Three Amazing Things That Happened After My Mom Passed Away
December, 1999. I had just returned to Belize City. I went with my mom to Guatemala for a routine surgery and she died three days later – totally unexpected. It was a simple biopsy. We would be in and out in no time and I was excited about Christmas shopping with her. I went with her and came back without a mom. One day, in one of my dark moments, I was curled up in a chair in the living room thinking about how lost I felt. I didn’t want to die but I wasn’t sure how to live. The sun rose and set each day and somewhere in the midst of the world continuing to revolve, so did I. And, somewhere in the midst of that and the years that followed, I found a connection to her spirit. I would eventually have moments with her that were unexplainable. There have been many but here are three amazing things happened after my mom passed away that have stood out over the years. They have helped me in dealing with the loss of a mother.
Stop … Like My Heart.
As we were driving around making arrangements for her service, we came off the main bridge in downtown Belize City and turned right into Water Lane, passing the home of my grandfather. People were walking, riding, working and talking on street corners as if life were just carrying on. Baffling to me.
Did they not know my mom had passed away?
What are you doing out here?
Talking and acting as if nothing has happened.
Did you not get the memo?
HELLO! My mom passed away.
Cease and Desist from all activity!
STOP … like my heart did when she died.
It was TOUGH.
It only took 10 whole years for me to be mostly ok with her passing on. Only 10!
Memorial Facebook Covers made in her honor
Poetry in Motion
If you’ve ever watched a Medium episode with Theresa Caputo or Tyler Henry, then you understand how spirit nudges you and guides you often, if you believe that stuff.
Unbeknownst to me, my mom had gone to a funeral many years before and found a poem on the back of the program that apparently made her think of her own mortality.
She so loved this poem that she brought it to her sister (Tia) telling her that whichever one of them passes first, the surviving sister should share this poem with the children of the one who passed on. And, my mom wanted them to agree to do it three months after the passing. Tia agreed and put it away in a bin and carried on with her life, completely forgetting her promise.
One Big Crying Fest
Belize City – March, 2000. Somehow Tia ended up in her closet sifting through boxes and bins and lo and behold she came across the poem, almost exactly three months after my mom passed. You can imagine how awe struck she felt when she stumbled across the poem. I wonder exactly what that moment was like for her knowing she had to have been guided to the bins and boxes that held her forgotten promise.
She called and asked if I could take her to my mom’s grave.
As we sat in the car, the story unfolded and tears flooded my being… a sense of loss, love and comfort all interlaced into one big crying fest. The poem basically speaks of moving on, to cry if you must but not to hold to grief too tightly. It spoke of limiting the time spent at the grave site for only the body is there but the spirit is free. It was what I needed to hear. Not only did it give me comfort but it was a glimmer of hope that her spirit lived on. Always was, is and always will be.
Letting Go and Moving On
She wanted her children to be ok with letting go and moving on. We were to come to her grave if we saw fit but we were free to choose and she hoped we’d choose happiness and joy. It’s as if she was still there in deed. As a mom, that’s how she was – always supportive and always wanting us to be happy.
I held on to that poem for 14 years but lost track of it in a move I made but the impact it had on me will never be forgotten. It was my first of many experiences with her after her transition. The connection I feel to her was still there. Sometimes the signal seemed low but mostly it was there.
6 Months and a Puppy to Smile Again
It took 6 months and a puppy for me to really smile again. Two years to fully focus on a new love, the arrival of my son, and 10 years to forget to write her annual poem. It takes time.
It’s now 18 years later. Some days, like yesterday, it still feels surreal. I was talking about her and how she was and felt fine in the moment. As soon as I got home, the emptiness found its way back to me. Before I knew it, tears were washing down my face in the shower. It was a harsh reminder that the sadness can still grab a hold of me no matter how much time passes. Disorientation often accompanies it.
I’d try to convince myself that she was here.
I did have a mom.
She did exist.
Dealing with the loss of a mother was not easy.
Mostly though, I’m ok. Mostly.
When I sit and recall special connections like these though, I’m reminded that she is never far even though it may feel that way sometimes.
My mom and one of her “sons”, Mark.
My Pity Party and Shannon’s Dream
Fast forward to some years later… I was having a moment. Anger ensued. I felt like my mom died and left me.
Imagine! She left me.
How could she just pass away like that, knowing that I was still here and needed her? I had already had my son. My brother and I were running the business she left behind. I remember thinking that she hadn’t reached me out to me again, like that time with the poem. It’s hard to rationalize this feeling of abandonment even though in my higher consciousness I knew that not to be true. It was a pity party I was having and no one knew but me, or so I thought.
A couple days later I got a call from my friend Shannon. My mom took many of our friends as her own kids, especially if she saw they were good to us. Shannon is the wife of one of her other “sons”. It was so fitting that she’d choose Shannon. She’s a natural story teller and what better way to send her direct message to me.
Hello From The Other Side
Shannon had a dream and a message for me. She said she saw my mom in a car waiting and was so excited to see her. She went up to my mom, ecstatic to see her. “Ms Jean, how are you? Where have you been? What are you doing here?”, she asked. My mom smiled and told her she was fine and all was well but said “Can you give Jeannie a message for me?”. “Sure”, said Shannon. “Tell her I said hello. Make sure you tell her you saw me and that I said hello”.
If you’re not teary eyed now, don’t worry, I’m tearing up for both of us. It was my message that I was not alone. She had not abandoned me. She was close by and was letting me know.
No one knew how I was feeling or that I’d felt like she disappeared into thin air leaving me with only memories that often felt illusory. I cried and told Shannon how I had been feeling. It then made sense to her how adamant my mom was about delivering the message to me.
Hello! (from the other side).
It was important. I did need to hear from her… it was soothing even if only for a moment.
Dreaming of Tuesday
Later, my mom came to me in my own dream.
I had been marketing a property for sale. It wasn’t moving as I expected. I found myself feeling despondent. It felt like business was taking a downward spiral that was out of my control.
In the dream, my mom asked me if I could take some people “up the road”. In my country, this meant up the highway – one of the four that we have. She needed me to take them on Tuesday. I was concerned about the time because I was dating someone at the time and I didn’t want to miss his call. (Yes, in my dream I was concerned about my love life. Pathetic, I know. When I’m in, I’m in, what can I say?) Of course, I didn’t explain the latter to her – only that I wanted to know the time. She was a business lady first. I would not even fathom the thought of arranging her need around a phone call from a man. Even in my dream I knew better than that!
She said she was not sure of the time but just to make sure that I’d be available on Tuesday and I said ok.
Let Light In
When I woke up and got to work, I pulled the curtains, tilted the blinds and felt these words flow from my thoughts “let light in”. I decided I wouldn’t be sad. Instead, I chose to be expectant and to trust. The dream was so sweet and felt so real like I really did talk to her, I had to call my Tia to tell her. Our phone call ended with both of us toying with the idea that the property would sell and it was going to be Tuesday. “Hahaha”, we both chuckled away.
Growing up with our mom, we watched her turn regular visitors into repeat customers who grew to love her and whom she could get to watch her front desk and even answer phones if needed. She would take them to church, local events and they’d come back for more. As much as I often declare that I didn’t have the “people person” gift like my mom did, it became clear over the years that I had at least learned it. Some of our repeat guests included missionaries. One of them that has stood out to me since was named Mr Tibbs. That morning, I saw him outside waiting in his truck. We had a quick chat and he offered a prayer. He prayed that God send the man that needs that land… specifically saying those words. It felt good and far reaching. It brought a further sense of well being to me.
I carried on with my week and I left despair behind.
Tell No One of This
That weekend, I decided to get out of the city a bit and go inland to one of my favorite places tucked in the village of Burrell Boom. As I sat around relaxing, I got a phone call that I needed to come to the city for a quick meeting about the property. I was informed that some people had gone through the property and were prepared to make an offer close to my asking price. It was serious. If you’re in the business of real estate, you know words are just words. Period.
It gave me some comfort but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. For now, it was just words. So until it was a closed sale, I’d tell no one of this.
Tuesday morning just before midday, the buyer arrived and the property sold.
Tuesday. It was the day my mom told me to be available.
I was beside myself. I called my Tia to tell her and it was the best hahahaha we had, besides the other day when she told me she thought BFF meant Best F*cking Friend. THAT WAS HILARIOUS.
My mom had delivered a message directly to me this time. She’d even given me a day to be available and the property was “up the road”.
These are only a few instances I’ve had with my mom. Some are too personal to share but this gives an insight into the connection I’ve had with her since her passing. Losing her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure. In recent years, I became very interested in NDE (near death experiences), spirit, intuition, third eye opening and the like.
My Personal Experience that Rings True for Me
My whole belief system took a shift in 2009 and has been ever evolving since. Some will chalk these things up to coincidences or get into debates about it. I opt out of those. Lover, not a fighter… remember?
Or is this my first blog post you’re reading?
These are just my personal experiences that ring true for me.
Two weeks ago, two friends of mine lost their mom. I wanted so badly to share this to let them know of my experiences which I humbly share, knowing that it’s not for everyone. Instead of writing, I found myself with “writer’s block”. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring up any feelings of missing my mom, especially when I know I sometimes still have to convince myself she was even here.
Dealing with the Loss of a Mother Was Not Easy
My mom’s passing felt hard and dark. It was confusing and lonely and terrifying. I even moved into my brother’s room for some months. Eventually I adjusted and these experiences remind me that she’s available, like the dream I had where she messaged me on Whatsapp. It was her way of telling me she was that easy to reach – as if she were a contact on Whatsapp.
It finally got manageable … I’d dare to say easy.
The sun continued to rise and set for 18 more years. People continued about their lives even though I wanted everything to stop. It only stopped for me and even then, only momentarily. Now, I manage well enough, with a few random break downs here and there.
Dealing with the loss of a mother was not easy.
Mostly though, I’m ok. Mostly.
Of all the amazing things that have happened since my mom’s transition from her physical form, there are none so great as having had her as a mom for 26 full years.
She was AMAZING. She really was.
Even If You Had a Twin I Would Still Choose You
I would not have it any other way even if someone said I could have a different mom for 50 years. I’d take one day only with her as my mom over any other amount of days with any other woman to call my mom. In the words of Drake in his duet with Rhianna, “Even if you had a twin, I would still choose you”.
The Other Half of My Split Personality and Unfriending Intafayrin Betsi
It was just about a year ago that my friend and fellow artist, Malachi, suggested we do a painting together. She’d paint one side of a face and I’d paint the other. I thought it was a fantastic idea and I offered the name “Split Personality” for this joint venture. She accepted. Fast forward to April 2018, up to two days ago, I was still working on it. If you’ve been reading my posts, then you already know the reason it took me so long – Perfectionism. One year later and I finally just stopped. Perfectionism was not only holding me hostage to procrastination. It was now holding me hostage to “undone”. There would always be something else I could add or learn and apply. Meanwhile, she’d started and finished her half of the face in about three months. This wasn’t just about “Split Personality” though. Three years ago, I started another piece named “Intafayrin Betsi” and that was also undone, until now. I have decided that the wait was over. It’s time to unveil the other half of my Split Personality and unfriend Intafayrin Betsi. She’s too damn nosey any way.
Split Personality by Jeannie Shaw & Malachi
It was my word that got me to commit and finish.
Malachi sent dimensions and tried to explain them a few times but they all missed me. My being a visual person, I needed to see the dimensions laid out on paper, complete with arrows to make sure I had it right. And, like the flood waters pushing all things aside, creativity started flowing. And then it stopped. Perfectionism consistently got in the way. Instead of art being an outlet, it became another proponent to angst and frustration.
Anxiety was looming in other areas and growing on my canvas as well. For a long time, anxiety always felt like a word that was foreign until I saw how it impacted me. It could easily gather momentum and take off like the wind, taking all my good senses with it. Art is a medium through which many people soothe anxiety but it doesn’t work if the creativity is held captive by perfectionism. At any rate, I kept going, mostly because I’d made a promise to her.
It was my word that got me to commit and finish.
Dimensions of Split Personality
It Is What It Is
Even after her detailed sketch of the dimensions, I still put the eye in a different location.
Oh, Perfection! Would you kindly just leave me be.
I’m trying so hard, can’t you see?
After unveiling her portion of the face that I’d kept wrapped up all this time, I wondered if I should follow a suggestion to do it over and align the eyes. There were so many things I could have done differently and better! My cousin’s interpretation of the misalignment of the eyes were that we don’t always see eye to eye, that indeed these personalities were “SPLIT”.
Great! I’ll take it.
If I go back to fix the eye, it will be another decade before it’s complete. It is the “perfect” lesson in perfectionism – it eludes me. And, it always will because there will always be much to be desired. We are constantly expanding and evolving. I’ll take the experience and the misalignment as another step toward embracing acceptance of the now.
“It Is What It Is” mentality.
Split Personality, I’m through with you!
This was a different piece for me since there was no picture for me to reference. I had dimensions and I would just let the brush and paint take on a life of their own, come what may. I started then stopped. Then started then stopped for weeks upon weeks and then started again. This time with intention to complete, period. Finally two days ago, I gave it my last stroke of creativity and signed my name to solidify it was over.
Split Personality, I’m through with you!
If only you’d take anxiety with you. That would be nice!
Here’s a video of the unveiling of the other half I’ve waited so long to see. This project and the completion of it thrilled me to no end as I unwrapped the other half of the face. I am grateful for the suggestion of the painting, the lessons learned and the willingness to release all the things I wish I could change on my half.
KREM Krismus 2010
Intafayrin Betsi (kriol for interfering Betsy) is the other piece that perfectionism got a hold of. She was inspired by a skit created by KREM Belize starring local radio and TV personalities. Namely, these personalities were Linda Blease, Sharon Marin and Mose Hyde. It’s one of my favorite Belizean-made skits to date. One scene that always tickled me was the scene where Linda was looking through the window at all the goodies her neighbor received for Christmas. I took a screen shot of Linda looking through and decided I’d let it inspire art. It was such a typical scene of nosey neighbors and it felt specific to Belize because of the wooden louvre windows.
Well, three years later, I finally finished Intafayrin Betsi. My aim was to capture the popular Belizean phrase “Intafayrin Betsi” because this scene encapsulated what that phrase means to me.
This piece was for me – the word I’d keep to myself.
For a while I struggled with getting everything just right and damn near stalked people during the recent Easter break to get pics of wooden louvre windows for me. The only person who sent a pic after much begging and pleading was my brother. It was a pic several hundred feet away from of a house on stilts.
Great Help! NOT!
But thanks for trying BFF.
Next time, do better or NOT.
It’s not perfect but it’s mine.
I could either remain stuck waiting on someone to send me a pic or just start using my imagination. So, I did. It’s not perfect but it’s mine, just like so many other things about myself I wish I could perfect.
This is my waltz back into the art world. Yet I know I never left. Art is beautifully obvious to me daily. If I could see your eyes while reading this, there would be a painting in your expression, the way your eyes dilate or maybe a smirk you give tells a story about how post reaches you. It’s all art. Everything. All so beautiful.
I’m exploring my gifts, following bliss and the things that wrap me up and sweep me away. I accept that sometimes anxiety will win but I’ll always come back to the people, places and things that fill me with joy.
I’ll always find the ways to…
Some way, some how.
My dance with my creative side is giving myself permission to twerk if I want, slightly sway if it suits or walk away if I so choose.
For now, I’m here. Split personality and all. Intafayrin Betsi can get to steppin’ though.
23 Chromosomes, Me and Afrobeat(s) – My DNA and The Beat of West Africa
It was probably a year ago – another “girls night” for the books. We made our way to Savoy Entertainment Center in search of Caribbean music, longing for the rhythm of our culture. As we got through the security pat down and ID check, we finally got to the main door – the portal to the beat that brought instant “yassness” to us. One more step and we’re IN. Bad news. There would be no reggae this night. A Nigerian singer by the name of Iyanya was performing and Afrobeat(s) was on the turn table. I’d never even heard Afrobeat(s), or so I thought. Whether there should be an ‘s’ at the end or not, is up for debate. But, I’m a lover, not a fighter so I leave that alone. Arguments aside, we were open to new experiences. One week later I found myself on 23AndMe ordering a DNA kit.
The Whole Caribbean Feels Like One Nation
We paid our $20 and walked in, open minded and ready to witness a different culture.
Growing up in Belize, Caribbean music is a part of who we are. In some ways, the whole Caribbean feels like one nation. There’s a familiarity that permeates gatherings and events born of Caribbean culture. It’s as if there’s a basic foundation from which we all evolve. Of all the music from our region, reggae/dancehall resonates most profoundly with me. My friends would jokingly call me a Jamaican and I’d jokingly suggest, ok outrightly and proudly say, that I must have Jamaican ancestors on my mom’s side. I love many genres of music but no other sound makes me want to sway my hips the way reggae music does. Until this night.
Jamaican dancehall music was bouncing off the speakers. We felt right at home and guessed that Afrobeat(s) wouldn’t be much of a shift. There must be some similarity and we will feel right at home. Of course, looking back now, that would make perfect sense since Caribbean culture is a sweet drop of Africa for your cultural palette. Same vibe, different tribe.
People Watch and Catch a Vibe
I wasn’t expecting anything other than the music to be different. We walked in and headed over to the bar like we normally do. The girls got their usual drinks and I opted for my one glass of merlot. We took pics to show off on Facebook – we have a life and new outfits.
Don’t judge. It’s what people do.
Finally, we waltzed over to our usual spot and planted ourselves firmly to “people watch” and catch a vibe.
We were in a familiar environment but something felt different. There was a vibe and the women were different too – their hair and attire spoke of a more regal essence. Confidence oozed out of their graceful struts. There was a nature about them that struck me, as if they were indeed queens. Yes, I know all women are innately of a queen like nature. We don’t always acknowledge it or feel inspired to notice it, maybe. I’d just started my natural hair journey and in this place my fro, frizz and random curls coming back to life were accepted. My pale skin was irrelevant. It was all about good vibes, good music and good people.
Lineal and Magnificent
Besides feeling a sense of royalty in the room, I realized that the music had shifted. It wasn’t dancehall but it felt familiar. It reminded me of a song I heard some time before. It was catchy and my girls and I felt like we were one with it. When it played, everyone seemed to know it except us.
Side eye to everyone that night. [-.-]
We had no idea how to search for the song since we didn’t know the words, the artist or the exact genre. These songs were similar and we were listening keenly to see if it would play.
I enjoyed every single song that played even though I couldn’t understand some of them. All I knew was that Reggae/dancehall would not be the only music that makes me sway my hips. I loved the beat of the music and the people – especially the dancing.
There was something about this “Afrobeat(s)” that I knew. I recognized it as my own –lineal and magnificent. I was sure that this music was a part of me. Maybe it was the drums. Whatever it was, I knew it.
My brother had suggested a few times that at least one of us take a DNA test to learn our roots. This was it. I’d finally do my DNA test to see what I am made of.
Hook, Line and Sinker
Iyana made his grand entrance and once he did, I was sold. A new genre was in town and it won me over. Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk (born 31 October 1986), better known by his stage name Iyanya, is a Nigerian recording artist and performer. Although I’d never seen or heard of him before, I was just as excited as anyone there who knew all the words to his songs. It got me – hook, line and sinker as we say in Belize.
I felt at home. This vibe, this tribe – it was my own.
As much as I knew who my mom was, where I was born, that my skin was pale, that the sun rose and set each day no matter what was happening in the world, I knew this was a part of me.
Pablo Escobar and Me
I leaned over to share my new found ethnicity with my girls, but they laughed. They figured it was another claim to a culture that wasn’t mine. It was kinda like the time I claimed to be Colombian because I binge watched Narcos on Netflix. Pablo and I were family that weekend. He was bad and he was good and we were family.
I swear he and I had a connection. For real. For really real.
After my experience that night, I wanted to know more about my mom’s roots besides her being mixed or as we call it in Belize, Kriol. Her mom was Mestizo and her dad was mostly Black (African) and European (Scottish). The concept of African origin seems to be shun upon in Belize. That’s just my observation – as if it isn’t a part of who we are. History would show otherwise. Our ancestors were brought over from West Africa and scattered across the Caribbean.
Many of us are great children of slaves and slave masters.
Kuk, Wash ahn Mash
My dad was all European (to my knowledge). My mom was a melting pot of many things. While her skin was fairly pale, her hair was thick and coarse, a beautiful reminder of her roots that didn’t show in the shade of her skin. She knew she was a “kriol gyal” – proud of who she was and where she was born. My mom was dealt her own share of racism, especially being married to a white man. Some people still saw her as inferior because of both her gender and her ethnicities.
It didn’t matter to her, or did it?
She also had her own inner dialogue to contend with. Occasionally, she would mention that my dad thought slavery days were still upon us and that she was not there to “kuk, wash and mash” (cook, wash and mash). This is a pan-Caribbean idiom for women who were at the beck and call of their men. Mash is another word for sex.
She was a kriol gyal and my dad was a limey (local name for British soldiers).
But who was I exactly? I wanted to know.
Jean Shaw, Kriol Gyal
Tom Shaw, Limey
I had a general idea what my mix was and I knew I was mostly European. It wasn’t enough. I wanted concrete information so I put my spit in a tube and mailed it to 23AndMe.
Less than 6 weeks later, I got my results: European, Native American andWest African.
Here’s the breakdown that comes close to 100% of me.
11.9% Native American. I was a bit lost on that one til I realized it included Mayan ancestry.
12.2% West African, anywhere from Senegal to Nigeria.
Finally! I was claiming a culture that was actually mine this time!
That’s why the music hit me the way it did. Having grown up in the Caribbean, it was the part of me I felt most connected to. It was mine. Pablo and I were through. Well, not really. He may have had Native American ancestry which was also mine so maybe we could still hang Pablo.
Woman of Many Colors
The pie chart showing the ancestry by color tickled me.
My dad is on the right – mostly blue, indicating British/Irish and Eastern European descent.
My mom is on the left – mostly deep reds, indicating West & North Africa, some yellow for Native American and orange for East Asian descent. I have yet to understand where the European on my mom’s side is.
At any rate, she was a woman of many colors – kriol gyal, indeed.
Powder Bun and Me
When I shared my newfound understanding of who I was, one reaction I got was “So, you’re basically white” hahaha.
YES, I’m mostly white but have you ever followed a powder bun recipe (local pastry in Belize) and forgot the salt or the baking powder? The result was not the same. These tiny bits of ingredients completely change the outcome.
Native American and West African are like the tiny bits of ingredients that make me whole and complete. I’ve done meditations where I saw people who looked like they were a part of tribes. They were African and Mayan.
I wish my mom were alive today – I’d tell her how much I love that her genes defined how my hair is and that I finally grew to love my hair absolutely. I’d tell her that my son’s hair is a tangible reminder of her – not as thick or coarse but very similar. Certainly, I’d encourage her to stop using relaxers so she, my niece and I could all rock our natural locks in complete confidence. Lastly, I’d tell her that it’s not true that “white people can’t dance” because I swear I got my rhythm from my dad. Well, perhaps it’s unfair to credit him with all my dance moves. That 12.2% must count for something other than my hair.
23AndMe brought some clarity and inspired me to lean in love for my natural hair. The curls, fro and frizz bring random strangers to ask me, “What are you?”. I’m many things and Afrobeat(s) is a glorious part of my natural rhythm.
Nwa Baby by Flavour
By the way, I finally did find the first Afrobeat(s) I fell in love with. The name of the song is Nwa Baby by Flavour who hails from Nigeria. It is, to date, one of my favorite songs, period.
Not only do my hips sway, but my heart sings and my body feels light and full of shakti every single time I hear it.
Knowing your ancestry is vital. Maya Angelou once said she walked into rooms filled with people knowing that all her ancestors preceded her. There’s a sense of power in your veins when you walk with that kind of knowing. “Drums of My Father by E Roy Cayetano is an ode to his ancestors. I’d love this poem just for the title alone. It reminded me of why I love certain types of drumming in music – drums of my father. Now that I know my DNA, it makes perfect sense why I feel connected to his poem – drums of my father, indeed.
Here are a few more songs out of West Africa for your listening pleasure.
May your body find the beat of my ancestors and may it wrap you in love always.
Tanya Stephens, Thank You for my Anthem.
It Served Me Well Back Then.
The plan was to get together – one way or another. We hadn’t hung out in what felt like decades although it had only been weeks. Ok, about two months. Time was slipping away. Life was unfolding differently for each of us and our “go here, there and everywhere” ebb came to a complete halt. Last year’s overflow of “girl time” shifted. Sometimes our plans and life are not in agreement. The thing about life though, is to trust it – even when it goes like that. It ill behooves you to swim against the current. As weeks passed us by, it seemed like we’d never get some real quality time in. Finally, Tanya Stephens brought us together for her performance at Dub Club in LA. I left feeling like I witnessed a queen, born of authenticity, expressing herself through voice and words, leaving her audience completely filled. Tanya Stephens, thank you for my anthem. It served me well back then.
Girl Time in Full Effect
It’s a Pity
I remember seeing the flyer just over a month ago. I figured that I’d love to go see her but the only song that came to mind was “It’s a Pity”. Well, that song is so good, it would be enough just to hear her sing it.
As we were driving to the event, we started discussing what songs we knew. A little late for that. “It’s a Pity” was the only song I remembered. I assumed and confidently stated that Tanya probably didn’t have many other good ones. This was her “one good song”. You might feel insulted right now if you’re a big fan of hers – even worse if you’re actually THE Tanya Stephens. I apologize. I am pleased to report that the joke was on me.
We arrived and the vibe was nice. Girl time was in full flow and all I was waiting on was to see Tanya Stephens and hear her “one good song”. My voice was coming back from a sore throat and I was ready to sing along too.
One of my pet peeves about these events is how long the artist takes to come on stage and how short of a time they perform. Tanya was different. I didn’t have to wait long.
I Love Tanya Stephens
She was on stage by 11:45pm and didn’t stop til after 1:00am. As she stepped on to the stage, her energy preceded her. She was smiling, full of light and good vibes. I knew I’d enjoy her. Her essence filled the room, if you’re into that kinda thing. What I didn’t know was how many of her songs I had forgotten. Among them are “These Streets”, “Pon Di Side”, “Boom Wok”, “Tek Him Back”, “You Noh Ready Fi Dis Yet”, to name a few. Suddenly, it felt endless.
How could I forget? I Love @iamTanyaStephens.
One of them was my personal anthem during a heartbreak some years ago. As soon as I heard it, the memories came flooding back to me.
I used to go riding in the evenings with my playlist in tact. Whenever that song came on, I would replay it at least 3 times before I could move on to the next one. Somehow this song gave me a sense of strength. The words may seem harsh – ill minded even. At the time, they held power for me. I needed to know that I’d be missed. I suppose we all go through that, unless you’re an enlightened being or yogi who no longer subscribes to your ego. I’m not there yet.
The name of the song is “Can’t Breathe” and I had it strategically set up on the playlist.
As I set out each evening for my ride or what I like to call my “natural high”, I’d first need to navigate the traffic of downtown Belize City. Then I’d make my way over the famous Swing Bridge and hit an immediate right heading toward the sea. I could take my concentration off pedestrians, other cyclists and my having to ride within an inch of passing cars. Not exaggerating.
As soon as I passed the walls of the Tourist Village, the “high” would start to find me. There were no more structures blocking the sweet Caribbean breeze that always seemed to reach for my hair first. The sea was completely visible and the horizon was endless. Some days I’d have the honor of witnessing birds in flight, boats in motion and feel this overwhelming gratitude for the fact that I am alive.
And, just as I timed it, my song would come on and my high would arrive.
There was a good stretch of road to enjoy the view, the breeze and my anthem. I’d hit replay on “Can’t Breathe” for as long as there was no obstruction to my endless view. There was a storyline in this song that I related to deeply.
The song tells a story of a woman who was left. She was bitter and hurt and wished for her lover to miss her forever. She wanted thoughts of her to haunt him all the days of his life. I couldn’t relate to every line but I understood the sentiment. I understood that she felt rejected and abandoned. A lover doesn’t have to leave you for you to have those feelings. That kind of emotion can erupt from being cheated on, neglected or lied to. The list can go on and on.
Marinated in Pain
My anthem was a testimony to how sorry my partner would be. Of course the lines about eating and breathing were purely symbolic. I was more connected to concept of someone being regretful of losing me. Once I grew pass the hurt though, none of this mattered. That kind of low level vibration is usually marinated in pain.
Hearing Ms Stephens sing this song live, the memories flooded my mind but pain was nowhere to be found. Instead, I learned that the “power” had nothing to do with the other person suffering. “Can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe” – nowhere close to my wishes for anyone. Standing there, reminiscing, my frown was now a smile. I was in awe of how far removed I am from that time and also that I had forgotten just how many of Tanya’s songs I knew AND loved. How could I forget?
Watching her perform with so much confidence was mesmerizing. She intermittently spoke about several things including some of her sexual experiences and how they inspired her writing. Tanya was advocating for everyone – she was promoting unity, good energy and love. The few hours on stage took Tanya from “man a bad man” stance, to feminist, to activist and finally entertainer. She was engaging, unapologetically real and encompassed feminine and masculine energy in every other sway and swag she portrayed.
Killing Them Softly with Her Words
My thoughts were everywhere. When she first came to the stage, she invited us to time travel with her… go way back! I time traveled with Tanya more than she knew. As she started to promote unity in the audience, my attention shifted to the now, then to her and how blessed she is to be doing what she loves. Even her accompanying band consists of musicians passionate about their craft, including Belizean drummer Emmanuel Cattouse. I kept thinking “How absolutely amazing it is to be doing what you love.”
Ms Stephens reiterated my thoughts as she expressed gratitude for her talent, blessings and opportunities. She finally sang her “one song” at the end of the show paying homage to Gregory Isaacs. Tanya then asked the audience if there was any song she didn’t sing that they wanted to hear. As each person belted out their song or showed her on their phone, she swung into acapella style and honored ever single request that reached her.
Release with Love
As the night closed, I pondered on the power of words and how Louise Hay, among others, teaches that every thought is an affirmation. “Can’t Breathe” would not be the ideal song for positive affirmations lol. But it was my anthem and for that time, it served me.
The thoughts of her performance bring a smile to my face. I left feeling inspired, empowered and like I need to get a new camouflage outfit because I just loved the way she rocked hers. It was simple but I LOVED IT!
As I close, I give thanks for the opportunity to see her perform and to appreciate the gift of words whether written in a story, a song or a poem. May they always find you sweetly.
May you always be able to eat, to sleep and to breathe.
With love, I release all thoughts past and future that would inhibit anyone from living their truest and most fulfilling life. Namaste.
YOU CAN’T SERVE TWO MASTERS, Advice from a Sister.
I’ve read that you keep reliving the same situation until you learn the lesson. This makes me wonder if I’m even paying attention in “life class.” Some situations keep presenting themselves over and over again. Two issues (of many more) that plague me are ‘speaking up’ and ‘trying to please everyone.’ Now that I write it, I’m pretty sure they go hand in hand. Always open to learning, I recently gave these two issues a lot of thought. A conversation brought me to a Bible verse that stays with me now. YOU CAN’T SERVE TWO MASTERS, advice from a sister. #LifeTips
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.”
My dad, who was an atheist, knew the bible inside out. He always told me people took the Bible too literally. I don’t know much about the Bible but if we dissect this specific verse, minus the literal meaning, the lesson is priceless. YOU CAN’T SERVE TWO MASTERS.
We are all connected
Things that affect you will inevitably affect those closest to you. We are all connected and its even more prevalent when we’re “connected” if you know what I mean. My friend/sister and I were in one of our many deep conversations – decades in the making. We grew up together. We are very open even if we feel vulnerable admitting certain things. I was going on and on about the things I was dealing with two weeks prior to our conversation and we were discussing how these events had also affected my loved ones.
Some were understanding and patient. Some were hanging by a thread haha. I found myself feeling pressured to be ok. It might have been all in my head but it’s how I felt nonetheless. I felt pressured to stick to plans or to be there when needed for things a lot less prevalent than what I was dealing with. As I shared how overwhelmed I felt, my “sister” firmly said to me, “Sis, you can’t serve two masters.” Punto Final.
Just keep it all as learning and growing.
A philosophy that works
She reminded me that I can only do so much and how I needed to prioritize according to my truth. I needed to weigh out the needs of everyone, what was important and what I can realistically deliver. The pressure was too much and I was losing grip. It’s something I’ve had to ask myself over and over again when I feel pressured to be all I’m needed to be. I’ve tried to find the balance so that my closest loves are not disappointed especially when they have always been there for me. It’s a tricky medium to navigate when you’re engaging with people more priceless than “vibranium.”
The last thing you want to do is let them down.
Slowly I started to see that this philosophy could roll over to many areas of my life – even cleaning the kitchen. You can choose to surrender to the fact that it’s dirty, take your time and get it done in peace. Or, you can clean hastily and be upset while making yourself miserable. Speaking for a friend. 🙂 It all reminds me of the teachings of Dandapani who talks a lot about the power of focus. You can click here to understand more.
One thing at a time. Sometimes that one thing could be a deep breath.
YOU CAN’T SERVE TWO MASTERS
It’s about making a choice about what or who to surrender to and choosing only one in a given moment. In the next moment, you are free to make a different choice and “serve a different master” so to speak. It has been challenging in some ways as I felt disappointment wreak havoc on some people closest to me. The advice of my sister stuck with me though. You can’t serve two masters. I had to find what made things manageable for me and trust that those closest to me would want what’s best for me. It didn’t matter if they would do things differently or not. What mattered was my peace of mind, especially considering the circumstances.
Take a look at yourself, always.
I’ve been blessed with circles of amazing people in my life, time and time again. It’s quite a disheartening feeling to disappoint them. Learning to find the balance between loving everyone and loving me is quite the task.
Sometimes we want to be everything to everyone but we can’t. It’s something I still have to constantly remind myself of. Once it’s not a life threatening situation or dyer need of someone I love or care about, the question I ask myself is: What will make this easier for you? What will make this manageable for you?
Whatever the answer is, I follow that. Well, I try to.
Life is filled with lessons. I’m open to learning and growing. I hope you are too.
You can’t serve two masters. Choose one thing at a time, apply focus and move on to the next.
Do things slowly and meaningfully and be fully present.
Perfectionism & My “Split Personality” – It’s Not What You Think
Oh to be perfect! I have mastered it! NOT. Perfectionism wreaks havoc for me many a day. It may be a Libra thing or so I’ve been told. Perfectionism takes a toll on so many things I either want to do or am in the process of doing. This includes relationships, looks, clothing, painting, artistry – it can go on and on. Perfectionism and OCD issues go hand in hand. They may or MAY NOT include straightening items on the self at check out. I mean I wouldn’t do that. I’m just saying this could be you and if it is, I am not judging you, ok? And while this particular trait might be good for Trader Joe’s, there are down sides in other areas. Perfectionism can also lead to NOT completing things and at times not even starting things. This is where I can relate – especially with my art. It specifically pertains to a new piece I’m working on called “Split Personality”. Perfectionism and my “Split Personality” – it’s not what you think.
Libra, the perfectionist
Perfectionism Limits My Art
Besides the last few lines of the meme above which I refuse to accept as yet another issue of mine (insert side eye), one of the main ways I see how perfectionism affects me is in my art. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a painting or a drawing and because there was some flaw with it, I just stopped. My artwork most often starts with a clear intention of where it will go. The vision is crisp. I convince myself of exactly how it will be and as I sit down to bring my vision to life, it escapes me. My hands find their way to the canvas and something becomes lost. Perfection eludes me and I leave my work, unfinished.
It feels disheartening to be so critical of myself yet absolutely love the work of others. I would either immediately fall in love with a piece or just admire it for what it is – imperfect as it may be. The pieces I am drawn into are often not in proportion. They are often not well blended or have simple elements that I would not use. Yet, I look at them with a deep appreciation that has often extended from my pocket lol.
Split Personality – My Art
I recently – ok, that’s a lie… over a year ago, I agreed with a very dear friend to do an art piece with her. She wanted us to do a face together. She’d do one half and I’d do the other, following her dimensions. I suggested we name it “Split Personality” and she agreed. Awesome! New Art! Wuhoo! Motivated and ready – let’s go!
She finished her half of the face ONE MONTH LATER. It’s now nearly one year after and my half is still undone. She gave me her half of the face wrapped so that I can’t see it. You’d think the curiosity would inspire me to finish so I could see what the other half looks like. I started, had issues and left it. I fought with that pattern and repeatedly went back to “Split Personality”. Friends have come and gone through my home and either made comments giving props to my having worked on it or asking why it still looks the same.
Split Personality, The Art Piece
Sometimes if we wait for inspiration, we do NOTHING.
We just wait… and we do a little as it comes and we leave it as it goes. Or, maybe that’s just me.
We wait for signs and inspirational quotes or movies that leave us feeling like we can conquer the world but most times those highs are momentary. They fade. Experience is teaching me that it truly is a mind thing. It truly is about making conscious decisions to do what we say we will. AND that we must repeatedly make choices that change our neurons.
I’d like to make a promise in a blog post about how I’ll finish “Split Personality” by the end of March 2018. I just wonder if that’s “inspirational” enough and how long it will last. It may or may not even get me through tonight to add 5 minutes more to my piece. I keep looking at the face and how the nose seems far from the eyes (a mistake I’ve made quite a few times) and I get stuck on the mistake.
I’ve got another piece I’ve named “Intafarin Betsy” that I started THREE YEARS ago. You can imagine the anguish it causes to keep watching these pieces unfinished. I’m annoyed that they are undone which reminds me that I’m not perfect and I’m annoyed that piece isn’t perfect so therefore, it’s undone. WOE IS ME.
My plan is to just do – just do it, like Nike.
Just Freakin Finish it Already!
I can’t – because see… the nose is too far from the eyes and the shading isn’t right. So, instead of the “Just Do It” mentality, I’ll spend 10 more hours over the course of another 3 years trying to perfect one portion of the face. And guess what? It will never be perfect. These portraits I drew only included the face. Had I ventured much lower, perfectionism and OCD would have taken over and I would have never finished them.
Pencil Portraits of @MajahHype @HbkRSNY @JoyJah
Writing blog posts have helped me to start curing this need for perfection. I made a commitment to posting one blog post a week. Since I haven’t quite found my niche yet the topics tend to be all over the place – several different topics, until I can find my way. BUT, I write and I post. Life will happen so some recent events halted my flow but I’m back on track. Well, this is week 2 of getting back on track.
Perfectionism aside, I still look and think of things I could have, should have and would have added but I post, nonetheless. Shudda. Wudda. Cudda. Nah, I did! Here’s hoping I will finish “Split Personality” but I make no promises… only that I’ve written yet another blog post. Hopefully soon one will be unveiling “Split Personality” in its most imperfect form. And, if you want to see some more of my work, click here for some more of my work. Keep in mind that I just started this website so that it is undone is forgivable. Right?
Does perfectionism affect you?
Are you able to observe it but move past it? Or are you stuck on mistakes made and rearranging items on the shelf at Trader Joe’s?