Mosaic: Writing to Live and The Book of Tiny Prayers

These days, the making of a modern essayist follows a similar path:

Person, unconventionally whip-smart with opinions, grows up in an environment where their silence is more valued. Whether due to disenfranchisement or simple demographics, person is always told they talk too much. Person finds their way to The Internet where people take notice of said whip-smart opinions, now allowed to flourish un-edited. Person gets asked, “why don’t you contribute said whip-smart opinion to this more organized medium?” From there the mediums get bigger and more organized until a book emerges. Many who worked to silence said essayist in their youth emerge to congratulate, as they “always” knew they’d make something of that big mouth. We revile in lessons of life and observations of pop culture as told through the lens of the whip-smart observer, until the next one emerges to tell a new tale.

If this sounds like shade, it is not. Often people need to be taught how to think, need these interpreters to make this big world-with its constant noise and never-ending stream of useless information-small enough to understand their place in it. To cut through the din of propaganda and lay some sense plainly at their feet. I enjoy them, I learn from them, and I need their collective anchor to keep me in the real world.

But there are others.

Others for whom the path was not straight and it was The Words that were their North Star, lighting their path out of the dark. For whom life has brought low and dragged through and derailed and derailed. Who’ve seen every best-laid plan brought to dust. Who have found themselves on the floor time and time again trying to find a new, more effective glue to piece their tender hearts back together. Who have PhD’s in new beginnings, never knowing if the next break will break them. What they do know is if they have nothing else; if the world is ash and they can’t see through the smoke, they can pick up their pen, or brush, or camera, and art till the dust settles and their path clears.

Where the Modern Essayist exists to make sense of the outside world these individuals write to make sense of their inner world, and share their lessons in self-discovery in hopes it will help you discover more of yourself. You would never hear them talk of stumbling into writing but more discover the words were with them all along, cutting a path or lighting the way. And when you cannot see the forest for the trees, their words help you find your own light in the distance. I keep them with me as well; for when I find myself too deep in my head to make a way, they provide a light when all other lights have gone out.

Which brings me to Raegan Mathis, and The Book of Tiny Prayers. Whether you pray to God, a god or meditate to find the answer in the Universe or yourself, Reagan’s timely book of prayers, prompts and musings breathe life into the words you may be finding coming up short at the moment. I’ve walked with Mathis all the way from her blog “To Rae, With Love” to “Prayers” and she has always found a way to speak to my present life, whether she’s known it or not. Rae has taken her readers with her as she bled, broke and ultimately rose, and her first book calls us to pray together as we move forward in this unprecedented and challenging time.

As is my way for any book of writing prompts, I make my way through by opening the book to a random page and letting the prompt inspire my pen. Today’s was a prayer for peace and well-being, with the message that “Fear Has No Place Here”. It prompted me to hold on to the joys of the moment; my smiling family in group chats, the knowledge that today, my friends are safe . Moments, after all, are all we have right now.

Mathis’ “The Book of Tiny Prayers” is currently discounted on her website. Click HERE to purchase for yourself or a friend.

Mosaic: Laid Off in the Land of Career Lovers*

To be “chosen” is a gift.

We are taught from childhood. Women wait, princes come. Women position and design themselves to be the best choice, princes choose. For the “gift” of being chosen the new princess is whisked away to a better life with the prince, to learn the ways of his people. Choosing you, and choosing to forsake all others, was his compromise. Folding yourself into his world is yours.

What is the cost of building a life?

Too often the work of building a life involved a man with a plan and me, left to draw plans. And those plans always involved a detour. Even the most equitable of partnerships required an adjustment that set my plans back. Now, the choices were mine. My mistake was not discussing the cost.

So what is the cost of building a life?

If I were to have children, it would have been with this man. Already a father, I was secure in his ability to parent and had already squeezed myself into his home, the majority of my possessions that weren’t sold off in storage. My job at the time had plenty of work lying around to gain experience to bring to a new company in a more senior position, but no upward trajectory. However, the benefits for partners and parents were unmatched. I chose to stay. He changed his mind. I moved out. Shortly after, I was laid off. With experience but no job title to match, I took a significant pay cut to re-enter the work force at entry-level. Cost: Five years.

*****

I stood in front of the ocean with the weight of my choices; it was always easier to listen to the Universe by the water. Taking on something as uncompromising as school made cultivating new relationships challenging and my interest in them did not match the effort that would be required. I stood in front of the ocean and handed the Universe my remaining “prime” years of romantic availability in exchange for this “selfish” block of time.

The Universe handed me a relationship in return.

Regardless of my much- negotiated need to be self-focused until I reached my goal I made some small concessions; I adjusted my class schedule to allow for more travel, and held off on redecorating my apartment as we discussed the particulars of an eventual move. Our pairing we learned was to be a seasonal one and while we remain quite fond of each other, our season eventually ended. Shortly after, I found out the last of the required courses I put off would not be offered for another year, pushing back my expected date of graduation. Cost: One to two years.

*****

So what is the cost of building a life? Where do those that chose to wait their turn go when their turn never comes up? How many times can one fold into another person? How many times can one start over?

These are the questions I asked when I decided to make a few non-negotiable life choices for the foreseeable future that will render me exponentially less malleable to “fit” into another life. While I still desire companionship and experiences, what that looks like when my autonomy is non-negotiable is drastically different from the partnership model I craved at 25.  I am not a “savage”; I simply have lost the desire to share in the structural work of living. I am a princess out of time.

I have been told a great many things about myself since expressing this choice; either I will be alone and bitter for life or the “perfect” man will come to change my mind now that I am no longer looking, as that is usually how it works in the movies. I have been told my choices were not necessary (please point out where I blamed anyone else for them, or their result) and I simply need to choose smarter when building a life in the future. A worldly, attractive and nurturing woman cannot *want* this life, not when she would make such a wonderful (helpmeet) wife. Your table cannot permanently be for one.

To be “chosen” is a gift.

It is a gift I choose to give myself in this third season of life. For many this is not a revolutionary way to live (hello, only children!) but I just got here. You can ride along, or not. But for now command of the steering wheel is not up for negotiation, and I can’t tell you if it will ever be again. I no longer lead with my nurturing foot. I no longer brag all that know me are made better for it. I do not race to prove utility in the hopes you will see me as a worthy choice. I’m just…here, starting over, with a table set for one.

But if you’re cute, I do have an extra plate.

*This post was brought to you by The Skinny Black Girl, who stays reminding me my best thoughts have no business being wasted on twitter.

Mosaic: The Birthday Post

“Imagine that one day you accidentally knock a treasured vase off its perch. It smashes into tiny pieces. What do you do? Do you try to put the vase back together as it was? Do you collect the pieces and drop them in the rubbish, as the vase is a total loss? Or do you pick up the beautiful colored pieces and use them to make something new – such as a colorful mosaic?”

~Stephen Joeseph

For the last few years, I’ve celebrated the day of my birthday sans company.

Of all the plans and assumed trajectories for my life that I’ve given up on or allowed to die, this leftover idea has been the most peculiar. Puzzling because at no point has this scenario ever been close to a reality, so I do not know why it still occasionally tugs at my heart.

A significant other, so enraptured by my existence that the day of my birth, to them, should be an event.

Full-disclosure: I have not had a get together orchestrated by another living human since I was five years old. I have never been surprised. I tend to gravitate towards the type of men that consider no holiday worth getting worked up over, including their own birthdays. More years than I’d care to mention birthdays were celebrated with a mutual cancelling out of the responsibilities associated with being a significant other whose mate had a born day. To make things sound even more ridiculous, I’m not a giant fan of parties.

And yet still.

It is not to say I have not had some rollicking birthday celebrations; a favorite being a four-day romp that included a spa day, a beach day, a dinner and two brunch parties. Events all orchestrated by me; which often left me breathless and happy, but tired in a way you should not be on a set of days dedicated to you.

So at some point I decided doing whatever I wanted instead trumped being an event planner and host, and simply turned off my phone and walked outside on my birthday. Usually whatever I wanted involved food, so this approach evolved to an annual food adventure where I’d throw a dart at a tasting menu, hand them my card, tell them it was my birthday and worry about the bill later. If you consider my IG account you’d understand how quickly this became my most treasured way to celebrate anything.

And yet. Still.

While making my way in life to the eventual point where this blog was born I’ve formed an e-circle of writing friends of whom I affectionately refer to as “Ladies, Interrupted”; having each experienced an event that abruptly, devastatingly, killed off the trajectory of life we imagined and left us to make sense of the life we were now given. I’ve had many a conversation on the subject of rebirth with Rae of Untitled, 1975 (an aptly named blog born of the ashes of another), where we share a joint interest in the concept of kintsugi, which she beautifully details in “The Art of Mending Broken Things”.  While inspiring I’ve found the concept never truly spoke to me. There are aspects of my life, once broken, that are impossible to be remade whole in the image of what was, gold fillings or not.

Which is how I came across the mosaic. Specifically, this piece from Mari Andrew (yes, we do indeed have the same name).

While there is beauty in the cracks some dreams are just shattered beyond repair. And there is something wonderfully healing in simply allowing it to remain forever broken and creating a completely new life out of it, something even lovelier than you had imagined the first time. This is the space I occupy. A mosaic allows you to simultaneously mourn that forever broken and celebrate the new life that came together from the bits.

Which brings us back to my birthday celebration. An elaborate event orchestrated by a loved one, platonic or otherwise, is something that is just not a realistic possibility in this lifetime (yes, I still have years to live. No, I have no interest in doing that to myself). I can’t even tell you why I wanted it in the first place, so I definitely cannot explain why this really insignificant thing in the grand scale of all that has got-damned happened and not happened in my life still occasionally stings. But allowing myself to acknowledge it, mourn, and also really fucking enjoy (and quite likely prefer) the traditions I have created instead just..it just brings me peace.

Now I have ranted about the need to make your own traditions that are not “consolation prize” versions of the traditions you wanted to make before, but never really delved into the “why”. Because I love to make series (I should really call them novellas because of the way I abandon them after three seasons), the discussions surrounding will be labelled “mosaic”. Let’s make some beauty of the bits, shall we?

What about you? What beautiful new life emerged from something you let completely fall apart or die?