comparisons with higher performing peers and siblings brought shame to my own efforts. Though I was never beaten for bad grades, the constant sniping was death by a thousand cuts. I wasn’t good enough, I’d be like such and such a person. If it wasn’t A+ they don’t want to hear about it, don’t mention creative stuff, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Don’t you dare disagree, or have an opinion that contrasts with another vision for you.  Walk like this, talk like that, hold your knife and fork this way, your lips moved – you must be being rude even though no sound was made. Your eyes moved this way, you’re supposed to be that way, stop being disrespectful. Dismiss it as nothing if you will.  For me, without validation from important adults, I was nothing.

I was bullied often and at different points, year in year out, from the beginning of primary school to the final years of high school. During break times playing basketball in high school, guys would actively shout “1000 points if you knock his glasses off or 10, 000 if you trip him over and get him to cry”.

There was one physical education session where I was playing football. I came in for some rough treatment as an outfield player and became the goalkeeper. Although I fared better in this position, the fouls got worse to the point where I blurted out that I just wanted to kill myself. They thought I was joking.

I had struggled with self-esteem issues (body etc) and all-around confidence. At this point, both were 6 feet under where I wanted to be. They had never accepted me for me. Nobody did. No matter what I did, being me wasn’t good enough for anyone. In my head, I mused whether school tie around a goal post or by other means away from there would do the job. How close did I get to it? close enough.

I fell ill and was out of school for over a week. When I returned, people told me that they thought I really had taken my life. They joked about me returning from the dead. I don’t know what stopped me from doing it. Maybe there was a fighter in me after all. I didn’t dare tell anyone how I really felt. Nobody would have listened anyway, not without making me feel worse than I already did. Dead rappers get lauded, there are no prizes for near misses.

Although I’ve thought about it in my adult life, I’ve been able to divert my intense thought patterns to a better place…just. Whilst I’ve been able to pour myself into writing in times when I had nobody to talk to, a creative outlet to channel destructive energy isn’t given to everyone.

I don’t want to be in a world where 9-year-old boys or anyone else feels like their life isn’t worth it. That hurts me to my soul. I hope that we create environments so that those who struggle can freely express their struggles, their pain. Talk to me, talk to someone.  Together we can change the puzzle so that more people feel like they fit into this world.

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All Good Things

The piano tinkled one last time as a man mountain of hugs closed the final show. A stream of tears became a Mexican tidal wave that overtook us all. Grown men sobbing publicly without fear or thought to what any of the audience may think. It was real, for all of us.

We had worked with each other, for each other, we loved and laughed, we embraced as we grafted and crafted something special. We hoped that it was impactful whilst entertaining. For many of the 600 or so that came, this was essential viewing.  A conversation on masculinity and mental health has well and truly been started, how far could it go?

When the last drop of celebratory beers had been drunk, and the last of our multiple hugs had finished, each of us returned home to face the reality of life outside the bubble of a performance. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t know how to feel. For all my emotional intelligence and self-awareness I was numb. I knew I’d grown but I didn’t know how. I was exhausted and fragile yet strengthened by the experience.

As I write this, I don’t know how I’ve grown personally, maybe I’ve grown as an artist. I remember the first performances where I messed up lines but got through my solo in the show. That started an incredible mental battle that I had to overcome. Slow down so that every line can have the impact you want it to, was the message from the directors.   I duly started my piece in 1st gear rather than 3rd and found a groove that allowed me to shine. Word perfect and performances 3 – 5 got better each time. Some said they saw me grow through each one.

Some have said they’ve learned a lot from me, again I don’t know what. So I ask myself what is the legacy of Man Up for me? Perhaps it’s relationships.

Throughout my life, I didn’t have many deep connections with the males, one every blue moon at best. The connections I had were generally social and rarely along meaningful lines. Ultimately they’d fizzle and I’d be left to fend for myself. As the weeks pass, I intend to build even deeper personal connections with the family or UpMen as we called ourselves. If brotherly love must continue, being intentional is necessary.

“Yes I’m a mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you…”

Thank you, Paul & Clare, for your direction and process of co-creation, thank you Up Men for your love for this overthinking wordsmith. We have redefined the words Man Up in a positive way. Let’s build.

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Brothers in Season

If you listen to the movies, life happens when you don’t make plans. Materially successful people will sell you a book that tells you to make plans for your plans.

If I’d had my way I would have changed career and left this city long ago. It would all have been on my terms and conditions, there wouldn’t be any of this, beyond your control malarkey.

When the mist of Christmas cleared, I was thrust into a spiral that at times became a whirlwind of despair and frustration. There were days when I couldn’t face the mirror let alone the world, days where I didn’t want to hear my own thoughts or superficial well-wishing. Give me what I need or leave me alone was the sentiment. I believed I had to roll with the punches and keep the scars hidden. The blessing in the storm was that for my sanity, I wasn’t allowed to do that.

For me, the darkness that descended occupied 3 out 4 seasons this year. Despite the fears, the tears, the rants and the rejections I find myself grateful for the unexpected brotherhoods that have developed. Support networks of guys who somehow appeared when I’ve needed them to keep the light on for me.

I’m thankful for the school friend who introduced me to a global group of like-minded guys who were open about their struggles and gave each other support.

I’m thankful for the Man Up project which has given me a greater understanding of the journeys to and through masculinity. I’ve been able to drop a mask or two and find acceptance waiting for me. I have learned that masculinity cannot truly be taught from one-dimension.

I’m thankful for my brother CJ who has been the general on the ground who doesn’t use “how are you?” as a greeting.

By the end of August, I will have told my story to a few hundred strangers. At some point, I’ll have new colleagues to create new stories with. It may take time to recognise all the lessons that this season within seasons has taught me.

However, the one I resonate with the most is that life is a team effort. As we understand each other, we grow, we become ourselves, we fly higher and sew into new teams.

For this, I am thankful.

 

Photo credit: Rob Mcleod

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