The Power Walk

“I have a trail I want to show you. Will you go walking with me?”

Admittedly I’ve put on a few pounds. The thought of walking didn’t sound as appealing as drinks and appetizers. However, my mother is a ridiculously busy person and we never get to spend time together so I accepted her invitation. She’s one of those people who “have it together.” The reliable conservative type.

“Maybe if I walk with her, her sense of order will rub off on me because I definitely didn’t get it genetically.”

When I got home from work, I informed my husband I was going for a power walk with my mom. I know him. He probably immediately envisioned old ladies at the mall with pink dumbbells in their hands with walkmans and black Sony headphones. He’s a runner. He runs at least 6 miles a day so walking makes no sense to him. When I came out the bathroom in my hot pink Miami souvenir t-shirt and my psychedelic Hot Soxx and tights, he gave me a quizzical look. “You’re not going to burn any calories. Why are you dressed like that?” I smiled, kissed him and the kids and left.

The truth? I was genuinely excited. I needed a break. Just a moment to decompress. An hour to reassess the tasks on my mental “to do” list. I have colleagues who “unplug” weekly. They do not tend to their phones, social media or personal email for a day or two. An old friend of mine has a rule that neither she nor her spouse can answer their cellular phones after 9pm. When the kids are asleep and it’s just the two of them it becomes time to unplug from everyone else and recharge their union. It sounds corny but there is validity to it.

“When I came here before, all these trees had no leaves. Some of the flowers looked dead like they’d never bloom again. Now they’re all green.”

The power walk was a physical reminder that life is just a meandering trail that we haven’t seen before. We don’t know what comes next. We can fret over bugs. Or maybe at night someone will jump out of the darkness and attack us. A tree branch may break and fall on your head. No matter what happens there is also a strong possibility it will be scenic, pedagogical and best of all you may find company so you don’t have to walk alone.

The older I get, the more I value the friend that will pray with you. It’s like singing your favorite song and someone just jumping on the hook and harmonizing with you. That’s powerful!

The trail may be unique to you but someone else has already walked it. Seek counsel from wise elders, mentors, or even blog communities. There are people who have been through what you’ve been through or they are going through it right now with class and ease. They’re making it look easy!! While you’re panicking, they’re strategizing and preparing for the next blow.

After the walk we went to Wendy’s (I did get a salad at least) but regardless of what I ate I felt lighter. I shed some stress. I was a little more content with the lack of control that humanity sometimes requires. It really was a power walk.

By Shaun Liriano

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#Shutyamouthandpray Power Within

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Did it all happen quickly? Minutes turned into hours? Time never cooperates with your expectations. Are you frustrated?  Are you staying the same and your surroundings are changing?

Yea.

What are you doing about it?

Find an accountability partner and put your ass in gear. It doesn’t matter if its perfect. It matters that it’s done and you aren’t wasting your time and talents.

Father:
Help us push and push harder than we ever have. Help us dig into undiscovered parts of our potential. Help us not to gauge our success by the success of others. Help us to have self esteem that is only controlled by ourselves and not weighed by others opinions of us. Help us to see passed the selfishness and sometimes oblivion of our loved ones. Help us stay strong enough to fight the fight even if it means shadowboxing with ourselves and slap boxing with Jesus. God please stay with us and strengthen us when we feel weak.
Amen

Replenish! #Shutyamouthandpraysundays

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Every Sunday (for awhile) I will ask you to journey with me in understanding of self. A journey in the acceptance of growth. We will build a BS barrier and become more resilient together. I am NO life coach. That is not my aim. I am a writer. However,  all journeys are more fun with company. Most advice you give should also be directed at yourself. Sometimes we need to follow our own instructions. Sometimes we need to diagnose ourselves.
Being relatable is a gift and one that draws positivity.

This Sunday I took the kids to church at noon. We cleaned the house top to bottom prior to that. We ate an awesome breakfast. We danced. We loved. Most importantly we talked. I remembered how important it is to sit straight up, look in their eyes and focus. Listen. Today was a good day.

Day 8 of the self esteem challenge :
Are you comfortable with accepting compliments? Why or why not?
(Courtesy of life and magic in Wyoming at wordpress )
I am not always comfortable. There are things I know are above average and compliments on those assets I graciously accept. You have to believe something yourself before others will believe in it.

Day 9: What do other people say is sexy about you?
This is tough! I have heard different things. Mostly its my command. In a comfortable situation I take full command if a leadership position is needed in order for a task to be completed. I’m resolution oriented. So I just like things to be fixed quickly. I’ve been told my smile is sexy.

My 2am

Filter through the filters
See the beauty raw and exposed
In its vulnerability
Flickering flames
Incense burning in my bathroom sink
Can’t blink, let alone sleep
Writing between the lines in my mind
My imagination running and wrinkling my sheets
Shared submissions that didnt make it to the grave
Fear will comb your hair
With daydreams that do not obey the setting of the sun.

My 2am has…
One fresh cut long stemmed pink rose
Thorns exposed
One fresh tear coming down my nose
Still beautiful
Cannot be compared to a passion flower or a lily
It stands alone

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My 2am
Is art by Teresita Fernandez
And my own sloppy sketches
Poetry by Nikki

Giovanni
And tap dancing on my kitchen floor
Like Savion Glover

Anything
Just anything to fall in a deep sleep

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My sloppy sketches

Thoughts of strong arms and warm covers
Fresh out of the dryer
Sprinkled with baby powder.

My 2am ain’t cinematic
Ain’t no soft music and perfume
Ain’t no Sade tunes
Ain’t no rhythm and blues

My 2am turns into 3am and 4:09

My 2am would rattle your spine.

My 2am is mine.

By: Shaun Melissa Nickens

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What Did I Miss?

A high school buddy of mine gave me the number and access code to a group prayer line. Her church started it to encourage its members and keep them on a spiritual journey throughout the week when they are away from the sanctuary. At the time, I myself needed an extra kick in the butt so I would call in occasionally.

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Normally, I would call in at noon. There is a 6am conference, noon and 6pm. At 6pm I am at the office so that doesn’t work. I remember thinking, ” I damn sure ain’t gettin’ up at 6am.” So noon was my only option.

Yet, when I call at noon I am getting myself ready for work. I am busy with the hustle of family. I am not focused. The TV is on in another room. I’m folding laundry or washing dishes. I’m doing everything but calming my mind and spirit to join the presence of God. Also, sometimes it would seem like the facilitator was busy too. Or maybe they were just praying routinely. No disrespect but it didn’t move me. I still called because I just needed to feel closer to God and his believers.

The other day, I got up at 6am. I was restless. My heart was disgruntled. I wasn’t dreaming so I wasn’t sleeping.

I got up and called the prayer line at 5:57 and waited with my phone muted. A male voice came on the line and began with verses for us to review at our leisure. He went over the meanings of the verses and how those scriptures are related to one another specifically to guide us. There was a theme and he led us in reverence and meditation for 15 minutes. I felt like I went to a church drive thru! It was like a microwaved sermon! I immediately felt a new energy and vigor and POSITIVITY that had been absent from me (or I was absent from it) for some time. My pastor calls that “Preaching and teaching!”

I say all that to say…

What are you missing out on because you are too lazy, unfocused, or undisciplined to attain? What blessings are you “sleeping on?” Sometimes you are experiencing an earthquake in your life because He has to force you to move out of the house of complacency. Your feet were planted there. You wouldn’t move unless he knocked down your glass menagerie and seemingly destroyed everything around you. Why don’t you see that he never destroyed YOU?

You …no WE have to get it together!  Do you eat right? Do you hydrate? Do you restore your temple by getting enough rest? Do you lay your clothes out in advance?  Is your car clean? I went to private school and my father was in the military. I had to be up at 6:30am, room spotless, uniform ironed,and shoes shined.  I ate Special K with a half of grapefruit, Farina or grits and eggs every day. What the hell happened to me?!

Life! Luxury! Laziness! Loss! No excuse for catching up instead of keeping up. Ask yourself what you aren’t disciplined enough to attain. Decide if you want abundance or a life of sleepless nights because He is trying to move you out of misery.

Please don’t wake up at 80 and say, “What did I miss?”

By: Shaun Melissa Nickens

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You’ve Got “It.” I promise.

“There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price.”- Shirley Chisholm
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When I was 6, my mother took me to a little *dojo on Farmers Boulevard with no awning.  Prior to it being a dojo, it was a hair salon. As soon as I walked through the door I felt at home.  It’s amazing, the things from your childhood you can remember. My Sensei was a lean man but not “skinny.”  I remember him peering over me.  He leaned down in front of me.  He opened his palm and there was a quarter in his hand. He said, “If you can get this quarter out of my hand, you can keep it.”  I said, “That’s it?” He smiled and opened his palm. I tried 3 times to get the quarter and I couldn’t. I was embarrassed and I tugged at my mother’s hand to give her the hint that this wasn’t the right place for me. Back to dancing school it would be. Sensei rubbed his hand over his bald head and smiled that big white smile again. He said, “Shaun, is it?”  I said, “Yes sir.”  He said, “Try it again.  If you get it, you do not have to start in my beginner’s class. You can start in Intermediate and catch up with the big kids.”  I lit up! Determined now, with the stakes a little higher, I tried again. On the first shot I grabbed that quarter.  Now I had the big smile.  He said, “See you in class.”

Eavesdropping, I heard him telling my mom that I have “it.” He said martial art is a matter of will more than skill.   He gave my mom a *gi in my size and he told her that I would get a little “banged up” but he saw a fighter in my eyes.  I loved that stinky, smelly, sweaty dojo.  Sensei eventually had to switch to another location in Valley Stream.  It was definitely an upgrade.  Later, my 10 month old sister died and I took a break.  I couldn’t focus anymore.  It seemed as though the fighter in my eyes died with her.  When I was 9, my uncle opened his own self defense studio.  I followed my uncle and joined the “Common Sense School of Self Defense.”  My friends from the block went there.  It was mixed martial arts.  We called it the “gumbo” of martial arts because we learned everything.  I hated meditation.  It was too quiet.  There were too many thoughts in my head for me to be alone with them.  I would wait patiently for the end of class when we would bring out the mats and *spar.  I suited up, put my mouth piece in and I would fight like my life depended on it.  My uncle would match you up by skill not gender or even weight class.  I would often be paired up with my next door neighbor, Kiyanna.  She was a good match.  There was never a winner.  We knew one another well and we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  We played tennis and rode bikes and went skating together too. We were friends.  I preferred to be paired with the guys because I loved to win.  I had a point to prove. You could be easy on me if you wanted to because I’m a girl but after you got popped in the face a couple of times with my roundhouse kick, you’d start fighting.  They started to treat me like an equal.  They would begin to ask to fight me.  I had the will to win and I often did.

One day when I was 13, I got too cocky and my uncle was doing some padded drills with me.  He punched me right in the face because I kept dropping my hands.  I felt my nose sting and my eyes begin to water.  The glove split my lip. I was pissed.  More than pissed, I was embarrassed.  I quit (for about two weeks but it felt longer to me.) Once again, my will was diminished.
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I’m 30 now.  I always revisited Martial Arts.  Progressive Martial Arts in Fresh Meadows in high school and then I went to Extreme in Valley Stream a few years back but I don’t train anymore.  I started working out again a few months ago. I joined a popular gym that has childcare. I always get into this groove and then I get bored and irritated running stationary, biking stationary, and lifting stationary.  I get tired of not going anywhere.  Today when I went to the gym, I brought my gloves.  I pounded that bag and I let out all the shit that piles up inside of me.  I sweat out the venom that you bite others with unintentionally when you have no outlet.  I felt good and I physically reminded myself that I am a fighter and I have been since I grabbed that quarter when I was 6. Life is about will.  Something (or in some cases someone) has to motivate you to be better than average.  You have to WANT to fight or you will just crumble and lay on the mat being pummeled.  Get up and learn something new, focus on what makes you happy, or you will always be stationary and docile.  Fight!

“When someone breaks your skin, you break their bones.”

-Uncle Ric

 

By: Shaun Nickens

 

*A Dojo is a place for training and learning.  It is a Japanese term.  You may also hear it referred to as a Temple.

*Gi= Karate uniform

*Spar=fight in short sessions

God Forbid. . .Knock on Wood

I am currently reading a business plan guide.  In one of the chapters, the author asks, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  I struggled with the answer.  The arrogant side of me doesn’t think I’d fail at anything I genuinely attempted.  In reality I can admit I’ve always wanted to write and FINISH a book. So why haven’t I done it? There’s so many things to consider.  There are so many doubts I have never admitted I had.  Who will read it?  What will I write about?  Depending on the subject matter, what qualifications do I need to prove that I am knowledgeable? How will I publish it? When will I have the time to write it? If I die, my readers will pick apart my words. They’ll construct invalid theories. They’ll think they have ascertained a base of who I am. They’ll be wrong.

Its hard to admit when you are afraid.

A week ago I lost a crucial segment of my circle of trust. My significant other lost his brother suddenly.  This man was kind,  friendly,  humble,  reliable,  God-fearing, well read,  and family oriented.  He was one of the warmest people I have ever met. He was also one of the most complex people I have ever known.  He would often ask me just one or two questions and then just sit back and listen to my tirade. I think that was his way of counseling.  Like a therapist he would bait you with a question and the next thing you know, you’re on the couch delivering a monologue. There you are exerting brilliance that you rarely tap into. There you are grateful for a captive audience. I feel as though we were both always so grateful to converse with someone who truly wanted to hear what we had to say. What a privilege it is to be listened to. To feel important.

Tonight I drove through a neighborhood and looked at the houses.  I looked at the white picket fences. I looked at the dog houses in the back yards. I looked at the family automobiles parked in the driveways. I looked at the lights flickering from the televisions that were probably arbitrarily entertaining a sleeping couple. I hope they fell asleep after telling one another about their day. I hope they fell asleep after making love.

People often say ” I want to spend my life with you.” Then we wait for some plan. Then we wait for a vision. I have missed out on a lot in my life because I was afraid. I didn’t commit to boxing because I was afraid of a severe injury or people saying I wasn’t good enough.  I was afraid to travel because I didn’t want to be away from my loved ones. What are you afraid of? Trusting?  Yes he could be cheating on you right now. He may also be thinking of you and conjuring up new ways to make you happy. What are you afraid of?  Quitting a job and starting over? Yes Its a recession.  Yes you may fail. You’re in good company!  There’s thousands of people exactly where you are. They’re scraping their knees and getting up again. They’re trying.  They’re fighting.  They’re doing their best because life is happening right now.

I’m in good health…*knock on wood*

God forbid … but if anything should ever happen to me know this:

I LOVE being a mother. It is the most exhausting but rewarding feeling in the entire world! I LOVE love. God put Adam on this planet and he knew he couldn’t enjoy Eden without companionship.  The man I want to spend my life with is unique and passionate. He is deeper than the core of the earth. I love writing.  It clears all the cobwebs. It pours out of me. It is my drug. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am dissatisfied with my life in its current state but I will continue clawing my way to the existence I see fit for myself.  I fear the dark.  I have very few secrets. I get anxious when I am preparing to give a gift.  I don’t want to be compared to another woman but it has probably already happened and it will happen again in the future. I want to feel indisputably beautiful…Every day.  I am proud of my sister. She is the adolescent I never had the courage to be. I knew she would be special since the day she was born. I HATE working for other people.  Yet, I have held every job imaginable (except for food services.) My father blessed me with an amazing childhood. My mother is the strongest woman I have ever met. My grandmother is the most selfless person I have ever met. I strive to be a conglomerate of the two. I cry a lot…and I don’t think its a sign of weakness.  Its emptying out the sh*t of the day. Its regulation.  That way you have room for tomorrow’s challenges. 

That’s all I’ve got for now. That’s enough.  That way…God forbid. ..you won’t have to come up with anything profound.  That’s me in a nutshell minus favorite color or song. That’s me. Typing this on my phone with my kid sleeping on my lap. Typing with my night light on. Holding on to hope. Admittedly afraid.

★Shaun Nickens