Rejection Letter #1

It’s been almost two months since I got my first R.L. from one of the Arts applications I submitted. Admittedly, I’ve been stalling about updating everyone with the results. More interesting, though? My video diary belting out a Barbra Streisand classic and tracking what I’ve been up to since I got the e-mail. Why is Babs being dragged into this? Because there’s nothing like a little drunken (yes, there was alcohol involved in the making of this video) ode to Nikki Arnstein to make me forget how sucky Rejection Letters can be! #PushOnThroughTheStruggle ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

August 20, 2014
Dear Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the Critic-in-Residence Program. We received a number of outstanding applications and were only able to choose three finalists for this year’s inaugural program. The review committee has considered your request and regrets that we cannot invite you to participate at this time. 
We appreciate the effort you put into submitting your application and we highly encourage you to remain in touch with our organizations in the coming year. 
Sincerely,
Your Latest Motivation
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My Love Affair With Anaïs Nin

We’ve been seeing each other for over a month. It’s still early in the relationship, so I’m a bit premature in saying this, but I think she could be The One. My latest and greatest literary Muse. Why?

She inspires me. She challenges my preconceived notions. She makes me laugh. She pisses me off. She writes Erotica! She’s more than a little dysfunctional – but I’ve got talking rabbits in my mind, so who am I to judge? We disagree on key issues like abortion, fidelity, incest, honesty, and polygamy. But, “God how I love [her] Words!” And anyone who can feed my insatiable appetite for language automatically goes on my short list of True Loves, no questions asked.

Is it just me, or does she kind of resemble that other great lady, Hillary Clinton?

Is it just me, or does she kind of resemble that other great lady, Hillary Clinton?

So how did we fall for each other? Well, here’s the low down on the whole sneaky seduction – as told through my favorite Anaïs Nin quotes, of course!

It started innocently enough. In late March, my friend Selana posted this quote on her Facebook page:

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”

This was about halfway through my self-imposed forty day “Facebook Fast” for Lent, so I didn’t actually see the full post online, but leave it to my oft-forgotten account settings and Gmail to send e-mail updates to my phone whenever a close friend changed their status. I took a moment to glance at the quote before quickly deleting it. The thought occurred to me that I really liked the eloquent wording, but I pressed the trash icon before I had a chance to see who the phrase was attributed to.

I guess you could say Anaïs and I spotted each other in a crowded room, shared a brief “moment”, but didn’t manage to exchange names or contact information. The moment passed quickly enough and I thought that was the end of it. Surely, I’d never see her again.

But less than two weeks later, there she was popping up in my line of sight once more! This time I was scrolling through the never-ending stream of advertisements that accumulate in my Gmail promotions tab. I paused to get my daily fix of curly girl hair inspiration from Curly Nikki, and what do I see from one of the many guest bloggers but this gem that literally stopped me in my tracks:

“I must be a mermaid… I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” ― Anaïs Nin

If I’m being completely honest, I loved the quote but still wasn’t quite in-love with the author just yet. I’m a rabbit kind of girl, after all. Some days, when I’m feeling extra boundless, I’m even a bird.

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I’m a bird, I’m a bird! Say it… Tell me I’m a bird… Better yet, I’m an Angel!!! #Boundless

But a mermaid? I could appreciate the sentiment behind the words, but they weren’t exactly speaking to my soul in that intimate voice that comes right before The Fall. On the bright side, I had a name to go along with the quote now, although I hadn’t yet realized it was the same person from my friend Selana’s earlier post.

Another week passed when I saw these words from fellow blogger and new friend Cristian Mihai “You cannot save people.” He attributed the partial quote to Anaïs also, and after several run-ins with her name, I knew I had to find out more. These accidental meetings were starting to feel downright kismet!

I stalked out her entire life. Her journals – expurgated and otherwise. Her erotic writings for a private collector. Her political views.  Her psychotherapy and incestuous relationships. Her marriages to two men at the same time. Her lovers. I wanted it all. Clearly I was obsessed.

Which, I guess, makes me something of the Anaïs to her June Miller? I told myself the whole thing would blow over soon enough – I can be fickle with my Muses that way – but for the moment, these were the Words that fanned the flames of my devotion:

“There are two ways to reach me: by way of kisses or by way of the imagination. But there is a hierarchy: the kisses alone don’t work.”

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”

A taste of my own search for Imagination

A taste of my own search for Imagination.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

You know how I love stars and constellations!

You know how I love my stars and constellations!

 

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

“Someone told me the delightful story of the crusader who put a chastity belt on his wife and gave the key to his best friend for safekeeping, in case of his death. He had ridden only a few miles away when his friend, riding hard, caught up with him, saying ‘You gave me the wrong key!

“The only abnormality is the incapacity to love.”

“Our love of each other was like two long shadows kissing without hope of reality.”

“I write emotional algebra.”

“In chaos, there is fertility.”

Feeling pretty "chaotic".

Feeling pretty “chaotic”.

“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”

Mural by California artist Chor Boogie

Mural by California artist Chor Boogie

After that last one, the only thing I could think of were the “mosaic eyes” that sit behind the Wish Boutique parking lot in my Little 5 Points ‘hood. Was the Boogie Blogger watching me … or could it be Anaïs? ~ cS

So today… I got a life!!!

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If you’ve read my “Letting Go” post from a few days ago, you know that it’s sometimes a struggle for me to step outside myself and away from all the things I’ve scheduled for maximum productivity. You also know, then, what a big deal it is for me to be able to say that today I got a life. That’s right, not just tried to get a life… I actually got one. I immediately needed to share the news. Yes, this is me, shouting from the roof tops:

“Hear ye! Hear ye! Your girl Constance Sherese broke out and broke free! She didn’t follow the schedule. Nope. Wasn’t feelin’ the structured plan. Never. And she definitely threw up her goodbye deuces to the beaten path! Woo De Woo!!!”

So, how did I manage to pull off this death defying feat? I went for a walk! But this wasn’t just any ol’ walk. This was a step outside myself walk. A take time to care for myself walk. A forget about the business plan walk. A super hero blue walk. An inspire and be inspired walk. An “I’ve got so much more to give” walk. This was a FREEDOM walk, y’all!

I know I’m being more than a little dramatic with all this coy posturing. Basically, I’m playing the tease real hard today. But I promise it’s worth the build up. So let me start from the beginning.

I’ve been a fan of a certain Facebook group and nonprofit organization called GirlTrek for over a year. Their mission is to inspire one million people to join their Movement by the year 2018, with the ultimate goal of supporting Black women and girls as we lead our healthiest lives ever – just by walking.

Why walking? And why Black women and girls? Because GirlTrek founders, Morgan and Vanessa understand the power that women and girls hold. They understand that all women deserve to live their healthiest lives possible. And all women deserve to be inspired to such a healthy lifestyle in a way that speaks to their human experience on a personal level.

Morgan and Vanessa realize Black women have that kind of personal connection with walking. Because we have a connection to the women of our pasts who spearheaded major change like the Civil Rights Movement. Without major funding. Without a large platform. Without popular opinion or public support. But we did it anyway using the power of walking. Walking to freedom like Harriet Tubman. Walking to the neighbors’ house to spread the word. Walking to the voting polls like Fannie Lou Hammer. Walking for Life.

As an advocate for Lupus awareness – a disease that is overwhelmingly a womens illness, and even more so a Black womens illness – I can relate to the power of walking for better health. The Lupus Foundation of America chapter, here in Georgia, has its’ annual Lupus Walk coming up in April and I could use all the motivation I can get to ramp up for spreading the word about that initiative.

So, if GirlTrek and walking for better health are so important to me, why is this the first time you’re seeing me write about their organization? Because I’m a chicken. I know that sounds very 5th grade of me, but it’s true. I like my schedules for a reason. It’s a daily struggle for me to step outside myself and play the role of bold trend setter.

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means shy. I can give a public speech to a packed house with no problem. Just give me advance notice so I can fine tune my talking points, write three drafts, proof read everything, work on my tonality/inflection, and add the proper vocal emphasis, then trust me, I’ll knock it out of the park. But what’s that you say? You want me to just Show Up and Show Out? Effectively, “wing it” and get a bunch of other women to follow my lead? Now that’s just crazy talk!

And let’s not forget that I’ve got my own cause. CultSTATUS. My own mission that requires me to step out of my comfort zone. Because it’s all about the Art, right? Where is the Art or Culture in walking for health? I’m not knocking the Movement, but really? Over the past year, I have felt like joining a walking revolution was just too much. Too much clutter and scattered lack of direction to be talking about GirlTrek and Lupus Walks and Harriet Tubman and Tribute Walks for one hundred minutes on a Saturday (when Saturdays are my most productive day for writing my novel and play!) all while trying to clearly and concisely promote my own CultSTATUS brand. And did I mention waaaayyy too many hashtags? Hashtag Harriet. Hashtag GirlTrek. Hashtag Super Hero Blue. Hashtag Walk It Out. Hashtag Harriet House Party. Can you say Hashtag Crazy???

No. I’m sorry. But the logistical side of me says “no.” Hell, if the Rabbits in my Mind don’t drive me crazy, the Hashtags in my Head most certainly will! I’ll click “Like” on their Facebook posts, I told myself. I’ll share their quotes. I’ll even send some groupie love to Angela Davis and Toni Morrison in hopes that they’ll join the Harriet Tubman tribute prayer service on Sunday. But I just can’t commit to anything more. That’s enough, right?

And yet. It’s like I said in that “Letting Go” post. I really do have so much more to give. Because that’s what the GirlTrek Movement is all about. That’s how Morgan and Vanessa got me. With the giving. I listened to the Friday night house party live stream and I heard the tearful emotion in Morgan’s voice as she talked about the challenges she and Vanessa have faced in their own lives. But then I heard her talk about how they channeled their personal struggles into motivation to help the next woman. I heard her reflect on Harriet’s loss of family, friends, and even husband in her drive to walk to freedom. But then I heard Morgan remind us that we women can commit to be each others family members and sisters. I heard Vanessa comment on some of the very feelings I’d been having – that this was all just too last minute and chaotic (The deadline to get #Harriet T-shirts was Monday at noon, and I pressed “Submit” on my order at 11:53. Talk about last minute!). But then I heard her inform us that GirlTrek had rallied women for this Movement from Okinawa, Japan to Oakland, California. And I thought to myself “Don’t forget Atlanta! You’ve got me here in Atlanta!” And just like that, I was hooked. Committed to this giving. Because what other choice did I have, really?

So, I woke up late this morning. Ran to UPS to print out my tribute letters. Walked up the block to Freedom Park. Yes, I am aware of the irony that I fought this Movement for so long and I have a Freedom Park right up the block from my house. Filmed a quick honorary video to make up for the fact that I didn’t organize a full seven woman team. And then set off on my hundred minute trek.

If this wasn’t an exercise in Team Last Minute, I don’t know what is! But I figure if I share this post and manage to get six other women to view and “like” it, then I’ve achieved a belated virtual team and that counts too. It doesn’t hurt that my Sister From Another Mister, Tracee Ellis Ross (The Rabbits told me we were related) has started her own hashtag craze to help make exercise fun. She wears makeup while she works out! Red lipstick to be exact. If I’m working on Showing Up and Showing Out, a little #RedLipFit is the perfect way to get the ball rolling. D’you think spreading the groupie love Tracee’s way might get her to join GirlTrek too? There’s only one way to find out. Watch out, I’m about to go Hashtag Crazy!

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#GirlTrek #Harriet #HarrietHouseParty #SuperHeroBlue #OkinawaToOakland #DontForgetAtlanta #Atl #FeeedomPark #WalkForFreedom #WalkForLife #WalkItOut #ShowUpShowOut #ThisGiving #MoreToGive #LetGoLetFlow #TeamLastMinute #SistersFromAnotherMister #AngelaDavis #ToniMorrison #TraceeEllisRoss #RedLipFit #ConstanceSherese #cS #CultSTATUS #PushOnThroughTheStruggle #LupusAwareness #LupusFoundation #LFA #LupusGeorgia #LupusWalkAtlanta #RabbitsInMyMind #HashtagsInMyHead #HashtagCrazy

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